Archive | 2011

Back In the States

We’re back.

Actually, we (the kids and I) got back from Indonesia on the 13th. I took a couple days to unpack, wash everything and repack for a trip to my dad’s in Northern Idaho. We spent a week there, came back home on the 23rd, did some crazy last minute Christmas shopping, and bam – Christmas. Daniel made it home around noon on the 25th (direct from Batam and jetlagged all to hell), but we were all here (including his folks, my sister-in-law, her guy, his parents and my mom) for a lovely day together.

I felt like I was holding up pretty well, given everything I juggled over the course of a month, but as the craziness wound down I started picking fights with Daniel. I was feeling anxious about the fact that I hadn’t written anything in weeks. Five weeks, actually. FAR too long.

Turned out, all I really needed to do was ask Daniel for  day to catch up on some writing. After a stupid fight this morning he graciously took over all the kid duties (and doodies) so I could lock myself in my office and do some writing.

It took about an hour to get back in the swing of things, but now it’s flowing. So far I’ve written three pages in my Northern California book. I had originally hoped to finish it by now, but set aside that goal when we got on the plane to Indonesia. Still, I only have 25 pages to go. I’m seriously thinking about staying up late the next few nights and writing my ass off to see how close I can get to finished before the 1st. I doubt I could get 25 pages done in four days, but maybe…?

I also caught up on my Digging Deep blog. My partner in crime on that one was understandably a little miffed when I told her, out of the blue, that I just wouldn’t have time to post, so it feels good to get back on that horse too.

And then, of course there’s the novel, and oh, yeah, a screenplay I’m thinking about all the time lately. Sometimes I just feel like I’ll never reach the finish line on anything ever again. Which is why it would be nice to finish up the Northern California book as planned.

Oh well. In any case, it’s good to be back.

Here are a few photos, just for fun.

The view from our hotel in Batam

Monkey in Singapore

Visiting the set with Daniel

Snowball fight with Grandpa and Nana in Idaho

Sleigh ride in Idaho

Now back to the writing.

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Indonesia, baby.

This is my first post since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Did I fall off the map, you ask? Kind of. My guy got a call that Saturday, one week ago today, asking if he could come to Indonesia immediately to help out on a film.

Do you remember the scene in Ghost Busters where Bill Murry’s character says “if somebody asks if you’re a God, you say yes.” That’s always been my take on travel. When someone says “hey, would you like to go to ______,” you say yes. It won’t always work out, but I always start with yes – I want to go.

So when Daniel told me he would be gone for the month of December, but would only take the job if we (me and the kids) could come with him, I said yes, only half believing it would work out anyway. And here we are. We arrived Thursday morning after about 30 hours of travel. Talk about whirlwind. I still can’t really believe we got all four of us here for such a long stay on such short notice. And just in case you’re thinking about robbing us while we’re here – let me just say for the record that we were able to find a house sitter – I wouldn’t be announcing all this to the world if we hadn’t.

So far, it’s awesome, though the jet lag has been pretty rough on the little one and (as if that wasn’t enough) he seems to have come down with the chicken pox. We’re staying in a hotel on the island of Batam, just a short ferry ride from Singapore.

The most wicked storm just passed over. I mean, it’s probably just another day in paradise for anyone who lives here all the time, but it kind of blew me away. The thunder and lightning and deluge of rain that came out of nowhere were amazing. Three hours ago we were in the pool and I was worried about getting sunburned through my spf 50.

Because Janet Fitch taught me well, and because I was lucky enough to have both kids down for a nap, I took some time to write about the storm as it built, rattled the windows and eventually passed over, and the process of getting it all down made me miss my fiction so much.

I’ve enjoyed the other writing that I’ve been doing, but there’s something so engaging about writing a scene. Teasing out just the right words to paint a unique time and place – the sounds, the smells, the light. I just love it.

So that’s what’s up with me. I will make every effort to keep up the blogging, but frankly, we have a lot of exploring to do. You’ll have to forgive me if I put aside the cyber world for a while to indulge in a slice of real world that I’ve never seen before.


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The Vegetables

As has become my Thanksgiving tradition on this blog, I’d like to share a poem by Hafiz.

The Vegetables


The vegetables would like to be cut

By someone who is singing God’s Name.

How could Hafiz know

Such top secret information?


Once we were all tomatoes,

Potatoes, onions or


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Women in Media

Something has been bugging me, and it’s not Gina Davis’s lack of stage presence.

