Sunday, September 21, 2008

Confession Time: I Am an Egosurfer

Since Fouling Out is my first novel in print, I am enjoying discovering what happens after a book goes into publication. I do not get daily, weekly or even monthly feedback about how many copies have been bought. Instead, by contract, I shall receive royalty statements twice a year. The first, covering April through June of 2008, has yet to arrive. In the meantime, I remain curious about the buzz or lack of buzz arising from the book.

The Internet is a logical place to turn. On Yahoo and Google, you can search pretty much any topic and get a link or two that is at least remotely connected to the topic. For no reason whatsoever, I just Googled "dust bunny" and 165,000 links surfaced. "Dog poop" produced 836,000 site references and "twist tie" elicited 157,000 links. Back in February, I first Googled my own name and the title of my book. At that time, I think there may have been eight or ten links. The sites were for, and I have to say I found the search to be rather amusing and exciting. I existed. My book existed. Ain't life grand?!

is the term for conducting a search of your own name online. There is even a Wikipedia entry to explain the word. I must confess that I egosurf a few times each month. The number of links has gone from a handful to 428 site references today. (Interestingly, a search of "gregory walters" and "fouling out" produces 428 links whereas reversing the order of the terms results in 427 links. How did the one get away?!)

Am I vain to egosurf? I contend that the search is informative. I have discovered that my book is carried in libraries in places like Stratford, Ontario, Cranbrook, B.C., Manassas Park, Virginia and, most recently, Carrollton, Texas. I get a kick out of knowing that the Regina library system carries seven copies of Fouling Out while Gwinnett County, Georgia has four copies in its public libraries. How do the books get there?

If there is any vanity in egosurfing, I am easily humbled knowing dog poop and dust bunnies are vastly more popular. It helps to know where I stand in the Internet world.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Avoiding the Ending

Technically, my summer writer-in-residence experiment will end tomorrow. I return to work the following day. I have relished the opportunity to think about writing every day and to actually produce something most days. When work begins--and it will begin in high gear--I am too frantic at the beginning of the day and too drained at the end to be creative. It is a sad reality. Perhaps the coming year will be different. Perhaps I will be successful in guarding time for myself and in accomplishing things beyond the work agenda. Of course, those possibilities go along with my standard musing: perhaps I will have a clean work area.

There is another ending I am struggling with: the ending of my latest novel manuscript. I have reached the word limit for the publisher who has first right of refusal, but I wrote +5,000 more words in the last week and there is at least that much more required to tie things up. While I realize I have a brutal round of revising ahead of me before I will consider submitting the work, I wish one area of focus weren't about deleting words and scenes. Changing and adding are fine. Deleting is harsh. Words aren't like hair that will grow back--we hope--after a cut. When they're gone, they're gone. Adios. Adieu. See ya!

When I submitted Fouling Out, I had to delete 25,000 words...before the stage in which more revisions came while working with an editor. Faced with thousands of words to cut, numbers become a greater focus than the words. That is why it is so painful. It is not about creation; rather, destruction. Sure, there are the easy cuts to excise wordy sentences and unnecessary qualifiers like very and apparently. (I thank writing instructor Nancie Atwell for her list of "The Very Bad Words".) That will address hundreds, not thousands of words.

Of course, I am getting ahead of myself. The ending, while near, is not yet upon me. I have two days of summer writing to figure out how to conclude matters with Marshall Allen McGonigle and Mr. Thomas Spenser.

On to it!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Party Crasher

Here I am, alone at a table at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts.  I am in the Independent Authors corner along with fourteen other writers.  My shift on this first day began at 5:30 p.m.  Don't ask me why.  Tonight's featured speaker, Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient, Divisadero) isn't until 8 p.m.  Did someone think eager readers would storm the pavilion tent two and a half hours early?

There are several authors manning the table tonight.  They've gone to eat.  If we get a rush, I am in big trouble.  I am not feeling the stress.

It seems odd to be hawking my own book at a festival in which other authors are the stars.  The insecure part of me feels like an impostor, a gate crasher who was never invited to the party.  

Still, as Fouling Out is my first book, I have said that I will try anything to get the most of the experience.  As the night moves on, I realize that most of the other writers in my corner are self-published.  They all are better at the gift of gab, an asset when you are trying to sell books.  If only I could gain some of that ability simply through observation.

