Thursday, November 30, 2006

I remember

So I tagged myself for a meme/writing exercise that PoetMom recently posted. The directions: Write down 10 "I remember"s and fill in the rest of the sentence.

I remember feelings rather than facts. Ask me what happened in 8 Mile and I can only give you the broad strokes. Ask me where I was, who I was with, and what I was feeling that day? I can tell you specifics.

I remember lots of random facts about people. I can tell you where a distant colleague went on vacation 4 years ago. Where I left my glasses? That's another matter.

I remember as a child/teen how every minor emotional blow felt HUGE and inconsolable. I hope I can remember that the next time I have to console a 13-year-old about the breakup that is "ruining her life".

I remember a family vacation where we drove to Florida. Somehow I snagged the "way back" of the family station wagon and I sprawled out and read for about 20 hours straight. I remember a large part of that time was spent getting ahead on my Spelling homework. I remember that I was quite nerdy (in a somewhat cool way, I swear.)

I remember when going to an indoor flea market to buy scrunchies and posters of Kirk Cameron was my favorite way to spend my weekend.

I remember being a senior in high school, not paying attention to a word my 1st-period Advanced Chem teacher said, and then suddenly feeling panicked at the thought of doing poorly on my final. So panicked that I read a Chem study guide for 5 nights straight (and got an A!).

I remember watching a naked baby take a poop on a public beach on Nantucket while a friend was trying to teach me how to knit.

I remember being able to walk home from work, not arriving until 6:30 with the sun still shining. (It's now dark here around 4:30.)

I remember life before Blogging. But barely. ;)

Gogo I'd like to tag you for this one to make up for not doing the Meme you tagged me for! Everyone else is welcome too, of course. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A new feature

I've always been meaning to keep a list of the books I read. So now I will be doing so under the favorite books part of my blog profile. I'll do movies too. I'll try to rate them on a scale of 1-4 stars. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No more deadlines

Last Tuesday, I had trouble sleeping. I actually got out of bed at 4:30 in the morning and took a shower because I couldn't lie in bed trying to sleep any longer. As if that wasn't sign enough that I was stressed out, the next day my left eye started twitching. Stress that my mind is not acknowledging makes my eyes dance for some reason.

So I tried to figure out what had made me so hot and bothered. I really couldn't think of anything. Then I remembered that in my insomnia haze, all I could think about was my writing. What if I didn't get my essay done on time (ie my own personal deadline)? What if I didn't get my new story done in time for my MFA submission? Would I ever work on my thesis?

I didn't write much over Thanksgiving, though I did think about my new story and my essay quite a bit. I still don't feel relaxed. So, here's what I'm going to do: I'm taking December off. You heard me. Off. Not off off as in I won't write (that would be silly!) but off as in no personal deadline-setting. I'll get my Dec. 4th submission out, and then I'll write only when I feel like it, no pressure allowed.

Hell, I'll have enough of a deadline with my many outstanding Christmas knitting projects. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 27, 2006

New assignment

So it looks like I'll be covering this Grub Street writing workshop for the Globe. I'm very excited. I've been hoping to break into more feature writing with them, and here's my chance! I also got an email from the Skirt editor acknowledging my submission. Hey, it's something. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Last list of November

All in all I had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I still need to figure out how to deal with my parents better. (They're very nice people and we never actually fight. But they do annoy the crap out of me from time to time, and I just hold it in. Healthy, right?)

Anyway, enough about that until the next time I have to see them. :)

I missed blogging this weekend, and having a sense of structure. So here's a list. It's short, but time consuming.

  • Finish new story for submission on Dec. 4.
  • Revise old story once I get feedback from writers' group and the two women who were in my MFA small group (we're exchanging work).
  • Get my house ready for my 12/9 Christmas party. This mainly means getting the hallway painted (hiring someone to do that, thank god), hanging up art in the hallway, priming and painting the spots I plastered in our bedroom and hanging art in there.
  • Work on Christmas knitting projects.

Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What do vegetarians eat on Thanksgiving?

I get this question A LOT, so I thought I'd inform all of y'all what I'll be eating tomorrow.

A bunch of these:
(Stuffed mushrooms made by mom)

Stuffed acorn squash made by moi

And some sort of mashed sweet potatoes made by Brian.
Yum, yum, yum!

Happy Thanksgiving to veggie-heads and turkey-eaters alike!

Best Blogger Tips


I've been working on an essay about when Brian and I adopted our dog, Chloe. The gist: I loved her from the start, Brian hated having her and wanted to give her back.

After that NPR session I went to, I realized this essay would be much better short. So I cut it down to 450 words. And I'd love to submit it to NPR soon, since it's also got a Christmas theme. I know we're all super busy, but if anyone would like to read it and give me comments, I'd appreciate it. Let me know in comments, please! Best Blogger Tips

Thanks giving

I just read the best article about thanks giving that I've seen in a long time. (One of my favorite quotes: "To thank is not simply to express obligation or gratitude, although it is both those things. An act of thanking that goes beyond the merely formal starts with an act of appreciation. But appreciation isn't easy. It requires perspective. You have to get outside yourself, turn off the endless mental scribbling that covers everything with cheap verbal graffiti.")

So I thought I'd try to list some things I'm thankful for, above and beyond the biggies that I'll think about on Thursday (my husband, my friends, my health, my job, my family, having enough money, being born into the country I was, etc.)

So, I'm thankful:
  • That I have a beautiful forest to walk my dog in every day.
  • That I realized that if I drink decaf coffee I don't have to take medicine for acid reflux.
  • That my husband loves to stay in bed as long as possible on cold weekends.
  • That I often wake to my 16-pound cat lying on my belly.
  • That I found yoga.
  • That my friends stretch and support me.
  • For yarn.
  • That websites like this exist where you can buy art straight from the artist.
  • That this year I realized how important writing is to me (and my sanity).
  • For random connections with strangers, like when a man held the door for me at Dunkin Donuts yesterday and then refused to get in front of me in the long line, even though he really was there first.
  • That I can get away with blogging at work.
OK, enough from me. Please post your own list and let me know! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 20, 2006

Behind the scenes

I came across this neat journal today, the Sycamore Review. The coolest thing about the journal's website is that the editor has posted a few essays on what the submission process is like on her end. Very intriguing to get to be a fly on that wall! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NPR here I come

I went to a great workshop yesterday morning, sponsored by the Boston chapter of the National Writer's Union (a great organization that I highly recommend joining--they are a big help with contracts, and they're also into community building). The workshop was called Shaping and Taping, and it was about how to write and read a commentary for NPR and radio in general. The two leaders, Leslie Brunetta and Judah Leblang, are contributors to NPR and boy did they have a lot to say! Here are some highlights I thought my gentle readers might like to learn. A lot of them carry over to all kinds of writing:
  • Radio commentaries are generally 450 words, tops. So a big topic we discussed was how to get something meaningful out in so few words.
  • To narrow down an essay, pick one small thing about a bigger topic and focus on it. For instance, Leslie wrote a long essay on the name of our country and sir names shifting meaning. She narrowed it into a radio piece about how Italian names are often insults when translated directly.
  • It's easier to break-in to NPR with a topical newsy piece than with a personal essay. But you should bring something personal and different to newsy topics.
  • Pay attention to your train of thought. Your brain works differently from everyone else's, and that's what makes your story interesting.
  • You've got to tell the story in such a way that people who have been through it will learn something new, and that people who haven't will be drawn in.
  • Rhythm is really important. Reading your draft aloud is a must. Alliteration is important. (Hear that, Repeater?)
  • When you have a longer draft that you need to cut down, brainstorm about what the piece could really be about, and then shape it and cut it accordingly.
  • Ask yourself, Who's the main character? It could be an inanimate object, or even your train of thought, but it's important to identify the main character in order to shape your piece.
  • A lot of radio commentaries are told in the present tense. Even if you want to tell yours in the past, experiment with writing in the present.
  • Highlight all your sensory details. If most are on one theme, consider cutting those that aren't. Or if one detail really stands out because it's not on a theme, keep that and cut some others.

