Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Phi MIB Romer

This is what I do these days:

Replace the guns with peering at people's book spines and identifying alien life with scoping out potential future readers at every coffee shop/train station/bus stop and it comes down to the same thing.

As you know, writing has made me shameless. Shamefully shameless, mind you; I do feel genuinely bad about my newfound callousness. For at least two-four seconds. Over the last year, at weddings and funerals, in line for the bathroom and at the dentist's office, I've been brazenly self promoting.

But what happened today is a gray area; I'm not sure if I had ulterior motives or was being a nice human being for a change. You tell me.

On the big comfy couch at Barefoot Coffee this morning, I saw that the woman beside me was reading HUNGER GAMES, a book my sister has been recommending to me for years. Asking her about it led to a twenty minute conversation. It was delightful, she was actually incredibly helpful and gave me amazing ideas on how to market the book (it was her MBA training, she said, in the breaths between listing ideas).

All I said was that it's hard for me to read books these days, what with writing my own. And I had to tell her about my blog; she started talking about marketing yourself, etc. And yes, I happened to have my business card within arm's reach but that's because I happened to be using it as a bookmark today. I did not hand it to her till she asked.

Did I scope her out? Did I just want a quick break from my 450 page tome on publishing? I truly don't know.

I like to look at it as a win-win: she got access to my blog and I have a future contact in case I ever pursue that MBA story line.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Plea and a Laugh

I feel very much like that white-haired PBS fundraiser man who would interrupt Anne of Green Gables/Three Tenors marathons to do his fund drive but for the sake of my art, I shall press forth. So I've finished my book (a term I use loosely and will explain in a future blog) and am researching the route to publication.

The recurring theme in all I read is BUILD AN ONLINE PRESENCE. So here I go. I'm going to reformat this blog, write entries that are shorter and more frequent. You, dear reader, can help me build my presence in any of the following ways:

1. "like" my blog posts on Facebook (this means everyone on YOUR wall can see it, read it, love it, become a follower of mine). It takes .001 seconds of your time and you could singlehandedly launch my career.

2. Forward my blog site (phiroozeh.blogspot.com) to anyone on your email list who you think might be interested in following my blog.

3. Shout phiroozeh.blogspot.com from the top of the next mountain you climb.

                                    We now return to our regular programming.

Today, I read an ebook (How to Find- and Keep- A Literary Agent) and a paper book (The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published) alternately till my eyes gave out.

Here are some things that made me laugh/cry/think:

1. After a reading, an author was asked by an older man, "I'm a retired cardiac surgeon and I'm thinking of writing a book. What advice do you have?"
He responded, "When I retire from writing, I'm thinking of becoming a cardiac surgeon. What advice do you have?"

2. Charlie Baxter on writing: "Part of being a  writer is going through dark nights of the soul. In these nights you confront your own doubts, lack of self-confidence, the futility of what you are doing and the various ways in which you fail to measure up. But a lack of self-confidence can be turned to your own purposes if it helps you to take pains, to take care, to avoid glibness."

NOTE: Having a husband who talks you off your self-generated cliff about once a week also helps.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Smart Art

Right after yesterday's blog post about meeting the curator, inspired by my own determination, I called another curator I had been told about by the fabulous Zara Contractor. A little schedule juggling and I was able to meet them both in a slim two hour window in two different parts of town before they headed to their afternoon meetings.

Through sleet and snow I drove (I'm not being dramatic, people; I'm in Vancouver), just me and my little black rental Fiat. The first interview was so successful I nearly cancelled the second. Thank God for my aforementioned determination.

The first curator worked at the Emily Carr University Gallery on Granville Island, where some of the best local art gets made, exhibited, and sold. With her twenty-five years of experience in the Vancouver art world, she gave me an incredible overview of the art scene outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery which, being a plebeian, was all I had known before (and relied heavily on in my novel). A nice little coincidence was when I discovered she had been one of the founding members of Artspeak, which as you all know was my original destination today and where I headed next.

At Artspeak, I realized that persistence really pays. It was there, thanks to an incredibly helpful curator who spent nearly an hour answering my haphazard questions, (and, it must be said, her co-worker, the artist who helped me figure out how to use the voice recorder on the ipad I pilfered from my hubby) that I found the pulse of the Vancouver art scene.

Now, like any good writer, I have to stare into the distance as the sun presumably goes down behind a thicket of clouds and the rain continues to fog up the coffee shop windows and think about what it all means to me and to my book.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Working Vacation

Avid readers recall from a previous blog entry my main character is breaking into the world of curating, a world I know squat about. You may also recall last year I happened upon a wonderful curator in the Bay Area who spent her lunch hour filling me in on my two page list of questions. It was a good start but I always knew I had to check the Canadian scene.

Last week, I scoured the Vancouver Art Gallery's website and left a message for the chief curator, hardly believing my own ballsiness as I did. She called me back within hours and with shaking hands (she was CHIEF curator), I made frantic notes as she graciously answered as many questions as I dared ask her. She spent eleven glorious minutes on the phone with me but she left me with about 150 more questions than I'd had before.

