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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Back from Mazunte!

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view from my cabana balcony

Hola everyone!

I just got back from a five day trip to Mazunte-- a little beach town on the Oaxacan coast. I'm planning on setting the third book of the Notebooks series there, so I went to do some research (very grueling, of course...)

This is a beach I sometimes vacationed at while I was living and working in the mountainous Mixtec region of Oaxaca, much further inland. Even back then, I felt I wanted to set a book in Mazunte someday-- it's so sweaty and sunny and salty and sandy and jungly and flowery and mango-ey and hammock-ey-- I knew I wanted to dwell in that space in my mind for a long time... which is what I'll be doing with this book-- The Jade Notebook.

the cabana where I stayed

So, my husband was supposed to come with me (Toddler was in the company of his doting grandparents), but alas, the day before the flight, I noticed his passport had expired. So.... it was a solo trip! (Don't tell him, but it was actually kinda nice traveling alone-- I love it-- no schedule, no compromising, easier to meet people, etc... but, shhhh.)

view from my window

My days were like this: I went to bed early and woke up late-- nothing's better than sleeping under a mosquito net with wave sounds and insect songs lulling you into a blissful state...

view from my bed through the mosquito net

When I finally got out of bed, I swung on the hammock for a long time and watched the ocean and listened to the waves some more.

I had cafe con leche and fruit and yogurt (including papaya! yum!) and granola on the balcony overlooking the water.

Then I wrote more of Cerise Notebook (the second of the series, set in France) for a while-- (I didn't go online once for the whole trip-- it felt great!)

Then I swung in the hammock some more and went for a swim in the ocean.

Then I had quesadillas for lunch, talked with some nice people, and swung on the hammock some more.

I had afternoon tea and chocolate and wrote some more of Cerise.

Then I walked along the beach, hung out with locals playing volleyball and skim boarding and fishing and playing tug of war-- a really lovely family atmosphere in the evenings. Then I walked to the tip of Punta Cometa-- Comet point-- and watched the sunset and wrote in my notebook. Ahhh...

At nights, I had fresh fish on the balcony and talked with more nice people.

To come back home, I walked along a dirt road for a long time with my giant backpack and caught a colectivo-- a tiny car crammed with four people in the back, two in the passenger seat (I was one of them) and the driver-- cumbia music blasting, the driver's collection of little stuffed turtles dangling around the rearview mirror, along with the ever-present Virgen of Juquila-- Oaxaca's Virgin. In Pochutla, I took another colectivo to the airport in Huatulco, bought a bunch of cinnamon-almond-chocolate with my extra pesos, and caught the flight home.

And now I'm home, and thankfully, I've managed to hold onto that rhythm of waves and insect songs and a swinging hammock and that delicious feeling of melting right into the hot, humid air.

If it sounds to you like I did nothing but swing in my hammock, eat, sleep, write, and swim, you're mostly right. I did do a little interviewing-- that's where the oh-so-grueling research part came in-- but that's all top secret information. I don't want to spoil the book for you... Okay, I'm going to make some of that hot chocolate now.

Gracias for reading!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Spring Equinox! (and thanks in advance for hearing my whining...)

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Hi dear readers,

I always get super-excited about spring coming, and then when it finally comes, I find myself itchy-eyed and lost in heaps of used kleenex. My tree pollen allergy puts a major damper on the crocuses and tweetering birds.

Okay, enough complaining (although you should know that I am squinting at this laptop screen through puffy, red eyelids, and trying very, very hard not to start itching my eyes, because once I start...)

So here's what I've been up to lately:

1) writing an early draft of The Cerise Notebook, the second in the Notebooks series. Since I'm in a complaining mood, I'll just whine a bit about why it's sooooo hard. For one thing, this is the first book I've started writing after having gotten a contract for it. This definitely puts the pressure on. What if I can't do it? What if it's abysmal? What if it's too weird? Not weird enough? What if my editor doesn't like it? What if I used up all my writing talent and now there's just blah-ness left over?

I give myself lots of pep talks and write a lot in my journal about why I love this story and the characters and why I can finish this book. I do, ultimately, think I can do this-- mainly because experience has shown me that I always get freaked out along the way by various insecurities, and things always turn out fine.

This is an ancient moss-covered fountain over steamy hot springs in Aix-en-Provence, France-- which has something to do with The Cerise Notebook. (I won't tell you what).

2) Another thing I've been doing-- final stage stuff with Star in the Forest, my middle grade novel which comes out next spring, and The Indigo Notebook, which comes out this fall. What final stage stuff, you ask? Well, it feels like a constant stream of new tasks-- big, padded envelopes that arrive right when I'm settling in my trailer to give myself another pep talk about Cerise. The Fed Ex truck stops at the driveway, and I'm suddenly faced with a deadline for copy-edits to go over for Star, or page proofs for Indigo.

Or I take a wee break from Cerise to check my email and get the jacket copy for Star to go over, or the illustrations for it (yes, it's got some illustrations! And they're great-- especially the heart-wrenching one of the dog huddled under a rusty truck hood in the rain at night! Aww!) And although it's thrilling to have several books in the works at once, it's a little jarring to keep being pulled away from the one I'm trying to get lost in (Cerise).

Getting lost in Cerise involves wandering around the mysterious, narrow streets of Aix, as I did last summer.

Okay, just a little more complaining: (See why I only post about once a month? I'd send everyone running in the other direction with all my whining.) It's HARD going over copy-edits and page proofs. Those copy-editors and page-proofers catch all kinds of things-- beyond commas and typos. They say stuff like, wait a minute, Zeeta is already on the bus-- how can she get on it again? Or, wait a minute, here the woman places the baby for adoption before she leaves town, and there you say it's afterward. Or wait a minute, here you say today's Friday, but there you say yesterday was Sunday. Sometimes it's easy to fix-- just changing a word or two.... but sometimes it's a headache and a half, requiring rewriting a few paragraphs.... and I always fret that I'm creating more mistakes in an effort to fix the original mistake. Ack!

And the scary thing is, I have to get it perfect, because (at the page proof stage at least) there's no going back. This is what thousands of people are going to be reading, and I better get it right. So, as I go over the seemingly endless copy-editor's/proof-reader's comments, on one hand I feel incredibly grateful that she's spared me future embarrassment (I say she because everyone I've met at Delacorte/Random House has been a she-- sorry if I've left out any men out there). On the other hand, I feel really lame that I didn't catch these mistakes myself-- or even that I made them in the first place.

On an entirely different note (because I really want to end this post on a non-whiny note), here are me and Sarah Ryan and Carrie Visintainer, two members of my writing group, at my son's second birthday party. We got distracted from the cake and balloons and felt compelled to be Charlie's Angels for a while.


un abrazo,