Crisis Averted

March 29, 2010 at 8:31 am (Uncategorized)

Well, I’ll just say this: I won’t be taking any betting tips from Nurse T if I ever bump into her at Randwick Racecourse (a most unlikely scenario, I grant you, but you see my point). I’m glad she’ll never make it as a fortune teller, because I didn’t end up with a life-threatening case of OHSS, and I haven’t spent the past few days being treated in hospital. Sorry, Nurse T, but your days as a doomsayer are numbered.

Last Wednesday was the low point, and it was way down there. I haven’t felt that unwell since those ghastly, short-lived, and – I suspect – wrongly prescribed days on Clomid – ugh! In fact, that would make so much sense, because Clomid is a follicle stimulation drug, and since I have this whopping great oestrogen level/high egg reserve thing going on, I was probably unwittingly experiencing a mild and undiagnosed case of OHSS then too. I certainly felt quite similar, and as with emerging from the Clomid fog, on Thursday it was only being on the other side that allowed me to apprehend just how awful I’d been feeling in the days before. But that was the good news: I woke up Thursday, had a quick dip in the ocean, then came home and just sat there, very still and quiet, silently tuning into my body until a calm came over me as I realised that actually, I felt okay. Not a hundred percent, but getting there. Wednesday night marked the end of the medication run too, so clearly as soon as it was over, my body and mind started normalising almost immediately. I had a painful trigger injection Wednesday night (everything was tender and sore, so jabbing my abdomen with a fine needlepoint felt like I was stabbing myself with a carving knife), but by morning I no longer felt like crying with raging overtiredness and indignation.

Friday’s egg collection went off without a hitch. I woke up with a piece of tape stuck to my right palm with the number of eggs written in Texta in the centre: 15. Two more than last time. Once again I devoured everything they put in front of me once I woke up, then Llew arrived, we spoke to Dr P and then I was allowed to leave. I’ve been much more delicate internally this time round – much more. It’s really only today that I have been able to walk normally. I think my poor old ovaries took a serious beating back there. All those synthetically generated follicles really trashed da house. Anyway, we asked Dr P about what Nurse T had said about there probably being no fresh transfer this time because of the risk of my developing a deadly dose of OHSS, and he said no, we were good to go. That decision would be made around how I was feeling, and I was and am feeling okay. Right now I feel completely normal, so if things stay on track with the eggs, we’ll have a transfer on Wednesday.

So what’s happened with the 15 little suckers they pulled out of me on Friday? Well, by Saturday 11 had fertilised. By Sunday, all 11 had started dividing. This morning, 9 of those had divided into six distinct cells, which is what they need to do to qualify for the next round. Tomorrow’s update is seriously anyone’s guess. It’s an encouraging start, and we are duly optimistic, but things kept changing right up until the last minute in round one, when we started with 13 and ended up with two. And the first and “best” of those two was transferred fresh and didn’t work, so I am not counting any eggs (as it were). One thing’s for damn sure: I won’t be asking Nurse T to set the odds or place my bets.

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Blood Notes

March 24, 2010 at 6:42 am (Uncategorized)

Erm, this round of IVF has taken a slightly dramatic turn the past two days, and I can tell something’s gone awry because of how bloated, fatigued, and spaced out I feel. Looks like I am skidding toward the possibility of developing ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, and I don’t mind telling anyone who comes to the door: I don’t want any! It sounds really unpleasant, and I’m finding the alleged likelihood of its arrival very rude.

Okay, so in the past 36 or so hours, the IVF drugs have properly slammed me into a wall. I’ve been tracking SO smoothly until now – blithely characterising this cycle as ‘wildly uneventful’ to my friend T just the other day – but yesterday, KAPOW! Total and utter exhaustion kicked in, knocking me insensible. I had to have another blood test yesterday (I was averaging one every 48 hours until today, when I got to have another one), just before experiencing the indescribable joy of a nice probing internal ultrasound first thing, at which point Nurse E exclaimed, “Well, there’s a lot going on in there, isn’t there?! Sorry if this is uncomfortable” – it was – “but there’s not a lot of room left!” – all this before 9 am and my first coffee of the day – no wonder I wilted.

When another nurse called yesterday afternoon with the results, she said my oestrogen level was right off the charts. How was I feeling, she wanted to know. “Tired,” I admitted.

