Friday, February 26, 2010

You HAVE to read this.

No, seriously. You do.

Look, there are stories, and then there are stories. It's always a mix, but especially in a writing class. Some submissions you have a hard time relating to. Some you enjoy immensely, but struggle to remember after the class ends.

And some haunt you. Years after reading it, the story creeps back into your mind at odd moments, carrying the ghosts of old emotions.

The haunting ones are rare. I learned that, working in the publishing industry.

A dear friend of mine of mine got published here.

Kimarlee is a completely different writer than I am. A different genre, a different style, a different medium. All of my short stories practically beg to become novels, but hers pack a punch - they feel whole and complete and brimming with raw intensity.

"love story," for instance, takes place during the Khmer Rouge, a period of genocide in Cambodia. It's told by an unnamed narrator ("I") to his unnamed beloved ("you"), who immigrates to America to escape. It spans the day before "you" left to the day "I" was executed. Yeah, it's really that intense and awesome.

The first draft came out of our Senior Composition class during our last year at Vassar. We both knew that her writing had reached a turning point. Every time I remember it, I get the same chills that I got when she read it aloud at our class thesis reading at the end of the year. It was one of two stories that stayed with all of us after we graduated. I'm so thrilled that Kimarlee found a way to share it with the rest of the world.

Congrats, Kimmy!!

What Generation Do I Belong To Again?

(Disclaimer: This post enters rant territory.)

I re-watched this recently.

The first time I saw it was between middle school and high school. I remember wondering if my life was going to be like that when I graduated from college. (College graduation seemed very far off when I was thirteen.)

I also thought that Ethan Hawke was dreamy. ^-^

This time around, I thought mainly that he needed to wash his hair. :-o

It's a very fun movie (fun especially to see a very young Ben Stiller and a Winona of the Jo March days, before shoplifting became part of her identity), but I realized that at this point in my life, I couldn't really relate.

I'm not like this. My friends aren't like this.

Most of my friends had a plan after college. Some (like me) funneled into the publishing industry. A few of us worked for family or for family's business relations. A couple signed up for Teach for America or Teaching Fellows programs. A bunch applied immediately to grad school, or followed a significant other to grad school. Even my friend who is most like the Ethan Hawke character - ie. openly hostile to authority - got a scholarship to study graffiti in China.

Even though I know it happens, it's unfair to say that we are lazy. We do stuff. We try. We get our hands dirty.

And if we feel that it isn't right for us, we leave.

So far, half of my friends have left their jobs to pursue other opportunities. I can see how most employers don't know what to do with us. Especially if we are competent and hard-working, which many of us are. We are a hire-able, hard-to-keep generation.

We ask for more than our parents did. We are willing to put our noses to the grindstone, but when we're miserable, we can't trick ourselves into believing that it'll get better if we only work harder. We want our jobs to be fulfilling, not just good for monetary compensation, not just good for prestige.

We demand work-life balance. My friends don't have families of their own yet, but most of them are already planning for them. Many of our parents were workaholics, because they were taught that you must provide for your children in a financial way. We want to provide for our children emotionally and financially. That includes organizing our careers in a way that will let us be home by 6 to help them with their math homework, if needed. And not being so exhausted on the weekends that we are too tired to play with our kids.

We're also long-range planners. We talk about what our lives will be like when we are our parents' age. We discuss the trajectory of our lives, where it has taken us thus far, what we have learned, where we might possibly be going. Among close friends, and people we're sure won't make fun of us, we talk about fate and destiny and "what we're meant to be doing" in non-ironic terms. We may get bored after five minutes of inactivity, but we also daydream about our lives decades from now.

We also plan to make a difference. We don't like the world the way it is. We want to change it. We are opinionated about what we don't like, and we are experimenting with our own lives to see if we can improve the world.

We also believe we can do it. We're arrogant that way, and I won't apologize. We grew up with much change and much fear. Technology advanced the pace of life rapidly when we were toddlers, and 911 occurred while we were adolescents. Change doesn't bother us, and fear won't stop us.

Though young, we have lived long enough to realize that change is inevitable. Why can't it be for the better?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Techie Triumphant!!!

Okay, I wasn't going to mention it, but I'm so proud of my tech-savvy that I had to share immediately.

I fixed my laptop today. Without even calling the Apple hotline for help.