She right. I watch some of the (forgive me) shit available for kids and I am shocked. I had to stop a video of “Hercules” a while back because the female character broke into a song about how she was just a weak girl, and wasn’t it a good thing there was such a strong man around to take care of her. Excuse me? What? Since then I’ve been seeing more things like Gina Davis’s talk here, and noticing more and more the representation of girls in entertainment in general. While some kid’s shows (“Olivia” is a personal favorite), do okay, others have a long way to .

My husband told me about a conversation he had on the topic lately and related something fascinating. Turns out that years ago some feminist group sat down to craft guidelines for what constituted a feminist film. Here are the three things a story must have to be considered feminist. Ready? It’s pretty extensive…

1. Have two female characters with names

2. Those two characters have a conversation at some point

3. That conversation is NOT about a guy

That’s it. And you know what, it SHOCKING how many films can’t do it.

Well I for one will be doing my part to put some entertaining media out there where two named women have a conversation that isn’t about a guy. It honestly shouldn’t be so hard.

I know a lot of you who read my blog are in the entertainment industry in one way or another. I challenge you to think about this the next time you see a movie, and consider how your own projects measure up. Those of us telling the stories are in the unique position of being able to influence how they are told.

Power to the storytellers. Bring it.


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Step Away From The Computer

There was a great article in Poets & Writers recently. It was by Ellen Sussman, and she offered up four simple steps to get more out of your writing. Basically it came down to 1. Write every day, 2. take breaks regularly, 3. meditate for a few minutes before starting to clear your head and 4. turn off your internet. It’s criminal to chop up her prose so inelegantly, but that’s the gist.

Number one is taken care of.

I do occasionally sit for a few quiet minutes before I start working, but usually only when I’m making time for my fiction.

I’m 50/50 on turning off the internet. Since I’ve been working so much on the guide book lately and it’s so research intensive, I do leave my internet on, but I turn my email client off. That works pretty well for me.

The thing I most need to work on is taking breaks. Sussman sites studies that show people are more productive if they take a quarter of each hour to step away from their work, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe because my writing time seems so precious, since the rest of my day belongs to the family, I just don’t want to stop. I feel like break time is wasted time.

Still, it would probably be good for me. Just to get up and walk around a bit. Maybe I could get back out in my garden for a few minutes a day. That might actually be nice. But I don’t think I can do 15 minutes every hour. That’s a quarter of my work day.

I’ll start with baby steps. Maybe two 15 minute breaks mid day. I’ll have to set an alarm or something, but I can do that. If it seems to have a positive impact I’ll consider upping it, but that’s all I can do right now.

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California Trivia

Some days there just isn’t enough coffee.

I’m stumped for blog topics this morning, so I thought I’d just share a few of the more amusing facts I’ve uncovered while researching my Northern California book.

The Lost City of the East Bay Hills. In the hills just east of Oakland is the Morgan Territory Regional Preserve. It was once home to the Miwok metropolis called Volvon. For 10,000 years this native tribe lived here, grinding acorns and hunting rabbits. Strolling through the preserve you can still see the bedrock mortars – the collections of holes in large flat stones where the women would gather to pound acorn meal.

The personal hot tub began in Northern California, when enterprising young hippies attached wood burning water heaters to old redwood vats that had been discarded by the vineyards. They leaked something awful, and left a person with splinters in their behind, but there’s still something nice about a wood tub. As the fad spread through the country most manufacturers switched to fiberglass. 

The Mission Burrito is an actual thing. Steaming a big tortilla before stuffing it to the gills and serving it with corn chips is actually a very Bay Area tradition. El Faro claims to have been the first to serve it up in the 1960’s, and they’ve been a staple food ever since.

Steam Beer (now known as Anchor Steam Beer) was invented by miners in the 1850s who had a hankering for lager, but no refrigeration to cool the fermentation process so they had to do a warmer (ale style) fermentation and viola! a new kind of beer was born.

There’s much more, but you’ll just have to wait for the book to come out.

Now for more coffee…


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Sometimes I fight to pull out a few hundred words. Other times words flow like whiskey at an Irish wedding. I wrote over 4,000 words this morning. I think I’ve found an in to a story I’ve been toying with for a long time. Is it a short story or a novel? I don’t know yet, but I’ve found it, and if the words (and whiskey) continue to flow, it could very well be a full length memoir.

I’ve never felt this way about a project. I mean, I knew it was incubating, but now that there are cracks in the shell and I can see the beak poking through, I just can’t seem to focus on anything else. I want to coax this little bird out into the world, even if it means staying up late at the computer and postponing other projects.