“I bet,” she said, “and probably pretty bloated by now too!”

She sounded almost gleeful about the prospect, which I must say I still prefer to Nurse T’s approach today, which has been to put the fear of a vengeful fertility goddess in me by listing all the vile ways in which I will ‘likely’ develop a full-blown case of OHSS. Now, look, there’s no point worrying about contingencies, that’s just not my style even though it is clearly Nurse T’s, so I’m just going to do as I’ve been doing (well, ever since overdoing my robust seizing of the day last Saturday): take it very, very easy. Running is apparently out, which is fine because the mere thought makes me yawn and slide beneath my desk. And I now have to drink at least 3 litres of water a day, which wouldn’t be a problem except for my Varuna Alumni News deadline – it’s hard focusing on everyone’s latest successes when all I really want to do is dash to the toilet at half-hour intervals.

Which is unfortunate for another reason. While yesterday I wouldn’t have said I was really all that bloated – just settle down Nurse T, I think someone’s getting a little over-excited – going to the toilet had already started making my ovaries hurt. I’m not kidding, I can feel them grouching away in there. Throbbing, an increasingly sullen duo, actively plotting to join a plainly hostile union movement that’s silently growing in a dark meeting place somewhere deep in my body. Damned rebels. So now I’m under doctor’s orders to increase my water intake, it’s at least twice the fun. Who’s a lucky girl, then?

This morning after my blood test, Nurse T said there was a good chance this cycle would be cancelled. All day I’ve waited to have that confirmed, and if she was wrong about that – which she was, because they called to say I’m now scheduled to go in for collection on Friday – then I say she can be wrong about a whole host of other hit predictions too. Fact is, they won’t know or decide the way forward until after the collection, just like they didn’t know until later on today what my blood would say. But one thing is indisputable: the nurses are all really concerned about me. And that’s a little unnerving. It’s not just Nurse T. Nurse M picked up the phone at one point, and I like her, we bonded over Lionel Shriver in my first round, so I identified myself and asked how she was doing. “Oh my god, you poor thing, how are you doing?” she said, her voice full of worry. Then Nurse T came on the line. “Oh, we’ll be keeping a very close eye on you,” she said, and I know she meant it to be reassuring. Guess this round isn’t proving to be so wildly uneventful after all.

Although I read everyone else’s blogs last night, and I’m all up to date, I actually started and then deleted comments on about four of them, because I really have exceedingly low energy right now, and I found myself paralysed each time. Like the tracks beneath my train of thought just petered out, and I came grinding to a halt in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Truthfully, it’s all I can do dragging this post out of myself while trying to finish the Alumni News before deadline, so with your kind permission, I’ll be taking a little break from the blog. Just a few days – I’ll be back Monday 29 March, how does that sound? Thanks for bearing with me, keep your fingers crossed if you’ve got any going spare, and please take care. Back soon! xxx

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Hang the Expense

March 22, 2010 at 7:09 am (Uncategorized)

I took Grad and Lilian’s advice over the weekend – I went and had some fun. And I think they were right – it was probably just what I needed. Our friend J was having his birthday lunch at Kingsley’s down at Woolloomooloo wharf, so after cramming our usual Man Town Saturday routine into just a couple of hours (run, swim, breakfast with the papers in the courtyard, and stocking up at the farmers’ market), Llew and I donned some glad rags and set forth to make merry. It was a perfect afternoon for it, too, warm and sunny, and the assembled company – twenty of  J’s good friends – was in the revelling way.

It was one of those great group things that doesn’t always happen: an ideal blend of people we already knew, so it was excellent catching up, and people we didn’t, so it was lovely chatting to interesting new folk too. Wine and conversation flowed, and our laughter clattered around the walls of the mezzanine area we had all to ourselves (there was another group in the adjacent private dining room, but short of their artfully tousled, highly chemically treated hair, we didn’t see much of them). Kingsley’s is a steakhouse, so as you’d expect it was all about the bleedin’ beef. Mine was excellent: eye fillet, medium rare. Delish. As was all my food. And wine. And I had plenty of both.

Still, all this being true, yesterday I couldn’t help but reflect on the eye-watering bill. I should have seen it coming, but it was still a very sobering shock when we were told the per person price. I think I audibly gasped. Put it this way: I’d gone to the ATM before arriving, having roughly estimated the cost, and I didn’t even have enough to cover one of us. I felt particularly sorry for Llew – I didn’t mind being stung half as much after vigorously partaking of every single thing on offer – I’d say that personally I gave that tariff a fair nudge – but Llew had a conference call 10 pm Saturday night, so he wasn’t drinking. Etiquette and commonsense demand people just suck it up in this circumstance, because that’s group dining and get over it, and these things really do come around one way or another, so please don’t start whingeing that you didn’t have dessert or that you want to work out what you had individually at a table of twenty people, because by Christ, this will be the ONE THING I will never, ever forget about you, and I can tell you right now that it won’t be a trait recalled with affection. Yes, bill haggling/squabbling/complaining is a pet peeve of mine – can you tell?  So of course we just coughed up, of course, of course, but it simply meant that our combined ‘couple total’ was enough to make me… well, cough! And maybe cry a little – or more like muffle a scream into my white napkin. Ouch! That smarts!

But let’s analyse the way the restaurant actually managed this cash coup, because it was pretty smoothly done, that neat way they parted us from all those coconuts over the course of an afternoon. Perhaps we can all turn this knowledge into future profit ourselves someday, because there’s no doubt about it: these guys are making a killing. And I know how they do it. First: the menu. You know what’s coming, don’t you? Yes! It was a three-course set group menu, which worryingly didn’t include a price. Uh oh! Sound the alarm! Limited options ensure far less wastage, and most items on the menu were simply prepared and available in bulk, for example undressed oysters and whole eye fillet. Dessert was pavlova, an ingenious cost-saving option for the house because it’s made of egg whites and sugar. Second: wine and water. Now, these restaurateurs are NOT SILLY – talk about a captive audience: the birthday boy innocently chose four wine varieties from the list to be served with the meal, and henceforth the waiters kept producing fresh bottles whether we were in need of more wine and water or not. No questions asked! It was just like magic! Because who wants to be the one pooping the party by bringing this to everyone’s attention? Well, not me, even though I did start getting a little bit nervous, so of course wine and Italian mineral water verily flooded the table. Very shrewd: we couldn’t finish it all by the end.

Still, I’m a very firm believer that you have to do these things once in a while, particularly with good friends who want to share their birthday or some other milestone with you. I had a brilliant day (and night, because of course we carried on, first to the nearby Tilbury and then to the swishy swish Republic building apartment of two of J’s friends), and I know J did too, so if it means Llew and I are locked inside sitting on our hands for a week or two while our bank balance recovers, well, what of it? Sometimes the most important thing is just getting out there and living life, and goodness knows we’re giving that particular theory a bloody solid crack.

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Words fail me; or rather, I fail them.

March 19, 2010 at 9:26 am (Uncategorized)

Still working… it’s nearly 8 pm here, and it’s been a big afternoon of redrafting. I didn’t even make it for a run. I should have gone when I first got back from the IVF clinic late this morning, otherwise the day gets away from me. Time slips past like a cheeky ghost, snubbing her nose at me as she continues on her way.

Progress is slow. I’ve started each day’s work since the manuscript mark-up at page one, and every day I see something new, either something that isn’t there (catchphrase, anyone? Let’s play a quick round of emotional closeness!), or something that is (those lame, contrived arguments between the protagonist and the illustrator? They’re not long for this world. They clunk like cheap shoes).

One of the funny things I’ve noticed about the rekeying exercise is that in certain places, the writing has become blunt and dull. Tight, yes, at times what I would call economical to a fault, because occasionally something vital has been lost, and now I find myself trying to put some of those missing ingredients back in. Not all; there’s no question the streamlining is extremely helpful and effective in parts, giving the narrative an unmistakable force and speed. But there’s flatness to it too, and that’s a very disturbing thing to find in one’s own work, especially after so much effort has been expended trying to make it sing. Trying to make it true, something that will resonate for my poor long-suffering imaginary reader, and instead in parts it’s cold and unaccommodating, nowhere I’d want to spend the night… Sigh. I think in all honesty I erred in the rekeying process by drifting too far into that tunnel, a place in which all I could see, after a very short time, was an excess of words. I wanted spare language, I wanted everything pared back, filed down, and shaved away. I gloried in my reduced word count. I admired my own ruthlessness in the face of – and perhaps finally at the expense of – greater feeling. In short, I took an excellent exercise too far.

Still, I’d do it again, because there’s plenty of cut and dumped words that won’t make it back alive.

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The Writing Retreat in Review

March 18, 2010 at 1:26 am (Uncategorized)

Okay, so I lied. There was no “more tomorrow” yesterday…I got distracted catching up on everyone else’s blogs, writing some interview questions for a couple of prize-winning Varuna authors (what a lovely job I’ve landed! I am wholly fascinated by insights into a writer’s process, and now I have a legitimate means of discovering them – it’s wonderful), and of course continuing my redraft. That was even before Llew managed to escape the office at a reasonable hour, at which point we became wildly over-excited and went out for dinner at our favourite local place Jah Bar, whereupon we ate too much, drank too much, and ended up sitting out on the street chatting with the chefs at the end of the night. I love Jah Bar. Llew and I always have so much fun.

So. The retreat. Darkling JB evicted her entire family from their home to make way for the overnight influx, so the very first thing that needs to be said is how amazing they all are, because not only did they tolerate this outrageous usurpation, they did so incredibly graciously. Not a grumble in earshot. Quite incredible – just try kicking Llewie out of his own bed and see where it gets you. And I was terribly excited about the scheduling change that meant a night in Melbourne, both because I felt it’d been ages and ages since I was last there – certainly B.D. – and because it meant seeing where JB lives and writes. It’s not just writerly processes that obsess me; it’s also writerly spaces. How and where other writers work: I love knowing. In JB’s case, she’s got a delightful writing space, flooded with light and sun dapples, and a bewitching, peaceful garden out the back, complete with magnificent mature trees, right in a bustling urban neighbourhood. Just gorgeous.

We like to ease into these retreats with a fortifying glass of something alcoholic, so we popped the cork on a bottle of champagne, sitting out the back basking in the perfect Melbourne dusk while waiting for the Changeling to arrive. A note on the weather: I love March. I’ve never before had such superb weather in the laneway city. While soaking up the last of the day’s sun, I tried befriending JB’s black cat Ninja, but he had other ideas. It seems I should have played hard to get, and now know the key to a cat’s feckless heart is total indifference. I’m determined to try it next time.

Jenny arrived, and then Samantha too, Jenny’s daughter-in-law whom some of you know from January’s IVF posts on this blog, when Samantha kindly stepped out of the shadows to share aspects of her own experience. It was so lovely meeting her after forging that connection online, and we spent dinner heads in, talking about it all a great deal more. Dinner itself was so aromatic and moreish: we went to a fab mod-Turkish place on Lygon St called Baba. Highly recommended, and there were plenty of dips and couscous and vegetable-based things for Jenny and Samantha, so a great place for all those Melbourne-bound vegetarians out there. Yum – there was a pumpkin dip in particular, quite spicy, that I’ve not been able to stop thinking about since (drools…). After dinner we returned ‘home,’ said goodbye to Samantha, and sat up with cups of tea helping JB and Jenny prepare for Day One of ‘Advanced Year of the Novel,’ a selective course they’re both doing with author Andrea Goldsmith at Melbourne’s new Wheeler Centre, now home to the Victorian Writers’ Centre. I’m really quite jealous of their Wheeler Centre… especially its central location. The NSW Writers’ Centre is nowhere near as accessible, not even for writers lucky enough to live in one of the surrounding suburbs. Truth be told, I think it’s in a supremely awkward spot. I made the trek precisely once, and have never been back. Pity. Anyway, it ain’t changin’ any time soon.

We set off for Airey’s Inlet once the girls arrived home from their day with Andrea Goldsmith and the twelve other participants. As you’d expect, they were each in a state of high excitement and enthusiasm – it sounds like the course will be enormously useful, and Andrea Goldsmith sounds like a formidable and committed teacher. She apparently asked the class who’d read her latest book Reunion – you may remember that I have – and to those unable to raise a hand she said, “Well, how stupid are you?” – terrifying! But she has a point: she’s an available resource to these aspiring authors, and they’d be mad not to make the most of her.

Jenny as you know fled immediately upon returning home to collect her car, and spent the remainder of the weekend happily ensconced back at her farm in a writing frenzy; Deb, Catherine, JB and I piled into the car and headed to JB’s beach shack at Airey’s Inlet.

