Friday, August 25, 2006

Gone Fishin'



This is my last post for a while, as Brian, Chloe, and I will be relaxing in Maine for the next week. I am SO looking forward to planning my day around bike rides and swimming instead of buses and meetings. Have a good week everyone! In the meantime, here's an early Sunday Scribbling.

Monsters
I'm oddly nostalgic for the monsters of my youth, the ones with different colored fur and big teeth. The ones that could be banished by the opening of my closet door by my mother or by my turning on the light.

Now my monsters are harder to visualize, and harder to banish. They come in the ephemeral form of fear of fear of failure, anxiety about not doing things right, angst that the things I have done right will be taken away by a random act--a car that's driving too fast, a fire that no one smells, a sickness that overtakes every cell.

I wonder if giving these monsters a body, fur, teeth, would help. Then I could send them back to the island they came from. Give them a bottle and a blankie and tell them (and myself) that everything will be alright.

Click here to read about the monsters under other people's beds.
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Susan's marital problems

I had a very relaxing evening last night that included cashing in a gift certificate for a massage (thanks Brian!). And all that relaxing allowed me to think about what is really the problem with Susan's marriage. And I think I uncovered it!

My problem had been that I didn't want it to be something specific--cheating, infertility, workaholicness, etc.--mostly because Susan and Gary are going to stay together in the end and while I do think couples can overcome any of those problems, I also think that the act of overcoming would take over the story, which I didn't want.

So, here's what I'm thinking: Susan is basically questioning the value of being married, of dealing with the same person's B.S. for 50+ years. This comes up for a few reasons:
  • At a fairly wild 30th birthday party for a friend, as a joke to harken back to their college days, they start playing the game "I never." (Just in case you don't know... someone makes a statement like, "I never had sex with a stranger" and people who have done that have to do a shot.) One of the statements is "I never fantasize about people other than my spouse". Gary drinks to that. And while intellectually Susan isn't shocked, emotionally she is. Drunk as she is, she asks him in the taxi home who he fantasizes about, and drunk as he is, he tells her its someone at work. She can't get that idea out of her head, and it makes her start to wonder if he wants to sleep with this person, then how is that so different from actually doing it? And what is marriage then?
  • At the same time, she's been having some doubts about the marriage on a more emotional level: things have changed and he doesn't fulfill some of the needs he used to--like being thoughtful and making her feel special (by doing little things like bringing her candy bars that he knows she likes) and having long talks about random things like current events or the nature of people. They're busy, but she also feels like he's reluctant to try to reincorporate these things into their lives. She has found friends to fill this gap, but that makes her wonder why she is married if her husband can't be her best friend.
  • There has to be a catalyst that makes her bolt. Maybe her mom dying is enough (life is short, etc.)
I'd love to hear people's thoughts! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Things to do before vacation

This is going to be a boring post, so feel free to skip it! It's just a to-do list for my own sake. And I feel the need to publish the insanity that is me before a vacation.


  • Dust
  • Vacuum, especially by the cat box
  • Clean the kitchen floors
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Hang new shower curtain liner (buy it first!) and wash shower curtain
  • Do all laundry and put away
  • Plant new flowers outside
  • Set up composter
  • Clean up dirt that Boom Boom spilled on the back porch
  • Water all plants
  • Pack (games, DVDs, knitting, books--fun and school, laptop, cell charger, IPod charger)
  • Hem pants
  • If have time, file paperwork in office
No wonder I need a vacation! Best Blogger Tips

20-ish questions with Gary

I think I might’ve done a Q&A with Gary (Susan’s husband) before, but I can’t find it. And in any case, I probably need to get to know him better anyway, per FC’s and BostonErin’s smart comments on one of my last posts.

