Posted by: maggieg | September 24, 2013

Ink and Paper

When SMB and I took the leap and moved in together three months ago, I was fully prepared for an adjustment period filled with rude awakenings and dirty dishes left in the sink for days, along with all those other obnoxious habits prime-time TV taught me to keep an eye open for in the beginning of our next step. It was gonna be weird. He was gonna be weird. And I was on guard.

And sure, there were a few things I noticed that I hadn’t picked up in the first couple years of our relationship. Like that he eats Fruit Snacks with his breakfast, and that my bathroom is now chock full of back issues of The Economist. He never checks the expiration date on his dairy products and I constantly live in fear of accidentally pouring cheese into my coffee.

But these are pretty insignificant quirks. If anything, in the last three months, I’ve come to notice the weird little things I do that I’ve never thought about before. Like my thing about the pens.

I use different pens for different tasks. At work my pen cup is full of brightly colored felt-tip pens so I can color-coordinate my schedule and notes on stories. When I’m reporting out in the field, I like writing with a mechanical pencil — not too sharp though, I like when the graphite makes a soft, thick stroke on the paper. And when I’m writing a story on my own time, I have to have to have to have a fine-tipped purple pen. Only the ones made by Pilot will do. 

That all started on Christmas Day when I was in eighth grade, and received three purple notebooks and a stack of purple pens under the tree. I’ve written about that before, but in case you never saw that post, those three notebooks ended up holding the first novel I ever wrote by myself — a 500-page teen drama that took me a full year to write. When I wrapped that up on Christmas Eve in ninth grade, I began another new one the next day, and kept on going, writing a novel each year until I graduated from high school, always in purple.

So the idea of writing a story or a book in anything other than purple ink is… well, it’s crazy. It can’t happen.

The other day, I was doing some research for my book at the Starbucks around the corner from our condo, and when all the highlighting and re-reading was done, I realized it was time to get to writing. The only problem was that all I had with me was a felt-tip pen. So I did what any normal human being would do: I asked the stranger sitting across from me to watch my valuable electronics and caramel macchiato while I ran over to CVS to buy a pen.

But there were none in CVS. None of the purple Pilots anyway. So I hustled over to Staples. No dice. All they had were black ones.

“Seriously?” I said (totally out loud, by the way). “They used to have three packs of these all the time.”

I scanned the rack again, and after digging through the mishmash on the bottom shelf, I found a combo pack of like eight different colors. It cost $11 and included one purple pen. So I bought it. I had to. Then I proceeded to book it back to Starbizzle and write my tush off.

Then a couple nights ago, SMB insisted that we head to Target to pick up a couple things — paper towels, fabric softener, all the exciting things in life. When we got there, I did what I always do at Target: I beelined to the office supplies to see if they had any new cute binders or folders — and my pens. And after about five minutes of faux-patiently tolerating me, SMB insisted we get on with what we were there for.

No, I told him. I needed those pens.

He grabbed a pack of purple pens and began pulling them off their post.

“Ew. No. Those are gel.”

He raised an eyebrow, and I patiently explained I needed the Pilot pens. So he grabbed a two-pack of the black Pilot pens hanging in front of him.

“Purple,” I said, impatiently (because clearly he is the one being strange in this scenario).

He looked around for another minute, becoming flustered when he couldn’t find what I was looking for. So he said we should just grab the next best thing and head out.

I reached for another one of those multipacks, resigning myself to the idea that I’d be be tossing out like eight dollars worth of pens for one perfect writing utensil. I tell him this, explaining that I can only write with the damn purple pen.

He's totally thinking about chasing that purple pen off the table and under the couch at this very moment!

He’s totally thinking about chasing that purple pen off the table and under the couch at this very moment!

He’s staring at his phone, googling something or other as he shakes his head from side to side and asks me if I’ll ever stop surprising him with scattered bits of crazy seeping out of me. I tell him I’m not crazy, and he mutters something to the effect of “the things you don’t know until you’re living together” as I’m calculating whether it would make sense to just buy two packs while we’re there anyway (What if I have a brilliant writing session in the middle of the night and run out of ink when I’m only halfway through? What if I can never get that train of thought back again? What if Kennedy chases the pen under the couch? It’s a heavy couch! I can’t lift it!) . I grab a second.

“Don’t,” he said. “I just ordered you a damn dozen of your special purple pens on Amazon.”

