Delta: the Universal Symbol for ‘Hi! How Can I Ruin Your Weekend?’

So, Lynyrd Skynyrd was at my gate at the airport on Friday morning. This did not make up for the fact that Delta was in an enormous snafu such that all flights were delayed and I couldn’t make my connecting flight and there were no seats on any later flights that could possibly get me to South Bend in time for my cousin’s wedding party on Saturday. Even if I flew through Cincinnati instead of Atlanta. Even if I tried my luck and flew standby. Even if I went home and came back later. No flights. Nada. Nichts. Niente.

I was somewhat astonished — I’ve had long delays and reroutes before, I’ve been stuck in Chicago due to blizzards, I was stuck in LA once due to a volcano in New Zealand, but I was always able to go where I needed to go eventually. But not this time. So I left the airport, got back in my car, and drove home, because there was nothing else to do. I went to the bagel store and got the bagels I’d failed to get on Wednesday. I went to the grocery store and got some consolatory ice cream. While I was sitting in the parking lot I saw Cordelia walking down the street with a cup of coffee. Ah, yes, I thought, there is Cordelia with a cup of coffee. I am definitely not in South Bend.
I was too depressed to attract Cordelia’s attention. Besides, it would’ve confused her mightily, since not half an hour earlier I’d been texting her from the airport about how Lynyrd Skynyrd was at my gate, and for all she knew, I was now in a metal tube winging its way across the sky, sharing my peanuts with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Instead, I texted her later in the day telling her I’d seen her from the airplane carrying coffee down So-And-So Avenue at so-and-so hour, wearing shorts and a green hoodie. I mean, why be merely confusing when you have an opportunity to seriously mess with someone’s head?
Anyway. So, my weekend didn’t turn out the way I was hoping… and Annie and Henry, if you’re out there somewhere reading this, I am so sorry I missed it. I was really looking forward to it. I did make the most of my weekend. I kept the away message on my email and the hold on my mail and pretended I was away, which was kind of fun. It was like being nowhere, in a covert and clever fashion. And I got tons of good work done. But. Wish I could’ve been somewhere. There, to be precise. :o(
(Delta, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: What your airline could use is a little CHANGE.)
(Also, Booklist gave Graceling a star!)

The Florida Report

On Wednesday I was feeling a bit melancholy, and I’d also run out of bagels (possibly related). So I went for a walk to the bagel store, listening to sad Ani DiFranco songs on the way. When I got there, the bagel store was closed, so I walked to the grocery store, where the bagels are less stupendous, but acceptable in emergencies. On the way home I wore my sunglasses and my sun visor because the light was blinding, and I crouched under my purple sparkly iridescent umbrella because it also happened to be pouring. Just your normal summer day in north Florida.

The sad thing about summer here is that the pelicans on the broken-down pilings in the river go away — maybe they go out to sea? But recently, a single blue heron has been spending a lot of time on the pilings. A solitary blue (for you Cynthia Voigt fans out there). I stopped to commune with the heron for a few minutes; and then, closer to home, I stopped to commune with a couple of the neighborhood’s less skittish cats.

It was just the walk I needed.
I don’t have a lot to say today. I’m flying up to South Bend tomorrow for a wedding, and I’m looking forward to some quiet time with family in a pretty place. But I’m never very talkative before I travel and I’m often melancholy, even when it’s a trip I completely, 1000% want to go on. Most likely it’s on account of I still haven’t been bitten by any radioactive bugs, or kidnapped and skeletally modified, or experimented on by a mad scientist: i.e., I still don’t possess my preferred superpower of teleportation. I like the actual act of flying through the sky, I like being on trains, etc., etc. But I find the preparations disrupting and exhausting. Teleportation would solve the problem: no need to get to the airport at 6am; no worries if you forget your phone charger, because you can always pop back for it. Hell, teleporters don’t even need phones. Really, I’m ready for the responsibilities of this awesome power, if anyone out there would like to bestow it upon me.
So. Not much to say. So I’ll spare all of you now, and stop saying things. Happy reading and writing, everyone.