So, here goes…

  1. How old are you? 33
  2. What do you do? I work in real estate. I survey land for investors to see whether it’d be a good spot to build on, how much it’s worth, etc.
  3. What would you prefer to be doing? Building the houses myself.
  4. Who do you love? My wife. Though I can’t seem to figure out how to convince her of that. Speaking of my wife, my creator here can’t figure out exactly what our problem is. Is there some sort of cheating/betrayal of trust going on? I don’t think so because if there were, I think Susan’s reaction to her mother cheating would be really bad. So what could our problem be? Obviously there are lots of potential things to break up a marriage. Ours seems to be one sided—Susan is feeling the problem, I’m not. Is it something I do? Like what? Criticize her too much. Drink too much? Do I want to have a baby and she doesn’t? Or vice versa? Maybe that’s it.
  5. Any regrets? I had a bit of a wild teen/early adulthood—sleeping around a lot, etc. But I don’t regret it exactly. I do regret the barbed wire tattoo ring on my arm. What was I thinking?
  6. Dogs or cats? Dogs. I want the kind that can ride in my pickup with me to jobs. Maybe this is another sore point between me and Suse. She doesn’t want one.
  7. What's your biggest fear? I’m not afraid of much. Though I’d hate to lose Suse.
  8. What are you going to do to make sure that doesn't happen? Give her some space. She seems to need to figure this out on her own.
  9. What is your favorite word?
  10. What is your least favorite word? Secret
  11. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Driving with the windows down, the radio turned up, a cigarette in my mouth.
  12. What turns you off? Yuppies. Especially the idea that me and Suse might ever end up as them.
  13. What is your favorite curse word? I like em all.
  14. What sound or noise do you love? Any sort of machine noise: lawnmowers, jackhammers, cars. That’s why I love living in the city
  15. What sound or noise do you hate? Quiet. I can’t think when there’s no noise.
  16. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I’d like to sail around the world.
  17. What profession would you not like to do? Office work

Interesting. He is much more of a "guy-guy" than I originally assumed him to be. FC had commented before about how I should imagine what Brian would do to get more into a man's head. But this Gary couldn't be further from my Brian! I like Gary anyway. :) This will give me some good insights for when I revise those scenes below.

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Five, seven, five

Thank you to Hundred and One for introducing me to this haiku prompt site. I think the last time I wrote a haiku was the 4th grade, so my expectations aren't exactly high... This week's theme is music.

Yo-Yo Ma and I-tunes

I fell in love with
the cello strings' deep, sad notes
through my computer Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A kick in the butt part deux

I went to Starbucks afterwork to brainstorm, and I got to thinking that Susan and her father have got to talk about what she knows! There's no way around it.

So, somehow, the last scene with the father would end, and some other scenes would take place without the father, and then the father will almost taunt Susan about the fact that she hasn't spoken to Gary, and she'll make a snide remark about her dad.

"I don't know what you think you know about me and your mother, but we loved each other very much."

I was staring down at my hands, picking at the hangnails. "I've been meeting with him. Harold."

"You've been what? Why the fuck would you do that?" My dad had never cursed at me before. In front of me, yes, but never at me.

"I...I don't know. I found the datebook and thought I had figured out this big secret about mom. I wanted to know more about her."

"Oh yeah? And what'd you learn from this, this, Harold?"

What had I learned? I didn't think he'd take nothing for an answer. I thought for a minute. I could hear his breathing, which was courser and deeper, as if he had just run up the stairs.
"I learned that marriage is harder than I realized. Every marriage."

"Oh Susan," he said. And then he crossed the kitchen to hug me.
###
It was three in the morning, and I couldn't sleep. I didn't know what to do with all this information that I had wanted to know, that I had sought out even, but that now I wish I hadn't. I needed to talk to someone. Without thinking, in that muddled mind when you've been up too long, I picked up the phone and dialed my home number.

When Gary picked up it sounded like he had been sleeping, like his mouth was full of cotton. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have called so late. I'll go," I rushed.

"Suze? What's the matter?"

"Nothing, it's nothing. I shouldn't have..." I was going to say bothered you, but instead I started to cry. I took big sobbing breaths and got tears all over my phone. I hated that he was hearing me cry. But I couldn't hang up.

My sobs were winding down when he said, "What's going on? What is it?"

And then they started again. How could he be so tender to someone who had all but left him?

I finally got control of myself and I told him the whole story: the datebook, Harold, the diner, my dad. "I'm sorry to call you so late, after we haven't talked for so long. But there was no one else who would understand.

...

I'm not sure what to do now. What would Gary say? One option:

"God, Suse. This is crazy. But why are you and your dad fighting? This has nothing to do with him."

I thought for a minute. I had always been closer to my mom. And while I loved my dad, it was easy to see that his testyness, his temper would be hard to live with. I assumed that was why my mom needed someone else.

Before I could even answer, Gary said, "I guess it's easier to be mad at the person who's still around." Yeah, I thought, that too.

We talked for a few more minutes, and then I started to get really tired, like I might fall asleep midsentence. "I'll call you soon, OK?"

