Saturday, February 20, 2010

Manifestation is Major Mojo

So...February is almost over. Now is the time that those New Year’s resolutions—the ones we all began with such diligence and determination—begin to falter. We skip a day. We skip another. Our focus begins to wane. It starts to seem a little silly, maybe even useless...

Well, I want to remind everyone that MANIFESTATION IS MAJOR MOJO!

I wish I could take credit for that incredible line, but it comes from Kris Carr’s fabulous book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor (fabulous! read it!)


Remember that. If you want something, state it loud and clear and put it out there to the universe.

It works. I’m dead serious. And a recent example made me realize it all over again...just in time for that end-of-February slump.

A reader I’ve been in touch with contacted me after reading my blogs about living in Brooklyn, wanting to know how I began my Year as a Gypsy. We started an email exchange where the Midwestern reader revealed she had always wanted to live in New York City even if temporarily and had decided she must make it happen.

I shared with her how I just “put it out there” to everyone I knew when I had embarked on my Year as a Gypsy. I said to just commit to doing it and start stating it as a goal. Not “I want to...” but “I will...” I gave her the quote “The universe will reward you for taking risks on its behalf.”

The very next day one of my beloved writer friends Tanya forwarded an email about a friend looking to sublet their Manhattan apartment for several weeks this spring (for a great price). Tanya said, “I know you probably don’t want to leave your fabulous garden during prime planting time, but wanted you to know about it. Please forward to anyone you think might be interested.”

Well...I forwarded to the reader.

A few days later, the reader emailed me and she IS TAKING THAT APARTMENT. Is that cool or what? Even cooler was that the apartment owner had several offers, but chose her “because she was a writer.”

Be careful what you wish for! Seriously: treat your wishes with care. Name them. Get them out there in the world. Own them, no matter how outrageous others may think they are.

So, get out of that mid-winter slump and take a new look at those resolutions! Make them manifest!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

White Death!

My friend Ted and I like to make fun of our local media's "snow hype" and the frenzy of fear they whip up every time we're scheduled to receive an inch or two of snow. Last week a "major" storm promising the rather broad range of "a predicted 2-8 inches" of snow was due. For once, right on schedule, the snow started to fall on Friday morning (around 9:00 AM, thus robbing the area school children—and teachers—of a snow day).

"My God, woman! Do you have your bread and milk?" Ted screamed into my phone.

"I'm stocked," I swore. "Where are you? Are you working from home?"

"No, I went to work," he said. "And now the 'white death' is coming down!"

"Come home right now!" I said. "No, no, don't! It's too dangerous. Just stay in the office until Monday. Don't go outside! For anything!"

We end up laughing about the "terror" a little snow produces. Later that evening, Ted called and asked, "Are you okay? Have
you eaten the cat yet?"

"Not yet. But I might have to. I'm not leaving my house until April!"

"Thank God you have your bread and milk."

What is it about that bread and milk? That's what people are always stocking up on at the grocery before any predicted snow. Bread, milk, and beer.

I had to go the grocery store anyway on Thursday before the snow because I was out of cream for my coffee. I can't write without coffee, and I can't drink coffee without cream, so I blithely went to the grocery store in the middle of Thursday afternoon...and could not find a parking space to save my life. The place was SWAMPED. Carts piled high. I just don't get it. Even IF we got every inch of snow predicted, these people act as if we're going to be unable to leave our homes for weeks.

And what's with bread and milk? If I knew I couldn't leave my home for a week, is it bread and milk I'd crave? Nope. I'd stock up on chocolate, coffee, good books. Maybe a frozen pizza or two. Some Indian carryout. Popcorn. Jeni's ice cream. A good bottle of wine...

Maybe it's not terror at all. Maybe it's just wishful thinking. The thought of being snowed in for a week is actually so appealing to people that they can't help themselves but to rush out and prepare. We're all so busy, so over scheduled, and over connected. Maybe we're all looking for the one excuse everyone will accept for us to just go home and cocoon for a day or two.

