Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gloomy in LA

God what an awful, gloomy day. I’m useless in this weather. Lazy and grumpy. Bad combination. Mercury Retrograde apparently came to an end last weekend, but it’s still slowing me down. I have this list of calls to make but everyone is away from their desk, with a client, at a meeting. So I accomplish nothing. There’s the script I’m supposed to be writing but I’m not allowed to write it because of the strike. Not that I'd be cranking it out if there were no strike, but that's another story. Speaking of strike, check out Nikki Finke’s blog about the strike which is the most interesting and comprehensive coverage I’ve found. Reading it religiously:

Now back to my own dreary day. Even though there’s a strike blasting its way through Hollywood, I need to be thinking about Audrey Rose, because I’m not sure how to proceed with my rewrite and need to develop a plan of action for when I do take the plunge. For now I can rent some videos for inspiration. That will be a start. I can also start working on the articles I have bobbing about my brain, that’s not verboten, but how can I create anything worthwhile when I feel like a slug? I can finish reading the chapter my friend Liz gave me of her dissertation, I’ve been totally lagging on that. Meanwhile I just sit here like a lump all bundled in layers to combat the un-Californian cold, compulsively checking email, my cat whining at my feet, the grilled cheese sandwich I had for lunch congealing in my stomach, giving me heartburn (pop some more papaya enzymes). What I should do is get out there on the picket line, but I’m intimidated and cold and don’t really want to go by myself.

Ah, there’s always the rest of the Austin saga. Yesterday I kept getting distracted by radio interviews. Did two more today, by the way, one of which was quite wonderful with this host named Tron out in Colorado Springs with so much energy you’d swear he was chugging Red Bull for breakfast. And an interview at a Santa Barbara Top 40 station, which would have been great, but they didn’t have me on the schedule for some reason. My uncle, aunt and cousins were apparently gathered round the radio and I never appeared. I have a hard time believing Mercury’s done messing with us. Okay, just checked a couple websites and it appears that even though the meddling planet went direct on November 1, everything won’t be completely sorted out until November 17. I also learned that while Mercury Retrograde is crap for starting anything new, it’s a good period for finishing up old projects (Audrey Rose anyone? Oh right, I’m on strike!). Alright, I’m trying a couple of the phonecalls one more time, then back to the Austin adventures.

I must be hallucinating. If I reach one more person’s voicemail or coworker declaring, “He’s with a client right now,” I’m going to scream!

Alright, so Austin… There was the opening night gala, a party at my friend Clay’s lovely, charming home for all the children’s book authors, where my new friend, publicist Katie Finch, and I were very anti-social, hanging out in the living room and then in the garden bonding and talking only to each other—about book publicity, then relationships, then weddings (hers is around the corner). We stopped by this other party on the way home, for writers of “literary fiction,” but it was late and the party was winding down. Apparently Kristin Gore had been there dodging questions about her dad and whether he might reconsider running for president.

Saturday my mom and I jumped a shuttle to the author’s breakfast at the LBJ Library where we sat with a writer, Francisco Jose Moreno, who wrote a book about Cuba called Before Fidel, and his lovely girlfriend (more bonding.) We all took the shuttle together to the festival at the beautiful domed Capitol and my mom and I went to hear a panel about writers on reading, featuring the funny, smart and poignant duo Jane Hamilton (Map of the World) and Valerie Martin (Trespass). Jane talked about her lifelong love-hate relationship with Heart of Darkness and Valerie about clues offered by the books that authors reference in their books. It was pretty wonderful. Then we couldn’t get into a panel on fiction about revenge so I wandered around until I had to hit the Green Room to meet up with my fellow panelists for my own event. Almost didn’t make it on time, I was blocked by security forces preventing the riffraff from passing while Lynne Cheney and entourage made their way to the signing tent, where a huge line of folks clutching her book was gathering.

Alas, our panel, I Love You, I Hate You: Writing About Love required no security forces, but it was packed, and I was especially happy that my friend and former book group cohort Suzanne Balling, who just moved to Austin, attended. In my intro, I was pleased to use a line I once said to Harlan in our early dating days: “It’s so nice to love someone that I don’t want to kill.’ It seemed appropriate.

