Aug 26, 2010

Now what?

The second draft is done, but what happens next?  Questions abound from friends, family, loyal blog readers.  When can we read it?  When does it hit the shelves?  Are you writing another one?

God knows I don't have all the answers, but here's the skinny on the little rocky path my novel travels along.

The Dirty Dozen are still reading.  So far, I've had one in-depth report (from a high school English teacher, no less) but I'm still waiting for the rest of the feedback.  At which point I will hum and hah and ignore most of it because honestly I'm tired of fiddling with this damn story.  Then, with care and trepidation, I will put together packets of manuscripts, accompanied by brilliantly drafted cover letters and synopses, and trust the postal services to deliver them to dozens of agents.  Obviously, every one of those agents will immediately call me back with publishing offers, movie deals, and marriage proposals and I will become more famous than JK Rowling. 

Or not.

So, will you readers get a sneak peak at some point?

I don't know.  Maybe if you're very good.  We'll see.

In the meantime, I'll be trying to land myself a job that pays actual money that I can spend in real-life supermarkets to feed my ever-expanding waistline (no, I'm not pregnant, just perpetually hungry).  Actually, I should be trying to do that right now (my next interview involves preparing a 20-slide presentation... A splendid opportunity to take the old Powerpoint skills out for a spin).  But the sun has finally returned to New York and I just came back from a really long run and I have a dinner with friends soon and [insert random excuse here].

Aug 24, 2010

Love and Hate in the City

New York, New York.  If you can make it there...

So I'm back in my favourite city (outside of Paris, obviously).  And it's raining.  So instead of being out and about and on my way to a movie in Bryant Park, I'm stuck indoors and so can entertain you with what I love about this city - and what drives me nuts.

I love that random strangers talk to each other.  And not because they're trying to get into your pants, or sell you a pair, but just because they're feeling chatty and want to share.  I can see how it could unsettle some of the more introverted among us, but I'm the type that has to be forcibly stopped from striking up conversations with my local prostitute, so New York is my idea of heaven.

I hate that tax and tip are never included, not even in stores, so the slightest activity involving the exchange of money (and in New York, that's pretty much all activity) means having to pull out a calculator or risk having a heart attack when you're told the final price.  Or both.

I love the concept of the salad bar.  Not a uniquely New York thing, but definitely very prevalent in the city.  Salad bars epitomize everything that is wonderful about New York.  Diversity.  Freedom.  Constant availability.  Do you want a salad composed of a kilo of cherry tomatoes and a couple mushrooms on top?  You can do that.  Fancy some green beans with your lettuce?  Why the hell not.  And you can find salad bars anywhere, even in supermarkets.  It's positively orgasmic.  Please, please, I beg you, couldn't some entrepreneurial fellow launch salad bars in Paris?

I hate the taxis.  Granted, they're easy to find.  But nothing else about them is good.  The drivers get hopelessly lost as soon as you aim for anywhere outside the grid (basically, anywhere below 14th street).  The cars are dirty, small and uncomfortable.  And those damn television screens make me want to vomit and punch someone, not necessarily in that order.

Finally, I love that I never have time to do everything I want to do.  There's just too much going on in New York.  Even free stuff.  Even stuff for when it's raining.  Even stuff in the middle of the night.

On that note, time to get ready for an INSEAD dinner.

Aug 19, 2010

Sleepy in the Apple

I just landed in New York (I know, I know, I can't sit still for one minute) and I'm trying my very best to stay awake.  My watch says it's 8:30PM (well, not the one on my computer).  My brain is screaming that it's the middle of the night and I've been up since far too early.

The battle is on.  Watch vs. Brain.  My money's on the brain.  Mind over matter and all that.

In other news, some feedback has started trickling in from the Dirty Dozen.  And so far, it's good!  Miracle of miracles, one of the Dozen has reached chapter 13 and is still reading!  But they might all just be saying nice things to make me feel better. 