Michael Ondaatje is speaking as I write.  The thunderous applause to welcome him triggers awe, envy and satisfaction in me.  The sentiments of awe and envy are self-explanatory; the satisfaction comes in knowing some authors are honored, revered.  Pop stars, hockey players, actors and, yes, authors.

I remind myself that, for every famous pop star, hockey player, actor or author, there are many more who struggle for any recognition at all.  My shift ends after four and a half hours.  I have sold a grand total of two books.  After paying my publisher for the copies, my take home for the night is about six dollars or $1.33 per hour.  It is a reality check.  There is Michael Ondaatje and then there are the rest of us.

Not JUST an Interview

While at the family cottage in Ontario, I drove into Ottawa one morning for an interview with Mark and Andrea of I discovered their amazing website devoted to children's books one night while surfing the internet for information about virtual book tours. (I still haven't figured out how a virtual tour works. As with many of my searches, I got sidetracked by clicking on other links.) The interview was posted on their site on August 11, 2008. (A direct link is Scroll down a little and you'll find the podcast.) What follows are my reactions immediately after the interview after Andrea and Mark left.

I am sitting at the Wild Oat Bakery in Ottawa, picking away at a tasty lavender honey scone after completing an interview with Mark and Andrea for I have so much nervous energy that needs to be worked off! Fortunately, this area of the city (the Glebe) is perfect for a walking tour. While I felt relaxed during the interview, I still managed to work up a sweat which caused my shirt to be dotted with wet splotches. Eww. I shall blame it on consuming two large cups of hot coffee on a warm morning.

I love talking about reading and writing and having this opportunity was a treat. I could have talked--er, rambled--for hours. (A fun interview would be a walkthrough at a bookstore or library during which I could pull favorites from the shelves and discuss them.)

Andrea and Mark are doing something special in promoting a love of reading. Part of what makes their efforts so powerful is that they are talking together as a mother and father about books they share with their own children. I would love to see more dads actively involved on a regular basis in reading with their kids and talking about books. It seems there are fewer spaces in print for children's books to be reviewed. This is a shame since a love for reading needs to start when people are young. When newspapers devote most/all of their review space to adult books, a chance to promote literacy is missed. And, no, the odd review of the hyped-children's-book-of-the-year--say, a Harry Potter or Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn--doesn't cut it. Not all children are the same. They have reading interests as diverse as adults do. There are books without wizards and vampires that deserve to be reviewed.

That's what makes JustOneMoreBook!! so important. Although my novel, Fouling Out, is for older readers (ages 10-14), Mark and Andrea have created a site that reviews picture books and some easy novels for younger readers. What a wonderful place to discover a few new books to check out from a local library or to order from your local bookstore! It was a privilege to "experience" the beginning of the process in which they post podcasts. Take a look at their website. There are many archived book talks and interviews that you can visit.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hitting the Road

The nice part of being a virtual writer-in-residence is that I don't have to stay in one place. (I also am pleased not to be a lab rat whom passersby stare at through one-way mirrors. "Ooh, look! He's picking his nose! So that's where he gets his ideas from.") Tomorrow I will be taking my writing on the ferry and to the Vancouver airport before flying to the family cottage in Ontario. I expect to be very productive. A bold statement, indeed.

Writing on the ferry has always been a good thing. It's a 40-minute ride and I park myself at a study carrel, power on the laptop and get a chunk of writing or revising done. In paring down my novel Fouling Out, much of the revisions came on the ferry during daily work commutes. All that occurred down in the caged in pet area on the vehicle deck with one shivering dog on my lap and the other leaning on my leg. By comparison, the study carrel on the passenger deck is a luxury.

I am a people watcher at airports. Where is that group going? Is she off to meet her husband? Why is he wearing shorts and flip flops? I don't get a lot of writing done at the airport; instead, I soak in the atmosphere and a few quotes or a minor character may come to mind. These are details that I consider golden. On the plane, I get more disciplined and write another scene, taking an occasional break to peruse some of the reading material I've packed in my weighted backpack. (Why do I set aside a thousand pages for in-flight reading? Can I not make a choice that morning at home? Do I suddenly think I will become Speed Reader?)

