02 April 2006

PC Magazine, Wilma! And A Canadian Miracle...It's Finally Time To Find A New Literary Agent!

Looking for a good literary agent is a lot like looking for a needle in a huge haystack, with your eyes closed.

It's a lot like searching for the right attorney, which takes the leap of assuming any attorney could be categorized as "right", but maybe a little more dicey and finding the right fit can be a story in itself. I met my last one at the annual "Southwest Writer's Conference" in Albuquerque, New Mexico and I was so thrilled when she wanted to sign me on the spot, that I didn't have the experience or wit to take the time to question if we could work together or even consider that I should have an actual "comfort level" with her representation and way of doing business. For whatever reason, I believe the right person for the job will reveal him/herself at the right time. I just hope it's soon - it's getting a bit daunting juggling assignments and projects and wondering if I'm being overextended and underpaid.

One of the most delicious things about being a freelance writer is that you just never know where the next assignment will take you! Lately, my phone has been ringing a lot and each project has gotten more interesting!

Single...With Children: A Public Journal Of A Not So Public Journey...

One Project that has been begging for attention, is archiving my five years worth of "Single...With Children" Columns onto my blog. Talk about tedious! However, I am happy to report that I have most of them loaded on my blog and if you are so inclined or simply curious about all of the topics I covered, mostly from personal experience, much to my kids' chagrin, you can click on this link - Single...With Children - and it will start you on your way, from the first column, to the last column, and everything in between.

It's the "in between" stuff where a lot of our personal history, milestones, gaffes, triumphs and downfalls, and just plain living life, took place. Sandwiched in between those five years, we moved from Texas to North Carolina - a fact that my Texas editors never wanted revealed so that I would still appear "regional".

That five year span of time saw the 9/11 terrorist attacks, learning to put my kids on an airplane to fly off to see their father, trips to France, England, and best of all The Outer Banks!

During those five years between July 2000 and July 2005, my beloved dog Freeway died, and so did Mister Rogers. My daughter graduated from high school, flew to Ireland and worked as an au pair for four months.

Justin was kind enough to provide some column fodder as well; During the course of those five years, he got his driver's license, wrecked his Mustang and had a skateboarding accident that landed both of us in the ER and shaved at least five, no make that ten, years off my life. He also did some wonderful things - we built an aviary together, and he became a blood donor. OK, so he donated his blood in order to skip a couple of classes - you have to admit it's creative use of his time and I'm betting the person that received his blood didn't give much thought to the motives of the person who's life-saving blood was dripping in his/her veins.

I finally realized that me and wine just didn't mix and finally did one of the smartest things I have ever done in my life - I joined Alcoholics Anonymous and became a good friend of Bill W's, which basically saved me and gave me a whole new sober life.

I tossed out, no, make that SHREDDED, my real estate broker's license with more joy than I can tell you, because I hated every minute of working in real estate and to this day, I have no idea what made me ever go there in the first place, though I did emerge with some very wonderful, dear friends, so that just goes to show that even the worst of experiences can offer unexpected gifts.

I grew closer to my family than I would ever have thought possible, and that is priceless. My son graduated from high school, worked through some difficult times and gave me a run for my money on occasion, but has returned to the person I always knew was still just beneath the surface of his apathetic facade. He just got a little lost - it can happen at 18 and I know for sure it can happen at 43. Thank God we both found our way. As James Taylor sang in "Boatman", "...we found level ground, and we put ourselves down. Amazing we all didn't die." Amazing indeed. And, being the humans that we are, we will no doubt find stumble into future messes, but maybe just a little bit wiser for having lived a little more life.

I shared a lot of the crazy things going on in our lives at the time, but a most of the crazier things were never revealed. That's for later and a column couldn't begin to contain it all. That's what books are for and I've got a whopper of a story that was never eluded to in the space of 900 words every other week. Sometimes I reread those columns and, because of the profond changes that have taken place in my life and, even more specifically me, I hardly recognize the "voice" of that columnist. That five year period probably saw more personal growth and evolution than all of my other years combined. I am so grateful but, at the time, I didn't always feel that way. Not by a long, or tequila, shot.

In one column, I discussed how the previous owner of my house would measure the growth of his children on the frame of the downstairs bathroom door. I can just imagine those kids I never met, standing still every month or so, eagerly anticipating how much higher that mark would need to be raised.