Oh, and my left leg appears to have ceased normal functions.  Don't ask me why, it's just not happy with me.  I think (but I can't be certain) that it's unrelated to the massive tumble I took down the stairs yesterday.  Sigh.  This is not a good month for me staying upright and injury-free.

Well, as you can probably tell, I'm not at my freshest right now and my blog posting is showing signs of impending collapse.  So I think I'll go do just that.  Stuff it, I'll just have jet lag.

Aug 16, 2010

In brief

Almost 48 hours since I finished the book.  The giddy feeling I was expecting still hasn't hit.  Instead I've felt listless, unsatisfied, and mostly waiting around for other people to make me feel good about myself - that hasn't worked either.

I thought maybe part of the problem is that my pet project, the one that's kept me up at night for the past year, is now gone.  I'm not writing anymore.  Truth be told, I haven't been properly "writing" for months now, as "re-writing" is more akin to dicing onions with blunt kiddy scissors than literary bliss (and don't ask me where that analogy came from).

To remedy this problem on this grey, rainy Monday in August (yes, I realize the weather may also be responsible for my doldrums), I decided to attempt the first draft of my synopsis.  The synopsis I will be required to send out to agents to convince them to read my manuscript which will then hopefully have them convinced to sign me so that they, in turn, can convince a publisher to turn the whole thing into a nice little paperback with a pretty cover that I can show my grandkids one day.

Anyhoo (geesh, does it always take me this long to get to the point?), once I'd plowed through the 450 word summary of my novel, I read back over it and thought, "Wow - that books sounds pretty decent!  Where is THAT book?"

Which is when I'd realized I'd done it.  I'd consulting-ized my book.  I'd taken a rather bland, completely unoriginal idea and made it sound ground-breaking.  It couldn't have been more obvious if I'd used slides to do it with.


But who knows, maybe it'll work?

Aug 14, 2010

Judgement Day

I finished it.  The book.  Well, the second draft of the book.

I should probably be more excited about this.  Instead, I'm terrified.  Because I've finally let the novel out of its cage, to run free and frolic and get mowed down by a humvee. 

As of one hour ago, about a dozen boys and girls, native and non-native English speakers, friends on all hemispheres, have gotten their grubby little hands on my baby.  They shall be named the Dirty Dozen.  The jury of my peers.  The ones who are 230 pages away from telling me my novel is shit.

At times like these I wish I had never started the damn thing.  What's the point if you're just going to humiliate yourself and disappoint everybody?  My friends will say, so what?  So what if it's bad?  At least you've written it.

But what's so cool about writing a bad novel?  Should I wear that proudly like a badge of honour?  "Hey guys, I made myself unemployed once so I could write the most boring 61,000 words known to man.  Jealous?"

Okay, okay, I'm calming down now.  I'm just one of those people that does not do well with being judged.  And between the grueling interview process I'm going through, plus waiting for the Dirty Dozen's verdict, I'm not making life easy for myself right now.  Talk about stepping beyond your comfort zone.

But hey, at least I have you.

PS: A shout-out to the true writers and fellow bloggers Karin and Sion for inspiration the other day.  And the Montmartoise, for a truly inspiring pizza.

Aug 12, 2010

Not-so-neutral feelings about Switzerland

I had a job interview yesterday.  In Switzerland.  And I don't know what to think.

But let's start from the beginning.  First, we'll set the scene.  It's been almost a year since I've had a job (I stopped saying I don't "work", as writing a novel surely counts as work - but it's not a job unless someone pays you and actually thinks you're any good.)  My finances are so low they're about to win a limbo competition.  All my friends, aware of my reputation as shoe expert extraordinaire, drag me shoe shopping and let me roll around the floor in pain while they buy out the store and leave me empty-handed.  I've stopped finding time to go to the gym or re-work more than one chapter a day because it interferes with my lounging around and not doing anything.  My brain has turned to mush and I can't even remember that my friends have already had their children, while I keep asking for their due dates.  Never mind still being able to do things like count or recite the alphabet.

