Thursday, July 31, 2008

RWA National: Day 1 Recap

Squeezed in a treat before the conference got into full swing by traveling to the Woman Impressionists exhibit at the Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum. That's Avon assistant editor Tessa Woodward on the right, with my "Art of Voice" buddies Nancy Robards Thompson, Teresa Elliott Brown, and Catherine Kean.

Seeing so many gorgeous paintings in one place, all by women artists, all produced at a time when women's art and creativity were frowned upon, were the perfect way to set the tone for the conference. Quotations from some of the artists--Berthe Morisot, Eva Gonzáles, Marie Bracquemond, and Mary Cassatt--had been stenciled on the walls in the galleries. Here's one I found really appropriate:
There is in me a strong determination to overcome all obstacles. I wish to work at painting not to paint some flowers, but to express those feelings that bring out art in me.
--Marie Bracquemond
The sad thing is that Mme. Bracquemond's husband Félix objected strongly to her artistic ambitions, acting so ugly and jealous about it that she eventually gave up painting. What a crime, to be deprived of more artworks like this:

Once we made the looooooong hike back to the hotel (let's just say two Muni buses and some hoofing it were required), we got back too late for lunch. We got the salad and dessert that was already on the table, and that was it. And the waitstaff wasn't too nice about it, either. At least the luncheon speaker, Victoria Alexander, was a hoot.

After that, time to face the music with Dream Agent. I have been a bad do-bee. A don't-bee, to be perfectly honest. As in, not much communication from my end. So now I have homework. I am to fish out several women's fiction bestsellers (NYT, USA Today, Booksense, etc.) and read the first three chapters of each. Some market research. I also need to polish the proposal of The Five Step Plan and send it in. Once she reads it, we'll determine whether it needs more polish or is ready to go out. Oh, and she wants 5-10 more story ideas. Apparently, I have figured out how to create the high-concept story. And I thought I was just good at a controlling mtaphor!

Scary quote of the day: "You are my only writer here I have not sold. My goal is to have a book deal by next year." Hooookay. Guess my nose is back on the grindstone. But that's a good thing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

RWA Bed Bandit Strikes Again!

When they interview neighbors of the serial criminal, you usually hear things like, "We're so surprised! She was so quiet!" or "I never expected anything like this." But when I came down the hall to our room at the Marriott and spotted a neatly made rollaway bed just sitting there, I had flashbacks to Reno.

Sure enough, my roommate can now be brought up on multiple charges. Can you identify this woman? (Hint: She's listed somewhere on the left!!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The State of Northern California

I feel so Lewis and Clark! Having spent my summers at Atlantic beaches and the Gulf, the deep blue waters and unpredictable surf of the Pacific are a treat. Our inn in Ft. Bragg is just a couple of blocks from the famous Glass Beach. Years ago, this area was a dump, literally. Folks from the lumber company and the town tossed all kinds of things over the cliff. Decades later, the junk is gone, and the broken glass has been sanded and smoothed by the surf.

Ft. Bragg is a working town, home of the award-winning North Coast Brewing Company. Down the road is Mendocino, quaint, beautiful, and expensive. We're talking pay $800 grand for a 2/2 in the village expensive. But it does have a very cool independent record shop (Red Rooster Records--support small business! They take internet orders!) and gorgeous gardens. Here's one we spotted next to the local vet's office:

And although Mendocino was gorgeous, we had to take offense at this:

Come on, people, this is good money we're spending! Besides, can we help it if our surf temperature is double yours? As the kids at my favorite high school would say, "don't hate."

Of course, no big family vacation with the attendant big price tag can't go by without the big finish. We decided on this:

On the drive back to SF and the airport, DH took a impulsive detour to the Mendocino Wine Company so the kids could see how wine is made. Their wines include Big Yellow (Cabernet), SketchBook, and Zig Zag Zin. I not much of a wine drinker, but I have to admit, this was cool stuff. Plus, they are the first carbon neutral winery in the U.S.

Frick and Frack will have the best "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" essays ever!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

On the Road Again

Last day in San Francisco. If this bunch of Floridians is going to fly all this way, we're damn sure going to check out some Pacific coastline. Before we left SF, we treated ourselves to one last gift: the Dale Chihuly special exhibit in the DeYoung Museum. You really have to hand it to someone with the vision to create this:

After the feast, we piled in our Rent-a-Jetta and headed north. So we not only got to see the Golden Gate Bridge, we got to drive across it as well!

