When A Place Becomes A Part Of You

I’m a nostalgic person. There’s no hiding this (nor have I ever really tried, as I’m sure my husband, who has had to hear about my nostalgia ad nauseam for the past ten years, can attest to).

I get nostalgic for moments. Sometimes, in my mind, I see moments of my life as if they were a still frame from a movie scene. The people with me, the time of day, what I was wearing, the way the air smelled: all of it gets stuck in that frame in my mind in a place I can pull it from again and again.

I started getting nostalgic recently because a place we have called home on Friday nights for many years closed its doors for good last weekend. And if you had told me, in the first year we started going there, that I would someday feel an emptiness in my heart when it closed… Well, I would have called you a liar.

But here I am, five years later, feeling this unexpected emptiness.

I’ve lost other important places before.

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The Upstage was probably the first. Prior to turning 21, I used to go to concerts on the other floor of the building, called Club Laga. Under the age of 21, I danced my ass off at P-Funk, Railroad Earth, and Sound Tribe Sector 9. And then from the moment I turned 21 in 2003 until 2006, I became a regular, hitting the Upstage dance floor every Thursday night for 80s Night. So many good times, bad decisions, and questionable after-midnight shots were enjoyed there. Boys, vodka, the best new wave songs (and sometimes, although rarely, I could talk DJ EZ Lou into playing my theme song, “Little Red Corvette”).

In late summer, 2006, the Upstage announced it would be closing. At the time, it felt a combination of not real (how could this place we’ve called home for so many years go away?) and strangely not-that-important. I was graduating in April 2007, and in June of that year, we were moving west to Los Angeles. It wasn’t like we’d be going dancing on Thursday nights anymore, anyway. Husband and I went one last time and danced our asses off and bid the place farewell. We didn’t even take any photos that final night, as far as I can find in the archives.

The next place I lost would be St. James in the South Side. That spot had been our karaoke home for years. Every Tuesday night (and once, for 12 hours, on a Saturday), our crowd of karaoke regulars gathered to sing until the bar closed down. It was never super crowded, so on a good night you could get in 5 or more songs.

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St. James was a dump – too shitty to even be called a dive – but it was *our* dump. We were the Oscar the Grouches, and that was our karaoke trash can. My parents came down for my ‘Dirty 30 Birthday Party’ (where everyone sang songs with dirty lyrics for my 30th). Despite the fact that they were probably scarred for life by the touching rendition of “Darling Nikki” their daughter sang that night (sorry guys! everyone used to love when I sang that one!), the thing my parents still talk about to this day was how filthy the bathrooms were.

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(I still have – and wear – those fake leather pants.)

But when The James announced it had been sold to new ownership and was closing, it didn’t feel like the End Of Times. It was the End Of An Era, sure. But it was going to end anyway. The kitchen had been shut down for a couple of years because it was broken and no one could afford to fix it. Our karaoke DJ of the past nearly-decade had gotten a grown up job and was going to be retiring from the KJ business anyway. So it was just logical that everything ended all at once, neatly tied up at the end of the year in 2013.

There have only been two places that have closed and immediately left a hole in my heart where they were. The first was Eclipse. A goth wine bar with two monthly DJ nights? What wasn’t to love.

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From the first night I walked into Eclipse, it felt like coming home. One of my dearest friends was a resident DJ there, and from the first time I went to one of his DJ nights, I knew this place was a part of me.

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When a regular goth night became part of the rotation at Eclipse, things were even better. There wasn’t much of a dance floor, but we made it work. There was never, ever, EVER a place where I felt more at home than I did at Hades Night at Eclipse. William and Christian are both incredible DJs, each with their own styles, but both of whom brought the music to us so beautifully. Familiar faces behind the bar, good wine flowing all night, delicious snacks from the kitchen.

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Eclipse was snatched out from under us, and suddenly. We were less than a week away from the next Hades Night when the call came. We knew the bar had been sold, but we were told it would retain its DJ nights until October. But with less than a week’s notice, that all changed. Hades Night was cancelled. The bar was closing. We were without a home.

The loss of Eclipse hit me hard and hit me fast. One moment, I had this safe space where I could be my weird, gothy, wine-nerd self whenever I needed it, and then… nothing.

But I’ve long maintained that if I don’t dance, I will go crazy. For awhile, we had been casually hitting Belvedere’s on Thursdays and Lava Lounge on Fridays. Belvedere’s closed long-term-temporarily in January of 2015, so we’d just stuck to Lava on our non-Hades-Night Fridays. And I liked it, and it was okay, but then, when Eclipse closed…. something shifted.

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Our first visit to 80s Night at Lava Lounge was in December 2011. We liked it a lot, although there was a bit more pop music than we liked. It was close to the old days at the Upstage, but not *exactly* there. And the DJ couldn’t beat match to save his life.

So I didn’t fall in love right away. This wasn’t anything like Eclipse. Eclipse was all dark purples and fairy lights and exposed brick. Lava, on the other hand, was cheesy as hell. The chairs were uncomfortable and weird, there was fake lava on the walls, and there were ugly rock formations – at least one of which I maintain, to this day, was shaped like some male anatomy – hanging from the ceilings. The dance floor was so tiny you could barely move without bumping into a wall. When we first started going, the drinks were high-priced and had barely a full shot of liquor in them. And for the longest time, you could smoke on the dance floor, and we would come home smelling even worse than we had during the old, smoky days of the Upstage.

But we kept going.

Some nights, the floor would be packed with bachelorette parties or middle-aged yinzers who wanted to hear Whitney Houston and Bon Jovi songs. Some nights, the place wouldn’t be crowded at all, and you would have actual space to move, and you’d get to hear more new wave and less pop.

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And we kept going.

From December 2011 until some time in 2014, we were casual regulars. We went dancing at Lava roughly once a month. We mixed it up, primarily with 80s Night at Belvie’s, and sometimes Title Town.

In early 2014, DJ SamAraI took over control of the speakers. I admit, it took us a minute to realize we were getting a better set every Friday night. Gradually though, I realized we were losing more and more of the the 80s bubblegum fluff. We were gaining more of the bands that hit me right in the heart: The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, David Bowie, Peter Murphy, Pet Shop Boys, New Order. The new wave bands and the alternative sound and the stuff that makes you dance with reckless abandon. And Sam had a great handle on song transitions. We lost the choppy beat-match-attempts and gained a more cohesive sound.

So by early 2015, without quite realizing it, we had gone from monthly trips to Lava to weekly. With the loss of Belvedere’s, it was all we had. And at first, it felt like that: the only thing we had, so of course we would go. But every week, that smelly, dirty hovel wore me down a little more. Every week, the Lava Lounge pressed a little harder into me, at first in ways I couldn’t measure unless I sat down and really thought about it.

