Thursday, October 27, 2011

Face Time

Today I will drive three hours south from Seattle (in autumn-leaf colored fog) to Portland, where tonight I'll hang out at Rain City Coffee. The owner, Karen, is having a community book group there to chat about my book, When She Flew. The important word in that sentence is "community."

This is what books do in the 21st century: they create community. This is what coffee shops—and bookstores, and libraries, and theatres, and galleries—do. We are a society yearning for connection, and we seem to be finding it mostly online these days. Even though I'm telling you this online, what I'm really saying is: come out. Come out of your office, your house, and walk your neighborhood. Have coffee with a friend. Talk about something other than how busy you are.

People ask me why I still visit book groups when I could just as well call in with Skype (which was what I was going to do for this one). Skype has, indeed, been a wonderful way to communicate with readers and friends all over the country (and world, as half of my relatives are Australian). But when it comes to community, there's nothing like being there.

Today I'm going out into the world, to feel the fog envelope me, and to watch trees whizzing by on the highway, to park on the damp streets of Portland in the early dark of late October, and to enter a light-filled shop with espresso machines hissing, people chattering and laughing, a sense of all being in one place for an hour or two to do something meaningful together.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Will Work for Meaningful Contribution to Society

We writers are an odd bunch. We choose lives in which we sit alone all day in front of computers. Not in cubicles, not in rows of other computers, mind you, but completely, entirely alone. All day. Did I mention every day?
Now, this is fine if you’re deep in the “introvert” range of the Meyers-Briggs scale, but for those of us who nose over the line into the “extrovert” category, it can get a little lonely.
Lucky for me, I live in Seattle, a holy grail convergence zone for writers. Sure, the Pacific Northwest is dark and dismal nine months each year, but it’s excellent (either in spite of or because of all that moisture) for quite a few things: coffee, music, natural beauty, bookstores, and many of the authors that fill those shelves.
When I first moved here five years ago, I didn’t know a soul, but that didn’t last long. I met Garth Stein (before the dog book) at an event we were both reading at, and liked him immediately. It’s hard not to—he’s pretty much the most likable guy on the planet. As writers are wont to do when frustrated by writing, we met for coffee. It became a regular thing, and soon other writers were joining us. Before long, there were seven of us.
What is now formally called Seattle7Writers, an awareness and fundraising nonprofit comprised of over 40 published authors, started simply as a coffee klatch, a kvetching, laughing, celebrating bunch of friends who got what each other was going through on a daily basis. We could clink to the good stuff—a good cover, a manuscript turned in—and offer condolences on the not-so-good stuff—a delayed pub date, a request for massive revisions, even sometimes the “orphaning” of a comrade (the state of an author whose agent or editor has left for greener pastures at another company).
The core group now gathers monthly for business, and by business I mean juggling the demands of putting on several fundraisers at a time, collecting and distributing donated books for pocket libraries throughout our community (in shelters and prisons), and the myriad other requests we receive and ideas we generate. It’s exhausting, and it’s amazing. Groups of writers in other cities are now considering organizing as well, the most lovely tribute of all to the work we do.
Lest you think we’re workaholics, the entire group of forty plus is invited quarterly for social time, that precious couple of hours where we laugh hard at our stumbles and mourn together over titles not chosen, readings ill-attended. If not for the company of these writers, we’d all still write. We’d still publish and tour and do the work we do. We just might not be as happy, or as fulfilled.
Visit for more information.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

You are.

Well. Hello.

I think it was two years ago, around the time my last book was about to be released, that I decided to blog. I made this pretty page. I thought about things I might write that wouldn't bore you into a stupor. And then When She Flew came out, and I went on tour, and then I started writing another book, and then . . .

This is my life. Too busy to do things I should do, or want to do. Each time I come to the end of some big project, I think: I shall reform! I will make time in my life for the important things! And last year I did take a tap dance class (although by the time we got to aerial landings, I realized my knees weren't as up for tap dancing as they were when I was 10). And I traveled, a lot. I volunteered a little, and oh yeah, I spent a ton of my time managing the inner workings of a nonprofit I started with a bunch of other authors.

I have finished the next book. I have a moment to breathe. I want to take this time to tell you something of importance, something beautiful. Here it is:

You are important. You are beautiful. Thank you for being in my life.