Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Retriever and the Muse

Sometimes I’m a dumb retriever.
I don’t mean to be, but sometimes – and it’s always when I’m writing – I behave exactly like a slow-witted retriever*.  Have you ever thrown a ball for a retriever? They love it, right? They gallop down the hall in pursuit, skid to a stop, and snatch it from the air with a velvet mouth. Then depending on who trained whom, they bring the ball back. They make happy noises in the back of their throat as you wind up to throw again.
Let’s pretend you’re the retriever’s human. That day, for no particular reason, you feel mischievous. You take the ball, assume the position, and palm it, instead of tossing it.
The dumb retriever goes thundering down the hall in pursuit of the non-existent ball. His head snaps back and forth as he tries to figure out where it went. He’s practically hyperventilating as he scent-searches for it. Finally, he looks back to you, and there you are, ball in hand, grinning, thinking how cool it’s to be human.
When it comes to writing, let’s say I’m the retriever. My muse is the ball tosser.
There are days my muse pitches the ball. I run after it, fingers flying over the keys. It’s a supremely happy time for both of us. We’re one as we play the game.
Then, sometimes she doesn’t feel like playing. Fun time is over, but I don’t know it. She smiles at me, pretends to throw the ball and then takes off for the kitchen. I run down the hall, trailing words behind me in a blur, but once I’m there, I can’t find the damn ball. It was supposed to be there, at the end of the hall, but it isn’t. There is no ball. There are just words streaming behind me, leading to nothing, except that long dispirited trot back to my master.
Today I was a retriever. I ran down a story line, paying no attention to the chuckles behind me, and found there was no ball at the end of the hall.
Merry Christmas, and to all a Good Year.

*this rant was not approved by the League of Retrievers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Sometimes the stars take over and steer you the right way.

I joined RWA’s FF&P loop in November. Two days later, someone posted a message about TKA’s Speed-Dating-With-Deidre contest. Wow. The Knight Agency was high on my list of top ten literary agencies. I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance of being one of the first one hundred and twenty-five, but I gave it a whirl, thinking, faint hearts and all that.

I had reason to be pessimistic. Up to then, I’d only won two things: a book and a guinea pig. And really, the rodent had been a bit of a cheat. Mom had signed the permission slip for Miss Fitzgerald’s Win-Mugsy-the-Class-Guinea-Pig-Contest completely unaware that I was the only kid that had picked up that particular permission slip.

When I realized I'd made it - I was one of the first 125 to leave a comment, I just sat there for awhile, marvelling. Then the work began. As I passed through each gate - down to 30, down to 10, and Holy Crap, down to 3 - I worked harder than I'd ever done in my life. I took a weed-whacker to Hedi, pruning and tightening her until she was as lean as I knew how to make her. The deadline loomed. I hit send, and thought, so be it.

The morning I got The Email, I was in a rush to get out of the house and was just checking because well, that's what  you do, when you're in a contest. You check almost every 5 minutes, just in case. I opened it and everything around me - my husband coming from the garage with the keys in his hand, the dog by my feet, the sun streaking light on the flowers by my monitor - they all faded away. It was just the email, and me, and the moment.

So, it begins. There's work waiting for me up ahead. More lessons for life. More learning to do.

I feel so blessed.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This is exactly like the second page in a new diary.

People don't call them diaries any more. They mostly call them journals. As far as I know, journals don't start with Dear Diary, and they don't have front pages where you write your name and the year, and then wish that you'd written it with the other pen, because this pen somehow betrayed you. Instead of elegant script and impressive loops, your name looks babyish, or maybe just too well intended. You cringe, and wonder if anyone will notice if you use a sharp blade to cut along the spine of the diary and make that page gone.

But this is the first page. There is no knife. No betraying pen. So here I go.

Leigh Evans
11 December 2010

Dear Diary,

Last night I dreamed about werewolves.