In some ways my column really was reminiscent of an episode of "The Brady Bunch", in that a conflict was presented, the lesson was gleaned and, in the magical span of 900 or so words, all of the loose ends were tied up and problem solved. Everyone knows real life doesn't work anything like that. So there you have it, I guess now and then I do flirt with fiction, a genre that has never held my interest. Maybe E. L. Doctorow had it right when he observed, "There is no fact, there is no fiction. There is only narrative". I suppose the "narrative" depends heavily on the perspective of the narrator - and of course, the person listening to the narration.

I smile when I read some of the stories and sometimes I smile when I remember the story behind the story, but there are a few of those memories, events that never saw print, that make me cringe and wonder how we ever survived ourselves or each other. It was never intended to be a "how-to" or even a "how NOT to" guide. Mostly, as I look back, it was about living life and doing the best we could with what we were dealing with at the moment. To be honest, I wouldn't change a thing because, cliche as it may sound, "it took what it took" and to be where we are, it was worth everything and then some.

What a strange, wild, unforgettable ride. Even the most difficult and darkest times that occurred in those five pivotal years of my personal history, I truly do believe that every single second of it was necessary for me to be in the place I find myself today - which sometimes feels like some kind of surreal dream. I can't help but state for the record that "The Promises" of AA delivered - I was, and continue to be, amazed and hopefully I'm not even halfway through. Through the love of a watchful, wise Higher Power, a devoted family who's faith in me never wavered, even when my own faith in myself was shaky at best, and the love and support of so many special friends who cheered me on from the sidelines and held my hand on especially trying days, I didn't do any of this alone, my path has been lit by so many angels. Thank you seems inadequate. Words can't begin to describe the gratitude that I feel for everyone that touched, and continues to influence, my life.

But I'll say it anyway. Thank you!

Raising Awareness

Last week I was invited to sit for a photo that will accompany a feature I have coming out in the May issue of "Wilma!" Magazine. I was given the honor of posing with two objects which are very precious to me: My "pink wish bracelet" and a photograph of the little girl who inspired, not simply "pink wish bracelets", but courage, humor and a rare brand of chutzpah, Canadian-style. Of course, I am referring to the inimitable Julianna Josephson! The feature I wrote is on Organ Donation and, one of the major points I wanted to bring to the forefront of the feature is that you don't have to be deceased to donate! What a caveat! Though Julianna has never been faced with the prospect of having to undergo a bone-marrow transplant, many children and adults who suffer from many forms of leukemia must have this life-saving procedure and bone-marrow may be donated by a family member or stranger who happens to be registered with the NMDP and proves to be a close match. I used my upcoming article as an opportunity to raise awareness and hopefully folks will give careful consideration to registering with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). Speaking of Julianna, I am happy to report that she has completed the maintenance phase of her treatment protocol and has been officially declared in remission and is now off-treatment. So Julianna, you just found out you're in remission and you get to tell your IV Pole, which the family has dubbed "Mr. Baxter", to get lost - What are you going to do now? Why, she's going to Disney World, of course! What better way to celebrate a huge milestone of this proportion. To read more about Julianna and her adventures, you may visit her site at: Julianna Banana or, if the hyperlink doesn't work, type in: http://www2.caringbridge.org/canada/julianna/, and don't forget to sign her guest book!

"You Mean I Actually Get PAID To Do This??"

This past Wednesday, PC Magazine offered me the fun assignment of interviewing twins who have homes that are just about as "hi-tech" as you could ever imagine, but both gentlemen were very down-to-earth. After talking with one of them for a few minutes, before we got down to the business of touring his house, it would seem that he and his identical twin brother, grew up about an hour from where I did in West Virginia. Small world! His beautiful and gracious fiancee is also from the same area, so there we were, three Mountaineers, talking of our old home state and how interesting life is - they made good, and I get to write about them for one of my favorite magazines.

I also met with the man who's brain schematic must resemble Einstein's because he not only installed all of these sophisticated systems, but wrote the programs that enabled them to work as flawlessly as technology allows, was able to communicate how to operate them to the owners who's only request was that it be as user-friendly as possible. Not only is he a techno-genius, but he's brilliant, funny, charming, delightful and after spending eight hours (not counting breakfast!) giving me the tour of these two palatial homes, he still possessed the ability to be a comedian! Yes, and that's after spending the ENTIRE day working with me! Is he amazing or what? Thank you Darren! When I make my million(s), I might be able to invite you down to outfit my home. Darren, don't hold your breath on that one.

