Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thursday, May 30

Scales: A-flat major and F minor. Ah, evidence of my lack of practice reared its ugly head tonight. The scales sounded OK at 92, except for when the LH is at the bass end of the scale (all the way to the left) and the RH is far at the treble end (all the way to the right). That's when my LH starts acting a little drunk, stumbling around and acting, well, uncouth. Pianistically speaking. I did some drilling on the "turnaround" sections of the two scales, and it helped. A little drilling goes a long way.

Then, I went on to arps.

Folks, I don't deserve a breakthrough. If anything, I deserve to move back a few notches on the metronome, particularly when it comes to arps, which have always gave me fits. Granted, I was working on the "easy" F major and D minor arps tonight ... though I kind of find white-key arps harder because they provide no black-key "anchors" to touch down on.

I played F major at 72. Then I thought, "I really hate that jumpy silence when my hand crosses over!" So I practiced hands separately, in chunks, just for fun. Then HT in chunks. Then in bigger chunks. Then the whole contrary-motion arp routine. Then with the metronome. Then with the metronome just a bit faster ... and a bit faster ...

I got up to 100. Yes, friends, I was playing arps at 100. I was playing them well at 92, not too bad at 96, and definitely not horrible at 100.

I'm in shock. I cannot claim the excellent execution of arpeggioes that my friend The Opinionated Arpeggist can. I never could. When I play arps, I always feel like I'm trying to jump across a chasm that's just a wee bit too wide for me. (OK, so a bit of cognitive self-therapy/ thought-retraining is in order here.) I much prefer scales and runs to arps and big broken chords when learning music. This is probably because I have "petite" hands.

Now for some creative visualization and thought-retraining. Yes. My eyes are closed. I am imagining that I have large hands. Yes. I am Rachmaninoff. I am Rachmaninoff. I am Rachmaninoff.

clicking heels three times, opening eyes

... um ... it didn't work. Not yet, anyway.

No Bach tonight, except for a couple of play-throughs on the intermediate piece. Then I moved on to Liszt before that mean old bully, WTC 1, jumped onto the keyboard ahead of poor old Standchen like it always does.

It was a close call. But Franzi got my attention tonight. It's too bad Bach and Liszt can't show up in the flesh whenever I choose to practice them. I'd probably meet with Liszt more often.

Hmm, I just got an idea for a racy novel ...

Anyway, here are some notes I wrote down as I was practicing Liszt tonight.

mm 1-4 intro: sounds really nice. I could use a bit more control in my hands, though--control I think I had three months ago. It shouldn't take me long to get that back.

mm 4-5 transition: needs to be smoother.

m 13: LH is not hitting the C7 chord inversions boldly enough. This is partly because I changed the fingering rather late in the game. Not that I'm making excuses ...

mm 62 & 66: The bane of my existence, these two measures are. Not really. I love playing 9-against-4, I truly do. One day I will be so caught up in the music (and so well-practiced at those measures) that everything will just fall nicely into place and I'll never again have trouble with measures 62 and 66. But in order to do that, I have to quit thinking of them as "the bane of my existence." (OK, so I don't really see them in that light. But I do get a little ... on edge ... whenever I approach them, thinking, "Will I do it? Will I finally get it right this time?" And of course that spoils the entire mood.)

mm 71-78: sloppy, and it shouldn't be. I always play this section really well, even if all of the other sections don't sound so good. I can't let this one get sloppy.

The measures after 78 are also rather sloppy, but they're definitely salvageable. It will be just a matter of drilling them a few times. I had them down cold before, and I still do. My hands just need to get themselves back into the rhythm.

So, for my next Liszt practice, I'll work on some of those areas that need the most work.

I will admit, the Hubster came up while I was playing and had this look of wonder and delight on his face and said "That's really beautiful," or some such nonsense. He's not much of a Liszt lisztener (I'm punny tonight), but considering he's heard me practicing this piece ad nauseam (his nauseam, not mine) (apologies to any classical scholars that may be reading this) for the past eight months, I was happy to see him so pleased.

I'm being silly. Music does that to me. It's so good to be practicing again. Very good.

Silly, Stubborn Chapter 16

Aarrgghh. And to think 16 is one of my favorite numbers in the whole numbabet.

The first pass of Ch. 16 was a bloated 4,800 words. Second pass: about 2,500 words. Third pass: I'm down to 1,008 words. I've taken out a heap of unnecessary rambling, and then tightened the material that was left over. And now it's time to build a brand-new 2/3 of the chapter.

Part of me really wants to re-read the draft of the entire novel so far (which I've never done), just so I can regain a sense of continuity that I've lost in the last couple months of freelance and Relay business. But then, part of me wants to push on.

