Category Archives: Carter Library

If We Took A Holiday

Mid November and it's still Fall.

This blog is officially on holiday.

Why so early?  I’m trading blogging for jogging (yes, it’s true, I’m already up to 2 miles without toppling over), and I’ll be spending any and all writing time with my manuscript.

Happy holidays everyone!  I’ll see y’all in the New Year.

If I get lonesome or bored, remember I've got these ragamuffins for entertainment.

Write The Damn Book Already

At 5:15 this evening, I arrived home to find this gift on my doorstep.

Here it is, new on the bookshelves.

Some of you might remember that our very own Lyra went to see Mr. Eugenides last week, and now I see she went to the trouble of waiting in a line to get this book signed.  Just for me.

When I opened this gift, I got chills up the back of my neck.  Writing-wise, it’s been a tough year.  Time has been lost.  I’ve been lost.  But no more.  The writing is finally going in the right direction again.  Is it perfect every day?  Uh …. no.  Some days I write and later see I can use none of it.  None.  But that’s okay because other days, I’m getting the wow factor.  It’s been almost a year since I’ve had this, and it feels … well … it feels fucking good.  The good days are outweighing the not-so-good, so I’m moving in the right direction.  Which has to be right.  Right?

Of course, Lyra didn’t just send me any old book.  She sent me a signed, first edition, of the latest and greatest.  (If you haven’t read this article, do it now, right this instant!)  I’m going to start reading THE MARRIAGE PLOT tonight.

I promise to refer over and over again to one particular page.  My page.  Just what I needed to hear, Mr. Eugenides.  I take you at your word.  And I don’t need to be told twice.

The 5 Year Gap

Today I pulled up an old file titled “Favorite Books.”

My computer says this file was “Created Saturday, April 8, 2006 at 9:43 a.m.”  I scan the list and am immediately disappointed to see what’s missing — no Beloved, no The Liar’s Club, no A Thousand Acres?

I feel even worse about what’s there.  I mean, Pope Joan was an enjoyable story to read, but an all-time favorite?  No way.


April 8, 2006.  9:43 a.m.  A Saturday.

I’m living in Minnesota.  I’m living in Minnesota, where I’ve lived for 12 years, and I don’t have a clue, not one iota of an inkling, that in 9 months I’ll be living in California.

A month earlier, to escape the long winter, I’d visited a friend in the south of France.  I took this photo looking down from Eze Village.

A month from now, I’ll be reading Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety.  I remember this because while I’m reading it my best friend and I will begin our irreparable break up.  A split that will leave me more hurt, and hurt longer, than any romantic breakup I’ve ever had.  This was my bookshelf in April 2006.  A photo of me and my friend is just left of center.  Her head leans toward mine.  We are so small, so blurry.


On April 8, 2006 at 9:43 a.m., this is where I was.  Today, 5 years on, more than 1/2 these books would not make my list.  I am no longer that person.  Where were you 5 years ago?

Ordinary People
Pillars of the Earth
Joy Luck Club
The Kitchen God’s Wife
Prince of Tides
The Poisonwood Bible
The Pianist
The Godfather
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Kite Runner
The Kiss
Bastard Out of Carolina
Angela’s Ashes
Into Thin Air
The Color of Water
Pope Joan
Lonesome Dove
Terms of Endearment
A Map of The World
The Hours
Sophie’s Choice
Smilla’s Sense of Snow

A Change Would Do You Good

aka, Things I’m Going To Try To Start Doing

1.  Work on some part of my manuscript everyday, for however many minutes or hours.  And whether I want to or not.

2.  Jog.  With my dog.  (Aside from tennis and walking, I have not exercised since May.  May!)

3.  Stop and stare.  Why do the days pass in a blur?  I need to stop in the middle of #2 above, sit on a bench, and just see what’s out there.

4.  Do the things on my To Do list instead of just moving them to another list.  (Confession: I have items on my list that have been on there for more than a year!)

5.  Curse less.  The F-word has become a staple of my current vocabulary.  This includes F-word derivatives like freakin’, frickin’, and flippin’.  (P.S.  This will be hard.  I come from a long line of women for whom cursing is a sanity-saving right of way.)