On top of all this, he's the new father of a baby that was born two weeks premature, but still weighed in at over 9 lbs. making this his FOURTH son! It should be noted that, in addition to all of that intricate audio/visual work, he loves to play paintball. He almost had me talked into it. It's definitely worth taking a look at Darren's official company website to check out just how talented and smart he really is! You can find out more about his expertise at Today's Audio/Video or simply type: www.todaysaudiovideo.com.

Yes, he's that good!

Alongside Darren, was his capable assistant and soon-to-be-married all around good guy, Michael. I think Michael's primary job is to keep Darren straight plus, he provides the service of giving Darren an accessible target to pull his practical jokes on when people like me aren't around.

We were also joined by the beautiful and knowledgeable Joyce, who represented CEDIA out of Indianapolis and flew in just to make sure things went smoothly in terms of showcasing the systems I toured. She was not only knowledgeable and full of energy, but a lot of fun to spend a long day with. Joyce, we need to get you back to North Carolina!

The last, but by no means least, member of our entourage, was the professional photographer assigned with capturing our day on film. Dan Ormsby was a consummate professional, quietly going about his work, but had one of the sweetest smiles and pleasantly calm dispositions. I'd love to work with him again and maybe, if he has an extra-sturdy camera, I can talk him into taking some professional portraits. I can't wait to see his photos in the magazine next month. I know they will be spectacular.

Dan was bolder than I was, because he took the owners up on their invitation for a helicopter ride over
Lake Norman. I politely declined and took photos as they took off. I'm happy to report they landed safely and I bet Dan got some cool aerial shots of the homes.

Suffice it to say, it was a LONG day, but a fun one. I'll be working on writing my portion of the piece today and tomorrow and it will be interesting to see how it all comes together in it's final form.

"She Wants To Be A Part Of It, New York, New York..."

My daughter left for NYC this past Thursday morning to look for a place live. I was thinking Brooklyn or Queens but not my Katie. She called me up Friday Night and she and her wonderful boyfriend John had found a place in the East Village of Manhattan! Yes, it's a closet, but what a location! She and John return home tomorrow (Monday) and they promised me lots of pictures. I know that they are both floating on air. They went to a Knicks Game Friday Night (courtside seats courtesy of John's generous aunt who also lives in Manhattan), and Katie got some great shots of the players and several celebrities.

Look out New York City! Thankfully, John is a strapping 6'6" tall and, even though he's a gentle giant, he has a formidable presence. If your daughter has to move away from home to the big city, you want someone like John around looking out for her. At 6'6", he can easily see over the crowd!

Of course, they will be moving in mid-May and I already miss her like crazy. It's going to be so weird not having her around. She truly has become my best friend, in addition to my best (and only) daughter. But I am so very proud of how she ambitiously attacks her dreams, in typical "Katie" style, and I know that whatever she does in NY, she will do well. I may need to go ahead and get her autograph, before the line forms. :-)

Speaking of "gentle giant", those are the two best descriptors of John. He's bright, sweet, funny, house-trained and hates Microsoft. Can you really ask more of a guy than that? I've heard he's formidable in Scrabble, but I'll have to personally check that out and intend to very soon. No question - New York's a mighty big sandbox, but John is a mighty tall guy but even without the height - he stands tall in ways that have nothing to do with height. We're proud to know him. He's one of those people who, when they smile, everything else sort of glows in the warmth , including our daughter.

You have to understand, I don't just see a lot of Katie at home, but we work together. Crazy as it sounds, this creates no conflict whatsoever and it's brought us even closer. We spend many late nights in my office, filling up on high-octane coffee, discussing the craziness that went on in our days, and she's even got me hooked on "Sex and the City". We have lunch together several times a week, being treated like royalty by the wonderful staff at "The Copper Penny", the restaurant where Justin works, and she's done so many things with me, that there is no question that I am going to have a difficult time dealing with this.

I'm going to miss my little girl, but I guess that will mean that I had better get more writing assignments to fund the many flights I plan to make to NYC to check on her and let her show me her favorite bookstores, cafes and, of course, Central Park. I love Central Park. I'll love it even more with Katie.

Though I will miss her - we all will - I am in awe of her sense of adventure. She's definitely going places. I just wish she didn't have to go so far from home. Thank God for the Internet, cell phones and video-conferencing.

Katie, one of the many things I love so much about you is that you never allowed your fear of flying to keep you grounded. What an amazing spirit you have. You are my hero.

I'll post more details of her trip with some photos, as soon as she returns home tomorrow.