I don’t travel very often, so when I do I usually have the luxury of saying to myself, “Self,” (sez I) “you don’t need to write for these few days.”
But not always. And just occasionally, believe it or not, I want to do some writing when I’m out of town.
So I take my laptop and set it up in the hotel room or the nearest Starbucks, which is usually no more than five feet away.
There was also a time when I could work on a plane.
Last week I flew to Houston for a wedding. Surprisingly, a flight to Houston is almost four hours from SFO. That doesn’t make sense: If it’s five hours to New York, then shouldn’t it be two-and-a-half hours to Texas? It must have something to do with what my third grade teacher, Mrs. Ritter, taught us about how maps are misleading, because maps are flat and the earth is round.Read More
I keep blogging about how miserably, masochistically and unjustly hard writing is, blah blah, poor me, poor me. Well, as Leslie Gore sang, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” But I had one of those miraculous moments today, one of those – dare I say? – epiphanies, one of those times when it’s all worthwhile, and darn it, I’m going to record it. Yes, I have been in a slump of late. I play Hearts for twenty minutes before I even try to write, and it isn’t more than a sentence before I’m back to Hearts, if only to get revenge on Nicole, which would be North (the default setting on the computer) but I changed the come-with-the-computer settings (North, South, East, and West, South being moi) to make the game more interesting. More interesting, yes, but not...Read More
I’m not good at faking (more’s the pity) so I’m going to come right out and say that Adair Lara is a “close, personal friend of mine,” as a certain entertainer was famous for saying — and as I am quite proud to say in this case. She was a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle for fifteen years which made her a local celeb. I have gone about the city with her and watched strange women (not “odd” women, just women I don’t know) clasp her arm up to the elbow and effuse, “M-my God, you’re writing about my life!” Four years before leaving the Chronicle in 2005, Adair had published Hold Me Close, Let Me Go, a memoir of her daughter’s adolescence, with Broadways Books. (She gives me...Read More
I had the pleasure, this past February, of hearing Jacquelyn Mitchard speak at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. I was glad that she was so inspiring because otherwise you could get darn intimidated: nine novels (at last count) and seven children (at last count). These numbers don’t include her books for young readers or her non-fiction. After Mitchard’s talk a woman asked, “What advice do you have for those of us who have young children and find it so taxing?” Mitchard’s response, “I think you’re trying to be too good a parent.” First, I know the “too good” parents she’s talking about: They’re the ones who try to make me feel guilty that I’m not chaperoning, baking, setting up, taking down, selling raffle tickets and generally following orders. Too often...Read More
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was an icon and martyr of the early feminist movement. The wife of the Jazz Age novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was the author of the masterpiece The Great Gatsby, in that role Zelda embodies the fate of the talented woman of her day and many thousands of days before: She was indoctrinated throughout her youth to play the role of wife and mother while remaining a frivolous Southern Belle. The mighty river of her own talent became a tributary that fed into the ocean of her husband’s genius, where it dissipated, unnoticed. An earlier, but now politically incorrect view of Zelda’s life, was that she was a mental case (literally) who, though providing Scott with a role model for his deathless heroines (most memorably Daisy from The Great...Read More
In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner said that the best job for a writer to have was a spouse willing to support him or her. Lest any of his readers feel guilty about such an arrangement, he went on to say that the husband or wife in question should feel it was a privilege to get that close to the creative process. I find this proposition unrealistic, irritating and, most of all, arrogant. I have also discovered it true. Writing gurus preach that you can always find time to write if you want to. Even I — mea culpa — have asserted this often, in seminars and in my writing book. “Start with ten minutes a day. Get up ten minutes earlier. Don’t wear make up.” Right. Like I would leave the house without it. Now this is not a public...Read More
Some years back I was teaching a short “intro to fiction” workshop at a local independent school when a woman in the group asked me, “How does Danielle Steel do it?” I responded flippantly, “If I knew that, would I be teaching for twelve dollars an hour?” But the woman already had her own explanation. “Well, I think she just doesn’t care if she writes a bad book.” I was flip no longer. “Now, wait. Millions of readers love Danielle Steel. And thousands of writers are trying to imitate her. I don’t know ‘how’ she does it, but she’s touching something in those millions of readers.” I had not convinced the lady. She sank back in her chair, folding her arms over her chest, looking skeptical, and quite disappointed with me.There is a commonly-held belief that popular...Read More