Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Off to Bouchercon!

    I'm off to Bouchercon tomorrow for four days. For most people, this sounds like some sort of convention of French butchers. Actually, it's the annual conference for mystery and thriller writers. I should have gone years ago and never did. Well, finally I'm going.

    Confession time: I've never been to a convention. As a journalist, I always traveled to do a story. I dressed the way my subjects dressed, went where they went, ate what they ate. Since my subjects tended, for the most part, not to be movie stars or Supreme Court judges, this usually meant "dress casual." Sometimes, it meant jeans and a T-shirt. I was there to blend in, gain my subject's trust and get their story. I wasn't there to press a business card in their hand and sell them something.

    But a convention, I assume, is sort of a see-and-be-seen event. In other words, I have to schmooze. I've never learned the art of schmoozing. I don't even have a schmoozing wardrobe!

     What do you wear to a convention? I know what my husband wears when he goes to firefighters' conventions--a navy blue polo shirt and khakis (it's almost a uniform with these guys). I don't think I'm the navy-blue-polo-shirt-and-khakis-type.

     The conventions my husband goes to have great giveaways. This year, they gave everyone a squeezy stress-relief doll shaped like a fat fireman. Do you think Bouchercon will have stress relief dolls shaped like publishers? I'd love to give a few of them a squeeze at the moment...

     Wish me luck--I think I need it.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Embrace the Chicken

    So…I’m trying to get back into my work routine but unfortunately, I’m having the exterior of my house repainted at the moment. The good news: I have a very conscientious painter who is sanding everything—and I do mean everything. Our shrubbery is coated in an inch of sawdust. We look like the before pictures in a termite commercial.
     The bad news: I feel like I’m living inside a dentist’s drill. I can’t get any work done. Nada. I can barely sit on my office chair without the vibrations knocking me off. I don’t have a laptop (gotta sell that book before I can afford one). So today I decided to be a good daughter and spend most of the day helping my 94-year-old father do his chores.
     Don’t let my dad’s advanced age fool you; he’s a Russian. And just like vodka, he is no less potent with age. He reads dozens of books a year, still has a full head of hair and knows to the penny what he has in his bank account. 
     But that said, spending the day with a very elderly person (which I try to do once a week) can often be an exercise in extreme patience. This morning, I found myself inside the A&P supermarket for an hour (longer than I would ever be there myself) while my dad debated the merits of various cheeses.
     I wouldn’t have minded so much but the market was freezing. Outside, it was 85 degrees. Inside, we were hovering at Siberian winter. Of course my sturdy Russian-stock father didn’t notice the cold at all. He just kept debating the merits of Swiss cheese at $7.99 a pound versus Cheddar at $5.99 while I slowly turned the color of the Roquefort. Have patience, I tried to tell myself.
     I wanted to feel compassionate.
     I wanted to feel my toes.
     In desperation for warmth, I grabbed a pre-cooked oven roasted chicken from the warming counter and clutched it in my arms like a baby.
     This is not exactly how I want to picture myself at this juncture in life, standing in the middle of an A&P, embracing a Perdue oven roaster while my dad decides whether he’d prefer the spreadable brie or the pre-diced pepperjack and my painter slowly reduces my house to a toothpick. But hey, sometimes in life, you just have to go where circumstances lead you.
     Sometimes, you have to embrace the chicken.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Thank you, Diana Nyad!

     I really needed to hear about Diana Nyad's record-breaking 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida yesterday. Most of all, I really needed to hear the 64-year-old's words after she reached shore:

   "I have three messages," she said. "One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team."

   Think about it: Olympic athletes are often washed up at 30 and most football players are out by 40. By 60, most surgeons, pilots, firefighters and cops call it quits. And yet this 64-year-old woman, after numerous failed attempts over the past 35 years, reached an athletic milestone! So much for the Beatles concept of growing old. (She's not going to be knitting any sweaters by the fireside.)

     Consider the odds she was up against:

    1. She made her first attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida almost 36 years ago at age 28 and failed.
    2. She braved the waters again on a numerous occasions but suffered such painful jellyfish stings that she was forced to stop.
   3. Her last attempt before this was two years ago. She was forced out of the water after she suffered a prolonged asthma attack--her first ever.
   4. She had to suffer the doubts of those around her. "I thought it wasn't humanly possible or she would have done it," said her good friend and handler Bonnie Stoll as quoted in The New York Times.

    Each failed attempt initially left her so heartbroken and exhausted, she vowed to quit. But with rest, she always came back--better and smarter. She consulted new experts. She made changes to her regimen. She learned through trial-and-error what worked and what didn't.

     Thank you, Diana, for giving all of us swimming through our own dark waters a bit of courage to keep paddling--through failures, through our own doubts and those of the people around us. Sometimes it's hard to believe you will ever reach that home port. You've added a little glimmer of hope on the horizon.