Vanity Fair & Binyavanga Wainaina & Bono

I’m slowly reading the June issue of Vanity Fair.  It’s the Africa issue edited by Bono.  I’ve got this fascination with Africa and all its complex issues.  Me and half the free world, it seems.

The issue is pretty amazing.  It’s full of informative articles and I like that they aren’t all gloom and doom.  There’s one written about Kenya that chooses to take a positive look at the country and the reforms it has experienced in the years since President Mwai Kibaki was elected in 2002.  The article talks about the Matutus, brightly (some might say garishly) decorated vehicles that serve as taxis in Nairobi and other cities, and the mobile equity banks that have sprung up.  Also a touching vignette abou election day and how practically the entire populace hung out at the polls to ensure a fair result. 

The author of the article is Binyavanga Wainaina, and he is listed in the contributor’s notes as the writer-in-residence at Union College in Schenectady, New York.  He is apparently an award-winning author and journalist who is completing a book of creative non-fiction(though why the editors at VF felt compelled to put creative non-fiction in quotes is beyond me–makes it sound like a fake genre). 

Anyway, I’m in love with Binyavanga now.  So far it’s unrequited love, and based on sentences like the following:  "I, too, spent 10 years locked indoors trying to make writing work, full of crazy acts of imagination and fear."

Sigh.

I’m actually reading the magazine really slowly because Bono makes me feel like such a slacker that I end up putting it down and going back to work to try to Accomplish Something.

A New Gig

I’ve been remiss in posting because I’ve been the wee-est bit distracted by the usual suspects–the necessity of making a living (oh, yeah, that).

But I have good news–I am, as of Tuesday, the official new host (hostess?) of two new blogs on the Powered By Everything blog network.  I will be the one and only blogger for Powered by Writing and Powered by Books. 

I’m kind of excited about this new site.  It just went live on Monday and I think it has tons of potential.  I like the categories they’ve chosen and the blog posts I’ve read so far have been quite good.  Oh yeah, and my friend Suzanne Peters just so happens to be the host of the Powered by Pictures site.  So go check it out.  And then give it a few more days while we all get our feet wet and go visit again.

Don’t worry, I have no intention of forsaking Strumpet.  I’m hoping that the two sites will support and encourage each other and I’ll get tons more readers on all of them.

Kiva

There’s a wonderful article about Kiva on the ABC News website.  Its called "Finding Peace Through Paypal" and you can read it here.

You may have noticed the large ad for the organization on this blog.  I think its a great idea, a way to help other entrepeneurs help themselves.  Apparently, we can now lend money to people in Iraq, which is tres cool.

Check out the article and the website. 

Current Reading: Tied to the Tracks

I’m more than halfway through reading Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi.

In general, I like the book.  It kept me going on the treadmill for a lot longer than I originally intended (note to self: a good book is key to a good workout on the treadmill). 

The novel is kind of a southern chick-lit romance.  Our heroine, Angie, is hired to produce a documentary on a famous writer who lives in the small, charming and quirky southern town of Ogilivie–which also happens to be the place where the love of Angie’s life has recently returned to. 

Can you see where this is going? 

As I said, the book is a page-turner.  It has this wierd quality, though, that I as a writer probably notice more than lay readers.  The scenes often turn on what I would call unearned emotion.  There was a scene when Angie was going to see John for the first time.  She sets off in emotional turmoil, yet relatively calm.  However, by the time she gets to John, she is hopping mad–and I couldn’t quite figure out why.  Same thing happens in a scene with the town cop.  All of a sudden, halfway through, she is blazingly pissed off at him.  Huh.

But the novel is full of fun, charming characters–I love Tony, the 50-year-old who can’t stay out of married women’s bed, and Rivera, Angie and Tony’s kick-ass lesbian partner in the documentary business.  And the southern town is charminly evoked. 

I do beg to differ with Angie, though–she professes her love for sweet tea.  I cannot stand the stuff.

Quote of the Week: Quit Being a Laggard! Or, Its All About Willpower

Last week I took myself out for coffee and wrote up this whole elaborate schedule for finishing this draft of my novel (Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior). 

This made me feel virtuous and disciplined.

It made me feel disciplined until it came time to actually finish chapter eleven by my appointed deadline–which happened to be last night.

After a wee bit of a Happy Hour and a dinner of grilled bratwurst fresh from the Farmer’s Market, I was feeling just the tiniest bit unmotivated (read: tired from the wine).

But every Sunday night I get an email in my inbox from Kevin Hogan.  I hate to admit this, but I’m not really sure exactly who he is–some kind of marketing and motivational expert.  I will say that Sunday night is a good night to send out promotional material because nothing else ever comes in and so out of sheer desperation I generally read much of what Kev writes.