6.  Watch less TV.  And since I like to eat while I watch TV, I’ll get the two-birds-with-one-stone thing.  Maybe I’ll even play more music with the TV off.  I can’t remember the last time I listened to music in my house.

7.  Clean it out.  I know, I know, I’m already not a collector.  But seriously people, I can’t park in my own garage.  More has got to go!

8.  Read while sitting up.  I think my days of long hours reading while in recline mode are gone.  I lay down, I sleep.  Period.  For example, I’ve been reading my current book for 2 weeks and I’m on page 12.

9.  Cook fewer dinners.  There’s only 2 of us here, and god knows we’re not starving.  I don’t need to cook every night — something my husband keeps telling me, and I agree, only to go on with the cooking.  To quote Joan Didion, cooking feels like “drawing the circle” for the evening.  It feels homey and safe.  But I need to cut down.  We don’t need meat and potatoes 7 nights a week.

10.  Turn off the computer by 7 p.m.  This includes my iPad.  I used to make fun of people for always being on their computers.  The mirror is a nasty piece of glass.  Off, off, OFF.

11. Look forward to the holidays.  Christmas was so stressful when I was a kid — divorced parents, poverty, shame, longing, disappointment — and that feeling of impending doom still hangs in my air.  So this year, as a start, I’m actually going to DECORATE MY HOUSE for Christmas.  This means I’m getting out the tree and ALL of my ornaments.  I might even buy some new ones.  This is huge, folks.  Huge.  Pray for me.

Would a change do you good?  What does your list look like?

August Holiday

I’ve got a big dog to run with, a new pup to cuddle and train, and a tall stack of great books.  Here’s to the end of summer.  See y’all after Labor Day …

Things I’d Like To Stop Doing

(a first-ditch effort to build up to:  Things I’d Like to Start Doing)

The Luce Line in late Fall, my old jogging trail.

1.  Checking the dot.coms like an OCD patient.  This includes CNN, People Magazine, e-mail, blog stats, comment responses, ESPN tennis and golf, etc.

2.  “Talking” to my children via text message so much.  It’s become a bad habit.  I want to hear their voices more.

3.  Choosing shoes for comfort instead of style, like an old lady.  Sometimes it feels good to have sore feet.

4.  Wishing new books were more like old books.  As in, I pick up a fine new book and for the first 50 pages all I can think about is it’s not as good as SOPHIE’S CHOICE, LONESOME DOVE, CAT’S EYE, A THOUSAND ACRES, etc.

5.  Making lists of household chores that never, never get done, just rewritten onto a new, cleaner-looking list.

6.  Seeking and/or cooking comfort food even when I don’t require any comforting.

7.  Worrying that I’m talking or laughing too loud and bothering someone.

8.  Watching re-runs of ER, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, and Six Feet Under instead of giving the new shows a fighting chance.

9.  Following the rules.

10.  Saying “thank you” and “I’m sorry” when I either don’t mean it or it’s unnecessary.

What’s on your list?

A Shot

Sometimes you need a shot in the arm.  Or shots.  Plural.

1.  Someone once told me, “Beauty is short lived.  We need to be developing our charming personalities.”  They were right.

2.  A red frisbee has many uses.

3.  My son is finally — finally, after 15 years of coercion by moi — watching THE GODFATHER movies.  The best motion pictures ever made.  Period.  No really.  Period!!

4.  At 3 and 4 in the morning, the stars shine bright as hell over my house.  I don’t remember ever seeing them before.  If I’m up, I’m either writing, reading, or watching a trashy movie for the 47th time.  With JoJo’s arrival, I’m outside at all hours.  Outside is exquisite.

5.  I am covered in dog hair and puppy slobber.  I rarely shower.  I feel pretty.

6.  *** redacted****  I don’t want to spoil the surprise for the person getting these champagne flutes! (pictured above)

7.  On July 19, I beat 3 men at golf.  On a tough course.  By a lot.  🙂

8.  I love history and an art gallery.  This summer I went through Churchill’s War Rooms.  To London’s National Gallery twice.  To the British Library.  It wasn’t even close to enough.

9.  In Napa, I learned how wine is made.  How nature —- owls, blue birds, mice, mosquitoes, flies, bats — work.  Way cool.

