Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When I first met my husband, he struck me as a pretty typical guy. He was my mom's boss's son, and he'd come over to fix a busted CD-ROM. He was techy, quiet, and terribly shy. It took us three weeks to talk to each other, and even longer before we had anything even remotely resembling a real conversation. Looking back, I guess I'm lucky Mom kept "accidentally" breaking things on the computer.

Once he and I started hanging out, I realized he loved two things: music and electronics. I quickly learned he didn't like reading, but then, I could care less about building computers, so it all evened out. We'd spend lazy afternoons at his apartment, me curled up in the recliner with a book, him with his computer popped open in front of him, its guts spilling onto the counter. Occasionally we'd try to nudge across that divide - I'd suggest a really good book, or he'd try to teach me how to install a motherboard. But it never really amounted to anything; he didn't have the patience to sit down and agonize over four hundred pages, and I usually found myself playing toothpick hockey with the dust bunnies he'd clean out of his tower halfway through the installation.

About a year after we started dating, I got my own place. And when I moved, so did my library.

I've had a fairly impressive book collection for as long as I can remember. My parents used to joke about how half their storage space was made up of books, sealed in tubs and squirreled away. When he helped me move, he couldn't believe all the books that came out of the woodwork, and how I was constantly buying more.

"There are worse addictions," I would tell him. And, grudgingly, he would agree.

I think I started winning him over sometime around year three, when he would drive up and spend weekends at my house. I'd catch him pulling books out of shelves and reading their dust jackets, always when he didn't think I was watching. He wasn't a reader, he would proudly declare.

Now, three years later, I can't really remember what it was that won him over. I couldn't tell you whether it was Gaiman or Austen or Westerfield. All I remember is coming home from a late class and seeing him snuggled up on the couch, frowning over whatever book it was in his hands. At first I assumed he'd just picked it up because he was bored, because there was nothing on TV and he'd browsed himself out on the Internet.

But then he kept going. My solo trips to the local bookstore turned into the two of us wandering the shelves for hours, occasionally running up to each other, breathless with excitement at what we'd found. He'd find something new and suggest it to me, and I'd do the same thing for him.

On May 30th, we'll have been married for two years. We're still green when it comes to this marriage thing, so two years is nothing to brag about.

But when we can spend entire afternoons curled up on the couch together, the house completely silent save for turning pages and the occasional Great Dane snore, I feel like we have something pretty special.

Because even if we're not talking to each other, or holding hands, or out doing something romantic, those books bring us together.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"I'm a writer."

Two weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I called myself a writer.

City council elections are next week, and as the political reporter, I worked on putting together a Q&A for the people running for the councils across the county. Everyone responded to me surprisingly well, staying well within their word count and happily providing answers to whatever I happened to ask.

Except one guy, who sent me three pages of responses.

My editor went nuts. It was 3:30 on a Friday afternoon, and I had to find a way to trim this guy's responses down. I panicked.

Finally, in a fit of despair, I called the guy and asked him to come into the newsroom. I told him we could sit down and edit his response together. Surprisingly, he agreed, and half an hour later we were sitting in the conference room, looking at a copy of his response.

I went to work on it, cutting out large sections that were repetitive or didn't have anything to do with the subject at hand. He dealt with it with a decent enough attitude, though he would occasionally wince at my ruthlessness. To him, every sentence was painstakingly crafted and the piece was honed to perfection. It was his baby, and I was telling him to choose the best parts and leave everything else out.

Two pages in, he looked at me and said, only half-jokingly, "You're loving this aren't you."

I looked at him and frowned and said I really wasn't trying to be mean. I was just helping him trim it down, and I understood how he felt.

"No," he said. "You're an editor. You edit."

"Yeah, but I'm a writer, too."

He looked at me like he was surprised at what I was saying. But at the same time, I could see the realization dawning in his eyes. I did understand. I was acting like the editor just then, but I'd been on the other side, too, watching with horror as someone chopped away at my immaculate prose.

That moment stuck with me. And since then, I've had a different way of thinking about what I do. It doesn't matter how I write. It doesn't matter that the vast majority of my works are less than six hundred words. It doesn't matter if the bones of my real novels are written on a cheap laptop while I'm in my pajamas.

I'm a writer.

And I always will be.