"Yeah, OK. You've got a lot to deal with. Take your time. We'll talk soon." I could tell he was wondering whether he should say I love you. I wanted to say it first, to spare himthe confusion, but I couldn't.

Why couldn't she? Was she still not sure? did she not know if the level of familiarity that led her to call him was enough to hang a marriage on? In another scene, Susan would apologize to her father, but not in a very direct way. Maybe she would make him dinner.

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A kick in the butt

Thanks FC, for "forcing" me to do a 15 minute free write. Here goes.

I need to insert at least two new scenes with Susan (who my mentor insists on calling Sarah in all her mentions of the character) and her dad. Here's some freewriting with that in mind...

I was sitting in the kitchen when I heard my dad's car pull up. I grabbed my coffee cup and ran to my room. I couldn't face him. Not knowing what I knew. And knowing that he knew what I knew.

I lay on my bed, looking at the pictures of my mom's Oprah magazine more than reading the articles. I doubt any of them would have advice for this particular situation. I heard my dad coming up the stairs and I wished I had thought to get in bed and pretend I was sleeping. I felt like a kid who had broke something, just waiting for her parents to figure her out.

"Hi Susan." I looked up to see him standing in my doorway. I had the feeling that if he were the type of dad to say "honey" or "sweetie" instead of my full name, things would be OK. "My secretary, Lisa, gave me a stew to warm up for dinner. It's so weird, all this sympathy from people I never really talked to before. Can you heat it up for us?"

I groaned inside. My father couldn't work a microwave. Or wouldn’t, rather. The rare times my mom went away to visit her sister, she used to make him individual meals, wrapped and labeled with things like "chicken pot pie--lunch on Friday".

"Sure," I said, sliding off the bed.

I slammed around the kitchen, annoyed that my father thought it was OK to be this helpless and expect people to take care of him, annoyed that I had to know what I knew and had no one to talk about it.

"You sure are making a lot of noise down here!" My dad came into the kitchen and sat down.

"Cooking can be noisy!" I said, not meeting his eyes. "Not that this is really cooking. A monkey could work a microwave."

"Hmph." my dad said, sitting down at the table and looking at the newspaper I had left there.

"How's Gary doing?" The last time he asked, I thought he was being curious. Now I was pretty sure he was trying to piss me off.

"I don’t know. Haven't talked to him in a while. You want to give him a call? You seem awfully concerned about him all of a sudden."

"It seems you're angry about something, and I really don't care to be talked to like this. I'm going to go out now. Maybe by the time I get home you'll have calmed down. As if you're the one who should be upset by all this."

"All this." That was the only mention that indicated he had any idea I was talking about more than microwaving stew.


[OK, I know this needs a lot of work, but it's a start!] Best Blogger Tips

Fear of revision

I really want my story to be good, really, I do. So why do I refuse to work on it? I DON'T KNOW! And it's pissing me off. I did a tad bit of work last night. I just went to open the file that I emailed to myself and my heart started racing and I thought of a thousand other things I'd rather do. I'm hoping that blogging about this fear will make it go away.

So here's a brief interview with my fear. I've named him Bob.

Q: So, Bob Fear, why are you here? What is your cause?
A: Well, I'm hear because you are afraid of failing. You're afraid that if you try to fix up your story, you'll just prove that you can't. [Insert evil laugh here] You're afraid that any failure now just means you weren't meant to write. That you should accept that you'll always need a "day job". So just avoid the fear and don't write!

Q: But aren't I just proving the fear right if I don't do any work on the story? I mean, if I do nothing, there's no way it'll get better?
A: Umm, umm ummm Best Blogger Tips

Monday, August 21, 2006

Questions about me... in groups of 3

I'm kinda hooked on these Q&As that poetmom often posts. (Poetmom, what does meme mean, BTW?

THREE THINGS THAT SCARE ME:
01 My husband dying
02 Letting fear stop me from doing something
03 Never being able to support myself with my writing

THREE PEOPLE WHO MAKE ME LAUGH:
01 Brian
02 Mary, my coworker who just had a baby (great for her, bad for me as there will be less laughing at work for the next 6 months while she's out on leave)
03 Chloe (OK, she's not a person, but she is funny)

THREE THINGS I LOVE:
01 My hubby
02 My family and friends
03 Writing (sometimes :)

THREE THINGS I HATE:
01 When I'm not emotionally honest
02 When others aren't
03 Self absorbed people

THREE THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND:
01 How people think that global warming isn't happening (this based on a conversation with my father this weekend)
02 How people can act as if they are the only people on earth who matter
03 How people can complain about the same thing about themselves over and over and never do anything about it.