This is saying a lot because sometimes Kev irritates me.  I don’t always agree with his pronouncements and he says them in a very authoritative way which always makes me feel rebellious (sorry, Kevin, its really nothing personal, its just my nature).

But last night, as I was dithering about how I hadn’t finished my chapter and was thus in line to screw up my careful schedule before I’d even really gotten started, in came Kevin’s Sunday night email.  And, lo and behold, his first article was about willpower. 

Kevin talks about how developing willpower is what makes the difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t.  Its really a pretty good article.

Here’s Kevin’s takeaway quote on willpower:

"You CAN exercise willpower the same way you exercise your body (a little bit at a time gradually increasing intensity of your workout).

The important thing is to do it every day until you form a new habit. Habits don’t require self-control energy. Once exercise becomes part of your routine you can operate on autopilot. Funny thing is that soon you won’t need any self-control to exercise your willpower. "

I wrote the chapter.  And today I started on the next.  Thanks, Kevin.

Writing in Coffeeshops

I used to love to write in coffeeshops.  Now, not so much.

But lately I’ve been thinking I need to get back in the habit of going to Starbucks or an equivalent to write.  We’ve got the most fabulous coffeeshop/cafe right down the street called the Daily, and I always see people in there working on their computers.

The thing is, I’ve been spending way too much time at my desk, writing, and I feel like it might be good for me to get out more.  But I’ve been thinking this for a month and haven’t done it.  One reason is that my computer is going through this odd stage where it doesn’t like to open files after its been turned off.  Sometimes this happens even after its just been asleep.

I prefer to think this is a temporary hissy fit on the part of my computer and will be fixed, all on its own, soon.

Meanwhile, I remain chained to my desk. 

Remember Natalie Goldberg’s book,Writing Down the Bones?  In it, she was forever nipping off to some charming coffeshop in Taos (one of the best places in the world) to write with friends.  Ah, how romantic it sounded.  That was back in the day before we were all wedded to our computers. 

However, today I have Things To Do That Do Not Require a Computer.  And so I am off to Starbucks with file folders and writing pads in hand.

It helps that I have a fierce craving for a frappucino. 

Event I Wish I Was Attending: BookExpo

There’s an AP article this morning about the annual Book Expo starting in New York City tomorrow.  Interesting to note is the fact that MySpace is not only attending for the first time this year, but is a sponsor also.  The article notes the number of authors promoting themselves on MySpace and also discusses the site’s book clubs.

Years ago I went to a precursor of BookExpo, back when it was called the ABA–American Booksellers Association.  I attended as a representative of local writing groups, but it was a tough place to network if you weren’t a big author.  The main thing I remember was the books–oh glorious stacks and displays of books.  And people standing by them, forcing them on you.  Forcing. Books. On. You. 

It was heaven.  They actually had a room at the convention center where you could go buy boxes and ship the books home, because you ended up with so many that you couldn’t possibly get them in your suitcase.

Why aren’t I there this year? 

Read about it here.

Copywriting Twist–Reverse Outsourcing

I’m starting free-lance work this week with a new company.  Not sure if I can name names or not, so I won’t, but it cracks me up to report that I’ll be writing articles for a magazine to be distributed to young professionals in India. 

Its kind of like reverse outsourcing.  Isn’t that just the coolest?

Copywriting can be such a kick.  Also an enormous pain but hey, I’m grateful for it.

New (To Me) Author

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve been lolling about all day.  The reason for this, besides the fact that it is the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, is because I am reading a novel I cannot put down. 

The book is called The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington and it is about a cynical single mother who falls in love with a former monk who has lost his faith in his vocation. I’m enjoying it so much, its kind of a "women’s novel" for lack of a better term, but deep. Apparently Tim Farrington has written numerous novels, including a sequel to this one that just came out, called, (wait for it) The Monk Upstairs.

I’ve got a couple great novels lined up from the library to read, including the latest from Lionel Shriver but once I’m done with those I’m going to have to start reading everything from Tim Farrington .

New Writing Quote

Its Sunday and even though I’ve been lolling about I’m now at my computer in order to post a quote of the week.  Here it is, from Julia Cameron:

"When I don’t write enough, I get a gnawing sense of disease. It is an appetite that isn’t sated by other things. I become lonely for my soul. I try to find it by talking with people. I look for a glimpse of it at the movies. I clean my office to see where I misplaced it. I get lonely and pine and blame it on my friends. I try to set things right every way I know and then–after I have set up the vase of lilacs, cleaned the room, fussed at my thoughtless friends, I remember: oh, yes, I need to write. Maybe that’s what’s bothering me…."

Julia Cameron, The Right to Write