And this is the reason I will forever, forever love my agent. Because she said, "You'll probably get a smaller advance if we do it like this, and it might not work, but if you can dream up a book, honey, we can try." So I sat down and cranked out the proposal, and we did sell it, and the money was enough to buy us a year of Blue Cross, and a few months of mortgage, and a pizza. And that (along with my husband's temp job) was enough to get us through. Whew!
But by the time we signed the contract, there I was, with a newborn, and a toddler, and no clue how to finish this book. I couldn't afford childcare. So what'd I do? I went home to Momma. I took the most horrible plane ride ever, *wearing* both screaming kids (I'm not kidding), to Baltimore. And all day each day, while my mom babysat my older son, I wrote in the unairconditioned third floor bedroom of a neighbor's house (thanks Marjean!). Nursing hourly (the baby slept in his carseat on the floor) and nibbling triscuits.
Then, after 6 hours of solid writing, sweat dripping off my nose, I'd walk home, and my mom would feed me and pour me a very large glass of white wine. And I somehow, somehow finished the draft. Miserable, but very grateful too.
Of course, it was so rushed it was a disaster, and I had to rewrite the whole damn thing in a coffeeshop 6 months later. But by then I could afford luxuries like the occasional sandwich, and a few hours of babysitting.
For me, the southeast is just a good fit. I grew up thinking I lived in the north (in Baltimore) but in fact, Maryland is a lot more like the south. The muggy summers and the mild winters and the green everywhere and the low mountains. I love other places too, Iowa especially, but the south has a lot of what the midwest has, only warmer. People making up their own kinds of lives. Cheap rent and beautiful landscapes and loud laughs and whiskey and falling-down barns are conducive to art, maybe. To me, the south feels very DIY, sloppy and forgiving, and I could go on forever about this.
Oh, and music. I have to give it to Kentucky for that. I remember being into "progressive music" until discovering Palace Brothers and Freakwater, and that was just IT! Music changed forever for me. Right now I'm obsessed with a local band here, based in Rome, The Little Country Giants. And my friend Pieta Brown, who lives in Iowa, but is really from Birmingham.