Tag Archives: Running

Spring Sunday Stats #8: Staring Over the Edge at 40.

It’s Memorial Day, in memory of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and others who have died for our country, including the 4300 Americans who have died in Iraq.

My father came in from NYC on Thursday and stayed until lunchtime today, his longest visit since I moved to Chicago for college in 1987.  We had a great time; the highlight of the weekend was the long afternoon at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  He’s retiring at the end of June, and I hope that this is just the first of many longer trips.

I had a very frustrating week (starting with the Sunday/Monday Frequest Flyer Fail), but seriously, what else is new?  The work piled on, and I seemed utterly unable to get anything actually accomplished, just felt like I was on a treadmill from hell.  Thankfully, it was a short week.  I worked at home on Friday, and managed to get a few open loops closed out before the weekend.  This post is late enough, so let’s go straight to the stats.

On Writing: Between work and my father’s visit, I wrote next to nothing, just 150 words in Project Hometown on the train home from work on Thursday.  I did write my piece of a viral story yesterday, maybe 200 words, which was fun.  I’m not sure if today counts as part of the past week, but since it’s a holiday, I’ll claim it; I wrote 362 words in Project Hometown this afternoon.  The total is now 4,422 words.  I think that’s far enough along to post a meter.

I’ve been sitting on “Jimmies,” and need to get it out.  I also had an idea for a new short story last week — a time travel story I like much better than the last time travel idea I had — and may take a shot at that sometime soon as well.

On Running: 20.5 miles for the week, best in months.  I dealt with my frustration by running early Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, even though I was exhausted.  Not long runs, just 3.75 miles each, but that got me 11.25 miles during the week, plus 9.25 miles on Sunday at a respectable 1:19:32, or 8:35 min/mile.  A great long run, much better than the last few weeks.

This weekend, I registered for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago this October, a 10.5 mile race with a handful of obstacles thrown in to make it interesting (climbing over a wall, running up and down the stairs at Soldier Field, scrambling over parked taxis, etc.).  This is the third year the race has been held in Chicago; I’ve registered each time, but both of the last two years have had to blow it off for work.

This year I was confronted with something new:  For the first time, when confronted with the question “Age on race day” I had to answer “40.”  In seven weeks, I’ll be in a whole new age group.    So long, 35-39!  Luckily, Mike is doing the Urbanathlon too, so if I collapse on the course someone will notice and call the Siren.

I also signed up for the World Wide Half Marathon, part of the World Wide Festival of Races, also in October.  This is a virtual race series — everyone runs on the same weekend, but separately – which started with the Half Marathon in 2006 as an idea spread through the Phedippidations podcast.  It’s a lot of fun.

What I haven’t done yet is register for one of the nearby half marathons in June. Gotta get off my ass and deal with that.

That’s enough of this. I’m going to watch Lego Cake or Death again.  We’ve watched it about 10 times this weekend with the kids.

Spring Sunday Stats #7: Frequent Flyer FAIL.

As I write this, it’s 6:10am Monday morning and I’m in Dallas, Texas, at the airport Marriott, getting ready to fly to Jackson, Mississippi for a deposition. I’m waiting for the 6:30 airport shuttle, because I dragged too slowly this morning and missed the 6am.

Instead of a suit, I’m wearing weekend clothes: running shoes, shorts, t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. Not because of some agreement with opposing counsel to keep this dep casual, but because I had to check my luggage for the first time in years (other than checking at the gate). I had 3 bags last night: my briefcase, my roller bag, and a file box of documents, exhibits for the dep. I had to check either the box or the suitcase; since the box is awkward, I thought I’d probably check the box. Once I got to the airport, though, I decided I’d go ahead and check both.

What I didn’t realize is that the airline would check the bags through to Jackson. When I landed in Dallas, I went to the baggage claim, waited, and when neither my suitcase nor my box came off the belt, had a little chat with the lost luggage guy. He informed me that my bags had arrived in Dallas, and were sitting on the luggage ramp, waiting to be loaded onto the plane to Jackson in the morning. Unfortunately, only the ticket agents possess the ancient magical power to contact the baggage handlers and cause them to retrieve my luggage, and they had all left for the evening to attend a coven meeting or whatever. The lost luggage guy, it seems, was there only to assist with lost luggage: inaccessible luggage of reasonably certain location was outside his balliwick.

I spoke to his supervisor on the phone (the one that can’t connect with the baggage handlers), who told me the same thing. As I hung up and walked away, Lost Luggage Guy said, “Have a good evening!” and I jumped over the counter and punched him in the face.

All right, I didn’t punch him in the face. I did suggest that having a good evening was probably not on the agenda.

I’m going to finish this on my iPhone on the airport shuttle, so please forgive the typos.

