Australia Countdown

16 days til I leave for Australia.   This week, I found rooms for our remaining jaunts–to Cairns (how is this pronounced, my Aussie friends? ) and Sydney.  Which I then changed because I met a man who played the didgereedo and he said to go to the Rocks neighborhood.

One of the great pleasures of undertaking a trip is the anticipation. A few of the things on my mind this hot summer night…

The conference. I am really looking forward to meeting so many of the Australians I’ve had conversations with over the years, online and in classes and in (sometimes long!) discussion via email.   I hope it doesn’t sound presumptuous to say I feel an strong sense of affinity with the Australians I’ve met, and it makes me think I’ll love the land and the people very much.   I’m deeply looking forward to drinking up the culture, learning new things and new words and, knowing me, finding some candy I simply cannot live without, that I will then have to give to Christopher Robin to parcel out to me in small bits, as he now does with the Rowantree fruit pastilles his mother sends me.

The packing issue. Aside from the funny angle of leaving the hottest part of summer for the end of winter, there are the usual challenges.  Three weeks.  Three climates (south, north, east).  Three kinds of activities–business, for the conference and meeting with my Australian editor; general touring, and vigorous hiking/touring, for which I will need my hiking boots, which are very big.  I’ll wear the boots, even if it means I’m going to get some odd looks in the LA airport.

The restrictions on weight and bags has become more and more challenging, so I’m paring it all down to the minimum.  A couple of skirts, one pair of dress shoes, one pair of walking shoes, the boots.   Lots of tops to layer or strip off as necessary.   That should do it.    We’re moving around quite a bit the final week of the journey, so I’m limiting myself very strictly to one medium size bag and a carry on.  Buying things when I get there, like hair supplies and curling iron, since the power transfer always kills them anyway.

What is your best packing tip?

Thing I’ve wanted to do for ages that will be a blast: Going to Tasmania.   So far, far, far away.  Such an exotic name.  The photos enchant me.   We’re spending four days there.  Relaxing time.  I want to climb Mount Wellington, of course.

Things that are exciting that I never knew I wanted to seeUluru, or Ayers Rock.  Also, when I booked the room for Cairns, I had a little rush of happiness that said, “this is gonna be good. Wait and see.”

One thing I’m not lugging with me: a laptop.  Too heavy. Too much trouble.  I’ll find internet cafes or use the computers in hotel lobbies.  Try not to lose my notebook this time.

Finally, what kind of trip reports do you find most interesting? I’ll try to keep that in mind as I report back in.  Do you like food & restaurants? Hikes and photos?

photo credit Australia Rocks natmeister

Writing conference possiblities to consider 2008

For the past few days, I’ve been hammering out the details of my travels this year.   I’ll be teaching at The Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference again in June, and Australia in August, and San Diego in October.   I’m also going to play in New Zealand with CR’s brother & family, and in NYC with my boy who is (seriously, I’m so not as old as this makes me sound) graduating from law school.   

I promised to post great conference links for you and never got to it, but here are some to think about for this year.  It’s not cheap to attend conferences, but once in awhile, it’s worth it to splurge.

First up, the Magazine Conference in Boulder, which I attended last fall and enjoyed very much.  This is the least expensive of the lot, and they’re going to offer several focused versions this year, from travel writing to the nuts and bolts of magazines.  At $350 and in the stunningly beautiful city of Boulder, it’s hard to go wrong with this. 

I love the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, June 21-26 this year.  I’ll be teaching a lot of voice and creativity along with the usual Iowa-style readings that feature so prominently at this conference.  This one is pricier, but it is set right on the beach in a stunning hotel, and Ray Bradbury will be speaking Saturday night.  Enormous variety in faculty and speakers.

The Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy
.  One of the most delightful experiences I’ve had.  The conference is intriguing, the parties delightful (Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene acted out on the square while we drank wine in the soft evening breeze), and the company varied and intriguing.  You will never be sorry you went to this one.  But yes, the price tag is…a teeny bit painful.

And of course, there is the big Romance Writers of America bash in San Francisco this year.  I’m quite torn over whether to attend this year, and doubt very much I can squeeze it in, but I am mourning the possibilities (French Laundry!  Chez Panisse!).  This is one of the most complete, most intense, most vivid writing conference experiences out there, so if you have never attended, even if you are not strictly a romance writer, I guarantee you will learn a lot. 