After the panel we made our way to the signing tent, where I signed two whole books—both to my mom’s friend Gayle. And then, starving, we made our way to Las Manitas, a yummy Mexican dive that fellow panelist Marion Winik said was her favorite restaurant ever. Unfortunately it took half an hour to walk down there (with my mom complaining the whole way about the heat) and then sat and had a proper meal, so I wound up missing pretty much all the events I really wanted to go to: Tom Perrotta, George Saunders, The Onion, That Seventies Panel, all of which happened while I was inhaling chicken flautas, refried beans and guacamole, washed down with a pineapple Jarritos. But it was okay, I let it go—and told myself I’d go to the big Fiction vs. Nonfiction slam later that night, in which many of the same writers from those other events would participate. We listened to Jesse singing a couple of his gothic love and death ballads and made our way back to the hotel to nap before heading out to the evening’s festivities.

My mom decided to blow off the Author’s party at a fabulous loft downtown, so I hopped a ride by myself in a hotel shuttle over there. The loft was astounding, it just went on and on, farther and farther back and up until a staircase led to a roofdeck with a mosaic pool. I talked to author Kim Powers for a while—we had a lot of New York theater friends in common—and then found Cyndi Hughes, the moderator of my panel and hung out talking to her and author Margaret Sartor, author of Miss American Pie, and Brian Floca, author and illustrator of such children’s books as The Racecar Alphabet. Also ran into David Meyer, a film writer I used to know in New York, who told me he’d invite me to his book event next week in LA.

I’m over this entry, but will finish with the pearls before swine tale. Our little foursome decided to head down to the trendy Soco (South Congress) neighborhood to attend the Fiction vs. Nonfiction event at a trendy lounge, and meandered our way to Cyndi’s car, which was parked in an alley a couple blocks away. Just as we loaded into the car, Margaret touched the ring she wears on her middle finger and realized her pearl was missing. We all jumped out and started searching the dark alley around us. Just then, Robert, the party photographer and a friend of Cyndi’s turned up and he grabbed a flashlight from his car to help look. We’re all scouring the ground and in the distance I see this big old doggie sniffing around the back of a house. I approach, thinking it’s the most enormous Bassett Hound I’ve ever seen only to learn that it’s a pot-bellied pig! Who has escaped from its pen behind a house. Brian and I pet the bristly fella (who turns out to be a girl). Margaret and Bob decided to retrace her steps back to the party, while Brian and I followed the pig, who was slowly making her way down the alley toward the street. We were afraid she was going to get hit by a car and she’s so huge, we couldn’t exactly pick her up like a Yorkie pup and stick her back in her pen. So, Brian banged on her owner’s door while I followed the pig as she made her way behind a white SUV which subsequently drove off without noticing her. Piggy’s owner came out and said, “She just learned she can get out of there and she’s testing her boundaries.” She wanted to follow her to see how far she would go and sure enough, she just kept plodding her way all the way to the street, grunting as she went. Little girl certainly would have become roadkill had we not intervened. Brian and I looked at each other and said, “Margaret’s pearl saved the pot-bellied pig!”

And that’s the story of the weekend. We couldn’t get into the event, cause it was packed to capacity, so we ate more Mexican food (catfish tacos!), Amy’s ice cream and stood around chatting with other rejects on the street corner. All in all a lovely evening. And on our way back to the car, we ran into Margaret, who informed us that she had found her pearl. Sitting right on the ledge where the four of us had been chatting back on that gorgeous roofdeck overlooking Austin.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Morning Drive Tour

It’s 6:04 am and I’m awake, been awake actually since 5, which in my world is unheard of. Today I’m doing a leg of my Morning Drive Radio Tour, as it is called by the company I’ve hired to book it. What it means is a series of interviews on morning shows. The first was at 5am with some station in Portland, Oregon—they’re on the west coast, too, why the hell are they up so early?

