Ever feel like you’ve been shot out of a cannon with one foot tied to the ground? That pretty much sums up my past few months.
Here are the highlights:
Went to Writefest 2005 in Austin, Texas, hosted by the adorable and fabulously talented duo of Cynthia and Greg Letitch-Smith, where there was much work and merriment and general happy chaos. Writefest is a workshop-by-invitation wherein writers submit a complete manuscript by a May 1st deadline. In May, you get around 15 partial manuscripts and 2 complete manuscripts to devour and enjoy and critique. Every participant has a code name and you are sworn to the kind of secrecy usually reserved for a Skull-and-Bones initiation rite. That’s why it works: because you don’t know who else is coming. My code name was Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsarina of Russia. Of course, she was the LAST Tsarina of Russia and did not end up well so I did sort of wonder about that. Anyway, for six, bloody months I kept my mouth shut tight as Mark Felt, and when people said, hey, what are you doing this summer, I’d get wide-eyed and say, “NOTHING! AND DON’T ASK AGAIN!”
I had the pleasure of reading some incredible works-in-progress, including new work by Laura Ruby and Franny Billingsley. Swoon! Rapture! I made new friends and enjoyed reconnecting with some I’d already met. I went to a costume party dressed as my antagonist and discovered that it’s really hard to pee in a full suit of Samurai armor complete with helmet and sword. Also, it’s hard to do “interpretive” dance in same costume. Just saying. No, I will not explain.
It was really great to be in Austin again. I went to school there and it’s always been a magical place for me. I remember going to see bands at Liberty Lunch (which doesn’t exist anymore) the Continental Club, Antones, and various hole-in-the-wall clubs around town. Sure, it was about a thousand degrees and Whole Foods, the place where hairy armpit hippie girls used to bag your pour-it-yourself peanut butter and tell you how to care for your nose ring, has morphed into the new, corporate Whole Foods-a-Dome complete with fourteen different kinds of organic sushi that’s practically gift-wrapped, but hey, things change. You can still get mix-ins at Amy’s ice cream (oooh, coffee with fudge and chocolate shavings!). You can still watch the sunset over Lake Austin and eat BBQ at County Line. You can still get a great breakfast at the Omletry. Look for bats on South Congress. Buy a yard gnome at Uncommon Objects. You can eat great Tex Mex till you nearly explode and drive past Pease Park early in the morning and think about taking a swim in the frigid waters of Barton Springs but not actually do it because, (A) you don’t have time and (B) you’ve grown rather attached to breathing.
One night, as we were driving back from the workshop through Hyde Park, I got this funny feeling in my gut, and it was not the BBQ. I looked up and realized we were smack-dab in front of a former boyfriend’s house on Avenue C. It was like some weird body memory made me look. I felt like if I peeked in the windows I’d still see his drum kit in the corner by the kitchen. Of course, if I actually peeked in the windows I’d probably get arrested and wouldn’t that make a fun live journal story? Oh, golly, yes. Then again, orange jumpsuits–so not my color.
I was home from Austin for about three days when the family and I took off for ALA in Chicago. Scads of fun. Was part of a panel on the impact of the Internet on teen lit which is pretty ironic for those who know me as the Jessica Simpson of technology. I’m pretty sure my web designer, the fabulous and long-suffering Theo Black, probably has a permanent indentation on his forehead now from banging his head against the wall when I call with my million-and-one stupidest questions ever asked. Did a signing on Saturday. And then…I got to meet Judy Blume. Yes, THE Judy Blume! Dude, it was like shaking hands with God. I pretty much made a complete idiot out of myself fawning and I swear you could hear the braces growing back on my teeth, the slight slur brought on by the rubber bands stretching over the metal, the hair going lank and hanging in my face, the unfortunate sweater with a cute woodland animal on the front and some saying like, “grin and BEAR it!” suddenly emblazoning itself across my chest. Yes, I regressed to full sixth-grade status in her presence. And she was incredibly nice and gracious about it. What can I say? It was a thrill.
David Levithan wore the coolest shirt of the evening. He’d taken a black magic marker and written the names of his favorite books across a white button-down. Then, in a different ink, right over his heart, he had written the words “these books matter to me.” I want to be David when I grow up.
I got to meet many cool librarians–long may they rock. And when I wasn’t doing the bidness do, I got to see the city. Or rather, the kid’s eye view of the city. We took Josh to the Navy Pier, Children’s Museum (twice, but who’s counting), the Shedd Aquariaum–which is more expensive than MOMA!!!! As my friend Adrienne said, “What happened? Did you accidentally buy a shark?”) and the Museum of Science and Industry, which I really loved. Chicago is great. Josh says he wants to live there in the Fairmont Hotel.
Yeah, good luck with that, buddy. Guess we’ll start calling him Eloise.
I’m off to San Francisco next week. For anyone in the San Fran area, there is a teen author night happening at Books, Inc. on Thursday, July 14th, from 6-8p.m. Here’s a link: http://www.booksinc.net/NASApp/store/IndexJsp?s=localinterest
Hope to see you there.
Must finish short story that is (over)due for an anthology. And then on to laundry. You’d think, being a Tsarina and all, that I wouldn’t have to stoop to such things. But then again, I like having clean undies.