Friday, October 30, 2009

Valedictory Victory

The NPV had never been beaten, single-handedly, in Scrabble during his entire residence in VA. And so it was Wednesday night, at the end of what was perhaps the last of our forty or so Scrabbling tournaments, that I managed to eke out a five-point win. As another girl who has played the wordsmithing game with us told me, "it was a proud day for womankind."

Dex having lent me his Sprint mobile wireless device, I have already applied for one job with the "guvment" and am partway through a second application for an analyst position with another agency. Though in Peru, Dex continues to send me Craigslist postings for oddjobs. The man is incorrigible. He looked downright shocked Wednesday night when I suggested I might move out of the area (who on earth would be his walking partner?!), and so I suspect a stepped-up campaign to root me in Arlington.

The checks have still not arrived in the mail (do they eventually?), nor have I heard anything from the literary agents. Last night was pleasantly spent with Portia, a friend from the Philippines, who told an entertaining tale about the Secretary of State having a yen for one of the locally famous Georgetown Cupcakes, sending her security detail into paroxysms of stress trying to locate the business (don't these people have GPS?). Which teapot-tempest ended with one of the detail asking Portia out for coffee.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Checks in the Mail

So, I'm freezing the proverbial buns in an overly-air conditioned alcove in the Adams building of the Library of Congress and wondering when, or if, three paychecks that I'm due from three different consignment places in the DC area will arrive in my mailbox at home. I'm expecting enough cumulatively to pay the rent, but their not arriving has put a crimp in my style (they are way overdue). That and the fact that it's rained three consecutive Saturdays, meaning neither Anita nor I have been able to set up at the market, mean I am really short on cash. And of course this would be the time I need to replace my headlight bulb, get pants hemmed, buy groceries, and so forth.

The NPV is moving out on the Orange Line later this week (the Wiggle having gotten married and departed), and purposes to clean out his freezer feeding me this evening. Susan and Steven have a date night tonight, but as recompense for my missing the exquisite lasagna he was making for the three of us (apparently I was to be included in the dinner arrangements, though I didn't know this yesterday!), Steven treated me to lunch at the communist Pho place in Rosslyn today, before he dropped me off in front of the LOC. My friend Paul (hereafter known as Dex) plans to leave his "connect to the internet from anywhere" device with me before he goes off to visit the parentals in Peru tomorrow. So, the males of the species are being pretty darn decent to me today. Would that it were so every day!

Still haven't heard anything from either of the literary agents, though I did (my mother tells me) get an effusively conciliatory snail-mail letter from AAA, in response to a hot email I sent them after returning from the roadtrip out West. All the hotels they recommended were great...except one. An edited version [removing name of the offending business, as AAA swears they are going to change their ways] of my scathing review:

Dear AAA,

My brother and I just completed a cross-country trip, driving from the state of Washington through Oregon and California, then across the southern section of the North American continent via Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, finishing in Georgia. We used AAA guides and maps for much of the trip, relying particularly on the hotel/motel lists contained in the relevant 2009 Tourbooks for recommendations on where to stay each night. For the most part, these were excellent and accurate, assuring us of clean, comfortable and affordable accommodations along our route. There was one glaring exception, however, that we wished to bring to your attention, with the hope that you will investigate and possibly revise or revoke your endorsement of the motel in question.

On Friday, September 25, we were heading toward Yosemite National Park, California, and decided after an hour or so of after-sunset driving to stop for the night. The motel we pulled into was Ye Olde Hole in the Wall. The Tourbook rated the motel 2 diamonds, and noted that nightly rates ranged from $59-$149. We requested a room with two beds, and were informed that the regular rate was $145, $135 with AAA or military discount. This was a steep price, unaccountably so given the basic double room which we were given, and the fact that there was no breakfast included in the cost. But we were tired, and decided that there was little other option.

Room #201 (despite the number, located on the first floor of its building) was designed for wheelchair accessibility, but the motel must have assumed that its mobility-impaired guests were also visually impaired and would not notice problems with lack of cleanliness, as the lowest several inches of the shower curtain were grey-green with a thriving mildew colony, visible even though the lighting in the bathroom and room were generally poor. The towels (the guest book having little in the way of listed amenities, and much in the way of warnings about stealing the linen) were flat, not fluffy, which did little to disguise the stains which afflicted them. The sheets, also, were not white, and bore the ownership stamp of another hotel!

It being a warm night, we decided to turn on the air conditioning, and discovered that the wall unit was unplugged, and in fact the device seemed to be manually adjustable only by plugging and unplugging. It was not until the next morning that we found a digital temperature-box on the wall (it was hard to see in the dim light, and would not have been accessible for any wheelchair-using guest), so we were unable to test whether this mechanism actually worked—probably not if the wall unit were unplugged. Though we had to plug in the air conditioner, we had to unplug the refrigerator, because the thing was making disturbing ticking noises, like a bomb in a low-budget movie. Incidentally, when we unplugged the refrigerator, we noticed that its plug interfered with that of the microwave, which shared the same wall outlet, leaving the prongs of one device only half-way inserted—a fire hazard in a facility surrounded by woods in a region perennially affected by devastating forest fires.

In summary, we did not feel that Ye Olde Hole in the Wall was at all deserving of even the 2-diamond AAA rating, nor should it be able to claim (proudly displaying the plaques on the check-in office wall) that it is even “AAA approved.” Thank you for your consideration in looking into this matter.

Sincerely yours, [etc].

