Tuesday, April 24, 2007


When is the write time?

For me, it's early in the morning, before work. But that may change soon – I'm on the layoff list at work (along with over 1,000 other people.) Yep, they're closing this Boeing location and as I am a Boeing sub-contractor my contract will end and that will be that. We're looking at sometime between July and September for unemployment.

Okay, for everyone else, that's pretty scary. For me, it's a relief.

I *thought* I was retired last year, but I got this great job offer I couldn't refuse. It was a little out of my line (senior security engineer) but was very good money and I have been diligently saving half and using the other half to improve our house and pay off bills. I knew it wouldn't last forever. In fact, I thought it would end this time next year. But if it ends now, well, I'll be okay with that. I can't collect my Army pension for another couple of years, but that's okay.

I sincerely hope all the other folks affected by the relocation and layoffs will find the jobs they want and need.

As for me, I will be able to write as much as I want.

Now, that's both delicious and scary. Delicious, because isn't it every writer's dream to have the time and means to write? Isn't it what you want? Isn't it what I have wanted all these work-weary years? Scary, because now I really will have to do this. I will have to structure my time, set a schedule, actually get some writing done. Hmmmm. Is that what I wanted? No excuses?

Well, yes and no. I like writing in the little time-box I have always found for myself – an hour in the morning, a few minutes here and there. I am used to it. I'm not used to a blank screen and a whole day stretching out before me. I have tried it twice before: once in 1998 I was laid off from my aerospace job (I was at Northrop Grumman then) and for six months I wrote. I got a lot done before I ran out of money and had to go back to work!

Then in 2005, I once again was among the ranks of the unemployed for 6 months. But I got little writing done as I was busy moving into the new house and overseeing structural repair work and trying desperately to get another job. Just when it looked like that wasn't going to happen, I got this great job.

So now it's going to happen. I won't have to go back to work again (the chances of getting hired at my age and with one-half of my body not working due to a stroke a few years ago are pretty slim) so I will have all the time and opportunity to write. But is that what will happen? Don't I need some discipline? I've worked my whole adult life. It's a habit I'm gonna miss.

What's gonna make me get up every morning? What's gonna make me write?

I have cable TV, for crying out loud! What's gonna keep me off the tube?

Well, I guess when it happens, I'll let you know. Maybe I'll come back to this post and laugh about it, as I slog through the re-writes on an as yet undreamed-of novel. Maybe I won't have time, as I pound out essays for NPR, flash stories for Flashshot and another brilliant whodunit for Ellery Queen.

So tell me – if you had all the time to write, would you? Or would you miss the structure of a job?

How do you do it? Let me know. I gotta make some plans.


The new spa is finished and we tried it out last night. Wonderful! I slept better than in recent memory.

I made a cake in the shape of our front yard for Earth Day – I used crushed graham crackers for the decomposed granite. Very artful, but a little dry.

My friend Joan brought me a bouquet of sweet peas – they smell so good!

Monday, April 09, 2007


Prizes and Awards give value to works – value beyond that which we assign to it or that which Amazon statistics and royalty statements assign.

The Pritzker Prize is given annually to architects. It is an international prize.

Specifically, "The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture."

Winners have included Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Robert Venturi, Rem Koolhaas, Thom Mayne and this year's Richard Rogers. A Pritzker not only recognizes staggering talent, but human qualities.

In 1974 Avery Fisher established Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Artist Program, which includes the Avery Fisher Prize and Avery Fisher Career Grants to give outstanding musicians significant recognition. The program is recognized as one of the most prestigious in the music world.

This year's winner is violinist Joshua Bell. (See Miss Snark's blog for an outstanding story about Joshua Bell.)

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation annually awards fellowships – commonly referred to as "Genius Grants" to all sorts of folks in the United States of America.

Specifically, "The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work."

Recent winners have included:

Mattias Zaldarriaga, Cosmologist analyzing faint signatures of the Big Bang and developing valuable interpretive tools to piece together the early history of the cosmos.

Edith Widder, Deep-Sea Explorer inventing technologically innovative, unique devices for observing and collecting data from the ocean’s depths to reverse the worldwide trend of marine ecosystem degradation.

Terrence Tao, Mathematician bringing technical brilliance and profound insight to a host of seemingly intractable problems in such areas as partial differential equations, harmonic analysis, combinatorics, and number theory.

George Saunders, Short Story Writer satirizing and humanizing the moral dilemmas faced by Americans in the twenty-first century.

Oh, wait a minute – a writer! George Saunders is a writer!

Yes, writers are eligible for some of the most prestigious prizes in the world. These prizes are career-makers and guarantee the recipient fame and fortune. Specifically, the Pulitzer Prize includes a Gold Medal in the Public Service category and cash awards of $10,000. The Nobel Prize in Literature includes ten million Swedish kronor (about $1,437,000.00.) Mac Arthur Fellowships are $75,000 in unrestricted funds. The Pritzker Architecture Prize includes a Bronze Medallion and $100,000!

Okay, there are some pretty big prizes out there. There are prizes which include publication and a tee shirt, too. Some prizes you can be nominated for (the Derringers for short mystery & crime stories, for example) and some which have selection committees you never see (the Nobel is one of these.) Some writing prizes are genre-specific, like the Hugo and Nebula Awards for science fiction, the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Silver Daggers for mystery, the RITA & Golden Heart and RNA awards for romances, the Spur for westerns, and the Newbery and Caldecott for childrens' literature.

Some prizes, like the James Tiptree, jr. Award, which is presented annually to a work that explores and expands gender roles in science fiction and fantasy, are even more specific.

Of course, the Man Booker Prize has for thirty-nine years been one of the most prestigious prizes for authors of literary fiction. Restricted to authors of the British Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe, US citizen authors are ineligible for the Booker Prize and its 50,000 pounds sterling cash award.

Every piece you write and submit has the potential to be a prize winner. Whether you write novels, short stories, plays, poetry or non-fiction, there is a prize committee out there waiting to see your work. You can be the best in your field or the best in your genre of the best in your town. Never forget that you can be the best for that one shining moment, and that every work of yours can be the one that gets the blue ribbon.

I have never won a major prize for anything, but I did get nominated twice (years ago) for a Derringer. The new short list for the Derringer was announced yesterday and although my eligible story did not make the cut, I am delighted to see the names of many of my friends and acquaintances. I will vote with pleasure for my favorites.

Let me see your name on the short lists next time. Write the best you can each time. Strive for improvement in your craft and polish those gems until they shine. Then submit – you can't get published if you don't submit.


The desert garden in bloom – the new grevilia and the baby-blue feathered rosemary at the end of the drive.

The new elliptical trainer – it hurts, but is so good for me. I am strengthening my left side daily – in very small doses at first.

A small falcon on my fence. The cats were surprised and alarmed.