Monday’s Guilty Pleasure

In January, I was asked if I died of consumption who would portray me if a movie was made about my life. I had no clue then. The next question posed, reveal a guilty pleasure. Unable to think of anything, I’m basically a plain, predictable, persistent person, my Monday routine came to mind. I stay in pajamas all day on Mondays and write, only to get up from desk at the end of the night, shower and put on new pajamas.

Since that confession, there has been no all day pajama Monday indulgence. One of my classmates asked why not switch days. Not happening I have a routine and Monday was all day writing. Eleven weeks later, it seems like its going to happen. Ha. Sunday night, I install an update and it wipes out my Safari connect. I turn off the computer knowing Monday morning I’ll have to traipse to the Apple Store.

Wide awake, six o’clock. Maybe if I call telephone support technician for assistance. Ha. Instead I have a 10:15 a.m. appointment with a Mac technician. Not amused. Revisions on my mind: characters, conversations, and scenes. All week I’d been trying to cultivate what Richard Bausch calls tidal patience – “Don’t let yourself set page goals, or think in terms of what gets done in a given session of work. Spend the time – the session is what counts, the time. The goal should be two hours, or three, or four, however many. Did you spend the time? If the answer is yes, no other questions. Cultivate patience of the tidal kind. This day’s work. It doesn’t have to be especially productive – no matter how well or ‘not well’ it seems to go in a day, it is always going well if you’re working, if you’re making the time. The good things will come if you’re making the time.”

Although this wave of writing ebbed and flowed, I desperately needed my Monday. And if you noticed, patience is not one of the P’s that describes me. (I’m working on it.)

One writing tool

One writing tool

It’s nine o’clock when I make the appointment. The ride takes thirty minutes. Before, stumbling out of bed, I say, “Lord, what am I too learn on this trip.” Otherwise, I’ll be cantankerous. I shove my laptop into its red pouch, and then into my purse. I dress, eat yogurt, make tea, procrastinate. I just filled my gas tank, and an all day Monday in my pajama means saving gas.

Inside the Apple Store, the man holding an ipad checks off my name and directs me to the technician. I explain the problem. As the Apple guy fixes the problem, he says to avoid the clash between Safari and Verizon, he pays his bill using online banking service. That’s a good idea. Then I ask about upgrading the Mac. He clicks a few buttons, say I have enough memory for an upgrade, points the mouse to Applications button showing exactly what to get. “Twenty dollars,” he says asking if my information is back up.

“Nope,” I say adding that I have a Time Capsule that’s still in the box, which I bought two years ago.

He clicks the mouse, drags an icon to my menu, and offers more instructions. Use the Time Capsule as my router or plug the Time Capsule up and it will automatically connect to my wireless router. Second option. I smile. I’m elated.

At the door, I decide to indulge, buy white chocolate mocha, get a table and writing. I stop at the Love Sac and fall onto a ginormous cushy square pillow. Then spend fifteen minutes chatting with the representatives about redecorating my living room and a bedroom. I’m jazzed.

Writer's mall inspiration

Writer’s mall inspiration

I find my spot and before I know it, I have fifty tightly revised pages, put some scenes, backstory and characters in my grave document and it’s three o’clock. Four hours writing. Patience cultivated in the tidal.

Perhaps, Monday writing should move to the mall.

A Writer’s Buffet

A Writer’s Buffet

Sometimes you have to step out on faith and out of your comfort zone. That’s what happened this past weekend as I packed my suitcase, filled my gas tank and headed to Boston for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference and Book Fair.

Although excited to attend, trepidation set in days before departure. How should I strategize? What was my purpose? In September, I attended a conference strictly for fiction writers—I planned two novel pitches for editors and agents, signed up for workshops, and paid for scheduled meals. However, 12,700 people versus 700 made a vast difference, as well as more than 100 panels to choose from and 700 exhibits to visit. At AWP, once you registered, you go where you want when you want—a writer’s buffet. (And buffets are my least favorite eatery, too many choices that aren’t always appetizing.)

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The week before my adventure, my professor said, “I’m excited you’re going to the conference.  That type of setting is too large for me. I heard there’s lots of information that you will come home with.”

Later, a classmate said, “Be careful, you’ll spend all your money on books.”

The following Tuesday, two days before the conference, I queried two colleagues about AWP. One suggested attending the readings and another advised networking at the book fair.

Thursday morning, two hours before leaving, I tweeted AWP for first timers. Advice: don’t attend too many panels, get out of the conference hub and see the city sights, have a purpose.

Armed, I headed off sans expectations, unlike the September conference in which I expected to garner a book contract, rub shoulders with agents, and increase my writer’s circle. (I spent an entire rent check on that conference.) My goal spend no money, collect information regarding teaching, publishing and connect with black writers. As Rev. John Simon said from the pulpit, “When you have an opportunity be prepared although it’s preferably to be prepared even if there is no opportunity.”

And in three days, I did just that. At the teachers and women’s caucus I met creative writing program directors of two-year colleges, collected business cards and potential teaching positions. I also learned that two colleges are implementing AFA writing degrees.

Thursday evening, I scoped out the conference center. The book fair was on three levels and all the panels. I’m not good with maps, so I decided to wing it. Rucksack on my back, and tote bag in hand I whizzed through the first floor book fair collecting information and observing. A good nugget is wordnik, a fun online dictionary. After the woman’s caucus, I attended a reading and discovered Word Farm a Christian Literary Publishing Company. The business manager told me about Slant, another larger company. Next, I delighted in the words of master poets Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott. I teach Walcott’s poems. Two writing tips: poems come in the silence, and let the work surprise you. I skipped the after party.

On Friday, I hit the book fair at 9:30 a.m. I pitched my fiction and non-fiction ideas to magazine editors, acquisition editors and gathered sample magazine, literary journals, press guidelines, and catalogs.  This time my aim was to see if these outlets were a good fit for me. I learned that at the September conference—an editor, agent and publisher have to be a good fit for writer. I was not shy about asking for complimentary items. So many good books to buy, but I had to say no. Throughout the day, which ended at 10:30 that night, I prayed, “Lord, where do I go next.  What do you have for me here.”

In the hallway, I bumped into a young woman I had met at the Women’s caucus, we exchanged emails and she encouraged me to join VONA/Voices, one of the first writing workshops for writers of color. Another writer said at VONA they get us. No explanation needed. I took her card.

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By three o’clock, I had a swollen head, one editor remembered an essay I had submitted two weeks earlier, and another editor requested a query. Now, nothing may come of it; however, the mere fact they were willing to listen and not brush me off was sensational.   While eating my homemade sandwich, I met Michael Warr, black poet from San Francisco. He’s working on a fabulous project about poetry and justice.

At 7:30 p.m., exhaustion kicked in. I exited the conference center and got on the Boston train. I had planned to walk the cobble stone streets, but the early morning snow morphed into slippery slush.

Saturday morning, I packed my suitcase, checked out and got lost driving to the conference center. A good thing, I ventured through the financial district, hit the seaport, and spotted a larger than life bottle of milk.

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I returned to the conference. This time, I’d had enough. Three hours at the book fair and no panels was my limit.  Just like a buffet, there’s only so much you can digest.

This conference set this writer on fire.