I just completed five days of a fasting-mimicking diet in which my caloric intake was greatly reduced. I embarked on this deprivation adventure because I’ve been feeling the effects of stress on my body and wanted to give my system a reboot. My sister and her husband have been doing the diet and their experiences convinced me it was worth a try. (Shout-out to my sis for all her guidance!)
Day One wasn’t bad. Day Two was rough. Days Three-Five were not too bad (my foggy brain went away and I was able to resume light exercise/walking).
Today I am exceedingly thankful that I do not have to measure everything that goes in my mouth.
I don’t know what prompted me to do so (okay, I’m pretty sure I was procrastinating rather than writing), but the other day I went to Google Maps and looked up an old address. This photo shows a triplex off an alley in North Hollywood, California. I lived in the upper, right-hand studio apartment for a year in the mid-80s. It was my very first place all my own. Up to that point, I’d either been in a dorm or shared apartments (or, in the case of my Van Nuys digs, renting a screened gazebo-like structure in a single-parent’s backyard in which part of my rent included providing childcare).
It’s an understatement to say this was a transient period of my life. The move into my darling little apartment in this building was my 5th move in 9 months. It all began with my boyfriend and me moving into our own apartment in Culver City (leaving behind our former West LA roommate) and then me leaving the boyfriend several months later. It was one of the more difficult periods in my life. However, I have vivid memories of my time on Miranda Street.
I shared the tiny space with two cats. One (Diva) was with me at move-in time. The other (Isis) was adopted and given to me by my sister’s friend who showed up to hand me a cat. Um, okay, I guess?
Isis was an all-black kitten who would wake me at 2:00 a.m. as she galloped around the hardwood floors. She also crawled to the bottom of my sleeping bag (my one and only “bed linen”) and peed.
My major piece of furniture was a futon couch that could be opened to make a small bed.
For a time, pit bulls roamed the neighborhood and the mail carrier refused to deliver. We had to go to the post office to get our mail. One day my downstairs neighbor drove there with me and we were thrilled to discover I’d received a box from my mother that contained a round cookie tin. We hungrily opened the tin only to discover it was filled, not with cookies, but with cookie cutters.
I quit smoking while living in this apartment and an integral part of my kicking the nicotine addiction was to run every day (and then eat a bag of M&Ms at work in the afternoon). I usually ran in the nice park nearby that had a path around the perimeter. That park saved me.
Sometimes on the way back from a run I’d stop to sit on one of the Honda motorcycles lined up outside a bike shop near the park. I liked to pretend the wind was blowing back my hair as I rode fast and free.
This was where I lived when Zippy and I started dating. He lived in ugly old Bakersfield and we’d trade off weekends. He was allergic to cats so weekends at my place were often difficult for him. He’d suddenly say, “Let’s go out somewhere. My throat’s starting to close.” (Fortunately, he’s adapted to cats and no longer experiences suffocation issues).
Zippy was with me the day we loaded a UHaul for my move to Santa Rosa. We’d emptied the place and it was time to leave, but Diva was nowhere to be found. We searched and searched the surrounding area for my indoor-only cat. Then Zippy saw a black and white cat in the yard of a nearby house and grabbed it. A voice yelled, “Put down my cat!” Oops. Diva later revealed herself by meowing from the kitchen drawer she’d climbed into from the open cupboard below. It was a joyous reunion.
I’m not a huge fan of how our personal information and everyday lives are now mined for data, but will say that I’m happy Google Maps provided me with the image of my former home. I never took an exterior shot of the first-ever living space that was all mine. It’s good to remember.
Today as I continue exploring a new story idea, filling pages in a new notebook, I’m filled with excitement and anticipation. There’s nothing but pure potential at this point. I haven’t yet taken any wrong turns or gotten bogged down in the swampy middle of the novel. It’s just me and a 12-year-old boy finding our way.
Enthusiasm is running high.
I spent much of today in my backyard culling plants from my severely crowded flower beds so that I could give them away. (I got in touch with a woman who back in May responded to my “Free Perennials” ad on Craigslist and who happily came this afternoon to retrieve more of the green bounty).
