Monday, September 18, 2006

Out with the old, in with the new

Patty here...


We Angelenos are faithful recyclers. Each week we separate our trash into three bins. Black for garbage. Green for grass and leaves. Blue for recyclables. We do such a good job that the city hasn’t had to create a new landfill in years. Go team!

I just finished my latest book, so Saturday I fired up the shredder and cleaned out my office. What a mess. There were stacks of paper and sections of the Los Angeles Times that I’m sure held pithy articles that I planned to use as inspiration for a future book. The only problem was I couldn’t remember why I’d saved most of them. I also shredded numerous drafts of SHORT CHANGE, enough to fill my blue recycling bin. Hint: As you can see, the bins are quite voluminous.

My friend the environmentalist tells me that shredding paper isn’t a good thing. She says it takes up too much space. Despite her admonition, once I’ve turned in the last draft of a novel to my editor, I shred all of the previous ones.

I shred those pages because I’m paranoid—hey, I’ve lived in Los Angeles a long time. I have the right—but my caution comes from experience. After I finished my first novel, I had what seemed like a gazillion manuscripts lying around. My house is on the small side, so I had only two choices. Get rid of all that paper or buy a machete to hack my way to the front door.

So I started shredding.

My Main Man watched as I toiled over the Fellows.

“Why don’t you just throw that stuff in the recycling bin?” he said.

“What if somebody steals it?”

“You’re being paranoid. Nobody is going to steal your marked up manuscript pages.”

It did seem unlikely, but this was L.A. Strange things happen here. On the other hand, shredding took a lot of time, time that could be spent writing books. So I took his advice and dumped all of the copies of my Great American Novel into the blue bin. I felt sheepish, but at the last minute I caved in to my misgivings and mixed up all of the pages. If somebody wanted to read that puppy, they'd have to be committed.

Thursday night I rolled the bin out to the curb for pick-up. Friday morning I went outside, opened the lid, and found that every single solitary page of every manuscript was missing—stolen in the dead of night.

“Think of it this way,” MM said. “Thanks to you some homeless guy has wallpaper.”

Yeah, that or my novel was on its way to New York with a nice cover letter.

I’ll admit that I don’t shred all of the pages of my manuscripts. I save the ones that have critique notes penned by members of my writing group. Brilliant Tish. Effervescent Barb. Too-cool Elaine. Insightful Steve. TM who always writes “funny” by the sentences that make him chuckle. I live for those “funny”s. I keep all of those notes, because there are some things you just can’t bear to part with. Our group disbanded last fall. People moved away. I miss them. And I’m sorry to say that in the future I’ll have more paper to shred.


And now—tah dah—the photos you've been waiting for. On Sunday I attended the 5th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair along with fellow NakedAuthor and bon vivant, Paul Levine. Paul moderated a panel called "Writers Who Thrill," which included Andrew Klavan, Gayle Lynds, Thomas Perry, and Theresa Schwegel.

Afterwards he signed books at the Mysterious Galaxy booth.

I was on a panel called "Funny Ladies" with Jerrilyn Farmer, Harley Jane Kozak, Sue Ann Jaffarian, and moderated by Bob Levinson. Here we are trying to look cool in the sweltering heat.

Some of the other authors who attended—

Marissa Batt, Rochelle Krich, Gary Phillips

Dick Lochte and Denise Hamilton

Steven Hodel and James Lincoln Warren

Susan Kandel with her pup

And congrats to Our Jacqueline. Her MESSENGER OF TRUTH was once again on the Los Angeles Times Bestsellers List on Sunday.

And congrats to Tom whose picture was featured in the "Calender" section. Yeah!


  1. You guys all look GREAT!! Wish I'd gotten to see you there, and Harley, too!

    I have a three-foot tall stack of manuscript pages from my first book in the upper left-hand corner of my desk/cupboard. Pages from second one are all over the place. That is SO WEIRD yours was stolen out of the recycling! Although the stealer has excellent taste, of course....

