Flight ritual

The Allegheny Mountains with a dusting of snow from 30,000 feet.

If I were a character in a Warren Zevon song, I’d be Suzie Lightning. I wrote a story about her, though that story has yet to find a home (it was a finalist in a Glimmer Train contest, though!). Every time I fly, I have to listen to that song.

“She only sleeps on planes / She’s tired of going nowhere …”

I listen during takeoff, because I like to watch the earth shrink below, especially if it’s still dark. And once the plane climbs to cruising altitude, I write.

“Suzie Lightning” is a song about a girl who only sleeps on airplanes, and I like to joke that I can only write on airplanes. It’s not true, really—I write mostly every day—but flights always seem to break my writer’s block or just force me to stay in my seat and write without distractions (I’m not paying for internet, guys).

As I write this, I’m on a flight from Pittsburgh to Tampa, where this year’s Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference is being held. Before I wrote this blog post, I wrote an essay about waiting to read the last book in a series because you don’t want the series to be over. I had planned to work on my novel, but I neglected to grab a copy of my outline for off-line use, and I need past Kelly’s help on the next scene (I know, I know, it’s an excuse, but I’m going to have many hours before I can check into my hotel, so I’ll work on the novel then, I promise.)

This habit of writing on airplanes began nearly ten years ago, when I flew to San Francisco to visit a friend and attend National Novel Writing Month’s Night of Writing Dangerously. It was mid-November, and my novel’s word count was seriously lacking. Instead of reading or sleeping on the plane, I decided to write. I made up my word count, and got ahead on the flight home.

Years later, while working on my master’s thesis and being stuck on one particular story that didn’t want to congeal, I flew down to Arkansas to visit my best friend Ele. Pittsburgh to Little Rock is a long flight with a few layovers and transfers. I wrote for several one-to-two-hour bursts, and got that story finished.

I’ve written countless other bits of novel, short stories, and journals while on flights here and there. While everyone around me listens to music or reads magazines, I am being So Productive, which allows me to feel vaguely superior (even though at times I am the magazine-reading, music-listening passenger).

Plane writing is also a pretty good discouragement to keep people from talking to me, especially if I’m drafting by hand. My seatmate right now is wearing a Cleveland Indians hat, complete with racist logo, so the only thing I have to say is “Your hat is fucking racist, dude.”

We’re beginning our descent, so I’ll leave it at that. TL;DR—I get a lot of writing done on airplanes.

Do you have any rituals or habits when you fly?



Honk honk: August 2016 edition

Today is the first day in a long time where I haven’t had to be anywhere or do anything. It feels nice, if weird. I feel like I can breathe a little, plan the rest of my summer, and actually enjoy the nerdy nerdy things I love (oh video games, how I’ve missed you).

Time, as always, still runs out before I accomplish everything on my list (plus all the things I want to do but don’t put on my list), but I still have a good number of accomplishments to round up from the first stretch of summer:

  • My short story “What Jeannie Needs” was published in Rose Red Review,
    an online journal that publishes modern fairy tales. I’ll write up a little behind the scenes post for this story in the near future.
  • I interviewed Ranbir Singh Sidhu for The Rumpus. If you recall, I wrote about Ranbir’s book Good Indian Girls on this blog and followed that up with a short interview. After reading his novel, I wanted to do something more in depth. I highly recommend Deep Singh Blue, especially for anyone who’s ever felt completely out of place.
  • My short story “The Time I Listened to Warren Zevon for One Year Straight” will appear in Permafrost’s Summer 2016 online issue.
  • For the work blog, I wrote about my corgi’s degenerative nerve disease and the debut novel Lily and the Octopus, and apparently made some people cry. I also wrote about Pokémon Go, which hopefully didn’t make anyone cry.
  • And finally, my review of Sherrie Flick’s Whiskey, Etc., written for the work blog, was syndicated on Littsburgh. This is another fantastic book that I highly recommend.

Even though this is a great list, I feel guilty about the things I haven’t done: written a synopsis for my short story collection and novel so I can attempt to sell both projects to an agent, reading a friend’s novel, reading my husband’s novel, devoting serious time to Wild Age Press… I could go on forever. It’s something I’m working on with my therapist.

Maybe one day I’ll hack this time thing. But in the more likely scenario that I don’t, I’ll try to remember that friends, family, and writing are the important things, and those should always come before all the necessary chores of life.

Honk honk: April 2016 edition

The other day I was updating my CV (something I do periodically so when I need it, it’s just there already), and realizing that a lot of cool stuff has been going on in my writing life, and I haven’t even mentioned it here.

This is one of my main problems: I don’t like tooting my own horn, even when it’s appropriate. When I graduated with my MFA in 2013, I probably only told half my friends. More than one asked me later how school was going.

It’s true that bragging is pretty crappy, but simply acknowledging your accomplishments isn’t. Still, it’s something I struggle with a lot. So, some of this is old-ish news, and some of it is new, but here’s a short list of writing-related cool stuff I’m doing/did recently:

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Have you done anything awesome lately? Share in the comments!