So, here I am, did a quickie interview that didn’t go that well, just okay, and since I’ve checked email (not much in that dept, even the East Coasters are just beginning to stir). I did notice my sister’s available on iChat, but I resisted that temptation and instead read news on the writers strike, which actually affects me since, of all things, I joined the Guild about a month ago! How’s that for timing? I’m trying to decide if I should haul myself—and my big belly—out to the picket line to support the cause. I mean, I know I should. Hell, I even have a job I’m not allowed to be doing right now, a second draft due of Audrey Rose, the script I’m writing for MGM. I finally got to work on it last week, started brainstorming and bouncing ideas around and renting psychological thrillers for inspiration and bam! There's a pens down order. Harlan, my husband doesn’t want me to go. He thinks I should be taking it easy. But my leftie friend Mae says she’ll go out there with me. Maybe I’ll just join for a couple of hours. What else do I have to do—I mean, besides radio interviews. Gotta go to yoga, call Citibank, bug my publicist about press for my book. There’s this cute trench coat I’m thinking of buying from a catalogue.

This weekend I went to Austin for the Texas Book Festival. It was awesome. I went to participate in a panel: I Love You, I Hate You: Writing About Love. A great title. I was accompanied by the writers Jesse Sublett, a scruffy rocker who was in a seminal punk band (shit, forget the name) and wrote mystery novels and a memoir about his college girlfriend who was murdered back when they were together; Marsha Moyer, author of a series of Texas-based romantic novels, most recently Heartbreak Town; and NPR commentator, memoirist and local celebrity Marion Winik, who was clearly the star of our event. She had the crowd rapt and laughing from minute one, and I think she’s the only one who sold any books. (Well, my mom’s friend and former neighbor Gayle, who recently relocated to Austin and hung out with us all weekend, bought a couple copies.)

As far as my experience in Austin, the panel was almost besides the point. Going to a book festival is an amazing experience for an author, especially a novice like me. My mom and I left Friday morning and arrived in Austin in the afternoon. We had a suite at the Doubletree with two fluffy double beds…

Alright, just broke for two more interviews. The first one was great, with Pete Nichols of WILI-FM in Norwich, CT. They’re even giving my book out as a free gift to people who call in with their worst dating stories! Nice! Next one with Jim Scott at WLW-AM in Cincinnati was also very lively except he made this joke about Harlan being the one that got away, he goes, “What do you call him—Fish?” And for the life of me, I couldn’t understand what he was saying, I thought he was saying, “What do you call him—Miss?” which didn’t make any sense. So that was a little awkward but at least it was at the end of an otherwise entertaining interview. I hope they edit it out! Yikes. At least he said he’d plug my website on the show. Gotta go do another one, this time with Judyth Piazza at Internet Radio. Hey, back. That woman threw me a bit, but I think I did okay. She asked me questions like, What’s a piece of advice someone gave you that you never forgot (forget articles, write books) and what’s one quality that successful people have in common (passion). I really had to wing it there, wish I’d come up with a better answer for the advice question, but I warmed up and did okay. I think.
Finally finished unpacking, had some love time with Jack and Maggie, ate a piece of toast, way to kill time until my next interview in 20 minutes with KNST-AM in Tucson. Lots of AM stations, I just realized, that’s not good! I need some more FM!

Back to Austin. So, Friday night Gayle came to pick up my mom for dinner at the hotel and they drove me over to the Four Seasons for the opening night gala, where I was my friend Clay’s date. He’s the literary director and the person who invited me to attend. He was dapper in his black suit, waiting for me out in front of Austin's finest hotel. We dumped our stuff in his parents’ bedroom and headed down to a dining room that was packed with 100s of people at round tables (“all rich,” Clay said).

Okay, watered the yard, checked in with Harlan, who just got home from another long day’s work in Mumbai, so excited that tomorrow he gets a day off! Wow, I just had my liveliest interview yet with Kathryn Raaker of WCVX in Cincinnati, a Christian station of all things! She was just so excited to tell me her own dating stories and stories about her 37-year-old daughter who lives in New York City and decided to come up with her own system called 50 First Dates, where she goes out with fifty guys one time and if she likes someone she adds him to the end of the list and sees him a second time after she’s gone through the fifty. Wow, that woman should write a book!