The thing that strikes me most about the California countryside is how dry it is.
I've lived in Florida so long, I think I've become part amphibian. It's wet at home in the summer, what with the afternoon thunderstorms and all, and everything's lush and thick and green. So looking out the car window and seeing rocks, hills, sparse trees, and fields of golden, dried-brown grass is a real adjustment.

We stopped for dinner in this way-cool roadside diner in Cloverdale called Pick's. It's been in the same place, same decor, since the 1920s. You know, it's too bad we seem so intent on bulldozing the past to build something new and tacky. Here's the kind of thing we trash:

We arrived in Ft. Bragg after dark, so no peeks at the ocean just yet. Can't wait!

Friday, July 25, 2008

SF Day 3: If It's 3pm, It Must Be Alcatraz

Nothing like packing in every possible tourist attraction in the city in one day, but Overachievers R Us. First, we navigate the Muni so we can pick up a cable car at Powell and Market. We and five thousand other tourists, apparently. So we hoof it up Powell and manage to squeeze on at Union Square. Here we are, geeking it up:

Quick stop for the sea lions at Pier 39 (which is San Francisco's answer to International Drive), then onto the ferry for Alcatraz. DH was hoping at this point we'd leave him there for some peace and quiet, but we don't think this is a good look for him:

But wait, there's more! Then we climb the Lombard Street stairs to Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. Killer view of the city. Here's the way down:

We have dinner in a basement dive in Chinatown--everyone there was speaking Cantonese except us--then foot-drag our way back to the Muni and home. My pedometer is smoking. I am so looking forward to that Tempur-Pedic!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

SF Day 2: Home is Where the Weird Is

We luuuuurve our SF home, the gorgeous Inn 1890 on Page Street. Our suite has curved windows, a gas fireplace with intricate carving and tile work, and--hold onto your sore backs--Tempur-Pedic mattresses. We slept like bricks last night. Look how pretty is is from the outside:

We're two blocks from Golden Gate Park and one block away from Haight Street, which we decided to explore today. Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. The corner of Haight and Ashbury streets was, of course, the epicenter of the hippie movement in the 60s, and there's still plenty of counterculture to go around. Not too many places in the 'burbs like this, where you can get both a tattoo and a piercing in one sitting at nearly any hour of the day or night:

There's plenty to look at: interesting shops, gorgeous Victorians (I am soooooo envious!), street musicians, vagrants, hash pipes, noodle shops, Tibetan jewelry and textiles, incense, you name it. Tons of leftist political stickers--Obama's really popular in this section of the Left Coast. And VW Beetles. Tons of Beetles. Considering that gas is $4.50 a gallon for regular (California is not shy about add-on taxes for gas, health fees, city fees, etc.), small cars are way more prevalent than the SUV army we have to dodge back home.

A lovely capper to our day was dinner on Haight Street at All You Knead with our friends Jeffrey and Bill. Great food, great company, great day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

SF Day 1: Glad We Packed the Jackets!

Doesn't it always happen? We get everyone out of the bed at the crack of dawn to make our 9 am flight, drive across town to the off-site parking, and once we get into a spot, the sky opens up and Noah's flood commences. Poor DH got soaked loading all the suitcases onto the shuttle bus. He'd mostly dried off by the end of the flight to Atlanta. We grabbed some grub in the airport, then boarded the flight to San Francisco.

This is one friggin' big country. The flight was about seven hours long, but since we gain three hours flying west, we touched down in the early afternoon. Yay! We have to put on jackets because it's cold--quite the change from the steam bath we call home. After dropping off the bags at our inn, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Golden Gate Park. Interesting place. We don't have many teenage anarchists and all their emo buddies camping out 'round these parts. Would a true anarchist have emo buddies? I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Goin' Back to Cali

Technically, I really am "going back to Cali," to quote my dog LL Cool J, since I had to cross into California to work my way down to Lake Tahoe a couple of years back. But I've never spent any quality time there. This year, the denizens of Chez mimi will have a real life summer vacation in the Golden State. We fly to San Francisco tomorrow--first time Frick and Frack have ever been on an airplane! We'll spend a couple of days by the Bay, then rent a car to drive up the coast to Ft. Bragg in Mendocino County.

I'll be packing the fams off in a week to attend the RWA National Conference. More about conference later. For tonight, I have to finish packing!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Musings: Mamma Mia!

