I attended the Chuckanut Writers Conference this weekend and pitched my book, The Parting Glass, to 3 different agents. All three expressed interest. Two requested a couple of sample chapters via email and one wanted a completed manuscript. So, now I have the challenge of actually finishing my book. I’ve been so focused on perfecting every last sentence I write, that progress has been slow (although I am about 25,000 words in). Some valuable advice I got was to set a minimum writing goal. Each day, for example, maybe I write 15 minutes at an absolute bare minimum or maybe 2 pages. I can perfect it later.

I know many hours of writing and self-promotion are in my future, but that’s okay. It will all be worth it when I see my book on the shelves of Village Books. It will be worth it when I can actually do what I love for a living. I’ve never wanted anything so badly in my entire life.  And to think (as my friend Sherry pointed out), I almost took a political science class last fall instead of Laura Kalpakian’s Memory into Memoir class. Sometimes one decision can change the course of your entire life.



The skies are still overcast here in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m not entirely sure what the sun looks like anymore, but I’m feeling optimistic anyway. I have plenty of reason to be hopeful this week. The Chuckanut Writers Conference begins on Friday morning and runs through Saturday, and I’ll have the opportunity to pitch my book to 3 different agents. I’ve decided (at least for now) upon the title, “The Parting Glass”, and about 100 pages are complete. Because I am writing memoir, I only need 50 completed pages to move forward (vs fiction, in which agents will ask for a completed manuscript).

So, the rest of my week will be spent polishing up the first 50 pages and continuing to expand. I never dreamed how difficult it would be to actually write a book. Silly me, I thought I would just be able to sit down and crank out 250 pages and be done. My friend Richard wrote 400 pages of his book in just 2 months – but that’s not typical. I’m a slow worker, and that’s because I want my finished product to be perfect. Several themes I never anticipated have also emerged during the first 100 pages that are worth exploring a little further. Hopefully, at least one of the agents will appreciate what I’m trying to do and pick up my project. I’m only thinking happy thoughts!

Here’s my possible pitch idea (what I’ll tell the agents on Friday). Would any of you read my book based on this? Anything you’d be curious about? :

When a restless young traveler decides to try Irish whiskey in a local bar for the first time, the last thing she expected was to get a ticket…to Dublin. Some would later say the whiskey was just trying to get to its home when she pulled out her smart phone and booked the airline ticket. Not wanting to travel alone, she pursues international online dating to find a travel companion. What seems like a simple search turns into a series of romantic misadventures across the Emerald Isle full of memorable characters such as a considerate doctor, a mysterious cop, and an incendiary bartender. Set against the breath-taking backdrop of a ruin-dotted countryside and lively cities, the Narrator sets out to capture all the important moments with her camera, but it’s her unguarded heart that is captured instead. After a few months back home, she grows restless again from dreaming of distant hills that always look greener and books another ticket to reclaim her heart. Unfortunately, she returns only to discover that the man she loves isn’t exactly who she remembered him to be.

The Parting Glass is a toast to all of the wonderful people of Ireland. But, it’s also about idealizing a moment in time as remembered through the unreliable lens of vacation. It’s about learning which experiences are impermanent and which ones last forever.

I Read Banned Books

Today marks the end of Banned Books Week (BBW), “an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment”.   The American Library Association’s Website provides some background:

“Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.”

I hadn’t realized it was BBW until I visited Village Books this afternoon on a mission for a cheap thesaurus.   The bracelet featured above was an impulse buy at check out that sparked a conversation with one of the VB employees, who showed me their window display of some banned favorites.  Among them were Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  

Later I found a list of banned books online including Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, which I just finished this week.   Lolita is a thematically difficult read, even today, but the writing is so beautiful, it would have been an absolute shame to have never experienced it.   Check out the list…are any of your favorites on it? 

All of this gave me an idea.  Wouldn’t a book club that focused on banned books be an interesting?  There are plenty of books, representing a variety of genres for nearly every reader.  I may have to start one…

The bracelet above was made by Carolyn Forsman, if you are interested in getting one of your own!

Finish Me

I have this problem.  I pick up a book, enjoy it for a short time, and then end up perusing the shelves at Village Books and buying more before the current read is finished.  Now I have this stack of half-finished novels that cover everything from African refugees to parents with cancer.  

This doesn’t mean I’m incapable of finishing anything.  I probably did get through 15 books or so in the past year.   However, new goal:  stop visiting Village Books, dust of the covers, and make my way through this stack by the end of 2010. 

With only 50 pages left, I’ll start with “Around Africa on My Bicycle”.  Riaan’s journey became a bit arduous through Kenya and my attention waned.  If I can just get through Mozambique, I can ride the rest of the way to Cape Town with him.   I know I can…