I was traveling much of last week (shout out to Peoria!) for work, and had a busy weekend before flying out last night, and it shows in my stats.

On writing: only about 650 words in Project Hometown, including the 500 or so I wrote on the plane last night. I’m on scene 3, and may finish it on the way home tonight. This week, I plan to send “Jimmies” off again, in its drastically reduced form (now 40% off!).

Update: I’m at the airport, back on my laptop. My attempt to regain custody of my luggage has failed, because the airline has it set to go on an earlier flight.  What happened to the post-9/11 idea of not allowing luggage onto a plane without the passenger?  I got myself onto the early flight, too, so at least I’ll have more time in Jackson to deal with any further SNAFUs.

On running: I was too tired while I was in Peoria to run; those were long days.  I had one short run on Tuesday morning, then did 10 miles on Sunday morning in 1:32:30, a leisurely 9:15 min/mile pace.  I need to register for a half marathon to motivate myself.  Also, I think I need new running shoes; my Saucony Grid Stabil 5s — best running shoes ever — were discontinued a couple of years ago, and I pulled the shrink wrap off my last pair more than 6 months ago.  I tried a pair of the Stabil 6s and hated them — they felt awful, stiff and yet too thin — but now those have been replaced as well, hopefully by something better.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I’ll update tonight with the final report on my luggage, and whether I take this deposition wearing shorts.

Spring Sunday Stats #6: Feeling Flabby.

I’m back with the first Sunday Stats post in a while.  Before we get to the main part of the post, which is all about me (like so many things), let me take this opportunity to wish the Siren and my mother, Unfocused Ma, a very happy Mother’s Day.

The Siren, the kids, and I just got back from a nice Mother’s Day brunch with the Siren’s mother and brother.  I actually made an appearance at their church this morning, because the kids’ choir had a performance.  Junior has pretty emphatically gotten over the stage fright he suffered from in his younger days, and, like Unfocused Girl, gives signs of having inherited at least some of the Siren’s musical talent.

On to the stats:

On Writing: I made the decision a couple of weeks ago to put Meet the Larssons on the back burner for a while.  I’m not trunking it, but I need some distance from it.  I was getting bogged down in the rewrite, and I was starting to bore myself.

Instead, I started writing Project Hometown, the novel I outlined over the winter.  I’m 3,192 words into it; not great for a couple of weeks worth of work, but not terrible.  The real problem is that I fell out of the habit of writing every day, and my authorial muscles have atrophied.  As I said in my previous post, I have become an undisciplined wretch.  I’m slowly starting to get back into the groove, and since I did so much work on the front end I’m optimistic that as I get back into the habit of writing, the story itself should come more easily than MTL did.

On Running: 10 miles this morning, in 1:33:16.  Like last week, today’s run was slow and painful.  My legs have felt terrible for the last couple of weeks:  my hamstrings are tight, the tendons alongside my hips are sore, I occasionally have bizarre pains in my knees just from crossing my legs.  I’m not entirely sure what the problem is, since I kept up my running pretty well through the winter and crummy first half of spring thanks to the treadmill, but I have some ideas based what’s changed in my exercise habits over the past year.  I think the primary issue is that I’m lifting weights much less frequently, and doing fewer exercises when I do; in particular, I almost never do any real strength training for my legs. Running works some of the muscles, but ignores others, leading to significant muscle imbalances; if I did more strength training for my legs, they’d probably hurt less.

I’m also, for a variety of reasons, more pressed for time than I was a year ago, and find myself skipping the post-run stretching as often as not.  Today, for example, I had to rush to get showered and dressed as soon as I finished my run in order to get to the church in time for the kids’ concert.  I didn’t stretch at all, and by the time I got out of the car in the church parking lot, I was so stiff I had to limp all the way in.  The stiffness worked itself out, but that kind of negligence is going to cost me, and probably already has.

Time, time, time.  That’s what it always comes down to.  As it is, I’ve stripped away as many distractions as I can.  I read less than I used to, and I watch almost no television.  I suppose I could drop Facebook and Twitter, but keeping up social contacts, even over the interwebs, feels like it’s worth doing.  I want to spend more time with my family, not less; I still need to work for a living, and I don’t get enough sleep as it is.

I don’t think there’s really an answer here, just a constant rebalancing of competing priorities.  I can live with that if I keep reminding myself that it’s a long race, and if I can keep from hitting the wall or blowing out a knee, I’ll get to the finish line eventually.  Not a particularly deep thought — I have a t-shirt that says “Life is a marathon, not a sprint” which sums it up nicely — but then, I’m not a particularly deep person, so a personal philosophy that fits on a t-shirt is probably about right for me.

Spring Sunday Stats #5: April Showers … Are Tiresome.

