Friday, June 24, 2011


Professionalcrastinator: when you're so good at procrastinating, you should charge for it.

Look at this neat drawing I found today!

Last Monday was my first day back at the desk. And yes, I was at my desk all day. I even came close to opening the document I intended to work in. And then I decided to check out photographs from Tiffany's wedding in Rome. Tootle around Facebook for a few minutes. Watch a video of a cat barking approximately twelve times. (The first two hits were just for me; the subsequent ten viewings were to watch my cat's reaction and then laugh and then hit play again.)

Monday was the throat-clearing day. The running start that ended just at the lip of the cliff from which I meant to leap. A few years ago, days like that made me nearly suicidal with self-loathing. The walls of my house are pocked with scars from those days. Slammed doors, temper tantrums. God forbid someone should call me during one of those fits; that would be enough to convince me that I had to move away to the country, or better yet, leave the country entirely, go someplace where there will be no distractions at all.

These days I find this period disagreeable but necessary; the wasted day typically ends with me writing miserably in my journal and making vows to do better tomorrow. And more often than not, I manage to fulfill that promise within a day or two. On Tuesday I sat down with that worm in my stomach, the worm that turns at the sight of the blank page or my hands at the keyboard. I sat and stared. I didn't know what to do. I knew that the story was now in Europe, and that I wanted to say something about how I arrived in Dublin to find I wasn't as brave as I had hoped I would be. I was actually terrified; nineteen, away from home for the first time, with no real plans other than to not leave Europe for many months. But I didn't know how to frame it. Actually, I didn't really know how to write at all anymore. All that Italian food made me soft and stupid and all I wanted to do was go loll around in a park somewhere and drink prosecco until my every ambition had drained away.

But then I had a thought: what if I just write the shittiest thing I've ever written in my life? I mean, at this point I'm basically writing in order to find out what the story is, so why not start terribly and see if it leads somewhere interesting? So I wrote a sentence that sucked. And then another one. And it was sort of fun, just writing shitty sentences. Freeing. And then I wrote this sentence: The Irish wouldn’t stop touching me.

That one sucked less. It kind of made me laugh a little. So I built on it, and just like that, I was back at work. 

Priscilla Long wrote a wonderful book on writing called The Writer's Portable Mentor, which I have found enormously useful in the often-harrowing process of writing my second book. One of the best pieces of advice she offers is to write for fifteen minutes every day, no matter what. I didn't manage that during my European vacation, but when I'm home I use that rule to make sure that a day doesn't go by without my rubbing at least a few words together. This keeps the urge alive, that little spark that wants fuel. 

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were all great good writing days. Today, however? Today I am such a magnificent procrastinator I am thinking about opening up a consulting business for writers who are too disciplined. I will teach them how to google funny cat videos and clips of girls crying while saying funny things about cats. I will insist that they interrupt their writing sessions to email dear friends about wall sconces and a wonderful new face serum. They will tweet and 'like' many things on Facebook. They will learn of Peter Falk's death and google every obituary out there and then make a list of favorite Columbo episodes to send to their friend Kate but then get distracted halfway through by an overwhelming urge to declare on Facebook that today is Hangover or Food Poisoning day, because I got one of those last night for sure.


So, in short: today I have written for fifteen minutes. I have written this blog post for fifteen minutes, maybe even more minutes than fifteen. And tomorrow, I will be back on the book.

Oh, but what I really wanted to say was this: my goal of finishing the first draft of the book by the time Yoga Bitch hits bookstores August 16th? Ah ha. Hahaha. Ahahahahahahahahahahaha. 

Revised goal: Um, I will, uh.

Ciao, netlings!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How Yoga Bitch became Yoga Bitch

Here's a piece on the Awl about how Yoga Bitch got its name. Matthew Gallaway's Publishing School is a great column about the ins and outs of book publishing; I wish it had been around when I was first getting started. Here, he asked me and three other writers about the process of naming-- and possibly renaming-- our books.

Friday, June 17, 2011

V.S. Naipaul can kiss my ladyknickers.

I'm a bit late to this party, but I finally read this piece in Salon about V.S. Naipaul's opinion that women writers stink. That Jane Austen was no match for him. That women are capable of nothing but "feminine tosh." His analysis of Austen reminds me of the way I used to think about Austen before I had actually read Austen. When all I knew of her were her movies and the girls in sweater sets who always claimed her as their favorite author.

In an interview with the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday Naipaul replied, "I don't think so" when asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He further said, of Jane Austen, that he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world," elaborating that women writers are "quite different … I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me." 

You know, this deserves no response. It deserves to be ignored as the ramblings of one more cranky old dude showing the world that he's on his way out. He has outlived his usefulness. But, but! I must respond through the words of the magnificent Fran Lebowitz, who speaks so eloquently about Jane Austen.  She's exquisitely smart on Austen here, though, as a side note, I particularly love her analysis of the philistine tendency to make every book a "learning opportunity" or a "lesson." I hate the idea of reading for self-improvement. As if one should ever learn lessons from artists! (See above lesson from Mr. Naipaul if you think authors should be teaching us lessons.) Yet too often I read reviews or hear people speak of the books they read as if the entire project were designed to make us feel better about ourselves. As if Dostoyevsky wrote just to warn us not to gamble or live in dark basements. Tolstoy merely wanted us to think twice before looking outside the bonds of marriage for happiness. As if Edith Wharton's House of Mirth were merely a PSA about the perils of laudanum for the impecunious social climber. Fran Lebowitz delivers a killing blow to this idea, and it is most welcome. 


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Publishers Weekly calls Yoga Bitch "thoughtful, honest, and hilarious."

Here's an early review from Publishers Weekly that made me very happy on my last night in Rome. I had just returned to the apartment we rented in Trastevere, full of many courses of caprese, pasta all'amatriciana, and veal, when I saw the email from my agent with this review and a smattering of exclamation points.

Let me tell you: it had already been a great day. Any day in which I eat not one, but two orders of chocolate gelato ranks highly in my personal book of days. But this sweet review was a pretty nice capper.

Things are getting exciting now that we're a little over two months away from Yoga Bitch hitting bookstores. There's been so much excitement my publisher is actually moving my on-sale date up a week, to August 16th. I had great meetings in Europe-- met the wonderful Kruger team in Germany, and my German, though incredibly rusty, (it's been fourteen years since I was speaking German regularly) miraculously held up. Then I met my editor and publicist from Kosmos in Amsterdam and we plotted a publicity trip to Amsterdam in September over some delicious Indonesian food. I have to say, I really love publishing people. It's kind of a dream come true to have meetings with people who read books for a living. There's nothing better than working with the best kind of people, and in my view, people who always have a book on their person are the very best kind of people.

Now I'm home, the sun is out, and we have new trim on the windows in our bedroom that needs painting. I'm working on flap copy for the Bitch, and thinking about getting back to work on the new book. I only have a couple of months before Yoga Bitch launches, and I have set for myself an impossible goal: to have the second half of the new book drafted by then. Two months. I might have to revise that deadline as it approaches, but for now, I've got my work cut out for me. Starting tomorrow.