Here’s a week in the life of a full-time mid-life, mid-career writer in suburban New York…Well, mine anyway!
Saturday: I drive into Manhattan — paying $4 in tolls each way — to attend an eight-hour class in outdoor survival skills I’ll be writing about for a major publication. When I asked what they pay (mistakenly, based on past work for them), I assumed it would be twice as much. Ouch. Oh, well.
I’m eager to learn these skills anyway, everything from how to make fire without matches or a lighter to building a rabbit trap. I feel pretty certain I’ll be able to spin off some other stories from this initial investment of time.
I arrive much earlier than necessary, like 45 minutes early, but snag a parking spot, free, on the street. Yay! The day proves to be a lot of fun, despite the final hour spent in pouring rain. I tuck my notebook beneath my rain poncho so it doesn’t get wet and hope I can remember all the details I can’t write down. I normally avoid working on weekends, so I have time with Jose and to simply relax. But I also have the flexibility to take a day off mid-week to compensate.
That night I come home to a meal Jose made in my absence, fried chicken and a very good bottle of red wine.
Sunday: We attend church at our local, small Episcopal (Anglican) church, a stone building from 1853, designed by the same architect who created St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a tourist’s must in Manhattan. We are given a public blessing on our recent marriage in Toronto, with a lovely prayer taken from the New Zealand BCP. I visit a friend’s apartment in my building to discuss my new book, “Malled” with her book group, eight women in their 50s and 60s.
Monday: Real life starts again. I pitch story ideas to Marie-Claire, Boys’ Life and Arthritis Today, all publications I’ve written for this year. I email my agent to remind her to write a reference letter for me for a writer-in-residence program I’m applying for, ask about the status of a reality television show I’m hoping to work on and request her edits on the proposal for my third book. She has serious questions and wants to talk by phone. At 8:30 we talk for 90 minutes; it needs a major re-do.
Tuesday: I ride out to Long Island with my neighbor, a professor who teaches there. I’ll be speaking to students there about “Malled” which was assigned to them as their summer read — every freshman had to read it. Nice sales for me! At last week’s lecture, one female student pronounced it “OK”, before grudgingly admitting she found it informative. About 25 students come to the lecture and have good questions. I love meeting readers face to face. I sit in the cafeteria and do a call-in commentary for a Winnipeg talk radio show about what to do when a retail associate answers the phone in front of you.
Wednesday: Normal life. Trying to wade though the piles of unread magazines, both for pleasure and for story ideas. Pitching more story ideas. Mulling over all the changes to my book proposal my agent has requested. Applying for a teaching position for 2013 in Virginia. Applying as a menber of a class-action Canadian copyright lawsuit for whatever damages I might be owed.
Local errands. Mailing back two edited manuscripts to clients in California and New York, both of whom found me on the Internet. One found me through this Harvard Business Review blog post for which (natch!) I was not paid.
Fighting a cold (after eight hours outdoors in the rain), I skip a bike ride (sigh) but sit for 20 minutes on a bench beside our town’s lovely reservoir. Saw swans, geese, cormorants and ducks gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine.
Thursday: Chill day. Took my pool aerobics class and lunch out with them. Discovered that one of my classmates, now 73, worked in Rhodesia at 21 teaching phys ed. How cool! Checked in with a few editors but no feedback yet on my ideas.
Friday: Still feel crappy, so mostly lying low. Heard from the Hollywood writer who is working on turning “Malled” into (we hope) a CBS sitcom. It’s highly instructive to see how very, very slowly those wheels turn; I now watch television with a very different sense of how that material even got chosen or made it to air. Gorgeous fall sunshine, into the 70s. Wish I had more energy to get out into it.
Things were crazy at our home yesterday as Jose, who works in the business section of The New York Times, was scrambling to gather as many photos as possible to illustrate global reactions to the death of Steve Jobs. By the time he staggered home, there was little left of him.
I’m posting this on a Saturday evening after a golden fall day, having had lunch with my dearly beloved members of Softball Lite, my co-ed team (here’s my New York Times love letter to them!), with whom I am forbidden to play until my damaged hip is replaced. It was our first lunch with them as a married couple, and it was lovely to be feted and congratulated.
One of them is a literary agent and I asked his advice for a friend living in Europe who is shopping a book proposal right now, her first; she and I spent two hours on the phone today helping her prepare for all the questions she has about this scary and exciting process.
How was your week?