You know all those ’70’s disaster type movies? The Irwin Allen years? The great long shot of the grand ship in the calm seas, the cameos of the B-movie actors as they lay out their hopes/dreams/issues: “This is just to make some bread. But after this, we’re off to Hollywood, man. And we’re gonna be the most successful macrame wearing-Helen Reddy cover band that town’s ever seen.” The close up of the white-haired, stoic captain/meteorologist/mayor as he reads but chooses to ignore the ice cap/tidal wave/earthquake/killer bee/Bermuda Triangle Devil Doll from Atlantis warning? You know what I’m talking about?

I am living one of those movies. It’s called my second book. And I have the urge daily to stand up in the Tea Lounge, sweaty and disheveled, and shout,

The answer is: the stewardess. And the thing is, she’s not a pilot or even a co-pilot. No. Her thing is the distribution of snacks. (We’re going with a pre-9/11 airline landscape for this painfully extended analogy; hang with me…) She’s well-versed in the getting of salty edibles and fizzy drinks. Maybe even in rapping with the angry-but-virile-priest-from-the-inner-city-who-has-a-chip-on-his-shoulder-but-who-finds-his-faith-in-the-end-so-the-white-people-watching-the-movie-don’t-get-too-scared played by Erik Estrada at his teeth-gnashing best.

So the stewardess, see, she can sit there in her miniskirt and knee boots, nodding sympathetically, while giving him the old pep talk: “Please Father, there are 225 people on this plane who could use a bit of faith right now.”…she can whip out the guitar and keep the kidney patient from flatlining…she can even make coffee while pointing out the front and rear exits…but fly the plane? I don’t f**king think so.

See, I am that stewardess. (Some of my more astute readers may be way ahead of me on that confession.) And I. CANNOT. FLY. THIS. DAMN. PLANE. My research reading encompasses everything from lunatic asylums to the Templars to My Pretty Pony. (“Hmmm….it’s a pony and she’s pretty…but the my throws me. Is this a statement on gender politics? Is the pony somehow enslaved, objectified, while thinking herself free to frolic with other plastic toys? And why do I have the urge to use the special brush on her soft mane and put clippy things in it?”) I am overanalyzing my breakfast cereal.

I spent six hours huddled over my laptop (with the leg burns to prove it) today, and by the end, I swear to you all I wanted to do was give up writing and tighten lug nuts for a living. I just want to tell a friggin’ story. It shouldn’t be so hard. Maybe if I didn’t have a tendency to want to tell TWELVE stories in the same 500-page book, that might make it easier. The story hasn’t told me exactly what it’s about yet. Dammit.

Why do I feel the altitude dropping rapidly/the ship turning over/the ground opening up into a great sinkhole of “Oh Fuckdom”?

Doomed. Doomed, I tell you. Cut. Roll credits. Play theme song.
There’s got to be a morning after…

19 thoughts on “THE STENCH OF PANIC

  1. I am officialy in love with you, darling. Good luck, you’ll get it, and in the mean time order lots of Chinese food and vege-out. It stimulates the brain- believe me.

    And feel free to make the book longer than 500 pages :3 We wont hold it against you, I assure you.

  2. At the meeting with The Nameless Writing Group, Clarion stories were being swapped (if you haven’t heard of it, Clarion is an intensive sf/f writing workshop). One of the guest writers had cryptically given this piece of advice: “you can’t write a story until you know the thing.” Apparently, the thing can be any detail about the main character, the plot, whatever, but it is the thing that makes the story start working for the writer. The more I thought about that, the more sense the idea made. Sometimes I think you just have to keep slogging along until you find it, but it will come. Really.

    Need to talk? I am coming into the city on Saturday. I could meet you at the Tea Lounge if you want to go over some stuff or just vent.

  3. houston houston can you hear me?

    I am in my living room, having just donned a cheerleading outfit. blue and white. I have pom poms. POM POMS. I now begin. Ready! Begin! Cheer!


    in every disaster movie there is a person in the control tower telling the stewardess that she CAN FLY THIS PLANE!!!

    * ahem * Libba! You CAN fly this plane!

  4. ditto

    All you need is a pregnant lady and a ten-year-old, way-too-calm-to-be-real child and the disaster movie will be complete. I’m too old to be the child and too not-pregnant to be the pregnant lady, so I guess I’ll join Ribinder in the control tower.

    It’ll come soon. Don’t give up.

  5. Re: houston houston can you hear me?

    I won’t scare you with a cheerleading outfit but I will stand on the runway with those cool flashlight things to wave you in. Oh, um, in the movies these are usually the guys who get knocked or run over, don’t they. Well, hell, I’ll do it anyway.

