Sunday, August 8, 2010
Yes, tomorrow night (technically 1 am Tues) Cooper and I will be flying across the Pacific to Hong Kong for an eleven hour layover and then on to Kathmandu. Apparently Internet cafes are all the rage there, so I expect I'll be able to share our occasional travel delights and mishaps thanks to the virtual intertubes that magically connect us. I also expect to forget the existence of the intertubes entirely in the moment of exploring a new (to me, ancient to the world) culture and trying to figure out which door says "Bathroom" and which says "Danger, Keep Out" when I don't read any Nepali. Nepal is yet another mysterious ocean I'm about to dive into head first.
"The ocean refuses no river," is a beautiful line from a song by Sheila Chandra that I sometimes sing to my students during savasana. I'm remembering and trusting that these oceans I'm flowing toward won't refuse me... but will welcome me in their luminous embrace. I plan to welcome them back. May you too be welcomed by the oceans you're flowing towards. The next time you hear from me, I'll be in Nepal. Blessings, Kimber
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Perhaps an even better analogy is when all the ingredients of a pie (or book proposal) come together. For weeks, Cooper begged me to make him a banana cream pie. And I tried. The first time, the bananas curdled the milk, so I whipped up a box of chocolate pudding and made chocolate cream pie instead. Not such a bad outcome, really. But missing an essential ingredient: bananas. The second time I made instant pudding and added the bananas to it... again, it tasted delicious, but never set... more like banana cream soup with crusty croutons. Finally, I made homemade pudding, added the bananas, and ta-da! Banana cream pie bonanza. Much like the banana cream pie, the book proposal took a great deal of trial and error. And then it all came together.
The crust of the book proposal was the somewhat dry and tasteless author info and promotion plan, the pudding was the mushy, gooey chapter outline, the bananas were the sweet sample chapters, and the whipped cream all the light and airy chapter titles I thought up in a frenzy during my writing group the day before. It all set up beautifully in just a few hours on Saturday afternoon. Then I emailed it to my book coach.
Not the banana cream pie. That will be the day. Banana cream pie by email. Mmm.
As it turns out, I needed the mistakes. I needed some time to struggle and give up and come back and struggle again. The mistakes are not so much mistakes as information about how not to do it. Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, "No effort is ever wasted." Those seven hours and forty minutes of head banging delight are essential to the process. I just need to remember to enjoy them more. Blessings to you on all your struggles and joys!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Except I already know what happens when I let my writing slowly evolve. Nothing happens. Or things happen, but you'd have more adrenaline-packed excitement watching time lapse photography of a glacier melting into an arctic meadow than watching me write the book. I started the book back in 2004 and I'd written just 100 unorganized pages up until January 2010. Yet in eight weeks of structured time this spring, I wrote and rewrote 300. Apparently structure is a good thing for me. I'm just guessing here.
Also... I don't have time. I need to write the proposal and do the revisions NOW. Why the big hurry, you may ask? Homeschooling is the one word answer. It's likely I'll be homeschooling Cooper again in the fall for sixth grade. I've found from personal experience that homeschooling and writing my own book are not complementary activities. More like homeschooling is the eighteen wheeler bearing downhill at ninety miles an hour to my writing's skateboard in the middle of the crosswalk. The skateboard lays low and hopes it doesn't get squashed completely.
Now I'm hearing a diabolical clicking sound in the back of my mind. That definitely means trouble. What if... I make Cooper write a book too? We can have book-writing time every day. Heh, heh, heh. Sounds like a plan. An evil one, perhaps, at least from Cooper's point of view (he HATES writing), but an academically legitimate one, nonetheless. Of course, I'll be somewhat put off if the title of his book is "101 Ways To Torture Your Child Through Homeschooling: A Personal Memoir."
We'll see how all this turns out. I've got until July 31 to finish the proposal and revisions. Stay tuned for more plans, more patience, more proposals. Read on below for an excerpt from the first chapter of the book.
