October 12, 2007

October 12, 2007
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
No idea; it’s still dark, it’s about 1:30 in the morning

So, it wasn’t even retrograde yesterday and I was already f—ked!

One of the publications, for whom I turned out quite a few articles in the past few weeks is now saying that I “misunderstood” the rate and it’s really less. Um, no, we talked about the rate and I was never told that different articles were paid at different rates or I would have said “no.” I want my money, and I don’t want to work for them again. Or, if I do, we renegotiate terms, and that’s what I told them. It’s a shame, because it was a fun gig. But, had the rate they want to pay me been the rate in the ad, I wouldn’t have even bothered to answer it.

By the time I got home, there were promises to pay, and a line saying, “If we don’t use you for January, February, or March, it’s not personal; we’re trying to cut costs.” Uh, if you don’t meet my terms, you won’t be using me those months or any others, because I’m not doing the work! Some always try to get in the last word, you know?

So goes the life of a freelance writer.

And it always feels like such a body blow when they try to screw you. So you have to step back, take a deep breath, remind yourself it’s business and respond in kind.

I’m in the process of adopting Nano Newbies for November. Shall I call them N3s? I figured, fuck it, I want to do Nano again, I enjoy working with the newbies, if I have to bag it to move, then that’s what I do, but why cut myself off from it before I know what November will bring? It will bring freedom in some areas, stresses in others, but why assume Nano’s a no-go?

And then I went to the train to begin my trip to the theatre and my life turned into something out of a Janet Evanovich novel.

First of all, it was pouring rain. I had to move the car, because the street was already flooding, although the brook held. Then, I’m standing there on the platform, in my long black trench, looking like a reject from The Lost Boys, waiting for my late train, wallowing in “poor me-isms”. The train from NYC pulls up on the other platform. I see Mr. Chivalry get off, from the other day – the guy who lent me his suit jacket when I was cold. He spotted me and started across the overpass to my side of the train tracks. My train pulled up. I got on; he sprinted the last part of the way, down the steps, and got on the train, sitting next to me! I was surprised, to say the least.

We’ve barely pulled out of the station, and a face pops up from the seat in front – narrow little face framed in curly brown hair with big brown eyes. For a minute, I thought it was an elf, but in reality, it was a 14 year old boy who said, “I know you.”

“Yeah, right.”

He told me my name, and then he said, “You went to school with my dad.”

“Who’s your dad?”

He told me, and it was a guy I’d gone to school with, in both elementary and high school. “He had a really big crush on you.”

“No, he didn’t.”

“He did.”

“Trust me. I was there. He didn’t.”

“He has a scrapbook of your writing, all the way back to when you wrote for The Chronicle and Garnet and Black.”

(The former was the local paper; the latter the high school paper, both of which contained my articles).

I found this a little weird, to say the least. And then the kid’s going, “And I read your stuff, too, especially about horses.”

“You don’t even know the names I use.”

“Do so.” And he reeled off about half of them. I’d have been really embarrassed if he’d known any of the erotica ones! Then he says, “You have to be my godmother.”

“What?”

“I’m fourteen. My dad’s divorced and my mom’s not around. I’m at the age where I need a strong female role model in my life.”

“I could so kick your ass.”

“I know. That’s why you’re a great role model.”

“You are so full of it.” But I have to admit, he was pretty funny.

Then, he launches into a whole social justice monologue – that seems to be his passion in life. He got off a few stops down, still chattering a mile a minute.

Meanwhile, Mr. Chivalry’s watching all this like we’re some weird sort of science experiment. Then, Mr. Chivalry and I finally get to talk without the interruption of a teenaged elf boy. He’s at a personal crossroads; I’m at so many crossroads there aren’t even signposts. I told him to trust his gut. His head and heart will take him on the most complicated path, but his gut will steer him true.

So we get to Grand Central Station, and, thanks to my Lost Boys trench, I’m pulled over to get my bag searched (but I got to play with the bomb-sniffing dog). And they pull my huge pliers out of my bag and want to know why I’m carrying them around.

