No time to write about it — I still haven’t packed for it — but I’m heading back down to Nicaragua in the morning. Here’s one of my favorite photos from the last time or the time before.
More later, -jv
I’m having an odd sort of flashback.
I’m on a plane over Canada, flying up to Anchorage to address the Alaska Writers Conference. This plane is like many planes I’ve been on in my professional life, like any plane whisking me to Managua or Moscow or wherever. And, as usual, I have a laptop open on my tray table. I’m either working or not working. Knowing me, I’ve probably just finished playing a game, or just about to start. It’s how I fly: I should be working, and sometimes I am, but often I’m not.
Usually on these gigs in wherever, I’m arriving as the expert from out of town, the consultant expected to teach and train writers (possibly even enlighten writers) but not necessarily to be a writer himself. And there have been many, many times in the past when I frittered away all the hours on the flight doing two things: not-writing, and feeling guilty about not-writing. I understood that, as a hard working and dedicated teacher and trainer, I had a pretty damn good excuse for not, at that moment, being a writer. Yet I felt guilty. Down deep in my heart, I felt like a fraud, and simultaneously loved and hated having a handy excuse for not advancing on my own writing front. And felt guilty. Like I was letting myself down, and really not living up to my reputation.
I recognize in this moment that this feeling of guilt is gone. I have finally, finally, written enough, achieved enough as an author, that I no longer feel like a fraud to me. No one can doubt my body of work. It’s there. It exists. There’s simply no way they can pin upon me the label of “those who can’t do, teach.” I do. I do plenty. I teach, too. So as I sit on this flight, monkeying with my next novel, I need not fear flying into a situation where someone asks, “What have you done for you lately?” I’ve done plenty for me. I still am. I’m the writer I always wanted to be. It’s a pretty sweet feeling. It’s nice to leave guilt behind.
I’m finally starting to fill the bottomless hole. It’s not full, but it’s not empty, either, and I, at last, seem to recognize that. I’m either growing up or growing old. From here at 35,000 feet, it’s hard to tell which.
Anyway, Alaska. More writers to meet and teach, more pulp to push, more sights to see. I’ve never been to Alaska before. I hear they have moose.
More later, -jv
I’ve been having fun making up new words lately, sort of as a hobby or a mental exercise more fruitful than Sudoku. Some recent goodies…
Gagnostic. Someone who believes God’s a joke.
Panticlimax. A dry hump.
Rantiquity. An old, old argument.
Hobotheosis. Elevation of the bum.
Wordsword. When you can’t say anything nice, use this.
Not all of ’em are winners of course, but, to quote myself, “Is the point of the game to win? Or to have fun?” And I’m having fun, so much so that I’m contemplating giving myself the challenge of coining 1000 new words by Christmas. These I can then package, I suppose, and sell as a slender ebook, A THOUSAND NEW WORDS BY CHRISTMAS, VOLUME 1 (which would set me up for more of same mayhem next year, but whatever.) I think I may do it, for I’m like a dog with a bone with these things, but on the other hand, will I kill the fun of it when it becomes an obligation? Or maybe I’ll just do as many as I can, and then package them as, say, 475 NEW WORDS BY CHRISTMAS. No one will know except me and both of you, my readers. So what do you say? All in favor of new words say, “Neologos!” The neologos have it. More later, -jv
Just found out that I was the number-two bestseller at Vroman’s Bookstore this month:
by Ruby on April 4, 2011
Tiger’s Wife, Tea Obreht
Albuquerque Turkey, John Vorhaus
Troubled Man, Henning Mankell
Lesson in Secrets, Jacqueline Winspear
Land of Painted Caves, Jean Auel
Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Alexander McCall Smith
Mystery, Jonathan Kellerman
Georgia Bottoms, Mark Childress
Pale King, David Foster Wallace
When the Killings Done, T C Boyle
Of course that may have had something to do with having done a big book launch event there that week, but still… it’s the best bestselling I’ve done so far, so yay me.