**waits for applause**

(Those who know the author well stare in astonishment.)

The post title is a lie. I am not a techie. My whole love affair with Apple happened, because I am not good with computers. Steve Jobs and his crew are just so good about making it user-friendly - and mostly Shelby-proof.

So, you can imagine my surprise and dismay when my computer started freezing up this morning before I had even finished one cup of coffee. Especially after my recent BlackBerry difficulties. This laptop is just over a year old, and its predecessor lasted nearly five years. (I know, I know. You're seeing a pattern. I do like to keep my devices around for a long while. You should've seen the brick - ahem, 3rd generation - iPod I once lugged around.) This laptop wasn't due to have difficulties for at least another year or two. I was sure that I had a virus, because in a moment of 90's nostalgia yesterday, I downloaded this song from an unknown website:

Oh, the evil lurking in love ballads from ancient animated films. Who knew? :'(

I had another reason for getting nervous. Montana doesn't have an Apple store. My Apple Care package wouldn't mean anything to the computer experts out here.

Then I tried the old fail-safe - rebooting. My computer froze again, right before shutting down.

I kept calm. I unplugged the laptop and waited for the battery to die. I tried not to resent the fact that the MacBook has a really good battery. I finished one book and started another in the time it took to lose power and shut down.

Once I plugged it back in and turned it on, my laptop seemed to be working fine. Just to be safe, I decided to download a free anti-virus scanner from the internet.

Bad idea! Bad! The computer didn't like this. Just as I dragged the new antivirus software into my Applications folder, it froze again.

I froze too. It had to be a virus. Nothing else was wrong with it. My hard drive had 153.7 MB left. That was plenty of-- Wait a minute. It was supposed to have like, gigabytes. Wasn't a megabyte smaller than a gigabyte?

(Go ahead. Laugh if you want. I told you I wasn't a techie. I actually had to doublecheck GB vs. MB on wikipedia. :-/)

So, once my cursor decided to move, I clicked around and deleted all the contents of my Downloads folder, which had become epicly engorged. And also a couple slideshow videos for good measure.

I can proudly say that I have 182.6 GB of space available. And no further far.

Shall sign off now to go backup all my files. :-o

Friday, February 19, 2010

Happy Six-Month Anniversary, Blog!!

This blog is officially six months old! Yay!!

Since I started this blog on the day that I started my new life, that means that exactly six months have passed since I left New York and moved to Charlotte. That is definitely a reason to celebrate, especially since the following has happened since I made that huge life-change:
  1. I finally read the Twilight saga.
  2. I moved again, this time to Montana.
  3. I finished a manuscript.
  4. I revised said manuscript.
  5. I did a lot of skiing.
  6. I connected with my fantastic agent J. (And someday, I'll stop mentioning her in every post.... :-P)
  7. I read 80 books, believe it or not. I almost don't believe it, but since I was curious about exactly how many books I read in a year, I started keeping a list in the back of my journal.
  8. And yesterday, I bought a new phone. :-D
Looking at this list, I have to admit that things are going well in my new life. Unbelievably well.

I don't know why things are going so well. I've wanted to be a writer since I was in kindergarten, but lots of people chase life-long dreams. I might just pass off my good luck as an upturn after five years of crummy life experiences, but several of my friends have faced rough times recently. I would say that I've been hard-working, but I know plenty of hardworking people who are struggling right now.

Maybe Enzo (from The Art of Racing in the Rain, one of those 80 books I read) says it best: "Your car goes where your eyes go."

When I left New York, I was already imagining what it would be like to be an author - both like and unlike the authors I knew as an editorial assistant. Once I had the contract, I was envisioning the writing and the revising of the manuscripts. When I finished the first round of revisions and began the querying process, I was already daydreaming about meeting my agent and discussing career plans with her.

I did doubt myself. Of course I did, especially early on. Quitting my job and moving was a big scary change, and nothing was certain. You may not have noticed, dear reader, but I didn't post at all during the month of September. I did other things. I read twenty-some books, almost a book a day. I started a part-time job. I planned - plotting out five books and developing career strategies. I started writing again, spending hours at the library with my headphones on and my pen in my hand (yes, I'm old school like that - handwriting my first draft - gasp!).

