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.