Days 5 & 6: Life’s Little Surprises

Day 5 didn’t have to work very hard to surpass the bar set by Day 4. I mean, watching back-to-back episodes of Saved by the Bell (back before A.C. Slater was in A Chorus Line) would have been better than Day 4.

But the universe works in mysterious ways, yin and yang and all, and Day 5 turned out to be the Best NYC Retreat Day Ever.

First, I headed over the the West Side for an iced latte and a long meeting with my agent, who is fabulous and well-suited to soothe my neurotic, insecure, self-inflicted writing freak-outs (despite the Jack Nicholson comment, which was well-deserved and directed more at my questionable mental health than my writing). Not once did he look across the patio cafe table and say, “Sarah, it’s great that you’re in New York and can call on me whenever you need to chat. So, do you miss Denver? Do you ever think about moving back? Maybe you should? Do you need any help packing?”

Faith in my chosen career path (and associated life’s dream, driving passion, singular raison d’être, etc.) restored, I headed to Barnes & Noble for a fix. Five fixes, actually, including Christopher Moore’s LAMB and a book for Alex.

Hey, you say “obsession,” I say “research!”

After the book indulgence—er, research investment, I had to get back to the East Side and thought I’d walk through Central Park. You’d think it would be a pretty simple task to walk straight across a big green rectangle, but…

Those of you who know me won’t be shocked when I say that I got totally lost—er, turned around. Off the path. For an hour and a half.

But getting totally lost in Central Park turned out to be a great idea.

Life’s Little Surprises (the good kind)

A turtle! But not just any turtle. This is a New York turtle.

“Are you talkin’ to me? Oh, I’m funny, huh? Like a turtle-clown, huh? I’m here to amuse you?”

I didn’t take the bait. Despite his tough exterior, this CPW turtle is a big softie on the inside.

Go read that last part again.

Ha! (Thank you, thank you, I’m here all week…)


I loved watching this fountain scene from an unnoticeable distance. The photo is kind of scattered, but if you look closely (or click on it for a larger view), you can see how much is happening and just imagine what people are thinking and talking about, paths crossing, all connected for a single moment by the fountain.


First, there’s hula hoop 101—so random. So cool.

Hula hoop 101

And, what’s got these two so engrossed?


Oh, right. She was actually bending over and twirling (not at the same time), but I opted for the wholesome family shot instead.


After watching paths cross at the fountain for a bit, I thought I’d finally found the right path to the East Side. I walked another several minutes, only to end up… right back on the West Side, ten blocks south of my original departure (and planned arrival) street.

That’s when I stumbled onto the best little surprise on my wandering journey through the park.

Listen to what it says. Really listen.

Easy if you try

It’s a good directive for us neurotic writers. And everyone else, too.

And in the end…

This evening, my 6th NYC retreat day, I packed it in a day early and headed back to Queens. I was missin’ on my husband, and ready to come home. I’m not finished with book 2 yet, but that’s okay—I got a lot of writing done and reveled in the relatively uninterrupted solitude as planned.

Despite day 4’s katsaridaphobic1 meltdown, my NYC writers retreat brought me to a place of peace with this book. When it’s ready to be finished, I know it will be… and then it’s on to the next one.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I can’t handle that much pressure!

1. Katsaridaphobia: fear of cockroaches! Ewwwww!

Retreat Day 4: Writing is Glam!

Yesterday, after suffering odd morning-dreams about people destroying my friend’s apartment with sledge hammers, I awoke to three strange men wielding power tools (TSMWPT). They were replacing my friend’s oven which, as I learned, is an all-day operation. They also took over the entire kitchen, forcing me across the street for coffee and a bagel. I love toasted everything bagels with cream cheese and tomatoes, so that was cool, except for the part where New York City is like out of tomatoes on account of salmonella or something. The guy looked at me like, lady, don’t you read the papers?

Newspapers? Newspapers! Damn it, Bagel Guy, I’m a writer, not a reader!

Anyway, after the oven ordeal, which included an big hole in the office wall with lots of wires and metal things poking out that I was ordered not to touch (right, and I was just thinking, “what do these wires do? What would happen if I twisted them together with my fork while blow-drying my hair and standing in a wash-basin full of water?”), I was finally rid of the TSMWPTs and ready to cook a nice dinner.

Ok, this next part is really gross and embarrassing so we’re going ESPN extreme highlights on this one.