AAA tells me that the pseudonymous Ye Olde Hole in the Wall will be contacting me directly. They'd better grovel, the filthy s—s. Getting another check in the mail, along with a profuse apology, would be nice.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Literary Efforts and Birthdays

My cousin Esther is also an aspiring writer. She's seven years younger than I, living in NYC in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood which--she told me on Saturday--has more small-town feel than any other place she's lived. She knows her neighbors, and can walk or take the train everywhere. She's writing a book of fictionalized family vignettes, produces regular posts for a parenting blog (she laughs that she's the only non-parent on the site, but they pay enough to make it worthwhile), and cobbles together enough cash to live doing other writing odd-jobs.

I told her about my own writing efforts, and we traded a few tips--she's getting her MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington in just a few months--and commiserated over the problem of not being able to say something neat and concrete when asked that inevitable question, "So, what do you do?" She said she's frequently at events where she's surrounded by Bright Young Things who have just published their first novel, or released their first album, or achieved some other initial milestone, and there she is, spending 8-10 hours every day, holed up in her apartment, writing, without anything concrete to show for it. Well I can sympathize.

Today, via the Georgetown University Office of Scholarly and Literary Publications, I have submitted the Two Motherlands query letter and text-samples to the William Morris Endeavor agent I chatted with this past Thursday. I really hope and pray that he falls in love with the project and finds a publisher who will be similarly infatuated. I emailed Ira and asked her to start considering what hypothetical percentage-split the two of us would take from any revenues (apart from the agent getting 15% off the top, of course). Best to get this ironed out before either of us have seen a penny.

Still haven't heard a peep about the children's book submission to the other agent, but that's not unexpected. Everyone tells me that the children's book market is the most difficult of all publishing areas to get into, and here it was my first attempt. But I pray for a miracle in that area, as well--the idea was certainly original and winning (with the potential for multiple sequels--practically a necessity in this day and age!).

Silent Bob's 27th birthday was yesterday, and while I sang "Happy (87th) Birthday" to my dear Grandmommy on Saturday (a day early), I totally forgot to wish him many returns, disgruntled or otherwise, before he left for Charleston Sunday afternoon. So, happy belated birthday, little brother.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Road Trip(s), Continued

Susan, Steven and I hit the road after the Wiggle's long-awaited wedding Saturday morning, hoping to see the leaves in the northerly sections of the Atlantic seaboard. We ate dinner in Gettysburg, stayed overnight on the PA/NJ border, then continued on through NY and thence to CT, where we hate a leisurely late lunch on the water, watching the sailboats and a pair of swans glide by. We even got to spend an hour or so with S Dawg and her family, hanging out with my adorable goddaughter and her spaniel-eyed small brother, who loved the aprons I brought them. We ate supper at the "original" Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT, which was fun, and then spent the night on the other side of the Hudson River before spending a cordial couple of hours with Steven's sister, mom, and 9-year-old nephew (and the most obese cat I have ever seen in person in my life). And then we braved the hell that is I-95/New Jersey Turnpike (short tempers, insane tolls and all) on our way back to DC. I had a good time, but would have enjoyed myself still more had I not been carsick for much of the trip. I don't do well on twisty mountain roads, and especially not when in the back seat. Steven kindly kept the rear AC at 65 to help stem my nausea, but it was rough. The food and the company, and the pretty countryside did compensate.

Yesterday, after meeting a literary agent from William Morris Endeavor (who assured me that he'll look at the Two Motherlands manuscript), I drove down to GA. It's been great to go to the gym with Mums again, but I'm surprisingly depressed by my brother Bob's decision not to spend his birthday with us tomorrow (the actually birthday is Sunday, but we're going down for lunch with my grandparents in Dublin on Saturday)--I'd been looking forward to taking 27th/87th birthday pictures of him and Grandmommy together--but he's got to go back to Charleston to get his new house in order. I was just really happy about the prospect, I guess.


Group of friends surround the bride and groom. My brother said he didn't care to see shots of "your cheerful Presbyterian friends," but perhaps my other readers will enjoy it!

Beautiful leaves. Most hadn't changed yet, but this view near "the Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania" (too expensive to see!) was promising.

Brad's new apron was a big hit--he and his sister insisted on wearing their new gear to preschool cooking class the next day.

Flower girl! Rita sorts her sunflowers and marigolds on top of her swingset platform.

Brad attempted (with eventual success) to feed Fahrenheit the rabbit a marigold while the family-sized bunny nosed around the dying garden-beds sampling cabbages, tomatoes and other delectables.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fifth Blog-Anniversary

Holy Cats! I missed my anniversary again. The first of October marked the fifth year I've been blogging hereon. And I've got what? Ten regular readers? That's two that join per year, on average. CakeWrecks, this ain't!

So, I just submitted my first formal book proposal to a real, honest-to-goodness literary agency. And it wasn't even the query for Two Motherlands--that letter's written, but the English manuscript has to be revised (again!) to parallel the Russian text (which has gone through 2 revisions in the last month with an editor at Zvezda publishing house--he recommended rearranging sections so it sounded less academic without compromising the content, which is all to the good), and so since chapter-samples are frequently requested along with a query letter and synopsis, I've got to wait. The submission I made was of a children's story I've written. I hope that the agent (the friend of a friend) finds it appealing, and can persuade publishers of the like.

Jewelry sales continue slow, but not as slow as formerly, for which both Anita and I are vastly grateful. I have meetings set up tomorrow and Friday with the two art-consignment stores where I sell (one in Alexandria and another in Baltimore) to switch out my creations with fresh stock. Oh--I'm back in DC temporarily [got back Saturday morning after what turned out to be expensive car problems (are there any other kind?) and must return to GA to retrieve my car and give my mother back her SUV].

Am currently at the Library of Congress researching Pirogov. It's beautiful and windy outside, and I'm freezing to death indoors, despite precautionary longjohns. Cold or not, I've got a lot to do, because the LOC is closed on Monday for something non-PC like Columbus Day, drat it.