Tag Archives: Northern California

Intensity. Immersion. Whoa.


Ever wake up and wonder how you got yourself into this situation?! You know you brought it on yourself, you chose deliberately, your instinct led and you followed, and yet here you are, overwhelmed and blown away and crazed.

10 days to go on the novel edit. 40? 50? pages more. 3 weeks in the new house. 20+ boxes still unpacked. Zero contractors booked for the reno.

There’s part of me that LOVES the hormone rush of too much: too many piled-up deadlines, too many amazing choices, too much to do. But, then there’s the moment of breath, the little break, and I remember the loveliness of just contemplating. Allowing a little space.

How awesome is it that I can have both?!

I’m in the final push of an 8 week editing stint with the incisive and brilliant Joshua Mohr. Since January 4th, I’ve revised 150+ pages of the nascent novel about two sisters. The last section begins today. This is my few hour break.

Revising a novel is like directing your huge, extended family of cats—squiggling, hungry, demanding, petulant, joyful. The calico just turned up his nose at the canned food, the kittens are tearing up your favorite down comforter, the mangy one won’t stop his damned yowling (hisss, stop!) the siamese winks in silent judge-y condemnation.

Live, sleep, eat, breathe, dream Jenn and Polly. (Well, not much sleep, actually.) And then, every now and again, the cats all lift up their faces, the sun shines, and the chorus sings. The story hums. The words coalesce.

And then there’s the move. Smack dab in the middle of what requires intense concentration, 24/7 focus, we close on a complicated escrow, extract ourselves from faculty housing, retrieve belongings packed in May from storage (oh, that’s why one should copiously label the boxes…) and then proceed directly, don’t pass Go, to the Move From Hell. “It’s a 45 minute drive from Palo Alto to Moss Beach. It’s been 3 hours. Where the f*%K are YOU?!” “No, man, the beach is west. west. Not east.” “It’s been 4 hours. What the hell are you doing in Richmond?!”

David thinks they’re selling our belongings out of the back of the truck. I’m noodling on how I’m gonna get Jenn and Polly to do what I want. Trying to get David to stay calm.

Five and half hours later, as the movers arrived with our stuff in the pitch dark, the power went out.

Oh, did I mention the 45 mile an hour wind gusts?

When the lights flickered back on soon after, the entire neighborhood’s bundle of communication cables lies over our driveway and across the moving truck. The already tearful driver completely freaks out. Jenn and Polly gotta wait. PG&E is “aware of the problem.”

So, it’s the end because it all works out. The GPS-inept driver doesn’t get a tip, but he gets a hug, our stuff is safe and sound, and I live in the most amazing place in the entire Bay area. We’ve bonded with the neighbors over the Comcast cable re-wiring week long debacle. David loves having a commute again, and the drive “over the hill” to Palo Alto is one of the most beautiful on this earth. The weather ranges from sunny to foggy to rainy to windy and back again. The ocean and El Nino produced “big waves” and Mavericks surfing dudes converged about a mile from us.

Every day here has the potential for intensity. Eyes wide open.

So, I have both: an intense emotional and intellectual immersion in writing a novel, and a physical and spiritual intensity in my real world.  Yep, I choose this!


OWC Endings and Beginnings, Happy and Sad…

I graduated!

As thrilled as I am to say that I’m now the proud owner of a Certificate in Novel Writing from the Stanford online writing program, more than any other graduation in my life I’ve much sadness, too.

My fellow cohort members are remarkable artists, friends, supporters.  These few dozen women (and Roy!) cheered my move across country, gave impeccable critical feedback, understood like no one else the tribulations of being “writer.”

Our teacher/mentors created a rigorous yet warm environment, full of craft and aha’s! and intellectual stimulation and holy cow’s.  I’m still drop-dead amazed.  How do you do that online (with a few in person meetups?)  The whole of academia needs to take a lesson from this program.

So, that leaves me a bit bereft.  Done.  A year of saying goodbyes, I guess:  home, work, friends, now OWC.

But…all is not lost!!

We’ve formed at least two writing groups (the Happy Quartet below–online video chatting weekly; and the Bay Area Meetup—in person monthly.) And, Stanford has provided us a chat room to continue on for another while.

And that will be the legacy of OWC, that life goes on, that writing community once found is worth nuturing, that we are all writers, ass-in-the-chair artists with something to say worth saying.  What a friggin’ transformation (as my main novel character, Polly, would say!)

On an Explore…

So, here we are.  What an extraordinarily beautiful place, almost an assault on my sensibility. I seem to be in a constant state of awe, especially on our weekends road trips; the week days are for grounding-time, or at least an attempt at some kind of regularity and routine.  If there could be such a thing at this point in the Cliff dive!

(A cloudy day or two, but mostly I’m on the upswing of a big draft, caught the wind, amazed I’m still flying.)

After 25 years of routine…a comfort in so many ways, that email routine, the downloading of banking transactions routine, the working ridiculous hours at the business-I-founded routine, you know, we all do it, settled and stifled all at the same time…I still relish a good daily habit.

So, every morning, coffee, goodbye to David, my relocated desk facing the Stanford West greenbelt, astride (well, okay, that’s a bit horsey) settled into my awesome too-expensive desk chair that David gifted me, writing computer opened, I write.  

The current project is Revision of the novel (as yet, unnamed, I’m waiting for the inspiration, the exact turn of phrase to leap out of the depths of the book) and this phase, the phase I truly dreaded with a soul-deep sigh, oh, ugh, those words again, that story again, so sick of Jenn and Polly, sisters and their poor choice of men and unwanted pregnancy, all that drama, turns out to be PERFECT!  After my two-month mentoring with Joshua Mohr, the final phase of the Stanford OWC two year journey-finished in June, this book has a structure!  Holy Cow!  Everyday, the book leads me, everyday I have a place to start.  And then a place to go to.

And if that isn’t the biggest awe-inducing thing of my life, even bigger than that amazing view of the Bay atop Portola road, the wide expanse of the Bay from the Bridge across it, that fog tinged sunset rolling in across a sudden break in the redwoods, or even (really) the fact of my being in California (!!), then surely the idea that it’s my story that leads me, me leading me, instead of me following, well.  

I’m speechless grateful.

And the pics? I know, right?  All you MA and FL and across-the-country family and friends, you just gotta come out and visit, they just doesn’t do it justice.

First weekend, over the Bay bridge to meetup with David’s brother Daryl for a native-tour of Berkeley. Then, over the hills in the opposite direction to Half-moon Bay. Second weekend, down to the Santa Cruz area (yikes, sorry no pictures but really amazing…next time) and back over the mountains at sunset to Palo Alto.

So, you’d think, after 5,000 miles in the friggin’ car, I’d be like, “no, nope, nada” but actually….this is me hell-bent determined to avoid the insularity of the routine world, to embrace the Northern Cal “sure, why not?!”  At least for the moment…