It's the time at the cottage that will be uncertain. Days can drift by. Often when I return and people ask what I did, the honest answer is "nothing." I think that's what cottages are for. I am not a tinkerer like my grandfather and I certainly am not a fisherman like my brother. As I stare at waves and idly allow sand to sift through my hands for hours on end, maybe I will fit in a time to write. You're not watching through that funky mirror, but I will still try to imagine eyes watching.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Where to Write

I have discovered a wonderful program on the Internet called "Book Bites for Kids" with Suzanne Lieurance on blogtalkradio ( Each weekday, Suzanne broadcasts a half hour call-in show, featuring a children's author or allowing writers to provide details of their upcoming events. As I have always valued author talks, this program provides an opportunity to hear other writers talk about their craft and their creations without incurring exorbitant travel costs. It is a treat to hear other perspectives from established writers!

Most authors on the show discuss their writing routine. It is encouraging to know that there is so much variety. For myself, I attempt to write during the summer at least five days a week. There have been some days that were complete write-offs when, for one reason or another, the inspiration was lacking. I have heard many authors say, "Write every day." I differ on this point. When I have a strong sense that my mind and heart are not in it, I feel a self-imposed forced writing session would be a negative experience. Would I produce something for which I would be proud and excited? Possibly, but not likely. As I view writing as a passion, I do not find it can be contained through discipline. Parameters are helpful but a rigid schedule is not.

Another point in which I vary from many writers is that I do not have a set place for writing. My home office is the most common site in spite of the clutter. (See my previous posting, Does Neatness Stifle Creativity?) As I mature, I seem to be getting more restless. I like to work in twenty-five minute chunks and then take a break. Technically, the break should be about five minutes, but it often stretches longer. So be it. I also cart my laptop and writing pad to different locations over the course of a productive writing day: home office, patio, public library, one of four coffeehouses in the community that I like. I may only write a short time in one locale, but ideas percolate as I drive or move to the next place. I like the writing to breathe for a period before I glance at it again and then continue. I also will shift from one project to another during the day. (Blog writing is one option when I want to write, but I am not ready to look at my developing novel, my short story project, an essay or a picture book manuscript.) I go where I feel the energy.

I guess what I am saying is I like having choices about what to write, when to write and where to write.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Conversation over Coffee

Yesterday I met another writer who lives on the Sunshine Coast. He stumbled upon my book, Fouling Out, at a local bookstore, read it and then contacted me via email. This was a first for me. I have had brief conversations with visiting authors such as Richard Scrimger and Linda Bailey at my school, but I am not connected with writers through a writing group or on an informal basis. Although I have a book in print, I do not presume to be someone whom other writers would want to meet. I also remain reluctant to share drafts or ideas with others, fearing a critical comment might cause me to set aside a project.

Ken Budd has a great deal of experience in publishing and writing and I found we had a lot in common. As writing can be an isolating endeavor, I valued the time to chat about our past and present projects. Moreover, the conversation inspired me to get home and write. I came up with twice my normal writing amount for a day!

It is time for me to open up more about my work and to connect with others who are passionate about writing. If anyone has a question, please ask away. Post a comment and I will reply.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The One that Got Away

Okay, class. In your seats. It's writing time. The topic is on the board. Quiet. And...write.

Let's assume the teacher adds a great deal more to set the stage for the writing period. The students are motivated and no one is upset about sticky apple juice residue on his desktop or a precious toy that disappeared from his desk during recess. Everybody writes, right?

We all know that is not reality. Sometimes the ideas don't come or the moment isn't right. Despite the best of intentions, a paper or laptop screen can stare blankly and taunt the writer. I had a staring contest with both yesterday. I lost. First it was the laptop. Blinky, my beloved cursor held steady at his perch in the top left corner. Nothing. Come on, Blinky, shake out that toe cramp and get moving. Still nothing. I left Blinky to work out his issues and surfed the Net. And surfed and surfed. Eventually, I realized my brain was waterlogged and my laptop would not be a creative tool for the day so I shut it down and pulled out the pencil and paper. I could not come up with even a doodle. AHHH!