"I actively starved myself for about a year, when after many false attempts at throwing-up and over-the-counter diet pills, I found the perfect balance of will-power and deprivation at 15 years old. Despite the valley girl indoctrination of “oh gag me with a spoon!” no matter how much I hated myself, I never figured out how to push my finger or a spoon or any other implement far enough back into my throat to make myself puke. The enamel on my teeth is probably grateful to this day. I tried laxatives for a while, but the stories of girls who had ended up with intestinal failure at age eighteen freaked me out. A colostomy bag was all I needed to run my faltering self-esteem completely into the ground. I’m sure having to carry my poop around in a clear plastic bag would get me invited to all the popular parties. Not to mention that my self-image demanded unwavering control. Control over my bowels was a basic requirement. Willfully-cultivated self-deprivation appeared the only option for me, and I threw myself into it headlong, without coming up for air. I studied how to starve myself with the same dedication with which I approached my SATs. Repugnant: adjective meaning disgusting, revolting. Use in a sentence: If I imagine this plate of spaghetti is a bowl of worms writhing in blood, I will find it too repugnant to eat." From Finding Fullness
Friday, May 7, 2010
Perhaps you're wondering, what could be so awful about writing a book proposal? Most of it I got through fine, who I am (Kimber, no "ly" please), why I'm the best person to write this book (duh, cause it's a memoir, and no one else can write a memoir from my point of view about me?), who the audience is (everyone who picks it up, thanks to the super glue I slather on the back cover), and how I intend to promote it (by flinging copies of it into the crowd during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade... oops, sorry, I wasn't aiming for your head!).
No, what really tied my metaphorical undies into a knot was the chapter outline, the twenty page detailed synopsis of the entire book. After recovering from the annoyance of having to write it at all (I've already written the book! If they want to know what the book is about, they should read the book!), I discovered there is a formula for writing the chapter outline: "Chapter One, Flying South, 14 pages. The chapter begins by revealing the lead character's penchant for eating raw goose eggs. The chapter continues as the reader follows the protagonist's early morning forays for geese nests. The next part of the chapter describes a particular morning when the protagonist discovers a huge hoard of warm freshly laid eggs, and the ensuing battle with an angry goose mother. The chapter concludes as the reader belatedly realizes the lead character is an adolescent Renard the Fox." I kid you not. Who writes well when every sentence begins with "The chapter..."?
Writing like this sends me into post-traumatic stress, from my first year of law school when I learned legal writing. Before I went to law school I imagined that I was a good writer, but just a week into my law school career I was quickly disabused of that quaint notion. The legal formula goes like this: "The issue in this case is..... The rule applying to this case is.... The analysis of the rule as applied to this issue is.... The only possible conclusion drawn from this analysis is...." Seriously. A sharpened pencil sent directly through the center of my forehead would be less painful than having to write like that. I was terrible at it, at first. Then I got good at it, and guess what? All of my writing started to sound like legal writing. I could write a love letter: "The issue here is how deeply I feel for you. The rule is that love is blind. The analysis is that if love is what I'm feeling, my love for you is blind. The conclusion is, I must be freaking blind to love you!"
Only after many years away from my last legal brief, do I feel I've finally retrieved my writing voice from the corner dustbin outside the legal writing classroom at Boalt Hall School of Law where I crumpled it up and hastily abandoned it in my eagerness to become a newly minted lawyer. And now, I have to remind myself... the book proposal serves the book. No one expects me to write that way, I don't have to change my writing to do it. Just a format that serves the overall purpose of getting the book out there into the world. It's all going to be okay.
Monday, May 3, 2010
The first thing I wrote in big flowing purple letters was, "You are so loved." This is what I want to wake up to in the morning. Why shouldn't every person, plant, animal, flower, tree, wake up to that reminder? I want to feel it in my bones, in every cell. I want the whole of my life to reverberate with the song of love so that every gesture, every thought resonates with that sense of connection. The second thing I wrote, in dying orange and pink (definitely putting new markers on the grocery list today) was, "You are so beautiful." These words are especially hard won for me, and some days, some moments, still hard to believe. But most days I can remember them, believe them, and feel them. I was born beautiful, and so were you, and so was every being. What has changed since then, really? Sure, our bodies grow, we have experiences, our hearts and bodies are broken, then mended, then broken again, but what really has changed? The essential beauty of who we are never changes, no matter how many footprints have stained the hallways of our heart. Why don't we believe in and see our own beauty? We give our power to see our own beauty away... sometimes to others, but often to our own judging mind. The quote "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," means so much more than simply you find pigeons beautiful and I find them ugly. It means you are beautiful because my eyes are beautiful. Because my soul sees clearly its own beauty. My beauty sees beauty in you. May your beautiful eyes see beauty everywhere... in the mirror and in the mirror of the beautiful eyes of every being.
