Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Dig a Poster (with Charles Hawtry and the deaf aids)

Yep. It's true.

At nearly 48, I have made it. I can die happy.

I may never have another book deal. I may never have fortune and fame.

But, apparently, now, I am a poster*:


It's true. As promo for the Rochester Teen Book Festival (May 19), you can order my author poster and hang 46** year old me on your wall (*more coughing*) like some fading Charlie's Book Nerd Angel.

Thanks to my pal, Rick Kopstein, a fantastic photographer whose work you can see there on that link or HERE on his Photo of the Day website, it's not a bad representation:

Me, in my best light, if you will.

As much as this whole poster-me thing brings me endless amusement, like everything else lately, it's also a mixed bag. It brings up issues for me. Indeed, there something sad and poignant and ironic (?) about it, weighed against my lamentations here of late about loss of youth and physical appearance.

I mean, here's the the new fear brewing: that I will sorely disappoint in person.

And don't start typing comments to make me feel better.

I'm almost 48. It is what it is.

Still, I can hear them now, the slack-jawed rumblings from the twitter and facebook crowd, and others who know me from my author photos, as I walk to the dais and sit down:

Blogger A: "Is that her?"

Blogger B: "Man, that must have been years ago ..."

Blogger C: "Years and years and years..."

Nope. *sigh* Just two. Hey, look, I'm teetering on the brink of 50 here. Besides, it's nothing a little photoshop can't hide.

Anyway, here's the deal. I've decided I'm coming to the festival armed, just in case, with a few 8 X 10's of me now:

Me, this minute, standing at my computer

Plunk me in a pool in the bright sunlight with a good photographer, and I look exactly the same.


Okay, maybe not.

What? There are a few more creases and lines. And, yes, the bags...


Poster, anyone?

- gae

*poster is really only an 8 x 10 I think...
**author photos taken 5.8.10

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

JEDI, Jellyfish and other Procrastinations

One of those two peeps is me. I think the front one.
I have shit to do, but I'm mojo-less in the writing department these days, so, instead, I'm doing busy work and daydreaming about summer.

Summer, generally, and the open water season, specifically, that is.

I've got big open water plans on my agenda this summer which involve a few 5 mile swims. That's 2 miles more than I've ever done.

I'm pretty sure I can do it, so I'm not too worried (though perhaps slightly intimidated) but I am a bit concerned about the jellyfish.

I've got jellyfish on my brain, you could say (yes, yes, and possibly in it...).

You see, there's been talk of the existence of a global jellyfish explosion the past few years and, given the warm winter temps we've had this year, talk of that explosion, well, exploding.

Here's an adorable little Lion's Mane greeting us last July as we waded in... :(

And, um, if you've read some of my prior lamentations you'd know, I don't need any stinkin' jellyfish exploding. 

Indeed, at times over the past two summers, the jellyfish have already been as thick as tapioca pudding. They've stung me and my friends, and slipped down the back of my wetsuit. *shudders*

I've swum through patches of water so thick with jellies, it felt like stroking through a vat of spaghetti.

Unpleasant, you say?

You don't know the half of it.

And, seriously, the novelty of the whole I-can-survive-some-dumb-ol'-jellyfish thing is quickly wearing off.

But, here's the good news.

I've done some procrastinating, er research, today, and I've come up with some pretty hopeful information.

According to the JEDI, there's no proof of a global jellyfish explosion.

Wait. Wrong. Not those kind of Jedi (although, photoshop some jellies in there and you have a pretty entertaining photo).

JEDI (apparently) stands for The Jellyfish Database Initiative.

Don't look at me, I didn't name them. And, I agree, it's a bit of a cheap gimmick, since I don't see any E in that title, either.

At any rate, false advertising  aside, according to the NY Times quoting an article in last week's Bioscience,

"...scientists... argue that  there simply isn't enough long-term data to conclude that global jellyfish numbers are on the rise.

This finding that previous conclusions were premature is the result of an international effort begun in 2010 by the Global Jellyfish Group to compile all of the available data on jellyfish populations. The new and growing database is known as the Jellyfish Database Initiative, or JEDI."

See, right there. JEDI. But I digress.

The point is, previous jellyfish predictions were premature!

Premature, I tell you. Pre-ma-ture!

Which is nice.

Because, I've got some swimming to do.