Dear shack: we love you so. We’re unbelievably fortunate that one of us has a shack and is so generous in sharing it – I’m sure you’ll agree JB takes the hosting prize and the cake to boot. The remainder of the retreat was spent working – even when we were eating we were talking about writing. There’s something incredibly enabling about waking up in a house full of other writers – there’s no need to keep up appearances or justify one’s day or even get dressed, so I discovered. When I’m here, at home, I do feel a pressure to keep myself presentable, to really formalise my approach to the desk each day. I think it’s because I know many people in my life don’t regard what I do as work. “Well, isn’t that nice?” someone said to me upon my return. The polite condescension in the tone of voice was absolutely unmistakable, as though the writing retreat and indeed the writing group were nothing more than darling little fancies of mine. “Actually, it’s a lot of hard work,” I said, and there was a long pause while I listened to this idea falling on resolutely deaf ears.

But down at Airey’s, I was with other people who take writing seriously, which meant having nothing to prove. I sat on the bed all day, my computer resting on my knees and a hard copy of my MS in my hand, and I didn’t move except for kitchen and bathroom visits. My bum numbed, but I was in the zone and barely noticed. While down at the shack, I went through the entire MS, all 70,000 words of it, writing notes on the hard copy of all the changes I definitely need to make and many others I need to consider making, and then I began making them. Sunday, after a long day’s work in which we barely spoke to each other, I worked until I reached the end of the MS, and rewarded myself with a long run on the coastal path, down to the sands of Sunnymeade Beach, back along to the lighthouse and home again, where I changed and walked down to the beach with Catherine for a beautiful, refreshing swim. I was thinking about the MS the entire time. Over dinner at delectable a la Grecque (oh my god, that yoghurt cake was in-cred-ible), we all talked shop. And home again, the other Darklings (but one, though Jenny was represented by an empty chair) patiently listened while I read out the 3,000-word short story draft I was working on last week. As usual, we all worked so well for being together – it’s always a phenomenally productive environment, and although there were countless moments of group hilarity, the main memory I have is of that unique hush encasing the whole house, the special quiet of four writers sitting in separate rooms, frowning and mulling, all silently intent on their work.

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Not a Mexican Wave so much as a Melbourne one…

March 16, 2010 at 11:06 am (Uncategorized)

It’s been a big few days, my dears, a full-scale assault, an armed re-entry back into manuscript #1. I’m taking no prisoners. I couldn’t wait until the Darkling writing retreat in the end. I cracked, picking it up for the first time in six months last Thursday. As you can see, it’s done terrible things to my blogging, and here it is 9:40 at night and still I’ve left DoctorDi entirely unattended. I guess I just don’t know where to start.

I think I’m going to have to sleep on it and start fresh in the morning. I’m feeling pretty shell-shocked, what with all the heavy artillery fire (I promise to abandon this military analogy at the very first available opportunity, it’s just too compelling right this second, as all I really feel like yelling is, “I’m hit! I’m hit!”).

The Darkling retreat was great, very short but very sweet. We had a night and a full day in Melbourne, which I loved, and then two more nights down at Airey’s Inlet, brilliant AGAIN, although we were sadly sans the Changeling down the coast. She sped off out of Melbourne like a bat out of hell, even as I was still standing by the side of the road trying my level best to detain her. I deployed my favourite technique: the never-ending wave. This strategy doesn’t actually work, but I’ve never let a lack of success deter me or even dampen my enthusiasm. Hence my on-going writing career. In fact, as far as my waving goes, people often seem in much more of a hurry to get away from me once I start my manic signature moves, but every now and again, someone is so stupefied by my Big Two Hander that I get a few more minutes out of them while they’re clumsily trying to reverse down the street.

But Jenny’s an old hand by now: she knows exactly how to duck and weave so that she escapes the death grip of my long plastic fantastic embrace, and then she’s away, despite my tireless efforts to hypnotise her with the Triple Kahuna. Sigh. Anyway, point is, we missed her.

More tomorrow. Much, much more.

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Different voices – in more ways than one

March 10, 2010 at 7:41 am (Uncategorized)

Llew actually made it home in time for us to EAT TOGETHER last night – talk about exciting! Admittedly it was 9 o’clock by the time we got dinner, but better late than not at all. It was certainly preferable to my many recent ‘solo dining’ experiences, which are wearing a trifle thin even though I’m currently staring down the barrel at another one (grinds teeth). Anyway, over dinner I was talking to Llew about my response mechanisms around the hateful agency news, and it made me think about how I manage my demons in general. I was telling him I’d really felt like getting good and drunk, as I’ve already told all of you, but that I opted for a nice, mind-clearing run instead.

