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Words, words, words August 29, 2008

Posted by LHK in Uncategorized.
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Sadly, the biggest event in Atlanta during Labor Day weekend is not the Decatur Book Festival, nor is it Dragon*Con. Rather, it’s the Auburn-LSU game that happens at the Georgia Dome. I’ll have to look up the actual statistics on how many people attend each event, but last year, when I was riding the train over to the book festival, I was not met with the zombie costumes and “Han shot first” t-shirts I expected. Instead, I was caught in a clamor of orange and purple. College football fans with deep Southern accents, tracing their fingers over the grubby MARTA map and asking over and over if they should get off at Five Points. College football fans who gave up their seats to other college football fans, but who wouldn’t help the short girl standing in the middle of the train who didn’t have a vertical bar to hold onto, and whose arms were too short to reach the horizontal bars above the seats. Fortunately, I’ve got good balance, and perhaps I wasn’t wearing heels, so I was able to hold myself up on the ride from Lindbergh Center to the Five Points train-change hub.

Still, who would have thought that out-of-state football fans would rule this place on what’s otherwise a weekend of culture and nerdity?

Anyway, the Decatur Book Festival starts tomorrow, and I’m excited. Friday is all about the writing conference at Agnes Scott College. I didn’t sign up in time to get the workshop I wanted most (predictably, Writing Children’s Books, with Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein), but I did manage to get signed up for another workshop that has the words “petting zoo” in its title, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m looking forward to it, as well as the reception afterward, as well as the inevitable gotta-go-home-and-write urges that happen after any good writing workshop.

Saturday starts early, with Roy Blount Jr.’s program starting at 10 am. And then at some point, I have a volunteer shift at one of the “new and emerging writers” tents — not as a new or emerging writer, but rather as the person who rings up book sales for new and emerging writers.

After that I’m going to park myself at the children’s stage for a while. Mary Downing Hahn is going to be there! Remember Wait Til Helen Comes? Wasn’t that the creepiest book you ever read on the school bus, when you got yourself motion sick by reading for too long, but you just had to find out what happened when Helen came, even though you knew that it (and your stomach) wouldn’t be good? Wasn’t it so cool that the main character listened to her West Side Story soundtrack on her Walkman, JUST LIKE YOU DID? Oh man. That book. Mary Downing Hahn also wrote Daphne’s Book, which was also disturbing to me, but in a different way.

I haven’t quite worked out my Sunday schedule yet, except that I know I’m bringing my mom with me. She’s never been. But here’s the one thing I tell everyone about the book festival: every event there is entertaining. I don’t know how they do it. Maybe it’s just me, consumed by my own bookish giddiness, that takes me to readings by authors who usually make me grumble, and brings me out grinning. I don’t know. Anyway, I’ve gotta get some sleep before the Weekend o’ Bookish Delights begins in earnest.

That end-of-novel panic August 27, 2008

Posted by LHK in writing craft.
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So I’m working on the last two chapters of the current draft of my novel, which, for convenience’s sake, I call Draft 6.75. This time last year, I was at this same point in a previous draft — on the no-one-understands-this-but-me literary timeline, it was in the humid days between celebrating my main character’s birthday (August 22. When you’ve “known” your main character for seventeen years, it is only appropriate to celebrate his birthday) and the Decatur Book Festival. I had two chapters to go. I was exhausted. I loved my story but couldn’t wait to put it to rest. I couldn’t pick up a novel or watch a movie without guilt about putting off the inevitable ending of the manuscript. I was listening to the New Pornographers’ Challengers with the same pathological fervor that lately comes over me every time I put on the Company original cast album. In short, I was — and am — insufferable. More than usual, that is.

The thing about endings, and writing them, is that they can get you (read: me) all psychologically mixed up. Sometime last week, I was having a minor freakout about where the last three chapters were going to go, and how I was going to manage wrapping up all of my various dangling plot threads. For a while, I had myself convinced that this was a bout of perfectionist’s anxiety — as in, I was going to find all sorts of little things wrong with the ending so as to put off finishing the manuscript and sending it out. But was that it? After some meditation on this (read: a glass of wine and some room pacing), I realized that I was being far too kind to myself about the root of this problem. No, the root was alllll the way back in Chapter 7, which has been a problematic chapter for as long as I’ve been working on draft 6.75. A too-coincidental plot point back in Chapter 7 was making Chapters 17, 18, and 19 difficult to write.