It’s been a hectic week here at Stately Unfocused Manor.  Both kids developed a stomach virus on Tuesday and spent much of that day and the next throwing up, making us extremely grateful that they are both old enough to aim.  By Thursday, they were both well enough to go to school, but Unfocused Girl’s school was closed for parent-teacher conferences, so she missed most of a week of school (I wasn’t able to go to the conference, but The Siren reports that her teachers say she’s doing quite well).  Things at the office continue to be bizarrely busy, but I was able to keep most of the balls in the air this week.

In sad comic book news, Unfocused Girl recently received the final issues of both The Amazing Spider-Girl and Supergirl:  Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade.  On her behalf, I would like to give an enormous raspberry to both Marvel and DC for not continuing these titles, which were two of the only books appropriate for all ages with girl heroes.  Spider-Girl, at least, is being continued as a web comic but you have to subscribe to the entire “Marvel Digital Universe” for about three times what subscription to a single print title costs.  It’s probably a good deal if you’re going to read more than one on-line Marvel series, but I don’t know that it makes sense for us.  As for Supergirl, from what I’ve seen of it, the primary title is too mature for an 8 year old (at least, my 8 year old).  She still likes her subscription to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and we’ll check out a couple of the other Marvel titles, but Unfocused Girl really liked both of these subscriptions; I hope both of the major comic book publishers realize they’re leaving behind a lot of potential readers.

It’s cold and raining today; the kids are over at a friend’s house watching one of the original Godzilla movies, so I can blog without guilt.

On Writing: This week was much better than the last few have been.  I marked up another 32 pages of Meet the Larssons this week, through page 352.  I’ve been doing my mark-ups on the train, but I’ve decided that I’m sick of all the hand-editing and I want to start getting the edits and notes into the manuscript, so I’ve started typing in my hand edits at home.  I’ve typed in the entire brand new first chapter (1733 words) and started the second (formerly Chapter 9), staying mostly faithful to my handwritten drafts and edits but not entirely.

I also knocked out a critical scene from the apocalyptic science fiction novel I briefly outlined a couple of months ago then put aside.  I started it on Write or Die on Friday night (I love Write or Die, BTW; many thanks to Dr. Wicked for creating it!), then kept going that night and Saturday evening; it needs work, but the first draft of the scene is complete at a little over 1500 words.  I don’t know whether I’m going to do anything with it anytime soon, but I’m considering seeing how the story works as a novella that I could expand into a novel later.  A friend of mine (who makes no-budget science fiction movies) suggested that the story sounds like a good no-budget science fiction movie, which would be fun.  Whatever I do with it, after all of the editing I’ve been doing, it was fun to do some original writing.

Finally, on Monday I resubmitted “Jimmies” to an on-line market after an exchange with the editor on Twitter.  I’ve managed not to break the “Get Mail” button in Apple Mail, but it’s been a close thing.

On Running: I had a better week running this week, too, despite some funny knee pains brought on, I expect, by a very active game of tag on Easter.  I got in three runs during the week — none of them long, but two of them were outside — and today slogged through the rain for 10 miles in 1:31:24, a 9:09 min/mile pace.  Slow, but given the weather not altogether unexpected.  I had to wrap my iPhone armband carrier in Saran Wrap to keep the rain from getting into it, which worked well.

The Siren and I are both trying to drop a few pounds, so we’re undertaking a full-blown reboot effort.  We’ve cut out wine with dinner most nights, white flour, and stealing the kids’ Easter candy.  It’s helping, and I’m hopeful that dropping 5-10 pounds will make my knees a little less tricky.  I’ve been negligent about stretching this past six months, so I’m trying to be better about that, and will attempt some exercises to strengthen the stabilizing muscles around the knee.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Finally, I do intend to post about the podcasts I’ve been listening too, including some new ones.  I’ve just been busy.  But I promise to get a post up, if not this week then next.

Spring (again, HAH!) Sunday Stats #3: We Are the Aliens.

Oh, look, another week has gone by and I’m still in this hole.  It’s a very nice, comfortable hole, with many fine features to recommend it, but it remains a hole.  I keep digging, which is probably not the best way to get out.  For every deadline I get through, two more get closer and more pressing.  There’s a ladder, but it just leads to another hole.

One of the people I work with — a senior partner who’s been out of law school twice as long as I have — says that working at a big law firm is like being in a pie eating contest where the grand prize is more pie.

All of this pissing and moaning is by way of excuse, again, for my failure to blog all week, and my inability to comment on your blogs in at least that long.  Rest assured, I’ve been talking about you on Twitter and Facebook, which I manage to keep up with on my phone.

Also, I was sick on Tuesday night and Wednesday. And then I had insomnia on Wednesday night.  And Thursday night was Unfocused Girl’s science fair.

