I traveled in Romania in 2002, and recently came across my written account of that adventure. Here’s the story of my train ride between Sibiu and Brasov:
A soldier came to me in the train station and said, in Romanian, that it was time to go to track three. He led me there, carrying my luggage and I found my seat in a six-person compartment. One fellow passenger, Arpad, spoke English and helped me get my heavy suitcase to the overhead rack. As the hours rolled by, we talked and sometimes napped. It was a long journey and the train would arrive in Brasov at 10:30 p.m. As usual, I had no reservations but figured that I could easily taxi to a hotel listed in my guidebook.
At last, I decided to find the train bathroom and left my glass-enclosed compartment for the corridor filled with smokers. My little toe was newly-broken from stubbing it on a piece of hotel furniture a few nights before, so I tried carefully to avoid getting it stepped upon, tapping many shoulders to request passage through the throng. One man, dressed in a nice tweed suit, heard my English and began to speak to me in such good pronunciation that I thought he must be British. He asked where I was from and then began to rattle off states and capitals of the U.S.
He arrested my progress down the aisle. Latched onto me, is the word, insisting that I sit with him in his compartment. I answered that I was on the way to the toilet but might do that on my way back. I suppose that even the Romanians don’t use their train toilets unless they are absolutely desperate. Well, I do, rather than ride in discomfort. He purported not to even know if this train had one! I said, “They’re usually down here on the end.” and disappeared in the crush.
Yep! All trains are alike. There it was. With a Gypsy mother sitting on her baby’s stroller, holding her baby and blocking the door. I smiled and indicated where I would like to go and mimed moving the stroller. She did. The loo was not all that dirty and hadn’t been used much, but it was still skanky. They all are, and if my seatmates were in dread of my impressions out the window of our compartment, I knew they were really worried about my reaction to the toilet. I’ve encountered this embarrassment all over the former Communist countries. Those at the end of the car, Gypsy mamma included, watched my face closely as I came out of the toilet compartment. They found only my normal serene expression.
There was my new friend, waiting where I had left him and there was no question of my getting back to my own seat. He took my small backpack from me and swung it to the rack in his compartment, thinking it was my luggage. I carry all of my money, tickets, passport and anything important in the fannypack at my waist, but I never let go of my backpack purse either, so I took it back down, mentioning that my real luggage was above my reserved seat down the way. He didn’t pick up on that until later, when the train stopped and I mentioned that I should go make sure no one took it off with them. In a panic, he comprehended the situation and ran down the hall with me in tow to see if it was alright. My long-left-behind seatmates, who were very dependable and respectable, were still there and so was the suitcase. They had probably wondered if I’d been kidnapped but could see that I was in good hands.
Eugene was a very respectable man, as I could tell from the beginning, or I wouldn’t have given him the time of day. I have met many Soviet men just exactly like him. All very intelligent and very stifled by their life, surroundings, and possibilities; starving for a chance to practice English and to learn, firsthand, about the fabled Mecca, the United States. Such men are always very apologetic about the conditions of life, the sunflower seed hulls scattered on the floor, the rutted footpaths and shabby buildings just outside the window. They want to pull a cover over it and wish it were different. Lots and lots of apology, which I had to counter with many waves of my hand, again and again, dismissing the need for him to take personal responsibility for the failings of his country.
Eugene’s desperate push for communication prevented me from studying my guidebook well enough to decide on the hotel to try for. I peeked at it a little and chose the least expensive one, partly because he had told me that he earns the equivalent of thirty dollars per month. He had already apologized profusely for not being able to host me in his flat, but he lived with his aged parents and his son. However he kept wanting to do something for me. He’s a Romanian man, with all the courtly instincts and we finally settled on the plan for him to find the taxi and tell the driver where to take me. He would ride partway, as his home was on the way.
After much conversation about historical facts, the topic finally got around to beliefs and spiritual matters. Not through my doing. I don’t push that topic anymore. But, before it was over, I found myself talking about my clairaudience and he was so keen to know, that I wound up telling him how I hear and what I hear.
Then, we were in Brasov and I had to work hard to prevent him from carrying my heavy suitcase which we retrieved from the guardians in my compartment. He was already half in love with me, judging by the sincere compliments he had been giving me. No, it wasn’t a man going fishing. It was a man with very little pizzazz in his life, blinded by a gutsy woman who could talk and laugh so freely. He was astounded to learn that I am nearly sixty-five. He’s probably twenty years younger.
As we pulled our suitcases out of the compartment, a disco habitue man in a white silk leisure suit and his blowsy blond girlfriend stood in the aisle. The man yelled suggestive, probably lewd, sentences in Romanian as we passed. I picked up on the meaning and turned around after I had gone several yards. I pointed a finger at him and said, seriously, but somewhat lightly, “Behave!” like a school teacher correcting an unruly child. He caught my meaning and shrank back against the wall. I thought nothing of it and didn’t take it seriously but Eugene said he felt angry.