Producing nothing when you really want to accomplish something is agonizing. I felt powerfully productive the previous day when I took the dogs to daycare. This was the time when I was supposed to build momentum. It didn't happen. Instead, I went out and dug holes in the yard. That felt good. You see, I have a lawn that refuses to respond to a mower. I can mow and mow and mow and these pesky blades of grass keep popping back up, not the least bit scarred. There are hundreds--er, thousands--of these rebel blades. Some are reaching knee height. I keep digging up patches, telling myself the entire lot will one day be a garden. For now, I have blank patches of dirt. They go nicely with my blank pad of paper.

Here's hoping I will have something to show for today. If not a chapter, then a new plot of perennials.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Doggy Distractions

I have accomplished a great deal the past couple of days. I have set up some blog podcast interviews--more on them when the times near--and sent out a flurry of emails to try to promote Fouling Out. I also managed to read through my current manuscript to make further revisions and to reacquaint myself with the characters and plot. (I hadn't worked on the manuscript since March so it was important to refresh before writing the next scenes.)

It has been wonderful working from home. Considering it's a 40-kilometer trek to my job at school, I am pleased to give the car a rest. My dogs, Lincoln and Hoover, are loving all the extra attention. However, they don't know why I spend so much time in my office. There have been blissful moments when I type away and one or both are curled up on the floor near me. Bliss is a fleeting thing. More often, as right now while I am typing, Lincoln is prowling the house and listening for something to respond to with a prolonged series of barks. Bird? Newspaper guy? Kid on a bike? His own shadow? So much material to work with! Hoover, on the other hand, is a quiet dog, but he has become obsessed with the garter snakes in the backyard. He comes into the office and props his head on my lap, brown eyes staring up at me until I give him a pat. The pat is only the beginning. A tummy rub follows and then he scurries to the door downstairs, waiting to be let out so he can conduct another snake census. Inevitably, he finishes his survey and escapes through the fencing to wander out front. I have to track him down and bring him back in. If I am lucky, there is another blissful moment before the routine repeats.

I do love my dogs. Absolutely! However, today is the day when I begin new writing on my latest manuscript. I must establish some momentum. The boys are going to doggy daycare. Hoover will love it. He climbs on my lap in the car as we near Pawsitive Adventures and bounds out as soon as I open the car door. Lincoln, on the other hand, makes me feel like a parent dropping off his child on the first day of kindergarten. When I put him in the fenced area of the facility, he looks back at me and wonders what he has done to deserve this abandonment. (Surely, it isn't all that barking.) As always, I will have to look away and remind myself that the day will pass quickly.

I am writing in my favorite coffeehouse and at the Gibsons library today. No distractions from dogs, phone calls, radio or dust bunnies that I feel a sudden urge to attend to. Hopefully, it will be a productive day!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Time to Get Serious

This is my first full week of opportunity for uninterrupted writing. It is time to get serious. I have been hopping about from essay idea to blog entry to random writing tidbit. It has been a fun couple of weeks. However, while my desk will never be organized, it is time to put aside some of the clutter in my brain.

I will spend the week focused on a novel manuscript that is 2/3 or 3/4 complete. Since I have not visited it since Spring Break, I have printed out the version with the latest revisions and I will start back on page one. (I would love to save a tree and read from the laptop screen, but nothing takes the place of a line-by-line revision with a paper and pen. It's like scrubbing the floor with a bucket and sponge rather than using a mop for the quick clean. Or so I'm told. I should not use cleaning as basis for a metaphor. Write what you know, write what you know.)

With big breaks in my writing, it is important for me to fully review the plot, the characters and the tone before adding a new scene. I feel this gets me motivated, helps the manuscript flow better and reduces the painful, awkward What was I thinking? moments in the next round of revisions.

I hope to have some extra time to pick away at a picture book manuscript this week as well, but I shall be disciplined. No dessert until I've made good progress on the main course.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What's in a Name?

I'm in the midst of writing a short story collection and that means I've got more characters to deal with than usual. As a scenario comes to mind, I begin typing the tale on the laptop. However, there's always a mini mogul as I head out of the gate. What's this character's name? How about Tom? No, I've used that in Fouling Out. Does he need a last name? Sorry to all the Smiths out there, but something else please. And why do all the last names that hit me sound so British, so conservative?