“I dress flying monkeys for a living.”

“What?”

I spoke very slowly and clearly, as though I was speaking to the intellectually challenged. “I. Dress. Flying Monkeys. For a living.”

“Uh –“

Meanwhile, the bomb-sniffing dog is wagging his tail and gazing at me adoringly. So they let me go.

We get out of the station and there are film trucks all over, and it turns out I know one of the actors from something else I worked on a couple of years ago, and we joke around for a bit until we go on our merry way. Meanwhile, Mr. Chivalry’s looking at me like I’m some sort of space alien and I say, “Welcome to my freaking life.”

Somehow, even though he has my number, I seriously doubt I’ll be hearing from him.

I was exhausted before I ever reached the theatre.

Got to the show, got through the show, and that’s all I have to say about that. I was trailing, but it’s not with the actor with whom I’ll actually work next week, so there will be plenty I don’t know. Whatever. Costume Imp gave me a thorough talking-to the other day and he’s right, and it’s helped clarify some things. Kick a few signposts, so to speak.

I missed the 11:10 train by ONE MINUTE – Mercury Retrograde – so I got home much later than I wanted, but, oh well.

I have to work on conference stuff today, and maybe, just maybe, get the Samhain decorations up. I bought a pumpkin the other day. Now I have to decorate it.

Downstairs Neighbor’s back to running the television at full blast all night long. If I was a different type of person, I’d cut his cable line.

Hmm, the Loving Kindness Meditation doesn’t seem to be working. You think?

Let’s just say I’ve upgraded from depression to melancholy.

I’m going to try to get some sleep now, and get up early enough to get things done later today.

Devon

How to be a Full-time Writer

I was fortunate enough to work with Arthur Miller in the early 1990s off-Broadway. I was the wardrobe girl, but he always treated me like an integral part of the company. I was an integral part of the company, but you’d be amazed at how few of the people in a production’s “creative team” actually have a clue about how anything gets done backstage.

Anyway, I was thrilled to work with Miller, who was one of the reasons I committed to a life of the theatre in the first place. I was thrilled that he always took the time to seek me out when he came to the theatre once the play was running and talk about just about any topic under the sun.

One day, I was off doing a cue, and when I got back to my wardrobe room, I discovered him reading. One of my short stories. Which I’d left IN my bag, which meant he was rooting around in my bag, something I wasn’t happy with. What did make me happy, however, was his praise of the story (which turned out to be one of the first pieces of mine ever published in a lit magazine and paid).

And he told me that I needed to quit the theatre and write full-time, because I would never be a full-time writer until I relied upon it to pay the bills.

I wasn’t ready to leave the theatre at that point in time. I loved it too much. I still love it, but I’m ready to leave.

And, looking back, I know he was right. If I’d had to count on paying the bills with my writing from an early age, I would be much farther along in my writing career.

The conversation continued, in detail, about the need to delineate UNINTERRUPTED writing time, and space away from family and daily concerns in order to be able to fully inhabit the world of your work. Miller insisted that even if a writer claims to be able to work in a room with distractions – people talking, the television on – the quality of writing will never be as high as it could be if they had the courage to listen to their own souls in silence.

Interestingly enough, around the same time, David Mamet said the same thing in a seminar where he was kind enough to speak for a foundation for which I worked part-time. I’m paraphrasing, but basically, he said that, when he was starting out if, in their small theatre company, they didn’t write well enough to put butts in the seats, they didn’t eat.

Janet Evanovich, one of our most successful current writers, has her life structured so that she has plenty of quiet time to work. In her book, How I Write, she talks in detail about the need for a space outside of the fray, and how wonderful her family is about turning the writing into the family business and supporting that. It’s one of the reasons she’s succeeded, and can do what she does.

Do I regret a career in the theatre? Working on and off Broadway, doing shows all over the world? Of course not. Tens of thousands of people would kill for it. However, I also acknowledge that the theatre was my first career, and now I’m moving into my second career. I’m too old and too tired to run two full-time careers successfully. And, frankly, I’m too old for the intensive theatre schedule of barely one day off per week, working nights, weekends, and holidays. I want something more balanced, and I think, even drawing strong boundaries for the writing, I can achieve it with the writing.