I’m Shipping Up to Boston (to Find My Wooden Leg)

Extra points to anyone who can identify the source of my title. Cordelia, Joe, Athanasius, and Mr. Meriwether Tigleth Bonaparte Monkey: you are not eligible for this contest. (Edit: And no googling!)

This post is a shout out to my Aunt Mary, who just arrived in northeast Thailand, where she’ll be volunteering as an English teacher for the next few months before moving on to Vietnam to do the same. Here’s what she wrote in her first email: “Made it to Thailand safe and sound; how could I not? I had going for me prayers to Jesus, medals of St Lucy, Jesus, and the Holy Family in my pocket, the Buddha and Sophia at my side, and a prayer cloth around my neck! No wonder I was feeling such calm during the trip.”
Aunt Mary, you also had with you the undying love of one atheist in Florida. :o)
Aunt Mary is a person who inspires me. She has a way of finding her place in the world — making her place, and finding her places — that I admire so much that I almost pop when I think about it. She manages to stay close to family and to spend large amounts of time in faraway places. She’s very good at loving people yet also knows how to follow her independent path. She isn’t afraid to take risks and live with uncertainty and have adventures — or, if she is afraid, she does it anyway.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’ve been trying to find my home base in the world, my place to settle and have adventures from. I’m not actually shipping up to Boston anytime soon (nor have I lost my wooden leg). But I’ve thought for some time — now that health insurance in the Bay State is priced more reasonably than it used to be — that perhaps it’s time to move back. What if when I’m done writing the first draft of Book 3, or at least am closer to done, I did some exploring in the Boston area, and poked at Boston-places, and poked at me, and prodded into my internal homing device, and looked through the microscope at the question of whether maybe it’s time to move back? (Erm. Just roll with that stream of metaphors, okay?)
I love some things about Florida and I LOVE being close to my sister, secret code name: Cordelia. But. I always knew Florida was temporary. And with all this new book brouhaha, I miss the children’s lit community of Boston more than ever. And it’d be nice to be closer to New York, and to my publisher (part of which is even in Boston these days, now that Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt have merged). And I dislike being so far from the rest of my family (who mostly aren’t in the Boston area, but they’re only a drive away, as opposed to a flight — plus, my sister Dac, who does not have a secret code name [yet], is very near Boston, indeed). I miss Boston people. Of course, that’s not a valid reason, because wherever I am, I’ll miss the people of where-I’m-not — and probably also wish simultaneously that there were no people anywhere. AND I remember feeling just as urgently, when I lived in Boston, that it was time to move somewhere else. Which I did, to London, then Austin, then PA, then Florida. But. I want the atmosphere of the northeast, I want hills and forests and four seasons, I want a blue state, I want SOMETHING….
I don’t know what I want.
Actually, I do know what I want. I want a cheese-egg-avocado-bagel sandwich and I want to sit down with a Moomin book by Tove Jansson and stop thinking for an hour or two. My Moomin books finally came in at the library! I may have to post about the Moomins at some point. (That’s one of them wearing a hat on the left.) Maybe if and when I get a Finnish deal…. No, if and when I get a Finnish deal, I’ll post about why I adore Finland, but then maybe another time, I’ll post about the Moomins. (Maybe if I get a Swedish deal? Would that be an affront to Finland? Jansson was part of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland and published the Moomins first in Swedish.) I’d never read them before yesterday, despite owning a plate decorated with Moomins and despite being told to many times, but finally, yesterday, I sat down with Comet in Moominland. It really is wonderful so far. There’s a muskrat who’s a philosopher who sits around thinking about how unnecessary things are. There’s also a little animal named Sniff who says intelligent things like, “It’s funny about paths and rivers…. You see them go by, and suddenly you feel upset and want to be somewhere else.”
Sniff, baby, I hear ya’.