So let’s just go to my pathetic stats, shall we?

On Writing: I started the week getting a few pages edited, but that was it; I was at 311 last Sunday, now I’m at 320.  I hit Write or Die once this past week, 233 words on a little short story that probably isn’t going anywhere, but it’s been fun.  That’s it, though.

I also accepted an invitation to write a chapter for a book in my area of practice, with the first draft due in July.  It’s a great opportunity, professionally speaking, but I’m going to have to work hard to make progress on my fiction-writing around the research and writing for the chapter, since that will all have to be done outside of work as well.

On Running: Before today, the only running I did this week was to catch my train.  The Shamrock Shuffle-on-ice wore me out, and then I got sick.  It was just a little cold, but it left me completely screwed up — I got too much sleep on Tuesday night and then had a nap on Wednesday, then too much coffee to restart after the nap, then insomnia Wednesday night.  All in all, I didn’t have much leftover for running.  I ran 8.88 miles this morning in 1:15:00, all at home on the treadmill because it was hailing, for crying out loud; as I write this, it’s snowing.  I did watch the first 2/3 of The Dark Knight, finally.  So far, so good, I think; I loved the car chase on Lower Wacker Drive.  If you’re stuck on a treadmill, I heartily recommend watching action movies with car chases and explosions — these are especially good for interval training.

On the iPod will not appear this Sunday.  I’m planning to make this part of a mid-week post, or maybe a stand-alone item.  It doesn’t really fit with the Sunday stats, and getting all the links right takes too long after I’ve written a 600-800 word post.

Random moment with the kids:  Junior and Unfocused Girl woke up a little early this morning, surprising considering we were out pretty late last night at a wine tasting party (all parents and affiliated children from Unfocused Girl’s new school).  The kids have both been on astronaut kicks lately, since their visit to the Soref Planetarium in Milwaukee over spring break, and Unfocused Girl has been saying she wants to go to Mars and look for alien bacteria.  When I went into their room this morning, Junior, who is interested in somewhat more complex forms of alien life, was explaining to Unfocused Girl that Martian astronauts actually come to Earth in the night looking for alien life here.  I asked him what alien life the Martians find here, and he said, “Us! Human beings are the aliens to the Martians!”  This was like one of those moments when you can see your kid growing up before your eyes; he’s starting to understand how different people, or tentacled things, can have different points of view.

Then at breakfast he said the word “poop,” or variations thereof, so many times that I had to order him to keep the poop away from meals.

Spring (HAH!) Sunday Stats #2: I Still Have All 9 Toes.

Since today’s stats will be mostly taken up with my race report on the 2009 Shamrock Shuffle 8k race this morning, I’m going to get the writing report out of the way.  Here goes:

On Writing: I got through another 35 pages of Meet the Larssons (to 311), re-reading and marking up on the train.  I have had no time at all to work on it in the evenings or even at lunch, but even so, it’s moving along a little.  I didn’t do anything on it this weekend; Saturday was taken up with personal business stuff, and today was the race and then Junior’s 5-1/4th birthday party (he turned 5 at the end of December but we put off his party to get past the holidays and in hopes of warmer weather, ha ha), so no room for writing. Maybe this week will be better, but I think I’ve got another 2-3 weeks at this level of intensity before things even out.

On Running: The weather report last night looked pretty bad, and for once the predictions were spot on. It started snowing around midnight, and by 7:30am (two hours before race start), this is what it looked like in our backyard. It was about 30 degrees.

I got downtown early enough and trudged half a mile through the slush to the C0ngress H0tel, where CARA (the Chicago Area Runners Association) had its indoor, members-only gear check. By the time I got there, my shoes were already soaked through from the enormous puddles of slush everywhere.  I ducked into the Starbucks at the Blackstone Hotel on the next block for a quick espresso (which I think helps my time), and this is what it looked like on Michigan Avenue just before 9am:

Michigan at Balbo, 30 minutes to start

Michigan at Balbo, 30 minutes to start

I trudged through more icy slush to my start corral, and was in place by 9:15, 15 minutes before the start of the race.  I had earned a preferred starting position by time last year, which in a race with 30,000+ entrants, is a big deal — if you’re stuck at the back, it can take 20 minutes just to get across the starting line, and you’re backed up for most of the race. The price is that you have to be in your corral early, which today meant 15 minutes of standing in place with my feet slowly numbing.  Here I am at the start:

Why is this man smiling?

Why is this man smiling?

I was smiling because my toes had stopped hurting; I couldn’t feel them at all.  And I didn’t for the rest of the race.