You know? Sometimes it's like receiving a gift to get that "pass" that allows us to wipe the slate clean, cancel all evening plans, put on our jammies, and put marshmallows in our cocoa?

Maybe that's why so many buy into the "white death" terror. Snow's coming! Oh my God! Everybody go home and stay put (it's what we all secretly want to be ordered to do)!

Mother Nature does what Mother Nature does. No need to panic or bemoan her actions. I say, let's just enjoy it, savor the beauty and the slower pace, and relish a little hibernation at home with our bread and milk.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

That's a Wrap on the Flap

I have flap copy!

What the heck does that mean? You know when you pick up a book in a store and read the description either inside the book jacket’s flap or on the back of the book? The flap copy is that brief paragraph that sums up an entire novel in such a way that (hopefully) makes you want to read it.

You know how hard it is to sum up a whole book into a brief paragraph?

Personally, I’m horrible at it. Most writers are. Ask us the dreaded question, “So what’s your book about?” and we’re likely to stutter and stammer, “Well, it’s about a lot of things,” and give way too convoluted a summary including character histories and subplots. I have to practice this answer. No lie.

Ideally, any novel should be able to be summed up in ONE SENTENCE. I tell that to students in my fiction writing classes. It’s a really good exercise to try that with your own work in progress.

Obviously, there’s not a lot of room for nuance and development in a single sentence. But you should be able to capture the essence, the core story question of the plot. For example, Moby Dick becomes: “Captain Ahab obsessively searches for the whale who took his leg but fails to kill it.”

You boil it down to a concentrate.

So, my new novel, The Blessings of the Animals becomes: A veterinarian spends her first post-divorce year surrounded by a motley crew of rescue animals, but those animals actually end up rescuing her.

Fortunately, the flap copy can be a brief paragraph or two, which feels like an indulgent luxury after the one-sentence exercise. Still, it’s tough to pull off, and I’m grateful to the folks at HarperCollins who helped develop mine.

Here it is:

From the author of THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS comes a wry, engrossing, and moving story of a veterinarian's journey through the aftermath of divorce—amid a motley crew of animals.

Shaken by her recent divorce, veterinarian Cami Anderson is on a quest to unravel the secret ingredient of a happy, long-lasting marriage. Cami's parents are preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary, yet her brother and his partner are legally blocked from marriage. Her best friend—and ex-sister-in-law—is newly engaged, but her teenaged daughter's romance has developed its own complications.

Surrounded by several couples approaching different milestones in their relationships, Cami reflects on the meaning of love and partnership, sharing her hopes and fears with damaged, frightened horse in her care. As she tends to the abused horse (and an escape artist goat and a three-legged cat), so, too, does Cami begin to heal herself. Coming to terms with her own divorce, she learns poignant lessons in forgiveness, flexibility, and happiness that help her master the art of simply moving on.
Screenwriters call it “the elevator pitch”—can you describe your project in an articulate, intriguing manner in the time it takes to share an elevator with someone for a couple floors?

Give it a shot. You’ll be glad you did the next time someone asks that seemingly simple question, “So, what’s your book about?”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rodents Do NOT Control Our Weather

Groundhog Day. A bunch of people gathering to learn if a rodent sees its shadow? Really? I'm weary of gray skies, too, and ready to get back in my garden, but…really? How did this silly tradition start? At the very moment I was thinking these disdainful thoughts, I heard on the radio that Punxatawny Phil had seen his shadow, and I was shocked at the wave of genuine disappointment that coursed through me.

Then I started laughing. My cat looked at me funny. I said aloud, "Rodents do not control our weather."

Or...DO they?

A friend joked that she felt rodents WERE controlling certain aspects of her life. I joked back that maybe we should replace that old self-help motto "Let go and let God" with "Let go and let groundhogs."

Oh, and for the record? Dayton's own Ivy—the beautiful resident groundhog at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery—did not see her shadow.

Where did I put those gardening catalogs?