As you walk into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (an avenue long by an avenue wide huge monster of a pre-war, pre-war finished 1888 building) you can’t help but be impressed by the picture of these two dudes while you’re waiting to be scanned and wanded through the second stage of security. The sign below them cracked me up. HELP. Need I say more? The rest of the small print says, “…keep our floors clean.” But I couldn’t resist. These guys need all the help we can give them.
So… no, I did not meet the Dudes. I only saw their very real and life-like pictures. And though I didn’t get into the White House I did get into the building where all the business is done next to the White House and I did soak up some of the powerful office space air and the wheezing breath of history. It was cool.
In a strange bit of serendipity one of the two White House ONAP (Office of National AIDS Policy) committee members that our team met with, I actually knew from my days working at Gay Men’s Health Crisis. We realized we knew each other towards the end of the meeting when he mentioned The House of Latex Project (Long story for another time but let’s just say I won trophies for realness and my trophies went down with the world trade center but my memories of winning them did not) and I mentioned I had worked there. We looked at each other, named a few colleagues from the early nineties that we both remembered and smiled. “You had a pony tail and long hair?” he asked. “Yes,” I said.
And so it goes.
What does this have to do with writing? Everything we live and breathe makes it into our work. Everything. The Eisenhower Building becomes the Palace of Falling Chandeliers that lies beneath the cascade falls where seven thousand bound and manacled civil servants in rags bang away on manual Smith Caronas typing the letters, “I will not forget my photo ID,” over and over again until the overlord in dark grey pinstripes and wingtips tells them they can go to their meeting at room 207 (the room we met in) just past the restroom where civil servants go in and none ever comes out.
Now check out the picture of the long hall. The picture doesn’t do the reality of how long this hall is justice. It is easily one hundred yards long – an endless hall of bureaucracy with marble floor, hanging lights and door after door, after door…
What will come of the meeting in my day life as a public health worker? I don’t know. Was it worth the trip? Every second of it. Did it give me more material to write about? Always gathering, always using, always thinking, even when my eyes are glassy and I’m daydreaming about someplace else, where typewriters clack and black ribbon snakes spin.
The Charlottesville Fencing Alliance is off Allied Road and McIntyre a short fifteen minute walk from the Omni. I visited two evenings last week, fenced 8 times (thanks Ken 2x, Dave, Drew, Emily, Sarah, Chairon, and Aron for your lessons in humility) , winning 2 of 4 the first night and 1 of 4 the second, for about 90 minutes each night, talked shop with the members between bouts, and pitched my book to anyone who would listen. I left four copies of Open Wounds to be used for prizes in tournaments, a ton of book marks, and a lot of sweat.
The director, James Faine, was a great host and has a terrific club to boast about. They fence foil, sabre, and épée with a good number of sharp épéee-ists on hand – a number of which are lefties – always tricky to handle. That’s a nice way of saying they kicked my butt.
The picture of the fleche is Ken (red hair) with a perfect touch against Sarah.
I’m still a bit sore from all the leg work but I’d do it again in a second. I’ll have to bring my equipment when I go to New Orleans next month – see if I can get in another evening of swordplay. Oh yeah, and sell some books!
I was away last week at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I did no blog entries. I’ve been in Charlottesville Virginia, moving between the Omni, downtown, Emmit Road B&N, Allied Road Charlottesville Fencing Alliance and Allied Yoga. Oh, and the AMTRAK station.
I took a seven hour AMTRAK ride down and wrote some while my butt rode the rail. That made me smile.
Here’s the other thing that made me smile besides the beautiful town, the nice and friendly people, and the warm weather and flowers.
Barnes & Noble in Charlottesville carried my book there. There’s no other B&N in the country that carries my book. But in Charlottesville VA, they carry it. That’s cool.
It’s in two different places, the New Teen Fiction section and the table with all the books from the book festival authors – at least that’s where it will be until the end of today when the festival closes. This was the best series of events I’ve ever done. Seriously. If you ever get the chance to do this as an author, don’t hesitate, do it.
Panel I, Fiction: Conspiracies and Obsessions – I did with three very cool authors – Alma Katsu (The Taker), Amelia Gray (Threats), Virginia Moran (The Algebra of Snow) – and an even cooler moderator named Meredith Cole. Meredith knows how to moderate (not as easy as it would sound). She gave us a series of questions she would ask ahead of time, met us 30 minutes before the event to get to know us and help us settle in, and read all four of our books so that when she introduced us and asked us questions she knew what she was talking about. Meredith rocks. And, she’s a heck of a good mystery writer herself.
There were over 60 people at the even at the Barnes and Noble in town. They were standing in the aisles and sitting on the floor. That was a very cool thing to see. I don’t know who they were there to see and I don’t care. We all had a good audience to talk to and the panel kicked butt. Seriously. These women were funny and interesting and I added a touch or two myself, but watching the ladies work, I wanted to be in the audience myself. I had fun and… sold ten books, at least as far as I can remember. j
The Festival volunteers were helpful. The B&N staff were helpful. I probably had too much coffee because my hands shook. Or it could have been the influence of the Christianity section behind us. Or that might have been my nervousness showing. In any case it couldn’t have gone better.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the fencing. Oh yeah, and Panel II with Elizabeth Nunez.
The Circle Book Store – the only independent book store in the area.
I stopped in with Max and Karen, looked at the YA section – searched for Michael Grant’s Gone (it’s next on my list) and finally, when the register was clear, wandered over to say hello to the bookseller in charge.
I had brought a copy of my book and surreptitiously signed it. I was ready.
I chatted a bit about the book, gave her my pitch and all the usual accompanying information about availability at Ingrams and Baker & Taylor. She smiled at me and seemed interested then said, “It sounds good. I think I’ll read it first myself.”
My job was done.
I walked over to where Karen was looking at a book and gave her the thumbs up. She stopped for a second and looked at me. She stared at my face.
“What?” I said, leaning in close.
“What’s that big pen mark down the middle of your nose?”
“What pen mark?”
“You had that on when you talked to her, didn’t you?” she asked.
I nodded and wiped the mark off. “It’s off now?”
And so it goes…
We’re on vacation at a friend’s family condo in Sarasota, Florida – two families, one of my son’s friends. The two boys are laughing and giggling all the time (except when they are mad at each other which is not often). If I open the window I can hear the waves breaking on the beach. The balcony overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. I love the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t know why. The waves are small but the water is a different color than I’m used to. Long Island water is dark and cloudy and cold cold cold. The water here is lighter in color, turquoise, and chilly but swimable. It is beautiful.
I’ve slept until almost nine two mornings in a row. Normally I am up at 5:30am. The dogs are back home being boarded for the week playing with other dogs and wondering if we’ll come back for them (well one isn’t wondering – he’s probably too busy playing, but the younger one probably is). I miss those mongrels but I’m also glad I can sleep late.
It’s 70’s with a breeze and the sun just came out. It might have hit 81 but I’m not sure. I’m not wearing my watch.
This is my vacation. I’ve had a cold since the day before we left but it’s getting better. The sea air is doing it. That and some sleep.
I’ve been exhausted from my day job.
I’ve written two for two days of vacation – continuing my streak of three months. It is lovely writing from the balcony, listening to the ocean. We’re going to Disney one day, but only one day. Every other day is the pool, the beach, or the pool (there are two).
Here’s three words I wrote today: