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An assessment of life at the moment:

1. I have realized that the work involved in getting an agent after your agent retires is really exhausting. My synopsis is done but I need to update the professional bio (which feels like college all over again) and come up with a list of comparable titles (thus proving that while my proposed book is still unique, it is not too unique).

2. I'm also supposed to provide 2 chapters. As I am still researching the stuff for the beginning of the book, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to accomplish this in any sort of chronological order, but 2 chapters are 2 chapters, I suppose.

3. UGH!

4. I will be at the Pacific NW Booksellers Association Tradeshow in Tacoma in 2 weeks, manning a booth for Taku Graphics & Shorefast Editions. If you are going to be there, stop by and say hello! (And enter our drawing for Alaskan awesomeness.)

5. My website is getting a bit of a redesign in the coming weeks. Mostly behind the scenes stuff (including a new commenting format).

6. I'm working on articles about aviation + mail in AK, fly-your-own-plane tourism in AK and the history of aviation and fishing. If this excites you, keep an eye at Alaska Dispatch News for more.

7. I think I have rewatched every episode of The Gilmore Girls a zillion times. I'm wearing out my dvds. (Perfect background watching for writing.)

8. I'm sending out 2 letters to churches with questions about family weddings from the past and purchasing some certificates from NYC. The genealogy continues.

9. I have to find out how to query for a Rockland State Hospital record of commitment because on top of everything else (and there has been a lot of stuff in my family history), we also had someone committed to one of the most notorious psychiatric hospitals in US history.

10. Of course.

11. Recent reads include Celine Kiernan's Into the Grey - a very atmospheric YA ghost story set in Ireland that I loved a lot. I'm hoping to get a review of it (and a couple of other scary-type books) submitted to an online review site. I'll keep ya posted.

12. I've been reading lots of small stuff around the edges. I can't seem to focus too much beyond my Booklist reading these days (which lately included a title about infectious diseases - oy). Last night I read Marie Claire magazine and it was almost too much. (I am however all over the 1930s articles on Alaska flying and fishing; that is my speed these days.)

13. I'm craving grilled cheese sandwiches. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

14. I have to send off a letter requesting archival information about the papers of a man who died 70 years ago. I thought I might be crazy to pursue writing an essay about him (I have no idea where I would submit it) but google searches bring up so little and there should be more. We'll see what happens. Maybe I won't find enough to write about - although that alone might be the point of the essay then.

15. I found out last week that one of my relatives died from complications due to syphilis.

16. Of course.

16. Pretty hard to top that, so I think I'll end here!

From Tingle Alley:

When Jane was working on this story on the history of Seventeen, we did a lot of emailing back and forth about Back to School magazine issues and how much we loved them. In junior high I read the hell out of every September issue of Seventeen, and the memory is all caught up with the anticipation of seeing people again after the summer and the belief that Everything Was Going To Be Different This Year.

One year, one of the pieces of editorial advice was to soak cotton balls with perfume and lay them on your next day's outfit so that the outfit would become pleasantly layered with scent. I did this DILIGENTLY for at least a month. Four or five cotton balls each night. So that's what September always feels like to me, like the time of year that you believe that you can soak some cotton balls in Jean Nate, tuck them in your clothes overnight, and become magically alluring the next day.

I was a huge fan of Seventeen, from about 1980 (7th grade) through high school. I identify completely with what Carrie writes here about the back to school issue. Every summer I plotted transformations to be unleashed upon the world (and school) in September.

It never happened.

But I still get that thought--that "bouquet of newly sharpened pencils"--thought about making my mark in the fall. Back then it was all about changing my clothes and my hair, now it's more about getting my closet sorted out and reducing the stacks of paper that threaten my laptop; about plotting future articles and organizing research notes.

September comes around again this year, just like it always does, and I'm so happy to see it. I love September and all the accomplishments it still dares us to have.

On the basis of Beth Kephart's recommendation in her book Handling the Truth, I ordered a copy of Hiroshima in the Morning through Powells. The author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto received a fellowship to go to Japan in mid-2001 for six months and research her planned novel about the bombing of Hiroshima. What she did not expect was the wrenching difficulty (in a myriad of ways) of parting from her husband and 2 young sons in NYC and how complicated it would be to navigate Japanese culture and gain the insight she wanted on her subject.

This is a really tough book to classify because if I tell you it will resonate strongly with women who feel torn between family life and their work, you will probably immediately think of "Lean In" and not give it a second thought. But that aspect of the book is important and needs to be noted. Rizzuto's personal/professional conflict is so intense and so tied to the unique aspects of researching a book, that any writer who has ever felt similarly torn is going to identify very powerfully with her words. She wonders if she is committed enough to her marriage and motherhood and also worries about her own mother who is suffering from the early stages of dementia. Are there other places where Rizzuto should be? It doesn't help when her husband starts to rethink all of his earlier support for the project after spending one too many nights dealing with sick kids. And all Rizzuto can tell him is that she is talking to people, visiting museums and temples, "soaking up" the culture of Japan.

She might be more convincing if she felt more certain that she was getting done the work she needed.

That's the other impressive aspect of Hiroshima in the Morning--Rizzuto's discovery of how complicated the Hiroshima story is. The book has excerpts from the interviews she conducted with survivors and they are the very definition of gut wrenching. Rizzuto finds herself overwhelmed by the horror of those stories, (you will be too), and transformed by them. Then 9/11 happens and her family arrives for a visit and again her vision of herself and the world goes through another change.

There is a lot about this book that made me think about writing, history, stories, the power of family and so much more. So many times as a writer I have questioned the value of what I choose to do with my life and anyone who has ever been in that position will understand what Rizzuto goes through. But the stories from Hiroshima are what has stayed with me more than anything else and they make me think yet again how much our history is dominated by the way we tell stories, and our collective acceptance of who does the telling.