So, I'll push on. I'm planning to spend all day tomorrow (my penultimate day of *not* being an official Corporate American!) doing further surgery on Chapter 16. So, if you try to call or e-mail and I don't answer immediately, you'll know why.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Day 2 of New Leaf

I spent the morning working on Chapter 16 of my novel. Then I went and got my oil changed. Then I was going to come home, change clothes, and go work out (yes, I'm making the most of this last "free" week before my new job begins).

So I got home. I thought, "If I don't practice now, I'm not going to practice at all today." After all, I do have a meeting from 6 to 8, and then a conference call from 8 to 9, and we can't forget that the season finale of "House" comes on from 9 to 10.

I know. Pitiful. "House" shouldn't trump piano. Ever.

So I sat down at around 2:30 p.m. and practiced.

Scales: G Major and E Minor. Both sounded fine. I'm at 92 still--as I said in an earlier post, I'm pretty much picking up where I left off when I stopped practicing regularly a few months ago.

Onward to arps at 72. Today I did B Major and G# Minor. They sounded fine. Not great. I don't know if I will ever be remotely happy with my contrary-motion arpeggios. I can't avoid that messy little "jumping" sound (or actually the jumping "silence") that occurs when the fingers cross over. I want my arps to sound like a machine is playing them: perfectly even, perfectly smooth. I'm not there yet. They sounded fine, but not fine enough for my ears.

No intermediate piece today. I have no love for the intermediate piece, delightful as it is. It always takes me a while to warm up to a new piece. Always.

Bach Prelude: Played through a few times. No real practice on this one today.

Bach Fugue: Yes, it's a guilty pleasure, the fugue is. I worked on mm 35-38 primarily, including the transition from 38 (with the trills in the RH) to 39 (where the bass voice swoops in to begin playing the primary "melody").

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I just love practicing Bach. I love practicing this particular fugue. I think I would love practicing any fugue. I just love to practice very slowly, listening intently to how the different unbroken intervals sound, how the tone and color of the piece change from sixteenth note to sixteenth note.

I worked pretty hard on mm 35-43 then, playing all in rhythms and then playing them through at increasing tempos maybe 25 times. By the time I was finished with that practice, I was no longer thinking about the fingering and was focusing more on how to get the different voices to sing out at different times, how to control my hands so that there are no sloppy changes in dynamics as the different voices intertwine.

Then I played through the entire fugue. Yes, it's rusty, but I really can't complain. It doesn't sound bad, and it still feels good and familiar in my fingers.

Liszt: I played through the Liszt a couple of times. I'm going to need to devote several whole practices to it--to picking through it, playing in rhythms, getting to know the piece again. I've gotten sloppy.

No. I haven't gotten sloppy. I've always been sloppy. So that's the news on the Liszt: several months of piano sabbatical have not decreased my sloppiness, not one bit. So much for that experiment.

All in all, I was happy with the practice, which ran for about an hour and fifteen minutes. I'm picking up where I left off, and am thrilled that I don't seem to have "lost" any of these pieces.

Chapter 16 Draft: Bad, But Getting Better

Chapter 16 is really bad.

It has a few redeeming qualities here and there. A few nice descriptions, some good snippets of conversation.

But it's not the Chapter 16 I imagined. It's mostly a rambling mess of pointless dialogue that will never make it into the second draft. I re-read it this morning and just shook my head.

So, now I must decide what to do next. Should I plow on to Chapter 17? Or should I keep picking at the Chapter 16 draft until it's more of what it needs to be?

This is not a case of the story writing itself and taking me into a surprise direction that could magically work. But I think I know what it's a case of. Several things.

(1) I was distracted from the novel many times. I never got into a rhythm with Chapter 16. And Chapter 16 is supposed to be a big, important, intense, climactic chapter. Instead it's a three-ring circus. That would be OK, except that the two chapters before it are rather three-ring-circusy, and Chapter 16 was supposed to be a plunge into depth and meaning--both a break from the three-ring circus, and a step up to a deeper level of story.

(2) I knew that I wanted the chapter to be big and intense, but I never actually sat down and discussed with my characters why it would be big and intense. From a plot standpoint, I know why. But on the small scale ... just what was it I expected my characters to think, do, or say that would result in such bigness and intensity? I'm not sure.

(3) I want my main character (the one through whose eyes the reader experiences most of the novel) to be confused by a conversation with a woman who is caught up in her inner thoughts and memories and is, quite frankly, not making a lot of sense. I succeeded in making the woman's rambles confusing and hard to follow. Oh, yes. I definitely did that. But I think the reader will get frustrated with the confusion of trying to read it. There's a metatext element there, which I suppose is good, but at the same time, I don't want my reader to have to stop, back up, and re-read something because they got lost in the verbiage. I suppose I could say, "Oh, I meant for them to get lost because I wanted them to experience the same sense of lostness that my main character is experiencing." But I don't mean for them to get lost that way, at least not in this piece of writing. It's one thing to make your reader feel a certain emotion; it's another to make them stumble over your syntax and struggle with the very act of reading what you've written.

