Every time I add up my annual mileage for tax purposes, I think: “Darn, lady. You’re on the road a lot.”
My 2012 included approximately 8500 road miles, the vast majority of which were within the state of Oregon.
Last September I noted that I’d hit 23 of Oregon’s 36 counties during the summer alone. If you count my whole book tour: 30/36. Between September and December, I added two more counties to the list.
There’s a reason I don’t really notice the heft of the miles as I’m racking them up.
I LOVE EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF IT!
This state rocks and I love exploring it for any reason I can come up with.
I also suddenly understand why I’ve been feeling so restless. Just positively jumping out of my skin, in fact. I haven’t been out of town since the beginning of 2013. Unless you count Prineville.
Road trip, anyone?
One of the aspects of book touring I’ve enjoyed most is meeting other authors. Some of us are fascinating, humble, delightful individuals. Some of us are boring, self-congratulatory knuckleheads. Sort of like the general population, actually.
No, I’m not naming names. But I will say I’ve mostly met the former. And I’ll tell you some stories.
Three weeks ago in Portland at Homeword Bound, I sat between Bart King, utterly hilarious and charming author of The Book of Mischief and The Book of Fun, and author of The Varmits Ted Coonfield who bought me a drink and kept demurring to tell me stories about sex, drugs and rock and roll from his riotous youth until he saw “sex, drugs and camping” on the back of my book Chance of Sun. Then the gloves were off.
During the key note presentation by the very famous Oregon author Jean Auel, Bart borrowed my pen and then passed me a note. That alone was thrilling as I haven’t received a note in years. Then I found myself stifling a full-on guffaw at what Bart’s note read: “Have you read her stuff? My friend says its cave porn.”
I wrote back: “Apparently cave porn sells.”
Two weeks ago I sat with William Sullivan (author of seven books on hiking the Oregon outdoors), Laurie Notaro (NY Times bestselling author of hilarious books like I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies)), and Ken Babbs (author and former member of Ken Kesey’s Band of Merry Pranksters) at the UO Duckstore.
It kind of went like this.
When Ken left for a minute, Bill leaned over and said, “Wow, you can really notice the impact of all the drugs that guy did.” Then Laurie told us a story about planting peas the day before and then scurrying around in the yard in her pajamas that morning trying to cover them up when the rain turned to hail turned to hurricane force winds. At which point Bill politely excused himself to go and pick up his grandchild’s turtle which had been sedated to have its toenails clipped. Luckily, the reigning Slug Queen Holly GoSlugly came by at that moment so I still had someone to talk to.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Last weekend at the Atkinson Church Book and Author Fair, I met Jon Bell, Oregon author of the book “On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon’s Perilous Peak“. We got to chatting about the stuff of writers: fame, fortune, our homes overflowing with fan mail and roses, so many six-digit book deals we have to turn some down.
Oh wait. That was a dream I had the night before.
Jon told me that when he first thought to write a book about Oregon’s most iconic peak, he was a furniture delivery man. When he finally got a contract to write said book years later, it was about two days after his second child was born and he had six months to write the book.
Now that’s a real writer’s life.
The anniversary of the publication of “Day Trips From Portland” is next week. This is what I know about the last year and book touring. I have become rich in stories, experience and new friends. And that’s worth a hell of a lot more than a room full of roses.
Yesterday, I received the evaluations from my writer in residence gig, as well as a pile o pages of the writing we produced together. If feedback is good, feedback from human beings ages 5 through 12 rocks!
It made me feel like a beater writer.
Cim wos fon. (I believe I’ve seen this etched into a bathroom wall somewhere).
Writing isn’t always boring.
I liked that there was no homework.
She seemed to really know what she was doing.
I really love how Kim came in and taught us when she could have been doing something else.
She helped us feel confident and I think she liked it.
Nothing has changed. I don’t want to be a writer.
And my top fave:
I thngck I am aosom ritr.
Absolutely love this illustrated depiction of the process of writing a novel, created by a student of my sister’s. As someone who has actually set fire to a manuscript in my day, I can say that this guy gets it!
In case you can’t quite make out the scan, the steps are Thinking, Constructing, Deconstructing, Feedback, Re-Constructing, Editing, More Feedback, and Celebration.
Deconstructing involves a gas can and open flames.
Feedback involves sobbing.
Editing involves a chainsaw.
More Feedback is a man pointing a gun at the writer.
Celebration involves cognac and a cigar.
His note at bottom: I don’t drink cognac or smoke cigars, but this makes a better visual.
Thank you, Steve Delay! You are hilarious. Perfect for National Writing Month, November, too. Good luck! Bet you’ll be a cognac drinker by the end.
Here’s what I learned in the process:
Writing is easy.
Long overdue for an update to my blog profile. I’ve been confusing people with the whole book burning thing.
On Monday, I walked to a meeting. The route was a stretch of Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. The destination was a local pub. The person I was meeting was my publisher. On my back, I carried 160 pages of paper—my book manuscript, completed last week and fresh from the printer.
The sun shone brilliantly, there was barely a breeze. I was all alone. Two miles of packed sand, open Oregon air and exercise lay between our rented beach house and my fate.
Of course, fate doesn’t work like that. There isn’t really one defining moment that sets a course of everlasting glory in a regular life. Glory comes and goes, is persistently fickle. Every happy ending is interwoven with the beginning of another new challenge.
I thought about a lot of things on that two-mile journey. How much outside validation I need from my writing, and if I can learn to just enjoy its creation and appreciate the successes that appear. My family, and what really matters. How rooting around in your past and trying to craft it into something salable is as dangerous and messy as my friend Jessica said it would be when I started this project. And, just what the heck might happen during the next two hours.
But when I quit thinking and looked up into the stunning sky, at the powerful surf, breathed the sea air, I thought about how lucky I am. How incredibly metaphorical this walk was! My story about growing up on the Oregon Coast was literally on my back as I marched down the Oregon Coast to deliver it to someone who would decide its worth. Sort of like the pearly gates, but with kites and sandcastles.
Judgment is still to come. But on the walk back, after a great discussion, with a pint of Oregon ale in my belly and my backpack much lighter, when the beach glowed even more marvelously and I felt like skipping over the sand, when I located my chickens chasing seagulls and Captain Daddy ready to hear my story, I simply chose to revel in the glory for however long it lasts.
I knew the true worth of that paper-bound journey, and almost didn’t care what anyone else thought of it at all.