It's time to face the facts.  I need to get back into the rat race.  If for no other reason than otherwise Res, as you know her, may cease to exist entirely.

So I started looking for a job.  Which should have been a piece of cake, or so I thought.  Excuse the appalling arrogance of the phrase you're about to read but, well, my CV is pretty damn awesome.

And yet.

It seems that no one in France wants me.  And very few people outside of France are interested either.  I'm overqualified.  I'm not French enough.  I'm too American (in that case, does that mean I get a green card?!)  I'm too specialized.  I'm not specialized enough.  They don't want someone who's done consulting.  They don't want someone who's been a litigator.  They worry I might be too nice.  Not nice enough.  And definitely vertically challenged.

And then a miracle happened.  A woman called.  She told me that a certain organization that shall remain nameless (for their sake, mostly!) was looking for someone with dual legal and business skills.  That they liked the fact that I had an unusual background.  That my patchwork of national influences was perfect.

Oh boy, it felt so good to be loved again.  And so I pulled out the black Hugo Boss suit from the back of the closet (miraculously, it still fit, albeit a bit more snug) hurried to the airport (narrowly missing my flight), flew Swiss Air (which apparently has risen from its ashes like the proverbial phoenix) and ended up in a city bordered by mountains (wait - they call that a city? but it has gardens everywhere and is barely the size of one Parisian arrondissement?...) to sit for part two of a three-part interview process.

I liked it.  I had fun.  My brain got some exercise, the verbal sparring brought me back to my glory days and all of a sudden I felt proud again.  Important.  Valued.

Which is when all the questions started pouring in.  Do I need a job to feel valued?  And does that job have to involve long hours and moving to Switzerland?  Do I have to quit the dream of being a writer?  What if it doesn't make me happy?  What if nothing makes me happy?  What if I don't have time to finish the book?  And am I prepared to leave my brand new apartment that I so lovingly redecorated?  And what about the fact that I have no friends in this particular city in Switzerland (a statistical anomaly given my lifestyle and the global reach of the INSEAD network, but there you have it).

Needless to say, I had trouble getting to sleep.  It's the morning after, now, and stress levels are high.  Fortunately, I have the blog to spill my angst into.  And a new motto I can grasp onto, thanks to Andi's discovery and a fun little website.  So I'm going to take a deep breath.  Put Switzerland on pause.  And hit chapter 13.

Aug 9, 2010

"Royally Kind" Event: Can't You Tell I'm Being Nice?

A while ago, I agreed to participate in a world-wide "Blog It Forward" event.  The rules were simple.  Do something nice for a complete stranger.  Blog about it.  Done.  How hard could it be?

Oh, the famous last words... (or not famous at all, really, especially as no one heard me pronounce them, plus I have a tendency to talk a lot of crap anyways - but idioms are all part of the fun).

So it's Friday.  I have four days left to do perform my random act of kindness.  Bring it on, strangers, I am here to be nice to you.  Step one, need to find some strangers.  Don't particularly feel like walking up to my local girls, though, they might get the wrong idea.  And what nice thing could I do for them?  Buy them less revealing leopard-print tank tops?  No, that won't do.

Ah, here we go.  Some German guy I have never heard of (yes! a honest-to-God complete stranger!) is making a promo-film about people's favourite books.  He needs someone to interview in Paris.  I can do that!  It's a pretty nice thing to do, right?  Surely that falls within the conditions of the Blog It Forward event.  Ah, hold on, he's paying participants fifty euros.  Any chance getting paid for something still makes it an act of kindness?  After all, I didn't ask for the money, did I?  No?

Fine.  It's Saturday now.  I'm heading off to Brussels for the weekend, and it might be difficult to start doing random nice things for Belgian people while I'm with my friends.  Who knows what they'll think.  Besides, I'd quite like to keep the niceness in-country, you know.  But lo!  Is that a woman in distress I see on the metro platform beside me?  Yes!  A chance to get a random act of kindness in before I leave!  What a glorious opportunity!