  2. Patty,
    Remember your post last week to James:"Ohmigosh! Your very own heckler. I've never had one of those creepy experiences, but it must have been disconcerting. My most uncomfortable event happened after one of my talks. I had a woman get up and ask a question in which she (innocently, I believe) revealed the killer and the climax. Sheesh!"

    Perhaps this is your true gnawing anxiety: a heckler or stalker or someone who'll give away the plot----or the "funny parts!"
    Recycling is good, I can agree with that, no matter your motivations-----better your shredded manuscript be filling up a landfill than your smallish house, right? I would tend to agree with MM..........I guess some homeless guy could wallpaper his cardboard condo or some underpass he calls home with your manuscript. Moreover,with all that time on his hands, he could sequence it properly, and get your book self published before your release date. Then next year, he'll be at booksignings and such........but who'll heckle him?So,BRAVA, for your recyclying efforts.

    Last week, I allay your posted "fear" by assuring you that "the pressure was off." This week, you make a whole section of your blog a "love fest" about those bon vivant, and otherwise, who "must be acknowledged." Where's the Naked Truth in that, I implore you?......although I do agree with your congrats going out to Jacqueline for continued success with MESSENGER OF TRUTH ......does that mean she's winning the sparring match, with another nominated Naked Author, for the Southern California Booksellers Association book award for 2006?

  3. The missing manuscript episode was weird because nothing else was taken, not even the valuable stuff. It's almost a plot for a book...

  4. Okay, this is hard to admit in public, but I did once go dumpster diving and fish out a manuscript. (Not yours, Patty, I assure you!)

    My next door neighbor, a software engineer, had placed her recyling bin right next to mine. And there, on the top, was a complete, rubber-banded manuscript.

    I couldn't help myself. I grabbed it, stuffed it under my sweatshirt and hotfooted it back upstairs.

    It was a memoir -- the saddest story I've ever read -- of three generations of women in her family dying of breast cancer. And it ended with the news of her own illness.

    She died last year. And I never had the guts to tell her how much her writing had touched me.

  5. Patty, I can see that NY Times Best Seller taking form now: A farce novel about the homeless guy [read, aspiring novelist or actor] who wallpapers an underpass of the 10 freeway with your manuscript. Then he spends 4 months with his "home boys" piecing it together.......but he gets the sequences all wrong.....However, he then forms a blog with ACTUALLY NAKED authors [his homeboys] ultimately seeing his misinterpreted nonsense published, and goes up against your real deal novel for the 2007 Thurber Prize........

  6. WeHo Book Fair has really grown, but retains its small-town feel. Much easier to get around than at some of the larger book fests. Ran into a number of e-mail pals, including Lois, a dental tech, who sends chiding notes when I have a dentist perform something only a periodontist would do.

    At our Thriller Panel, Lois asked this question: "How do you feel about sex?" I think she meant on the page.

    Met several lawyers, who as a group, are great readers and seem to enjoy being ridiculed and teased in print. (I have never known a good trial lawyer without a sharp sense of humor).

    And Patty, as for your missing manuscript, I found a typo on page 79.

  7. Louise, okay I can see how that would have been a temptation, that's why I mussed up the pages. I think Anon has the germ of an idea about a comic novel starring our homeless guy. Maybe we can all band together and write it. Ha!

    Paul and Our Jacqueline are both wonderful writers. I'm hoping for a tie.

  8. Paul,
    Loved your comments about the lawyers you met. I have a friend back home in Australia, named Nick. He's an artist and he's also a non-practicing lawyer. His Greek parents wanted him to do a law degree while he wanted to do an arts degree: he did both in a combined arts/law degree that nearly drove him bonkers. To tried to make his parents happy first, so he passed his bar exam and was a lawyer for a year. He was good at it, being a raconteur and fabulous wit, until he made a witness cry in the 'box'. He packed it in after that and told his parents he was going to be an artist now. Nick has an wicked sense of humour and will willingly give advice about copyright issues to all comers. Back in university, he used to wear an 'elephant man' mask and long coat, and limp along the corridors crying "I am not a lawyer: I'm a human being!!"