So. I think what I need to do is flesh out my outline for Chapter 17. I think a couple of hours of longhand writing will give me a better idea of whether I need to do more work on Chapter 16 now.

I need to make sure my eagerness to get this thing finished doesn't compromise my novel-writing standards.

Update: I decided I need to doctor Ch. 16 after all. So far, I've eliminated about 1,000 words of meaningless ramblings. I feel better now.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I Practiced!

I practiced, and now I'm paying for it. Music has a way of catapulting me into manic mode, so here I am in manic mode. I played scales and arps to start with, as usual. Once again, it was like I'd never left the piano. I flew through contrary motion Db and bb like I'd been practicing them all along. Same goes for Bb and g contrary motion arps. Smooth as silk. I am not lying.

Then again, I usually play pretty well when I sit down to play for the first time after a piano sabbatical. I'm embarrassed to say that I've taken more piano sabbaticals than I'd like to admit. This little 2-month sabbatical has been nothing compared to some of my previous ones.

I declined to play my "intermediate piece," a Bach prelude that isn't a "P&F" prelude. Instead I played through the Prelude in C from WTC 1. Can there be a perfect piece of music? If so, can this prelude be it? No? It must be the unfortunately monikered "Air on the G String," then? No? Let me guess. It's something by Bach. It must be something by Bach.

Yes, I am manic. When I get manic, I get a little silly about my beloved bewigged one.

I played through my C#-major prelude, not at a fast tempo ... but I didn't miss a single note. Weird. I played it through again, just to make sure. Yup. I haven't played it in over a month, and I didn't miss a single note. I really wanted to focus on the fugue, so I played through the prelude a couple more times, just to get it back into my fingers (though I wonder if it's ever left), then moved on to the fugue.

My sweet, beloved fugue. Sigh. I played through the entire six-page piece, not at tempo, but not at a creepy-crawly pace, either. The first four pages were similar to those of the prelude: not a single missed note. (Mind you, I was only playing to see if I still had the notes; the interpretation, tone, etc., left much to be desired.)

I played Page 6 with very few missed notes. Page 5 was a different story; the first half was fine. The second half, not so fine.

Guess why.

When I left off practicing, I had learned the entire piece HT, at tempo, more or less, except for the second half of Page 5.

It's as if I never stopped practicing.

I hesitate to start explaining why I still had all of this in my noggin. I'll wait a couple more weeks. If the "good playing" stays with me, then I'll outline my theory of why George and I are like two old friends. You know how old friends are: they can go for years without seeing each other, and when they finally do get together, it's like no time has passed at all. They pick up right where they left off.

I love George. Yes, I'm manic at the moment, which means I should probably go out and run a few miles to burn off the excess energy. Instead I'm eating crackers and drinking wine.

I love George.

Chapter 16 Draft: Done

Can you hear me heaving a deep sigh of relief? I just finished the draft of Chapter 16. It's entirely too long, and I'm now at 65,205 words in the novel draft, but Chapter 16 is at least written. I can tweak and rearrange and re-word all I want now, but the important thing is that my Chapter 16 now exists, in however raw a form.

I'll start making notes on Chapter 17 tomorrow. I'm trying to put as much work into the novel as I can this week, since I'm going to have a busy weekend and my new job starts Monday. This may be the last week I have in a long time in which I can focus heavily on creative writing. I really want to finish this novel before the end of summer.

Piano Issues

I don't know where to start. I've been forced to prioritize over the last few months and, unfortunately, and in contrast to my usual priority ordering, piano has had to sit on the back burner. I didn't plan it this way, but it's how it worked out.

The months of April and May were very busy, between volunteer work and freelance jobs. My piano teacher, Deborah, was planning a recital at the time, and a couple of my "lessons" turned into listening/critique sessions where she played her pieces and I listened and gave feedback. We did this for several reasons: (1) I hadn't practiced; (2) she needed the practice; and (3) I think it was good for me as a piano student (piano colleague?) to have these experiences. Deborah said she would give me those lessons back, since they hadn't been actual lessons where I played and she critiqued/guided. That was fine with me.

I was working a contract tech-writing job through part of April and most of May, so I suggested that we not have lessons for the rest of the spring semester, and that the tuition I'd paid in March be applied to summer lessons instead. Deborah was OK with that, I think. Disappointed, as was I, but things were OK.

But now there's a huge obstacle.

I've taken a full-time job that requires a one-hour commute ... in the other direction of my piano teacher's house.

I have some decisions to make. Here are my choices.

(1) Quit the job before I ever start: Not actually a choice. I need the money, and I want the job. Just wanted to make that clear before I present the real choices.