THREE THINGS ON MY DESK:
01 A picture of my cat in a frog-shaped frame
02 A santa clause mug that holds pens
03 An angry snowman doll that Brian made for me

THREE THINGS I'M DOING RIGHT NOW:
01 Typing
02 Looking out the window onto Huntington Ave (there's traffic, shocker)
03 Trying not to feel guilty about slacking at work

THREE THINGS I WANT TO DO BEFORE I DIE:
01 Publish a few novels that I'm proud of
02 Live off said published novels
03 Have a kick ass garden

THREE THINGS I CAN DO:
01 Stand on my head (lots of yoga!)
02 Train a dog (she listens to me most of the time....)
03 Listen

THREE WAYS TO DESCRIBE MY PERSONALITY:
01 Thoughtful
02 Sensitive (overly?)
03 Worried

THREE THINGS I CAN'T DO VERY WELL:
01 Be calm
02 Let go of things that annoy me
03 Keep my condo neat

THREE THINGS I THINK YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO:
01 Yourself
02 The Weepies
03 Meditation CDs

THREE THINGS I DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO:
01 Your inner critic
02 The crazy people who ride the bus
03 Anyone who promises you salvation if you just give them money

THREE OF MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE FOODS:
01 Ice cream
02 Cereal (specifically frosted mini wheats with skim milk)
03 Pasta with a little butter and red sauce

THREE THINGS I'D LIKE TO LEARN:
01 French
02 To sew (I can do simple things, but I want to be able to make clothes and stuff)
03 To be more emotionally honest

THREE BEVERAGES I DRINK REGULARLY:
01 Water with lemon or rosemary
02 Coffee (gotta stop...)
03 Chai
04 Wine (I added an extra spot. I couldn't leave wine out!)

THREE SHOWS I WATCHED WHEN I WAS A KID:
01 Facts of Life
02 Different Strokes
03 Full House Best Blogger Tips

Sunday Scribblings (One day late)

I'm a tad late, but here's my Sunday Scribblings.

It's so funny because my husband and I have mini-arguments about the inner lives of our pets all the time. He favors our cat, so when he talks about his inner mind, Brian talks in a deep, refined voice. When he talks about our dog's inner mind, he talks like a dopey three year old. But anyway...
The Inner Lives of Pets

She, the human, said
What a crap day. Overcast, humid. My hair is going to frizz up any second. And I'm late. Again. I wonder if my boss will notice. Of course she will. It's already a quarter to 9 and I'm stuck dragging this mutt around the block. I still need to shower, get dressed, and pack my lunch. And I want to fit in some meditation. I need to practice that stay in the moment stuff. Come on, dog, pee already!

She, the dog, said
A walk! Yea! I love walks. A rock! Yea! I love rocks. Grass! Yea! I love grass. A ball! Yea! I really love balls! Everything smells so good! I just want to sniff, and sniff, and sniff. And eat some grass. Yum. I love grass! Ahh, what's this? I need to pee. Man, it feels good to pee.
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Why long, lonely, boring drives are good for a writer

Despite my not actually putting a pen to paper all weekend, I did manage to think through some of the major problems of my story. I like how my mentor defined a crisis point as a character getting to a point where she doesn't think she has any options except one-- one that causes other issues to develop. I was thinking about that as I drove to NY and I realized--Eureka!--Susan needs to get to a point in thinking about this stuff with her mom where she needs to call her husband and talk about it. He's the only person outside her blood family who knows her parents and her well enough to "get" the situation. And having to turn to him will help her realize why a marital relationship is important enough to fight for.

PS-- I hope to do a belated Sunday Scribbling today

PPS--A short story contest announcement here. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane


Brian's going to Las Vegas today for his brother's "bachelor" party (that's in quotes because the wedding has been called off, but all the guys already had their tickets to Vegas, so they're going anyway). Even though I normally wouldn't see Brian all day, I already miss him! I'm pathetic, I know.
But Chloe dog and I will head down to NY to visit my parents. Not quite as exciting as Vegas, but we'll both get home-cooked meals to chow on!

"See" you all on Monday! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

First Comments from my MFA Advisor

When I saw the email from my MFA advisor with the subject, "your submission," my heart started to beat faster. I stared at the email for a few minutes before opening it, and then stared at her short note for a while before daring to open the attachment. I am *hoping* that my advisor isn't just "nice", but her comments were very positive--much more positive than her comments on the submission I handed in before the residency, so it seems that I did learn something.