But Miller – and Mamet – were right. I’ll never make a living at it, be a full-time writer – until I rely on it to pay the bills.

Published in: on January 24, 2007 at 12:35 pm  Comments (15)  

January 19, 2007

Friday, January 19, 2007
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Snowy and cold

New poem over on Circadian: “Water Diamonds of Joy” by Danielle Frézier.

I’m researching markets, trying to find the most likely fit for some pieces of which I’m extremely fond, but which aren’t easily categorized. I often feel like I’m banging my head against a wall – especially if a publication pays well, and then I read it and can’t stand any of the writing in it.

And then I realized: genre boxes. At this point, it’s almost genre-within-genre boxes.

For instance: female-centric fiction is now shelved in romance if it has so much as a kiss in it. It can be urban fantasy (Hell’s Belles) or action adventure or paranormal or whatever cross-genre imaginative, wonderful creation it is – but it’s “romance”.

While, if it’s male-centric, it’s fantasy or sci/fi.

It’s as though if the sex has any sort of positive emotion behind it, it’s shoved into the romance category, even if that isn’t the main focus of the story. If the sex is clinical, unemotional, or used simply for power, then it’s sci/fi or fantasy or magical realism shelved with fantasy.

There are exceptions, of course: Mercedes Lackey, CJ Cherryh, Diana Paxson, et al. But they broke away from the pack, no matter where the book was shelved (as Jackie Kessler will do with Hell’s Belles, and, before people start having hissies at me, I do NOT think romance is a ghetto genre; I just think HB is more urban fantasy/magical realism that straight-up romance novel).

Side note on Hells’ Belles – I went to a chain for it because I could not wait ONE MORE MINUTE – but I couldn’t find it. So I asked at the desk, and the clerk searched for it and walked me to the romance section, yanked it out and said, “Who was the dumbass who decided it should go here? I HATE working for a chain!” – and yes, she’d read the book! And loved it! (The woman obviously has taste).

What we need are more fantasy/magical realism publishing houses run by women, who won’t stringently categorize their submissions. I think both Samhain Publishing and Freya’s Bower/Wild Child Publishing are working to fill that niche nicely, but we need more.

So, who’s going to step up to the plate?

Speaking of genres, I realized, sadly, yesterday, that there isn’t any one magazine that is fully relevant to my life. I cancelled a bunch of subscriptions recently, and the subscriptions I have only address pieces of the life: Yoga Journal, Health, Writer’s Digest (which will not be renewed – it’s the same material recycled every few months for newbies – I need information for mid-career working writer), Elle, Vogue (I’m in wardrobe, remember? Clothes are part of my job), Organic Gardening (yes, I’m dreaming), National Wildlife (I’m an NWF member) PEN Journal (I’m a PEN member), most issues of Vogue Patterns (I sew), and, well, New Jersey’s stud handbook (horses, not men, and I have no idea why they send it to me).

There are tons of magazines aimed at married women or women whose sole purpose in life is to marry. But there’s nothing for an intelligent, single, in-her-prime working artist.

Step up, people! Go create the magazine of my dreams. I’m not the only one of my kind out there!!!

It was brought home even more clearly when I read the draft of my friend’s new play. It’s wonderful and touching and disturbing and heart-rending all at once. I knew he’d draw me in – he always does. He’s one of those writers who defies genre – call him “boxless” or “unboxed” or, what he truly is, brilliant.

I’m talking, of course, of Chaz Brenchley, who understands what makes humans (and other beings) tick better than we do ourselves, and is brave enough to expose it. If you’ve never read a Chaz Brenchley book, go order one right this minute – and if you’re in the U.S., Bridge of Dreams is a good place to start. He’s lyrical; compelling; a stunning linguist; understands the heights and depths of love, passion, turmoil, manipulation, loyalty, and pain; and helps the reader see the world (any world about which he writes) in a new way. Sometimes the beauty of his prose literally takes my breath away.