(2) Quit piano: I'd like to say that this is not actually a choice. I definitely don't want to quit piano, even though I've taken quite a sabbatical from it this spring. I'm even trying to arrange with a church near my new job to practice on one of their spare pianos during my lunch hour.

(3) Balance the job and piano: This is the choice I want to make. It's easier said than done, though, because, along with the job and piano, I also want to balance writing, running, husband, and home. I know I can't do it all, but I'm loath to cut out any of these. To try this, though, I can choose from several approaches.

(a) Meet with Deborah for after-work lessons: The earliest I could get to Deborah's house after work would be 7:30 p.m., after a long day of early-morning running, the commute, a full day at work, and another commute. This plan could work if I committed to it, but just thinking about it makes me tired. If we do this, we'd need to meet once every two weeks at most.

(b) Meet with Deborah for weekend lessons: Again, I think this would work best if we met bi-weekly. I like this idea best, even though it would mean shuffling my Saturday morning runs and not attending some Saturday morning races. I mean, this is piano. Writing has always trumped piano, but piano must trump running. But the question is ... would Deborah be willing or even able to give up her Saturday mornings? And if she is, will I be able to practice the piano diligently enough to make it worth it for both of us? It's hard to say because I have no idea how drained my job/commute is going to leave me at the end of each day and week.

(c) Find a new piano teacher: I really don't want to do this. Deborah and I "click," and she has been a wonderful teacher for me. I'm tempted to say this is another "not an option" option. But I've forced myself to think about it. It feels sacrilegious to even write down my options here.

(i) Find a teacher in my town: There are several teachers, but they are mostly teacher of kids, and I don't know how many would be willing/able to take on an advanced NAPS. We NAPS types are a special breed, we are. I may be able to find someone willing to take me on at the local community college, however.

(ii) Contact the music department of the university closest to my new job: The university is about halfway between the new job and my house, so it would be more convenient if I were to find a teacher there. Again, though, it may be hard to find someone who would be willing to take on (1) a non-university student who is also (2) an adult amateur at this keyboard thing, not to mention (3) a full-time professional in a non-music career.

(iii) Ask around and find a non-university piano teacher near my new job: An option, I guess, but I would need to find someone with a doctorate or at least a master's degree in music, and it seems like Option (ii) would be the best place for me to start.

I'm at a crossroads. I started to e-mail Deborah about scheduling summer lessons, but found myself hesitating to make definite plans. I have to think through some things, and probably spend quite a bit of time with George the Piano before I decide what I'm going to do. It would also be nice to work a couple of weeks and see how much this new job is going to take out of me.

And it makes me feel sick to think of quitting lessons with Deborah, who is my friend as well as my piano teacher.

So, instead of finishing my e-mail to Deborah, I wrote this post instead. Any feedback you NAPSters want to give will be appreciated.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New Title, New Leaf

Stay tuned. I'm going to start posting on this neglected blog again soon.

My Novel is Somewhere in Pennsylvania

If you've ever thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, you'll understand what I mean.

Think of a northbound thru-hike: six months of backpacking, starting in north Georgia and finishing at Mt. Katahdin in Maine. (I hiked southbound, but just forget that for a moment.)

The beginning of the hike is hard, but you're so excited about being a thru-hiker that it doesn't matter. Your enthusiasm, to a great degree, carries you along, through any of the hard parts.

The ending is exciting--particularly when you get to New Hampshire and get into the BIG mountains again.

The middle is ... not so exciting. You're tired. Mile after mile after mile. Day after day after day. The scenery in Virginia is beautiful, but Virginia goes on and on forever. Then you get to West Virginia and Maryland--still beautiful, but not spectacular the way the rugged southern Apps were. Then you get to Pennsylvania, where you hike on sharp-filed rocks for several weeks, dodging rattlesnakes and hiking a mile downhill from the shelter, just to get water for the evening. And it's hot.

You can't see the beginning, and you can't see the end. You try to remember why you're out there. You think about Katahdin--your ultimate goal--but it doesn't seem real yet. It's not close enough.

Well, if the novel I'm writing were a thru-hike, I'd be somewhere in southern Pennsylvania. I have the satisfaction of knowing I've come a long way, but it still seems like light-years until I finish. And this is just the first draft. My enthusiasm is not at its highest. The novel has become a job, something I just have to get up and do every day.

I took a vacation from the novel, not intentionally, but between my freelance jobs and my bookstore job and my volunteer jobs, there has been no time. Now there's time.

It's 10:32 a.m. and I am procrastinating. This post, right now, is a procrastination tool.

I am four pages in to Chapter 16. Time to get writing. After I go to the bathroom and get some more coffee and finish biting my fingernails. Maybe by then I'll have another e-mail to read, or someone will call me on the cell phone.

Really. It's time to write.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Next Steps

Life is about to change drastically ... again.

I'm getting tired of drastic changes. I haven't wanted drastic changes. Yet here I am, once again, on the cusp of a new job.

