Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My First (of many?) Embarrassing Moment In Publishing…

So I get this email from my new editor:

To: Christy Raedeke
Subject: Don't worry . .

I am going to get you notes, etc. on PoD. Brian and I have talked about it and he’s excited about the premise. I think he’ll be even more excited once he gets into the text.

More soon,

I read it and think, what the hell is PoD? I Google the acronym for an hour, in various configurations with words like "edit" and "manuscript" trying to get hip to the whole publishing slang. Can’t find much, so I assume his edits are so big that he’s binding them into a Print On Demand (PoD) book. Realizing I should go ahead and clarify rather than assume anything, I email back:

To: Editor AK
Subject: RE: Don't worry . . .

Print on demand? Payable on death? I’m so sorry I don’t know what PoD means.


To which he replies:

To: Christy Raedeke
Subject: Don't worry . .

PoD = “Prophecy of Days.” You’re officially working with a publishing house. All books get acronyms.


Oh, that. Yes, of course. My book’s title.
It honestly never occurred to me. Doh!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Day Daryl Hannah Almost Bought Our House (aka Bat Day)

It all started with Daryl Hannah. When she’s not making mediocre movies she spends a lot of time up in the Greensprings, about a half hour from Ashland, with a good friend of hers who has a bunch of acreage (acreage is key, as Daryl is an alleged nudist). So she liked the area and wanted a house in Ashland. Ours happened to be up for sale at the time so she made an offer, above asking price, based on photos alone because that’s what celebrities do. Her lawyer, however, would not release the funds until she had been inside. Our house was not really that nude friendly, although if I looked like Daryl Hannah I’d be naked as much as possible too and would have made the house more so, but she was interested nonetheless and needed to see the inside.

If she had shown up for every appointment she'd scheduled this would have been her fifth visit but she had overslept for the previous four showings. Apparently, in addition to being a nudist, she is an insomniac. When she actually falls asleep no one wants to wake her up, not even for appointments.

I don’t know about you, but when a celebrity comes to look at my house I clean. Deeply. Freakishly. I even clean items that are in the house but not really part of the house, like my shoes. And with every missed appointment my cleaning became more manic. This particular morning, for this particular showing, I was particularly compulsive. I had sent my husband out to drive the kids around the block indefinitely because I needed to be alone with my madness. I was a dervish, sweaty with focus and fear. At one point, I found myself on the carpet with needlepoint scissors, trimming a couple of fibers that seemed just a touch long.

Then, at last, came a moment of clarity: Daryl Hannah did not care about cleanliness. This was a woman who had a house in Colorado (surrounded by thousands of acres, for obvious reasons) that featured a bathroom covered in moss. She hired a local moss mister to keep her moss moist when she was not staying there. Anyone who enjoys living with sphagnum, I reasoned, would not mind if a couple carpet fibers were a touch long. This was a sleepless, moss-lovin’ nudist who would probably groove more on the vibe of the house than on the caustic smell of X-14 that I so loved.

I looked up from the carpet to the wall of black and white photos. There were about 30 of them in various sizes. Old photos, new photos, all special for one reason or another. I got up and walked over to my favorite, a five-by-six-inch photo of my Grandfather, Steve. He is standing alone at midday in the middle of a dirt road that cuts through rolling hills covered with brown grass. He is wearing a dark suit and tie and an overcoat and a hat. It is the kind of photo that could suggest a million possibilities. I happen to know, however, what he was doing. He and his older brother Fritz were driving a milk truck from Wisconsin to Nevada that contained both moonshine and a certain character named Baby Face Nelson. My Grandfather was an unwitting accomplice, he later said, anything untoward was always Fritz’s doing. I believed him because he had the biggest heart of anyone I ever knew.

This is where it gets weird, so bear with me. In an act of desperation I looked at this photo and thought of moss and peace and asked my dead grandfather to help me fill this house with love. And then, perhaps because I knew the provenance of the picture, I pulled a move that felt very Godfather, I leaned over and kissed the photograph.