It’s unsettling, because, as a memoir, it pulls up a lot of old skeletons, but for the first time I feel ready to write it. I found the narrative through line this weekend, while chatting with an old friend (you guys know him as Steve the Pirate) at a party in the desert. We were looking at some old photos, and listening to some music that just made everything suddenly fall into place. That’s all I can really say about it just yet. If the words do continue to flow I’m sure there will be more, but for now, I’m just going to revel in the excitement of it all.

(the photo is from the party – I love the mojave)

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Day 49

Today is day 49 of the 100 days of writing challenge.

The goal I set for myself was to write one page in my Northern California guide book every day. I have missed 10 days, and written 39 pages. That’s almost an 80% success rate. That’s a low B. In school a low B would have bothered me, but you know, I’m feeling pretty good about this one. Because it’s not like life has stopped so that I could work on this goal. In fact, just yesterday I turned in a 5300 word feature article that I’d been working on for a month. Not to mention other freelance work that has come and gone in the same time frame. Hello low B, don’t you look lovely.

51 days to go and 43 more pages to write (the book is designed to be 100 pages long, and I already had 18 pages when I started this 100 day challenge). So technically I can still blow off 8 days between now and the end of the year and still make my goal of finishing the draft. I can pretty much guarantee that those days will fall around Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, if I’m actually revising my goal – I will write AT LEAST one page a day, but on days when I don’t have much else going on I will write more. Because man it would be nice to wrap this baby up before Christmas. That would feel gooooooood.

The one thing I haven’t figured out yet is how I will reward myself if I actually meet my goal. On the chart where I cross off my successful days I’ve written “celebrate!” at the bottom, but I don’t know yet what that means. I’m thinking about maybe taking myself to the Korean Spa on Olympic, or maybe a new dress or something. Any ideas out there? How do you reward yourselves for goals well met? Let’s get creative here.

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New Headshot, and a Great Book for Writers

My official new headshot is now in full effect (many thanks to Paul Giunta, who also got some stunning shots of my family for me). I took some time to update all my social media pages last night, but still have this nagging feeling that I’m forgetting something. I’m sure it’ll turn up eventually. 

While I was at it, I finally transferred my shelfari bookshelf to this new site. You can see it at the bottom of the sidebar over there on the right. This is one of my favorite widgets. It not only helps me keep track of what I’ve read, but lets me share the list with friends.

Which leads me to the most recent addition to my bookshelf, “The Writer’s Portable Mentor.” This book is awesome, particularly for anyone who has been writing for any length of time. I have pretty much stopped reading books about the craft of writing, as I generally find them sophomoric and repetitive, but this book assumes you know where to put a comma and instead gets into the more artistic nuances of writing. I’ve found it applicable to my business writing, and revolutionary for my fiction. For me, it is like a refresher course on the best writing class I ever took (which, incidentally, was Janet Fitch’s fiction seminar at USC).

If you are serious about writing, this book is a great way to remind yourself of the finer details of the craft. You should add it to your Christmas list.


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Don’t Rush Me

I have a deadline on Friday for a feature article I’ve been working on since the first week of October. It’s coming along well, and I feel quite calm about my approaching deadline, but two weeks ago I was freaking out.

This is something I’m learning about myself as a writer. I need a lot of time for the final stages of writing anything well. That is, for polishing my work, I have to be able to read it through, tweak a little, walk away, come back a few hours later, tweak a little more. In these final days I may literally change two words each time I read it, and since it’s 20 pages long, it takes a lot of time.

Then I send it to trusted eyes to read it for fresh perspective, and I start over, incorporating a little bit, changing the work ever so slightly, with each pass. This just seems to be how I work.

With that in mind it makes sense that I was panicked about my deadline two weeks ago, but feel fine now. Two weeks ago I knew I needed to start entering into this polishing stage, and I only had it half written.

To friends and family it’s hard to explain why I can’t run off to the beach/park/movies because a piece that isn’t due for weeks is only half done. But that’s just how I work.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to recognize this pattern. I never have been one for last minute dashes. In college I was terrible at cramming, and if I’m going to pull an all nighter there better be loud music and fair amount of whiskey involved. I’m a planner. It’s boring but true. I like things (or at least my writing) to unfold predictably.

It might be a little dull, but it does allow me to make my deadlines, and I’ve always felt like that’s an important part of building a career as a writer. When I’m a big time, famous, hot shit scribe maybe I’ll be able to blow off deadlines without a care, but then again, knowing me, I never will.

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