I need some clarification as to what she expects out of this revision (ie, how much do I need to change for it to count as a new submission?), but here's what I think I need to do at this point:

  • Add more of a crisis point. I think I can do this by taking into account some of my mentor's other suggestions, including:

*Create a better balance between the two plots: Harold and Susan's problems with her husband. I can do this by clueing the reader in to the husband problems much earlier on than I do now, and by introducing the idea of a deadline to figure out her marriage earlier.

* Bring the father into the story more.

*Develop all the secondary characters more.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fleshing out my story ideas

I just got back from a late lunch-break at Starbucks. I was feeling cranky and thought some coffee would help. What helped was sitting still for a moment and realizing my problem: I've been so caught up in getting my condo cleaned before vacation (this psychotic expectation I put on myself that everything must be neat and clean or I don't feel good leaving for more than a few days-- no easy feat considering how messy we are the rest of the year) and finishing my interdisciplinary submission for next time, that I haven't thought about or done much writing. (Phew, long sentence!)

So, now I'm going to brainstorm/flesh out the story ideas I first mentioned here.

The Rest of June
(The story has been told from the first person POV of Susan. Now I'm exploring getting into the dad's head, as I did here. The main plot is Susan's mom died, and Susan learned she was having an affair.)

Story ideas/scenes

  • Start story with scene I described in my Sunday Scribblings post: the father is at home, drunk, and his secretary comes to see if he's OK. They sleep together--the first woman other than his wife he's slept with in 17 years.
  • Another scene where he's back at work and seduces/is seduced by former student. Maybe secretary sees/knows and gets upset.
  • In between, there are scenes showing his loneliness--eating alone, etc. Maybe he goes to the diner where June and Harold met. He could run into Harold. I think that as much as he'd want to confront him, he wouldn't.
  • Must be a scene or two where he interacts with Susan. Over the phone? Does she come back to visit for a while? Maybe both--she calls, thinks he sounds weird, goes home. He gets mad at her for nosing into his life. Maybe she catches him with one of his new lovers. He is probably really dense when it comes to what's going on with his daughter's life--show that.
  • Maybe Susan's sister, Liz comes into this somehow. Maybe dad overhears Susan on the phone with her, and Liz then comes to see what's going on.

I'm realizing what I really need to do is some more character development of the father so I know who he is. For another post soon...

Longer project (story involving dogs)
The first scene will be of the dog landing on the main character’s front yard. She will have been hanging curtains—she just moved in. The scene will involve the back and forth of the dog being scared and territorial, and clearly needing help. Will end with it drinking the water she left out for him.

Next scene will show her taking the dog to the animal shelter. She’ll be talking to it in the car, explaining why she can’t keep it. But she will have trouble giving it up.

Back at the house, she will miss it and be sad cleaning out its bowl.

She’ll go back to see it, bringing it toys and treats. The woman at the shelter will befriend her, convince her to start volunteering there.

Again, I need to learn a whole lot more about the character before I can get much further…



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What ever happened to Labor Day?

I just got a press release with this opening line: "Halloween is approaching, and many parents may wonder if trick-or-treating is safe." I'm guessing that Christmas ornaments at CVS aren't far behind... Best Blogger Tips

Monday, August 14, 2006

Book questions and answers

Thanks to poet mom and chief biscuit for these questions (and you can thank me for the answers!)

1. One book that changed your life? Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott

2.One book you've read more than once? Little Children by Tom Perotta
3.One book you'd want on a desert island?Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
4.One book that made you laugh? The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evonavich
5.One book that made you cry? The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
6.One book that you wish you had written? The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
7.One book you wish had never been written? Hmm... Maybe the Daniel Steele books that I wasted too many hours on as a teen. Though I take that back because while she's not exactly literature, I'm sure there are many people who get into reading through her books, so it's probably a good thing that they're out there.
8.One book you are currently reading? The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant (Very good so far)
9.One book you have been meaning to read? So many! I have a huge pile at home. What tops the list is probably A Bullfighter Checks her Makeup by Susan Orleans because I have had it for over a year now!
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Me and my Chloe dog


I want to get a picture into my bio, and it seems like the easiest way to do so is to post the pic in my blog first. So here's a random post of me and Chloe on the first day we got her, before she chewed through that expensive retractable leash I'm holding. Best Blogger Tips

Sun, fun, and wine

Me thinks I've caught a bit of August fever. I had a wonderful relaxing weekend filled with Shakespeare in the Park, a festival in the North End (our Little Italy) and time spent reading and drinking out doors. It was wonderful, and I *almost* didn't let thoughts of my messy condo and my undone MFA work intrude. Well, at the very least, I buried those thoughts under wine and sun. But now reality sets in and I realize how much work I have ahead of me! So, nose to the grindstone today... just as soon as I finish goofing off. :)

PS--Thanks to Alyndabear for introducing me to another writing prompt web site. I'll probably tackle one of these later this week!


