A few years ago I started playing around with a book idea. (Someone Like You
which came out in 2005)) I knew it would be about two sisters (I love to write about sisters and big families; probably because I am an only child and my family could fit on a postage stamp!) and that one of the sisters would be a knitwear designer up in Maine who raised sheep and alpaca and had a community of like-minded knitters working with her. It wouldn't be a major plot point (meaning the book wasn't about knitting in any way) but the love of knitting would filter through the plot and help define who Catherine was.
Now I've told you before that I'm an all-or-nothing kind of woman. When I throw myself into a project, I throw myself head first and I don't come up for air until I start seeing that white light beckoning me home. Now how could I write about a woman who raised sheep and alpaca if I didn't learn something about the raising of sheep and alpaca? I remembered seeing signs locally for alpaca farms. I Googled. I discovered I lived practically within walking distance (assuming I was the athletic, energetic type and not the lazy sedentary book-readin' knittin' sloth I am) of a few alpaca farms. (I've already told you that when we first moved to this town it was Sheep Central.) Anyway (how many times can I say anyway??) one thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had a 4" binder filled with information on alpaca breeding, feeding, shearing, spinning, dyeing, knitting, wearing. I learned a wonderful new word -- cria -- and fell totally in love with alpaca.
I read story after story of middle-aged couples who threw aside their normal suburban lives to become alpaca farmers (ranchers?) with nothing more than a dream and some acreage. I started leaving pin-up photos of alpaca all around the house. On the bathroom mirror. On the fridge. On Goldisox's pillow. "We could do this," I told him. "We could sell everything, buy a rundown farmhouse with land, use our 401Ks to buy a pair (or two) of breeding alpaca) and live on the land." (Oh, shades of 1970!) I could see it now: I'd quit getting my hair straightened and colored and became serious and earnest and personally organic. I would grow my own vegetables (assuming I stopped shrieking every time I saw one of those hideous tomato-eating horned monsters that lurked in my veggie garden), pump water from a well while Goldisox chopped our own firewood (my next blog -- no joke, unfotunately) and walked around humming This Land Is Your Land.
No more worrying about deadlines. No more sleepless nights praying somebody out there who isn't related to me actually buys one of my books. (I have a small family, remember? Not too many sales to be had there!) No more days spent praying that my sad and sorry brain would be able to spit out one more story.
I'd be an alpaca farmer!
It was a lovely fantasy while it lasted. I gathered all of my info. We dreamed the dream for a month or two. And then I typed the magic words The End. (Not really. I've never actually typed The End but I've told you that before, haven't I?) No more writing about Catherine the knitwear designer and her merry band.
You see, I'm fickle. Most writers are. We're faithless scoundrels who will abandon our first love the second our new love comes along. I waved a fond farewell to alpaca and started stalking Episcopalians for my next book. (Just Like Heaven
which is out now.) I briefly considered converting last year during the writing process but, fortunately for Episcopalians and Anglicans everywhere, I finished the book before I could take the leap.
Right now I'm deep in deadline demetia. I am so close to the end of the book I can taste it but I'm. Not. There. Yet. At this moment I am alternately an aging Rod Stewart-esque rocker, a fancy cake baker, a blue-collar attorney, and an oceanographer. I have a stack of books next to me on how to turn a slab of baked goods into a work of art and have become quite proficient in forcing a blob of fondant into a seamless sheet of sugary goodness.
There are days when I really do love my job.
But every time I see one of those adorable alpaca faces I can't help wondering what it would be like to start all over again doing something completely unexpected before it really is The End.
Once upon a time I wanted to sing backup for Gladys Knight and The Pips. I still do but there are no more Pips and Gladys doesn't really need me. Talk about a dream job.
What's your dream job? Logic and reason be damned! What would you like to be when you grow up?