But especially in September, I was incredibly nervous, too wound up to fall asleep after I turned off the lights. I knew that I couldn't have made any choice besides the one I made, but what ifs in my future haunted me, especially in the nighttime quiet. I took a while for me to trust myself and my own judgment again. And so, I didn't blog, nervous that my insecurities would leak out on the screen.

In October, I started to feel confident again despite my doubts, and that's when my writing started to take off. I don't think that's a coincidence.

Confident daydreaming is important. I do recognize how lucky I am, but I don't think I would've gone very far if I wallowed on my day-to-day difficulties rather than thinking toward the next step.

Even now, at this six month mark, I'm thinking beyond the next round(s) of revisions to the day when I finish the last pre-contract revision for EAS and my wonderful agent sends it out to editors. :-D

I have a friend who believes in The Secret like whoa - she actually quit her job before she received her acceptance letter to grad school. (Both events did happen on the same day, but still, the names have been withheld to protect the innocent/eccentric.) I wouldn't go that far, but I think there's definitely something to be said for believing in yourself and believing good things to happen to you. Even if you don't know which way you need to go, you can visualize what it'll feel like to be in the right place - to have your strong will and determination headed in the right direction again.

And if you're out there, reading this and knowing that you aren't in the right place, knowing that you need to make a big change, do it. You have nothing to lose. Don't hesitate. Go for it.

You know who you are.

Adventures in Cell Phones, or The End of An Era

As you can probably tell from the picture, I'm a Blackberry girl. I got my first BB right before I graduated from college - actually, the same day I signed for my first apartment ever.

The flip phone I had before that lasted over four years. Sure, it didn't have color, or any internet capabilities, but it had been around since my senior year of high school. You get attached to something when it's around that long.

Then, one Sunday, as I was walking down NYC's Madison Avenue and chatting with my roommate-to-be, my flip phone fell onto the sidewalk and broke spectacularly into two pieces. Sometimes, the universe tells you when it's time to let go.

Then, as an early graduation present, I got a Blackberry Pearl - ie. the one on the left. Suddenly, I had email. I had color. I didn't use it for anything besides constant email (and then BBM) conversations, but I felt very professional. And very grown-up.

At risk of sounding kinda like a valley girl, I have to say that my BB Pearl was a big accessory to my life. It was there when the nice lady at HR called to offer me an editorial assistant position. It suffered through lots of philosophical BBM conversations between me and my dear roommate - and later, as I started to realize that New York wasn't my city, it endured my hour-long conversations with my mother.

Later, after my move, my BB pearl received the call from my editor, informing me of my very first book deal! And MOST recently, it was the phone my fantastic agent J first called me on. :-D

Unfortunately, the December day I moved to Montana, to begin my life as a full-time writer, my trusty phone started freezing up. Once a week, I had to take the battery out to reset the software. I started looking up new phones. The Pearl had become a flip phone, which I had mixed feelings about.

Then, yesterday, my BB Pearl started deleting my call and BBM history even as I typed. The situation was becoming dire. I was well overdue for a trip down Verizon Lane, but I didn't want to go all the way to Bozeman for a variety of reasons:

1. I had just been there. On Tuesday. I wasn't due for another trip for another two weeks.

2. I would have to buy gas.

3. It was supposed to snow. I try not to drive in adverse weather conditions.

4. I had JUST hit my stride writing new scenes for the revisions my fantastic agent recommended. I did NOT appreciate the interruption.

But it was the now ex-roommate who convinced me. She said that living alone in an isolated area, I couldn't afford to be without a working cell phone.

Like I said before, the universe tells you when it's time to let go.

I went. I picked out a new phone: the Blackberry Curve, ie. the one on the right.

On the drive back, I started thinking that maybe this new phone marked a new era too. Look at it again. Look at the wide keyboard, perfect for typing.

This is a writer's phone.

I know many colleagues would disagree with me, but that's what this new phone means to me. I'm not just an ex-editorial assistant with a book contract. I'm a writer. :-D

P.S. I actually typed out this entry on my new BB Curve, using my newly activated blogger email post capability! (And yes, I am dorky like that. Plus, I had to add the picture later.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Adventures with Snail Mail

Don't scoff. It's epic.

If you're like most people in the U.S., the toughest part of getting your mail is remembering to go get it. It arrives in a cute little mailbox at the end of your drive, or a slot in your front door, or - at the very most - the first floor of your apartment building.