And now, back to the book proposal... I hope to have the first draft of it done by tomorrow. Wish me luck!
Monday, April 26, 2010
Perhaps the real key is enjoying and relishing the wonder of the moment, and letting the knowledge that this pleasure is real, but not everlasting, help me appreciate my joy all the more. Much preferable to waiting for the next giant karmic shoe to drop. I imagine the Universe wears Manolo Blahniks. She has a great sense of style, humor, and infinite resources. And really big feet.
The feeling of being lucky and blessed isn't one we should be scared to articulate or experience. Instead, it ought to be a feeling we enjoy, embody, and share with each other.
One of my little blessings today: I got my first encouraging response from my initial inquiry to a publisher by email this morning. A dear student put me in touch with the acquisitions editor at a press where she used to work. The editor responded to my brief detailed description of the book and where I am in the writing process with..."We would be very interested... in looking at your manuscript... when you're ready." And directed me to their submissions guidelines. Cool. Publishing the book is starting to feel... real, and closer than I imagined.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Afterward, we laid on our Mexican blanket and together found a two headed dragon floating in the sky. We watched while one of its heads fell off and disappeared into wispy embers and the other slowly dissolved into cloud flames. Cooper had brought the Fifth Grade Heritage Cookbook his school put together, with family recipes from all the students in his class. We browsed through it together, enjoying the diversity of ingredients. One recipe called for pork belly and pork cracklings. Because just one pork ingredient isn't enough. Cooper was disappointed we couldn't make it for dinner tonight. We settled on the intriguingly-named "Toad in a Hole," a sausage popover recipe I figured we could make with veggie sausage and serve with the Full Belly asparagus I have in the fridge. It's baking in the oven as I write this.
So how is the book, you might ask? Today I interviewed a new editor/writing coach who recommended I concentrate on the book proposal rather than revisions right now. She suggested, quite astutely, that if I let the book mature and ripen for a month, I'll have better perspective on it, and meanwhile have time to write a totally rocking-awesome book proposal. That's what I'll be manifesting for the month of May... a mouthwateringly delectable proposal that thrills the heart of every agent who gazes upon it. I'll let you know how the Toad in a Hole turns out.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
So I met her, but only in the broadest possible sense of the word.
I'm not good with famous people. I never know what to say, because I can't ever ask them what I really want to know, like, "Are you happy? Do you love your life? What moment of your life do you wish everyone in the world could experience?" Something profound and interesting. Instead I end up all tongue-tied and sweaty.
I'm unspeakably envious of those poised and confident people who can ease themselves into a delightful conversation with anyone, irregardless of social standing or lack thereof. I'm secretly shy.
I did manage to give her the letter I wrote her a few days ago. I've been carrying it around in my bag for a while, meaning to drop it in the nearest mailbox, but I kept getting distracted by other chores whenever I drove toward the post office. And then I discovered that she was reading tonight at Book Passages. So I handed the letter to her across the table, crumpled and disheveled from days scooting around the bottom of my bag with my water bottle and lip balm. She tucked it into her bag alongside her water bottle and lip balm. It probably won't even register the change of scenery.
Her new novel continues the mother/daughter story of Elizabeth and Rosie, with Rosie now a teenager, experimenting with (read using) drugs, and Elizabeth trying to cope with the bizarre combination of belief and disbelief that teenagers effortlessly evoke in their parents. I loved one remark Anne Lamott made that she attributed to the recovery community: "Expectations are just resentments under construction."
May my expectations soften with humor and love long before they ever lay their foundations in my heart. And so with yours.
Friday, April 16, 2010
If you don't know Anne Lamott's writing, you should. She's local (Marin) and wrote "Operating Instructions," "Bird By Bird," "Plan B," as well as wonderful fiction. She's famous for quotes like:
"A hundred years from now? All new people."
"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do."
My plan was to just write her a light, breezy, carbonated note telling her how much I enjoy her books and asking about what recommendations she would offer a writer just starting out on her career. Instead I poured my heart out to her about Mom and asked for her advice about how to avoid being totally disowned by my mother for exposing our family's deep dark secrets for the world to enjoy. An appalling lack of impulse control, if I say so myself. On both counts.
I'll let you know if I hear from her.