You could feel the estrogen in the room when Frack and I went with our friend Melanie (Melanie's lovely daughter was at the beach) to see Mamma Mia! this weekend. I think I'm one of the few North American women who has not seen this show live, so everything was new to me.

Surprisingly, the ABBA songs adapt themselves very well to the plot. The short version: Donna (Meryl Streep) has a lovely 20-year-old daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who will be getting married tomorrow. Sophie has never known her father. After finding and reading Donna's diary from the summer she was conceived, Sophie finds that dear old dad could be one of three men: Bill Andersson, a Swedish writer (Stellan Skarsgård), Harry Bright, a British banker (Colin Firth), or Sam Carmichael, an American architect and Donna's long-lost love (Pierce Brosnan). Hilarity and song-filled mayhem ensue when Donna and her two best buds, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) try to navigate the stormy waters of true love, cold feet, old love, and new possibilities.

Mamma Mia! is what they call a jukebox musical, a story crafted to string unrelated songs together. Of course, writer Christine Johnson has plenty to work from with ABBA's deep catalog, and it's fun to see how old favorites like "Dancing Queen," "SOS," and, of course, "Mamma Mia!" make their appearances in the story. Considering that these are pop songs recorded by a Swedish supergroup back in the 70s, it's amazing how adaptable the lyrics are to dramatic situations.

It's fun. A singalong, practically, if you're like me and wore out your cassette tape of ABBA's Greatest Hits back in the 70s. Pack the tissue, girls. If you can watch the sequence to "Slipping Through My Fingers" without crying, you have a heart of stone. And stay for the credits. Four words: Leading men, disco suits.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ten Memorable Vacation Moments

Crunch time coming. A week from tomorrow, we fly out to San Francisco for the family vacay before the RWA Conference. Cleaning and shopping abound. Until then, some pre-holiday reminiscing.
  1. Calling seats in our 1976 Chevy Caprice Classic Estate station wagon. Just like this one, except ours was red and had a CB antenna on top. Baby Bro usually got the "way back" seat while sis and I fought over the back seat.
  2. Winning my first Highland Dance trophy on my birthday at the Flora MacDonald Highland Games in Red Springs, NC--wearing a Clan Donald sept tartan, (MacDonell of Glengarry) natch!
  3. Agog on the Rocky Mountaineer in British Columbia.
  4. Shagging on Myrtle Beach in college. The South Carolina state dance, not the British version.
  5. Family photo op at Niagara Falls, the Canadian side.
  6. Waking up to a Blue Ridge sunrise at Daddy's house in Highlands, NC.
  7. Stealing a rollaway bed in Reno with Bubbles.
  8. Romantic getaway in a French Quarter B&B with DH. We had a tw0-story cottage that was the converted slave quarters of a Burgundy Street house. Vacation complete with beignets, of course, and finished-with-a-hubcap burgers at the Clover Grill.
  9. Colonial Williamsburg, Carter's Grove, Shirley, and Berkley the summer before the American Bicentennial. And visiting Monticello, home of my favorite U.S. President.
  10. Real Florida--our family's farm in Levy County. Horses, pigs, chickens, cows, turkeys. Dirt, fishing, and plenty of sunshine. No heat or AC. Water fun in a #3 galvanized washtub. Horseback riding all through the hammock. Disney has nothing on our magic kingdom.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Creepy Crawly

Last night, DH and I heard two of the most dreaded words in parenthood: head lice. Seems a good friend of Frack's who spent the night the other night got a call from another friend about creepy crawlies. Good friend has them, and lo and behold, so did Frack.

Let's just say that a full hour and a half of wash, sit, rinse, comb, comb, comb ain't too fun either for Frack or her mama. Tears and recriminations all around. Mostly tears. What can you say? Not to mention the fact that any mention of a creepy crawly of that sort makes everyone itch whether they need to or not. Lurvely.