“We went to the moon to have fun…

…but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

Have you all read Feed by M. T. Anderson? (That’s a link to the Amazon page, if you’d like to read the book’s premise. Which you probably don’t need to do, because you’ve read the book already, because you aren’t years behind, like I am. You’re probably all reading the Octavian Nothing books. Whatever. It just means I’m better than you are at resisting the feed. *thhhbbbtttt*)

Like I was saying, Feed. I’m reading it for the second time this week (by which I mean, I also read it for the first time this week. And now I’m reading it again. For the second time. This week. And ever. I HAVE ONLY EVER READ IT TWICE. THEY WERE BOTH THIS WEEK).


I have something to say about Feed, but I’m not entirely sure what it is. That may not surprise you.

Here’s the thing (WARNING: spoilers ahead!). There seem to be things I love about Feed. And while reading it, I find myself wandering around writing questions compulsively on post-its (as I often do), and most of these questions are for the author. Because, after all, when your narrator has very real feelings, but (1) is out of touch with those feelings, (2) is slightly dim, (3) is ill-equipped to deal with his present circumstances, and, especially, (4) is inarticulate, you’re setting yourself up for a serious challenge. I wonder, did Anderson ever feel trapped behind Titus’s inarticulateness? How did he manage to make it such a beautiful and funny and expressive inarticulateness?

“Then there was this wham and Marty was all, ‘Oh, shit,’ holding on to his face, and I sat up and was like completely there was no hope of sleeping with these morons doing rumpus on my armrest.”

Or, very simply:

“I hoped she could see my smile in the light of my brain.”


“I had never been someplace with that much of angry in the air, like it was crammed. Like the whole air was buzzing. Like all of the lights on the dashboard were teasing us. We were hurtling forward, and it was like we were fueled by how much we hated each other.”

Also, I wonder if it was very sad to write a book that wasn’t just about the end of a world — it was about the end of our world. I know it was sad to read. The animals with no more forest to live in — the hawks perched on street lamps, never looking down, “like they sat alone on Douglas firs” —

“I miss that time. The cities back then, just after the forests died, were full of wonders, and you’d stumble on them — these princes of the air on common rooftops — the rivers that burst through city streets so they ran like canals — the rabbits in parking garages — the deer foaling, nestled in Dumpsters like a Nativity.”

Parts of the book were wickedly funny, and that had to help. For example, the name of the girls’ favorite show: Oh? Wow! Thing! Can’t you just picture it exactly? And here’s how the presidential administration tries to explain away an intercepted chat of the President’s: “It has to be understood that when the President referred to the Prime Minister of the Global Alliance as a ‘big shithead,’ what he was trying to convey was, uh — this is an American idiom used to praise people, by referring to the sheer fertilizing power of their thoughts.” HA HA hee hee hoo *snorfle*

But seriously, back to the sadness. At the end of the book, when Titus watches the “shit-stupid sun rise over the whole shit-stupid world”, oh, you feel it. The sadness is the reason I wanted to read it again. I started the book thinking, this world is a nightmare, this feed feels too familiar for comfort, and this narrator is kind of a dope. I finished the book thinking, no, no, bring me back to Titus. I love Titus. Don’t let this world end.

But of course it has to end.

I wonder if it felt a bit icky to market this book. Sending it out onto the feed, and all.

Anyhoo. Rock on, M. T. Anderson — and I’m not done yet. While I was at the library, I also picked up his picture book Me, All Alone, at the End of the World, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, because, well, it’s the sort of title that catches the eye of hermit types, plus the pictures reminded me of my ideal home (I don’t know if Kevin Hawkes could lead me there, but he sure as hell can paint it). Okay. I loved this book. I think I’m going to have to buy it. It was about being with yourself and also being with other people; it was about being happy with “soft loneliness;” it was about being alone in a particular place but knowing you’re not alone in the world. It was a lot like Feed in some ways — it captures something about how you can be perfectly alone and quiet and content and peaceful and happy, until someone suggests to you that you aren’t doing the right things, the “fun” things. And that person is partly right — the fun things are fun, and it’s good not to be alone always — but you were right, too, the way you started, alone and content. There’s an ambivalence perfectly contained in this book. It is the great ambivalence of my life. :o)