- gae

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sick & Tired even as the World turns Mud-luscious

pretty spot in my father's gardens last year
Ah, spring. Hooray!

No, really, I'm exhausted, but thrilled that you are here.

Pretty and promising, in all your budding glory.

Today, a mist hangs in the balmy air, making me think that ee cummings still said it best, describing the world in spring as Mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.

And yet.

Mine started yesterday following a near all-nighter: One hot-tamale kid, whose birthday it just happened to have been, in bed next to me, burning up and shivering. All. Night. Long.

How can a mother possibly sleep with a hot-tamale, birthday kid?

So, I lay awake, sorry he was feverish, but suddenly realizing I was actually reveling in the quiet exhaustion of being a mom. Feeling his head, his hot belly, stumbling to the kitchen to get water and Advil. Wrapping arms around his sweet, shivery body. Being vigilant while he slept, knowing I was protecting him.

I mean, how long do I have left to do this, to tend to a sick child who crawls into bed next to me for comfort?

He just turned 14. That's only, uh, a handful of days. I'm glad I can't actually do the math in my head.

Don't even get me started on how fast it goes.

So, the kid's back to school, and it's taken me a whole 24-hour cycle to catch up.

Meanwhile, all around me, early blooms are up, bobbing their cheerful, hopeful, brightly-colored heads. Which is nice, since I'm still waiting on a bunch of shit that's otherwise making me feel like I'm wading through seasons of dark, thick molasses.

But it's all good. Spring has sprung and the world is mud-luscious all around.

Happy, happy.

- gae

p.s. Here's the full ee cummings poem if you're craving it. :)

[in Just-]
By E. E. Cummings 1894–1962

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

... whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan whistles


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Swim Back to Me

I've been day-dreaming about my manuscript, Swim Back to Me again.

Yeah, yeah, I know, Ann Packer stole my title -- believe me, you, I had it first. (Sh)it happens. There are only so many titles in the world.

Anyway, the manuscript's been at the top of my mind these days. I'm itching to work on it again. I'm poking some irons in the fire.

I mean, I love my YA writing and my YA books, but there's something about my women's fiction  that speaks to me where I live, that reflects all the raw, often-bottled, and once-in-a- while-unleashed angst of being a woman, wife, mother in this day and age.

There's just something so damned cathartic about taking my real feelings, and the small, mundane events in my life, and blowing them up and out of the water (if you will), to leave them heaving and bleeding on the page.

There's something about the mood of my women's fiction that fills me, that I just don't get from my YA.

Take this bit I was reminded of today because of this photograph I came across from the beach where I swim . . .

     John lowers himself onto me and we kiss, as around us the yard hums and above me the clouds drift by in stretched wisps across a perfect cornflower blue. Everything is sharp-edged yet floating, as if I have fallen into a Magritte painting and might reach up to find my own features gone, replaced beneath a black bowler hat by clear sky and clouds passing through.
    This here, this is not me.  
     N’est pas une pipe.   

     I let my eyes wander, follow sky, and breathe him in like air.  He lifts my shirt, and slips his hand in, and as he kisses me, his fingers find my breasts.  He moans and grinds his pelvis against mine, and the ground swirls and disappears. 
           Where am I?  How did I get here?  Who took my old life away? 
∞ ∞ ∞
From Swim Back to Me.
- gae


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Clinging to my Aura

I'm growing more and more jealous of deeply religious or spiritual people (while emphatically having almost zero desire to be one), if only because they have a goal or desire or comfort that extends beyond this life, be it to Heaven or enlightenment in a new form through reincarnation.

Without that, there are endless goals ahead of me that I badly want to achieve, but they all feel marred, or at least laden, by the concrete fact that this physical body, from head to toe, is going to give out on me.

It's already begun.

Try as I might to somehow settle myself in this knowledge, and be okay with it, I can't get there; it's all too much to bear.

Which is why it fascinates me that, in the yoga room, I promise you (I kid you not), I can see my aura. A halo of light that outlines the entire edge of my body expanding and vibrating with my breath.

And, not just around me, but around all the bodies in the room.

Back when I was in my late thirties, and was practicing yoga on a regular (almost daily) basis, I remember how, right when I turned 40, I saw it then, after a uniquely spiritual period in my life. Soon after, for various reasons not important here (though one being that I don't really like doing yoga -- only like how it makes me feel after), I stopped, and began my current passion of swimming.