My goal was to finish in less than 38 minutes, since I’m pretty sure that’s the time I need to get the same starting position next year.  Since I did more than 2 minutes better than that last year, I thought it was possible, but considering the weather and my inconsistent running over the winter, I wasn’t sure.

There was no let up in the snow, wind, or the slush for the whole race.  The Sun-Times has pictures here; the Tribune has pictures here.  Race conditions were miserable to outright shitty, worse than the torrential rain during the 2008 Chicago Half Marathon, since the temperature was 30 degrees lower.

I missed the first two mile markers and I wasn’t wearing a watch (still need a new battery), so I was shocked when I got to the 3-mile mark and saw that I’d been running much faster than I thought.  I was able to finish in 36:48, almost exactly a minute slower than last year but comfortably under my goal time.  Here I am at the finish; you can see that the weather didn’t get any better.  At this point, I was happy about my time but seriously concerned about frostbite on my toes and possibly the soles of my feet.

It's all over but the screaming.

It's all over but the screaming.

I hurried through the finisher chutes, got more coffee, and grabbed my dry clothes.  I considered changing at the hotel, but was worried that my feet would just get wet again by the time I got to the garage, so I waited until I was in my car and got out of my wet tights, socks, and shoes and into dry things.  My feet felt better in new wool socks and dry running shoes, but the feeling didn’t really start to come back until I got into the shower an hour later, and then the pins and needles were almost excrutiating.  It’s almost 9pm as I write this, and my feet still feel tingly and weird.

I was really surprised at my time, considering that my shoes alone must each have been carrying an extra 5 pounds of water with every step.  And the running I did on the treadmill this winter did a better job of maintaining my speed than I thought it would; I’m really glad we bought it.  Thank you, Craigslist.

All in all, I’m glad I did it, but it was pretty stupid.  I think 33,000 people registered for the race, and just over 13,000 finished.  There’s always a little attrition at races, but two-thirds?  Where’s that flinty Chicago toughness we’re known for?

Not Going for a PR.

The Chicago racing season opens tomorrow with the Shamrock Shuffle.  The first race of spring!  I’m totally ready, all my gear laid out, timing chip tied onto my shoes, bib number and pins set out; keys, wallet, phone near the door.  I’m raring to go.

I love the Shuffle.  Thirty thousand joyous Chicago runners, casting off their winter’s torpor and cold weather running gear to welcome spring to…

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Weather forecast for March 29, 2009: snow starting around midnight and continuing well past the 9:30am starting gun, temperature at race start a balmy 33 degrees (Fahrenheit), winds of up to 25 mph driving the snow into the runners’ faces.

On the upside, the race course should be a little less crowded than usual.

My time last year was a little under 36 minutes, and while my big goal is hanging on to my preferred starting position for next year, I’d really like to beat that time.  I think that’s doable if I…

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!  Yeah, no chance of a personal record in snow shoes.

Spring Sunday Stats #1: Cooler By The Lake.

I took a couple of mental health days this weekend and got very little done for work, and even left the Blackberry off (mostly).  I’ll pay for it this week, because things are still crazy at work, but it was worth it.

I’m wiped out from the weekend — lots of time outside, playing with the kids — so let’s go straight to the stats.

On Writing: I did more on the revision of Meet the Larssons on Friday on the train, and then in a solid 90-minute block on Saturday afternoon. I’m continuing the manuscript slog to a point; where a scene is still usable, I’ll mark it up as I go, but I’m not writing new scenes at this point, just making notes and moving on.  The goal is to get through the rest of the manuscript so that I can see what is salvageable, what needs to be moved, and what needs to be written from scratch.

Tonight I’ve started looking for a new place to submit “Jimmies.”  I want to have some idea where I’m sending it next before I start revising it based on the last rejection.

Also, on Saturday I tried Write or Die for the first time, and had a wonderful time.  As the sidebar widget says, I wrote 305 words in 10 minutes, and only had to listen to the horrible penalty sound one time for pausing (and that was a deliberate test).  Highly recommended.

On Running: A beautiful, sunny day for a run. I did 10 miles in a leisurely 90 minutes, my first outdoor 10-miler in God knows how long, in shorts and a sleeveless top, no less.  The temperature dropped 10-15 degrees as I approached the lakefront, though, and by the time I got to Lake Shore Drive I was glad to turn around.

On the iPod: During my run today, I listened to an Episode 27 of XFM’s series “Writers on Writing,” an interview with Amy Tan.  It was interesting enough, I guess, but was almost entirely a discussion of Tan’s childhood and how it related to the characters in The Joy Luck Club.  The show itself seems to be misnamed, however, since there was no discussion at all about writing.  This was the first episode I’ve tried; I also downloaded Episode 7, with cyberpunk author William Gibson, and will listen to that next to give it another shot.  Also on the iPod this week:  Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Show 25 (The Dyer Outlook); NPR Planet Money # 20 (Not So Toxic?); I Should Be Writing #113 (Paul Malmont and Brett Savory interviews); Escape Pod #191 (“This Is How It Feels,” by Ian Creasey); and Phedippidations #178 (All in Stride).  So there you have it: I get longer runs, you get more links to podcasty goodness.