The bookstore was great, except for the fact that (1) I needed to make more than I was making, and (2) I'm really not cut out for work that requires me to interact with people all day long. I think part of the reason I loved it so much this winter was that it was the non-tourist season and the days were long and slow and quiet.

I'd sent a resume to Technical Company several months back, and they contacted me in March. Would I still be interested in a tech writing position?

I thought about it. A lot. Did I want to re-enter the world of technical writing? Sure, I'd checked periodically to see what was available in our little corner of Carolina, but Asheville isn't exactly a tech writer's mecca. A few hours east of here, yes. Asheville and places west? No.

So I didn't really expect a tech writing position to open up. When one did, I jumped on it. So when they called me for an interview, I thought, "What the heck. Might as well interview."

In the course of the interview, I thought to myself, "Hmm. This sounds like a job I would like. Technical Company doesn't seem like a Cubicle-Land company.

When I went to Technical Company Proper for Interview #2, I told them how, in no uncertain terms, I did not want to be at another Cubicle-Land job. (By "Cubicle Land," I don't necessarily mean I don't want to work in a cubicle; I mean that I don't want to be part of a company where no one communicates with anyone else, and where frustration ensues and lots of time and money are wasted as a result.)

The more I talked to my interviewers, the more comfortable I felt. I actually got excited at the prospect of working for Technical Company. The job actually sounded fun. I left Interview #2 thinking, "I really want this job. I am made for this job. A creative person/tech writer combo is just what they need."

Apparently, the folks at Technical Company thought so, too. They offered me the job. I start the first week of June.

I'll have a $commute$. I'll work long days during the busy times. I'll spend quite a lot of time staring at a computer.

I'll also have a salary and benefits. It's been a while since I've had those.

I'm excited about the job, but I'm a little scared. I'm not scared that I won't be good at the job; I know I will. I'm confident of that. I'm scared of the following:

- Neglecting my novel
- Neglecting George the Piano
- Neglecting my health
- Neglecting the Hubster
- Neglecting home & hearth

I'm an all-or-nothing person, and I'll have to work very hard to achieve balance between a busy job and all of the other priorities. I don't yet know what I'll have to cut out, if anything. All are so important.

So, that's my next step. More later.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Awesome Weekend

What an amazing weekend. I'm not going to give you a play-by-play, but only because it would probably be boring to anyone who wasn't there, and the people who were there don't need a play-by-play.

It was the 100th anniversary of First Baptist Church in Plaquemine, where I grew up. I got to see lots of old friends, and lots of "grown-ups" who basically helped to raise me over the years. So it was a great reunion.

I didn't think I would be able to come. I hadn't planned to come. But at the last minute, Hubster found me a ticket using his frequent-flyer miles, so I flew down to Louisiana a couple of days ago. It was definitely worth the trip. Even if we'd had to pay lots of money for the plane ticket, it would have been worth the trip.

Now ... back to my regularly scheduled novel-in-progress ...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Relay Pictures

Here are a few pictures from last weekend's Relay.

When I showed up around 5:30 p.m., the skies were threatening rain.

Volunteers were still setting up luminaries.

The event began with the singing of the National Anthem. The Tuscola ROTC guys looked sharp.

The first lap was the "Survivor Lap." All cancer survivors wore purple t-shirts.

Joshua Gidcumb, the honorary chair this year, led the survivors ...

... on his Scooter.

After survivors and caregivers walked around the track, the teams and their banners started up. Here's Ramcell.

It rained shortly after the luminary ceremony. It stopped raining at some point, but the fog got VERY thick.

Oh, dear. My computer is suddenly creeping and crawling along, and I'm really tired. I'll post a few more pictures tomorrow.

Finally Wrapping Some Things Up

This weekend is the final Relay weekend for Haywood County. Tonight is the final pre-Relay committee meeting.

I finished my Cubicle Land consulting job today and mailed off a nice little invoice.

I finished editing the Acknowledgements, Foreword, and Epilogue for Jan's book. All I have left is the Introduction.

I drafted the "wrap-up" article for Relay 2007 so that I'll only have to fill in figures and quotes once the Canton Relay is over.

I finished Chapter 15 of my novel (finally!) and will start making notes on Chapter 16 tomorrow.

I'm very tired. May has been a crazy month. I knew it would be. I'm ready for a bit of R & R (Rewriting and Revising, ha ha) for the next couple of weeks before starting my new job.

Additional R & R for these next couple of weeks: Running and Reuniting with George.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

New Relay For Life Page

I have a new Relay For Life page for anyone else who would like to donate. (Thanks to all who have donated so far; I exceeded my Waynesville goal!)

Our county has two Relays: Waynesville's was last weekend, and Canton's is this weekend. Any money donated to either ultimately goes to the "Relay For Life of Haywood County" fund. So it all ends up in the same place. Waynesville and Canton just have kind of a rivalry thing going with the fundraising.

