Kickin’ it

Just back from a very productive lunch with a new friend and former student who writes for me (actually, for the newspaper) pretty regularly. We talked about her writing projects and mine.

Advice for aspiring writers: hang out with other writers. Exchange ideas. Network. Inspire each other. Trade stories, read each other’s work, learn from one another. This is a Good Thing.

Case in point: She asked me about her idea for a book and picked my brain on various points, like what are the benefits of seeking a publisher versus self-publishing; what are the angles for marketing; what kind of format should she consider for each section; how does one put together a book proposal, etc. I found myself telling her about the stresses and anxieties of working at the newspaper, and that despite the fulfillment of creating a valuable community asset like the Alameda Sun, I was still frustrated at not being able to do much creative writing — my “real” writing.

I sometimes go back and re-read my journals from years ago, and without variation they all say, “I wish I was writing, I need more time to write, I must write or die.” Etc. Same song, different year. And now that I have this fulltime dream job of starting a newspaper, creating the direction of its editorial content, making 95 percent of the decisions about what goes into it, voila! The perfect writer’s job, right? But the amount of energy that goes into such a venture comes right from my creative writing bank, or tank, as it were, and thus I find myself, at the end of a long day of editing and interviewing and writing and managing other people’s writing, plus the joy of a 50-mile commute each way and single parenting to boot, there just isn’t a lot of juice left to sit down and start my next novel.

Whining? Not intentionally. Just venting a bit about certain things that need attention. Like the dust bunnies under the bed and the weeds in the garden. Except that I don’t really care about the dust bunnies and I do really care about the writing.

So my writing friend says to me, after hearing this out, that I should make an appointment with myself to write every week, and keep it, and don’t let other things get in the way. In other words, just make my writing a priority and give myself the time I need to do it. I know she’s right. Don’t we all know that? Sometimes we just need to hear it. And since then the ideas have been just flying into my head. I could hardly see straight on the drive home with ideas flowing, popping, jamming, could hardly wait to get home and start putting it onto paper. Or cyberspace.

Want to see the list? Hmm, it goes something like this: “Wow, I really have to get going on the book publicity again. Gotta call all the bookstores that carry the book and see about repeat appearances, see how many books they sold, collect my commissions. And these other bookstores that I didn’t get to yet — gotta call them, too. I should contact (name) at (place) and see about reading again, and what about that radio show? I should see about getting on that show. And writing — I need to rewrite “Sugar Pine” a bit, and do that September 11 piece I keep thinking about, and then see where to send it. Yeah, like The Sun (magazine). I have got to check out that issue of The Sun and see what they’re calling for. I need markets for my work. And I have to send that copy of “Opium” to (name) as I said I would. And my blog — what about using the blog to write out portions of my memoir? And my novel. And my short story collection. And my column. Or should I have separate, interweaving blogs? Or just blog away? Why, blogging itself is a valuable exercise, is it not? Yes, it is.”

You see how it goes; the conversation with self disintegrates into a strange, pseudo-Victorian, semi-manic gush-fest. Note to self: stop that. No, don’t.

And when I got home, there in my country mailbox with the little red flag was a stack of bills and the latest copy of Poets & Writers — is that some sort of karmic message or what? Gotta pay the bills, gotta feed the creative writer within. Duality. It’s another Good Thing. So, high on the joy of writing, I find myself at it again. Peace and love and all is right with the world. Amen, amen.


I always tell my writer friends they should make a list of goals at the beginning of each year and stick to them. I actually made that list myself a few weeks ago, mid-December, just to get a jump on the new year, but blogging wasn’t even remotely on the list. It just occurred to me a few days ago that I might like to actually have an inspiration to write. I could journal. Or not. I need to make myself write regularly, for public regurgitation — I mean, for your reading pleasure! And I don’t mean fascinating stories about parking meters and the PTA. For that kind of fun, check out

But enough of this. More good stuff. (Or any good stuff at all…)

So…Modern Muse…the title of my column that appears once a month or more often if deemed necessary at the Sun during harried editorial moments. Like when some yahoo doesn’t turn in his stuff. Somebody’s got to fill the hole and it is generally Madame Editrix. (This is she, for the uninitiated.)

(NB — my staff are wonderful, fabulous, hard-working folk. It isn’t they. It’s that band of rabble known as freelancers who slack and backslide and forget to write their piece and turn it in. My 13-year-old is just like that. She gets a homework assignment and then forgets to do it, forgets that she even has an assignment, even if she was excited or even vaguely interested in it when she got it. Then the day before it is due — like today, the very last bloody day of Christmas hols, she remembers, “Oh, yeah. I have homework. It’s due tomorrow…” My freelance stable is like that. I once had a woman cajole me into letting her write a column on a set topic, and against my better judgment I said yes. Monday came and went, Tuesday rippled by and no column. I finally called her and said, hey, sweetie, didn’t you have a column for me? She laughed it off and said, “Oh, well, I didn’t have time to write it.” No phone call, no e-mail, just that she hadn’t had the time and wasn’t, apparently, going to let me know about it. Jolly. Then she says, “Oh, but I do have some photos for you if you’d like.” And she goes to elaborate lengths to messenger the photos over to me. In the envelope I find two — a photo of a heron standing in a pool of water — apropos to WHAT? And the second pic is of her — the erstwhile writer, and her dog frolicking in the hills, taking a hike. Apparently that’s why she didn’t have time to write the column; she spent her Sunday afternoon hiking with her dog and setting up the timer on the camera. And you know, that’s always what your editor wants to see when you neglect to turn in your story — photos of you doing something else instead of writing the assignment…But I digress…)

Note to aspiring writers: make a list, check it twice, and turn the bloody thing in on time. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Just checking out the new site. Welcome aboard — this should be fun…