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We got to know Bethany, the awesome gal behind the bar. We got to know the regulars – sometimes only by nicknames we came up with because we didn’t know their real names yet. The bar became non-smoking on weekends. Drinks improved (thanks, Bethany!). I got to a point where I was comfortable showing up in my goth attire without worrying anyone would judge me. We started following Sam’s setlists online. I started tagging songs on Shazam as I was out and about so I would remember to request them on Friday nights.

Lava became a part of my heart, against my better judgment. This place stunk and there was hardly any room on the dance floor, and it was in the fucking SOUTH SIDE of all places. But sure enough, week after week, it wormed its way into my soul.

When we lost Eclipse, something shifted. And this was a shift that I felt. I went from believing that Lava was ‘the only place I had’ instead to realizing that Lava was ‘that place that I actually kind of need.’ I needed somewhere to lose myself, to dance and dance and laugh and dance more. Lava filled that hole. Lava became the security blanket that wrapped around my anxiety and depression and gave me a time and a place to feel comforted. There were weeks where I would stare at the calendar, wishing away the hours until Friday night. There were nights I stayed out way too late because ‘just one more song!’ happened over and over and over. There were mornings I woke up so sore from dancing so hard. But I never regretted one of them.

I was out of town when Sam sent out the word. Lava was closing. We had four weeks left – 2 of which, we were out of the state. It was closing at the end of April and reopening as a different beast where we wouldn’t be dancing on Friday nights.

Our group of regulars – who, by now, we were all friends with on social media – talked about it online. How could this happen? How could we lose our safe place? Where would we go? How could we send it off properly?

Sam reached out to us for requests for the final night. The dance floor, which was hardly ever packed these days, was full every Friday night in April. On the penultimate 80s Night, we actually only made it an hour before the crowd was too much for my anxiety and we had to leave.

And then… the final night.

I was out of town for work, but I drove home that Friday night. I couldn’t miss this.

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By the time I made it the hour & a half drive down after my shift, there was a line clear up the block. We stood in line 45 minutes, waiting to get in. It was a bit disappointing – we had been going every week I was in town for so long now, and all these other people had just shown up out of the blue! But we knew once we were in, we were in for the rest of the night.

Finally, around 1130, we reached the door. And we walked in, and suddenly…. we were home.

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So were like 400 people we’ve never met before. But it didn’t matter. We were home. We, and our fellow regulars, were home, even with strangers in our house. There was room for all of us. As fellow Lava regular and Lord Of The Dance Floor, HH, said to me earlier that evening, “tonight – we are kings and queens – we rule the world!”

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Fortunately, the gorgeous and lovely Tina (previously known to me only as ‘that dancer girl who is my spirit animal’) had gotten in before us, and secured a tiny plot of dancing real estate on the side of the dance floor. I had to dance on a little ramp in the floor, which made me feel very much like I was dancing on Club MTV back in the day.

We met new people, saw old people we haven’t seen in ages, and spent the entire night dancing like there was no tomorrow – because there wasn’t.

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As the night went on, we moved to the main dancefloor, becoming part of the mass of dancing humanity. Sam played “When Doves Cry,” and there was something about that moment that made me feel like Lava 2016 had transformed into First Avenue, 1984. That was one of those still-frame movie scenes, and I have pulled it up dozens of times in the week since it happened.

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I had wondered all week what the final song would be. When Sam had reached out to some of us regulars for song suggestions, nowhere in the selections I volunteered could I find a ‘final song’ that fit. But not to worry, he had captured it perfectly: Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” into REM’s “It’s the End of the World.” I’m not even an REM fan for the most part, but there it was, the end of the era. A place I’d thought I could shake, a place I thought for years I didn’t need, but a place that had become a part of me.

I wanted to dance: I’m a dancer, I ALWAYS want to dance. But I wanted to take it in. I wanted to pause, watch everyone, capture every single moment and sound and sight that there was. In that moment, as everyone was dancing, that final song playing over the speakers, all I could think of was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:

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And we did.

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My love affair with the Lava Lounge was unlike any I’ve ever experienced. I fought it for years, denied that it had gotten a hold over me, pretended I could walk away from it at any time. And now that it’s gone, I feel that hole in my heart. A hole that, in a way, shocks me with its existence. And a hole that, in another way, I think I always knew would be there someday.

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Thank you, Lava Lounge, for the years. For the dances, for the music, for the drinks – both shitty and wonderful. For the new friends, for the laughs, for the memories. For the conversations about bad smells, for reminiscing over setlists, for giving me a bright spot at the end of the week where I could get my mind right.

For the longest time, I thought you were just a place I went to dance. And now, I realize, you were a place that became a part of me. And you’ll always be with me. <3

Day #2 on a Bowie-Less Earth

It is Day #2 in a Bowieless world. I am still not doing so well.

If you missed the news, David Bowie passed away on Sunday. Sunday, whatever time, but we heard about it here in Eastern Standard Time around 2am on Monday. And the posts began. The disbelief. The tributes. The memories. The TV interviews we hadn’t yet seen.

We treat his death like the death of a family member. David Bowie, who would not have recognized me on the street. Who I might not have recognized on the street myself, quite honestly. Someone I had never met. Someone I will never now, for certain, ever meet.

But gods, it hurts like I’ve lost a best friend.

I may not have ever known Bowie, but I feel like Bowie has known me. As far back as I have memories, I have memories dotted with Bowie songs and references and Bowie fashion and even faux-Bowie accents.

(If you have ever tried to tease your hair and convincingly walk around your house in tights over your pants as a child, you will understand where I am coming from with this one.)

These Bowie-things that are a part of my life are not going to go away, now that he does not walk the same Earth as I do. The fact that Bowie has died does not change my memories of listening to “Space Oddity” with my parents, sitting at the table at Pizza Roma and talking about him.

The first time I ever saw the movie Labyrinth, we had every single kid who lived on our street at the house. One of our friends rode down my parents’ steep-as-hell driveway on his bike, and the chain popped at the bottom, and he actually went over the driveway and down the hill onto the sumac trees below. He cleaned up okay, then we all sat in the living room eating the five pounds of French fries my dad made and watching Labyrinth together.

Years later, when I was in college, my best friend and I used to watch that movie over and over, dancing together every time “As the World Falls Down” came on.

These memories are still real. The events in these memories still happened. They did not disappear, just because Bowie left the Earth.

