Friday, 29 April 2011

3 BT: royal wedding, meeting a hero, and a random happy London moment

1. After almost five hours on my feet, not seeing much, pushing, being pushed, and wondering if maybe a sofa and a TV might actually have been a wise option, it's all worth it: I'm one of the people who stands at the gates of the Palace as Prince William and his new bride Catherine step onto the balcony to greet the crowds.

2. I'm waiting at stage door for Richard Schiff to come out and sign things. Two other people approach me, tell me they are new fans of the West Wing. I feel, of course, an instant kinship. I stand with my arm around him for a good couple of minutes while photos are taken. "It was me, right?" he says, when I ask for a second picture because the first was not brilliant.

3. A group of friends in their 20s play Simon Says on the Tube. The woman next to them smiles.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Limping to the finishing line...

I have written a novel.

It's finished!

So my question is this: why am I not punching the air?

I am thinking about marathons. I have never run anything close to one, nor do I ever intend to. (I know I once said this about going to America, but Aaron Sorkin is unlikely to write a gritty drama about running. If he does, then I expect I'll be buying a pair of trainers.) So to those of you who have, a question: after you finish, how do you feel?

Do you feel euphoric, or do you drag yourself to the finishing line and then collapse in a heap and beat yourself up for not doing it better, faster?

How about the next morning? Do you ever want to run again?

Because, it's strange, but I feel a little deflated.

What if after the marathon, someone had said, oh, well done, but now you have to climb this big mountain? Would you have been up for the challenge? Because agent hunting feels like that mountain to me.

And, here's the thing: I am a little bit afraid.

Of feedback, because I can't bear the thought that there might be more weeks, more months of work ahead.

Of reading, because I am in love with beautiful prose, and I know that mine does not come close to the standards that I admire and aspire to: I fear that literary fiction will punch me in the gut.

Of writing, because, what if I suddenly get new ideas for this novel, this novel which is supposed to be finished? Or, worse still, what if I get ideas for my second book? Because I just don't think I can face that yet.

But maybe that's okay. Maybe that would be like asking a Marathon runner to do it again the next week.

Marathon runners, any thoughts? How about writers?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Studio 60 arrives on Twitter...

Perfectly timed to coincide with my having just re-watched Studio 60, look what I've just found.

I'll be interested to see how that turns out, and how long it lasts: it's different with the West Wing, where there is always new, real political stuff to talk about, and we know much more about the characters' lives and relationships. But these guys are going to have to come up with their own plotlines, and stay in sync with each other as they do so - no mean feat.

It's about a year since Josh and Donna started the craziness of West Wing roleplay - Donna had been around for a while, but it was no fun till Josh showed up. Since then, virtually every character ever mentioned - including Josh's mum, and Gail the goldfish - have joined.

It looks like Harriet and Jordan still need people to run their twitter accounts. I can recommend it as a very fun sport, but be warned - I've heard it's highly addictive.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

3BT: Easter, summer dresses and yes, the novel

1. It's Easter Sunday: how amazing to celebrate that my Redeemer lives!

2. It's sunny and very warm and I get to wear my new summer Pepperberry dress, which I love. Plus, I now have the beginnings of a tan.

3. I am re-reading through the final draft of my novel, and it is not terrible. It is, in fact, actually quite good. I am pleased with it. I feel sad for my characters in all the appropriate places. Bring on the endless agent hunt!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Could it be that the book is finished?

I've written before about how I don't believe in writers' block. I may have spoken too soon.

For almost two years now, scenes for my novel, Inevitable, have been popping into my head. Sometimes with frightening regularity. Sometimes sporadically. And even when they have not, usually if I have sat down with paper and pen for long enough, an idea has come. Not always a great one. Sometimes one I have later cut. But an idea, nonetheless.

But here is the thing now: I brainstorm. I write from prompts. I read about DC. I teach the guy who is the inspiration for my main character. I mostly still take the long train/tram journeys during which scenes used to come to me, randomly but often. I do all the things that used to work - though admittedly I haven't watched any West Wing in a few weeks - and yet inspiration does not strike.

I spent yesterday depressed about this: I've been so looking forward to six whole days hanging out with my novel. And then it occurred to me - the reason might well be a good one. The reason might be that there's nothing more to say. That the book is finished. So instead I am reading through, editing bits and pieces, cutting scenes, finding synonyms for beautiful and deleting instances of the word "suddenly".

And getting ready to post a triumphant Facebook status update.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Three beautiful things, and all of them before lunch

1. I wake up to the weekly email from my writers' group. Great excitement this week as we have Claire reading out the opening chapter of her novel-in-progress. Not long later, another email lands in my inbox from a new friend I made at our writers' retreat: I know your West Wing-inspired novel is gonna kick a$$, she says, so I’m coming along with my ears wide open and my pencil sharpened. Do your thing!

2. My first lesson of the day is cancelled - and, thankfully, a hunch pre-warned me - and so instead of sitting endlessly on trains and trams and buses, I wander down to the Pain Quotidien for a late breakfast, and sit in the gorgeous sunshine, reading Hillary Clinton's autobiography and remembering another sunny day, when I picked it up outside a house in DC, from a box marked "free books". (Are there any more beautiful words in the English language?)

