Yesterday’s adventure

Drove into The Big City yesterday for lunch with an old friend and to have my photo taken. The lunch I was looking forward to. Having my picture taken… I’ll choose the root canal, please.

(Lunch was at Phoebe’s. Food was good, not great, but the atmosphere was wonderful. (Nota bene! They have a coffee shop, serve breakfast and have WiFi. Might be a good public writing space.)

After lunch and lots of good chat, it was off for the pain and torture sessions. Background: Syracuse was hatched a wonderful new magazine, Central New York, a few months ago. They don’t have a web presence yet, but it is very much along the lines of Philadelphia Magazine; articles about the region, interesting people, arts calender, etc. It has an outstanding design and extremely high production values and is enough to make a Central NYer proud.

So anyway, they let me write a small piece for it that will come out in November. Which made me very happy up until the moment they asked me to come down so they could take my picture. “You don’t have to do that,” I said, as the hives broke out. “I had a new PR photo taken in May. Really, it’s nice. It almost looks like me.”

It wasn’t good enough.

So that’s how I came to be standing in downtown Syracuse at 2:30 yesterday afternoon (across from the Post-Standard** building which is very cool), wearing a winter jacket and bright orange mittens, holding a bowl of salt potatoes that were nestled in a bed of dry ice (to make fake steam) contorting my face into bizarre expressions of salt potato lust. I’m just grateful that we didn’t cause any accidents.

Once I got over feeling really dumb, it was fun, so a big shout out to Linda, Tim, and Dave for showing me such a good time.

Salt potatoes really are a food of the gods, you know.

**Congrats to the Post-Standard staff for pulling down 29 Associated Press awards!

Central New York is for writers

Short story author and Syracuse University professor George Saunders won a MacArthur “genius grant” yesterday. Yay George! Because Syracuse’s newspaper, the Post-Standard has not only a book critic, but a blog about books, I can alert you to an online piece Saunders wrote for the New Yorker. (Thanks for the link, Laura.)

George is one of many, many working writers in the region. I’ve mentioned them before, but it’s a topic near and dear to my heart. Who else can you run into at the library or coffee shop? Bruce Coville, for one. Tammy Pierce is moving up here (December?) and Suzan-Lori Parks. Who else has ties here? Tobias Wolf, Mary Karr, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Seybold, Jay McInerney, John Berendt, professor Gwyneth Bolton, poet and professor Bruce Smith, Raymond Carver, Steven Crane, F. Scott Fitzgerald, mystery writer John McDonald, and scholar Alison Lurie. Norma and Harry and Anne Fox Mazer. SCBWI maven Ellen Yeomans.

Who am I missing?

Central New York has a rich artistic and literary history and is a magnificent place to live. Maybe you should move up here. Now.

I have a question for you readers in the area – where is the best public space to write in Central New York?

If you don’t live around here – where do you like to write? Be specific, give addresses (but only if it is a public space).

Subject of the day: yarrr

Yeah, it’s here: Talk Like A Pirate Day. Savvy?

My mom’s doctor visit yesterday wound up taking way longer than either of us had planned because the doctor wanted a bunch of tests, blah, blah, blah. I think there is a rule that old people must have a specific number of annoying tests performed on their bodies a year, and Mom had fallen behind on her quota. The good part was in the middle of it all, we had a chance to go to Dunkin Donuts. There is something very soothing about hanging with my mom while she drinks coffee and eats a plain doughnut.

Like fantasy? Then hang with Firebird (LJ version or MySpace), the love child of my Editress Major, Sharyn.

Today’s writing job – figure out the still-snarled plot problem in chapters 10-12 of the The New Book. It’s raining, which makes work easier, and the distractions should be few. If I’m a really good girl and figure the problem out, I’m going to the gym early.

I would have loved to watch Eudora Welty eat a doughnut and drink coffee, too. I must read all of these!

Stay away from spinach, me buckos, and don’t let the scurvy sons of mothers get you down.

Held hostage in Missouri

So, Kansas? Wonderful place, great people, I’d go back in heartbeat.

But Missouri? Not so much.

Let me explain. On Thursday, I took a flight from Syracuse to Chicago, then another flight from Chi to Kansas City, Missouri. I don’t know why they call it that. It’s like putting Jersey City in Pennsylvania, but nobody asked me my opinion. Arrived in KC at noon. Was supposed to fly out at 2pm, headed for Hays, Kansas. (named after a fort – Fort Hays. That was in Kansas. Not Missouri or New Jersey.)

Flight status? Delayed. Delayed. Delayed. Delayed. Delayed.

Four and a half hours later… canceled. gulp I had to call the very, very nice people who organized the trip and not only cancel my dinner plans with them, but give them palpitations because I was supposed to give three presentations and the keynote at their conference the next morning, and I couldn’t guarantee I’d be there. The airplane guy promised to put me on a very early morning flight and get me to Hays on time. (He looked a little shady.) He gave me a voucher for the hotel (a Radisson, v. nice) and a voucher for ten dollars (ten whole dollars!) for a hotel dinner. Oh, my God!! The choices!! The staggering abundance! Well, I could have….. a miniature garden salad – Yes! And a glass of water, wa-hoo. I was rocking out on that big fat ten dollars. Thank you so much for the love, Mesa Stupidhead Airlines.

After not much sleep and much staring at the alarm clock, I got up and arrived at the airport well before the sun for my early morning flight.

Which I did not have a seat for because the same shady guy who gave me ten bucks for dinner, thoughtfully booked me on the mid-afternoon flight to Hays. Which would get me there just in time to wave good-bye to all of the conference goers.

I don’t know if it was the murderous look on my face, or the fact that the lasers shooting out of my eyes melted the basket of plastic luggage tags, or the flexing of my massively intimidating biceps, but a lady who worked for US AIR (which subcontracts the Hays route to Stupidhead) was able to get me a seat. Bless her.

I arrived in Hays at 8:45 am. Was swept into a waiting minivan (cue the action movie music, throbbing bass line from James Bond, preferably), and arrived at Ft. Hays State University at 9am, tires smoking. At 9:15, they turned on the microphone, and I started talking.

Many, many thanks to all the students who made the day so much fun for me, and the teachers who had to work hard to bring them there. Thanks also to everyone who showed up, period. I had a blast.

There was only one bad thing (other than the stress caused by Stupidhead). Because of my abbreviated time in Hays, I didn’t get to see the buffalo.

Guess I have to go back. But not through Missouri.