When I used to teach Writers' Workshop in school, I inherited a naming rule that students had heard many times from previous teachers. If a student wanted to use a classmate's name, he had to ask for permission. This rule generated its share of chaos. Invariably, I'd have to break from a conference with one student to deal with the commotion in another area of the room.

"Bob's using my name in his story," Sue complained.

"So. You said I could."

"But I don't want to be the monster's lunch."

"It's his breakfast, stupid."

If Sue wasn't a monster meal, she was stuck on an island with Fred--and no one wanted to be stuck with Fred. Or she'd fallen off a cliff. Again. Often students would counter the student's protest with "It's not you, Sue. It's a Sue I made up."

How many possible names exist on this planet? Didn't Jessica Alba just name her newborn Honor? (We can't forget Ms. Paltrow's precious Apple either, can we?) Eventually, I did something shockingly dictatorial: I banned (BANNED!) the use of classmate's names in creative writing.


"Why aren't you writing anything, Bob?"

"I can't think of a name." Yep, the only names I know are the names of the people in this class. After that, my mind's blank.

I brought in a phone book. Flip and randomly point. Frederick is the first name. Need a last name? Flip and point again. Abbott. Frederick Abbott. Done. (Note: This demonstration came from the use of an actual telephone directory. Frederick Abbott is mine. Do your own flipping!)

Kids liked it. It was a quick "game" they incorporated into the writing process. I've been using that method for my own writing ever since.

Now I know there are people who insist that the name has to fit the character. Sue is just not right. It's gotta be Susie. Better yet, Ethel. (Do you really wish the name Ethel on anyone, fictional or not?) If it's gotta be Ethel, change it when that nagging thought invades her brain. If it was always Ethel, then leave the phone book in the drawer. Get the name down and move on. There's a story to be told.

It works for me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Looking for Levity

Best friend dies. Mother gets beaten by current boyfriend. Yikes! Why so grim? So serious.

It seems that I haven't fully shaken the weight of responsibility from an intense work year and my writing is impacted. I'm supposed to write amusing scenes and use humor for coping when characters get into a bind. That's not happening. I have a choice: go with the grim or find a way to get funny back.

I'm looking for levity. I checked out a copy of humorist David Sedaris' essays, When You Are Engulfed in Flames--okay, not a funny title and the cover illustration of a skeleton smoking doesn't hint of humor, but I've been told he's a humorist and I sure hope I haven't picked the book that will be hailed as "a welcome departure". If I still can't find the funny, I might have to get base and rent an Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy ode to flatulence. Desperate times, desperate measures.

Of course, if all else fails, I will embrace the darkness and write about it. I just might have to leave a night light on when I go to sleep.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Time Lapse

Oops! Today is Tuesday and I haven't written anything since last Thursday. Is it time to evict this writer in residence? Am I a sham?

Unfortunately, I spent four days at a conference in Vancouver as part of my day job being a school principal. I can't use that excuse again until mid-August. With that commitment off my back, I believe I am ready to fully immerse myself in the writing process.

Let's see what happens!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Does Neatness Stifle Creativity?

I told myself that I'd have an incredibly tidy home office space before beginning my writer in residence term. Didn't happen. The pile atop my filing cabinet is looking secure--nothing will slide off unless there's a 5.0 or greater. The floor has many clear areas. Lots of space for the dogs to curl up. I am in need of more shelving space as there are several books blotting the carpet.

The key surface is my desk. There is a brand new windshield wiper that's been there for two months. (Is it really so hard to replace them? Shouldn't I at least try? I have this vision of driving into a service station for assistance and driving out with a several-thousand-dollar repair bill for a new engine and door handle replacements. Sucker!) Apart from auto accessory, everything else has some logical reason for cluttering my desk--a brochure about a local writers' festival, a dictionary, my Fouling Out binder, a snow globe with my dogs' pictures, and lots of Post-its and tiny notepad sheets with random "nuggets" of writing. I keep the little papers spread out because I've got it in my head that if I put them in a neat pile, I'll only see the top paper and all the other ideas will be forgotten. Now don't try to talk logic with me. I'm rationalizing my mess and I'm fine with that.