Right now, Canton's behind in fundraising dollars. So, if you'd like to help Canton raise a bit more, please feel free to donate here at my Canton fundraising site.

Jan's Book: More Than Half Done

OK, I've been referring to Jan's book for, oh, about a year now. Jan wrote it, and I'm editing it. It took her three months to write, but it's taken almost a year to re-write, hone, re-write, hone, re-write, hone, and re-write and hone ad nauseam.

I had to laugh when I read How to Write a Book in Three Easy Steps, which I found over at Bum Glue.

We're so close. It is my hope that the hiking community (at least those hikers who pre-ordered the book back in October at The Gathering) will hold out just a little longer before they declare mutiny on my poor author and demand their money back.

The book will be worth the wait. I really believe that.

So her publisher now has the entire body of the book, and all we have left is to touch up the intro, epilogue, acknowledgements, etc.--the front and back matter. It'll take a couple of days, but the good news is, the book will be in the publisher's hands and heading into print before Trail Days weekend.

Sigh. I had to miss church today because we were putting the finishing touches on Chapters 19-27, but it needed to be done. I have turned into a regular non-church-goer lately.

I'm really excited about this book. It's gonna be a good 'un.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Only $10 To Go!

Someone take pity on my poor, sore feet, but mostly on the millions of future cancer victims out there who will someday need the assistance and medical care made possible through funding by the American Cancer Society. My Relay goal is $100, and I've raised $90, thanks to four remarkable ladies who hail from the eastern, southern, and western edges of the fruited plain.

So, if someone could donate a measly $10, enabling me to reach my minimum-required goal, I would be very thankful!

If you refuse to donate, your computer will self-destruct in 10 minutes.

Just kidding. No pressure.

I'm actually thrilled to have raised as much as I have, considering I just opened the donation page a few days ago.

I'll be writing more on my Relay experience, once I'm rested and recovered.

Relay For Life 2007 (#1)

We walked all night.

We were so tired, we could barely focus on our own feet at 4:30 a.m.

Time for sleep.

Thanks to all who donated money. There's still time to donate.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Time Carved Out

Welp, it's 3:19 p.m. and I need to be at Relay no later than 5:30. I should actually be there earlier, seeing as I'm on the committee and all, but I'm here at Panacea, taking advantage of the almost two hours I have to work on my novel.

No, I'm not editing.

I'm not tech-writing.

I'm not doing Relay stuff. No press releases, no phone calls, no interviews, no articles.

I'm not making dinner, or washing clothes, or vacuuming.

I'm not lifting a finger for anyone else right now.

Chapter 15 has lain dormant for several weeks now, the longest a chapter has remained untouched since I started this novel.

I told myself I would get everything done that I needed to get done, and then I would use whatever I had left of the afternoon for my novel. And for me.

So. I have approximately one hour and forty minutes to write. Best I get started now. Because, starting at 6:00, I'm going to be up for twelve hours while Relay For Life teams walk around a track all night.

Time to write.

Relay #1 is TONIGHT!

Tonight is Waynesville's Relay For Life event! I feel relieved that it's finally here, though it's only the first of two events I'll be attending. (The next one is next weekend.)

So far, I've collected $60 on my Relay For Life page. Anyone want to donate a few dollars to help me reach that $100 goal?

If you're strapped for funds this week, never fear! I'll have a second page up next week, for donations to Canton's Relay.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Adventures in Nitpicking

OK, so I’m not really picking nits. I’m being pretty darn nitpicky, though. But that’s OK. I’m being paid to be nitpicky.

Should this word be capitalized? Should it be italicized? Bolded? Were em-dashes used in this manner in the previous set of steps? Here is a reference to “Phase II.” Wasn’t it written as “Phase 2” on page 36?

Sometimes the documentation has “feet/meters,” and sometimes it has “feet or meters.”

In the same paragraph.

The horror! The horror!

A hyphen was used incorrectly! That should have been an en-dash!!!

Oh, the horror!

Alas, all is not lost! But …

The spaces between lines in this bulleted list are smaller than the spaces between lines in the previous bulleted list … and they are both the same “level” of list.

How can this tech writer live with herself?! How does she sleep at night?!?

Seriously, I’m editing the work of a really good tech writer. It’s a relief when stuff like the above is all you can find to mark in a document.

It’s called polishing to a sheen. Otherwise known as editorial nitpicking.

This is a temporary job. I’m having fun.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Relay For Life

Several people have asked me how they can donate to the American Cancer Society through Relay For Life.

I've done a lot of writing for Relay this year, which has contributed to some really good fundraising successes for our county. But I hadn't joined a formal fundraising team or anything like that.