10.  I bought dinner napkins, nose-strips, and potato chips at Walgreen’s.  More than once.  That’s how much I hate the “experience” of Target.

10.  Recapping summer 2011:  I traveled way too much, ate way too much, drank too much, played and played, and gained what must be a million pounds.  London, Seattle, Napa, Hawaii, Newport Beach, Indiana.  I met AmyG, Averil, Downith!  I’m exhausted.  I’m content.  When my last flight landed this past Sunday (hard and bouncing in high winds all over the damned place) I thought, That’s It!  I’m Done!

This is/was the best summer in recent memory.  Tell me your highlights.

Say Hello to JoJo

This year my birthday is all fireworks — and puppy-proofing the house — as we welcome 8 week old JoJo into our family.  I have no idea how old I am. Don’t even care.









So guess what I’m reading?  When I’m not watching her sleep.


Boondoggle:  an activity that is wasteful or pointless, but gives the appearance of having value.

I’m officially naming this My Boondoggle Summer.  I’ve pretty much done nothing worthwhile, but I’ve had a whole damn lotta fun doing it.  It’s been a long time since such a happening took place.  A long time.  Like, maybe, 25 years.

A few years ago, my summer looked like this.  We had moved across the country and into a house we had to remodel.  Imagine 6 workers, me, and dogs trying to stay out of each others’ way from 7 am until 5 pm everyday.  Imagine dust and filth and noise and everything you own covered in dirty plastic.  Imagine trying to keep the dogs from running away through the open doors, nowhere to cook, washing dishes on your knees in the upstairs bathtub.  Knowing no one.  For 7 months.

This is pretty much what my kitchen looked like the day I started grad school.  Imagine reading MOBY-DICK and lots of Steinbeck and poets-you’ve-never-heard-of and writing papers while all manner of butt-scratching and yelling and hammering and drilling and glass-breaking is taking place all around you.  Imagine.

Then I broke my front tooth. My tooth turned blue.  And I couldn’t talk right or smile for weeks.


Fast forward ….

Me with my kids in Spain. How fun is that?

Last summer, 2010, I was under the old machine gun to finish my thesis.  I made time to go to Spain with my family, but soon after it was the cliched crunch.  All I remember about last summer is panic.  My thesis was due.  I had no idea what in the hell I was doing.  I barely recall last summer at all….  well, except for the house-shoes I wore to the library every day.  (I had to throw them away in the end.)  It was all THESIS, THESIS, THESIS.  Get it done!  Finish something!  Come on you ingrate!  Graduate goddgammit!  You are 45 f-ing years old!

You.  Are.  45.  Years.  Old.

When did that happen?


Faster forward ….

My summer of 2011 has been a BOONDOGGLE.  A boondoggle of the nth degree.  We’ve traveled and then traveled some more.  We’ve had visitors.  I’ve read books every single day.  My toes have spent time in sand.  I have not written a word of my book-in-progress.

My kitchen no longer looks like that awful photo.  My children are living their lives and working and having fun.  And I’m not finished having fun yet.

My book.  I am thinking about my book.  But I am not writing it.  Not right now.  This is my Boondoggle Summer.  I feel like I should apologize, but I’m not gonna.  Instead, I’m going to keep traveling, keep playing, keep reading.  Reading THE LACUNA, SHADOW TAG, FEBRUARY, THE MASTERS, AMERICAN WEATHER, THE KNOWN WORLD, Lorrie Moore short stories.  I’m going to keep this boondoggle going as long as summer will have me.

Can You Live This Fantasy Life

In addition to my dream of writing a book that people can’t wait to read, I have this recurring fantasy:

We own a bookstore downtown, a few blocks from our house.  We walk to work.  Our gem of a store is a small-ish space with high ceilings and dark wood walls and well-worn rugs.  We have a collection of rare books, but also an entire section of our own books, which people can browse or borrow or read right there in our shop.  We have story hour for kids every afternoon.  A French tutor has her own corner where she works with kids after school.  We have author readings twice a month, some famous, most not.  There are high-backed, leather library chairs, lamps that put off just the right amount of light, and a huge stone fireplace that blazes even in summertime.  We serve wine and coffee.  There’s a house dog and a house cat, and neighbors and friends and strangers wander in and out, just to say hello or to sit for spell and talk about books.