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Friday, August 11, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Who Else Can I Still Be?

I love these Sunday Scribblings prompts! I think I'll do this one twice, once as a personal response and once as fiction.

Personal:
I feel like my life goals are the same or similar to what they've always been:
  1. be calmer,
  2. write more,
  3. have fun.
I wonder: is it a good thing that I'm consistent throughout the years, or does it mean I'm not accomplishing anything? Let's go with the former since my latest goal is to become someone who is gentler on herself. :)

Fiction:
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm playing around with POV in a short story I'm working on, trying to decide if it's worthwhile to tell the story from different angles. Here's something from the POV of the father:

Who else can I still be, you ask? Lots of things. At first, after my wife's death, I thougth I couldn't be anything. I thought I'd just live quietly, avoiding thinking about the fact that the bitch was cheating on me. (I hate to think of my late wife like that--as a bitch or as a cheater. But I know that the latter, at least, is true.) And then Susan, my daughter--my too smart for her own good daughter--had to nose around and discover June's affair. Once someone else knew, I couldn't be quiet anymore.
First, brandy started disappearing from my liquor cabinet and landing in my belly at an alarming rate. Then I started skipping days at work. I'm a professor, and it's summer, so it's not like any one would notice if most of us took off for a few days. But I work all summer, all day. That's why my secretary came looking for me at my house on her lunchbreak when I didn't show up or return her calls for two days in the week after Susan left.
Until she showed up in my living room, I never thought of Patty as a real person. She was a good secretary--dependable, smart. I didn't know much about her personal life, other than the fact that she was a single mom to a 12 year old boy. But that day I learned an awful lot about Patty, an awful lot. And since then I've learned a lot about lots of women. More than I ever had before. The only one I'm sorry for is Torrey, a former student who came by to say hello. Yes, she's old enough to not get me in legal trouble, but I should've known better. But god, to see that young skin again! And to realize how little I appreciated it when I had young skin of my own.
So who can I be? I can be anyone. I've got a get out of jail free card
--a dead, cheating wife-- that allows me to get away with just about anything, at least for a little while.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

New story ideas

I would love some comments on the two writing projects I am contemplating:

I was thinking that it might be interesting to explore some other angles of the story that I just wrote. (It was a first-person story from the POV of a young woman, Susan, whose mother had just died. Susan discovers her mother was having an affair of sorts. Meeting with that man helps Susan figure out what to do with her own broken marriage.)

For example, showing how the death of the mother, June, and the discovery of the affair affects the rest of the family's lives. The stories could be told from the first-person POV of the father, and maybe the sister and aunt too. It might become a group of linked short stories. I seem to have a feel for the dad's voice right now. So maybe I'll start doodling on that.

I've also been trying to think of a bigger project (I'd say novel, but that seems kinda scary). I know I want it to include dogs in some way, since I am so in love with them and I think that animals lend an interesting something to stories. So here are my very vague thoughts:
  • A woman who has just gotten divorced or widowed moves to a new town for a fresh start. She doesn't have a job yet, but has money from the divorce settlement/life insurance.
  • She's not sure what to do with herself, somehow finds herself at the local animal shelter--maybe a dog gets thrown off a truck near her house and she brings him in.
  • She ends up volunteering there, and through her interactions with the staff, people bringing in/picking up animals, and the animals themselves, she heals from her heartbreak.
  • There will be one dog who she is particularly attached to--maybe the one who got thrown onto her lawn--but she doesn't want to adopt him for some reason. Maybe she feels too unstable to promise to take care of a dog for 10+ years. We'll follow that dog through a few placements with families that don't work out. Suspense will be created in that we'll want to know what happens to him.
  • I obviously need more stuff to happen to sustain a novel, but hopefully this is an OK start.
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Anxiety dreams

I had two fairly typical anxiety dreams last night (coupled with some very frustrating insomnia). In one dream that repeated itself throughout the night, I was trying to catch an international flight and kept on getting thwarted by various things: my cab was late, I couldn't find my passport, I couldn't find my airline's gate, etc.