I continued with Chapters 17 and 18 as though I’d already written out Chapter 7’s aggravating plot point. One more thing to add to the growing revision list. That’s okay; I like revision. But in this draft writing phase, it’s difficult to spend late night after late night pushing my characters into frightening emotional territory, and not having a strong enough outline (yes, even after so many drafts) to know how they’re going to make it to the other side.

One good thing, though, was discovering just how much progress I’ve made lately. I thought about my research trip / solo writing retreat to Rutherford County, North Carolina last month, and scrolled back to what I’d written back at that vintage-1835 bed and breakfast. I was mostly working on Chapter 11 then, which was nearly 100 pages ago. 100 pages in a month! I can definitely deal with that.

Tomorrow I’ll post a snapshot of the Plotting Board of DOOM, and if I get a chance I’ll say a bit about that most wondrous of events for all weird quiet girls — the Decatur Book Festival.

Who are the people in your neighborhood? August 20, 2008

Posted by LHK in Atlanta.
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I appreciate having a downstairs neighbor who’s a witty septugenarian. For those of us who aren’t able to be home during business hours to keep tabs on the neighborhood, he e-mails updates on the goings-on regarding the independently-owned pharmacy that’s across from the Walgreens up the street:

Fulton County marshalls are actively evicting homesteaders from Crackhouse today. At 12:30 pm a red Ford pickup with two debutantes and a black male bade farewell with the truck bed filled with enough sleeping bags and cots to set up a Boy Scout jamboree camp.

Last Thursday afternoon, amazingly enough, a lawn maintenance crew was busy trying to spruce up the Crackhouse yard. They were even using an edger.

The crackhouse, actually, is more of a crack motel. Over a year ago, I took to calling it “Crackton Arms,” and the name stuck. It’s due to be leveled pretty soon, though, which means the biggest drama in the neighborhood will default to trying to get the dudes in the next building over to quit playing their Tejano music at three in the morning.

Only the Beginning August 19, 2008

Posted by LHK in Uncategorized.
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One thing to know about me is that I have terrible timing. I’ve got a knack for starting on a long walk with my dog in the minutes before a thunderstorm. I show up to parties too early. I wear sweaters on warm days and short skirts on cold days. And I stopped blogging regularly just when everyone else in the world was discovering it, and thus turning it into a viable hobby / professional venture when, in the past, during my heyday, it had been nothing more than the oddity of “online journaling” – supposedly little more than a haven for lonely exhibitionists, teenage poets, and people posting pictures of their cats.

People would ask me, “L., do you have a blog?” I admit I seem exactly like the type of person who would have a blog.

And I would say, “Uhhh… sort of? But you can’t see it?” Because what else, really, is there to say about a friends-only Livejournal with heaping amounts of oversharing?

I realized that keeping my writing hidden was the opposite of the reason I’d started a website in the first place. And I have to admit that I hated not getting the credit for being a longtime blogger, which is exactly what happened with the whole I-have-an-invisible-blog! plan. How can you talk seriously about your experience as a blogger while not being able to produce a shred of evidence of said experience? Some would say that ten-plus years of online journal entries is something to be ashamed of. But not me! Granted, you won’t catch me re-posting all of those entries to this site, but I’ll definitely put up a few. A representative sampling, as far as any of you will know.

It’s funny how my combination of nerves and excitement and impatience and frustration at starting this new site is so much like how it was when I posted my first entry in the fall of 1997. I was itching to get myself out there, and I had dozens of ideas for entries. But the first one was the hardest. I was struck with a bout of perfectionism — I wanted to introduce the journal in the best possible way. I wanted the first entry to be a manifesto of sorts. I wanted it to set the tone for the entire rest of the project (a tricky goal, since I did have an inkling even then that I was starting something that would last a long, long time). I wasted a lot of time that way, and when the first entry finally went up it was little more than a slice of mental vomit about how badly I wanted to start my journal. This is, uh, much the same, isn’t it?