Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keep Chipping Away

Each morning, I make a date with myself and my novel. The alarm rings at 5, I pop contacts into my bleary eyes, do my makeup and head downstairs to make coffee and unload the dishwasher. (That dishwasher makes me feel like Sisyphus: Load, unload. Load, unload). My very modest and totally attainable goal each day is 250 words. The calculations show that at this rate, the first draft will be done in 2028. No, it just seems that way. Actually it might be done some time in October.

Today I hit 85 pages. Not all of them good or usuable, mind you. But the lesson for the day is that little things do add up.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Your Top 3 Travel Adventures

Just finished writing my article for on adventure travel, in which I listed my top three travel adventures. They are: Cartagena, Colombia; Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada; and Muscat, Oman.

You'll have to check out the March issue of the magazine to read why and how I wound up in all these places -- for some reason, I have crazy travel timing, so my time in Dawson City (near the Arctic Circle) was in February when high temps were 30 below WITHOUT wind chill. And I spent a sweltering August in Oman, which happens to be a coastal Gulf nation, meaning not only desert heat, but humidity. Try 120 plus 90 percent humidity and a long dress and you get the picture!

What are your top travel adventures? Fill me in on the juicy details!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Non-Travelling Travel Writer

Yesterday I had a lunch meeting at The Noodle with the publisher, editor and ad sales director of a local magazine called Make It Better ( The fabulous highlight of this lunch was getting to talk to Larry, the publisher, an accomplished journalist and former Pioneer Press publisher, who has a killer sense of humor and carries a reporter's notebook in his back pocket. I love that. Once a reporter, always a reporter.

We talked travel stories for upcoming issues: adventure travel, unusual mother-daughter trips, boys' days out in the city, county fairs (LOVE this. I covered county fairs every summer as a cub reporter. Nothing like a good horse pull. Or an interview with Weird Al Yankovich.) Most amazing? They want stories about places other than Chicago. Imagine that. Much as I have hinted to Frommer's that I could write about places other than my home, they insist on using writers who live in the cities they cover. Fine. I get that. Imagine: Now I can become a travel writer who actually travels. Suggestions for my first destination, anyone?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Your Brain on Writing

Yesterday I had a lovely, non-deadline-filled day with both kids in school, and I plopped myself on the couch, laptop on top of lap, and turned on the TV. Oprah. Half watching, half writing, half cruising Google reader (does three halves equal a whole?), I didn't pay much attention to the show until Paula Deen showed up. I've never seen her cooking show, but Lawd, that woman has a commanding presence.

She was there to reach out to a boy who had lost his twin brother to a brain tumor and was finding his way back to life by baking. That's when my writer's brain perked up. My new novel (73 pages and counting! Progress is being made!) is about a character who's lost her husband, and in fact has lost herself long before that, and through cooking, begins the process of connecting with herself. I started making frantic notes on the tiny post-it that happened to be on the table next to me, none of which made any sense later, but no matter. I had absorbed the jist of it. Writer's brains are like that: we find connections, latch on to ideas, and bring them all together in one place that maybe, hopefully, will have meaning for others.

Human Error

It's 3:50 a.m. and due to malfunction of alarm clock, I am sitting on my couch in full make-up already having downed first cup of coffee of the day. To be honest, it was a user malfunction, not so much the alarm clock's fault, after all the poor clock is an inanimate object that does what it is told. If the NTSB came to check out the wreckage of my life today, they would declare human error. The honest-to-God truth is that I intended to take a nap yesterday and set my alarm for 2:30 so I could pick up kids at 3, and I sorta kinda forgot to change the time when I popped the little plug on the alarm last night. So here I am.

Early morning is good to me. I get up at 5 daily and get to work producing my 250 words. It's a modest goal but hey, I had to make it achievable even after late-night port-drinking sessions. (Port quickly becoming new obsession along with French bistro cooking. Admit it, you want to join me, don't you??). At my novelist group's holiday dinner held at the venerable Hopleaf Bar in lovely and scenic and formerly Scandinavian Andersonville, we figured out that each one of us (except me at that time, but look, I'm reformed) got up at 5 to meet what you might call the writing muse. Here I am, muse. Time to pop over to the novel and see what the muse has in mind today.