On the Road: Autumn in New York

Autumn in New York: That song always sounds so melancholy, but the truth is, the city is absolutely gorgeous right now. Of course, it helps that I’m in the Village. I don’t think there’s any season that the Village isn’t gorgeous. I’m here on business and to see my daughter which will be a little bit about business, too, and then home again, just a quick trip because my October is packed. I did something different this time, took a late afternoon flight so that I wasn’t rushing around half asleep, got into the city about six, had a quiet evening alone in the apartment (well, semi-alone, there are people here and they’re lovely), I even watched TV because Mollie wanted me to see Reaper, and then I did some work. For a day of travel, it was completely leisurely, and whenever I have the time, I’m going to do that again. The only mistake I made was drinking Diet Coke with caffeine. It’s a very bad idea to give me caffeine. I tend to go a million miles a minute without it–some of you who’ve heard me speak may attest to that–so that when you give me a drug I’m really sensitive to that speeds me up, I’m pretty much out there with my fingernails in the ceiling, watching lights flash by and talking like an auctioneer. Forget alcohol, caffeine makes me act like a banshee. So sleep was a problem, but I was in New York and very happy, so that was all right, too.

This morning (Wednesday) was terrific. I walked through Chelsea, another area I love, and then had a great meeting with a new agency that is going to be perfect for me. Getting a new agent after twelve good years with your first one is like dating after the end of a good marriage. You really don’t want to play the game any more, you just want to fast forward to the relationship, but since you want another good one, you have to take it slow, get to know each other, kick each other’s tires . . . and now that the tire-kicking is done, I’m thrilled to be at Writer’s House with Amy Berkower and Jodi Reamer. Of course, now I also owe Pat Gaffney a pony for doing the matchmaking. Maybe there’s one on eBay . . .

Then I met my pal Alisa Kwitney at a restaurant called Mustache, and she explained graphic novels to me, which she knows all about because she used to be an editor at Vertigo, a cutting edge comic/graphic novel house. Now, of course, she writes women’s fiction–her latest is Flirting in Cars, you should go buy it–but she’s just done a YA graphic novel and I wanted to know all about it because I am fascinated with the narrative strategies in graphic novels, something I will probably be writing on at length here in the future. I cherish my Hellboy collection, have a sneaking fondness for Tank Girl, think Gaiman’s Death is one of the great female characters of our time, and loved Bechdel’s Fun House, I pretty much read them for pleasure–there’s a concept–instead of taking them apart to see how they worked. But I’ve had this idea for quite a while now about a female cartoonist, and I was researching that on the side and got caught up in how the comic book tells stories which is a completely different from novels or movies–I know, you’re saying “well, duh,” but trust me, it was an epiphany for me–and then I read Scott McCloud’s classic book and realized that the gutters act like the white space in the novel, that a comic is not an illustrated novel, that a good graphic novel allows the reader to leap the spaces between the words and the pictures and co-author the text, and then my head exploded and I thought, I have to try this.

So because Alisa is a good true friend, she came into the city and we talked graphic novels over lunch, and then we walked around the Village, still talking, and found her a kick-ass dress in a boutique–she’s going to wear it to the fantasy con the first weekend in NYC so if you’re going to that be sure to check her out–then came back to the apartment and talked obsessively about writing and novels and life in general for a couple more hours, and finally ate dinner at a sidewalk Thai diner before she caught her train home and I came back to the apartment to work. We were pretty much narrative wonks all day, interspersed with trying on clothes and eating. It was heaven. And tomorrow, I get to see my kid.

So a very productive day in a beautiful city with good food and great people, and my kid to look forward to tomorrow. If there was any chocolate in this apartment, life would be perfect.

28 thoughts on “On the Road: Autumn in New York

  1. Hey, congratulations on the new marriage. *grin* I’m glad you’ve found a good match for your talents and you got to kick the tires and such. Always a good thing to do.

    And NYC is wonderful any time of year, well maybe not in August. I’m thinking of a trip in November because a story I’m rewriting (I think I’m working on it.) It was originally written about NYC and Vermont at that time of year about four years ago. I’d love to re-investigate, walk the terrain as Bob says. Maybe Thanksgiving that would be neat.

    Graphic Novels huh? I have Neil Gaiman and Yoshitaka Amano’s The Dream Hunters. It’s so fabulous. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings I get from reading it, or just looking at the exquisite artwork, it has place of residence on my coffee table. I bet you’d be brilliant at this.

    I’m envious, everyone is travelling and I’m stuck at home, counting my pennies and dreaming …

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  2. sounds like a lovely day – so relaxing, fun and productive. there’s the excitement of a new partnership, the all important food, chatting, and shopping. not to mention you did some work. love the tyre-kicking comment — my godson is 3 and he does this to cars to see if they are a-okay. have fun catching up with your daughter!

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  3. Squee! I think you’d be a good fit for a graphic novelist career. (-: And if you wrote one, I’d buy my first graphic novel. (But better hurry — I’m really tempted to get the Gaiman/Amano one Robena mentions.)

    Have fun, and I hope it sets up the rest of your month in a great way.