Next I’m in the mood to read some Rumer Godden, and maybe also dig up some more Kevin Hawkes. What are you reading, and what can you recommend? Oh: and speaking of rumors, I might be getting a new roof sometime in the next eon. They’ve patched the gaping hole in the ceiling and I’ve reclaimed my meditation corner, which is an improvement. But Jesus hasn’t been back, and I have to admit, I still don’t have a lot of faith….

Stuff and Things and also a Starred PW Review

The best thing about Graceling tattoos is that if you happen to be two years old, they take up half your forearm.
Behold my Gollancz cover, for the UK edition!
I think it’s gorgeous and striking and I love the atmosphere. It isn’t faithful to the character’s actual wardrobe (no, I don’t generally clothe my characters in skintight leather!), but it still captures the right feeling, in my opinion. Also, OMG, what an excellent sword.
It does remind me that I wish the default woman in magazines or on TV or on book covers wasn’t always so skinny. To be fair, I never specifically state that Katsa isn’t skinny. I believe I’m mostly vague throughout, and I hope that I’ve allowed for interpretation. But anyway. This all brings up a thing I’ve been thinking about lately, and a thing I struggle with and get frustrated about as I work on my writing. I don’t like the idea of contributing to our society’s fat-phobia. At the very least, I want to avoid fat-negativity in my writing — no evil villains whose awfulness is embodied by fatness; no strong women whose strength is embodied by thinness; no fat, weak heroines whose journey to strength and enlightenment is accompanied and symbolized by weight loss; no implication that fat people don’t even exist (i.e. only putting thin people in my books). And at the most, I want to write fat-positively, I want to express that fat is beautiful and competent and strong. The question becomes, how can I work this into my writing while being true to the characters and stories that live in my head, and without seeming like I’m using a shoehorn?
I try to be vague about things like body size with my heroines, unless her body size is actually relevant to her character or to the story or to the moment. It’s partly because their body sizes tend to be vague in my own head and partly because I like, when I’m reading a book, to be able to picture the character how I want, and like my readers to be able to do the same.
At the same time, I try to make sure to depict secondary characters who are also either vaguely depicted or else represent a range of body sizes/appearances that do not reinforce our society’s stereotypes. (Sometimes I might make a strong character short or a pleasant character ugly or a strong character fat or an unhealthy person thin, but I don’t mean I dwell on it, I just try to add little details in passing. [Honestly, I’m not sure what I did in Graceling. I was less conscious of all of this when writing Graceling; at that point, I was just struggling to write a coherent book. I’ve found myself more conscious of this stuff with Fire and Bitterblue. Ugh, and I’m sure there are places where it doesn’t work or I contradict myself and so on. Let me say, to anyone who does not write books, that this sort of thing can get unbelievably tricky.])
I got sidetracked there. The point I was trying to get to is this: I’m worried that what I’m creating is a catch-22. If I’m being vague about the body size of my heroines, but am then careful to be specific with the occasional secondary character, doesn’t that mean that I’m implicitly relegating my heroines to whatever is considered body-normative? By which I mean, if Secondary Person X is described as noticeably round, but Heroine A’s diameter is not specified, then doesn’t that imply that Heroine A is NOT noticeably round? AARRGGHHH! AT THIS RATE I WILL NEVER SAVE THE WORLD!!!
Obviously the solution is for me to write a protagonist who is definitely and deliberately fat. Unfortunately, no definitely fat protagonist has appeared in my head so far. I’ve only got vague-bodied protagonists in my head (and also one very small person). And I’m sorry, but here I put my foot down as a person who has written four and a half books and therefore is in a position to have an opinion: you cannot force these things. She has to come to me, and it has to feel right. Perhaps she will. And then I will do my absolute darndest to write an awesome fat heroine. (Which then brings up the whole other issue of whether a skinny person is qualified to write a fat person, which of course she is, or no one could ever write anyone except themselves, and besides, I can’t imagine my fat heroine’s fatness being the point of the book. It would just be the way she was. Sigh. NEVER MIND.)
As you can see, this is something I get myself all confused about. And at a certain point I need to let go of any and all social agendas, because there are so many things that go into writing a book, and I can only take them one at a time. But. I’m trying. At the very least, I will avoid any conscious fat-negativity in my books, and I will aim for fat-positivity. AND I will encourage seeds of diversity in the landscape of my brain. Because that’s where the magic grows.
If this stuff interests you, check out the recent post “Where are all the Fat Heroines?“at the Rotund, which is what got me on this train in the first place.
Whew. Thanks for bearing with me on all that, and I would love any reactions, including, “You are the biggest moron ever to walk on two legs.” (Because I do. Walk on two legs.)
Great news: I have a Spanish-language publisher, Roca.
Fabulous news: Publisher’s Weekly gave Graceling a star and said some embarrassingly nice things here. (It’s the very last review on the page, and it contains spoilers. The final two or three sentences are spoiler-free.) (Edit: PW‘s website has been having some trouble — sorry if you can’t open the link!)
Finally, anyone who knows me knows I have a weakness for cute guys. So I’ll close my post with the cutest guy ever. His name is Callum. :o)