In the second dream, I was criticizing a friend of a friend, and he said to me, "Well, look at you! Look what you've done to your hair!" I was shocked speachless until I saw myself in a mirror and I had a very blond, very messy bouffant.

Why am I sharing this? Because in writing back to Fatcharlatan in my last post, I realized why I was having them: I'm really, really nervous to see my mentor's comments on my work! I have no idea what to expect. And clearly uncomfort with that unknowing is invading my psyche. Any other Lesley-ers having these feelings, or am I just crazy(er)? Best Blogger Tips

New MFA schedule

So I've been slacking a bit this week, assuming that I'd be getting comments from my advisor soon and at that point I would really start working again. Thankfully, I looked at the MFA schedule today and realized that I won't get comments from her until Aug. 21! That seems a bit crazy since we have to hand in our next submission by Sept. 4. And since my next submission is a revision of my first, I can't even start it until I know what she wants me to revise. So it looks like I'll be spending my vacation week working on my story. Kinda ironic considering my last post... But anyway, here's my new schedule:


By August 21: Have all three creative writing class scripts and handouts done. That basically means I'll be working my a$$ off on them next week since I'll be away the weekend of the 19/20.

By Aug 25 (the day before I leave for vacation): Have one annotation done, have an outline or some sort of plan for revising my story

Week of vacation: Read 2nd craft annotation book and write critique. Revise, revise, revise. Best Blogger Tips

Crazy Americans

I just don't get it. Why are we so work-obsessed? I read just read this article in the NY Times about how Americans are not using up all their measly vacation days, and those who do go away take work with them. The worst part? All of this is self imposed! People say they do it because they feel like they're indispensible (yeah, right) and they want to prove how hard they work.

I was just thinking that it was a bad idea to plan my own vacation for the last week of August because it was too long a wait to get there. I can't imagine how cranky I would be if I never took a vacation, or took my work with me. Why can't people realize that work does not equal life? It makes me so sad. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Read any good books lately?

I'm in a dry spell with books. I'm reading a few right now, but nothing that I'm super, duper into. Anyone have any recommendations for fabulous books (new or old, fiction or non)? Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Beautiful, blah day

Despite the wonderful weather, I'm feeling a bit blah today. I'm wondering if it has to do with having sent my story out to my mentor. Now all I have to do is wait and imagine how much she is hating it. :)

In an effort to get over my funk and to keep productive, I was thinking I could:
  • Think about the next story I want to write (though my next submission will be a revision of my first story, so I don't have a real push to get another started immediately)
  • Think about, gulp, a novel idea I'm throwing around. I decided to abandon my first novel idea (sadly) when I realized it didn't really have enough drama, action, whatever you want to call it to sustain a whole book. It's now the short story I recently handed in. This newer idea *could* work, I think. Though I have no idea where it's going and I really need to get to know my characters. Maybe I'll work on that in these few days of downtime between submssions.
As you can probably see, I'm not too good with downtime. I'm trying to work on that. I
just have a hard time letting myself relax without feeling bored or unproductive.
Anyhoo... don't want this post to be too much of a therapy session! I'm off to Starbucks to
journal away my lunch hour. I know they're a big evil corporation, but something about
their stores is just soothing. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, August 07, 2006

Word cloud



Poet mom introduced me to this cool site where you enter the name of a web site and it creates a "word cloud" made up of the words that appear most often on the site. What's neat is that if I were to list the things that are important to me, they're all words that appear in bold, big type in my cloud: Brian, Bug (which is Brian and my nickname for each other), Chloe, friend, home, husband, love, story, weekend, work, writing. The only thing I might add is ice cream. And coffee. Maybe I need to start blogging about food more often. Best Blogger Tips

First submission: done!

As I'm sure is true for all my fellow Lesley MFAers, I emailed out my submission packets yesterday. I thought I'd give myself a little review here of things I did well this month, and things I could do better next time (keeping in mind that one of my current goals is to not be so damn hard on myself).