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  4. Have you ever seen QuestionableContent? It’s a great web comic with narrative structure and conflict, characterization, and all that good stuff. I just spent a few days reading it from the beginning. In addition to the comic, he occasionally talks about things like narrative structure and how the way he draws the characters is part of characterization and so on. It’s also a great story line.

    Years ago I had planned to do a couple graphic novels, and I may revisit that idea one of these days. It was reassuring to watch how awkward the early QuestionableContent drawings were, and to see how he loosened up and gained facility. That’s always been my big worry, being relaxed enough to let it flow. You talk about that in one of your books, IIRC, the painter, ah, FI, where she’s thrilled to just let the paint flow after doing all those copies. Tilda!

    Anyway, I’d love to see you doing graphic novels. You could always test out a few cartoons here. Heh heh. Crafty, aren’t I?

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  5. Good karma. What goes out, comes back atcha! So glad you have a lovely new agency to work with. Have fun!

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  6. Gratz on the new agency/agenting! So glad you’re doing the leisurely travel thing this time. Here’s to more of that.

    Oh, and Tank Girl woo! One of my all-time favs. Surprise.

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  7. So happy to know life is going great for you. Congrats on the new agents.

    And I’m not jealous at all that Pat Gaffney is getting a pony. Nope.

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  8. Congrats on the new agency! Even bigger felicitations on your inner peach, because it sure sounds like you’re there! (I’m assuming you’ll get chocolate on Thursday so your peach will be totally complete.)

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  9. Sounds wonderful-I love New York. I was just there for a weekend and walked for miles and hours (my husband just shook his head and said he couldn’t understand how I got so much more exercise in Manhattan than I ever do in the Colorado Rocky Mountains where we live [and where athletic endeavors are pretty much the only thing to do]).

    I had to read the McCloud book for a course last spring (I’m plugging away at an MLS) and it really made a light bulb go off in my head about graphic novels. I’m not very visual and didn’t get it at all until I read the McCloud book.

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  10. You know, the pony sounds good, in theory, but, unless it comes with a strappingly handsome stablehand, it sounds like a lot of work.

    NYC in Fall….there’s really nothing better. I’m so glad you’re having a fabulous time-and I think you should get some chocolate for that apartment just so life would be perfect-just for one shining moment.

    Can’t wait to see the graphic novel. Have you picked up “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” by Brian Selznick? It looks like a novel on the outside, but on the inside, it’s about 95% drawings. It’s pretty awesome.

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  11. Today’s The Cultural Gutter talks about Scott McCloud’s new book:

    “Where Understanding Comics was ‘trying to work out the DNA of comics, trying to figure out those first principles’, McCloud’s newest book, Making Comics, relates some of the secrets of storytelling.”

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  12. Glad to hear about the new agency.
    Just bought Flirting in Cars yesterday, plan to read it this weekend. I actually started reading Alisa Kwitney when I saw your quote on the cover of On the Couch (which was fabulous) and then had to get her back list.

    Have a great time with Mollie!

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  13. The trips sounds lovely, but the prospect of you playing with graphic novels sounds absolutely thrilling to my reader’s ears. I’d like to recommend one of the great graphic love stories if I may, the recently concluded Stangers in Paradise by Terry Moore. Oh, and I absolutely second ZaZa’s reference to QC as one of the most enjoyable webcomics I’ve read.

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  14. Not a graphic novel, but the new Buffy comic, Season Eight (written by Joss) put out by Dark Horse has been fab!

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  15. Jenny, congratulations on melding with an agency you’re happy to work with. May you have many many long, happy and mutually successful years together! Yay!

    And your time in NY sounds wonderful. One day I’ll get there… one day…

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  16. Jenny – Congrats on the new agency. I like the idea of a graphic novel or a character who is a graphic novelist. Both, in fact, sound perfect.

    I’ve read Dark Horse’s Season Eight. Fabulous for those of us who are jonesing for all things Whedon.

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  17. What I love about graphic novels/comics like QuestionableContent is that you can show all the eye rolling and shocked disbelief that is so funny in real life but is just about impossible to write without killing the humor. Well, just one of the things. /;+)

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  18. Congrats on the new agent! I can’t even imagine what it’s like ‘dating’ and kicking-tires, etc. after being with the same person for so long. I’d want to fast-forward to the relationship too. But good for you both for taking some time to figure out your common ground.
    I’m always amazed how positive you sound, even in the uncertain and stressful times in your life. Thanks so much for sharing. It helps increase my confidence as I cross over bumps in my road, and also helps me to remember that something wonderful could be right around the corner.

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  19. Hi Jenny
    Congratulations on the new agent. Was wonderful to meet you when you were in NZ.
    I have visited NY city in 2000 and found it a fascinating place. Would love to come back again.

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  20. Congratulations on Writer’s House! I met Amy Berkower years ago when I worked for her husband, Daniel Weiss. Amy was always professional, together, terrifically supportive of her authors, and has a mind like a steel bear trap. Plus a fabulous dresser. Having her as an agent is like pulling out the big guns, and I know you’ll be happy at Writer’s House. Good for you.
    I miss New York.

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