Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Writing in the Noise

I locked myself out of my house today. In a hurry, trying to get the dog to poop, taking out trash, stacking laundry from the washer. So, my wonderful girlfriend, who has a key, sped over from a few suburbs away and let me in. She almost was pulled over by a cop when she made a U-turn so she could get to me quicker.

While I waited, I worked in a nearby coffee shop, writing. Espresso machines whirring, clinking and clanging of silverware and mugs, laughter, talking, chatter—the consistent din of a caffeine club. But, with all that noise, I wrote, I thrived, I fed off of it all.

Are you a writer who has to work in a vacuum? I hear that Jonathan Franzen writes in a room with no electronics, not WiFi, nothing but a chair and and table. Nothing. Empty. I could do that, too, I guess. But the music of lives around me seems to fuel my writing. I've always wanted one of those writing sheds in my yard, a cabin in the back where I can steal away to write, like Dylan Thomas' boathouse. But maybe not. Or maybe construct one, but pipe in coffee cafe noise just to make my writing home.

Where do you write? Paint? Sculpt? Create? In the noise or in the silence?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In Honor of Your Dog

I've been thinking a lot about dogs lately. The final day of the Westminster Kennel Club Show is today, 2/17, so, there's that. Plus, there are so many goofy, great, wonderful, heartfelt dog stories out there. I know you have one. 

I had a dog once that continually ran away. All the time! Bolted out the door, jumped the fence, even out the window of a moving car onto a busy street. He was an escape artist. Why? Don't know. I thought he had it good. But despite what I thought, I was on a first name basis with the crew at the animal pound. 

Also, pets are on my mind because of my forthcoming book: THERE'S A HAMSTER IN THE DASHBOARD: A Life in Pets. It's out early summer from Dream of Things. I hope you'll take a look at the essays inside. They're all about our animals, our wonderful pets, the ones that catch us being human. 

But in the meantime: 

Consider reading a little of HAMSTER here:!new-work/cs7y

And/or take this neat little pet look-a-like quiz from the NYT, I think you'll get a kick out of it.

AND --- Write your OWN brief dog or pet story here! Love to read them. Post away!


Monday, February 16, 2015

A Little Help From My Friends

Couple things...


I plan to be better at feeding this blog and get it going with a little more gusto and regularity. New book coming out in summer, 2015:  THERE'S A HAMSTER IN THE DASHBOARD: A Life in Pets, (Dream of Things). It's a collection of essays about how pets catch us being human. I'll be posting a bit of it on my website soon. I like this collection because it's not your typical, sappy, overly sweet book on pets. There are actually some stories you—my fellow pet lover—will read and find yourself cringing over. I'm not a perfect pet lover. Who is? But the stories are told with love and the reality that we are all very, very human and pets help us understand that. 


I'm working on a new manuscript, as I have mentioned in earlier posts. Like Joan Didion—and, oh, how I love to equate myself to old Joan in some way, even though I am certainly no equivalent—I don't know exactly what I'm writing about until I start writing; I don't completely know what I'm thinking. I'll eventually get there, but recently I have had some tremendous help from my friends. 

I posted a question on a writers group's Facebook page asking for gut reactions to title ideas. You see, titles, even working titles, help me to figure out what it is I'm writing about. I've been through a mess of ideas, as you might see in earlier posts. The clear winner at this juncture? OCTOBER SONG: A Memoir of a Musical Life. We'll see if that sticks. 

Here's the early, simple synopsis: On a whim, I entered a songwriting contest and unbelievably and unexpectedly was named a finalist. The contest was a pretty big regional deal. I had to travel from Chicago to Virginia to perform my song on stage at a legendary venue with other songwriters, some very good ones. Now, I am a musician, but I am certainly not a professional. I played in a band long ago, played some coffeehouses in my hippie days, but I would never consider myself a true musician. But I love music, I love my guitar, I've written songs, and when I was younger, like every teenage guitar player in the world, I dreamed of singing on a big, important stage—Carnegie Hall, The Troubador, The Fillmore in San Francisco. So, I got to thinking: What happens to the dreams we have when we are young, the ones we don't fully realize? And then many years later when we have a chance to touch that dream again, how do we handle it? What does growing older do to our dreams? For me, what does it do to my musical dream? But honestly, it could be any of our dreams. It could be your dream. 

Lastly, thoughts on the news: 

Brian Williams is never coming back to NBC. He'll be the host of a new cable show where he can lie his pants off as much as he wants. Probably on Fox. He'll fit right in. 

I will greatly miss the writings of David Carr of the NYTs. He was a genius. 

Bob Simon was one of the last of the great broadcast reporters. His death coming at the time of the Williams' scandal seems ironic, or maybe just weirdly coincidental. 

And can Kanye West please just go away!

Best to you, always.