It’s a Mad Mission — Sign Me Up

My title comes from a song by Patty Griffin, who’s on my iPod and in all my CD players at the moment, thanks to my friend Joan, who also happens to be one of my intrepid readers.

I miss forests and hills, but I’ll say this for Florida: the skies can’t be beat. Every day there’s a new sky and new clouds and new colors. The sky here has inspired the eye coloring for some of my characters, actually (eye color is important in all three books). A character in Fire got his eyes and hair from the St John’s River and the sky above at night, and a character in Bitterblue from all the different purples here at sunset. It makes going for walks a tiny bit narcissistic, because at certain times of day, I see my own books wherever I go…. but it also gets me in the right frame of mind to go home and get back to writing.

Anyway. Without further ado, here is a list of the reasons why I’m not scared of revising Fire:
  • I am the best person for the job. (I mean, sure, Joyce Carol Oates would do a way better job revising Fire, but then it wouldn’t be Fire anymore. It would be A Brilliant Work of Magnificence by Joyce Carol Oates.)
  • It’s another opportunity to get at the heart of who Fire is and express that to an audience. Opportunities! We like them! Yay! (What? My enthusiasm seems forced? Look over there, a yak!)
  • There is no need to make Fire lovable to everyone. Think of Fanny Price. I’ve never been able to love Fanny Price, but it doesn’t mean Mansfield Park isn’t wonderful. There can be good things about the book Fire even if Fire herself isn’t universally lovable.
  • Besides, I love Fire. And Fire depends on me to do her characterization justice. So I’m not afraid to do what I have to do; I’ll jump into her head again; I’ll do it for Fire; I’ll figure out who she is, and let her be who she needs to be.
  • Also? *thbbbbbbpppppt*
  • So there.
  • Exactly.
  • And my final point is this one.
See? Not scared!
Finally, for all you writers out there, here’s something brilliant and comforting a friend of mine emailed to me today, perfectly timed to coincide with my list: “There is no book in the world that everyone would love. It would be Schrödinger’s book, wouldn’t it? Making other people love your book shouldn’t even be on your radar. Does that sound too flip and drastic? As far as I’m concerned, other people’s opinions — not counting your editor and maybe your agent — are only there so that you can hear them and see if they resonate within you. If they don’t, they could be tossed and never thought of again.”
My friend, btw, is Rebecca Rabinowitz, and her blog about children’s literature, queer theory, fat politics, and other delicious cups of tea is here.
Off I go to be fearless.