It's a tricky business, this: on one hand, I can't learn an entire profession in a month or two or six, on the other, I have to. I could look up a a university website for the curator program, but I don't care if Theory of Composition is a prerequisite for Theory of Space. I need inside knowledge, salacious tid bits, scandals, you know, the good stuff.

I'm in Vancouver this week, supposedly on vacation. My first afternoon here, I googled local galleries and started cold calling.

Tomorrow at noon, I have an interview at Artspeak in Gastown.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

70 Solutions to Writing Mistakes: A great resource

Last night at Bombay Jam , I was talking to a regular and it turned out she writes too. It made me wonder how many other dabblers in writing there are out there. For those of you who are interested, here is an awesome resource I just came upon, which is so extensive, it will help no matter which stage of writing you may be in.

The link is: http://media2.fwpublications.com/WDG/Z5001_70_Solutions.pdf?et_mid=535038&rid=233465641

If it doesn't work, you can go to Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog and download it for free, it's the really big bar on the very top.

Have fun!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Woman I Love: An Accidental Muse

Across the table, over a glass of red, she said, "Let's go back to the room."
We changed quickly, throwing off our jeans and slipping into Something More Comfortable.
We pulled out our laptops and began to write.

The first time I heard her name, I was hiking with my husband. Dave, my high school best friend, was in town for a computer people conference and asked if he could bring his old university friend along to dinner. I turned her name around on my tongue: Radha. I gave her jet black hair parted down the middle, a saucer-sized bindi, and of course, an accent.*

As she rounded the corner of the Santa Clara Hilton, the first thing I saw were her boots. Stocky, chunky motorcycle boots. Directly above them, a knee length skirt which looked like the gold leaf pallu of a Benarasi sari. Her forehead was disappointingly bare. We ate at an Afghani Restaurant where among the tech talk (I was severely outnumbered in the company of a Googler, an IBMer, and an Oracler), I asked her questions, tried to get to know her. I emailed her that very night, asked her to dinner.

We had a lot in common: we were both immigrants several times over, we shared a love for SRK, and then she dropped the bomb and the reason I had been so attracted to her that first night became clear: she was a writer too.

Years later, she asked if I wanted to go on a writing retreat with her. I pictured wine soaked nights sharing our deepest thoughts, most personal secrets, and maybe some writing on the side. We arrived at a wind swept hostel perched on a cliff in Half Moon Bay. She took the top bunk, opened her laptop and began typing. I went to the bathroom, got some tea, put on wooly socks. From above I heard nothing but thunderous typing. Sighing, I began to write.

Over a divine dinner, I got my wine, some deep thoughts, some secrets. She paid for dinner with a wad of cash she had received at Google for showing up to the Christmas party. (Note: I, as a teacher, had received for Christmas, ants in my classroom from all the candy the kids had eaten behind my back.)

It did not register the first time she said that after dinner there would be more writing.

"Write on a Friday night?"
"It's a writing retreat."
"I hate you."

It was not the last time I said that to her that weekend. After breakfast  the next day, we wrote. After lunch, we wrote. After dinner we wrote. I had snuck along a book and like a petulant child, I took reading breaks, Radha be damned. But every time I did, her typing rattled my conscience from the bunk above. I cursed her, put down my book, pulled out my laptop.

We did it again a few months later. Same hostel, same rules. But this time, it was a tiny bit easier to follow her oppressive schedule.

Our third retreat happened exactly two years ago: MLK Day long weekend. We holed up at the Fort Mason Hostel. More windswept scenery, but this time, we were surrounded by city folk and tourists having fun on their long weekend. She did not notice them. She did not hear the group of 30+ middle schooler stomping down the hall outside our room. She wrote and wrote. I copied her. We wondered why we were getting special treatment at the cozy candle lit restaurant where we dined. We realized it was Valentine's Day weekend. She allowed us a quick chuckle before marching us back to our room.

What happened next was a double edged sword: it was these writing retreats that she engineered that made me realize I could write all day everyday, not when the mood struck or the stars alligned just so. She inadvertently aided my decision to quit my job and write full time. Which in turn ended our writing retreats because I no longer wrote on the weekends. I think often to our waterfront hostels, the marathon writing sessions, a giggle here, a laugh there, well-deserved meals wolfed down between talk of writing, of life.

Last Friday, she accidentally pushed me again, brought the journey she had initiated full circle. I had asked her to read my almost complete manuscript. She texted that she would do it on the weekend. I had been having the hardest time finishing the last chapter, it had dragged on for weeks. Knowing someone was about to read it provided the kick in the pants I needed. I jumped off the comfy couch where I had been wallowing in self pity all morning, bought a fresh pot of black tea, and pounded the last two scenes in five hours straight.

The Bay Area, like any metropolitan city, brings people in and out of my life. Radha stomped into my life in her chunky black boots and threw my world wide open. She did it without fanfare, without expectations, just by being her fabulous self.

*The only time I heard an accent was when she was on the phone with family on one of our retreats. It was the thickest, most wildly exaggerated Indian accent I could have asked for, one I myself use when speaking to family. She hung up and blinked at me, unaware of the switch she had made. It made me love her that much more.