3. A text arrives from friends whom I love very much, telling me their second son has been born. This was a long-awaited child, and appropriately they've named him Isaac - meaning laughter.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

3BT: seriously, only three?

1. New season, new clothes. It felt good, and according to my friend, it looked good. It's amazing how much difference a little thing like that can make. Thank you, Pepperberry!

2. A moment that caused me to be blown away by the goodness, love and sovereignty of God.

3. A satisfying ending to a fun, well-written, DC-based book: "Sammy's House" by Kristin Gore. Bridget Jones meets the West Wing - highly recommended if you enjoyed either of both of those.

Oh, and so much else. Brainstorming subplots, and their slowly starting to form. The excitement of current American politics. Homemade chocolate cake. My favourite Studio Sixty episode. And I was asked today what the high and low points of my week had been - it took me a while to think of a low point. This is not a usual thing for me - looks like writing this is doing wonders for my outlook!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

3BT: grammar, sunshine, and writing

1. I spend a happy hour being paid to talk about adjectives, pronouns, and agreement in gender and number. Normally, we just chat and read text, and at 8 am this is all I can manage, but today, a full hour of grammar energises me. I hope it wasn't torture for her.

2. Sunshine, sunshine, sunshine. This may not be the last time I mention it. It lifts my mood, makes me hopeful about the possibilities that lie ahead rather than depressed about my rejection from the course in DC that I was hoping was my ticket to adventure (and romance).

3. My friend comes to talk to me unexpectedly about writing. She has that look in her eye: I know that look. Equal parts excited, terrified, inspired, hopeful. She's working on a novel. I am excited for her, and excited for me, because a writer friend is a valuable thing.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

3BT: Gotham, deadlines met and swimming

1. Aimlessly, pointlessly, I hit refresh on the page where yesterday Gotham Writers' Workshop had an unmissable one-day only offer on a six-week online course that would be perfect for the summer, when work slows down. Yet my cliking is not aimless; it is not pointless. Their offer has been extended another day. I haven't missed it.

2. I meet both my translation deadlines: freedom from for a few days at least.

3. I grab a handful of my favourite cereal and head out into the sunshine to the swimming pool. I come back feeling relaxed, grateful for spring and long evenings, a little virtuous, and fully deserving of my pizza.

Monday, 4 April 2011

3BT: reading in bed, shopping, and reading in bed again

1. I lie in bed, reading. I was only going to read one chapter, but I'm on holiday and the book ("Sammy's House", by Kristin Gore) is well-written, fun, sassy and intelligent, so why stop there?

2. I go to my favourite clothes shop: a specialist shop made for people shaped like me. My confidence is restored: I am not some kind of freak but actually an attractive woman.

3. The anticipation of snuggling into bed, more or less on time, in new pyjamas and clean bedclothes. With the book, of course.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

3bt: lazy Sundays, novels and giraffes

1. A lazy Sunday morning drinking coffee and chatting, curled up on the sofa.

2. My friend proudly tells people that I've written a novel and reiterates to me how impressed she is. I spend a lot of time hanging out with other writers, both dace to face and in the virtual world, so it's easy to forget it's an achievement I can be proud of.

3. The plastic giraffe in my smoothie. That always makes me smile.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

3BT: cereal, babies, and friendship

1. I eat my way through a bowl of Sainsbury's pecan nut cereal, which the friend with whom I am staying has bought especially for me, remembering what I'd forgotten: that I'd once bought the Tesco version and refused to finish it on the basis that it just wasn't the same. (I have to admit, that certainly sounds like something I'd say.) To be known and thought of to that extent is truly priceless.

2. Another friend holds his son upside down in an attempt to make him laugh, revealing a Bob the Builder nappy. "Can he fix it?" I ask the two-year-old. "Yes he can!" he responds, without hesitation.

3. The friend whose wedding I have come back for hugs me at the end of the night and says "I wouldn't have wanted to do this without you; it wouldn't have been right." In that moment the journeys, the cost, the emotional price of weddings all seem worth it.

Friday, 1 April 2011

3BT: ringtones, tea, books and handsome strangers

1. A mobile phone beeps during beginners' English. "It's not me," says Eliane, having learned the hard way that I do not approve of such intrusions. "I know," I say, "because you have a Nokia, and that was an iPhone." Instantly, I gain kudos and street cred.

2. I buy tea on the Eurostar, and they ask me, "small, medium or large"? I want to hug them. Until now there has only been one size, and it was too small. Then they ask me, "do you want the teabag in or out?". (Previously, I had to apologise for the oddity of my British behaviour and ask that they put the teabag in with the hot water straight away.)

3. I stand in Foyles at King's Cross, breathing in the new book smell next to the New Releases. It's not only the pages; it's in the very air. I've never noticed this anywhere before.

4. The super friendly, super polite, blue-eyed Costa guy with the French accent sees me struggle and carries my bag over to a table with better wifi. Which warranted a fourth beautiful thing.