And that was it. I put the scissors back in the sewing box, wound the vacuum cleaner cord in a figure eight between the two hooks and stopped cleaning. I walked from room to room trying to fill each one with love. I conjured family and friends who had been in these rooms, I invoked joy and peace. And then I went back downstairs and waited for Scott to pick me up so we could be out of the house when Daryl finally showed up. The sound of our car pulling up the driveway triggered the mania that had driven my cleaning, and I reflexively ran upstairs to do one last check.

As I reached the landing, I looked at the picture wall and saw that the photo of my grandfather was askew. I must have bumped it when I kissed it, I thought, so I walked over to re-hang it. The moment I lifted it off the nail an enormous bat flew out from behind the frame, right toward my face, and then fell to the floor.

My response was too ridiculous to recount. Let me just tell you that I’m easy to startle and have, in fact, been diagnosed with a condition called “Exaggerated Startle Reflex,” which is mostly found in people who have seen combat. No doctor has ever been able to find the genesis of mine, but that fact is not important right now. What’s important is that I have this condition and a bat came out from behind a photo that I had recently put my lips to. I’ll let you imagine the rest.

After I calmed myself down, I tried to get a grasp on the situation. The bat was flopping around on the ground, claws stuck in the very carpet fibers I was clipping earlier, making a ghastly electronic sound like some kind of demonic toy that was low on batteries. I grabbed a towel off the stack in the guest bathroom—one of the towels that I had refolded several times in anticipation of Daryl’s appraisal—and threw it over the struggling creature. Let it be known that I carry my own luggage and mow the lawn, but when it comes to bat removal, I revert directly to nineteenth century rules: this is man’s work.

By the time Scott got to the bat it was so freaked out that it was quaking and gasping for breath like an emphysemic; it had none of the fiendish Luciferian qualities that it presented to me. It looked like a quivering rat grafted onto impressive fourteen-inch wings. Scott bundled it in the towel, walked it outside, and shook it gently into our big photinia hedge. We heard some scurrying, and that was it.

Neither of us could figure out how it had gotten in, we had never had so much as a mouse in the house. A cricket’s appearance in the kitchen was talked about by our daughter for years, that’s how devoid of wildlife our house was. More impressive than its mysterious entry was the way it folded itself up enough to fit behind a five-by-six frame and why it chose that photo to fold up behind, the same photo I chose to pay homage to. There were so many larger frames inches away. Why a small one? Why that one?

This event sparked my own bout with insomnia. I would lay awake nights trying to reason it out. Could it really be as simple as the bat and I each making a random choice that day—a choice not ordinary to either of our lives—and colliding? Or could it be as complicated as Bell’s Theorem? Was this some kind of quantum entanglement, what Einstein called spooky action at a distance, whereby the bat was my photon twin and wherever in the universe I moved the bat moved too? In the end, the whole scene was bizarre, but perhaps not as bizarre as Daryl Hannah, the insomniac, oversleeping for her fifth appointment.

Someone else bought the house.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rantings of a Registered Independent

Over the past few weeks I’ve sensed this mounting irritability, a deep-rooted feeling of being unsettled. There’s angst, a bit of woe, and a good amount of fear. It’s getting worse as we get closer.

Do you feel it?

McCain’s latest trick, the “Joe the Plumber Tour” that he’s kicked off in Florida has hit a new low in Gimmick Campaigning. Joe isn’t a plumber, and in fact, Joe is working with neither a plumbing nor a plumbing apprentice license. Joe hasn’t paid some back taxes. Joe, as seen on interviews, is kind of a jackass. But all of a sudden it matters that if he buys the plumbing business he will pay 3% more taxes on anything over $250,000? Cry me a river Joe. And this, it seems, is all McCain can think to talk about.

Where is the Joe the Teacher tour?