But, you can donate through a page I've set up through the Relay For Life site. I don't have a fundraising goal or anything (though I was required to set one of at least $100 on the site), and am not going to hit anyone up for money, but for those of you who would like to donate, just go to Waterfall's Relay For Life Page. Any and all donations are appreciated.

Frivolous Post

So I’m in working in downtown Asheville for two weeks as a tech writer, or a style editor, or a consultant, or something like that. Most of what I’m doing isn’t computer based; I’m style-editing hard copies of numerous user guides, SysAdmin guides, and software installation guides.

I’m really good at this. It seems like an odd thing for a creative-writing person to say, but it’s true. I’m a top-notch style editor. (Please, ignore any typos in this blog! I don’t edit it very closely these days.)

Anyway, I ambled down to Malaprop’s this afternoon to do some away-from-the-office editing. I sat down at one of the little coffee-shop tables and edited my eyes out for about two hours.

(Oh, how I miss my novel. Tomorrow is novel day. No contract/consulting work tomorrow. Four hours at the bookstore, a couple of hours of running, and the rest of the day will be devoted to the novel.)

Anyway, after I finished editing, I decided to stroll through the bookstore. Of course, I look at bookstores completely differently now that I’ve worked at one.

And I look at them even more completely differently now that I’m going to have a paycheck again.

Friends, it’s been so long since I’ve had a paycheck. I’ve had jobs since my last tech-writing stint, but nothing that ever paid very well. I’ve become used to wearing the same old clothes, never eating out, using the library as my primary book supplier, and never buying anything “frivolous.”

(Catnip isn’t frivolous. Neither are Whisker Lickin’ Cat Treats.)

(Medication is frivolous. So is health insurance. Fortunately, I’m now able to afford both, now that I’ll be able to buy frivolous things again.)

So guess what I did at Malaprop’s today …

I bought books! (Frivolous? Not frivolous? You be the judge.)

I just bought two books, both of them fiction. It was thrilling. I am definitely better at book-buying than I am at book-selling.

I probably should have waited until I got that first paycheck, but … nah. Life is too short.

Monday, May 7, 2007


Friday's issue of our local paper included a special section on cancer, in preparation for the big American Cancer Society Relay For Life events coming up this month. I did a lot of work for the issue, mostly interviewing and writing. I met some amazing people in the process. You can read some of their stories at the following links.

Joshua Gidcumb Fought Cancer in the Trenches--and Won

Skin Cancer: A Small Mole Turns Deadly

Skin Cancer: A Success Story

One Man in Six Will Get Prostate Cancer

I hope you are as moved by these stories as I was.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Bookstore Conversation

CUSTOMER: Have you been selling a lot of The Road by Cormac McCarthy?

WATERFALL: Well, I only work here one day a week, so I'm not sure. But I do know that it's one of the local book-club books.

CUSTOMER: I've heard lots of high praise for it, but it seems to me like it would be a depressing book.

WATERFALL: Yes, that was my impression. I haven't read it, yet. I'm not a big McCarthy fan, to be honest.

CUSTOMER: Well, that's because he makes you work. He makes you think. You can't be a lazy reader with him.

WATERFALL: No, actually, um ... I'm just not a McCarthy fan.

CUSTOMER (walking out after not having bought anything): Yep, you have to be willing to work if you're going to read Cormac McCarthy.

WATERFALL (after customer is out of range): Whatever. (Grumbling to self.)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Up at 6:00

I was up at 6:00 on a Saturday morning. I will be working on the tech-writing contract job all weekend, for the most part, but I wanted to get a couple of hours in on my novel.

Chapter 15 is another funny chapter. Except for the sad part. There are a couple of sad parts, but I have this one character, the main character's co-worker, who is somehow able to find the humor in the midst of tragedy, and make you laugh. I don't know how she does it. She just does.

I wrote about 400 words then came to a point where I just had to keep writing ... so I tore myself away. It was painful, but I'll be pining away for my novel over the next couple of days ... which means I'm much more likely to wake up super-early tomorrow so I can have another precious couple of hours with it before the harsh, cold world of technical editing and bookselling descends upon me once again.

That's today's update. It's back to tech-editing for now.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Queasy and Uneasy

My stomach feels a little sick. It's my inner introvert.

I did a lot of writing (a guest column and numerous interviews) for today's issue of our local paper. The focus of the issue was cancer, and since I'm the Relay For Life publicity girl, I played a pretty big role in it.

The issue came out today. It looks good. I haven't read it yet because I'm weird about reading my stuff in print, but the issue looks really good.

My guest column was rather heartfelt in that I talked about several people I know who have died recently of cancer. The main thrust of the column, though, was to let everyone know that they were invited and encouraged to join us at next week's Relay For Life event.

I'm scared I came off as sounding holier-than-thou. You know--"I'm going to be there because I'm a Good Person. Where are you going to be?" That's not how I meant it at all, of course, so I really hope I didn't come across that way.