Poor baby. We had to bake chocolate chip cookies to get over the horror. Poor waistline.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ten Favorite Movie Characters

Today DH and I have been married 13 years! Interestingly enough, today's Ten on Tuesday topic is Favorite Movie Characters. Since we're both movie fiends, that's appropriate. Here are ten one (or both) of us love:
  1. Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.") Actually, nearly all of the characters from The Princess Bride could have made this list.
  2. H.I. McDonnough from Raising Arizona ("Um, I'll be takin' these Huggies, and whatever cash you got."
  3. Elle Woods from Legally Blonde ("Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed.")
  4. Crash Davis from Bull Durham ("...and I believe in long, soft, deep, wet kisses that last three days.")
  5. Ulysses Everett McGill from O Brother, Where Art Thou? ("Pete, Delmer, you two are dumber'n a bag of hammers.")
  6. M as played by Judi Dench in Casino Royale (James Bond: "I always thought 'M' was a randomly assigned initial. I had no idea it stood for--" M: "Utter one more syllable and I'll have you killed.")
  7. Princess Leia. Can't grow up when I did and not totally adore Princess Leia. She's a better shot than all of them. ("Somebody get this giant walking carpet out of my way.")
  8. Cameron Frye from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. ("When Cameron was in Egypt's land...let my...Cameron...go!")
  9. Emperor Kuzco from The Emperor's New Groove ("No touchy! No touch!")
  10. Elizabeth Bennet. Okay, she's technically a character from a book, but I have yet to see a movie version that doesn't absolutely kick ass. Lizzy Bennet rocks.
I could go on for days about this topic. Good thing I have to stick to ten, huh?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

American Girlz

Today, Frack and I took my mom and a couple of her friends to Kit Kittredge, the first theatrical release of an American Girl movie. If you don't have a daughter in the tween range, you may not be aware of the marketing juggernaut that is the American Girl company. The American Girls are a series of dolls, each from a specific period of U.S. history. Each doll comes with historically accurate clothing and accessories, plus a book about her adventures. Each book has some historical information about the period in the back. As a history minor, I was totally geeked out over these and couldn't wait until Frack was old enough to have a doll.

Once Frack crossed the magic 8-year-old barrier, we looked at the catalogs. We studied the dolls. I was initially partial to Felicity, the doll from 1774 (must have been that pre-Bicentennial trip to Williamsburg, Monticello, etc.--thanks, Mama!), but I have to admit, Kit is most like me: curious, loves to write, loves the Cincinnati Reds. So when Frack picked Kit as her favorite, Santa and I got up close and personal. Kit arrived, and the rest is history.

We tucked ourselves into our seats after pawning the car to pay for popcorn and drinks, and let me tell you--it's sentimental, it's good-girls-win, it's American grit and spunk and how to survive the Great Depression by growing your own veggies and building a chicken coop in the back yard, and it's a ton of fun. Loved the costuming, loved the period music, loved the casting (Abigail Breslin works so well as Kit!). Total schmaltz, and I enjoyed every sappy second of it. Yay, Kit!

Of course, you have to wonder if this movie works so well because so many of us these days are worried about foreclosure and whether that sunny spot in the back yard would be good for veggies (my city's zoning nixes the poultry idea). Either way, it's worth a look. Drag along your daughter, or maybe just yourself. It's fun to remember what it's like to be an American girl.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Musings: Miss Potter

I'm a sucker for movies about writers, so when I saw previews for Miss Potter, I knew I'd want to see it. Of course, like most thoughtful movies about women, it lasted all of two nanoseconds in the theaters, so I had to wait for it to scale the Netflix queue. It was worth the wait.

Miss Potter, of course, is the Beatrix Potter of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck fame. This movie is a fanciful look at her life, including flashbacks to her privileged childhood and the process that brought us the most successful children's books of all time. It's a treat. Renée Zellweger plays Beatrix Potter, and Ewan MacGregor plays her publisher (and eventual fiancé) Norman Warne. The movie presents Beatrix in both her restrictive human world, the one that expects her to die a spinster because she won't accept any of the "suitable" young men her socially-focused mother insists on dragging home to tea, and the world of her imagination, populated by Peter, Jemima, Benjamin Bunny, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. Director Chris Noonan injects a tiny bit of whimsy through animation--you all want to see Peter slip under Mr. MacGregor's gate, don't you?--and that little bit is like vital fairy dust.

The human Beatrix is every bit as enchanting as her stories, and when you find out what she does with all of her monster profits, you wish more people had her clear-eyed view of the world. It's a lovely story, beautifully done. You wish more women would flock to films like this instead of Sex and the City. I'm not knocking Carrie and Co., but if that kind of woman is the only one that makes Hollywood any money, then that's the only kind of woman we get to see. Miss Potter deserved a closer look.

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