  9. The WeHo Book Fair looked like a lot of fun. The photos were great, Patty! Thanks for sharing.
    I was warned when I first came to America: shred EVERYTHING!! So I do. :-D Saves trouble in the long run. Besides, a lot of manuscripts come through our house as my husband illustrates them - so we have to be careful how we dispose of them.
    Louise, there's a story somewhere in there regarding the purloined manuscript you mentioned. It would shape up into a very nice cameo of a piece of backstory. And if you didn't get to tell your neighbour about how much her story meant to you while she was alive, you can immortalize her and your feelings in one of your stories and place her name in the acknowledgements bit. :-)

  10. Marianne, I totally agree that Louise's manuscript adventure would make a great springboard for a story.

    A combined law/arts degree? Man, that REALLY uses both sides of your brain.

  11. Patty and Marianne,

    Now you've both got me thinking about that story! Maybe it's backstory ... maybe the central premise for a novel. Hmmmmm.....

  12. What a bizarre coincidence! I went out to my recycling bin this morning--and someone had filled it with pages from a manuscript! Fortunately, I've always been good with puzzles--I'll let you know if anything looks familiar.

    No, no, after a closer look, it can't be the same one. This one's about some stockbroker named "Sucker Tinclair"...

  13. Jeff, you're a riot.

    Louise, I think you should seriously think about writing this story. It's got all the right stuff and you're just the woman to turn it into a work of genius.

  14. Jeff,
    Of course, now that you've planted the seed, the next time Patty appears at a book event, she'll say, "I'm the author of the Sucker Tinclair series."

    But that wouldn't be as bad as sportscaster Lindsay Nelson's famous spoonerism. The Giants had a running back named Tucker Frederickson. "Into the hole goes..." Ah, you can figure it out.

  15. I know this is probably silly...but if that manuscript that Louise acquired is any good, couldn't it be published postumously, with the proceeds going to benefit breast cancer research? A proper memorial to the author? If necessary, anonymously?

  16. Quiet Writer:
    Finally, an idea, and not a silly one, that puts the hubris, and quasi-humorous barbs and quips of this blog, into a humbling yet proper perspective. I hope the seed [not germ] of your idea will take hold and blossom into something....a vehicle to help raise money for a real killer, cancer.....

  17. Most worrisome you've got at least one bin diver in your neigborhood. FWIW: If you have enough material to fill a banker's box, shredding companies in major metro areas will pick it up for you or you can drop it at their shredding site. Normally $4-7 box a box. Many lawyers' offices have regular pickups from such companies...

  18. Alice, here's the L.A. stealing from recycling bins is a cottage industry and sometimes the whole family participates. I've seen toddlers sorting cans and bottles that their parents have just taken from my blue bin. Last week as I was rolling my bins out to the street, I watched an elderly couple sorting through my neighbor's GARBAGE looking for anything worthwhile. Eeuu!

  19. Two words...

    Fire. Places.

    Or is that one? ;)

  20. Oops, there is that L.A. Basin, isn't there?

  21. Well, Anon, I have a fireplace but no airconditioning.



    Maybe not.

    Then again, think Rear Window. A man peers out of his window and wonders why smoke is coming from the neighbor's chimney. It's summer and the fire has been burning for so long...ooooo...very scary.

  22. That last comment was actually me, but I couldn't get Blogger to work.

  23. Rear Window? I thought of The Cat Who Saw Red! That always creeped me out.

    My friend Mike stands and watches the shredding truck parked right outside his insurance office. Now that's service. And insurance.

  24. And a possible plot for a mystery...

  25. Yes, the big shred companies will come with a truck and do it in front of you while you wait. You usually have to pay a bit extra for that service unless you have about 50 boxes for a bulk discount.
    My local shredders take just about anything but for three-ring binders.

  26. Thanks for the tip, Alice. I think that's the ticket for next time.