I turned 21 in 2003. Back in those days, the place to be every Thursday night was 80s Night at The Upstage. On a good night, we got “Under Pressure.” On a great night, we could talk DJ EZ Lou into playing “China Girl.”

When Michael and I met, he didn’t have a car. He was broke as hell; I was pretty much broke too, but I at least had a car to drive myself to work once a week. On our second date, we went to see a production of Equus on his college’s campus. He’d gotten free tickets through the drama school; I had to pick him up and drop him off, since, you know, the whole ‘no car’ thing. After the play, we drove back to his apartment, and before I dropped him off, he said, “Hey, come inside, I have a song I want to play for you.” Being the music addict I am and always have been, this was, of course, quite appealing to me. Michael’s room was in the attic; it was hot no matter the season because air just didn’t circulate up there, and he had this gigantic, really-ancient-seeming desktop computer with a great set of speakers, and the song he played for me was “Be My Wife”. We listened to the entire album Low on repeat that summer, mostly in my car, which had a CD player and was equipped for that sort of romantic thing.

We moved to Los Angeles together a year later and bought our first car. The name was a no-brainer. Our first car, a 2007 Subaru Impreza, was of course, Bowie.

And so it has been. David Bowie, whether he wanted to be, or not, was part of my life. His songs were part of the patchwork soundtrack that has woven across the moments of my 33+ years.

And now… Now what?

We still have the songs. Right now, if I was emotionally up to it, I could go into my living room and put on the Labyrinth DVD. I could sit down and imagine that I’m Sarah, and instead of saving my little brother, I’m going to give him up and take Jareth up on his offer to rule the goblin kingdom.

But right now, it doesn’t feel okay.

I am a strong proponent of the death positive movement. I don’t think that death is something we should shy away from. I don’t think it’s something we should hastily embrace, but when we are, like Bowie was, faced with a terminal diagnosis that means our moments on this planet are numbered, I think that we should take these final days, weeks, or months, and go out on our own terms. Finish off the bucket list. Prepare our goodbyes. Plan for a final farewell that embodies who we were as humans, who we will be as stardust.

Bowie did this. He gave us the final album. He gave us clues, in the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus.” He kept his illness a secret until he was gone, never let us see him suffer, never let us believe that he was unwell or anything less than the immortal being we all believed – no, not merely believed, but knew – him to be. In his death, as in his life, he gave us something to hold and feel and witness, something to make us think and believe and understand. This, by all accounts, is a perfect example of a Good Death.

And I, so very much, am a believer in the Good Death.

So why does it hurt?

I remember being a kid in the late 1980s. I was not cool or popular. I did not fit in. People thought I was weird and nerdy. And I remember watching my idols on MTV: David Bowie, Adam Ant, Boy George, Robert Smith. I remember thinking, ‘these guys are weirdos too, and they’re FAMOUS!’ Turning on MTV in those days made me feel like, maybe, I had a shot. Maybe someday it was going to get better. The weirdos were going to win.

And now, twenty-something years later, I don’t know how I feel. I’m thirty-three, and I can’t say that I’m doing what I want to be doing. I can’t say that I’m where I thought I’d be at 33, all those years ago, watching MTV at my parents’ house. I still feel like a weirdo. A weirdo who has lost the chief of her weirdo clan.

The songs aren’t going anywhere. The albums I bought at Newbury Comics are still in my house. Friday night, we will go to Lava Lounge, and Sam will play Bowie songs, and I will dance and I will feel better for those moments. Soon, I will feel ready to watch Labyrinth again. And I will love it every bit as much as I loved it that night that Haz rode his bike over the hill.

But the world I’ve always known, for 33 years, is a world with Bowie in it. And it isn’t that world anymore. Yes, there are Bowie-things all around. Logically, I know this. I know that he left us in a way that is so poetic and perfect that I can only ever dream of leaving like that, someday. But there is still an emptiness that I feel today.

But the emptiness of a Bowie-less world today is nothing compared to the emptiness I would feel from a world that had always been Bowie-less. Yesterday, I had a number of friends reach out to me. They told me that when they heard the news, I was the first person they thought of. They knew how important Bowie was to me, and they knew I would be taking this hard. Several of these people, I haven’t heard from or seen in years. But they reached out to me to let me know they cared about me.

And so, even though I never even shared the same room as David Bowie, he and his music have had an impact on my life that I can’t even fully quantify. As the days and weeks go by, there will be more things that spring to mind. More memories. More songs that instantly transport me back to a moment in my past. Moments, later, that will become part of my future. And someday, those future events will become memories of the past.

We are only here for a short while. Each and every one of us. It doesn’t matter if we live to be thirty or a hundred or sixty-nine. It is a short while. What’s important is that we leave this earth a better place than it was the day we were dropped onto it.

David Bowie, thank you for doing exactly that. Thank you for letting me share this universe with you for 33 years. I hope I can leave behind some part of me someday the way that you left some part with me.

The Anxiety of Mornings After

Started working on a writing prompt tonight.

WHAT.

WHAT IS THAT FOX DID U RLY?

Yeah. Yeah I did.

(I’m already embarrassed!)

Am I the only one who goes through this?

Write something, usually at night. Sometimes fueled by too much coffee, occasionally fueled by a bit too much wine. Feel like it’s brilliant, feel SO GREAT ABOUT EVERYTHING.

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LOOK AT ME I WROTE SOMETHING I AM A WRITER AGAIN AND EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL.

Then the next morning, I wake up, excited to read that masterpiece from the night before… Pour my coffee, put on some tunes, pop open Microsoft Word, and…

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OH GOD HOW DID THESE WORDS COME OUT OF MY HANDS THAT MEANS THEY WERE IN MY BRAIN ALL ALONG AND WHY OH WHY OH WHY MUST I CONTINUE TO EXIST????

And that crushing emotion is usually followed by a desire to just slip silently away, applaud myself for not showing this to anyone before I came to my senses, and pretend I’m not actually trying to be a writer.

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I’M STILL A WRITER YOU KNOW KIND OF AND BY THAT I MEAN I BRING A NOTEBOOK TO THE BAR IN THE AFTERNOON ON MY DAY OFF.

But why does this happen? How can I feel confident and excited and like I’m this lightning bolt of creative energy one night, and then just a few hours later feel like my kind-of-obsessive series of Pittsburgh Pirates poems from 1991 was significantly better than what I’ve just written?

True life, I have been crafting a letter to Richard Simmons because I know for sure he will write back and tell me he believes in me and he will help me believe in myself and then I can thank him in the liner notes of my first ultra-successful novel and then we will have wine time together in Beverly Hills every afternoon.

