A Mitten New Year

My approximate location.

My approximate location.

Happy New Year’s Eve! This year, I am celebrating in Michigan. It is my first time here and I am doing all manner of new, exciting things: meeting my boyfriend’s extended family, rooting for the Michigan State University football team, cross-country skiing, visiting the Detroit Institute of the Arts (where I saw 6 of the surviving 42 Fabergé eggs!).

Me and my boyfriend ready for action! This California girl is not used to 24 degree weather - I am wearing two down jackets and 3 pairs of pants!

Me with my boyfriend ready for action! This California girl is not used to 24 degree weather – I am wearing two down jackets and 3 pairs of pants!

I don’t usually go in for New Year’s resolutions, because the fad is to create them and forget about them by February. Why not have goals and work on them all year round? Yes, however, I believe in goals, and my main goal for 2013 is: acquire an agent. And, oh yeah, publish this thing! My mentor cautions that many writers often don’t publish the first book they write, or they publish it later in their careers. While I keep this in mind, I still operate with the goal of publishing my first book, first.

Another exciting thing I will be taking on this coming year? I have been asked to facilitate a book group discussion in March. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how this will be different from leading discussions about fiction to a writer’s group. As a writer, thinking about the effect your work will have is inevitable, but it’s something you can’t dwell on too much. Studying literature is a necessity, but sometimes we forget the beauty in the midst of dissecting. I’m looking forward to being immersed in discussion of those who read simply for the appreciation of literature.

cross-country skiing 2

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New York, New York

The end of August found me in Manhattan. Not a place I would usually choose to go in the heat of summer (the weather was undesirable, to put it mildly), but I went with my family for my cousin’s black tie wedding at The Pierre. It was dazzling. It was nice to see family, though too brief.

Highlights of the trip: the food, especially ice cream from Il Laboratorio del Gelato, seeing a couple of very good friends, seeing the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Whitney, going to Yoga to the People with my sister, and yes, I visit book stores everywhere I go. At the used shop I noticed on my way to yoga, I picked up Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

I would not, maybe, call visiting the 9/11 Memorial a “highlight.” Yet, however depressing, it was incredibly moving. Serene. I cried before we even entered the park. I am interested to see what the space becomes, as the park is intended to be public. I hope to visit again when the construction is complete.

Love the way the clouds are reflected in this building.

And, briefly, the pros and cons of traveling with a tablet, as opposed to a laptop:

Pros: lightweight/portable. Don’t have to take it out of bag when going through security. Fits in purse. Many books on one device, so less lugging things around. Skypes just as well as a laptop.

Cons: makes me reluctant to type, even with a travel keyboard, so less writing. Can’t post successfully to blog (wait, is there an app for that?), lacks the feel, sound, scent of a book (and flipping back to previous passages is a nuisance).

On a trip like this, where I was packing and re-packing seemingly every other day, and being inundated with family and sights (hence very little time to write anyway – besides, I was supposed to be on vacation), the tablet was the right choice. I usually pick up books wherever I go anyway. If I were going to be chilling in Hawaii for a week, just for example, however, I’d probably opt for my laptop and a set of good old-fashioned paperbacks.

If You’re Going to San Francisco

At the beginning of this month, I took a fabulous road trip to San Francisco with my sister – we took her car, because it has an iPod jack, but we spend the entire 12 hours talking.

We’d both been to SF before, so there was no pressure to see and do everything. We also have similar tastes, so we enjoyed visiting the City Lights bookstore and eating a lot of delicious food.

Often I purchase used books, but I wanted to support City Lights, a female author, and I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while.

At Tartine Bakery, we had a croissant with Niman Ranch ham and cheese, the Idiazabal & Membrillo hot pressed sandwich – that’s lightly smoked sheep cheese with quince jam – and a coconut cream tart. …I’m making myself hungry.

When we walked into Humphry Slocombe, my sister and I had the same thought – what if I don’t/Taylor doesn’t like anything here? Of their exotic flavors, Secret Breakfast is one of the most popular. Bourbon and cornflakes. Am I weird for liking normal *classic?* flavors? We tried almost every one and finally, thought I’d first turned my nose up at it, discovered that the Oolong was incredible. We both the got the same thing – a scoop of Oolong on a brown sugar cone. YUM.

Not surprisingly, I did not get any writing done while I was there, though I visited a friend in my writers’ group. On the way home from SF I stopped in SB, however, where I had a wonderful day of writing and visiting the beach. The third draft nears ever closer, especially since I’ve got a deadline – I’ve told my readers I’ll be done by the first week in August, at which point I will send my manuscript to them. So far, everyone has agreed to read the draft and write notes within two months, and then attend an online critique, to take place by mid-October. Suddenly I realize I have less than two weeks to finish!

There is an underlying terror – what if I don’t finish, first of all. What if I “finish” and it’s terrible. What if the pride I feel at finishing this draft is short-lived, because I’m soon to discover that I have to go back and revise it at least 15 times? I have to let all this go and simply keep working.

There is always more to change, more to add, more to cut, the “better level” I wish for – but I will finalize an acceptable draft in the next 11 days.

Israel

I am sitting at my friend’s apartment in New York, about to take a bus to Newark airport, about to get on a flight to Israel! Excited, nervous, worried about not working on my novel for 10 whole days. (And regretful that I haven’t posted on my blog for this whole month – trip prep is my excuse!) My mentor, and others who know me well, or have experience as writers themselves, told me to take the vacation. Give myself a break, and when I get back, I’ll have new eyes. There was one chapter in particular I’ve been stuck on. Perhaps the time away is the perfect solution.