Wednesday, March 26, 2008

craigslist Ads I'm Going to Place--and This is No Hoax!

Perhaps you've heard of the Oregon man who came home to find dozens of people rifling through his barn and front porch and driving off with his belongings. He caught people in the act. He tried to stop them, to no avail. He was told by the thieves who were hauling away his work ladders and lawn mower that they were simply answering a craigslist ad indicating the man was moving away and wanted to give all his stuff away. “No,” he said, “that’s not true. Give me back my stuff.”
“No,” they said, “it was on craigslist, so it’s true and we’re keeping it.”

The stupidity and audacity of the general public never ceases to amazes me. Does it not amaze you? Said the victim, “It boggles the mind.” It does, indeed.

Then I got to thinking. If that’s all it takes to get people to haul your junk away, I’m getting started on some craigslist ads pronto!

Free: Dog Poop. Several sizes and textures to choose from.

Free to Good Home: Top ¼” of large lawn. You cut it, you keep it.

Free Soap Scum. You Haul.

Free: Cat and Dog Hair. Many uses! Multiple colors available! Virtually limitless supply! Brush provided.

Bags, Bags, Bags! Paper, plastic, all sizes and colors. Pickup truck recommended.

I could be wrong, but I think I’m onto something here—and I’m just getting started.

So, dear readers reader, what do YOU have around the house, ready to be foisted upon an unsuspecting public?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Last Available Room on the Island (Whidbey, That Is)

Long, long ago—like at the end of February—I spent a GLORIOUS three days surrounded by authors, editors, agents, and publishers at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference. I learned a great deal about the business of writing and publishing while feeling the thrill of rubbing elbows with my personal celebrities—writers—such as Erik Larson , William Dietrich, Deborah Madison, Stephanie Kallos, Elizabeth George, Stephanie Elzondo Griest (wearer of extremely cool boots) and Randy Sue Coburn. At the end of each day, following the many seminars and speeches, writing exercises and recitations, my spirit was bolstered with the camaraderie that fellow (make that actually published) writers bring—while my head was packed to overflowing with ideas and inspiration.

Luckily, I was able to retreat to my homey B&B, with a quaint, peaceful bedchamber all to myself, where I luxuriated in:

Comfortable, fine bedding!

Fluffy towel(s)!

The finest literature!

Interesting antiques!

And De-luxe bath products!

My eyes rested upon the amazing water views!

Alas, my stay was only for two nights. But then, two nights with THIS nightmare-inducing toilet paper was enough:

For that fresh, clean, patriotic feeling--all day!

There’s nothing like it. At least, I’ve never seen anything like it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to SHARE THE BATHROOM with the other couple who was staying at the B&B; they decided to have a weekend in Vancouver instead. Whoever you are, nice couple, I thank you. Not that I would have minded sharing the toilet with your husband. But the star-studded TP? All mine! You woulda had to fight me for it.

Next year, I’m booking my room EARLY.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

What? Me Complain? About Hawaii? Maybe Just a Little

Tomorrow we leave the Big Island and fly to Maui, where we’ll be until next Monday, the 17th. Amen to that. I have high hopes for Maui. Our time here on the B.I. was fun . . . and lest I appear to have lost my mind over here for hello? being in HAWAII and complaining about ANYTHING, I must explain that wherever I sound like I'm complaining, I'm not; I’m just making observations. I simply haven’t found many reasons to perform mad handstands and cartwheels of joy at the whole idea of Hawaii, tropical paradise and hulas and luaus and lei and beaches and coconut palms and aloha brah and all that. It’s only been kind of average as far as vacays go. Were my expectations too high? Has the cloudy weather affected my mood? Or am I just a cynical, hard-to-please beyotch?

Let’s focus on the positive: the resting and relaxing parts have been the best. After our oh-so-long day of traveling, we went to bed super early and slept eleven hours. Needed it. The next day we just chilled and stayed close to home. Except for a trip to Costco, of course, for rum supplies and food. We’ve both read a ton and napped a little. And we each had hour long massages at the nimble fingers of a most excellent massage therapist named Kathryn. She was amazing. There has been actual exercise performed, too. I’ve tried hard to keep up my boot camp training so I’m not pitifully behind when I finally return to class. I’ve been walking and running and lunging (uphill, no less!) and doing pushups and situps. We’ve also been lifting—large plastic tumblers filled with coconut rum and pineapple juice. Ahhh, the tropical splendor of rum pineapple juice on a hot day. Except I do not consider 72 degrees to be hot. Not for a minute. No I do not. But that could be considered a complaint an observation, and we are attempting to focus on the positive.

Oh—this was fun—we kayaked and snorkeled yesterday. And saw this:
Snorkeling is studly, energetic, sportsy fun! The water was a little too chilly for me clear and brilliantly blue and we flopped and swam around like little fishies in a huge natural saltwater aquarium. Lots of cool-looking fish and coral, anemones, sponges and other gruesome fascinating sea life. And then we went into town and had drinks oceanside at a dive bar called Lulu’s. Just our speed—and the scenery was truly breathtaking.

