Monday, February 27, 2006

The Town Formerly Known As Brigadoon

Olivia and I joined some friends for a mother-daughter getaway to this hotel in a tiny town. You have to drive a ways through a canyon, and then several miles more to get to it, so it feels more remote, removed from the hustle and bustle, than it otherwise might. The landlines are faint and staticy even over the hill to where I live -- 75 miles away. Forget cell service. White Sulphur has a 2:1 ratio of bars to churches, and all the restaurants serve the same food; steak/ham/bacon and eggs with toast, hashbrowns and coffee for breakfast; hamburgers or french dip for lunch, steak, salad, and potatoes for dinner.

A zoo's worth of enormous dead animal heads watch you eat your meal at Dori's restaurant. Some of them won prizes. I asked Olivia how fast she thought they were going when they hit the wall, and she rolled her eyes at me. "Oh, Mom."

There's not a lot of opportunity to unobtrusively people-watch, because outside of the Spa, people watch you. Some people don't even bother to try and hide it and stare flat out. Who can blame them? It's winter and there's not much to break up the monotony of seeing one another day in and day out. This time of year, options are limited to skiing, snowmobiling, or soaking in the Spa. Many people stay warm and just get drunk in the bar, but with 8 bars and the same people cycling through them, I bet that gets old, too.

Someone once argued that "A stranger comes to town" is the essence of every novel's plot, so why not watch the strangers, absorb every detail -- the accent, the clothing, the brayed opinions across the noise of the diner -- in case it becomes important later? ("I knew she was trouble, Fanny, by the way she threw her hands around like an I-talian.")

The canyon is unfortunately overpopulated with deer, and I hit one on the way down. The light was good, the road was relatively straight at that point. One second clear road, next second, two deer bounded down the hill onto the road. I braked and turned the wheel -- I learned long ago (thank you, MC) how not to over-react when confronted with wild life. I pulled to the right, so at least I could avoid one, and ended up just clipping that poor doe in the left haunch.

The doe sprang off and didn't leave a trail of blood. (The Highway Patrol went back to check on her later, but I didn't hear what happened. We drove back by the scene on the way home and saw nothing but two sets of deer prints in the snow). The accident dented my hood and took out my left headlight, but Olivia and I were both fine. The airbag didn't even deploy. Olivia was concerned for the deer, but happy we didn't see any blood. She said "If it was a baby, we'd have to take it home and take care of it until it grew up and make sure Daisy didn't nip it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What I did today

Some women writers and I have been in a discussion lately about how we take care of the needs of other people above our own, and how it seems like everything comes before our writing. Though I for one profess to be passionate about it, it seems like I have to connive, cajole and manipulate myself to get going, even when the heavens open up and there's no-one clamoring at my breast or knee or on the telephone. Like today. Here are my accomplishments during my supposed "writing time." I:

Increased my FreeCell score.

Wrote 1,000 words alternating between dribbling a few purple words on the page and Solitaire.

Checked email. 26 times.

Checked Zoetrope.

Rewrote an article for the local paper.

Made some phone calls.

If I could stay focused, what could I do?

Monday, February 06, 2006

More Ramblings

My wonderful and talented advisor, Ellen Lesser, agreed to read my whole novel. (I'm not just kissing up -- Ellen really puts her heart and soul into teaching -- plus she agreed to read the whole darn thing before I even posted this.)

One step closer to the finish line. Six years ago I wasn't capable to finishing a short story. I give thanks.

Olivia will be homeschooled for the remainder of the school year. Am I crazy, with being sandwiched between my mother's needs and my those of my children to take this on? But there seems to be no choice, and it's interesting to me that I feel some exhilaration, a shot of adrenaline maybe, and an inner sense that things are going to be okay that I didn't have before I withdrew her this morning. I feel like I'm on the other side of the fear.

We've pulled together some amazing resources, and *if* it works according to plan, my daughter will be much better off.

Speaking of education, I started teaching two more short classes. The first one is on memoir, and I have 14 students. The second one is on flash fiction, and I have five. All women. Started last night. Superbowl Sunday. Who knew it was the Superbowl?