Winter Sunday Stats #10: Things Are Looking Up.

As I often do, I’m starting this Sunday Stats post on Sunday morning, and I’ll fill it in during the day as I get things done (or not done).  What’s unusual is that I’m starting this in bed at 7am, because I woke up at 6:30, still full from the night before.

Attentive readers may remember from post #200 a month ago that the Green-Eyed Siren and I have not been out to dinner, just the two of us, in a long time.  Thanks in no small part to your many suggestions in the comments, we went out last night and had a terrific time.  We found a French restaurant we’d never been to in a neighborhood where we used to hang out (back in the last millennium).  There was a wait for a table, but they took my cell number and we walked over to a nearby bookstore/wine bar and spent a happy hour talking, drinking, and picking out books.  Funny but true: without knowing it until we got there, we walked into the store intending to look for the same book, Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair.  The Siren had seen an extended review of it on Necromancy Never Pays, and I had heard about it during the last meeting of the novelists’ support discussion group.  By itself the hour at the bookstore would have been the best night out we’d had in a while, but we were very glad to go to dinner.  The food was great, the company and conversation was better.  And it was nice to see that all of the restaurants in the area were crowded — maybe the economy isn’t in total collapse yet.

We figured out that the last time we could remember going out to dinner alone was the night before Mother’s Day, 2006.  It’s possible that there was one time after that, but we couldn’t place it.  Certainly not in 2008 (let alone 2009).

So we’ve promised each to do it again much sooner, but the deal is that first we have to read the books we bought last night.  I suspect we’ll be doing a lot of fast reading in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks again to those of you who suggested “research” for the dinner date scene in Meet the Larssons.  I still think having the date canceled was the right thing for the story, but at least I could write it now if I needed to.  It would be better, however, to have more data.  One night out is a pretty small sample…

On Writing:  Putting aside mouthing off to the Siren about Project Hometown last night at dinner to keep her laughing (although I didn’t think the mugging scene was that funny, may need to rethink it), I didn’t get much done this week.  It may have been a short week, but it was a busy one at The Firm.  I finished a chapter in the manuscript slog through Meet the Larssons, and I’ve outlined the first six scenes of Project Hometown.  As Randy Ingermanson describes it in Step 8 of the Snowflake Method, the scene by scene outline is best done in a spreadsheet, which is how I’m doing it.  Randy recommends just two columns:  one to identify the point-of-view character, and one to describe the action.  I have columns for POV character, the characters involved in the scene, the location, the time, a description of the action, and finally, any interesting character development or reveals.  Of the six scenes I’ve outlined so far, two are not described at all in the five page outline I drafted at the beginning of January.  That will happen more as I get deeper into the outline, but it was a fun surprise to see things I hadn’t thought about before come out so early on.  I haven’t gotten any work on either novel done today (just this nearly 1200 word blog post, which should probably tell me something), but I may be able to work on one or the other this evening, if I can stay awake.

On Running:  A not-very-long long run today, just a little over five miles in 42 minutes (8:18m/m pace) on the treadmill at home, due to a late start.  In 5 weeks, I need to knock nearly 7 minutes off that distance for the Shamrock Shuffle (time last year around 35:50).  I think I can do that, but I’ll have to start speed work this week.  I haven’t been able to get to the gym at all — I really need to get a little weightlifting in every week if I’m going to keep my weight down — but I managed a couple of good weekday runs despite not nearly enough sleep, both on the treadmill.  We did make it to Taekwondo yesterday, and Unfocused Girl broke a board with an elbow strike on her first try.  Junior wasn’t able to break his, but he’s still little and hasn’t been practicing that long.  He’s motivated now, though.

On the iPod:  For the treadmill runs, I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica (Season 2 – I’m way behind, so please don’t post any spoilers!) on my laptop.  The Siren bought something called a SurfShelf, which fits over the treadmill control panel and lets you secure your laptop with a good view of the screen and easy access to the keyboard.  Obviously I’m not going to type while I run, but it’s great for watching videos (and occasionally reading blog comments) as the miles go by.