Except that I write like two sentences, I get as far as, “Dear Richard, I am a longtime fan and I think I need your help. I am very sad and have stopped believing in myself and I need you to believe in me please” and then I go really?? Really??

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YOU CAN’T EXPECT RICHARD SIMMONS TO BELIEVE IN YOU IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN YOUR DAMN SELF.

(Bear is kind of wise sometimes.)

So anyway. How do I get over all this? How do I come to terms with the fact that although sometimes, I will write great stuff, sometimes, I will write terrible stuff, and that doesn’t mean that I’m a terrible writer and a failure at life and incapable of writing anything good ever again?

Stephen Kellogg told this really terrific anecdote at his show in Pittsburgh last November that his wife said to him once, “You’re an asshole.” And he said, “I’m an asshole?” and she replied, “Well, no, but you’re BEING an asshole.”

It’s semantics, sure, but it’s important semantics.

If I write something that isn’t my best, does it mean I’m a bad writer? No. It means I’ve written a bad thing, maybe, but it doesn’t instantly make me a ‘bad writer.’

I think that’s what’s behind this. I have this fear of being a bad writer. This fear paralyzes me. I’m so afraid of being a bad writer that I’ve convinced myself that nothing I write is ever good enough. Because I’m a bad writer. It clouds my judgment on everything. The second I write something that I’m not happy with, the ‘you’re a bad writer’ track starts playing in my brain.

So now, even when I write something that I think is good, the morning after, I wake up and remember that I’m a bad writer. And I know that what I’ve written is foolish and embarrassing and how could I possibly have thought this was funny or clever or interesting.

You’re not an asshole, you’re BEING an asshole. You’re not a bad writer, you’re just going through it right now.

RIGHT NOW.

Not forever.

Because it isn’t what you are.

It’s what’s happening at the moment.

And it might not even be happening for real. It might only be happening in your brain.

Because you’re crazy.

(Good crazy though, mostly; even Richard Simmons would agree to that.)

But if it’s just right now, it’s going to be better. You’re being an asshole, but you won’t be one forever. You feel like you’re a bad writer, but you won’t feel this way forever. Because you aren’t.

(The sheer amount of fragmented sentences and unnecessary capitalization in this post would beg otherwise, but, well… blog! Blog! the writer-explanation-equivalent of, Pirate!)

It’s going to get better.

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Because let’s face it, the alternative of ‘staying in bed forever so that there aren’t any mornings-after’ is kind of not practical.

Does anyone else ever go through this? How do you deal? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

She Had Everything (Except Relatability)

There’s a great line of Tweets going on right now started by agent Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) with this Tweet:

In response, people are submitting better ‘she had everything’s, some of which are hilarious, but all of which are more interesting and, I think, relevant.

I was actually surprised to see that there are apparently tons of people submitting queries for books that begin with that premise. Unless you’re trying to sell the next Disney princess novel (and even those gals typically start out with nothing in at least the wealth department), I can’t understand why you think the average teenage girl wants to read about a beautiful rich girl’s problems.

Okay, say I start reading about this lovely, rolling-around-in-her-dollar-bills-rich-Uncle-Scrooge-McDuck-style broad. I don’t relate to her to start with because


#1 I am about as dainty as a rhinocerous and


#2 I clip coupons for the grocery store so I can afford to buy more wine.

What, then, shall draw me into this story?

I’m guessing it’s that she’s searching for true love. I’m guessing that I’m supposed to relate to her because, even though she can pull off jeggings and I can’t, and even though she doesn’t have to plan ahead to afford a trip to see an out-of-state Dave Matthews Band concert, she’s moping around in coffeeshops listening to the Cure and hoping to meet a really cute, thoughtful, artsy boy (who may or may not be a vampire/shapeshifter/warlock/etc.)

Because hey, okay, I’ve been there. (Pro-tip: it is pretty unlikely that the cute, thoughtful, artsy boy is also a vampire. Just sayin’.)

But maybe it’s just me (and it’s possible that it is), but if you set your story up by telling me that your heroine is hot and never had to spend a summer working in an office for a weird old man named Marvin, I’m going to kind of resent her. I’m going to shout things at the pages like, “LISTEN HERE, DON’T YOU TELL ME HOW HARD YOUR SEARCH FOR LOVE IS UNTIL YOU’VE TRIED BALANCING IT WITH WORKING RETAIL DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON YOU WUSS.” (I will not go into the long rant that I have stored inside of me reserved for girls whose main problem in finding love is that ‘everyone loves me and I just can’t choose one!’)

I don’t know about the average reader, but I want my heroines to be messy. I want someone who comes from hard knocks, someone who just flat out sucks at pairing accessories, someone who knows just what it’s like when a customer throws something at you (it’s really, really shitty, just in case you were wondering). I know I talk about Carrie Bradshaw all the damn time, but she’s an excellent example: she starts out broke and awkward, and she does things that make you yell at your TV (don’t do it Carrie!), but also all the while make you say, “Oh no, that’s SO me!” Like most of us have probably never thrown chicken wings off of our boyfriend’s rich parents’ balcony, but most of us can say, “If I was in that position, that very well may have embarrassingly happened to me.”

So I’m surprised that there are so many people out there trying to market the ‘she had everything’ lead-in as ‘she was gorgeous and rich.’ To me, it’s not giving your heroine the fighting chance for fullness of character that a girl who comes from struggle has (Katniss Everdeen and Puck Connolly, I’m looking at you, you fabulous broads!).

This is not to say that there aren’t exceptions to this rule: I recently read the book Mystic City, which starred a rich, hot gal with seemingly everything going for her, and I loved the book. More on that one later (I’m planning to do a full review), but it was a good example of someone whose wealth and place in a corrupt wealthy society are the things that limit her and have to be overcome. It also had a good mystery going on that kept things interesting, too, but it was one of those times when I felt actual sympathy for the poor little rich girl and not annoyance.

But I think those books are the rarity for me. Give me a Carrie Bradshaw who drinks too much sometimes and drops a hymnal off a balcony while spying on her boyfriend at church. Give me a Katniss Everdeen who shines as the underdog and actually gets more awkward when money falls her way. Give me the girl who has everything: a barely-running pickup truck, the entire Cure discography on vinyl, and a kind-of-deadly family curse.

(Oh. By the way. I’m back! Long time no see, readers!)

A Little Inspiration

This is me, holding myself accountable to the goal that I set of updating this weekly.

It’s tough, because right now is the moment when I want to drop off the face of the earth and hibernate from everything that takes even the tiniest bit of effort. And I think the point is, that’s when I should be pushing myself to do something.