Never has it been more important to think. Never has it been more important to vote.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


It's blustery here today. The wind is tearing the vibrant red and orange leaves from the branches they've been clinging to since March and then sweeping them up in little whirlpools here and there - one last fun ride before their inevitable decay.

I went for a walk this morning and while my hair was being whipped into a bird's nest, some good ideas came swirling in. Wind does that to me - somehow warm gusts always open up new possibilities and blow in new perspective on old issues. Got to write them down before they blow away again...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Writer Brain vs. Artist Brain

How is the writer's brain different from the artist's brain?

I know several people (Davis, Sarah Frances, Miles, Eve) who are both writers and artists and I wonder what their take is on this. Does writing mostly tap in to the intuitive side of the brain (as art does) or the linear side of the brain (as science does)? Or both simultaneously?

My sister and I were raised by two people who were not in the arts, but very early she emerged as an artist and I, a writer. If asked to draw or paint, I literally feel like I've stroked out and am unable to tell my hand what to do; I just don't know how to translate what I see into something on paper unless I'm using words. My sister has the opposite problem.

It's fascinating, really. Thoughts?

Bonus question: Art brain and writer brain meet for a cage fight. Who wins?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Before the Age of Tanning Beds: Prom in the Early 80's

Those of you Davis and I met at the SCBWI conference found out that we'd been friends for about 35 years. One of those 35 years included 1984, year of the "We've Got Tonight" Prom:

Proof that friendship can overcome anything...including powder blue dye-to-match shoes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

You want big hair and parachute pants? A slight diversion from writing about writing.

In response to the comment on my previous post "1984" about expecting to see bigger hair, I bring you Big 1985 Hair:Can you tell Dynasty was influential? Looks like we're going to the Denver-Carrington Christmas party to double-team Alexis.

And Sarah Frances, I couldn't find the Christy/Davis prom pic but I came across this doozy. Prime 80s! I think we'd just had a few Bartles & Jaymes and were about to hit an Erasure concert. The Hammer Pants I'm wearing? Yeah, uh those would be neon green...

Davis and Peggy-Sorry to throw you under the bus.


Author/Merman Jay Asher just put up a funny post about senior photos, and challenged one and all to scan in their own. So here for your amusement is:

Christine Marie Gersich
Ashland Senior High class of 1984

To get my "mall bangs" that poufy and my side rolls just right I used a round hairbrush the size of a kielbasa and a LOT of Aqua Net. I'd like to say I've made a radical departure from this look, but if you glance at my blog photo you'll see that in nearly 25 years I haven't made a whole lot of progress in hairstyle or makeup scheme. (Although a friend did finally pry the Lancome Electric Blue Eyeliner from my hands in 1989. But hey, I gave it a good run.)

As John Cougar Mellencamp said so profoundly: Hold on to 16 as long as you can/Changes comin round real soon make us women and men...

Friday, October 17, 2008

What are your favorites?

There are two words I love above all others: rime and nacre.
My least favorite word: rag.
What words do you adore and despise?
For a fun list of some you may not have heard of, see this BBC article. I didn't know that the smell of rain was called petrichor. Lovely, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Hēurēka is the 1st person singular perfect indicative active of the Greek verb heuriskein, meaning: I am in a state of having found it. Archimedes first yelled it when he stepped into the bath and finally understood displacement; the state of California co-opted it as its motto, referring to the discovery of gold in them there hills; and I just screamed it in my office when, after weeks of torturous self doubt about whether or not I could really pull these two books off, I figured out the key.

And it all has to do with the picture to the left...anyone recognize it?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ode to Emmet

Recently, in preparation for a new freelance gig, I put together a site with some writing samples. I started at Microsoft in 1988 so some of these samples look ancient - but whenever I start to think of 1988 as old in technology terms, I remember my grandfather, Emmet Cameron (seen at left with his friend Dave Packard, aka the "P" in HP). As an executive at Varian Associates in Palo Alto, he was working in Silicon Valley decades before any of us had even seen a personal computer. Boy was he proud when my first real job was at Microsoft!