In other news, I twisted my own arm hard enough that I finally cracked and bought an iPhone.  Yes, I love it.  I will probably by a Shuffle for running, but the phone has allowed me to start listening to podcasts again while I walk to and from the train, or while I’m driving.  This week, I started to catch up, and listened to:  I Should Be Writing, Special Episode #42 (James Patrick Kelly interviews Kim Stanley Robinson) — I didn’t finish this episode, because I was listening in the car and the sound quality wasn’t quite strong enough to overcome the engine noise (Kelly’s questions were fine, but I kept missing Robinson’s answers) so I’ll have to finish it today; Grammar Girl #156 (What Is the Plural of Scissors?) and #157 (When to Use a Comma with “Too”); Writing Excuses, Season 2, Episode 18 (World Building Governments) and Episode 19 (Do Creative Writing Classes Help?); and various episodes of NPR’s Planet Money.  Auria Cortes from the blog Murder She Wrote recommended the Writers on Writing podcast.  Intending to give it a try, I looked on iTunes, found a podcast called “Writers on Writing,” and downloaded a couple of episodes (interviews of Amy Tan and William Gibson).  I’ll let you know how I like them, but the iTunes feed for this XM Radio-produced podcast only goes up to Oct. 30, 2008.  AC’s recommendation didn’t sound like she was talking about a discontinued podcast, so I checked the interwebs and found another podcast called “Writers on Writing,” which looks like it comes out three times a week and has for a while.  On iTunes, though, it’s called “Pen on Fire,” probably because of the other podcast.  So there you have it, two writerific podcasts for the price of one.  I’ll listen to them both and let you know what I think.

Winter Sunday Stats #9: Back to Real Life from AWP09.

DATELINE:  Sunday, February 15, 2008.  I started this post on Sunday but didn’t finish it until Monday.  I am too lazy to go back and correct all of the “yesterdays” and so on, so please read it as if I posted it on Sunday.

I spent so much of the last twee days tweeting on Twitter (tworry, it twounds twike I twave a tweech imtweadement) that sitting down to write a longish blog post seems like an impossible task.  Like writing a novel.  And like writing a novel, the only way to finish is to start (I’m feeling profound tonight).  Let’s get to the stats.

On Writing: This week, I did all the things that writers do that aren’t writing.  I talked about writing.  I listened to other people talk about writing.  I talked about talking about writing.  I even made some notes about ideas I had for my writing.  I did not, however, do any writing, except for 171 words of flash fiction for a contest held during the Association of Writers and Writing Programs 2009 Conference, which I attended.  I didn’t win the contest (I told the story of a successful bank robbery from the point of view of the robber in the form of a series of Twitter tweets; can’t imagine why I didn’t win).

AWP 2009 was a very interesting experience.  Because it isn’t just a conference for writers but also for people who teach writing, there were a lot of academics, and a lot of the panels were directed towards teachers instead of writers.  If the conference hadn’t been here in town, I might not have gone.

I’m glad I did, though.  First, I was able to hang out with a couple of friends who I haven’t seen since the early 1990s — one a successful author, and the other with her first book coming out soon.  I’ll post a link when it comes out.  I got to know some of the people in my novelists’ discussion group a little better, which was nice; they’re a fun group.  I even managed to overcome my usual shyness and reticence and talk to a few new people at one of the receptions and at the book fair.

I got into a couple of conversations with literary criticism PhDs that I frankly didn’t understand — I wouldn’t be concerned about that, but one of the conversations involved some kind of deconstruction of The Simpsons, and I still didn’t get it.  So I walked away and drank with a trio of writers who teach at a community college in Minneapolis — they were a lot more accessible.  One of them looked just like Cory Doctorow.  In any case, everyone was friendly.

The panels on writing were interesting overall.  About 2/3 of the panels were either about teaching writing or literary criticism, and another significant chunk were readings by or tributes to authors I had never heard of, which made it pretty easy to choose what to attend.  On Thursday and Friday, I went to interesting discussions about writing first novels, writing about Chicago neighborhoods, mining your experiences for fiction material, writing historical fiction.  Two of the panels I wanted to attend (publishing your first book and writing flash fiction) were so popular people were sitting in the hallway hoping to hear some precious, precious wisdom through the open doors.  In each case, I decided I wasn’t that desperate for advice and got more coffee or hunted around the exhibitor tables looking for candy (there was a lot of candy).  I was sorry I skipped the panel on “Shameless Self-Promotion” — mostly intended to discuss internet and social media strategies — if only for the Q&A period, in which (I am told) every single “questioner” got up and spouted his or her elevator pitch before asking an obviously irrelevant question.  Everyone I spoke with who attended thought this was hugely annoying, but who did they expect would attend a panel on shameless self-promotion other than shameless self-promoters?