(Me as I used to be)
More later, -jv
What a long yesterday. I got up at 4:00 a.m. to drive to San Diego to appear on a couple of morning talk shows, then had to kill the whole day down there before an in-store appearance at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore. Well, fortunately, there are card rooms in San Diego, so killing the day proved to be no problem. Even better, the TV appearances drove some traffic to the in-store, plus a whole bunch of other people came and it was just a fun, lively, wonderful evening of writers talking about writing, cracking jokes, eating cake and (me) selling a ton of books. Really one of those moments that makes the whole book launch thingie feel worthwhile.
One of the TV shows was kind enough to give me a recording of my appearance, and I’ve posted it to YouTube. If you want to see me working a completely lame version of the Hat Trick proposition bet, complete with bogus invisible magical straw, do please click here. If you want to do something else, do that instead. If you haven’t yet ordered/bought/read/enjoyed The Albuquerque Turkey, what are you waiting for? It’s the book that The Literate Kitty called “all-out satisfying feel-good fun,” and while I don’t generally take the word of cats, in this instance I believe I shall.
More later, -jv
I’ve been writing a novel set in 1969. There’s no mystery about why: I’m stuck in that era; always have been. The music I listen to, the philosophies I believe in, the major discoveries I’ve made, the clothes I wear (I’m wearing an army jacket right now), my whole entire sense of self is rooted in the 1960s, and I do believe that the tragedy of my life — a thing that has haunted me from that day to this — is that I was just a little too young (and maybe a bit too scared) to be the hippie I wanted to be. So this novel I’m writing is nothing less than an emotional memoir, a wish-fulfilling journey down a path I might have walked. From time to time as I write it, I get very close to something I call “the bottom ache,” which, for me, is where the writer’s true emotions live. When I can get a bit of the bottom ache out of my heart and out of my head and onto the page with all its authentic sour sweetness, I feel like I’ve gotten somewhere with my work.
But there are unintended consequences of living in the past as I am. Melancholy frequently sweeps over me as I measure the distance between where I was and where I am. Rue slips in — damn, why didn’t I take the road not taken? Frustration dogs me, for even when I successfully catch a snapshot of the ’60s, I know it’s only a snapshot, a dim reflection, not at all the real deal. And when I miss — when my details are lame and my dialogue flat — when I try to convey real emotion and real event on the page, and know that I’m not coming close, I’m not only burdened by the time gone by but also by the time I’m burning through now, trying and failing, trying and failing again.
Well, it’s what writers do, one of the many things we do: We try; we fail; we try again. And when we succeed, we set harder targets for ourselves. That’s part of the paradigm, and I understand it well. Writing is a “have more, need more” condition. No matter what goals we reach, real writers always need new goals and tougher ones. In this novel, my goal is to go deep and go back. In my dark days I fear I’m missing on both counts.
But I soldier on, because that’s what real writers do, too. I feel like I’m participating in an experiment of a sort: how much melancholy can I stand to feel? At this moment, living in 2011 and trying so hard to live in 1969, I’m feeling it all, every single bit. I’m lost in the past. I put myself there, and now there’s no way out of it except through it.
More later, -jv
She’s been in and out of caves all week. Not spelunking, but… oh, hell, I’ll let her tell you.
March 4: Aurangabad, India
Flew to Mumbai and then to Aurangabad – the first leg of my tour of India. Today’s adventure was The Ellora Caves which are a mix of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain cave temples that were built between the 6th and 10th Centuries AD near the ancient Indian village of Ellora.
The caves were carved out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills at time when Buddhism was declining in India and Hinduism was beginning to assert itself. As time progressed to the 10th Century, local rulers switched allegiance from Shaivism (Hinduism devoted to Shiva) to the Digambara sect of Jainism.
The coexistence of structures from three different religions serve as a symbol of religious tolerance in India. The Ellora Caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
More later, -jv (and Maxx)
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