Like a good French cheese…

FullSizeRender 2Has anyone been to the Berkeley Hills? I was there Thursday night for the first time…somewhere off Grizzly Peak Road amidst beautiful homes, a sunset and stars, and a small host of writers & readers gathered in one of those beautiful homes to hear Susan Shea and Cara Black discuss their latest books. I carried in a caramelized onion and mushroom quiche and was transported to France, where Susan’s new series is set in a small fictional Burgundian town and Cara’s long-running Aimée Leduc series is set in Paris (with New York best-selling results, I might add).

The event also helped me to see how I’ve matured…like a good French cheese. (Sorry…too good to resist!) What I mean by this is that I am finally appreciating spiritually what I’ve always known logically…that it isn’t the destination that brings the greatest reward, but the journey. In the past I would have gone to such an event with some aim in mind…to network, to make an impression, to get somewhere or get something. And I would have left feeling icky, unsatisfied, and unsuccessful. And I understand now it was because I was so focused on my expected outcomes that I was closed off to the magic and synchronicity that might have unfolded naturally…I was so focused on the results, that I missed the joys offered by the process.

So Thursday night I had no goal but to get to those Berkeley Hills before the event started…which was no small feat with quitting time traffic that took two and half hours! But with that accomplished and people tucking into the quiche, I took a seat and let anything or nothing happen. As it is, I met some lovely people, soaked in the discussions of setting (very pertinent to my own novel) and French current events (always interesting), and let myself be dissuaded by Susan from a drastic POV revision to my manuscript. In fact, that two and half hour drive might just have saved me weeks of work!

 

 

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And what a leap it was!…

…all the way from the New Year to mid-summer! How did that happen…?

Well, I can only describe the first few months in my new position at the college as truly grabbing hold of a moving train and hanging on for dear life. But hang on I did, and manage to scramble aboard and squeeze myself into a rattling car. And it’s still full steam ahead. Then, in February, I turned 40 which called for an impromptu, creative jaunt to my beloved City of Dreaming Spires.

I returned to spend hours in the backyard stripping paint off doors and window trim in anticipation of remodeling my office…at the same time spending precious last days with my feline magician assistants, Copperfield and Houdini, who left me in April and May, and took with them all joy for a time.

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After seventeen years of company on every life step, dream, and scheme, the world within and without was sad and uninspired without them. For a time I didn’t care if the office got finished or the book published or what filled my free time. Thankfully, that part of grief does pass. And though those two are forever in our hearts and missed daily, there is a new addition to the family who has infused it anew with youth and joy. Realizing that we still had love and a home to share…and that a real writer needs a cat companion to write anything worthwhile!…my husband brought this fellow home from the local animal shelter…

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He was introduced to us as a twelve-year-old Licorish, but we now know him as the more-like-four-year-old Oscar.

But in this long leap of time and all that transpired, did I take the “true leap” I wrote about in January…the daily leap into the life and identity of a writer, filled with wonder and writing and inspiration, despite everything else that can get in the way? The short answer is yes…and no. I did…just not as much as I should or could have.

When I was in Oxford I spent five blissful days researching an exciting new treasure hunt of a story…I just haven’t made much progress on the actual writing of it. And I have been wrestling with and pondering important revisions to Shadow of a Woman, with good results, making it a stronger manuscript…but I haven’t yet resubmitted to agents. And I made it to a Sisters-in-Crime meeting…but only one. Still, here I am, having leaped, stumbled, had a bit of a rough landing, but brushed myself off and am ready to go.

And that’s the reality of leaps, I suppose…