So I guess that’s true love, right?

Posted by: maggieg | September 12, 2013

So many pages flipped

Yes, a lot has changed since I last took this blog seriously. Back in early 2012, I was trying to shop out the NaNoWriMo novel I’d written at night, while writing about a public school system for a daily paper during the day.

I’m not really doing either any more – but don’t worry. That’s good news!

After reporting on schools for about two-and-a-half years, I switched full-time assignments to something new: These days I write a weekly feature for a few newspapers in Connecticut. It’s this sort of data-driven, social-science-themed peek into life here in Southwestern Connecticut. And it’s a ton of fun. I also recently began reporting on Greenwich real estate on the side (it’s only been a few weeks on that beat and I already feel like I could die happy after walking through the few houses I’ve gotten to explore).

And the NaNoWriMo book. Well, SMB (who, by the way, I’m living with now) is really gung-ho about me getting that ole thing all spruced up and giving it another go – or even e-publishing it. But I don’t really have time to think about that, since I’m writing a real book, for which I’ve signed a contract and everything.

Yeah, you read that right.

Earlier this spring I was approached by an editor at a publishing company who said he’s read one of my weekly features and wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing a book for his company. So naturally I googled the hell out of him to make sure this wasn’t some sort of sicko playing a practical joke on a poor girl whose only goal ever was to get a damn book published.

He was for real. The original book he pitched me didn’t really tickle my fancy, so we went back and forth a bit before coming up with the final idea: a look at how the towns of Greenwich, Stamford and Darien evolved from rural communities in the mid 1800s to playgrounds for the wealthy at the turn of the century, and the dynamic area I now call home.

I wrote a proposal and sent it in to a different editor at the publishing company and after a little give and take, I received a contract in the mail. I signed the puppy in early August and now I’ve got a book deal.

Super exciting right? Well, of course, not all that glimmers is gold, my friends. I have to write it all by Nov. 29, a challenge that I think will test me in a way I’ve never experienced before. So fasten your seat belts over the next few weeks, because I’ll likely be writing on here about the experience of putting this bad boy together.

Posted by: maggieg | September 8, 2013

They Say You Should Write Every Day

They say you should write everyday. Something. Anything. Just to keep your mind fluid. But if you look at the date on the previous post, you’ll see that I haven’t exactly been keeping up with that idea. Do you want the excuse train? I’ve been working really hard this past year. And I’ve been trying to travel a bit — to Scotland and Ireland, the Vineyard, the Cape, a kajillion weddings, to California to taste wine, the Hamptons to taste wine. Actually, stop the train there. Basically, I’ve just been drinking a bunch of wine.

But obviously, since I happen to be a staff writer for a newspaper, the fact that I’ve been absent from my blog here doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing. I’ve been doing tons of that. But this blog? Well, it’s been a struggle.

I fell off the blogging wagon after all was said and done with Matched. And by ‘all was said and done,’ I mean I had absolutely no success finding an agent and shelved the bad boy. And the calendar pages flipped forward — once, twice, fourteen times — and my fragile little self image couldn’t wrap my mind around putting it in writing that I’ve just been scared and hesitant to admit that the big project I’d been cataloguing for so long was in a coma.

But then I had a beautiful moment.

My dear friend Toni and I were talking last week while we were out for another friend’s birthday. Toni, who is a marketing maven by day and a blogger by night, has been doing this challenge called #31WriteNow where she posts something on her blog every day for 31 days. I totally owned up to the fact that I’ve been creeping on her posts, which have topics ranging from stream-of-conscious observations to her journey to get her slammin’ body in even better shape for her upcoming half-marathon.

She explained that the idea came from a blogger she follows, who challenged his readers to write something, anything, every day. And yeah, some days are a challenge, she said. But it seems like the idea of having that added pressure on her is helping to actually stimulate her creative juices, which I can appreciate after having lived through NaNoWriMo in 2011.

So I told her I loved the idea, and that I used to be a pretty faithful blogger here at FPF, and asked for her point of view on my dilemma: After 14 months of absence, should I cut my losses and just start a new blog for yet another new chapter of my life, or should I own up to the gap and just keep on going.

“Do you want to rebrand what you’re doing?” she asked, switching into her marketing mode.