It’s Just a Phase

I thought y’all might be getting tired of my book cover, so today I’m giving you my agent wearing a Graceling tattoo on her pregnant belly. Doesn’t it look great?!! Faye, if the baby turns out to be a Graceling, don’t blame me. And don’t name him Po. Apparently that means “butt” in German.

So, I’ve been thinking about how useless it is to wait for the day when writing starts to feel like an even keel. Seems like I’m always leaning one way or another — and there I’ll leave the sailboat imagery, because frankly, I know nothing about sailing — but what I’m trying to say is, I can’t really define the way writing usually is for me. It would be more accurate to say I go through constantly changing phases.
Like, either I’m in a period of fast and furious writing, or I’m in a period of daydreaming more than I’m writing, or I’m in a period where it helps to read novels, or I’m in a period where I can’t bear to read novels, or I’m in a period where absolutely nothing I write feels right and I’m convinced it’s all awful and I need to just stop until it feels better. It’s because life is complicated, of course; my collapsed ceiling, and the fun trip I’m planning, and a loved one’s health problems, and our horrifying presidential administration, and the best carrot cake ever, and my need to watch So You Think You Can Dance at 8pm on Wednesday will all inevitably influence my current project, the writing of Bitterblue. So will all the marketing/publicity preparations for Graceling‘s release in October. And so does the feedback I’ve started to get on Fire, which I’ll be revising again soon.
Actually, Fire is a biggie these days. I feel it looming. There are things I’m looking forward to playing around with, and I’m trying hard to think of it as play. But the truth is, there’s also this undercurrent of dread that I’m starting to realize is just the way things are with Fire. Discomfort is simply part of writing and loving that book; there’s something about being stuck in Fire’s head that is really, really hard for me. She’s harder for me to relate to than Katsa was or than Bitterblue currently is, but it’s more than that. I took on more than I realized I was taking on with her, and I know things are slipping through the cracks. Imperfections in the book, I mean. The whole thing constantly feels out of my control.
Anyway. There’s a Fire phase looming, and I welcome it, but I don’t entirely look forward to it.
Another way my writing works in phases has to do with schedules. Recently I’m in a “write from 10pm to 4am” phase, which is new for me, and strange, but I think it’s working, and might be solving some of the problems of writing during the day. From 10pm to 4am, there really are no interruptions. No one needs anything from me. And I find that if I go the whole day without writing, by 10pm I’m really itching to write — and nothing makes work easier than wanting to do it. Also, let’s face it, it’s Florida and it’s July, so from where I’m standing, there is no compelling reason to be awake and active during daylight hours. And if it starts to feel like too weird a schedule, that’s okay — I’ll just move on to the next phase.
I wonder, is what I’m describing familiar to other writers? Or maybe to anyone who is alive, and trying to balance different loves and obligations? :o) Do you live your life in phases? Mine tend to be phases that depend on moods and timing. What do yours depend on?
(By the way, continuing last week’s theme of anthropomorphized veggies, check out these awesome veggie people!)


First, the good news: I have a Romanian publisher. RAO is taking Graceling on, and I’m thrilled. I know nothing about the Romanian language, but doesn’t it look beautiful? Now I want to learn more. If you know anything, feel free to educate me.
So, I’ve been thinking about favorites. People always like to ask for your favorites — what’s your favorite band, your favorite writer, etc., etc. — but sometimes I feel like no one ever asks for the right favorites. I can’t name a favorite band, so when people ask, I mumble incoherently and probably sound like a musical ignoramus. But, I can name my favorite anthropomorphized vegetable. How come no one ever asks me for my favorite anthropomorphized vegetable? Come on, people! Get with the program!
Anyway, I thought I’d list some of my favorite favorites, mostly ones that no one ever asks. (Because really, why would they?)
For example, when you get really wonderful, spectacular news, what’s your favorite thing to do? Mine is to call my parents and tell them. Do you have a favorite muppet? Mine is Grover. Do you have a favorite name? Mine is Jacob.
My favorite part of flying is takeoff, unless I’m in a little plane, and then I like the dipping and veering. My favorite time to be in New York City is right before Christmas, when everything’s decorated with lights.
My favorite thing to bake is bread. My favorite thing to do on Sunday is listen to NPR all day long. My favorite time to go for a walk is sunset.
My favorite day to spend at the beach is a clear day in the 50s so I can bundle up in hat and scarf and drink a thermos of tea. Plus, the dolphins come out on the cold days. My favorite sight at the beach is dolphins.