After the end of NaNoWriMo, I’m feeling rather uninspired. I haven’t felt like dragging my notebook out to the bar or the coffeeshop. I tried blogging at 101 Achievements, and I felt like I almost forgot how. I haven’t sent a query, haven’t really done anything creative besides work on a Christmas present I’m making my husband (which, incidentally, is making me an anxious, uninspired mess) and read some YA books that leave me feeling, ‘Why can’t I have that?’

(The answer to ‘why can’t I have that’ is kind of simple, at least so far: because I’m not doing anything to really go anywhere. If I wind up failing after trying and trying, that’ll be something different. But now, I’m not even going the distance of making attempts, so NO WHINING, FOX.)

Oddly enough: December is generally my favorite month. But this year, I just can’t even get excited about it. Yes, I blame Pennsylvania weather mostly (we have been having torrential downpours and NO SNOW), but I have just been feeling like I’ve come down with an acute case of the severe blahs, and I need some inspiration.

Back when I was in undergrad, the creativity just flowed out of me like this December rain has been flowing over our clogged gutters (true story: I, the girl who can’t keep a cactus alive, has managed to allow a small tree to grow in my gutter, which is too high for us to reach ourselves). I was writing daily, sometimes a couple of times a day. I never left for the library without bringing my journal and my writing notebook to pull out during study breaks. And my beat-up writing notebook (which I still have) was full of lists, which I would write in these fantastic multi-colored pens.

My favorite list: “Things I Like.” My second favorite list: “Things that Inspire Me.”

“Things I Like” was a long list to which I was constantly adding. Some highlights: horses in full gallop. the way shiny pages feel. the sound of walking on gravel. running and then diving into bed. strangers that remind me of people i love. calling bartenders ‘darlin’.

The notebook is also full of half-sentences and unfinished thoughts and ideas that struck me on the way to class. There are writing prompts, a detailed list of funny events that happened on an overnight drive to Boston, and this group writing project from 2003 that features zombies, lactose-intolerant llamas, and Roddy Piper.

The last time I wrote in the notebook was 2009, shortly after I finished my first draft of Death & Biology and was starting to really get into the mythology of the supernatural side of the story. And then… that’s it. D&B has its very own notebook, and the fact is, outside of blogging and NaNoWriMo, I don’t write much besides it. And then, of course, is the fact that I feel so uninspired at present anyway.

The things that inspired me and made me feel alive in 2003 are very concrete, very accessible, and even now, a decade later, I can feel the magic of those things when I read the words written in five different colors. But what about what inspires me now?

~ writing in hotels
~ overnight train trips
~ scrawling in a notbeook at a dive bar
~ my Zen-space at Phipps Conservatory
~ under covers with a good book on a cold night
~ being in the woods
~ every significant snowfall ever
~ listening to Disintegration over and over and over
~ leaving it all on the floor at 80’s Night

How do I let these things slip away from me so easily? How did I go from the girl who was always scribbling something in a notebook to the girl who is so wrapped up in Matters of Consequence that she uses laundry as an excuse to put off working on her book?

As ‘grown-ups’ (and I use the term loosely, as last night I found myself getting jealous of our friends’ babies who will be receiving stuffed bears from us this Christmas – I probably like stuffed bears even more than those babies!), it’s so easy to get caught up in the shuffle and forget what really keeps us solid, keeps us grounded. And for some of us, what keeps us grounded is having our heads in the clouds. Sometimes, going after what we want means going wherever our heart manages to launch us.

And sometimes, making it in this world full of Matters of Consequence means holding onto a little black beat-up notebook that’s home to some really important words.

December Resolution time is upon us (which I’ll be talking about in a later entry – ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ aren’t really my thing), and I’m going to make one now: bringing the little black beat-up notebook back to life. Bringing back a list of inspirations back to life. Bringing that side of me who’s never too exhausted to wake up and write down that dream detail that might be important in a story ten years from now.

(I think I still even have those pens.)

The Strange Stillness of Midnight, December 1

Why, hello, December. I didn’t see you sneaking up there. It’s not very polite, you know, sneaking up on unsuspecting girls like that.

There’s always something strange about the way that midnight on December 1 feels. I know it’s not the impending holiday season magic, because for me, that starts the week before Thanksgiving at Pittsburgh’s annual Light Up Night. And I know it’s not the impending drama of trying to finish everything we haven’t finished on 101 Achievements (although ‘strange’ could definitely describe it).

No, the strangeness that hits at midnight on December 1 is definitely the stillness of the end of NaNoWriMo. At midnight, all typing ceases (except the excited posts on social media about being done), the weekly Write-Ins are a thing of the past, and you get that feeling that after the TGIO Party, you might not see some of your favorite people for the next 11 months.

But mostly, there’s the feeling of what now?? that hits. This was my 11th season of National Novel Writing Month, and I still feel the same as I did way back on December 1, 2002: what am I going to do with myself?

Of course, the answers to the question, ‘what am I going to do with myself now that I’m not trying to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of 30 days’ are plentiful:

~ Catch up on housework
~ Go out dancing
~ Get back to the gym
~ Stay up all night working on Rock Band drum technique
~ Update my blogs
~ Review things on Yelp
~ Sleep in
~ Stop dragging my laptop to karaoke and actually socialize with my friends there
~ Start working on Christmas crafts for my family

(Oh, and perhaps most importantly: GO BACK TO WORKING ON THE BOOK I’M TRYING TO PUBLISH.)

But it still feels weird. I feel a little strange not obsessively updating my Excel Spreadsheet that tracks my daily word counts. (Yes, I am the nerd who keeps that spreadsheet.) I miss refreshing Twitter to see when the next NaNo Word Sprint is starting. I woke up on a Sunday morning and didn’t have to cut and paste a massive list of Write-Ins and events for the week to send out to my WriMos before rushing off to work. And I don’t have any reason to not do laundry!

This year’s NaNoWriMo, in writing-terms, was made of fail. Yes, I hit 50,000 words (and I hit it a full day early this time, finishing just before midnight on 11/29), but it was a struggle to get there. What started out as a really promising idea became a lot of filler scenes while I tried to get the characters’ voices and personalities just right. But even that is an important lesson learned: world-building fantasy stories, for me, are not for the pressure of ‘get it written!’ time in November. While I think I may someday go back and revisit this novel for editing and polishing, I think it’ll be near the bottom of my list, when I have a LOT of free time (it’s still above my 2005 NaNoWriMo novel, although by how much, I can’t be sure).