(If you are living at school, I have a little more sympathy. You may have to walk or even drive to the building with your mailbox. My poor brother and sister - both attending the same college - have to walk across campus in the wet Maine snow to the student center and use combination locks to get to their mail. (Combination locks have always intimidated me. They don't listen to my fingers on a good day, but if they were frozen after a long walk in the ice....yikes!))

On the mountain, mail is definitely an adventure. It's been an adventure from the get-go.

Getting the P.O. Box

So, the roads up the mountain are so scary that the postal service will not go there. (UPS and FedEx usually deliver, but sometimes can't find you.) So, if you happen to be living on the mountain (or know someone who owns a house there), you can get a post office box for free....if you have the right paperwork.

The right paperwork mainly constitutes a legal document with the house's physical address. In a developing community, where roads aren't always named yet - and sometimes renamed, this is more difficult than it sounds. When my mother was still here, we visited the post office no less than three times with different documents. Mom was not pleased. She may have been feeling a little sick on the second visit and was not her usual patient self.

On the third trip, when the nice postal people could accept our documents, we tried to be as nice as possible as they explained the process. I tried to pay attention and ask as many intelligent questions as possible. For example:

The postmistress apologized for not being able to accept the documents without the physical address. "Now, that they're trying to get everything on the 9-1-1 system, they're--"

"9-1-1 system? What's that?" For some reason, I thought that this 9-1-1 system was to be some sort of new GPS system that I hadn't heard of.

The postmistress stared at me incredulously. "Uh...9-1-1, as in I have an emergency?"

I laughed really hard as my mother explained that I was usually very smart but I had, in fact, inherited the blond moments from her. I tried to make up for it later. When the postmistress brought out our new P.O. box key and told us that we were going to love our P.O. box number, I grinned and asked, "Is it 9-1-1?" It was not, but the postmistress laughed anyway.

As I said the postal people, the postal people in Big Sky are very nice, but this is a small town - they're used to locals. They tend to know the locals personally and ask about their children. So, they're not going to be polite for the sake of professionalism.

And now I'm forever the girl who asked what 9-1-1 is. :-P

Driving to Get Mail

I don't get my mail every day. It's only a twenty-five minute drive, but that does end up guzzling gas when you're in four wheel drive in second gear around hairpin turns. As a result, sometimes I go out to the car and find it looking like this:

I don't know if that picture really demonstrates how deep the snow is. Here's another, after I'd attacked it with a broom:

A foot of snow blanketed the car, as well as a thin layer of ice, which needed to be scraped.

And if there was a foot of snow on the car, that meant that there was a foot of snow on the ground.

Sometimes, your neighbor parks in an inopportune place, so you've got to do some fancy maneuvering to squeeze your big SUV between his mini-van and the snowbank.

All that, just to get out of the driveway.

I've already mentioned the hairpin turns and the inclines. The other scary thing about the mountain highway are the other driveways. Some of these people have been living in the mountains their whole lives. They don't feel like they need to take it slow. Instead, they zip around the bends with their snow tires and tail-gate slower drivers, like myself.

On one especially scary trip to the post office, I was sandwiched between a very pushy Jeep Cherokee and an oil truck. I had visions of tragic fiery accidents (hey, I'm a writer with an overactive imagination - and I'm a little morbid). Thank goodness for turn-outs! I noticed later that the Jeep Cherokee started to go a lot slower when he realized what kind of vehicle was in front of him. :-o

Getting Your Mail

So, you've arrived at the post office. The hard part is over, right?


Well, kind of. Sometimes, you open up your P.O. box and...find nothing. Which is very disappointing after all the effort you made to get there.

Sometimes, you're waiting for a very important Amazon package (well, all Amazon packages are important, but this one has work-related research books in there - why, oh why, did I choose Super Saver Shipping??). You go your P.O. box to find...not your package slip, but Valentines from your little sister and your best friend. (A happy surprise!) Or even after receiving a delivery confirmation notice from Amazon, you still find your P.O. box empty, and the nice postmistress says that she can't help you find it without the certified mail number. Or when you return after the weekend with the certified mail number nicely printed out, the nice postmistress says that it was definitely delivered and spends five minutes trying to find the package - while you bite your fingernails and wonder if your books have been accidentally picked up by someone else - before magically pulling it out of the locker right beside the cash register.

You have your mail. The adventure continues. You go out to your car and discover that since it was a warm day, there was a lot melting but not a lot of drainage, and...