"Excuse me, are you lost?"
"Yes.  Is this line 3?"
"No, this is line 4."  See?  I'm helping already.  "You can't take line 3 from this stop.  You can only take lines 4, 8 and 9."  I'm really going all out now with all this additional information.
"Ah. Okay."

There we go.  Act of kindness done.  Granted, it won't make for a legendary blog post, but it's about the being nice, after all, not the writing and critical acclaim.

But hold on a sec.  She hasn't moved.  She's still standing on the platform.

"M'am?  This is line 4."
"I need to go to Quatre Septembre.  Line 3."
"Yes, I see that.  You can't get there from here.  This is line 4."
"Ah.  Okay."

This is not promising.

"To go to line 3 you need to go to a different metro station."
"This one, over here."  I point to her map.  She's holding it upside down so it takes me a while to find the station I want to point at.

This is when the metro arrives.  Mine.  Line 4.  The one that will take me to Gare du Nord and my Thalys to Brussels.  I look at my watch.  I'm running a bit late.  Right before the doors close, I throw myself into the carriage with my bags.  The woman stays on the platform.

Did my random act of kindness require me to physically escort my stranger to the right station?  Or have I already done my bit?  Surely it's not my fault if the person upon which I have gratuitously decided to bestow my kindness is either deaf or mentally challenged?  Is it?

No.  This one counts.  I'm sure of it.  She probably will find line 3 eventually if she wanders around Paris long enough.  And I contributed to that.  I can feel proud of myself.  Mother Teresa is looking down on me now and smiling.

And next month I can always go shopping for leopard-print leotards.

Want to read about some more random acts of kindness?  Check out blog postings by Red, Vanessa, Paige, Caroline, Sharalee, Bianca, Linda, Sasha, Trina and JenniferThe Royally Kind Blog-It-Forward series is the brainchild of Jill from The Duchess Guide

Aug 3, 2010

Read all about it

I'm struggling to find a unifying theme for my post today, but I was itching to write something other than this terrible chick-lit that's trying to pass as my novel (can you believe it?) so instead you're going to get a random collection of "what I did over the past couple days."

Let's get started.

A few days ago:  The man I'm dating decides to bugger off on holiday with another chick that he just met.  Goes to show there is such a thing as love at first sight - it just happens to other people.  Never mind, I immediately turn to my INSEAD network (otherwise known as €50k to never have to spend another cent on hotel rooms) and plan a weekend in Brussels.  That's what I call bouncing back, baby.

Yesterday:  The clutz series continues.  After the infamous shattered leg debacle (coming soon as a Lifetime TV movie), I decide to top it, while painting my bedroom (granted, less sexy than mini running shorts, and therefore less likely to feature Natalie Portman playing yours truly).  Anyways, there I am, paintbrush in hand, clothed in a very, very large Mickey Mouse T-shirt (and no, I don't know how that ended up in my wardrobe), and splattered in grey paint.  I move towards the other side of the (very small) room and - BANG!  Walk my pretty little head straight into a floating bookshelf.  The wood digs into my scalp.  Blood gushes.  I start feeling woozy.  You get the picture.  Long story short, I now proudly sport a large gash in my scalp (thank god, hidden by my hair) and have a permanent headache.

There's an award for the most entertaining series of self-inflicted injuries, right?

Today:  That's it, I've had enough of being the loser that gets dumped and her head cleaved by shelving.  I'm taking back control of my life, dammit!  Step 1, go to the gym.  Decide on a whim to go to the spinning class.  For the first time.  Step 2.  Lose all sensation in legs and come this close to falling off the bicycle while instructor looks on, amused.  Step 3.  Cancel all upright activities and strenuous exercise such as walking for foreseeable future.

In other news:  The rewrite is still in progress.  As we speak, I now have a prologue and nine chapters "finished" - or in their second draft form, anyway.  Only 16 more to go before I let my friends loose on the novel to tear it apart like hyenas.  Now there's something to look forward to.