Friday night I mooched free drinks at the University of Utah reception and went to the “Literary Rock & Roll” readings by Z.Z. Packer, Joe Meno, and Dorothy Allison.  I am embarrassed to admit that I’d never heard of any of them, because I am ridiculously under-read.  Allison, author of Bastard Out of South Carolina, was up last, clearly the headliner.  She read a short story called “Frog Fucking.”  I’m not going to describe the story — assuming I even could — except to say that I don’t know that I will ever look at baby carrots the same way again.  It isn’t about intercourse with amphibians.  She said up front that she liked the name of the event because she always wanted to be Janis Joplin, and she read like I imagine Janis would, in a throaty growl with a heavy southern twang.  I wanted to bring her a bottle of Jim Beam.  Packer and Meno were great, too.

Saturday was the best of the three.  I started off with a panel called “Truth or Consequences in Nonrealist Fiction,” which included multiple references to Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, which has already been recommended to me, as well as an extended discussion of the writing of Samuel R. Delaney.  I bushwacked my way through The Einstein Intersection when I was 13, hated it, and have avoided his books ever since; I may give them another try.

Next up, I fought my way into an overcrowded panel on “Reading to Write:  Top Ten Ways to Read Like a Writer.”  I have no idea what this panel was about, because I stopped paying attention when one of the panelists told us to read the last page first.

After lunch and wandering the book fair, looking for free copies of literary journals, I went to “Writing in the Windy City:  Local Writers Reflect on Making It in Chicago.”  The panel included the director of StoryStudio Chicago, where I go for my novelists’ support discussion group.  It was an interesting discussion — I especially enjoyed the professor from an MFA program at an art school railing on MFA programs attached to English departments.  Toward the end, during the Q&A, there was a discussion about making room for your creative work; I’m not sure exactly what prompted the comment, but a woman near the back raised her hand, stood up, and said something like, “I was a visual artist, had an idea for a book, wrote the novel.  Four million copies sold worldwide.  Do whatever you want.”  Then she sat down.  Later, someone told me that she was Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife.  So there you go.

Next was “The Steady Gaze:  Writing Frankly about Sex and Sexuality in Fiction.”  During the Friday night readings, Joe Meno read immediately before Dorothy Allison’s “Frog Fucking.”  There was a sex scene in his story, and it went something like this:  “She took off her yellow tights, and then we did it.  Afterwards…”  My immediate reaction was that I would write a sex scene in pretty much the same way, so I went to “The Steady Gaze” to push my writerly boundaries.

Not to listen to people read pr0n for 75 minutes.

Well, mostly not.  You will be shocked to learn that the panel, held in a large ballroom, was full.  It was interesting, and stretched my boundaries a little, but I suspect that I will still write sex scenes more like Joe Meno than Dorothy Allison.

After that, where else could I go but “Then She Lit a Cigarette:  Strategies for Rethinking the Fictional Gesture”?  The point of this was that writers have characters light cigarettes when the author can’t think of anything else, and this type of stage business doesn’t advance the story or tell the reader anything interesting about the character.  The take-away:  When you describe gestures, you should make them count.  Richard Bausch was one of the panelists — his readings were terrific, I’m ordering one of his books today — but his off the cuff comments were absolutely hysterical.

That was the end of the conference for me.  I do want to mention two interesting conversations I had Friday night, that may help me rethink some of my writing.  When I was talking to the writing teachers from Minnesota, I described “Jimmies” to them.  One of the Minnesotans said it sounded like what I was writing was “slipstream,” or “the new fabulism.”  Since these categories are at the boundary of literary and genre fiction, it’s possible that I should try submitting to some of the literary journals that are interested in slipstream instead of the science fiction and fantasy outlets I’ve tried so far.

Later that night, I had dinner with that college friend with her first book coming out soon (well, I had dinner — it was 10:30, she’d eaten hours earlier and was just keeping me company).  I described Project Hometown, the novel I’ve been outlining off and on the last couple of months, and she suggested that it sounded like a young adult novel.  I thought there was too much adult material in it for it to be YA, and she said that really anything can be addressed in YA these days.  Since she’s a YA writer herself, I took that comment seriously, but also with a grain of salt, until I went to the panel on writing sex scenes and heard one of the authors on the panel read the sex scene from his successful YA novel.  So maybe it will be YA; it’s something I have to consider, at least.

On Running: I had one run on the treadmill on Tuesday, and that’s it.  Too busy getting out in the mornings during the conference, and Junior (who spent much of the week with a noxious stomach virus) stayed home from church on Sunday morning, so instead of going for a run, we made monsters out of cardboard and went to Starbucks.

On the iPod:  I don’t have an iPod anymore.  It’s broken.  *Sob* I need to get a new one.  I have, however, purchased the entire second season of Battlestar Galactica from iTunes to watch on my laptop during my treadmill runs.

That’s all I’ve got.  Feel free to follow me on Twitter, although I probably won’t be as active as I was during AWP.