BUT, tropical beauty aside, the weather has been a negative factor this week. You see, they have this volcano here and it’s actively erupting right now and all this sulphur dioxide gets pumped into the air and forms vog, a volcanic smog (I know, I know, it sounds delicious!) that covers the island. Like every day. We’ve only had two sunny days since we arrived. I mean, I live in the Pacific Northwest. Clouds and rain are a daily occurrence for us about nine months of the year, for godssake. So I do feel a bit justified in my whining observations.

After all, isn't this what every vacationing girl wants?

Here's what this vacationing girl gets. WAAAAAHHH!

Them are clouds

But enough whinging. Tomorrow, I shall write about the amazing bits that made the Big Island a fantastic place to spend Week One of our vacation. And the country music currently blasting from a stereo within my earshot will not even be mentioned. Now, please excuse me while I go take a hugenormous swig straight from that big, white jug of Malibu rum. Aloha!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vacation Time, at Last

They didn't want us to go.

They thought if we sit on their suitcases, they won't be able to leave! Ha!

Ha! We left anyway.

And here is where we are:

And the ocean looks like this:

And the sunset, like this:


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Today's Report from the Whidbey Island Writers Conference

Day 2. Today was filled with exciting opportunities to learn from folks who do the business of writing every day. First, I enjoyed a lively, at times hilarious, and often goosebump-inducing story performed by a real, live, indigenous Yu'pik Eskimo storyteller named Jack Dalton. Funny and dramatic at all the right moments, he entertained and inspired. Storytelling looks like it takes a lot of practice and enormous talent to do well, and he did. Jack made me feel like he was speaking straight to my heart; he made me feel like my writing talent has been given to me so that I can express my ideas to others, because who knows, maybe I, too, will actually save a life with my words, like he did. In his case, it was a six-foot-eight-inch Maori from New Zealand. I doubt that will be my experience--but who knows? Anything can happen.

Next, I took a seminar on incorporating screenplay writing tricks into fiction writing, given by Randy Sue Coburn. She is a kind, warm, smart, accomplished and way cool chick, who wrote the screenplay Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, as well as the novel Owl Island, which I purchased and asked her to sign for me.

In the second of my series of dorky encounters with authors, I was chit-chatting with Randy Sue while she was signing my book, and when I said the word experience, it was unfortunately accompanied by a few droplets of my very own saliva, which landed on the table between she and me. I know she saw this and while I said oh! excuse me, she just kept smiling and signing.

I was two for two. I greatly feared the next author book-signing, but did not allow that fear (thank you Eleanor Roosevelt) to stop me from purchasing ten or twelve books and rallying myself to have them signed without making an ass of myself again.

I then participated in a writing seminar with the lovely and wonderful Deborah Madison, author of The Greens Cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, (a recipe from which you have seen here), Local Flavors, Vegetarian Suppers, and about a hundred other cookbooks and magazine articles. We spent 90 minutes writing about our lives as seen through the lens of food, and it was fascinating! The topics:

Write about your mother's food. Ten minutes. Go!
Write about your father's food. Ten minutes. Go!
Write about food you have stolen. Ten minutes. Go!
Write about what you have when you are eating alone.

You might want to try these exercises yourself. They were incredibly insightful, and everyone's were interesting. Deborah Madison is someone I would like to have for a mother-in-law. She is awesome.

A woman in the class wrote very well. As she read her pieces, I thought, "wow, she is a really good writer." At the end of the class, I saw her name tag: Stephanie Kallos, author of last year's popular novel Broken For You.

She and I talked after the class and she was really, really, really nice and gracious and I managed to have an interaction with her completely devoid of dorkiness. Whew. She wrote a very nice inscription in my copy of her book.

My last session was with Michele Scott, who, after about 200 rejection letters, landed a three-book deal for wine-themed murder mysteries. I kid you not. Talk about a niche! She was really nice and full of information and told me to email her if I ever needed inspiration.

After a long day of writing classes and shmoozing with the authors, I was beat. And, as is often the case, I wanted a nice frosty beverage to make it all go away facilitate the creative process. I drove through this impossibly precious (nod to Melanie at BeanPaste) waterfront town we're in, to the imposing old tavern, complete with wooden swinging doors, a la Gunsmoke. I moseyed up to the bar, ordered a beer, and made an instant friend with the only other barfly, a woman from Montana who was also doing the writers conference. She invited me to tag along to dinner, where she was meeting another creative and fun, very cool (and beautiful) woman from Vancouver BC. The three of us had dinner, drank wine, and talked about writing. And that's all we talked about. I don't even know their last names. It was all about the writing.

And it was a perfect day.