There are hundreds of others, of course.  I’ve heard the Surrey Conference is a treat.  There are some retreats in Barcelona I wouldn’t mind attending someday, and really, I just think I must find one in Ireland one of these days.  I could visit my friends Tom and Emer and explore Ireland for real.   

What are some of the conferences you know about that we should consider? What’s the best conference you’ve ever attended and why?

Nothing but blue skies can I see

Clear    I am exasperated and bored by our weather this month.   
68° | 36°
Mostly Sunny   I know a lot of you think that sunshine is the BE-ALL, END-ALL of weather (CR) being one of you
50° | 29°
Mostly Sunny   But seriously, the air is dry as dandelion heads. The mountains look the same every day.
61° | 36°
Mostly Sunny   I am a REAL Colorado woman–I love the snow.  It’s November.  Bring it on!     Yes, I know I complained about the blizzards by the end of last year, but that was seven straight Saturdays of four feet of snow.  My car didn’t move for literally months because the snow plows couldn’t get to my street.  That’s extreme snow, and even then, I was happy with it until the very end.  I wrote a book I adore, too, so weather helps me.

Snow please.  I will even accept really moody rainy days.  The main thing is low, drifty clouds lending the day lots of mood and dimension. 

Desktop wanderings

I’ve had the luxury of time to read some of my favorite blogs.  Here are two you really must check out:

A Wandering Woman Writes From Spain, subtitled: A little voice told me to quit eht big city corporate gig and wander off to Spain.  I listened and these are my adventures.   

Her blog is filled with little tidbits of beauty, including photographs like this one, which just took my breath away:

Another place I like to visit is not far at all from Christopher Robin’s mum in Kent, a gentle-spirited blogger who has a wonderful eye:

Anke:Royal Tunbridge Wells  subtitled: A day away from Tunbridge Wells is a day wasted.   He, too, posts the most wonderful photos of his place.  This is one that speaks to me of The Green Man:


That should spell you a little if you’re stuck at work this fabulous May morning.   Enjoy.

California Dreamin’

This morning while sitting in church, I was suddenly swept with images of my recent visit to Venice Beach.  I can’t tell you what sent those particular memories spinning through my brain, but I was suddenly simply awash in the way the light fell that calm, early spring afternoon, swept by the sense of quiet and ease that I felt wandering around those canals.   

Obviously, something snared me there.  Not sure what, yet. In general, I love California–how can you not, really?  Bouganvillea tumbling over a fence, a soft breeze, the pounding fury of the surf, and it even has mountains!–but something about those canals captured my imagination entirely.  I see myself in memory walking down one path, all alone except for a thin man walking his dog.  Little rowboats were moored at the front doors and I thought it would be so much fun to row around there on a late gold evening, glimpsing snapshots of the lives inside the eclectic houses.   

I think I’ll hunt around for some history about the building of the canals and their heyday, and maybe, too, find if there’s anything written about the hippie heyday.   If anyone knows of anything, please refer your favorites.

It will be good to get to Santa Barbara in a few weeks.  Teach in the mornings, spend my afternoons shooting photos of the mission and tourists and neighborhoods.   It’s all so very out of reach now for living, but I don’t have to worry about that.  I only have to visit and enjoy the beauties.

Of course, I live in an extraordinarily beautiful place, too.  Jack and I walked at Red Rocks Ranch on Friday.  Not bad.


Traveling books…and writer

In the mail a couple of days ago, I received a copy of a new French translation of A Piece of Heaven which is the second French translation I’ve had on this book.  The first went to Canada, along with a couple of other really beautiful editions of other books.  This one seems to be a France edition.  Very nice.

Thrilled to report that some of my books will finally be reprinted in Spanish. A Barcelona publisher has purchased the world rights to three of my Ballantine titles.  I’m beyond delighted, seriously. 

Madame Mirabou’s School of Love was published not long ago in Italy as Il profumo delle ore. It also happens that there is a Women’s Fiction Conference in Matera, Italy, and CR and I decided to go.  I’ll be teaching along with some other excellent writers.  Maybe you’d fancy writer’s camp in an exotic and lovely spot, hmmm?  Check out the website for more info.  It’s honestly not terribly expensive for such a huge trip and the accommodations look particularly charming.

Also coming up:

Valley Forge Romance Writers
May 5

And a week long stint at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference.

The Soul Food Cafe

Sitting like a cat in the sunshine, even if I do fee grumpy and miserable. Still.  I am a cat, as my sister tells me (dogs have owners, cats have slaves, and yes, that’s why I adore her because she’s always given me this great vision of myself) , and you know that dogs get sorrowful when they have a cold. Cats throw themselves off the closest bridge.  Or at least they complain so much that you wish they would. 

Here’s a great cheerful place for you to visit and feel inspired: The Soul Food Cafe, which is an arty site for you, O Creative One.

Five things

–Yesterday, I took my notebook to Starbucks and wrote a lot of pages longhand in my notebook while two girls talked about their boyfriends and who was pretty at school.  I kept wondering why they weren’t in class at 10:30 am.

–I figured out why there are pink candy skulls everywhere. 

–I seriously wish that the Literature of the Southwest and Its Women as studied as seriously as Southern Lit.  Which I like a lot.  I just know we are different here. Cultures. Religions. Attitudes. Landscapes. 

–I hate getting to the end of a book I love.  It’s like sending the kids off to college. I have LOVED writing this book and I’m dragging my feet because once it’s done, I don’t get to live here anymore

–writing books takes eating spinach and brown rice, plenty of yoga to keep the shoulders loose and some fresh air to blow away too much thinking.  Maybe some wine, but not too much.

Living over There

Splendid Somehow, suddenly, I’ve arrived at the final 100 pages of Elena, the MIP.  It’s the most intense stage for me, when I cannot stay present in this world, this moment, because I’m over there, living in that one.  It was the meals I cooked under the influence of There that I earned such terrible marks as a cook (never mind all the awards I won for my breads and the fact that my ex still calls to get my recipes for things).   But it’s hard to cook in this world if there’s something on the stove over There. 

I knew this was coming, so over the weekend, I made krautburgers and a lasagna and a spinach and bean soup to get us through this week.  I’ll order pizza if I must.  I will not cook much, if at all.  It is–seriously–dangerous.  I can’t live this way for very long, so this part of a book goes very, very fast.  Often 100 pages in a week.  (My usual pace is about 7-8 pages per day, 4-5 days per week, as a point of comparison).

I am immersing now.  Writing and rewriting. Moving things around and finally, finally getting sPostitshighlightersome of the  detail work right.  The colors. The imagery that’s been taunting me.  I’ve added thick strings of fake red roses and yellow daisies to the collage, and some more orange photos.  (See above).  I’m also writing a lot by hand, and moving my endless post-it notes from door to computer monitor to notebook, color coding everything.  This is a shot of the part of my desk that’s at my left elbow.  Obviously, I work with color rewards and directives–could I work without post-its, highlighters, and my notebooks?  Well, probably, but it wouldn’t be as pleasurable. (If you’ve never tried Clairefontaine paper, I highly, highly recommend it for those who like to write by hand.  I bought some notebooks when in Paris the first time (and wrote all my 9-11 observations in them) and have been hooked ever since.)

Not sure if this is technically nuts and bolts, but this is fairly coherent, considering I’m only calling in from Over There. 

Middle of the Night

Blogs have been scarce for several reasons.  I’m finishing the second of two voice classes. Planning two day-long intensives and arranging those trips (during which I will see one son in NYC and the other will go with me to Florida–yippee!).  Mainly, however, I’m working on the MIP.   The chef interview was fantastic and he gave me some more resources, so I’ve been reading and working and rearranging, looking up headers for the tops of the chapters.  It’s not a finished book by any stretch, but it really is time to send my agent what I have and let her have a look.   If I don’t do it now, it will be the middle of November before I can get back to it.  I asked a writer friend to have a look last week.  She said she had to stop in the middle and go eat somthing because it made her so hungry.  A good sign. 🙂

So, I’ll send out around 150 pages at the end of the week.  This woke me up in the middle of the night last night and I was scrolling through the pages at 3 am, moving a word, changing a sentence, a verb, deleting extraneous dialogue tags and adverbs.  Passive to active.  Telling to showing.  All those ordinary polishing things.  Not that it’s a finishing kind of polish.   More like tying a kindergartener’s shoe before she goes off to school the first day.

Aside from that golden period before I actually start, everything about the writing process makes me fret.  I fret about starting and finishing. I fret about synopses (because I am wretched at writing them) and about titles and about releases.   It’s brilliant and exciting, but also nerve-wracking. 

What’s been brilliant and nerve wracking for you lately?