Thursday, June 23, 2005

Fancy Party

The loveliest of cocktail parties was held on the veranda in the foothills overlooking the University. Hors d'ouvres were passed around, glasses of wine and beer were handed out by the dozens and everyone seemed to be having a millingly good time. I had some fun--more than in the last days. The agent from yesterday asked me if he was helpful, I basically said, no. It's too hard with 20 pages and 20 minutes to be helpful, I said. Then someone came up and asked if he'd "hustled" anyone. He said a couple of folks. Ouch. But, I of the massive delusion decided he was just being trying to look cool to the asker and in fact had hustled no one.

I'm working on compartmentalizing the business part of writing from the rest of my life, but it's slow going--especially when the safety net years of graduate school have almost passed and I need some substantial publication, not just journals, to really say I have anything like a career. I also wonder if I'm a genre slut and if this makes me a better writer or just opens me up to more rejection. My lovely friend Jeff says, you would be a dilettante, if you didn't do all three well. What a sweetheart. And Lynn who reminds me that there is more than one agent in the sea. And Julie who props me up by promising that she'll be reading the great review in New York Book Review and that she'll send this agent who lost out a copy of the published book and the review. Erik asked, who does he represent? I read him the list of his clients. We didn't recognize any of their names. Erik said, see?

See why I can't leave graduate school? What would I do without the kindness of my friends?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Manuscript Consultations

I met with an agent, today during the Writers at Work conference. I often wonder, why is this a privilege? Thirty minutes of criticism on a work that's taken six years to complete. He said some very nice things and had some simple suggestions for fixing the first 20 pages of the novel (which is the part I sent him.) If he'd received the manuscript with the first 10 pages as the beginning, he wouldn't have taken it, he said. But, he said, if he'd received it and it began on page 10 he would have wanted to read on and on. OK, then, so, why not ask to see the whole thing, sans the first 10 pages?????? Read on and on, I should have said. Should I have asked, may I send it to you after I rework the beginning? But, he suggested no such thing to me.

He also made some other simplistic suggestions, like make all the chapters equal length, that made me think he wasn't right for my book. But still, if he said, I would have loved to read from page 10 on, and said I love the writing and I love these characters, why not ask to see the whole thing? Why the subjunctive? Change your tense, I wanted to say.

Ah well, perhaps it's just the nature of conference consultations--they come completely guarded against desperate wackos. Though this process may well make me a desperate wacko.

In general, this conference is turning into one of my least favorites. While I like most of the faculty, I feel disconnected from the whole thing--like I wasn't really invited, let alone that I helped to organize it. I think it's the pregnancy oversensitive thing.

I'm going to try one more time to have fun and go to this fancy schmancy cocktail party. If things turn around, I'll do more later this week. If not, I may not go back--even though I really want to see Crystal Williams read on Friday night.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Writers at Work

It seems amazing the people we can get to come to our conference in the middle of June in the middle of Utah. Orientation for Writers at Work Faculty was tonight and everyone is just so generous and kind--maybe because the people who agree to come to Salt Lake during their summer break are already predisposed to kindness. Sometimes, I feel after the conference, that they leave saying "ah, those hicks" but for the most part I think we manage to impress them a bit. And I'm impressed by how genuinely happy they seem to be here--Carol Houck Smith and Peter Steinberg and Carol and Dick Frost and Crystal Williams and, as always, Kevin McIlvoy were all so gracious. I'm not sure why I don't expect them to be--maybe bad faculty at other conferences and programs--but even the Prima Donnas are finally gracious--if you leave them alone for a bit.
So the conference is long and a lot of work, but, just like the garage sale, hard work and missing time I should use to write, apparently not only won't kill me but I will actually find it to be quite a bit of fun.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

New Career

My sister Val and I had so much fun at our garage sale (and made pretty good money), that we've decided to open a business. We like to talk to strangers. We're kind of pushovers when it comes to bargaining--a dollar? Sure, a dollar's fine. Heck, why don't you just give us fifty cents--but the best part was sitting about with our friends as others browse through our castoffs. The things we sold most were books--and more of Val and my good books than my aunt's shlock. How great was it to realize EVERYONE still reads--they just want to spend 3 paperbacks for a $1 instead of $14 for 1. OK. I can live with that. I think we sold over 200 books and contributed to the reading pleasure of at least 100 people.
So, with that in mind, what kind of store should we open? We think a bakery/lunch place (that serves tiny, par-boiled vegetables)/coffee shop/bar/bookstore. But perhaps we should narrow our focus a bit.....Still, we had a great time, met a lot of great folks. Now we jsut need to figure out how to prolong the joy.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Garage Sale

I've undertaken a terribly bad project. I'm having a garage sale on Saturday. I have only the slightest idea how these things work--put a bunch of stuff that I don't want or need, stick some random prices on things. I have furniture and books and clothes but I think what people really want is bric-a-brac that might be collectible ala antiques roadshow. Still, if you have any ideas about how to make a truly successful sale, let me know. And if you want some beautiful books or some fine furniture, stop by.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Considering that I'm from Utah, I spent very little time in the desert. My parents took us to the Grand Canyon and to Zion, but even that may have been a combined trip. We went to Lake Powell twice, but that's the desert-undeserted.

Now, because Erik and his mom are desert-lovers, I get to go to the Red Rocks almost every season. Although I love it best in winter, I'm lucky to have met it in all its seasons.
I'm reading Ed Abbey's Desert Solitaire for the first time. I had avoided it for a long time--primarily because I thought, how much description of red and rock can I take. But I should have had more faith in Abbey as a writer and a storyteller. He's a master.

So, when I read in the Tribune earlier this week-June 2nd, that oil developers want to start drilling the shale in the desert again, I mentally screamed a loud no. In the late 70's and early 80's my dad's job was to research the viability of squeezing oil from a stone. Some progress was made--the engineers and their big land movers and stone-squeezers moved into Vernal-- but then the price of regular gas went back to normal and the boom went bust. My dad went back to researching other kinds and ways to drill for oil.

Now they've got new technology. Now, with the price of oil high again and the bottom of the big reserves almost visible, they're going back in. New and improved ways to heat the rock so hot that it practically just pumps itself into your gas tank.
Besides the lunatic amount of energy it takes to heat the shale to give up its oil, the fact that they're spending money to find more fossil fuels so we can burn more carbon and make more greenhouse gases makes me crazed. Why can't they spend that money and brainpower and energy to make a energy resource that doesn't promise to end the planet, let alone destroy the desert from which it comes?
Oh, I'm going to go buy a Hummer and hurry this whole climactic apocalypse up. Plus, think of all the desert I could visit cool air-conditioned comfort.