Sometimes I paint, very badly, and when I do, my favorite thing to paint is anthropomorphized asparagus (making asparagus my favorite anthropomorphized vegetable!). If you don’t believe me (and if you don’t believe I paint badly), here’s my atmospheric, Western piece, “Armed Asparagus” on the left…
…and my grueling representation of an asparagus in the Tour de France on the right. I’ve also done a circus asparagus, a gymnast asparagus, an asparagus in formal wear, and an unclothed asparagus reclining on a divan between busts of Shakespeare and Beethoven (I call that one “Reclining Nude”). I do paint broccoli, corn, onions, leeks, etc., too, but I tell you, nothing inspires like asparagus.
Hmm. I’m feeling a bit claustrophobic trying to type while surrounded by asparagi. They do tend to be very tall paintings….
Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale is my favorite beer. Cordelia brought me a sixpack last week when the ceiling collapsed. Cordelia always knows, even better than I do, when I need a specialty beer (or six).
My favorite tree is this enormous live oak in the gardens of the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville. Its trunk splits off in six directions and the branches touch the ground and then rise up again, almost like whole new trees. It’s big and old and it’s one of my soulmates.
At the moment, Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett is my favorite book. It’s simple and beautiful and profound, and it only has 31 words, so check it out if you get a chance.
My favorite place in Rome is the Pantheon. It makes me feel the same way the oak tree and the Gravett book make me feel: at peace.
Finally: My sisters are my favorite. And so is solitude.
Will you tell me some of your favorite favorites?

Over-optimistic Are Those Who Have Not Seen and Yet Believe

So, my earplugs are among my most prized possessions. Nothing is more important to a writer than a pair of earplugs when, for example, your neighbor develops musical ambitions, or someone starts blowing dust along the sidewalk with one of those damn leaf-blowers. My neighborhood isn’t quiet, and most days I put in the earplugs at some point. It helps me focus to be immune to audible distractions.