In later years he enjoyed the benefits of financial success - a sprawling house in Atherton and trips all over the world - but he grew up dirt poor. Though his father was a fireman and his mother never even graduated from high school, my grandfather and his three sisters were brilliant, all tagged early by Lewis Terman at Stanford who followed them from childhood through old age as part of his Genetic Studies of Genius research. Grandpa was an interesting guy; in addition to being so smart he was funny, inventive, and tender.

I miss him. I'm grateful for author Christophe Leacute, who has preserved the legacy of my grandfather and his colleagues by writing about the early, less glamorous days of Silicon Valley in Making Silicon Valley by MIT Press.

Tonight I think I'll have a very dry martin with a twist a la Emmet Cameron!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The World at Large

My agent said there's lots of foreign interest in my manuscript! Shocking! Exciting! Frightening!

Now I have to get my revision done asap...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hello Fairhaven!

My sister is an art teacher at Fairhaven Middle School in Bellingham, Washington. Yesterday—the one day I didn’t write about writing and instead posted a gruesome photo of a newborn—she fired off this email, “I sent your blog address out to all my colleagues yesterday and told them they could contact you regarding questions about writing. Maybe you want to crop the bloody cord from Hanky's baby picture and repost it. Just a thought...”

So, hey, Fairhaven teachers and students, sorry if you came to check out a writing blog and got an eyeful of vernix caseosa instead! I did crop the photo to be more tasteful, but instead of taking it down I’ll explain the connection: publishing = childbirth.

It’s true! One of the big cliché things writers always say is that their manuscript is like their baby. First it’s just an idea, then it grows inside you, gestating, feeding off your lifeblood. When it’s born and you let other people see it, there’s the same sense of fragility. You are terrified that others will not think it’s as beautiful as you do. You understand why that little wrinkle in the chin is cute, but does anyone else? There’s a complete lack of objectivity that mothers and writers share; it’s hard to step back and take a fresh look at your child or your writing because you are always filtering what you see through your eyes as the creator.

I don’t think writers are more sensitive than other people, I just think what we do for a living is more deeply connected to us. Having your book criticized hurts no lees than having your child teased...and is there anything better than having your baby lauded by all? It's a whole new level of pride.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's a...Hank!

Exactly five years ago today I had a growth removed:

And with a lot of love and waffles and Kleenex, it grew into this:

Henry Richard (Hank) Raedeke

If he doesn’t win you over with a flash of his pearly white Chiclets, he’ll woo you with his kind words. Best knows for statements like, “You have beautiful skin…(pause for compliment to sink in)…do you have any popsicles?” or “I like your hair…(pause)…are those brownies back there?” He is a man who knows how to get what he wants.

So Happy Fifth Birthday to the sweetest, happiest, most linguistically inventive little boy you’ll ever meet. (Yes, Hank, meatbulb does in fact make a lot of sense, and it’s much more satisfying to say than meatball…)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Herbs in the Attic

I just sent my friend Eve a copy of Christina Meldrum’s excellent Madapple because I wanted to get her reaction to it. I devoured it but my critique partner Jennie couldn’t get past the first few chapters. It’s dense, yes, and heavy on the botany, but at the core is a story that took me right back to my young adult days—it reads like a highbrow, literary version of Flowers in the Attic. You know, if V.C. Andrews had a law degree from Harvard and a predilection for botany…

When I was teen I blew though the V.C. Andrews cannon. Beyond the fact that her books had die-cut covers (soooo sophisticated in 1979!) I absolutely loved her bizarre, gothic tales of the Dollanganger kids. Madapple has a completely different setting and plot but shares the twisted theme of what happens to children when they are abused and isolated from society and eventually turn to each other for…well…I won’t say anymore so I don’t spoil anything for those of you who haven’t read it yet.

Give it a try, let me know what you think. If you loved Flowers in the Attic et al as a kid but your tastes have turned to more literary books as an adult, I think it’s just the thing.