No, I said, explaining that with a name like “Flipping Pages Forward,” this blog was basically designed to give me a landing place for moments I move through on my journey to become a better writer. I had a different blog in college, which I totally trashed when I first moved to Connecticut (four years ago this week, by the way!) and started FPF during a break in a Darien Board of Education meeting , thinking it would be a way to chronicle my fist paid writing gig, and hopefully the chapters that followed. I never intended for it to be some sort of widely read, Googleable site, just sort of like a virtual diary.

Toni said I should keep posting here, and find time to work my way back into it. So that’s what I’ll do, thanks to Toni, who has inspired me to set aside some time at least a few times a week to get back into the groove.

So here I am. Yeah, I’m back (though better than ever will probably take some time), and I’m ready to start yet another chapter. And boy, oh boy, do I think it’s gonna be a good one.

Posted by: maggieg | March 28, 2012

Not Quite Love Letters

Today's mail.

My mailbox is terrifying.

I find myself sitting in my car everyday after work, trying to avoid taking the key out of the ignition, hopping out of the driver’s seat and walking to the mailbox to see what it has in store for me. Yeah, sure, the bills suck, but the real concern is the small white envelopes that bear my address in my own handwriting. Today I received two of them. And I knew it couldn’t be good news.

Last month, I sent out a total of 17 query packets — about half of those packets were sent to agents via e-mail and the other half were sent via snail mail. In the five or so weeks since I sent them out into the atmosphere, I’ve heard back from almost every single agent. All but two have been flat rejections, including the two I received today. I’m really trying to not take it personally because, honestly, the odds are stacked against me. Everything I read and everyone I talk to tells me that that’s just the way it is. An infinite number of rejections and hopefully someday an acceptance.

And I can handle that. After all, the book is about a protagonist who continues to put herself out there in the online dating scene, only to fail time and again. But Max doesn’t give up, because she’s strong and stubborn. And I’m not going to give up either.

Still, Max wasn’t completely immune to the pain of a crushed ego — especially when it’s crushed over and over again — and neither am I. I make a very solid effort to let each rejection letter roll off my back and take a deep breath. But most times it’s more a sigh than a calming inhale.

Earlier this month, a really great agency asked me for a two-week exclusive — which basically means they wanted 14 days to review my entire manuscript, during which time I promised not to shop it out elsewhere — and I thought I was going to die of happiness. For the first day. Then came the second day. And the third, and all the others afterward. As time ticked away and the two-week deadline neared, I found myself staying up at night, wondering what the agent was going to say. I re-read the draft I’d sent, found a million stupid mistakes, and mentally flogged myself for being too impatient to iron it out more before sending it on. Finally, two weeks came to an end.

I wanted to email them the second the clock hit 12:01 a.m. that Tuesday, but I waited. And waited. And waited some more. And that Friday I emailed to say I’d had interest from another agency (which is true, they’re reviewing it right now, though they didn’t ask for exclusive access), and asked whether they needed more time. They told me to go ahead and send it out to the other agency. They were still reviewing it, but didn’t need to be exclusive any more.

I’ve been dumped enough times to know that’s the beginning of a break up. See other people? No! I don’t want to see other people! I want to see you! You’re the one for me! You’re the best agency ever, according to Google searches and the perfect version of you I’ve constructed in my mind. You and me, we’ve got a nice house by the shore and a white picket fence coming at us in the future, how do you not see that?

Three days letter, the break up was official. It wasn’t me. It was them:

Thanks again for your patience and for your interest in [agency redacted]. We wanted to give your manuscript a proper review and we feel you have a well-written and fun manuscript. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it’s quite right for our agency. As you know this is a very subjective business and as you’ve already received interest from other agents, we have no doubt you will be able to find enthusiastic representation for your novel. We wish you the best of luck in your writing career!

At least it seems like they still want to be friends.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my protagonist, it’s that giving up just isn’t an option. And while it can be a bummer at the bottom, it’s the contrast between the bad days and the good that make you appreciate when true bliss comes around. I just hope it comes around soon – in a tiny white envelope bearing my address in my own handwriting.

Posted by: maggieg | February 26, 2012

Not every story has a happy ending

Mama getting strapped onto the tow truck this afternoon.