And we got a CD of ourselves reading an essay! Man, if I didn't know I talked fast, this was certainly confirmation of it. I read an excerpt of the essay I've just sent to Skirt. People laughed where I wanted them to, which is always a good sign. And there was something quite thrilling about hearing my voice reading my work on a radio-quality recording. Watch out, Terri Gross. :)

(I'll try to post the MP3 file if I can figure out how. If anyone knows, please tell me!) Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sunday Scribbilings: Hero

(A disclaimer: This probably isn't one of the more cheery Sunday Scribblings you'll read this week. It's in reaction to some new "mother issues" I'm having--just in time for the holidays!

For most of us, our parents are our first heroes. They gain this status before we can even articulate what we need from them or that they're giving it to us. There we are, days old, staring at them with eyes whose tears they stopped by picking us up.

For me, my mom is still a hero of mine in many ways. She's one of the most generous people I know, willing to give time and money to big causes and little--a friend who needs $20 to make it to the next payday, a stranger who looks lost, Hurricane Katrina victims. But most of all, her children. When I hear about a woman who died of starvation during the Holocaust while her husband and children survived, I didn't need to ask why she was the only one to perish. That's the kind of sacrifices mothers make. I know it because mine would so instinctively do it for me.

But when heroes of any type fall, they fall hard. And recently I realized that though my mom gave me a lot, there are some fundamental things I didn't get from her.

My mom and I are close on a few levels--we like to spend time going to the movies and museums together, we talk on the phone once a week about books and work. But we're not close in the highest way, that warm way that makes you feel you can say anything and that the other person really understands you. Though I've overheard my mom say to friends that we're as close as can be, I know she agrees with me. I can remember her saying quite a few times that my brothers are both more like her, me like my dad, that there were certain things about me that she would never get. And if she knew me well, she'd know that that was not the type of thing I could handle hearing.

To be close with someone, I need that person to be able to listen to my problems and not try to solve them, but just be with me in them. Someone who can talk about her feelings and teach me to talk about mine. Someone who says I love you more often than once, moments before she goes into the operating room to stop internal bleeding from an aneurysm that burst last Christmas. Someone who knows that saying those three words at such a precarious time would just make me more worried than I already am.

All these years I've blamed myself for our lack of true closeness, wondering on some level what I could do to be more like the brothers she so obviously felt closer to. But now that I'm realizing our problem with more clarity, I see that I don't carry much of the weight of this problem in our relationship.

If I'm being snarky, I'll think, she's the one who taught me just how much a mother's supposed to do for her children. Would some soul searching to figure out how to talk about difficult emotions have been so hard when cleary that's what her daughter needed? If I'm being kinder, I'll realize that my mother was nothing if not anxious, undiagosed and untreated for all of my childhood. And mental illnesses of that sort are very self-absorbing: it's hard to focus your antennae on what other people need when you hurt so much. And if I'm being impartial, I'll say that my mother's just not the type of person who can read well what others need emotionally.

Who knows who I would've been if my mother could've grown and changed. And who knows what this realization will do to our relationship when we come together for Thanksgiving next week. But I do know that any future daughter I have, whatever her complaints about me, not understanding her emotions won't be one. Probably in reaction to my mother's lack of emotional temperature-telling, I have an oversentive thermometer, constantly worrying about how those close to me are feeling, and what I can do to make those feelings better. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Giddy up

So I'm back on that horse. At the recommendation of FC, I am sending my essay to Skirt. Luckily for me, the January 2007 issue deals with the seven deadly sins, and my essay is about cleaning (or not cleaning, aka sloth).