“Imagine every piece of bad writing news is like a crash site,” I said. “And my different impulses are like a bunch of tow trucks arriving at the scene, different outfits all competing for the business.”

All these tow trucks, they’re clambering over each other to get to the scene first – Get drunk! No, stay sober! Are you kidding, get wasted and then SMOKE! Smoking’s a filthy habit, don’t listen to him! No, go ahead, have a drink, you deserve it! Don’t encourage her, you lowlife; drinking alone is pathetic. Smoke! Drink! Smoke! Drink! Shut up, shut up, forget about them, go for a run! Quick, quick, go now – start running, I’ll stall ’em!

All these competing voices, angels and demons, and I guess over time I’ve trained myself to give the job to the most professional seeming crew. They have a clean white uniform, they’re always on time, they get the job done, and there’s no mess to clean up afterwards. I try to hush the other voices, and focus on the ones who make the most sense. Because getting drunk won’t change anything, it won’t make me feel better, write better, handle rejection better, or enjoy being alone better. Actually, all those things are liable to be worse after a bottle of wine. So I just try to tune into the CB frequency of the other guys. The good guys. They may not be sexy, but at least they’re sane.

Anyway, the other thing I wanted to bring to your attention is that my friend and old office mate from PhD days has entered the world of political satire, and I tell you what, he has found his true calling. Tim (Roberts, you heard it here first) writes these ‘scenes’ featuring various prominent Australian politicians, and they’re so hilarious I read three in a row last week on his blog and was begging for more. I feel like I was living a past life the last time I read Aussie pol sat this good. And it gets better: I was thinking this before realising that New Matilda has formally opened Tim’s rant can, and is now providing a weekly online venue for him to vent. There’ll be a new piece each Friday. Thank you, New Matilda. What can I tell you? He is a scream. Fame and fortune shall be his, mark my words. WARNING: if you don’t know anything about Australian politics or our politicians, you will find the content, um, bewildering at best. Otherwise, prepare to laugh out loud. Really hard.

Oh joy, there’s another one. Timothy Roberts, you are a funny, funny bastard.

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March 9, 2010 at 5:18 am (Uncategorized)

It was tempting to get righteously wasted last night, but I didn’t. I went for a run instead, and a walk on the beach, and a swim. I made myself some dinner and I flipped through a bad and boring magazine. Then I went back to the short story I started last week, and finished a first draft of 3,000 words. It was then and only then I realised the time: 12:40 am, and still no sign of Llew. I called his mobile and found him still in the office. My drinking buddy totally unable to commiserate with me – it was a pretty poor state of affairs. I sulked a little bit down the line then said I couldn’t wait up any longer, I was done with this day.

I woke up when Llew got in. I thought it was 3:30 am, but he told me this morning, when he got up at six to go again, that it was an entire hour earlier, so he slept for, gee, a full 3.5 hours instead of just the 2.5 I’d supposed. I’m glad for that, at least – I just hope it’s all worth it.

“You really need to eat something,” I said.

“I do. I’ll get a muffin at the wharf.”

“Something more nutritious than that, Llewie. Something like yoghurt and fruit and muesli that will sustain you and give you some better quality energy. Not just sugar.”

“You look after me,” he said, grinning, already saying goodbye.

“Well,” I grumbled, “I’m trying to.”

I wonder how he’s faring today. I hope the adrenaline will see him through his meetings, and that he finished what he went in there this morning to do.

I finished The Falls on the weekend, by the way, the Joyce Carol Oates novel. A strange novel in some respects, the chief female character a peculiar and not entirely sympathetic sort, a little too brittle and unyielding, but compelling nonetheless. What I admired most about this novel was JCO’s ability to create an atmosphere of claustrophobic foreboding. It was terrible, the air of dread, and the thick mist – first emanating from the Falls themselves (Niagara, natch), and then from the chemicals poisoning the air as plastics and other factories slowly take over the region – is the brooding, malevolent presence lurking at the edge of this story, the novel’s Death figure, powerful and insidious enough to bide its time. It’s an hypnotic, uncomfortable sort of engagement, as a reader, one that really sucks you across the novel’s own mythical Deadline, the point of no return, when the current commits you, the moment when you realise it’s going to take you over the Falls, and nothing will save you now. Chilling.