I dug up so many plants. Daylilies. Yarrow. Iris. Valerian. Lamb’s Ear. Plus other plants that got caught in the cull-crossfire (asters, vinca, mallow, etc.).
I admit my beds didn’t look quite as dense as this Pixabay photo, but the claustrophobic feel is definitely spot-on. Fortunately, there’s now a bit more breathing room in my backyard. And unfortunately, there’s still a long way to go . . .
As I wait to hear back from my agent on the middle-grade manuscript I sent her way, I want to document a new approach in my revision process. For the first time ever in the history of me writing books, I paid to have a manuscript bound. Here it is:
I was inspired by this tweet from author-extraordinaire Laurel Snyder:
Intrigued by the idea of revising in that tidy format, I asked Laurel if she printed single or double-sided and she responded that she did single sides because then she could write on the backs of pages. She also said she requested extra blank pages bound in the back for notes. Genius!
Before having my manuscript printed I switched it from the manuscript default (Times New Roman 12-point) to Garamond 12-point. I did that so my brain would see and read the pages differently. It came out to about 200 pages and cost me $22.
I applied my usual revision approach of reading the entire manuscript in one sitting. I always set the goal of reading without revising or making notes, but this time around was not at all successful. I tweaked sentences here and there early on and then forced myself to merely mark troublesome passages with CLUNKY. I made other general notes in the margins and then after finishing the manuscript wrote out big-picture thoughts/questions on a blank page in back.
Verdict? I loved working with a bound manuscript. All my notes and thoughts were in one place. I transferred my edits to my Word doc that was also color-coded with revision threads (green for anything dealing with X and yellow for Y and blue for Z and fuschia for wording still in need of tweaking). It was so easy to follow a plot/characterization thread from beginning to end.
I can’t wait to use this process again.
Today my son Zebu and I washed all our windows, inside and out. As we traveled room to room, Marcel the cat followed us. At one point he got up on the sill next to a newly-gleaming window and proceeded to sneeze. On the glass.
I’ll admit, it wasn’t quite as bad as this Pexels photo. Marcel didn’t shower the entire window with his snot. Instead, it was contained to a rather orderly row along the lower portion of the window. Zebu and I were mildly annoyed, but laughed about our silly feline friend as we recleaned the window. Then Marcel followed us to the next room and sneeezed on another window. Zebu and I were less amused.
And when Marcel sneezed on the third window Zebu stated the obvious: “This is feeling deliberate.”
Tell me I’m not the only one who sees fluffy kernels.
This morning started with a run followed by delicious coffee and rice cakes smeared with peanut butter as I began working on revisions. Everything was clicking and life was good.
Looking back on it, I wish I’d bottled how I felt then because the day quickly took a number of turns for the worse and now I’m kinda worn out from it all. I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t conjure up those good feelings. Damn you, life’s curves and slick surfaces!
Ah well, tomorrow means a fresh start.
Zippy and I ran on the trails this morning, and when we reached the top of one uphill slog we paused to stretch. I noticed a colorful cactus off the trail in the approximate spot where we’d seen a beautiful blooming cactus last April and so stepped closer to see whether that cactus was in flower again.
Wrong and wrong again.
But even worse was that as I went off-trail I didn’t look where I was stepping and by the time I returned to the trail my shoes were loaded with yet another kind of cactus. These were like tiny footballs with two-inch-long spines.** And as I pulled them from my shoes I learned that one spine had embedded itself in my ankle. Yeah, so that was cool. But I got it and all the rest of them out and started running back down the trail. Stinging pain be damned.
Alas, those little football cacti were a gift that kept on giving. About a mile later I stuck my hand in my pocket and experienced a whole other kind of ouch. Turns out I’d gotten a bunch of tiny spines in my fingers when removing the footballs from my shoes.
But you know what? It was still a good run.
** I just realized that the post I linked to above contains a photo of my shoe with a, wait for it . . .tiny spiny football cactus. So apparently I’m bound and determined not to learn from my mistakes.
Writing a novel isn’t like building a brick wall.
You don’t figure out how to do it, and then it gets easier
each time because you know what you’re doing.
With writing a novel, you have to figure it out each time.
Each time you start over, you just have the language and the idea and the hope.
~ Kate DiCamillo