If I ever completely cleaned my work area, would I become more productive and clear thinking as a writer? Or would I stagnate in the sterile environment? Would I lose my most brilliant idea ever by taking twenty minutes to clean off my desk? I suspect I'll never know.

I think there are two types of people in the world: the Tidies and the Messies. So much of the conflict in the world comes from a lack of understanding between these groups and a desire of the Tidies to convert the Messies. Has it ever worked? I don't think so. (Show me a convert and I'll suggest the individual has experienced deep psychological trauma.)

Here comes a confession. I have two home offices in my house. Two! Last year, I used the room downstairs for my writing and left the room on the main floor for miscellaneous mess (er, school work, bills, important things that inv0lved lots of papers that defied easy filing). I haven't ventured into the room downstairs this summer. Through fall, winter and spring, it's accumulated a broken weed eater (which I'll never fix but I can't seem to surrender to landfill), stacks of magazines (that I never look back on, but I keep just in case), patio items I no longer like and a large bowl of Halloween candy. (Each year, I panic and think there could be a hundred hungry trick-or-treaters. In reality, I had three. I'll confess that the good stuff's all gone, but how can I throw away candy?)

I could go on and on. You get the picture, don't you? If you're one of the Tidies, I can see your shoulders tightening and your nose crinkling. Shake it off! It's going to be all right. You can limit your visits to cyberspace.

Back to the writing...Where is that idea I'd scribbled yesterday?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Slow but Steady

Well, I managed to finish the second novel yesterday.


Take two.

Okay, so I wasn't anywhere near that productive. It was the first day of my summer writing. Give me some slack. I could blame the dogs, but they weren't any more distracting than usual. No, it's just a difficult transition to sitting at a desk and staring at a (blank) laptop screen. I needed many breaks to stretch and move about. I even gave the microwave a thorough scrubbing!

I did make some headway with my writing. I chose to set the novel aside since getting back to it will require a day and a half of rereading and tinkering before writing anything new. I needed to actually write on the first day so I worked on two short stories. Both were a little grim so I'm hoping to bring some levity to that project with a humorous entry at some point this week. Not feeling funny just yet.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Coffee's On: The Beginning of a Routine

Here goes! My summer of writing begins today. I have high expectations. Now that I have a novel on the market (Fouling Out), I can't hide the fact that I'm a writer. Summer is my prime time for creative output and I have an unfinished novel and five picture book manuscripts that need to be revisited with a critical eye. Over the Christmas break, I began a screenplay (which I'm thinking I'll abandon, but it still requires a passing glance) and I began a short story collection a few months ago. Lots of possibilities!

It all begins with establishing some sort of routine. That's a challenging step since I'm a restless writer. I tend to compose in a series of short spurts, with lots of movement in between. (Thank goodness for all those weeds in the garden. I may finally pull a few!) Still, when I'm not otherwise employed during the summer, there is a "danger" of letting the days get away from me. I can loaf about as well as anyone.

So,...the coffee's on--I'm on cup number two--and the dogs are (momentarily) settled. The laptop is running although the space bar is struggling to awaken. I have a short break planned for a light breakfast in an hour and my swim workout comes mid-afternoon. It's time to pull out a manuscript and try to figure out what to do with it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Start Packing!

I begin my writer in residence program in six days. Very exciting. Toothbrush,...check. Laptop,...check. Plane ticket,...ahem, no.

You see, this writer in residence adventure is a little different. I'm not camping out in some cabin in a rustic tourist town and I'm not headed for a stuffy, windowed room in a metropolitan library where school kids and old ladies can peek in and say things like, "I'd rather watch a monkey." Call this a virtual writer in residence experience. I'm staying home. Besides gas is too expensive and I respect the environment too much to go off to a luxurious accommodation in a warmer city in North (or South) America (or Europe). Truth is, nobody invited me to write in some historic mansion, but I really am committed to reducing greenhouse gases. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Polar bears really are cute.

Beginning Monday, July 7, I'll be officially on vacation from my regular job as a school principal and I'll clear off the bills on my desk to transform this space into a writing studio. With one book under my belt, I'm anxious to continue with several projects that I've only dabbled with on rare weekends when I haven't been entirely exhausted over the past ten months.

Without the hassles of customs and the awkwardness of buying a swanky new swimsuit, I can write away right away.

I can't wait!