But the real reason I'm feeling queasy is that I revealed some of myself in those articles. I wrote from the heart. This wasn't a technical document or a press release that I threw together and sent off. These took time, and these articles are about real people with real lives. And I have bylines on every one of them. I am not used to having bylines.

I think I know why I haven't tried harder to be a *published* writer ... I get all weirded out (in a bad way) whenever my writing makes the move from some private little room in my brain to the big, scary world of publication.

Sometimes I think I so understand Emily Dickinson!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Job Hopping

I’m working two jobs (Job #1 and Job #2) right now, not counting the volunteer job (Job Relay). I’ll start a third, full-time job (Job #3) in several weeks. (Job #1 and Job #2 will be history by then.)

Yesterday I started work on Job Relay at 6:30 a.m. Then, at 9:30, I headed to Job #1, where I worked for seven hours. Then, last night, I worked from home on Job #2 for several hours.

Then, today, I got in my car to drive to Job #2. And I took a wrong turn and started west—toward Job #3.

I haven’t even started Job #3 yet.

And then I got all weirded out, wondering if maybe I had just dreamed I had started Job #2. And then I wondered if being hired for Job #3 had been a dream as well.

I turned back toward Asheville and Job #2. Even if it did turn out to be a dream, I needed to go to Asheville anyway.

Job #4, that of Great Novelist, has been back-burnered, but the novel and I have a date for tomorrow morning. Three luscious hours of writing. It is when I'm working at Job #4 that my brain starts working again and I don't start wondering what's a dream and what's not.

Ha. Jobs Relay, #2, and #3 are all about writing, too. And Job #1 is all about books.

I’m over-extended but happy, writing merrily away.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Need for Speed

I'm not a fast runner. The second-most impressive running feat I ever did as a kid was running the "600" (does that mean 600 meters?) in two minutes and nine seconds. Don't ask me how I remember that time. I remember most numerical things in my life. I wasn't the first to complete the 600, but I was one of the first. So it sticks out in my mind.

Anyway, after coming in dead last in nearly all of the shorter races the P.E. coaches forced us to run, I actually did all right when the races required us to run more than once around the track.

Yes. I'm all about endurance. That piddly little "600" in sixth grade. A 2,167-mile hike in 2000. A 13.1-mile race last December. Maybe a 26.2-mile race someday.

I've decided to look into really training for my next half-marathon, which isn't until nearly six months away. I haven't started an actual training program, though I've definitely been running ... more or less.

The training programs I've read about (not that I've done a great amount of research) incorporate speed and hills into training. I run hills all the time anyway. I love running hills. I haven't done "hill training" per se, but it's kind of hard not to run hills when you live and run in Western North Carolina.

But this speed thing is relatively new. Usually, for me, "speed" is somewhere around an 8:34 pace. In other words, when I run "fast," I don't really run as fast as I can. I just run as fast as it takes for me to start feeling out of breath. I keep going a little longer, then I slow down and recover. (For the record ... 8:34 isn't very fast at all, if I were to compare myself to Everybody Else, which I won't do.)

So today I did a couple of faster intervals: a few 8:00 and 7:30 paces, just to see what they felt like. I felt a little silly, a grown woman like me, one who is decidedly not athletic, and my short, bulky little legs moving like a bear is chasing me. But it also felt wonderful.

Well, woo hoo!

Remember when you were a kid, how much fun it was to run as fast as you possibly could?

That's how it felt. My late-thirtysomething body knows better than to go all out from zero, but after a couple of miles of brisk jogging, I ran spurts of a few hundred meters faster than I've probably run in 25 years. Maybe it wasn't the fastest I could run. Maybe it was. But it felt great.

So I'm kind of excited about working "speed" into my training, whatever that training plan will be. I'll keep y'all posted, if y'all are interested. Heck, I'll keep y'all posted if y'all aren't.

Now I Can Tell the World!

I'm re-joining the professional workforce of Corporate America next month!

(I am happy about this. You should be, too.)

I don't know if I'll be in a cubicle or not, but this situation should be very different from the Cubicle-Land nightmare that spawned this blog back in 2004.

I am HAPPY. This job will be a corporate job, but it will also be a creative job.

(Plus, I'll have time to finish up Jan's draft, Relay stuff, and my Cubicle-Land contract job before I start.)

(No, I'm not going to quit working on my novel. I'll just be more efficient at writing it because my schedule will force me to be so. Same goes for running and piano.)

Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!!

I'm in Cubicle Land Today

Yes, folks, I'm here. And my eyes are about to fall out of my head, but that's OK. I'll be here for two weeks, on and off, editing my aging eyes out. No time to blog, but I just had to do it, for old times' sake. Bye now!

Blogging Elsewhere

Hi, Strangers! I've been blogging with my friend Anh over at Then a Gentle Whisper . Check it out!