Now, so many years later, returning to a mild practice, I thought fondly of the aura sighting, and worried that it wouldn't be there.

But, alas, there it is.

And if I focus on it while I'm trying to hold a pose, it will often pull me through.

According to Wikipedia, "an aura is a field of subtle, luminous radiation surrounding a person or object (like the halo or aureola in religious art). The depiction of such an aura often connotes a person of particular power or holiness. Sometimes, however, it is said that all living things (including humans) and all objects manifest such an aura. Often it is held to be perceptible, whether spontaneously or with practice: such perception is at times linked with the third eye of Indian spirituality."

Well, whatever it is, I can see it. And I need it bad, so I'm clinging to it. And I'm not letting go.

I have an aura, and you have an aura, and that has to mean something good.

- gae

Thursday, March 1, 2012

One of Those Truly Meaningful Days

Lately, I've been talking a lot about what it means to matter.

For me, so much of my self-worth feels tangled up with my writing career, and what it means to be successful there.

And in this publishing climate -- where being commercial can be more important than being good -- it's a tentative place to rest one's self-esteem.

Sometimes, I worry too much about what I haven't achieved yet, instead of what I have. Some of that is ego, sure. But part of it is truly the desire to leave some small, indelible mark on this world that actually matters.

So, while another day passed without an email in my inbox announcing a book deal for Frankie Sky (I don't matter! I don't matter!), I spent the afternoon at a local high school in a "shaky" lower-income school district, not too far from my home. When I got home, I emailed this note to a few of my close author friends:

"If I ever complain again, remind me of this day."

The rest of this blog post is extracted from the remainder of my note to them:
"I got to the school and there were posters all over.

The teachers, librarian, and vice principal were there to greet me, and were all so excited for my visit. The school had ordered 50 copies of my book this past fall after one of its awesome teachers had heard me do a reading at a bookstore and thought it would be a good addition to the curriculum, as the school teaches Of Mice and Men.

The students came in -- they had stayed after, by invitiation only, for extra credit, and there were 50 of them, one for each copy of the book that had been temporarily distributed in connection with the unit.

The kids were smart, engaged, warm, funny, and respectful, and completely enthralled with the book.

I talked about my journey to get published and how subjective criticism is. And, how to persevere when rejection keeps flowing in. I applied this concept to sports, art, and life in general. As I spoke, faces paid attention and heads nodded. As I spoke, I reminded MYSELF to heed my own words, if I meant them. And, I did. I meant them.

After, we talked about Nick, Jaycee and the Scoot. The kids asked endless (smart, amazing!) questions about the book. They wanted me to sign everything. Their tickets, pieces of scrap paper, bookmarks. They wanted to know if there's a sequel coming. They want a movie. And, most importantly, they want
my next book NOW.

I read aloud from the opening of Frankie Sky, and they went nuts for it. Even if no editors, yet, are. . .

At the end, the vice principal stood up and announced that, given the amazing display of enthusiasm he had just seen, he had decided to let the kids keep the books -- that the kids could take the 50 school hardcover copies home with them, if they wanted. It blew me away, but cheers actually erupted. I'm not kidding. As they ran up to get them signed, the vice principal held the late buses for 15 minutes...

Not a single copy of the book was left behind.

After the students left, the teacher who originally brought the book into the school told me she actually got teary-eyed at her vice principal's gesture, though she was not surprised by it because it is the kind of administrator he is. "These are not kids that are just given books, or that get to meet authors and talk with them . . . " she said.

As we walked to my car, she told me that the book stuff was all fun and cool, but that she was most grateful that I had talked about the subjectivity of art, and about rejection and perseverance. She said she could see the kids' faces taking it in, and internalizing it. She said she hoped that, if they took nothing else from the day, it would be that one thing, because it was a message they so badly needed.

Me, too, I kept thinking, me, too.

As for the book's future in the school next year, the vice principal assured me he'll be ordering 50 new copies for the fall.

Man, talk about your "shaky: districts. ;)"

I drove home elated, trying to memorize the feelings swirling in my heart and brain, reminding myself to hold onto the more important aspects of what I do.

I might not ever have the huge success I'm hoping for (whatever that is), but today, to a few kids, and a few teachers, for a few short hours, what I do mattered. To them, and to me.

- gae