Now I’ve started reading Dave Eggers’s collection of short stories How We are Hungry – after Llew left, I read one this morning over a cup of tea, and the writing was electrifyingly good. Such a daunting way to begin one’s day, reading writing so superior, you have no choice but to acknowledge your own awful mediocrity. Kind of depressing, especially in light of yesterday’s kerplunk. In only 35 of Eggers’s evocative and funny pages, I travelled to the other side of the world and spent intimate time with people I felt I already knew. Writers like Eggers make me gape in wonder and hope. They make me wonder if I should just give up now, tail between my legs, whimpering and injured, but they also make me hope I’ll get better. They certainly make me want to try.

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Love Notes

March 8, 2010 at 2:18 am (Uncategorized)

Waiting, waiting…so far, so silent over there in literary agency land. Not. One. Word. Again, I am past knowing how to respond – is it good that I haven’t received a definitive no, or is it very, very bad that they evidently don’t respect or prioritise me enough to make a call one way or the other and put me out of my misery? When I said to Llew last week, “I just can’t imagine the universe in which a five-month wait is a good thing,” he said, “Well, it’s disrespectful, that’s for sure. It’s not the way you treat someone whose work you respect.”

It was a blow that landed deep in my guts. Oh my god, I thought, spirits plunging into the jet abyss, he’s right: my MS has failed to earn their respect. Not liking it or wanting it is one thing, and I can take either of those responses right on the chin, but not respecting it, and by extension me as its author, is so, so much worse. The implications of such disrespect are far more upsetting to me than outright rejection and failure. But it also doesn’t really make any sense, which is what’s so confounding. Last time I had any news for the agent I’ve been dealing with, I emailed and received an ‘out of office’ auto-reply, so I knew exactly when she’d be back at work. She responded the very day of her return – no mean feat after Christmas holidays when she probably walked into an email avalanche. All our emails have been friendly and upbeat.  So I don’t understand what’s happened, and I don’t know what else I can do.

One last thought nags me: it doesn’t seem like the way to treat someone you do want to sign, but it’s also a very unfortunate way to deal with someone you don’t.

Anyway, on to diary keeping, a subject near and dear to my heart. Admittedly I write in my ‘thought books’ a lot less now that I blog, but there are still occasions when the blog is an inappropriately public forum for my private thoughts, and so I’ve always still got a diary on the go. I’ve also got a separate ‘IVF diary,’ although various unrelated things (or perhaps they are related) have already managed to sneak in there, so that I’m no longer sure of the wisdom of attempting a distinct record.

I no longer possess my earliest diaries, but I retain books dating back to my two years in Canada at Pearson College, so coming up to 21 years’ worth of recorded thoughts. I don’t know how many I’ve accumulated, and I don’t keep them all in one spot. Where there are clusters, they are not chronological. Some are hardcover, some are ring-bound, and some no longer boast a front nor a back.

There’s no easy answer for why I have them. I certainly do not intend nor wish for them ever to be read by others. They’re for me, I think, some place to keep memories, and a means of admitting and confessing things to myself that I can’t or won’t admit or confess to anyone else. Their contents can horrify and embarrass me – how deeply I felt things in my late teens and twenties seems cringe-worthy to me now. The tone of some entries is borderline hysterical. My pronounced (and pronounced, and pronounced, and pronounced again!) passion for friends and lovers is an especially curious verbal artefact, now the objects of such devotion – my demented attentions – have often completely fallen from view. How could I possibly have felt this way about someone I don’t even know now? How could I have expended this much energy writing about, romanticising, and idealising someone who sooo patently didn’t give a fuck about me? What on earth was I thinking? Who is this person, this ridiculous ‘I’?

But there are important things in there too. Irreplaceable moments I’m glad I recorded. Life-changing events that compelled me to write, to remember, and to recover the only way I know how: through words. Some entries make me gasp in pain, others make me laugh, and still more make me blush. Sometimes I feel enormously sad for that younger me; I made so many awful mistakes because I didn’t believe I had any worth. But in spite of all the shuddery horrors, still I can see – what I see most of all, is that whatever the consequence, whatever was at stake, whatever happened next, no matter what and however unrequited, always I loved. And if that’s my biggest crime, then you know what? It doesn’t feel so bad.