Thanks for all your helpful comments! And Erin, I would love to see your editor-slayer model! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Close your eyes, dad

I usually shy away from political posts. I am a deeply political person, but I am also a quietly political person. This comes from growing up in a house full of Republicans. Who knows how I ended up the way I did, but it wasn't easy to get and stay here. In recent years, I've learned it's better to just keep my mouth shut, and to make my relatives do the same. Nothing I say will change their minds, and when you get 50 Republicans surrounding you, it's difficult to even get yourself heard.

So, thank you Gogo for posting something so poignant and funny and true to make me come out of my shell a bit.

November 14th, 2006

To My Conservative Brothers and Sisters,

I know you are dismayed and disheartened at the results of last week's election. You're worried that the country is heading toward a very bad place you don't want it to go. Your 12-year Republican Revolution has ended with so much yet to do, so many promises left unfulfilled. You are in a funk, and I understand.Well, cheer up, my friends! Do not despair. I have good news for you. I, and the millions of others who are now in charge with our Democratic Congress, have a pledge we would like to make to you, a list of promises that we offer you because we value you as our fellow Americans. You deserve to know what we plan to do with our newfound power -- and, to be specific, what we will do to you and for you.Thus, here is our Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives:Dear Conservatives and Republicans, I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us

.2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.

5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.

6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.

7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.

8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.

9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.

11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.

I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the restof the world.


To sign yourself, go here. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Editor: 1, Bug: Love

I started taking tennis lessons with three friends last night. An uninvited guest joined us--my editor. Usually he sits on my shoulder only when I'm writing, but apparently he's branching out.

I haven't played tennis in a serious way for about 20 years, when I quit lessons because my little brother got to be better than me. So I was a little rusty, and the editor wouldn't let me forget it. "The instructor said to keep your elbow straight!" he yelled as I lobbed a ball into the net. "And keep your feet moving!"

I was so caught up in these negative comments that it barely registered when my friend Mary said, "You're doing great! Your backhand is amazing!"

I looked around. Who, me?

I played well the rest of the night, but more importantly I had fun and got Mr. Editor to shut the F up. Now if only Mary could come over to watch me write, every once in a while shouting, "Great job! Look at those sentences!" Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday monday

So I had a post planned in my head about how nice it was to have a quiet weekend to myself, and how much work I got done. And then I found a rejection letter in my email box. It was a very nice, personal rejection letter (because I have a friend at the journal I submitted to). She said a few people on the staff gave my piece a thumbs' up, but apparently not enough people did.

I'll definitely resubmit it elsewhere, and I know that rejection is a part of the game and that everyone gets them, and blah blah blah. But none of that helps me feel any less disappointed, or less like crying. I guess I'll just spend this rainy Monday wallowing, and then get back on that horse tomorrow...

This experience does give me a glimpse into the life of a journal, though. It's interesting to know how many layers you need to get through to get published. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I'm dying, revised

You may recognize this story from a post back on October 10th.

Here's a revision, based on your feedback and that of my writers' group.

If you feel like commenting, I'd love to hear any and all feedback. Most importantly, do you get what the stories about? I learned that last time I was one of the few who did. :) The connection didn't feel as strong as it could've, I guess. Also, does it feel whole?

Death sentence (Thanks for the title suggestion, TI!)
“I’m not sure I understand, Seymour,” Dr. K said when I told him. I was sitting on the doctor’s table, naked save for the see-through cotton gown tied across my front. The white legs of an old man dangled down in front of me, black hair and blue veins snaking across them. “What are your symptoms?”

“I woke up today feeling weird.”

“Weird, how?” he asked.

I thought for a moment. I looked at the doctor standing before me—his white coat, his dark hair and mustache—and knew he wouldn’t understand. I tried anyway, considering that I was there and naked already. “My mind was foggy than usual. I lay in bed a long time, which is unusual for me. My hands ached, and my head hurt a little bit. When I concentrated on the faint pain, I knew, without a doubt, that I would die soon. That feeling hasn’t gone away since.”

