Feed your creativity in Montana at one of my upcoming Haven Writing Retreats
August 7th-11th (Now Booking)
September 4th-8th (Now Booking)
September 18th-22nd (Now Booking)
I’m sitting in my bed this fine rainy May Sunday morning in Montana, listening to the robins cheer-cheer-cheerio the way they do when their eggs are about to hatch. A loon just did a drive by and let us all know it, on its way from Beaver Lake where they nest, to Spencer Lake where they hang out in the morning. It’s late for the loons. 8:46 am. Usually they are 6:00 on the dot. Maybe Sundays are casual in the way of loons too.
I got back late last night from a week in New York City.
And I feel like I just got shot out of a cannon and finally landed in a soft field. I’m going to lie in that field today. Work on my novel. Drink tea. Process. I have a friend who has a big job in NYC and whenever I call him, he answers, “What’s up? I’ve got two seconds. I’m drinking from the fire hose.” Or “Bullet point it, baby. My hair’s on fire.” I’m usually in pjs in my office in Montana, sitting in stone silence but for birds and the sound of mice in the walls, and I try to pretend I can understand what he’s talking about. I want to be that charged and alive and pressured and important and in demand. Well, I tell myself that anyway. For a few minutes, I try it on for size. It would look like this:
Agent: Laura, where’s the novel you’ve been working on for the last year? You gotta keep the momentum up.
Editor: Laura, tick tock. Time’s a-wasting. Your fans are getting antsy.
Social Media guru: Laura, you need to build your Google Plus, chime in at Linkedin, enter the Twittersphere and respond to your mentions, re-tweet, Instagram your weekend, like your friends status updates on Facebook…
Speaking agent– Laura, what’s your brand? You need a brand. What are you an expert in? You gotta be an expert in something if I’m going to book you. I think I can get you on a six city tour but you need a brand.
Mother– Laura, you know television adds another ten pounds onto you. I hear Dr. Oz has a great diet you can upload on the internet.
Children– Mom, the SATs are tomorrow and prom is next week, and I need number two pencils and black strappy sandals.
It grew out of winter duldrums and an online introduction to the work of the author and blogger Aidan Donnelley Rowley. She leads a salon in her Upper West Side home called The Happier Hour where she profiles different authors and invites friends to sit informally in her gorgeous squash blossom yellow living room, indulge in wine and finger food and conversation. When she asked me to be the spotlighted author, I knew I had to go. Because here’s what Aidan is up to: she’s creating community. My community consists of my small town in Montana which, since I hole up and write most of the time, can feel a little lonely. My fault, entirely as there’s so much to do here. But I find that my appetite for social life tends to happen when I’m in travelling mode, not writing mode. I long for a room full of city people who live in the throb of humanity and are quick with opinions, questions, challenges that come from the daily cutting of teeth on asphalt. Asphalt filled with any number of things they see and filter– homeless people, lovers, street performers, street fights, sirens, bike messengers, horse and buggies, cops packing guns, doormen, honking cabs. The human heart is the same everywhere, but city people seem to linger less in the field of lengthy conversation; pause less to look around or to notice the “loon.” If they didn’t, their heads would explode. They live in a constant drum beat, percussion under their feet, foul smells, exotic aromas, cupcake and macaroon and pizza and bagel and coffee options on every street corner. They need their filters. It’s survival. So I was ready to go to NYC and don the filters I usually don which allow me to navigate all that throb.
I’m not very good at filters. I consider myself a pro-noticer. I stop and notice stuff all day long. You don’t get called a rubber-necker in Montana. For the most part in my life, there’s no one there to notice me noticing, so it’s all good. It usually takes me about 24 hours to filter out the pro-noticing when I’m in the city. So for 24 hours, I’m always sort of a wreck, especially when I’m in New York City. But a wreck I cherish and long for every spring when Montana wakes up and me along with it. And a Broadway show, dinner at fabulous restaurants, jaunts to indie bookstores, and meetings with movers and shakers and publishing world decision makers…it’s all so electric.
But it was funny this last week in New York. The filters never came. They were never needed. I stayed in Montana mode. I spent a blissful afternoon at the Met with my friend the fantastic artist Nigel Van Wiek, looking at his favorite paintings, strolling through the collection learning about light and color and painter’s plights.
I had meetings with my excellent star of an editor at Putnam, Amy Einhorn, and chatted shop (publishing houses look like a dorm full of English Majors during exam week, in case you were wondering), dropped by Hearst and went up to the 36th floor which in the magazine world means one thing: O. (fingers crossed!), met with online bastions like the wonderful crew at Blogher…and on and on. I stayed at the Mercer Hotel in Soho and held meetings in their lobby for one solid day. I met with my friend who is a 9/11 widow and she generously took me to the memorial which I’d been too scared to see. Blog post about this deeply profound experience to come…and still…I had no filters. Even then. I just took it all in. And my head did not explode.
And then there was Aidan’s Happier Hour, which was a night of sharing about the things I care about most in the way of putting heart and mind to craft, and that’s creativity, self-expression, emotional freedom. These lovely people wanted to TALK about it all, and we had a powerful powerful evening. Even Jesse Kornbluth, esq. (Head Butler) thought so. (phew…) Aidan’s account of the evening is also glowing. As my father used to say, “Takes one to know one.” My final night, I was lying in my hotel room revving up to meet my producer friend who has HUGE energy, and it occurred to me that the only thing missing in my week of NYC re-dux was a Broadway play. And do you know that with one phone call, she served up two tickets to the glittery fabulousness of Kinky Boots! One stunner after the next. No filters necessary.
And somehow, I came out alive, with more inspiration than I’ve had in years, (mountain majesty not included). I was lit up for a week. And now I’m fried. A spent bulb. The kind you shake and hear that little jangle and know it’s done. I’m back home, in my bed, writing, listening to loons, ready for lilac-time, baby robins , and the quiet of my life under the Big Sky. Thank you, New York and all of you generous, spirited souls!!!