POSTSCRIPT: news just in at DoctorDi HQ is that my worst suspicions have been confirmed: the agent has declined to offer me representation, and sincerely apologised for the delay. She and a colleague apparently both felt a lack of ’emotional closeness’ with the main character, which I must admit actually was a surprise. I thought emotional closeness was the one thing the manuscript had going for it, so this feedback opens up a new nightmare altogether. Anyway, it’s been six months since I last worked on it, so I’m going to be very interested to see how I find it once the next redraft begins on Friday. But in the meantime, what I really want to know, more than just about anything, is why literary agents don’t know how to use apostrophes…

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Welcome to My Sugar Jag…

March 5, 2010 at 6:48 am (Uncategorized)

Last night’s sickeningly sugary dinner resulted in the most exhaustingly active dreams… it was the full techni-coloured tragedy: dancing girls, dancing bears, circus acts, live music and a colourful cast of characters I’m sure included a mincing cat burglar. I woke up at 6:50 am feeling like I’d spent the night astral travelling my way through a meat mincer. And remind me to call the friend I dreamt about to tell her about her alternate destiny as a hardcore rock chick – I think she’ll be pleased.

But phew – that was one tiring sleep session. I feel like one of the fairytale princesses who sneak out to meet the princes and secretly dance the night away… maybe I should check my shoes for worn soles…

It was an early start, too, since IVF round #2 commenced this morning at 8:10 am downtown. Blood test in my arm, Synarel in my handbag, charge on my card. We’re back in business, friends! A very old, very dear friend of mine is starting her first round in London today, and she’s sounding a little anxious about it. I wish I could give her a big hug as it sounds like she could use it. I only hope she has as uneventful a time on the drugs as I did – and I hope I enjoy the same minimal side-effects this time around. Fingers crossed.

Good writing day today… started a short story I’ve been mulling over since Shanghai and also continued on with MS #2. I also cracked, caved, gave in: I emailed the agent who’ll have had #1 for f-i-v-e months next week and asked how it was all going. As I said, in a lifelong comedy of errors, it would come as no surprise to me to learn the MS was returned weeks ago but was lost in the post en route. Even the thought makes me giggle. I can so clearly imagine that this is what’s happened that I am biting the inside of my cheek right now to stop from laughing. And truly, I would find it funny. I wouldn’t have even bothered asking but for the fact that I want to work on MS #1 next Darkling retreat, and I want to work on it without anything like this hanging over me. I want a clean slate. I’ve assumed it’s a no for months now, but the thought of not receiving confirmation of that before we go away really irks me. It bothers me because I know myself well enough to know it would play on my mind, thus hampering my progress. I also don’t want to go on the retreat only to be derailed by an ill-timed rejection email right in the middle of it. I’d rather have a few days to digest the implications, embrace the benefits, and move on.

Having waited one week shy of five months for an answer, I can’t tell you how vexing it’s been waiting for a response this afternoon. A response I’ve not yet received, I might add, but given I only sent my own email at about 2:30 pm, that’s hardly surprising. I just want it to be over now. I’ve hit the wall. It’s required more patience than I knew I possessed to sit this out for this long, but now I’m done. I admit defeat. I just really want the answer and I have stopped caring what it is. Isn’t that terrible? Terrible but true. I’ve completely lost interest. And I’m not being cavalier or disingenuous – I’ve only lost interest in the outcome because I know I’m shortly due to start redrafting the MS again. Therefore (and I feel like I need to show you my working like in a botched Maths problem in high school, when I might still have scrounged a couple of marks for trying), what this agency says about the draft they received has for all intents and purposes ceased to matter, because it won’t be this version that goes out. Even in the wild alternate universe in which a five-month turnaround time somehow becomes GOOD news for a manuscript (sorry, but if they want you, they grab you – I have seen this happen, and the contrast between that response and this is beyond extreme, trust me), this still wouldn’t be the version that would go out.

In fact, the one and only thing the agent could say to me now that really would frighten and upset me is this: “We want to send your manuscript out to publishers just as it is.”

Yep (shudder), that would be scary – as utterly fanciful as Freddy Kruger, mind you, but scary just the same.

Note to self: Monday, let’s talk about diary keeping. Was reading through an old one of mine through the week, and my, my, it’s a doozy. It raises some interesting questions, including WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING??

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