...your car is surrounded with several inches of very gross looking water. You must enter from the passenger side, throw your stuff in, and leap over the puddle to keep from soaking your hiking boots.

Mail on the mountain is not for the faint of heart. Or those who hate the outdoors. :-]

I told you it was epic.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Year of the Tiger

I know, I know. You just heard from me. It's hard to imagine that I could have anything else to say after the last epicly long blog post, but I forgot to say something.

Happy Valentine's Day/Chinese New Year!

These are actually two holidays that I always forget to celebrate, but this year, they're special to me - and not just because they occur on the same day.

This is the Year of the Tiger! That's my year!

My dear friend Angela - who is Chinese, ie. was born and raised there until the age of 13 (when she met me) - alerted me to the holiday's significance. She's a Tiger, too. She also says that if it's your year, you can expect a great many challenges and also a lot of positive change. We're both crossing our fingers.

I'll keep you posted. ;-)

The Search Ends, or Agent Extraordinaire!!

Now that I feel slightly less like death, here is the promised post:

After ten queries, four requests for fulls, two rejections, and three and a half weeks, I have found my dream agent. I never expected to find her so soon - less than a month!!!!

(Disclaimer: in my excitement, this is probably going to become a much longer and more epic story than it needs to be. Especially since I had to work so hard to not mention anything.)

My cell phone rang at 9AM on Wednesday. I didn't recognize the number.

I must confess, I was not pleased. I had just woken up. I was in my pajamas. The coffee was still brewing. I was feeling sniffly with the beginnings of a cold. And the last time I had answered a call from an unknown number, it turned out that it was a medical facility calling me about a bill for some allergy testing I had done last fall. :-/

With a deep sigh, I answered it anyway, not in a very friendly or professional way. "Hello?"

"Hi, this is J[full name and agency]. Can I please speak to Shelby?"

Moment of shock. I had emailed the manuscript to J on Monday. Two days before. Less than 48 hours had passed since it arrived in her inbox!!! True, her request for the full had started off with "OH MY GOODNESS, Shelby" and generally expressed a level of enthusiasm for reading it that far exceeded everybody else who had requested a read. But no way she had actually read it that fast....

I stammered out that I was Shelby. She asked if it was too early to call - she wasn't sure what time zone I was in.

Okay, it was kinda early, but was I going to say no?

I said that I could definitely talk, but I asked her if I could call her back on the landline since my cell phone coverage was spotty on the mountain. She said yes, and I took the brief time between calls to pour myself a much-needed cup of coffee. My hands only shook a little.

I called back. We chatted. She said that she LOVED my manuscript. She explained that she sometimes had a hard time with middle grade fantasy submissions, because she loved the genre so much and couldn't bear to see writers miss the mark, but mine immediately grabbed her. It was a lot like a bunch of her favorite series. She said she felt like this one was really special. She also said that she had chuckled over it so much the night before that her husband noticed that the story was cracking her up.


Stunned, I started to explain where I thought the series was going - rattling off a couple sentences about the next four books. Excited, J said, That's why you have that part where this happens! It sets up so and so for book 4!

That floored me. J hadn't just read the manuscript. She had paid attention. She knew where I was planting stuff for future books. She also knew my characters the way I knew them. She pointed out the manuscript's weaknesses.

Then, after making sure that I was a real writer (and not just writing this because I knew the industry), she said, "I would be delighted to offer you representation. Just in case that wasn't clear."

Say yes! Say yes! Say yes! screamed all my writer instincts. She GETS it! J's the one!!

But another part of me, the part that was responsible and knew the industry's business side, reminded me: You can't say yes, Shelby. Not yet. You have fulls out with other agents. You're an unknown. You can't afford to make these other agents mad by accepting an offer without giving them a chance to do the same. The industry is too small, and you never know when you'll need a blurb from one of their authors.

So, I thanked J (it's a little fuzzy - I'm pretty sure I thanked her), and I asked for a week to get back to her. She sounded disappointed, but she was respectful and gracious about it. And without me asking, she said she would send me an editorial letter on the manuscript.

I immediately contacted the other agents...and my parents...and several friends, including the editor friend, who actually knows J.

