Priceless

By the time you read this, I’ll be sitting in a Greek-ish cafe with several of my favorite co-workers for one of our periodical* after-work TGIF dinners, for which we book** reservations at a new restaurant so we can check out*** the food, atmosphere, and odds of a decent margarita.^

Tonight will be especially festive, as we’re celebrating going live with our new automated library system last week and that we all survived the switch from the old system, which most of us aren’t mourning.   We will complain, gossip, swap tips and tricks, and be asked to keep it down, please.

Should be fun.

It’s great to have a support group at work . . . which is just the segue I need to show off my new favorite piece of jewelry:

This rubber bracelet (brainchild of the matchless Teri)  was meant to commemorate a face-to-face of an international and ecletic circle of bloggerfriends, most (all?) of whom met over at Betsy Lerner‘s place and just . . . clicked.

But it’s much more than that.

Only four of us—Lyra, amyg,  Sherry, and Teri—could actually meet last week.  But Teri sent the bracelets to everyone, anyway, and that I received this concrete sign that I’m part of this incredible group has lifted my spirits, inspiration, and determination like you wouldn’t believe.

Others. including LauraDownith, and MacDougal Street Baby,^^have described this feeling in their own talented ways.  For me—to use a comment I left, I think, on Downith’s post—this band is a reminder to get going and that I’m not going it alone.

You can’t put a price on that.

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*Library humor!

**More library humor!

***Make it stop!!

^That’s a general assumption of consumption, by the way, though librarians who do drink seem to be divided between the margarita and single malt camps.  Personally, I don’t think those worms died of happiness.  And I’m working tomorrow, so diet Pepsi it is.

^I know I must have missed some posts—please let me know and I’ll add them.

Your fancy booklearnin’ don’t scare me none

I used to collect books about writing.  How to write, what to write, when to write, how to seduce the muse and beat the system.  A fair amount of them supposedly contained the Secret, Key, and One True Way to fame, fortune, and a literary life.

I bought a lot of these from the remainder and discount tables at the local bookstores.  This doesn’t reflect their quality—necessarily—so much as the vast quantity of advice arriving every other day to shove the older items off the shelf.  Regardless of price, some contained solid advice.

Some, in retrospect . . . didn’t.

Over the years and through many moves—and my discovery that writing professionals often blog—I’ve weeded my core collection down to four that were written by authors who don’t believe  that Getting Published was the sole goal of telling a story and that effort, care, and a fair amount of reading and research, were crucial.

Other books come and go, and even stick around,* but I would not gladly part with these:

On Writing by Stephen King.  Say what you want about his chosen genre—I say, more, please—but the man writes stories that non-readers read, and this book explains at least part of how he does it.  The chapter about the writer’s toolbox alone is worth the price of this book—but the rest of it is, in my opinion, is just as good.  Mr. King believes in good storytelling, the kind that sends shivers up your spine and tears down your cheeks—and he knows how to break it down into understandable components just as well as he writes it down into compulsively readable fiction.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  Ms. Lamott is so open and honest about how difficult she sometimes finds this whole writing business that I can’t help but be reassured.  She is a well-known author who still struggles—in one chapter, she describes the time her agent (editor?) told her that the book she’d wanted to write wasn’t the one she’d actually written.  So, she took it home and spread the pages and sections on the floor and walked through it, literally, cutting and pasting, adding and subtracting, until it was as fixed as she could make it . . . that, to me, is one of the bravest acts of writing I can imagine.

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block.  Full disclosure—I hold Mr. Block at least partially responsible  for my lifelong love of characters with alternative moral compasses:  Bernie Rhodenbarr, Matthew Scudder, Keller—hit man, philatelist, philsopher—and Martin Ehrengraf, bless his twisty soul** . . . What’s an impressionable girl to do?  Some of the wry advice in Telling Lies might seem a little outdated—Mr. Block started out in the heyday of magazine fiction—but his principles of storytelling remain sound, and the stories about storytelling make for great reading.  If you have the opportunity to hear him speak—the man tours like whoa and visits a lot of libraries—go.  You won’t regret it.

Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner.  I bought this book when it was first released and read it and consulted it until it fell apart. A second edition is out now, updated for the electronic world, but it still explores the expectations, assumptions, and methods of everyone involved in this writing, agenting, and publishing business.   Forest made me think about how I operate as a writer and why, and how to work with that.  In my opinion—-and believe me, I’m not just  saying this because my current copy is autographed and I spend a lot of time over at Ms. Lerner’s blog-based community—this is one of the best writing books out there.

Arguments?  Agreements? Suggestions?

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Wondermark Comic from the relentlessly talented David Malki !

*Someone recommended Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own (MacDougal Street Baby?) and after checking it out of the library I bought it.  It’s a keeper, but it’s not precisely a how-to.

**Even Chip Harrison, though he’s not exactly bent, just randy.

Dropping Pigeons

I’m setting aside my usual Monday grumble to do a happy dance involving pigeons.

A couple days ago, Betsy Lerner invited her blog readers to share the titles of their works-in-progress .  The one she liked best would win its writer an autographed, revised copy of her book, Forest for the Trees.

Full disclosure:  I’ve read my first edition copy of Forest to the point where it’s in desperate need of a spinectomy and if I were to contract a dread childhood disease and  consign it to the rubbish heap for fear of contagion, it would probably become a Real Editor as per the Velveteen Rabbit Rule.  It’s funny and encouraging and has helped me understand so much about the writing business and the business of writing.  Awesome book—and great holiday gift for that writer you know, or the one you are.

So I submitted The Pigeon Drop and went on to read what ended up being looong list of great titles, feedback, and suggestions; Ms. Lerner has a talented and supportive community over there.  When I checked back on my entry, there was some confusion over what a pigeon drop was*—plus a couple of interesting guesses—and someone  asked me to give a brief idea of my premise, which I did.

Guys . . . my title came in first.  Not only that, but Ms. Lerner had some encouraging things to say about the premise.

That should keep me going for a while, once I can stop making this breathless, squeeing noise every time I think about it.

But before I do, please join me in another brief happy dance!

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*It’s a common street scam with many variations, usually based on “found” money  and the offer to share it, if you’ll only put up some of your own cash to prove you’re an honest person . . . who wants a share of money that doesn’t actually belong to you.  If you agree, you’ll end up with your fair share all right, minus whatever you put up.  And, yeah, you’re the pigeon in this scenario.