Friday, March 27, 2009

Viva la Cheap Wine and Poetry

Last night was the first time I ever appeared at--and went to--Richard Hugo House's Cheap Wine and Poetry series (brainchild of brilliant Brian McGuigan) and all I have to say is this:

Get there early next time!

The place was packed. Not a seat was to be had by 7:05 p.m., five minutes after it was supposed to start. I have never seen Hugo House so full of people having a good time. Thanks mostly to the recession-busting $1 glasses of wine and free admission.

Sure, we readers were talented too. And funny! I knew from the moment wisecracking Nicole Hardy stepped on the stage that I could not afford to be any less than endearingly hilarious.

So I read two selections from "BreakupBabe" that got lots of laughs from the cheap-wine-lubricated crowed, and selections from two earlier novels called "We Shall Never Part" and "A Life to Love."

Never heard of them? That's because I wrote them in sixth grade--during which time I actually produced three novels in the space of a single school year. (The third, "Roxana's World" was simply too depressing to read from, since the protagonist's mother dies and the girl is shipped off to an orphanage and then an insane asylum, where she dies a raving lunatic. Yeah. I was all melodramatic like that back then.)

Those went over well, especially the "A Life to Love," which is about a girl who gets in a horrible horseback riding accident in which she gets bucked off a wild filly and then bitten by a swarm of rattlesnakes. She thinks she will never walk, much less ride again, but she survives, recovers, and her parents even buy her her favorite horse, "Huggy Bear." Here is the ending:

"Lanna and Huggy both lived to a ripe old age, spending their lives together in blessed happiness. A love between a girl and a horse."

For some reason everyone in that novel has these 50-style names like "Lanna," "Ray," and "Audrey." Whereas the other sixth-grade novels are very gothic and British in tone, with sadistic middle-aged spinsters with names like "Miss Nebbins" who torture the (always-twelve-year-old-female) parentless protagonists in various ways.

I had a great time all around, despite the cheap wine hangover this morning. And for once I dressed up, which was good for my self-image. (Of course the dress was bought in a thrift shop years ago for about five bucks. But it still works!) Not so long ago I was always mincing around town in cute slinky outfits. But these days my uniform is dog-haired covered pajamas, or, for variety, a dog-haired covered black turtleneck with baggy green corduroys.

Last night, wandering around Capitol Hill in my pointy-toed boots, peeking into Victrola, where I spent so much of time (and so did the protagonist of my novel) I felt almost like, well, Breakup Babe. In a good way.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kindergarteners Rock

It is hard to maintain one's blahness when 20 kindgergartners rush you and hug you, exclaiming, "Miss Rebecca, I've missed you!" "Miss Rebecca, I love you!"

Which is what happens to me about once a month when I read stories to a kindgergarten class in Seattle through Page Ahead.

No matter how glum I feel, no matter how bad my hair looks, no matter how dog-hair-covered and dilapidated my clothes (if I may take the liberty of using that word to describe clothes, and I will, because I'm a Writer with a capital "W") their unconditional love makes me feel better. Briefly.

Until I go back home, where no phone messages are waiting to tell me I have a job. Where no emails offering employment fill my inbox. Where, it's true, my dog greets me with great enthusiasm but mainly because he thinks he's going to get dinner even though it's only 2 p.m.

But enough whining. There are people a lot worse off than me. It's just hard not to feel down when there's nary a prospect of employment in sight and your meager savings are poised to dwindle rapidly while the debt incurred from LAST YEARS' stint of unemployment is about to go up, up, up.

Which makes it a perfect time to go to Europe, dontchya think? Especially if you bought a nonrefundable ticket back in December! So off I shall go at the end of April to Helsinki, where GalPal #1 has been having babies and braving eternal darkness.

In the spirit of adventure and saving money, I just signed up on and have already found one potential couch to sleep on. Back in my Geeksoft days, when I could barely keep track of all the money rolling in, I would have never deigned to sleep on the couch of a stranger. I would have stayed in some fancy, sterile hotel, getting older and more fossilized by the minute. But now...well...I like to think that my (relative) poverty is making me more adventurous.

That's looking on the bright side, n'est-ce pas? Meanwhile if anyone has any recommendations for where to go or what to do in Finland in early spring, do tell! (Photo above courtesy of The Rating System).

Oh! And speaking of travel, my friend Dave Fox, travel writer and tour guide extraordinaire, is teaching an intensive class on travel journaling that looks like a lot of fun and is a great deal to boot. So those of you in Seattle, check it out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen!

Those of you who've read my book know how I railed against the slovenly citizens of Seattle who regularly go out for a night on the town attired in their finest fleece. Witness this passage from BreakupBabe (a fairly witty one if I do say so myself). It takes place in a restaurant lit by green glass lamps (thus the mention of "sea green pools").

"There were several couples of the early middle-aged Seattle variety swimming in the sea green pools. One couple looked nearly identical with their metal-framed glasses, gray-streaked dark hair, and matching REI fleece jackets. If there was one thing that disturbed me about Seattle, it was that fleece was the uniform of choice. Fleece at fancy restaurants. Fleece at the theater. Fleece at the opera! It was a citywide illness, REI the ever-breeding host! I myself owned at least six fleece jackets and tops in different colors, styles, and weights (as well as a pair of fleece pants), but I had the sense to know they were for outdoor activities and outdoor activities only.

Well, people, guess what? Now, not only am I a person of the "early middle-aged variety" (ok, lets say, early, EARLY) - minus the gray streaks because I dye my hair, naturellement - but I often wear a fleece jacket when I go out now. Not only that, it's a black fleece entirely covered in white dog hair.

Hell, just the other day, I went to the pool attired in a down jacket, capri-length Yoga pants, Tevas, and wool socks.

I've deteriorated, I tell you. And you know, the one time I wore a cute, sexy dress all winter, I got chocolate all over the front of it the first time I wore it. So maybe it's for the best I stick to the dog-hair-covered fleece. It goes very well with the dog-hair all over the upholstery of my car, which is liberally interspersed with a layer of crumbs and unidentified sticky substances.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

BreakupBabe's Book Pick: Twilight

OK so I am three years behind the curve or whatever but I loved Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)!Perhaps even more so because I had a horrible cold when I read it and so wanted to do nothing more than lie down and get lost in another world (even though that other world happens to be the unglamorous town of Forks, Washington, where I have spent my own rainy days and nights, although who knew it was the ideal place for vampires?).

I consumed the first volume in less than 24 hours and the second in just a little more than that. Having recently been immersed in Donald Maas' Writing the Breakout Novel and seeing him speak on the same topic, I could totally understand why this novel hit it big.

The heroine is unswervingly strong and decisive even when what she's doing is stupid (i.e. falling in love with a vampire). She's very self aware and self-deprecating but also larger-than-life -- braver and more self-sacrificing than we could ever be. A bit sickeningly self-sacrificing but never mind that. (Maas calls forgiveness and self-sacrifice the ultimate traits for the protagonist of a breakout novel).

Also, the stakes are high -- another thing that Donald Maas harps on as being crucial for the breakout novel. Bella, the protagonist, risks her life every second that she's with the guy she loves. (Breakup Babe could relate to that, only she was just risking her self-esteem--not her life--with every Hot But Innappropriate Guy that she dated.)

It's plain old good storytelling and it's only mildly annoying that Stephenie Meyer just up and started writing this thing one day out of the blue with no years of slaving away over unpublished manuscripts, writing classes, etc - and the reason it's only mildly annoying is that she seems so damn nice that you just can't dislike her.