However, I now know, having conducted an involuntary experiment, that my earplugs do not mask the sound of my living room ceiling collapsing.
Here’s how I reacted. I looked up from my writing notebook and, with a sinking feeling of doom, said out loud, “What the f%#@ was that noise?” I put my notebook down, walked into the living room, and took a moment to understand what had happened, because, frankly, the whole room looked like it had exploded, and I didn’t get it. Then I looked up.
“Oh my F%#@ING GOD!” I yelled, twice, probably louder than I meant to, due to the earplugs. Then, instantly, this eerie calm came over me. There was water pouring from the hole onto the floor — well, onto the ceiling, really, which was now on the floor — and I turned around, walked to the laundry room, and fetched my bucket. I walked back and placed the bucket under the stream of water. I examined the (very large) hole in the ceiling and discovered that I could see the sky through a hole in the roof above it. Everything began to make sense: hole in the roof, rainy Florida summer…. I took out an earplug and called the landlord. Then, umm, I hung up my Alan Rickman poster. (It was in the way, you see, of all the men I expected were on their way to my apartment. I’d been flattening it on the living room floor under picture books when the event occurred. I had to dig the picture books and the poster out from under pieces of ceiling, but oddly, nothing was damaged.) I hung the poster up in my bedroom, calmly noting that my hands were shaking. The reason I’m dizzy and have a headache, I told myself, is because of adrenaline. NOT because all that fuzzy insulation stuff floating all over the living room is toxic. I hope. I went back to my armchair, sat down, and picked up my writing notebook.
I often write little comments in the margin under the day’s date, things like: “Gorgeous rainstorm today,” or, “Too much Pirate’s Booty: indigestion,” or, “What if I moved to Iceland?” That sort of thing. Now I picked up my pen and calmly wrote: “Ceiling on floor.” I thought about the irony for a few minutes; the collapse had taken place directly above my meditation corner. I’ve often sat in that very spot trying to maintain my own structural integrity, spine straight, shoulders slightly back, arms relaxed. How pleasant that my poor, weary ceiling waited until I was not meditating to drop.
A few minutes saw the arrival of a dude sent by my landlord, a shirtless roofer named Jesus (pronounced JEE-zus, just like God, Jr.). Jesus and his apostles tromped in and out and back and forth and up and over for some time, until the hole in the roof above the hole in my ceiling was patched. Before Jesus left, he informed me that a whole stretch of the roof was going to have to be rebuilt and that, in fact, there was another hole in the roof, not far from the first one, collecting water. Perhaps I’d consider moving any valuable items from under that spot, just for safety’s sake? “Where is it?” I asked Jesus. Jesus led me to my office and pointed to the spot directly above my brand new iMac.
I dragged my kitchen table into my bedroom and set my computer up on it, thanks be to Jesus. “You’ll be seeing me again,” he said as he left, which struck me as a very Jesus thing to say. Unfortunately, the apostle I’ve always most closely resembled is Doubting Thomas, particularly in manners relating to the maintenance of my apartment. Let’s just say, I’ll believe it when I see it.
I suppose if Jesus does return to rebuild the roof, it’ll be the truest test.
(Not of my faith. Of my earplugs.)

Allegorical Cats, Metaphorical Cats, Statistical Cats and Mystical Cats

Graceling readers: notice anything peculiar about this cat?
(Or should I say, this cat-sa?)
(with thanks to my pal Rebecca, the clever one who
informed me that there are white cat-sas that have Katsa’s eyes. ^_^)
I want a cat, but I do everything at my own pace, and this is a thing I need to prepare for slowly. It’s a big responsibility for a person who only likes to be responsible for herself. I mean, I don’t even have a plant. I’m ready for a cat, though, it’s time for a cat, so these days I have felix catus on the brain. I’m remembering the best cat I ever knew, this deep gray, green-eyed little lady called Jane. Jane and I grew up together. She was the kind of cat who knew when you were crying under your covers and scratched on your bedroom door so she could come in and keep you company in your despair. She did a lot of loving things, but not the disturbingly loving things our other cats did, i.e. kill mice and leave a pile of perfectly dissected internal organs on the doorstep as an offering. Actually, my sisters and I did catch Jane chasing a mouse in the yard once. We rescued the mouse, sat Jane down at the picnic table, and then sang the Aerosmith song “Janie Got a Gun” to her. I think it was meant to demonstrate the terrible consequences when Janes resort to violence. After a bit of that she started to look rather glum, so we sang a few rounds of “For Jane’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” I think it made quite an impression.
I wrote an ode about Jane once, actually. It contains the lines, “Of patient demeanor and pleasant expression, / Her outlook is upbeat and wards off depression.” Hmm. I seem also to have written, “The picture of her fuzzy face / Is captured in my soul’s embrace.” I could go on. The ode is 52 lines long. Yes, indeed, she was that kind of cat… (The kind that inspires flashes of poetic brilliance, I mean. In case you didn’t pick up on the brilliance. You might not have, if you’re not an English major, like me.)
Finally, bringing my cat-themed post to a merciful end, if you have sympathy for endangered big cats and for people who struggle with stuttering, AND if you have 15 quiet, uninterrupted minutes: please, please listen to this wonderful segment from NPR’s Radiolab about conservationist Alan Rabinowitz. I first heard it years ago, and recently, to my enormous delight, stumbled across it online.