Meanwhile, I started writing my book proposal today, based on Michael Larson's book, "How to Write a Book Proposal." My writing coach, Lisa Tener, recommended it. Super-straightforward, the book walks you through each step and explains why it's important. For those of you who don't know (and I didn't until a few weeks ago), most non-fiction books are bought by publishers based entirely on the book proposal, a thirty page summary of who you are, what the book is about, who you're going to market the book to, and how you are going to promote it. Sounds pretty simple, right? Except for when I get to the part where they assume you are already a famous published author. "List here all your previous books... all your national speaking engagements... your vast international network of publishing contacts... your telepathic communications with technologically advanced extra-terrestrial life forms." Okay, I made the last one up. But seriously. I have to be famous already to publish a book? I'm just going to pretend I didn't hear that and move on. La-di-da. How's the weather?
When was the last time you hand wrote a letter? Blessings to you all... may all your letters reach sympathetic ears, may all your wishes be heard by the universe and return to you a thousandfold.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
An excerpt from Finding Fullness:
[Now that I’m in my thirties, can I look at myself in the mirror without wishing it would crack into a million pieces? I’d like to think so. But honestly, it’s still a struggle. Once, in college, I watched out of the corner of my eye as a woman in the gym lovingly applied lotion to her entire body, in front of the room-length mirror, apparently oblivious to anyone (me) nearby. On a bench a few feet away, midway to pulling a large bottle of shampoo out of my locker, her contented smile caused my preconceptions to swerve and brake. Too late. My mind flipped a guard rail and went hurtling off into the waves below. She wasn’t Kate Moss; she didn’t have some model’s body, just an average woman’s body in reasonably good shape. But she clearly loved her body unashamedly. She was enjoying it. I watched her as surreptitiously as I could, fascinated. How does she do it? Can I figure out how to love my body that way?]
This week I had a really fun talk with my ten year old about Depression. Yes, you read that right. I took out a piece of paper and drew a circle in the middle of it, and wrote "depression" inside. "Do you know what that means, Cooper?"
"That's right. What kinds of things make people feel sad?"
"Uhh...Breaking up with your girlfriend?"
I drew a bubble above "sadness" that said "Breaking up with someone." We went on, adding more bubbles, bubbles for what you think to yourself when you feel sad, what you can do to help yourself feel better, who you can talk to, and warning signs to watch out for, like "I hate myself," and "I want to die." We talked about suicide and Cooper drew a little picture of a guy falling off a cliff next to that bubble.
"Always remember how much we love you, okay, kiddo?"
My family has a history of extremely functional depression, the kind of depression you can have and somehow manage to acquire advanced degrees. I wished that someone in my family had sat me down and told me all this when I was ten. Perhaps I could have skipped all the "I hate myself," and "I want to die," stages and landed more lightly and earlier on the soft ground of loving myself and my body completely.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
This is how I feel about the next steps in getting the book done. I don't know where to start. I keep closing my eyes and hoping the writing fairies will come and edit/revise my book, find me a really awesome agent and a brilliant editor and a fantastic publisher, and that one day, today hopefully, I'll open up the mailbox and pull out a hardcover copy of my book with a handwritten post it on the front of it that says, "Congratulations, Kimber! Look for it in bookstores everywhere!"
Sigh. We all have our little fantasies.
I'm trying to do just three things a day... three things to take me a few steps closer. If I contemplate for a moment the enormity of it, well, I feel like crawling onto the couch, huddling under a blanket, and watching reruns of Grey's Anatomy and playing Boggle on my laptop. Sad. Overwhelmed.
The bad news: Hunkering down with trash TV does not count as one of the three things I must do every day. This is unfortunate. The computer is warm and comforting. Like a hot water bottle for my lap.
Three things a day. You could eventually pack everything in your house by tucking just three things into a box everyday. Right? One step at a time.
The problem is that I don't know what the steps are. So the metaphor is more, a blind person packing up everything in their house to move, not really sure where the box is, and what needs to go in it. Yep, that's how I feel. Sounds like I'm going to need some help. And lots of patience. And a plan.
I declare this week Plan Week. The Book: Phase 2. Here we go!
Thursday, April 8, 2010
I've been terrified about how my mother is going to respond to the book for months. Well, years really. It's the main reason why the book has taken me six years to write. I love my mom dearly, and I'm horribly afraid that this book might alienate her forever.
So today I called my dad. Dad doesn't think of me as one of his extra arms the way my mom does, doesn't react to my flaws and failures as if they are his own. You could always tell who my mom was in the audience of our school plays. She was the one who was mouthing the words every time I opened my mouth, as if she could speak through me like a ventriloquist. As if she couldn't tell where I stopped and she began.