But the month itself was a success. We had a bigger turnout for our Kick-Off and TGIO parties than EVER before in the 5 years I’ve been ML’ing (holy cow, has it been that long?) and certainly in the 11 seasons I’ve participated. We had a really awesome ‘writing under the influence’ night out at a bar/restaurant in Monroeville. I have gained more new Twitter pals than I would have thought possible over a 30-day period, and we’ve actually made Facebook groups in the hope of *not* having to wait 11 months to see each other again.

And so, when midnight hit on December 1, there was a little twinge of sadness in my heart. Yes, I was excited to have hit 50k and finished, and yes, I was excited to get back to doing all those *other* things I do in my life (except the laundry), but as much as I want November to be done while it’s going on, I also want it to never end. NaNoWrimo has been an important part of my life for over a decade now, and while it might just lose its magic if it was more than once a year, I still wish I could grab every minute of November 30th and stick it there in time so it didn’t end.

For now though, I’ve got to make the most of my non-NaNo time and keep polishing and querying and blogging here. I’ve got to leave behind Daniel and Jani’s world (sorry guys, your world was kind of lame, although I admit that one was mostly my fault), and dive back into Bridget and Alex and Simon’s world. And I’m happy about that, but I’m also sad. Because, you know, you can be both.

But right now, there’s one more thing on my NaNoWriMo plate, and that’s sending the month off as we started it: at midnight, with some of my favorite people. TGIO Party 2012 Round 2 starts in an hour, because sometimes, you just aren’t ready to fully say goodbye at midnight on December 1.

What It Will Be Like

A few weeks ago, on a west-bound train, I decided to do a bit of soul-searching, and in the course of it, I decided it was time to Get Serious about my blogging life. I blog in a few locations, my decade-old LiveJournal (that one’s friends-only, so I can be as emo and dramatic as I want), my dog’s blog, and my main blog, 101 Achievements, which is the local-interest blog I do with my husband.

And of course, there’s this blog, that I’m supposed to write in regularly, so that someday, when I’m famous, you can all go back and read about how little ol’ me got my start. (Well, that’s not the ONLY reason I’m supposed to be writing in this blog regularly, but I like to think of that as motivation).

So, I made a vow to myself to update this weekly, on Sundays. As this is the third Sunday that has passed since I made the train-time decision, and the first time that I’m actually posting, you can see how well this is going.

The problem, in part, is that I worry that no one will care what I’ve got to say. With my 101 Achievements blog, I don’t worry: we do fun things, review restaurants, drink fancy booze, and attend all the fun free events this city has to offer. That blog is designed to be about excitement. We started it to help us get out of a ‘go to work, go home, watch sports, go to the bar’ rut that we had gotten into, so there’s never anything boring going on there.

But in my writing life? I’m not a JK Rowling or a Sophie Kinsella. I’m just Fox, whose anxiety prevents her from sending query letters, who prefers to sit in coffeeshops and listen to sad music when she needs inspiration. Fox, who is participating in her eleventh NaNoWriMo, even though not one of them has thus far been published, and only going a little crazier for it.

And who is that interesting to? Me. My mom (hi Mum!). My dog Lucy, although she’s excited when I say anything to her, whether or not it’s related to my so-called writer life.

And that’s why, when writing on a train, somewhere outside of Harrisburg, I decided I need to be more regular about this. Because I know there are other people out there like me, people who have written something, something that they sometimes believe in enough to want the rest of the world to have a chance to believe in it too. And those people, probably also like me, like to read almost as much as they like to write. And they probably like to do the crazy-sounding inspiration-seeking things that I do, like sit in gardens waiting for faeries to show up, or go on long walks while listening to dramatic songs and pretending they’re starring in the music video (at least I hope that last part is true, or I’m going to feel rather silly).

When I’m published, this is what I think it will be like:

Travel to obscure independent book stores to meet fans and sign their books.
Hours spent in front of a notebook in Cambridge bars.
Cross-country train trips my publisher will send me on so I can finish the Next Book.
Late nights spent responding to fan mail.
Having Maks (or Louis or Tristan) for a partner on Dancing with the Stars. (Sorry, a girl can dream!)
Lots and lots and lots of tax-deductible brooding in coffeeshops with sad music as an important part of the craft.

But now, what’s it’s like is just this: Fox, in front of a computer, obsessing over Twitter, snatching up travel arrangements whenever she can get her hands on them, scribbling things in notebooks in the middle of the night (only some of which are readable in the morning), and struggling through poorly-executed-but-initially-promising stories every November. Oh, and lots and lots of brooding in coffeeshops with sad music as an important part of the craft, but without the tax-deductible part.

And since I know that I’m not the only crazy broad out there going through this, I’m going to commit to keeping you all informed on how this part of the story goes. Twice a week. Every Sunday, and every Wednesday. And maybe some Fridays, if I’m feeling inspired. Because every famous writer started out a little like this, and if I’m going to make it, I’ve got to enjoy every step of the journey. Starting now. Feel free to come along for the ride.

Adverbily Yours (She Signed Saucily)

If you’re the type of broad who’s trying to make a go of it as a serious writer, I’d venture to guess that there’s a chance you’re terrified of adverbs. If you ever took a course on short fiction (or worse, short-short fiction), I have a feeling it’s quite possible that adverbs feel like curse words to you – and not the kind of curse words that make you feel great and badass to say; the kind of curse words that just sort of pop out of your mouth at inappropriate moments in front of the wrong people. Like, you know, saying ‘balls’ in front of your sweet old grandmother, on accident.

Or, you know, accidentally saying ‘balls’ in front of your sweet old grandmother.

I live in fear of adverb slippage. Letting an adverb out in a piece of short ficiton has come to feel like the writer’s equivalent of being an actress and having your boobs pop out on a red carpet event (stay with me here, I know I’m just a few paragraphs in and have already said ‘boobs’ and ‘balls,’ but I’m going somewhere with this). This fear of adverbs goes back to an introductory fiction course I took in undergrad where, prior to the lesson on, ‘hey guys, don’t use adverbs,’ we turned in pieces to our professor, and she circled every adverb on the page before returning them to us. And then wrote the number. And circled the number. Ouch. (To her defense, I think she had mixed our class up with another class in which she *had* covered the adverb faux-pas a week prior, but that critique still stings to this day.)

And I get it, I truly do. Why say ‘he whispered quietly,’ when we all know that the word ‘whispered’ implies the ‘quietly’ bit? It’s drilled into our brains that adverb-use is a lazy writer’s coverup. “Oh, sorry editor, I didn’t have time to find the word ‘shouted,’ so ‘said loudly’ was just going to have to work.”

But I know that adverbs have their place. They must, or they wouldn’t be something we dedicate lessons to in school. (Although, I admit it made me a little bitter to have learned how to use adverbs only to be later told that I *shouldn’t* be using them. Confusing!) The problem is, how on earth do you know when you’re doing it right?