Then I got to work on something that I had been meaning to do since I started querying: writing detailed synopses for the other planned books. I mean, J said she liked where I said the series was going, but if we were going to work together, I needed to make sure that she was going to love Books #2-5 as much as the first in the series. (And you know, synopses are hard. You have to focus on what to put in and what to keep out, and it's never going to measure up to the epic vision in your head. It took forever.) I shipped it off to J a half hour before midnight and went to bed.

Then, the next morning, J sent me her editorial letter, and basically, it was all over.

J got it. She got my vision just as much as I got it, but in a different way. In the letter, she said enthusiastic things about the series that I had dared to tell myself in my wildest dreams but would never say them aloud, because they were too self-serving. She also pointed out the improvements the manuscript needed to make it really shine. She totally called me on a couple weaknesses that I had worried about myself and tricked myself into believing I had smoothed over. She also surprised me with pointing out a flaw that surprised me but that I totally agreed needed changing.

I started chewing my fingernails, worrying that she wouldn't like the synopses.

She emailed me back after reading the synopses and had even more enthusiasm, asking if we could chat on the phone again. I emailed back, setting up a phone appointment for the following day (mainly because my cold had gotten worse and I was hoping to get better and be more coherent).

Unfortunately, excitement is a powerful thing. It can turn into insomnia. I went to bed a little after 10:30PM and woke up at 2AM. AND I COULDN'T GET BACK TO SLEEP! At all! I finished my book. I wrote in my journal. I got hungry and made pancakes. I took a shower. I counted down the hours until my phone appointment at 10AM.

I also made an important decision. I had only heard back from one of the other agents with the full, but I couldn't wait the whole weekend with this looming over my head. It was totally worth making those other agents mad. I emailed them back, explaining that I was accepting J's offer. (Luckily, they were both nice about it.)

Then I called J. Unfortunately, the coherent thing didn't happen. After 3.5 hours of sleep, my cold had turned into fever and coughing and sniffles, so I didn't sound all that chipper. So, I doubt J expected it when I accepted her offer.

But she said I made her weekend! And that she was doing a dance! And she made me promise to call her next week when I was not sick and could celebrate with her!

And so, even coughing and blowing my nose and drinking hot lemon tea laced with lemon, I have been BEAMING all weekend.

When I left New York last fall, I knew that I would need an agent in my near future. My dream agent had a few attributes that never changed:
  1. She would probably have to be a she. I know that's sexist, but all of my novels have an excessive amount of girl power in them. Really, it might eventually turn a guy agent off.
  2. She would have to welcome my input on major career decisions. I know I'm very young, but I did work in the industry for long enough to know a few things and have strong opinions. It would only make me angry if an agent tried to convince me that I didn't know what I was talking about.
  3. She would need to have staying power. I'm only 23. I have a lot of writing years left in me. I didn't want to find an agent that I loved only to have her retire on me after a decade. So, age was actually a consideration. (Gasp! Sexist and ageist in one post. :-o Please forgive me. I had legitimate reasons.)
  4. Most of all, she would need to love my manuscript as much as I do and to share my vision. I have seen manuscripts placed with well-intentioned publishing people who wanted the manuscript to become something that the author didn't have in mind. A lot of grief is caused on both sides, and I didn't want that to happen to me.
J is that dream agent. I just know it. All my writer instincts tell me that J and I are going to have a wonderful partnership in the coming years.

**deep, happy sigh**

Now, part 1 of the partnership: Whipping the manuscript into shape. (Stay tuned for more developments....)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Announcement of Awesomeness!

I have an agent!!!!! Not just any agent, but a fabulous agent!! Words can't describe the excitement! :-D

[insert happy dance here]

In other news, I also have a terrible cold. I'll write a real blog post when I'm feeling more like myself.

Right now, I must make myself some chicken soup and concentrate on pushing fluids.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Adventures in Water Relocation

Once upon another February, I had to shovel snow out of a pasture on a Maine farm so that the sheep could frolic freely. The other high school student assigned to the task - also from Charlotte, North Carolina - had this to say: "It's depressing. Because when you think about it, all we're doing is relocating water."

That's what I did today. I shoveled snow off my porch. Mainly, because of this:

Do you see what's wrong with this picture? The snow is blocking the sun!!! That is how much snow the mountain has gotten recently.

Then, I actually got out there with my shovel, and I realized that the snow was more epic than I expected. For instance, there was no spot to stand.