*Begin movie guy announcer voice*

In a world where solitary writers go too long without contact from the outside…

  • Me: La la la, I’m making yummy dinner, la la la. I’m going to—wait, what the f*** was that?
  • CR: *Scampers across kitchen floor.* No, no scampers is the wrong word. Saunters is better. *Saunters across the kitchen floor.*
  • Me: What the f***?!!!! *Jumps on one foot repeatedly to reduce surface area of body touching its potential path*
  • CR: Hi! I’m the world’s biggest cockroach. And I am here to f*** you up. Booooo!
  • Me: What the f***?!!! OMG are you talking to me?
  • CR: Yes! And now is the part where I stalk you! *Stalk stalk stalk*
  • Me: Are you following me? Ewwwwww! Arhhhhhhhh! Why are you so big? Get away from me you f***ing many-legged exo-skeletal freak!
  • CR: You can run, but you can’t hide! *Stalk stalk stalk*
  • Me: *Has nervous breakdown, complete with full body sweat, the shakes, heart palpitations, crying, calling husband*
  • Alex: Bims, I’m seriously worried about you. *Offers complex kill strategy involving trapping, mushing, and scraping*
  • CR: Let’s see what happens if I go over here. *Saunter saunter saunter*
  • Me: It’s chasing me! Ewwwww ewww ewww it’s going to mate and multiply and crawl all over me in my sleep!
  • CR: Boo! Hahahah! I am going to eat you.
  • Alex: Just get a newspaper and—
  • Me: Arhhhhhh!!!! Ewwww! *Hangs up on Alex. Dials Pook, who is playing pool around the corner.*
  • Pook: What up? You wanna meet for a drink?
  • Me: Okay okay okay I know I’m crazy but you have to get here like right now oh my god f*** just get here okay f***ing now please?
  • Pook: What happened? Are you all right?
  • Me: There’s this giant crawly thing and he’s brown and shiny and stalking me and—
  • Pook: Are you f***ing serious?
  • CR: Wow, you really are ridiculous. Boo! *Stalk stalk stalk*
  • Me: Get here! I’m hyperventilating!
  • Pook: Hahahahaha okay, be right over (and by the way, sack up, you whiny bitch).

So, um, ya, my brother had to leave his pool game to come and do a perimeter sweep, which was sadly unsuccessful, and I was so creeped out that I couldn’t eat my dinner until like 2 hours later, and it’s all because the TSMWPT displaced this giant South American poisonous hissing cockroach when they put in the new oven. By the time I could go to sleep without freaking out about the bug, the sun was up and I then convinced myself that someone was in the apartment and I actually dialed 9-1-1 and had my finger hovering over the SEND button because I just knew that when I opened the door I’d see a murderer, a rapist, and a giant cockroach, and the roach would laugh and turn to the others and say, “See? I told you she was here all alone.”

When I told my agent parts of this story today, he just nodded and smiled looked at me in his patient, understanding, I’m-used-to-dealing-with-fruitloops-all-day way and said, “You’ve become Jack Nicholson in The Shining.”

Heeeeeeeere’s Sarah!

Just another day in the glamorous life of a writer in New York.

NYC Writers Retreat, Day 2

The view from last year’s Grand Lake retreat:

Grand Lake Docks


The view from this year’s NYC retreat:

Plip Plip Plop


Not the most pleasant retreat weather here in New York today, but the storms are working hard to keep me inside and writing. I love listening to the rain on the street, the shush of the cars, the occasional laughing scream as someone who forgot her umbrella runs for cover. The thunder rattles the windows, and though I have to keep my computer unplugged during the lightning show, I do love hearing the sky fall.

Last night, I had the A/C on in the bedroom and started hearing noises. I know it was probably rain and thunder, but in the moment, I was pretty sure someone was trying to break in (despite the fact that this is a doorman building and someone would basically have to scale the wall and smash a window to enter without my permission). You know how it is when you’re staying in a new place—you have to readjust to all the new creaks, moans, groans, thumps, and rattles that differ in every home and don’t seem to show themselves until the late evening. I was jolted awake in two-minute intervals until about 5:30 this morning, so I’m getting a late start today. But I’m expecting the writing to go well and my sleep to come a bit easier later.

Better than being stuck out there, cold and umbrella-less!

NYC Writers Retreat, Day 1

Around this time last summer, still a resident of Colorado, I spent a week at the Shadowcliff Lodge for the Lighthouse Writers Grand Lake Retreat. Seven days of immersive writing workshops, seven nights of equally important immersive writing tomfoolery. In Grand Lake, I worked on 20 BOY SUMMER revisions for my agent, after which the manuscript went on to achieve great things. It’s also where I met Rachel, Lisa, and lots of other new writing pals. The Shadowcliff Lodge and all of the Lighthouse writers and faculty have a special place in my writing heart.

I wanted to go again this summer, but skyrocketing airfares (Delta is even adding a fuel surcharge for supposedly free award tickets!) and timing issues will keep me in New York City.

Those little snags won’t, however, keep me from enjoying my own writer’s retreat here in Manhattan. My friends are on vacation in the Tetons, and I’ve taken over their home for an entire blissful, solo, writing-filled, not-sure-I’m-gonna-give-it-back-when-they-return week. Unlike the Lighthouse retreat, the Manhattan retreat requires me to cook my own food and doesn’t have:

“…a wonderful chance for you to forge a supportive and stimulating community, a collective spirit to help reinvigorate your writing voice. And a chance to work with excellent writers and teachers…” —Lighthouse Writers Workshop

But here, I get to people watch when I need character ideas, and my retreat is, well, free. And I have many unrestricted hours in which to write, write, write, and more write. If I stay focused (so, ya, don’t call me or anything), I might actually be able to finish book 2… this week!

I guess I’d better get to it.