Okay. I know. Writing is subjective. What one person enjoys, makes another person cringe. Somewhere out there is a dude who just waits for adverbs to slip themselves into sentences. Somewhere, there’s a dude who’s mad at our writing professors for shaming us into a lack of adverb-age, and I’m sure he views each and every ‘happily’ and ‘excitedly’ like an old friend returning from the war.

But for those of us who are just average people without boners for adverbs (I am so, SO sorry about the lack of naughty-language-filter I’m employing tonight, by the way), there’s a fine line of adverb use. And where do we draw the line?

Personally (haha!), I think genre and point of view have a lot to do with this. I primarily write YA, and I always write in first person. This leads my narrators to use more adverbs than I immediately feel comfortable with – they’re teenage girls, and everything is ‘totally’ and ‘really’ and ‘seriously’. Were my characters lawyers or introspective astrophysicists, they wouldn’t talk that way. But they’re not. They’re teenage girls who get a little overdramatic a lot of the time. They also shrug and sigh and make lists about ‘must-have’ qualities in boys they want to date. Seriously.

How do I know too many ‘totallys’ are too many? I don’t. I try to go with what feels natural. (Just for my own curiosity’s sake, I totaled these up in my present WIP: we’ve got 42 ‘totally’s, 18 ‘seriously’s, and 34 ‘absolutely’s across a 76,000 word novel. So yeah, maybe some of those could go, but they make up a percentage of a percentage of the words in the book.) Should my book fall into the hands of an editor, and should she ask me to cut out some of my girls’ Valley-speak (I mean, they’re totally not that Valley… err… nevermind), I wouldn’t fight her. Or, I wouldn’t fight her too much. But they don’t feel like they’re cluttering up the text, just giving a little piece of style to the voice of the girls, who are absolutely the coolest gals I’ve ever written.

I’m curious as to what other writers think about this. Since I don’t read by e-book, it’s hard for me to look at other comparable books and see where they stand (I’m not so curious about this question that I’m going to go through all the Beautiful Creatures books and highlight adverbs), but I do wonder. What rules do you have about adverbs? Do you try to avoid them at all costs, or do you embrace them when the moment strikes? Do you find yourself using them more when writing certain genres than when writing others? Are you also an almost-30-year-old who just realized, while writing a blog post, that she might still speak like a 19-year old? And if so, do they have support groups for broads like us?

Graciously, Curiously, Absolutely Totally Sincerely Yours,
Fox

Where Are You Going

Oh, why hello! Fancy that – I’ve got a blog out here in the… err… blogosphere. Who knew?!?

Okay, okay. I knew. I knew all this time (almost 2 months!) that I had this blog sitting here, and that I was abandoning it. But it was all for some really good reasons – I swears it! Here’s what I’ve been up to:

~ I went to a blogger conference in NYC. It was really not the right conference for me, the writing/food/wine/local interest blogger. It felt like it was more for business owners who wanted to learn how to do blogging and social media for their companies (interestingly enough, the conference actually announced a name-change at the end of the week which removed the word ‘blog’ from the title entirely, which I think makes sense).

~ More importantly, I spent a lot of time cutting classes at this blogger conference to do things like run along the Hudson River, ride the Central Park carousel (tipsy!), and hang around in bars drinking Cosmopolitans and working on my book. Oh, and I also crashed a Tuesday night karaoke and totally won over a crowd of New Yorkers with my rendition of “Edge of Glory”!

~ I tried (and failed!) to read 50 Shades of Grey. Couldn’t do it! Each sentence I read was like a reinforcement of the ‘Fox is actually a 12-year-old boy trapped in an almost-30-year-old woman’s body’ theory. I couldn’t stop giggling! She said words like ‘shaft’ all the time! (I’m giggling now, sitting in this crowded coffeeshop, just thinking about the word ‘shaft’ haha!)

~ I worked on Back Yardageddon, the multi-year yard project my husband and I have been tackling. We dug a driveway (well, he did most of the driveway bits, but I did help!) and leveled out an uneven patch of our back yard, and this weekend will hopefully have the right weather to be able to plant grass seed and make my backyard a little more-finished.

~ I watched my Los Angeles Kings finally win the Stanley Cup (from the comfort of my own couch, in the presence of my tiny Luc Robitaille shrine, since, you know, we don’t live in Burbank anymore)!! I’ve been a Kings fan since the ’90s, and it was so exciting to see them actually be good. May have developed a mini-crush on Jonathan Quick. That dude is a beast between the pipes! (Ha! That sounds dirty! 12-year-old Fox is cracking up!)

Oh, and then the past two weekends… It’s been a total Dave-fest.

In the event that you aren’t Dave-sessed (see what I did there?) like me, what I’m talking about is the fantastic and always inspiring Dave Matthews Band. I know I talk about the Red Hot Chili Peppers quite a bit in here, and how inspiring they are to me, but there are three other bands that have that same life-preserving effect on me, and one of them is DMB (the other two are the Cure and the Slip, since I’m sure you’re wondering ;)). I’ve been going to see Dave live since the year 2000, and this past weekend marked my 25th show!

While I like listening to their studio stuff from time to time, there is nothing quite like the experience of a live DMB show. Each member of the band is insanely talented, and their songs have a way of sweeping you from the earth and into some mystical jam-land where life is wonderful and everything makes perfect sense all of the time. For me, going to a Dave show is like going to church: I come out feeling spiritually, creatively, and emotionally refreshed. When I get home from a show, I just want to bust open notebooks and run all of my pens dry scribbling down stories. (And make hush puppies, apparently. True story, we drove all the way to Wisconsin to see two shows at Alpine Valley Music Theater, and I toted my little deep fryer the whole way there so I could make hush puppies after the concerts. Dang were they good.)

And so now, here I am, post-summer-tour (got our four shows of the summer crammed into two back-to-back weekends by random chance this year), with all of this positive energy swirling around in me, and… nowhere? to let it out.

But it can’t be ‘nowhere.’ I have to use this energy, use this drive, to get back on the writing wagon.

You see, although I’ve been busy in the past two months, and I have done a bit of writing here and there, I haven’t… ::very quiet inside voice:: really been doing enough.

Hello everyone, my name is Fox, and I’ve accidentally let my characters fall into a state of disrepair, much like the poor NeoPet I adopted in 1997 and haven’t really fed since. (Okay guys, don’t judge me, I just spent the last 15 minutes remembering first my username and password so I could log in, and then what foods Kacheeks like to eat, because poor RutherfordTheBrave was ‘dying’ from lack of food! And now he’s unhappy, so I’m going to have to spend another 15 minutes playing ball with him!)