    I am routing for you, Lib! And I’m so sorry this has been such a turbulent trip.

  6. Yikes

    Oh, Libba, I’m so sorry things don’t seem to be going smoothly for you. First of all, I bet it’s going better than you think it is. ’cause you’re a GODDESS. And, B, Are you getting enough chocolate? ’cause it sure doesn’t sound like it. Just say the word and I’ll FedEx you some Scharffen Berger, or Ghiradelli or even (horrors) Hershey.

    Yours in Divahood,

  7. As someone who recently completed the most massive revision she’s ever done (100+ brand new pages – almost like writing a new novel entirely), all I can say is: I FEEL YOUR PLANE. (Pun intended.)

    Breathe deeply,

  8. I’m with you

    I can say with all honesty – you are not alone. I call this feeling writing my second book.

    You’ll figure out what it’s about. You really really will.

  9. Delicious Disaster

    Why must it be about anything at all? I suppose if you’ve already got insane plastic ponies in there, a plot really doesn’t matter. Insane plastic ponies are terribly, terribly tasty, and would surely distract readers from all the plot holes.

    Of the disasters listed, I do wish you had chosen to analogize the one about the earth opening into a sinkhole ready to swallow you whole. How ever would a stewardess get out of that predicament? With instructions from the people in the control tower in hell, perhaps?

    By the by, it is spelled pom pon. Just a useless little bit of information I learned from my sister, Bronwyn. She rarely talks (she usually toots on her little tinwhistle), so it was something to remember.

  10. GO LIBBA, GO!!!

    Poor Libba… maybe you should sit upside down wih your legs crossed ‘indian style’. That always helps me if I’m having trouble writing or memorizing or just wanting to freak people out in public. Or maybe you could just think of me doing the triology dance and think of my disapointment when it’s only a…not trilogy. And as someone else said, I’m sure it’s not that bad, unless there’s a character named Raoul. Then I would probably say it’s bad. Come on! Buck up sister! RAH RAH! (I had to keep in line with the cheerleader theme, you know)


  11. sympathetic… i kno the feeling

    ive been writing every now and then. nothing published.. not jus because im young and all that.. but basically, i have about 12 different stories. some go up to like 100-something pages. others only about 60. and others only about 20. but still, none are finished. so i feel ur pain. good luck!!!! =D i kno u’ll do great! u are a great writer and u’ll get through it!!!

  12. Hi. I’m a fan of your book (hopefully books). But yeah. Don’t stress. Or do stress. Sometimes stressing is the coolest part cuz you can walk around and be like “Don’t bother me I’m stressing here”. I may be in high school but I have learned that. So. *hanging upside down* I just want to let you know, hain’t you got all the fools in town on your side? (to semi-quote Twain). I dunno if I will stick myself into a cheerleading outfit or wave little lights or give brilliant or stuck-up advice, because I really can’t do much than tell you that I have read a lot of stuff, and yours is definitely rated high. I think that in the end, you’re going to write this awesome book and I’ll end up with the light on at some hideously early hour in the morning reading it… 😀

  13. A Great and Terrible Beauty

    Hi this is Hannah and Eleonore.
    We really liked your book, and were so happy to hear that its a triolgy, when will the second be coming out?? We really liked the way you portrayed the 4 girls, and felt like we could relate in different ways. We thought the way you decribed india, and england was really great.

    Elle and Hannah

    P.S We would really like it if you could email us here are our address –> and

  14. A Great and Terrible Beauty

    I absolutely loved A Great and Terrible Beauty and it is currently my favorite book!!!!!! I got it for Christmas and was done three days later. AMAZING!!! I can’t wait for more!!!!

  15. hi i just read ur latest book(it’s awsome!)

    hi. uh like i said i just read your latest book and i love it!:)
    o.k. time for a request, PLEASE COME TO JACKSONVILLE, NC FOR I BOOK SIGNING!!!!!! i really wan’t to meet you.( plus there’s the fact that nobody comes here to sign anything.)
    anyway i read on the site that you like the book “blood and chocolate” i have it here at my house and i love it! I also like the book watership down( go hazel! yeah! o.k. back from wacko world.) I know your really busy but if you have the chance i recomd that you read these books(they’re really good!)o.k. the 1st kone is called Over and Over You by Amy McAuley. the other one is called Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman. and i’ll put this one in even if you’ve already read it. Eragon (and its sequel Eldest) by Christopher Paolini. all are excellent books. well um… I really enjoy you books and hope to read the end of Gemma’s journey.

    I know authors don’t release info. about heir storys but is miss moore(cierce) going to come back in the next book?
    i hope i haven’t taken up your time
    Aimee Wilde

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