A Writer Is Always Writing… Except When She’s on the Trapeze

Warning: trapezey photos ahead!

And an apology: this one got long!

But, first: Gollancz, my UK publisher, is releasing YA editions of my books under their new imprint, Gollancz YA. (Prior to this, my books were published in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand for the adult market only.) And here’s the Graceling cover —-> click to see it bigger —>

So. Back to business.

Here’s the thing: sometimes I find it difficult to take breaks from my work. Writers, of course, are not just working when we’re physically writing. We’re working when we’re wandering around the house trying to remember where we put our pen (answer: in our hair). We’re working when we’re reading. (Oooo! How did this writer just make me feel that way? Can I do that to my readers?) We’re working when we’re out for a walk. (Ooooo! How can I describe that sky?) We try to watch some TV, and then Sophie on Leverage describes a con that gives us an idea for the scene we’re trying to write. (Ooooo! The way Parker, Hardison, and Eliot interact is so damn funny. Can I learn something from that?) Point is: it’s really hard to turn off the writer brain, especially when I’m deep in the middle of a writing project that’s lasting years. It’s kind of like I’m swimming through it, all the time.

When I’m with friends, that’s a break. And what I’ve learned is that the trapeze is also a break — and this is one of the things I like most about it. The trapeze is so strange to me, so far removed from anything else I do or have ever done, that it’s like I inhabit a different brain while I’m doing it. I’m not a writer while I’m at trapeze class at TSNY Beantown; I’m a trapeze student, and nothing else. I’m thinking about pointing my toes and arching my back and keeping my legs straight and looking for the catcher and waiting for his hep and presenting good catch hands and trying (and failing) to land on my back in the net when the trick is over. Much of this thinking occurs while I’m swinging wildly through the air. When I’m at trapeze class, writing is so far out of my mind that — well, for months, I had a few research questions about ropes that I wanted to run by my instructors, but I kept forgetting about it until partway through the drive home. *facepalm*

It’s such a relief, sometimes, to discover that I’ve allowed myself to forget about Bitterblue. And it’s better for her, too. I write better if now and then I get some distance.

The trick I’m working on these days is the set split. (There’s more info and a 15-second video [not of me] here, if you want to see what it looks like.) With the set split in particular, it’s hard not to release the bar early, because you can see the catcher so clearly, and it feels like it’s happening in slow motion, and there he is, and there you are, and he’s taking FOREVER to say hep, and shouldn’t you just jump off? The answer is no, you shouldn’t, not if you want him to be able to reach you at the right moment for catching you. Which is one of the things my mind is full of while I’m at trapeze class.

And now, I’d like to present a photo essay of what I’m thinking about while I’m at trapeze class. Click on any of the photos to enbiggen.

Stand back while I rock these socks.

This seems like an excellent opportunity to inspect the ceiling. Yes, it is high and flat and blue, just like last time. Splendid.

How’s my hair?

I hope my Italian publisher notices that I’m wearing my bo libri t-shirt.

Viva l’Italia!

Catch hands, not jazz hands!

Oh, hi! I was hoping I’d find you here!

Hey, did you notice that my socks match your shirt?

People will think we planned it.

Do you have anything in green for next time? Because I have some frog socks.

Well, tootles! It’s been fun!

Okay, here’s what is actually on my mind during that sequence: as I stand on the board, toes over the edge, holding the bar with one hand, leaning forward while Erin holds my belt, Steve, holding the lines on the ground, is giving me some reminders of my problem spots in the trick I’m about to do. Kaz, in the catch trapeze, begins his big swing and lowers himself down to hang by his legs, and I am nervous, because I need to do everything right for the trick to work. I especially need to take off exactly when Kaz calls for me to take off, or the timing won’t be right.

Next, I hear Kaz’s “ready” and then his “hep,” and I hop off the board and I’m swinging, and Kaz is also swinging (upside-down), and I’m listening for Steve’s commands to get into first position at the top of the forward swing. (Watch the video again if you’re curious about what I mean — the commands “first” and “final” are very clear in the video.) I’m telling myself, “stay tight and watch your legs up to the bar,” because it’s easier to get into first position if you follow your rising legs with your eyes. “AARgh!” I’m thinking as I raise my legs into first position. “I’m tired!”

Now I’m listening for Steve to call me into final position at the top of the back swing. Once I’m in final position (the third and fourth pictures), I’m saying to myself, “Wait for the hep. Wait for the hep.” Steve is probably also telling me, “Wait… wait….” And I’m looking for Kaz, and then I see him swinging toward me, and there he is, and I’m waiting, and I’m waiting, and he’s NOT SAYING ANYTHING, and then he finally calls “Hep!” and I let go and reach my arms forward and our wrists make contact and he catches me, and YAY! we are swinging, and he’s giving me pointers as I swing forward, and for once I don’t need to be yelling apologies up at him (usually my conversations, while the catcher swings me, involve me apologizing for having poked him in the eye or some such), and then he’s swinging me back again, and then he lets me go, and immediately I know I’ve positioned myself wrong and the landing is going to be mildly unpleasant. Which it is — but later, I get some tips on how to land better. Now I’m eager to work on my landings in my next lesson.

And that’s what I’m thinking. The whole trick takes maybe 15 seconds.

Thanks to my fine instructors at TSNY Beantown: Erin on the board, Steve on lines and calling, and Kaz in the catch trap; and special thanks to Christine, who was also flying that day, but ran to the camera to take these wonderful pictures in between her own swings!