I don't want you guys to think that I'm negligent. That is not the case. It's just that snow shoveling has never been a part of my day-to-day life. People who grow up in snowy climates probably just factor it into their weekly chores: floor to sweep, laundry to clean, snow to shovel, etc., etc. Not so if you're a girl from North Carolina. When it snows in Charlotte, the whole town shuts down. I'm not sure that we even owned a snow shovel, growing up.

I was undaunted. I turned on my iPod, raised my shovel, and did battle with the epic snow.

After about 20 minutes, this was my progress:

I was a little daunted. I was also overheating a little in all the layers I pulled on. So, I revised my shoveling strategy and peeled off my coat and gloves.

After a whole playlist worth of songs (admit it - I bet you measure time by playlists sometimes too), ie. over two hours, I had carved out a path through the snow:

From steps....

to door... jacuzzi.

Obviously, this is of the utmost importance when I know that I'm going to be sore like whoa tomorrow.

Unfortunately, despite soreness, I may need to go back out there. 'Cause I missed a the whole back part of the porch...

...which is actually the part that is blocking the sun.

Deep sigh.

I know you won't be surprised when I tell you that with my very tired arms, I made a dinner that requires a near-constant amount of stirring. I ended up standing over my mushroom-chicken risotto, spoon in hand, reading Sarah Mlynowski's Bras and Broomsticks (so good! Where was this book when I was 12??). Needless to say, I neglected my stirring. Whoops! :-o

First, it looked like chicken and rice soup. Then it looked like rice gruel:

There is a happy ending to my story - the gruel responded well to more heat and more stirring. I had to google risotto to remember what it looked like, and also put down my book, but finally, I got dinner. :-)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Forget all your cares and go downtown..

Today, I went to town.

Now that I'm living on a mountain in the country, going to town is kind of an ordeal. You drive down one mountain and then through dozens more on a two-lane highway that snakes along the banks of the Gallatin River. The route is lined with small white crosses, memorials to those that have died in crashes on that road. It takes about an hour and a half each way.

It's also beautiful.

Okay, so this is technically the grocery store parking lot, but it proves my point.
What does the view from your grocery store look like?

Since it's a trek to go to town, a lot of shopping gets done.

I went to get produce (I have been joaking that I'll get scurvy). I came back with books.
  1. Impossible, by Nancy Werlin (which I have been eyeing for over a month now)
  2. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine (one of my favorite books of all time. I think this is the fifth copy I've owned, BUT I needed a copy up here - and obviously couldn't wait)
  3. Bras and Broomsticks, by Sarah Mlynowski (I've heard good things for years. However, her last name is an example of why I use a pseudonym.)
  4. A Barnes & Noble membership (okay, not a book, but I was proud of myself)
Actually, I recently realized that I've spent more on books this year than on food. I blame it on working in a publishing house. A year ago, I got books for free!!

It didn't help my addiction. :-/

Monday, February 1, 2010

Adventures in Phone Chats and Fire Alarms

I was chatting with a friend from New York, a former co-worker, who is an awesome editor at the beginning of her career. I was also making dinner - a beautiful, tasty, smaller portion of macaroni and cheese, one of my favorite comfort foods. In the middle of the conversation, I had to say, "I'm going to have to let you go. There's smoke coming out my oven."

I opened the oven to remove the mac and cheese (which was not burnt, by the way), and the chemical laden smoke blew into my eyes and made them water.

Then I

1) opened windows
2) opened door
3) turned on vents
4) winced, because Fire Alarm started beeping
5) wandered around the house wondering where my shoes were, envisioning myself outside, shivering in snow, while fire trunk honked and swerved up mountain
6) stopped covering my ears, daring to hope, because Fire Alarm had turned itself off
7) opened doors and windows wider
8) called my parents to make sure I shouldn't go find myself an igloo for the evening
9) closed door and locked it, because Mom reminded me that there are moose (only in the mountains would my mom worry about strange animals before strange people)
10) remembered that there are also coyotes (found tracks this morning) and looked outside suspiciously for scary canines that could claw through window screen
11) listened as Mom instructed me on how to start the self-cleaning on the oven
12) hung up and wrote this.

Very exciting times.

I can't smell the smoke anymore, and it's not very visible. My eyes still sting, so I might need to rinse them out.

First though, I must close the windows, because 20 degree air is blowing in. I have been shivering for several paragraphs...