His work is beyond genre. It’s too expansive and too honest to fit in a box. Plus, he can write in any genre – mystery, fantasy, or, as in this play, naturalism/realism.

And he certainly does not get the acclaim he deserves. There’s another writer out there selling millions of books out there, who’s at a point of hiring people to co-write/ghostwrite because “he has too many ideas” – yeah, make me gag – whose, writing makes me want to go beyond gag and downright throw up, it’s so damn sloppy and formulaic. That’s one of the writers I sometimes joke about, who I think uses “global replace” for the character name and the location.

There’s nothing wrong with selling well. More power to anyone who earns the right to do so (Janet Evanovich and Tess Gerritsen immediately come to mind in that category).

And Chaz should be right up there with them.

(stepping down off soapbox, polishing it, putting it away).

I also realized (hey, it was snowing, I had lots of “realizing” time) how many married women with whom I’m acquainted, or meet in my travels, who live away from major cities – don’t have friends. It’s like when they signed the marriage certificate, they signed away their right to have people around them not related to them whose company they enjoy. Yeah, yeah, yeah, kids. You know what? The damn husband can take the kids one night a week or whatever so you can do something fun. You work just as hard. Because any time you wrap up your entire life in another individual, you are asking the Fates to kick your ass.

And it’s not the guys who EVER give up their friends.

Nor should they. But neither should the wives. Everyone needs a group of people around them whose company they enjoy on a regular basis. People who don’t have ego-centric agendas, but are just trying to struggle along on the journey, and are companions, not competitors.

It doesn’t seem to be so bad in cities – I guess there are so many people in such a small space, you have enough regular contact with some of the same people that you become friends in spite of yourself.

Speaking of friends, if I don’t get out of “hermit mode”, I’m going to be in big trouble. My friends are getting cranky. “We know you’re writing, but we need to see you ONCE in awhile –and the blue moon’s in May! We don’t want to wait that long!”

So I better book some social engagements! 😉

Did some good work on Changeling this morning. Pieces are fitting into place nicely. They surprise me, but it’s working.

Gave myself the night off last night to read Janet Evanovich’s Plum Love, the between-the-numbers Valentine book. It’s fun and cute and sweet in a good way. And very short – I read it cover to cover in an hour and a half.

I’m on my way to the post office to mail Pickles’s toy and get stamps and mail some bills. Then, if the roads clear up enough, I want to drive up to Mohegan Lake. The Jo-Ann’s is about to close. People are furious – the next closest one is over the Tappan Zee Bridge in a hateful mega-mall – the money you save on the fabric is spent on gas and tolls, and the frustration factor is so high, why bother? What really makes me angry is that the company refuses to acknowledge or respond to the community’s upset. They won’t respond to calls, emails, or reporters. They have so little respect for the people who shop at their store and are such COWARDS, they won’t step up and deal.

So I’m going to Mohegan Lake to say good-bye to the workers who’ve been so good to me over the last few years (who are NOT being shifted to other stores, but simply fired), and then. . .no more Jo-Ann’s for me. Why should my money go to a company that disregards the needs of its customers? I’ve gotten too sensitive of voting with my wallet when it comes to things like that. I don’t know where I’m going to get reasonably priced quilting fabric around here – to me, $11/yard, as one of the other county stores sells is not reasonable for calico. So I’ll have to figure something out. Ordering online is not an option. Fabric is tangible and textural. I need to see it and feel it before I buy it.

If the roads remain icky, I’ll go tomorrow. But we’re supposed to have gale force winds, and I don’t want to be hit by a tree.

Pulled a stack of job leads off the internet yesterday, and will send out the pitches this weekend.

And I have to print off the quarterly newsletter and get it in the mail. No point in writing the damned thing if I don’t mail it.

And then . . .back to the page.

Devon

Chasing the Changeling – 11,467 words out of est. 45,000

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11 / 45
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