I was making really excellent time. Between waking up early and taking a new shortcut between Auntie M’s and the highway, I was going to make it back to Westport twenty minutes earlier than I’d originally planned, giving me time to take a nice, hot shower and do some final editing before my two o’clock play rehearsal. I was racing a bit;  I wanted to give a final read through and enter some minor changes into my manuscript before the work week began.

Then I heard this weird sound. It was a tapping. Or a clicking. Clicking is more accurate. My car began to sound like a clock, being wound manually through its back side. I pulled my foot off the gas pedal, and the sound stopped for a moment. I sighed. Just a weird quirk, I told myself. And my car is more than entitled to have quirky moments every once in a while. Especially today, less than an hour after she’d hit 212,000 miles.

But then the clock sound started again. Soon, I could hear it over the music. It went from the sound of someone winding a clock to the sound of a car winding down. And a moment later, I was on the side of the road, staring at a green sign with the numbers “74” painted in white. My car had made her last sound.

My car, for those who don’t know, is very important to me. Her name is Big Mama, and I’ve had her since about a month after my mom passed away. Mama was my mother’s before she became mine, and for months after Mom died, I would drive with the windows up so I could retain the smell of my mother in the car’s upholstery. I talked to that car every day. I’d call her my “pretty girl.” She moved me from Syracuse to Alabama, then to Pennsylvania, then home to Knox and down to Connecticut.

When I first began building a new life in Connecticut a little more than two years ago, after a more-than-devastating breakup, I sometimes felt like that car was my only friend. She didn’t smell like Mom any more, but she was still a safety blanket. No. She’s not snazzy; Mama’s a 15-year-old station wagon with more rust spots than I have freckles in the summertime. But that car had heart.

I called a tow truck company today, maintaining my composure as I told him the situation. But when I hung up the phone, I realized that this was more than a bump in the road. I was going to have to say goodbye to my pretty girl. I called my father, who told me to start thinking about what kind of car I’d be buying in the next few days. He told me Mama will likely be heading to a scrap yard, and I should start gathering all my personal things. I’d have to pull them out of there today.

So I did. I climbed over my seat to the passenger’s side and out the door, walking around to the back seat, so I could begin to rummage through the various items I have in my car. And I cried. Oh my Lord, I cried. It’s not a pretty thing to admit, because I know I was being completely overdramatic, but I fired up Adele’s Something Like You on my iPhone and began blasting it through Mama’s speakers as I tossed shoes into a shopping bag and old Dunkin’ Donuts receipts and other garbage into another.

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.

I wish nothing but the best for you too.

Don’t forget me, I begged, remember you said

Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts too.

I know. It’s the most cliché thing to cry to these days. But I wept. I wept on a snow-dusted patch of grass on the shoulder of the Thruway, as I came to the realization that I will probably never sit in that passenger’s seat again. I’ll be in something shinier, but it won’t be the same. It won’t be Mama.

The tow truck driver came and dropped me off at a diner (that’s where I am right now, writing this — though there’s no internet, so I’ll likely upload it from home later). I have four bags with me, carrying my manuscript, laptop, a sweater and clothes from the weekend, and the hostess couldn’t understand that I wanted a table for one. She kept asking, “Two? Two? You mean two?”

No. I mean one. I’m having a lousy day, Ma’am. I just said goodbye to my car, who is really a friend. I’m in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near New Paltz, when I should be nearing the Connecticut border. I’m not going to make rehearsal today. My boyfriend — God bless him, he really is the best and I don’t know what I’d do without the poor guy; he never fails to do whatever it takes to be there for me — is on his way to get me, but the battery in his car died last night, so he’s waiting for a jump in downtown Stamford first. I’m not going to finish polishing my book today. Instead of working on grammar and punctuation at the Library, I’m here. And it’s just me, Ma’am. Just me. A table for one.

Just let me be. Let me sit here and cry. Let me hide my puffy eyes from all these people who won’t stop staring at me. Let me ignore the fact that this would make a perfect country music song. Let me just think, and let me absorb. Let me write so I can wrap my mind around this. Let me realize that this car is not my mother and this day is not a second funeral. Let me have an hour-and-a-half in a booth, where I can forget that I’m unshowered and wearing a sweater covered in fur from Dad’s dog. Let me tell myself this is not a new low, and that SMB will be here soon and he will kiss my forehead and tell me to stop worrying, because we’ll figure it out. Let me delete that damn Adele song off my iTunes account.

Let me be. Let me write. And then everything will be okay.

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