How one woman found yoga, eased her inner hunger, and started loving herself. Follow Kimber as she shares her journey to loving her body, the joys and sorrows of yoga teaching, and venturing into the wilderness of writing and publishing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Banana Cream Pie and the Book Proposal

All of my writing planets mysteriously drifted into harmonious alignment on Saturday. I finished the book proposal. You know how it is, you can spend days struggling with some intractable problem, and then it magically clears up with an hour or so of focused energy. Dave Eggers says, "It takes me eight hours to get about twenty minutes of work done." The other seven hours and forty minutes are spent banging your head against the laptop keyboard, metaphorically or otherwise.

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

Time to write

When I emailed my writing coach about how much I was struggling with the book proposal, she very reassuringly responded that writing takes time, we can't force these things, it's good to be patient with the process. Ah, yes. I love the wisdom behind this, and of course I agree totally.

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

The Book Proposal Battle

Theoretically, I finished writing the first draft of the book proposal this week. Theoretically, because it's possibly the worst thing I've ever written. I know, you'll say, "Kimber, that can't possibly be true. You're just being hard on yourself." Yes, you are correct. And, it's still the worst thing I've ever written... and that's okay. In Isabelle Allende's "Paula," she gives her students the assignment: write a bad novel. Think about it. At the end of the semester, you've written a bad novel, but it's still a novel, and it's better than you think. I've written a terrible book proposal, and it's probably not as bad as I think. Maybe.

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 Beauty of Drywall

Today I did something I've wanted to do since I read "Franny and Zooey" (J.D. Salinger's other teenage angst novel) when I was sixteen. My partner helped me hang a giant piece of drywall on the wall of our bedroom and I attacked it with my son's ancient, crusty markers. I can't wait to cover every inch of it with quotes and art. I've done various collages over the years, but never on an whole section of wall... mostly satisfying myself with large pieces of butcher paper that eventually tear or curl off the wall or fray and crease and leak and dissolve. This is a four foot by eight foot piece of drywall. Bolted to the wall with stucco screws. Thirty two square feet of inspiration. Yum. Chris would have let me just paint and mark up the wall I think, but I want to be able to glue and spackle and tape things to it, and not have to worry about having to spend hours, days, weeks, pulling it all off with a paint knife and heat gun some day in the far off future. Just four screws in, four screws out.
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!