After dropping off this new friend at his flat, the taxi took me to the cheap hostel I had so hastily chosen. It was such a plain little door in the wall with a bar next door, that I decided on the much more expensive ($40) Coroana Hotel, nearby. It was a big Communist-era attempt at finery but it had a bed and a bathtub and my broken toe was really hurting so I blew more than a month’s salary on the night.
(A few days later, I figured out what led the disco man to make his assumptions. I’ll write about that next time.)
This elephant named Truth had been described as a tree trunk, a small swinging rope, a vast circular bulge, a thin fluttering flag, a marble-like curve and a large hose. Four nations agreed on the tree trunk description; two each on the flag, the bulge and the curve; but only one nation each felt that Truth was a small, suspended rope or a large swinging hose.
As you all know, I have been silent for another whole week, and that is not like me. But, I am in the category of a being a new mother these days. I’m all intent upon the whole long process of giving birth, as well as tending what I’ve already given birth to. Books and babies…lots of similarities.
First, there’s the moment of conception, though in this case, it’s really called inception. That’s when you come up with a great idea and then realize that you suddenly have a book in your belly. The pregnancy can be long and thoughtful and can continue for years and years, if you want it to. The delivery often takes just as long, because that covers the time spent in your chair, typing hard on the computer; or sometimes for old-fashioned writers, scribbling words on a yellow pad. Pregnancy and delivery are long, lone projects with no one on your back about deadlines and decisions. You can just let it flow all alone in there within your own private universe. You and your book. Tweaking and diddling as much as you like. Mother and child. Secret, contemplative, marvelously successful, because you are the only one you have to please.
However, there IS the business of the name, which becomes an ongoing weighty matter, indeed, as it always is with any expected child. Dither, dither. Such a responsibility. This poor creature you are bringing into the world will have to stand alone on the name you select, possibly long after you have left the scene. The wrong name could be a disaster. Might create unpopularity, misunderstanding, wimpiness or it might convey the wrong impression to the wrong audience.
Who is your audience, anyway? Who is this little twerp planning to hang out with? The title you bestow will have a huge effect on that outcome. Dither, dither. Here’s where my own yellow pads always fill up. Friends and family have learned to nod their heads indulgently whenever I suggest a new name for my book. They know it will be gone in the morning, replaced by another equally-silly one. These days, Google Search has a lot to do with book-naming; as well as Amazon.com. Has anyone already snagged it? That squelches a whole lot of perfectly good names, right there.
Cover design is another whole area of worry. The same dynamics apply as they do to the title. The right one gets you in doors. The wrong one sinks the ship. And, those few words you choose to decorate your back cover? Make or break stuff, right there! Then, during sleepless nights, if midnight cover designs hit you in the head, and you’re not an artist, you must find some talent to whip that into shape.
Next come the midwives: those copy editors who rake through your whole creation and make this child actually deliverable. They fix its little (or very big) faults and stay by your side during the birthing process.
There’s the delivery room, your publisher, which handles all important details of the actual birthing process. You go in with this baby in your belly. You come out with a book in hand. Magical stuff! Very heady. And, when it goes well, you want to turn right around and do it all again. And, you will…after you recover from this one.
Now, as all new parents know, or find out soon enough, the story doesn’t end when you leave the hospital with a sweet bundle in your arms. Ohhhhhhh no! Not by a long shot! You have this active new entity on your hands, in your arms, never out of your sight…or hearing. It has NEEEEEEDS! All of a sudden, those diapers hit the fan!
Things that you should have done before delivery are still not complete, like all those registrations for publishers lists, booksellers, book fairs, contests, and so many things bearing imposing and important initials which convey worthy information to the makers, shakers and breakers. Papers to fill out, things to mail in. Copyrights to register. Probably, this is similar to registering a newborn for Yale University’s waiting list, only much more urgent,if your prodigy is to become anything in this world. You stay up at night. You get confused easily.
You still write, write, write all day long. Only this time, it’s marketing ideas and snappy press releases and promotional ploys galore; while the new baby cries in your arms with its own demands and you’re still in your bathrobe. And therein lies the rubbing alcohol. you’ve only just met this little squalling collection of your own ideas. How do you know how to sum it all up in a few stirling paragraphs that will introduce it to the world and make everyone want to adopt your little offspring?
Because, in effect, you ARE putting your fine little baby up for adoption. You will love it anyway, even if you fret over glaring faults, like an undiscovered typo, which suddenly shows up right there on the kid’s nose. You’ll still love your baby, unreservedly, though you may plan to perform a little plastic surgery in your next reprint. Hopefully, all flaws will be unnoticeable, except by you. You’ll then hope, fervently, that someone (preferably a reviewer) might soon begin to notice the brilliance of your work. You pray that they will like it well enough to take that newborn home and keep on their nightstand. Let it keep THEM awake at night, not you!
You are about to SELL YOUR CHILD! How can you think like a Public Relations professional and create beautiful press releases and perfect video presentations, and yet represent your book fairly and exactly like it is? How can you find and focus on its best features? This demanding newborn doesn’t look like its adult self yet; hasn’t begun to explain itself to you, its mother, so that you can even begin to discern how others are going to perceive it.