+
  • I metered out the work over the month to avoid a crazy crunch time
  • I devoted a lot of mental energy to my writing
  • I really made my projects a priority, even--gasp--saying no to a bunch of things to give myself the time I needed
  • I shared the fact that I'm doing all this creative work with other people, which I've been reluctant to do in the past
-
  • I didn't devote as much energy to my interdisc project (creating a creative writing class syllabus) as I could've
OK, so even taking away my goal of less self-judgement, I think I did pretty well. :) Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A wonderful weekend (to make up for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day)

Despite getting off to a rocky start, this weekend was quite lovely. The weather was great. I did some fun stuff. Chloe didn't get rushed to the ER.... What more can I ask for?

Friday night, I took an awesome yoga class at JP's wonderful yoga studio and then Brian and I ate Thai food while watching bad TV. Saturday I met my friend Amy for some coffee, planted some flowers, and then got a manicure/pedicure with my friend Kerry before she took me out for a belated birthday dinner. We went to P.F. Changs and sat outside and had yummy food and even yummier drinks (the Key Lime martini is my new favorite thing).

Today I met up with some old colleagues--and fellow bloggers, bostonerin and poetmom-- from when I interned at Houghton Mifflin for a delicious brunch. And the best part is that since we had been reading each others' blogs, the fact that I hadn't seen them in years didn't matter a bit. Then Brian and I took advantage of the weather and rode our bikes around for a while and then had some wine and snacks at an outdoor bar in JP.

A nice weekend all around. :) Best Blogger Tips

Sunday scribblings


I love this week's Sunday Scribbling prompt: Who else might I have been? It's a question I think about occasionally, and I find it fascinating to wonder about how different my life might be if I had taken a different path. I like to assume I'd be the same me, but I'm realizing while it's true that people are fundamentally who they are despite their circumstances, there are lots of small idiosyncrasies that can get changed depending on what's going on around them. Enough babbling. Here's my post:

If I moved to New York

I always assumed that Boston would be a brief layover in my life. I'd come here for college, maybe stay for a year afterwards. And then I'd head to back to New York. Not the Long Island where I grew up--I'd live in Manhattan. I'd probably share an apartment with my best friend from high school. We'd be working in publishing, so we'd eat lots of pb&js and mac and cheese. We'd save our money for the important things: going out. To bars, to concerts, to everything. We'd spend summer weekends in the Hamptons, invited by guys who fell in love with us instantly. But we wouldn't be worried about loving them. We'd just love their house, their car that could get us out of the sweltering city for a few days. We'd be in (platonic) love with each other, and with life.

In my imaginations, I never think about the fact that we'd probably have to live in a sketchy neighborhood, that we'd probably have mice, and that she did live this life and is no longer someone I want to be best friends with. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bug & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


My friend Mary at work is about to have a baby, and I organized her office shower. I decided to buy her a lot of baby books from our office to furnish her baby library. One I chose was: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

This seemed apt to me this morning when I was walking my lovely Chloe and I noticed that her stomach was pooched out a bit. The more I looked at it, I realized it was pooched out a lot. So I took her home. She wouldn't eat. I called the vet, who said to bring her in immediately. Apparently bloat is a big problem in dogs, and it can be caused by some serious intestinal problems that can be deadly. So, Brian, Chloe, and I go rushing off to the vet. But before we even get to the car, I fall down the stairs, which were slippery from the rain.

The vet discovers that all of Chloe's bloat (thankfully) is caused by pounds and pounds of food in her stomach--apparently she got into her food bag last night. So $300 later... Chloe and I have to walk home because Brian needed to drop us off and get to work. In the middle of our walk, it starts hailing.

Then I get home and figure, well, one good thing is that I can spend the rest of the afternoon working at home (Chloe can't be left alone yet). And then I discover I can't! I have a work deadline that I can't miss. So now Brian has to come home, and I have to go to work.

Is it Saturday yet??

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chuggin along

Not much to say... Just chuggin along, revising my story. I *think* I solved some major plot problems with the help of one very loving and astute reader, my husband Brian. Hopefully my timeline of events makes more sense now.

I also read the story aloud, which helped me recognize some wording issues. I'm too tired now, but I need to edit out a bunch of times when characters smile during conversations, and when they stare at things. I have way too many of those. Then I'll do another read aloud and hopefully it'll be ready to send to my mentor. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Stories with great characters--help

For the creative writing class I am creating for my MFA program, I am assigning short stories to the class to study particular elements of story. Does anyone have any favorites where the characters are particularly well-drawn? Best Blogger Tips

The little things in life


Despite the ridiculous humidity, I'm having a really good hair day. Just thought I'd share this minor victory with the blog-world. :) Best Blogger Tips
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