Today I told my dad for the first time how I tried to kill myself at fifteen by starving myself to death. I told him how much it meant to me that he and my mom consistently, unconditionally loved me-- and that I credit this deep wellspring of love for undermining my desire to annihilate myself. I told him that I was afraid that Mom would be hurt and angry with me for bringing all of this out in to the open. He said, "We're adults. Your mom will be hurt. We'll deal with it. Maybe she doesn't have to read it." Of course I'm thinking to myself... all she has to read is the first sentence!
I told Dad because he's Mom's best friend, and sometimes your best friend is the one who knows how to give you the bad news. How much of it you can take at once, and how to soften the blow. I told my dad because he can hear me when I say, "I love you guys so much, and I'm so grateful to have you as parents," in the same conversation with, "I was anorexic as a teenager and you guys never noticed." He understands how both of those things can be true at the same time. For my mom, one of them cancels the other one out and not in a good way.
I'm going to have to tell my mom what the book is really about at some point. So far I've couched it in vague terms; "It's about eating, food, yoga, body image, learning to love myself," I say. But she's going to read that first sentence someday. And I want my dad to be there to hold her hand and say, "Kimber loves you so much, honey. She didn't do this to hurt you. Or blame you."
I can love and tell the truth. I can do both. But it makes my heart ache.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Here's an excerpt from the last chapter:
Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed a new wrinkle that’s forming by my lip, on the left upper side, and I can see that it’s one of many getting ready to move into the neighborhood. Even so, I’m reveling in the sweetness of my renewed youth, enjoying whatever bit of beauty I have at this moment, in a way I never could when I was young, paralyzed with self-consciousness and self-hatred. I was obsessed with being perfect and beautiful, like a porcelain doll, forgetting that the purpose of life is to live fully, not to die perfectly.
Monday, April 5, 2010
So here we are, me and Chapter 16, hanging out at home, drinking tea. Chapter 16 has something it wants to say: "Nice to meet you. Blogging is great and all, but if Kimber doesn't get back to work on me she'll never make her deadline. And I'll be stuck in her brain for another week or two, and you wouldn't wish that on me, would you? It's dark and crowded in here. I need some air and light. And a drink."
No drink for you, Chapter 16. I'm doing an ayurvedic cleanse this week, eating only whole foods, lots of water, tea and yoga, letting go of wheat, processed foods, and alcohol, and inviting the cleanse to support me through these last two chapters.
Blessings to you on your projects this week... we're in the waning phase of the moon, a good time to finish things up!
Friday, April 2, 2010
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I'm transcribing the three hour Love Your Body Workshop that I hosted a couple weeks ago, and the benefit of the recording is collecting all the stories and voices of the women who participated, without having to rely on my faulty memory or scattered notes.
Some of the great new rules about body image we made up in the workshop:
Always Eat Lunch.
Celebrate All Types of Bodies
Get and Give Massage
Love Your Body, No Matter What It Looks Like
Got any other ideas?
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Today I was writing about the crazy experience of being asked by Lululemon three years ago to do a yoga photoshoot... in the cold, rain, and wind, with barely any clothes on! You can see pictures from that shoot on my website by clicking here. You can't tell from the pics, but I was freezing my butt off. The really amazing thing about the shoot was that after thirty-odd years of torturing myself over any photos that showed my legs and hips... I loved the shots. They were totally fine. I didn't freak out or anything. I used to treat photos of myself like a bat I could hit myself over the head with. So reacting (or not reacting) to these photos with pleasure and without judgment was a huge deal for me, and really helped me see clearly how far I'd come in starting to love my body more and more.
Friday, March 26, 2010
This morning I took went up to Sibley with the dog... it was so clear and gorgeous... easy to get lots of perspective on the book, on life, on the world from up there.
May all of our works-in-progress make progress during this waxing moon.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Even seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I realize there will be a lot more to do even when the first draft is finished. Rewriting, editing, having readers look at it. Writing a book proposal, looking for a publisher, maybe an agent, an editor. Writing the first draft is just the beginning. So Chapter 14 feels like a perfectly good place to start. At the crest of the wave, ready to crash into shore and stir up a few treasures!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I'll be posting regularly about how the writing is going... two weeks until I hope to be finished with my first draft! Wish me luck!