Ummm…. right. Where were we? Oh, that’s right, talking about how I’ve abandoned Bridget, Simon, and Alex the way I’d abandoned poor little Rutherford up there!

But look – I just invested all those minutes and NeoPoints to bring my baby Kacheek back to fighting form, so isn’t that a good sign? Aren’t I now going to feed and nourish and play with my characters? (You know, it would really help if your novel’s characters could appear with a sad, cute graphic and stats like ‘unhappy’ and ‘famished’ to motivate you!)

All joking aside, the answer is yes. Yes, I am going to recommit myself to taking care of my kids. Because in the end, isn’t that what our characters are, our kids? A very wise woman (my therapist) said to me, “You’re like Bridget’s older sister. If you don’t go out there and tell her story, no one’s going to get a chance to know it.” And that makes sense. We writers are the spokespeople for our characters, the creators of their biographies. And if I’m not there to tell the world about Bridget and Simon and Alex and their adventures, then no one is going to know.

And I know I’m biased, since, well, I made them up, but I think it would be a real shame if no one got to know them!

So to answer the (DMB-inspired) title to this blog entry, where I’m going is back into the world of my novel. I’m going to rededicate myself to making this story known. I’m going to write little notes on a calendar that say ‘writing date!’ and then I’m going to take myself out for them (even if they occur in a bar at noon). I’m going to delve back into my list of agents and send that query letter out like I’m a hippy outside a concert venue with a stack of show flyers (except that the agents will hopefully *want* my book more than most people want those show flyers). And I’m going to keep this thing updated with my progress on all ends.

Where am I going? Tomorrow, I am going to my calendar, my planning notebook, and a coffeeshop. And, most importantly, I’m going to Bridget’s house, and we’re going to have a nice long chat (over some good Dave tunes).

Writing on Running

Ever finish a book and just feel… electrified by it? Like you couldn’t stop reading, but were torn by the knowledge that if you kept reading it, it would eventually end, and then… then what?

Totally going through that right now. I know that I write fiction (and blogs, which are, I suppose, an odd form of ‘creative nonfiction,’ a term that still weirds me out), and I know I said I was going to write about what I was reading in that field, but I just finished an incredible nonfiction book (creative nonfiction, since we’ve already gone there) that has made my mind race a hundred miles an hour and my nerves ache for something crazy and primal and insane.

Let’s start this from the long, convulted route:

Last year, I watched a video from Runner’s World in which they interviewed Flea, who was running the Los Angeles marathon for the first time, and wearing these crazy shoes that looked like the toe-socks I used to wear all the time during ballet barre (true story, not to break anyone’s heart, but we dancers don’t always wear our proper shoes in rehearsal). Flea, in his late-40s, randomly decided to run the marathon after training for only a handful of months, in part to raise money for the Silverlake Conservatory (a non-profit music school for kids that Flea co-runs in LA).

What motivated him to start running? He read a book that inspired him and made him think about running in a different way. The book? Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

While I wasn’t sure if I’d be interested in this book, I was definitely interested in Flea’s story. I’d just done my first half-marathon (walked it), and I was feeling ready to start running. Flea’s interview and his infectious enthusiasm were the things that pushed me over the edge into Runner-Land.

And finally, a full year later, I decided to check out this book at last. As I mentioned, it’s not the type of book I typically read (I tear through books similar to what I write: lots of YA paranormal stories, for the most part), but I decided to give it a try, since I’ve started to seriously get back into running (that’s another long, convoluted story for another day, the injury that kept me off the road for the better part of 6 months).

By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked. The book, while packed with factual information and statistics about running, runners, and even evolution, is also fascinating. It tells the story of Caballo Blanco, an American who embedded himself in the world of the Tarahumara, a native people living in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, who also happen to be the most insanely good runners of all time. It’s not only skill that makes them so amazing at their art: it’s endurance, perseverence, and also just pure joy.

The book does more than just tell the story of some wicked good marathoners though. McDougall weaves in facts about the science of running, and why the American approach to running (i.e. our obsession with gear and artificial improvement) clashes in so many ways with that science. It tells the story of ultramarathoners, native people who live to run (and live because they run), and opens up an entire world of questions about running.

What got me in the end (spoiler alert!) was the unifying reality of why we run. Sure, there’s competition in a marathon, with prize money and corporate sponsorship and fame to the winners, but there’s also that incredible feeling of running in a pack of other runners, of being shoulder-to-shoulder with people you haven’t ever even spoken to, yet who are tied to you forever, even if just because of those hours you’re racing together. It’s the surge of pure energy that comes from running that unifies us, that breathes life into us (even when we feel like we’re going to run out of breath).

For me, writing is not just the act of sitting down at my computer or notebook and making words happen in an order that forms a story. To write, I need a soundtrack. I need music that moves me, propels me forward. I need snacks to munch on (seriously, writing makes me so hungry, I can’t explain it). I need the right location for the moment, whether it’s my office or a coffeeshop or a restaurant who doesn’t matter if I’ve got my notebook open while I’m sipping a glass of wine.

But I also need mental clarity. I need a mind that is open, and less anxious. Sure, writing helps clear out anxiety, but the writing that’s going to be readable, that generally has to come from a clear and open space. Running, even with my busted-up back and my pathetic excuse for lung capacity, gives me that clarity.

Just like I sometimes need to slip away into the woods, or off to the beach, or to a really quiet library with really dense carpeting, just to clear my head so I can focus on writing, I’m beginning to feel like I need running in that way. It’s time with me, the road, my Fire-Island-dance-club running mix, and my characters, running along beside me, and whispering me their secrets between intervals.

I ate up every single bite of this book, and as I finished the final page, I felt this rush of energy, like I couldn’t tell if I wanted to immediately lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement, or if I wanted to drive off to Cook Forest with my notebook for the night, or if I could get all of my thoughts to settle down into a straight line long enough to write this blog entry. (I guess it’s clear which of those I finally decided on ;))

One of the most fascinating things to me about writing is the different process we all go through. Every writer has his or her own method – this comes up regularly at our NaNoWriMo Write-Ins, as we compare and contrast methods to make the writing work. For me, it’s become more and more clear how much I need to tie into both my physical and mental well-being in order to make the word-magic happen. I am incredibly grateful to have found this out, and grateful to have found a book that’s helped me get even closer to putting all the pieces together.

Even if you don’t presently run, check this book out. It’s inspiring any way you look at it, and who knows, one of these foggy mornings, I might see you out there with your characters, chasing their stories across the pavement too.