Yet this must be done while it lies in its cradle, either blessedly silent, or needing hours of attention in some behind-the-scenes way. Multi-tasking mothers are nothing new. We all put in the time. We all get in way over our heads and wonder whether we’ll actually get that shower today or must it go on the to-do list for tomorrow?
But, the marketing material you have to churn out in the middle of all this hubbub, is life-changing for the little tyke. Decisions you make right now, under duress, could affect its entire future. What can you say, accurately and honestly and yet, with appealing, one-of-a-kind hype? Truth, but hype, nonetheless.
Eventually, your child must be likeable of its own accord, because the minute it steps into public scrutiny, folks will know whether you represented it well in your words of praise and promise – or not. This is a whole different type of writing from the book you have just gestated. That was really creative writing. Marketing is too, but with a bite. It must be succinct, and to the point, and true to a fault.
Here, in the light of this newborn day, is where you must turn around and frankly evaluate the product that sat cloistered close to your heart, invisibly, for so very long.
Then, comes the day when your baby bounces off your lap and far away from you. The ink is dry. The dye is cast. The course is run. You then become simply the proud parent lurking in the background; pulling out your wallet snapshots and saying, “That’s my kid! Just look at her go!”
Any parent will tell you, it’s all worthwhile.
Just thought I’d save all you snow-shovelers throughout this country, the trouble of wishing that you were basking on one of Florida’s warm beaches! Not this winter! We are c-c-c-cold down here in the Sunshine State. Oh, it’s beautifully sunny today, but we have a biting wind and the temperatures are in the low forties. Just this minute, in the late afternoon, it’s 42 degrees, but feels like 34, because of our 22 mph. winds.
To go to the grocery store, I bundled up in long johns, wool pants, three sweaters, Ugg boots, and my Antarctic fleece jacket, plus scarf and alpaca gloves. The carts wouldn’t stay in their parking places, but were getting blown back out to sit in the way of the cars. The usually freezing, air-conditioned store felt warm for a change.
It’s been cold a lot this winter, but this streak is long and bitter. Nothing to compare with most of you guys in the rest of the country, but plenty to sneeze at, in our book. However, I was sleeveless for Christmas Dinner, and for New Year’s Eve, I sat poolside, on a friend’s patio way into the evening. But, anyone hopping a plane to flee the freezer this week, won’t get their money’s worth at our beaches. Bring your Arctic wear, not your sunscreen. I should know. I live on the mainland, just fifteen minutes away from one of the most beautiful Gulf beaches in Central Florida. Those waves must be plenty high today. Nobody’s swimming. Nobody’s boating. Nobody’s being much of a tourist outdoors. But, the lines are probably short at Disney World.
Tell you what! If we do get balmy, I’ll be sure to let you know, so you can Go Green again. But, for now, save the envy effort and go shovel your driveway!
Sorry I’ve been silent about a week now…or more… but I’ve been concentrating on my other writing project. My second book, In Secret Diffusion, has now gone to my two copyeditors for fine-tooth combing and I’m busy now with the cover design. I’m no artist, but I’ve conceived an idea of exactly what I want and have sketched it out. Now, I’ve selected an artist, and today, will electronically zap off my drawing to them. That way, both the inside and outside of the book will be in other hands, and temporarily, out of mine.
Yesterday, I went through the manuscript doing a right/left justify. As you may have noticed when you’re reading any book, all chapter headings begin on the right hand page. So, it’s necessary to insert a blank page, if your next topic is naturally coming up on a left hand page. You have to bump it up, so that it will be on the right side of the book. That has added about ten more pages to my book size, and they are blank. There’s nothing to stop me from doing more writing and using that extra space, so that will be my next project while the rest of it is out of my hands.
All along, I’ve been jotting down index words on 3×5 cards, and now they must be alphabetized and typed up for the index at the back of the book. However, the publisher is going to do the pagination, so they will have to add the page numbers to each reference once the formatting is finished.
I also have to get started on the important writing for the back cover, which often is the deal-breaker on whether someone becomes interested enough to actually buy the book. You can’t just scribble that off. Plus, you know that little front page, often done in fairly small type, that has all the numbers and publishing data on it? Well, it’s a very important page to some people… librarians, for instance, and book sellers. I must begin to construct that, too; and get out my reference books to figure out what numbers and classifications this book falls into.
But, each of these tasks are short tasks. Once you sit down and apply yourself, and do them to perfection, they are over and done. Not like the middle of the book – the meat and potatoes – which you might massage a whole lot more. It all takes time and lots of it. But, it’s always worth it in the long run when you have a book that you are pleased with and want others to see.
Then comes the other nitty-gritty of marketing, which I didn’t really do for the first one. I up and went off to explore South America, instead. So, this will be a first for me in many respects. I got my learning curve accomplished on the first book, which I plan to re-publish and promote in 2011, when the Boomers hit Social Security. That’s what it was aimed for anyway.
My new book is aimed at a whole different audience: probably a very small portion of New Agers…even the Trekkies. Maybe I should have titled it “A Spiritual Star Trek.” Anyway, that will be a whole new ride, which could begin as early as mid-February.
I’ll let you know when you can order it…you Trekkie, you!