Kate Flora, here, recently back from a trip to New York City. As a writer, I tend to be a solitary person. It’s hard to pry me away from my desk. I try to look at events like a few days in a bustling metropolis as a chance to observe the world. Gather story ideas. See some diversity and ponder how I might work it into my books. The next time I decide to visit Manhattan in high summer, I hope some wiser person will snare me by the neck with a shepherd’s crook and keep me from heading south.
Getting to New York was an adventure itself. Instead of the train, which I usually take, this journey began on a bus that left from Cambridge, Massachusetts. People had assured me that it was luxurious and fast. It was neither, but a whole lot more like going to New York on a slow boat to China. Finally there, I reached my Manhattan hotel which was right next door to the Algonquin. I stood outside and tried to absorb some positive literary vibes and remembered when Claire Eddy, my first editor, took me there for lunch because it was a place that writers ought to go.
That started a trip down memory lane, and reminded me of how, after ten years in the unpublished writers’ corner, my agent snared a three-book hard/soft deal with Forge/Tor Books, and I went to New York to meet my publisher. It was exciting to go into the Flatiron Building and emerge in an anteroom full of books. More exciting to meet my editor, and then to go to lunch with the publisher. My bubble didn’t even deflate when the publisher asked me why I was there. Naive innocent that I was, I said I was there to talk about the marketing campaign for my book. Gently, but firmly, he told me that there was no marketing campaign for my book. They didn’t spend money on first time authors. That no advertising worked unless people saw it many times, which was beyond the budget for a small book like mine. And then he said he hoped I wasn’t discouraged. At that point in my life, the idea that I was going to be published was so magical nothing he said could have discouraged me.
That was many years ago. I haven’t been to New York to visit with a publisher since Steal Away, the stand-alone suspense novel I wrote as Katharine Clark. That time I went to a delicious Asian Fusion restaurant, Vong, with my editor, the late, fabulous Leona Nevler, and the publisher and my publicist and my agent, and felt like I’d finally arrived. Since then, I’ve gone to New York for the Edgars a few times. Otherwise, I’m just there as a tourist.
None of my earlier visits had prepared me for the insanity of New York City full of tourists. The weekend began with walk on the High Line, a wonderous above the ground park, complete with flowers and trees and wildgrasses high above the city streets, followed by an exotic cocktail (that is, a martini with a brand of gin called Dorothy Parker. How could I resist?) Then a delicious dinner. So far, New York seemed doable, despite the crowds at the Chelsea Market, formerly the Nabisco cracker factory.
Saturday, the bold plan was to take a cab to Brooklyn and walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge. Gorgeous skies overhead, but between the pedestrians, the two lanes of heavy bike traffic, gigantic double and triple strollers, and thousands of tourists simply stopping to take photos, or unable to comprehend one side goes one way and one side goes the other, it was a less than stellar experience. Going to the theater was better. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike was a perfect boomer-era play that sent me home eager to read The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters. If I could have gotten home. Going through Times Square was like a game of human bumper cars. Then suddenly the Underwear Cowboy leaped into my path. Then Sponge Bob and some Angry Birds. It was nothing short of terrifying.
The old fogey has discovered that not only is underwear not worn “under” anymore, it seemed to be being showcased by backless clothes. And I’ve seen enough of humanity to last a good long time. Now back to my desk to finish a book.