“The pain?”

“Well, yes, but more than that the feeling…”

“That you’re going to die.”

“Yes!” Maybe I was wrong about this Dr. K.

“Have you been under much stress lately?” he asked.

I waved the question away. This problem wasn’t in my head, or maybe it was in my physical head, but not my psychological head.

“We can run some tests, but I think you just need some rest.”

“I’ll get plenty of rest when I’m dead,” I said.

Dr. K sighed and gave me a referral for blood work.

After he left the room, I lied back on the paper-covered couch. I wondered what was happening at work. At this time, I’d likely be having my second cup of earl grey tea. I had never missed a day before, not in the 18 years I’ve worked at the university library.

I wondered if my boss Howard came looking for me yet. I skipped a mandatory all staff meeting the day before. I knew what he was going to say, and I didn’t want to have to argue with him in front of everyone. I’m much better at articulating my points one on one than I am in front of a crowd, where I feel their eyes on my reddening skin, my moist palms. Maybe he thinks I’ve quit. How pleased that would make him! Then he could hire someone half my age who likes those wretched computer machines.

I don’t care what the numbers show, people like to hold books in their hands. They, like me, get pleasure from the smoothness of the pages, the smell of the dust from hundreds of borrowers’ houses that gets imbedded in the pages, the sight of the black marks on the yellowing pages that, extraordinarily, create meaning. Just the other day an hour passed as I stared at the markings of a middle Eastern language I couldn't read, in a book from generations before I was born. How do societies come up with these letters? These words? How do they decide on them? My tea got cold while I thought about it.

I mend the books that fall into a careless reader’s hands, or fall from them, or get into the mouths of a dog or child. People don’t know I exist in the bowels of the library, working in the basement to tape and glue and restring those most precious possessions. It’s true that I have had fewer books to process than in the past. But that doesn’t mean we should hoard them in the depository and make people wait days to get to them. And that certainly doesn’t mean I should take a class on the new computer system where students can access old journal articles and book chapters without holding the pieces of history in their hands. Mending books is not just something I do. It is who I am.

I can feel my heart beating fast at the thought of that stupid man making decisions about me, about my books. “They’re arcane,” he had said before. I don’t know if it’s the books or people like me he was talking about.

Like I said, I am dying. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Like reality TV...

...only not as exciting.

Taking advice from those of you who read my crazy list of things to do, I'm going to give myself some time off tomorrow and go see a movie. I love seeing movies by myself in the middle of the day. The problem? I can't decide what to see! Help me decide. Vote in the comments section.

Your (my) choices:
Running with Scissors (which I haven't read)
Little Children (which I have)
Marie Antoinette Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tag, you're it

I've been tagged by BostonErin to do this Letter Meme. J is a hard one...

10 wonderful things that start with J:

  • My last name, though no one can pronounce it (despite its shocking similarity to a very famous psychiatrist).
  • June, the official and unofficial start of summer
  • Jelly belly jelly beans
  • Jackolanterns
  • John, having one when you need to pee (or is that spelled jon?)
  • Journals
  • Jam bands (like Phish)
  • Jewelry (OK, I don't love jewelry that much, but I'm running out of ideas here.)
  • Jewish people (and Christians, and Muslims, and those who have no religion....)
  • Jungles (if you are safe and seeing them as an ecotourist, I imagine)

Five bad things that start with J:

  • Jury duty (I'm all for civic duty, but I can think of a thousand other things I'd like to do with a day than sit and wait around for a judge to send me home) Judgemental people
  • Jobs, the need to have one to pay bills
  • Jailbait (as in the idea that young girls would be seen as sexual objects to older men. Gross.)
  • Jackass (the TV show and jackasses in general)

You're it. I tag:
TI for K
Repeater for L
Jim from North Carolina for M
Kim G for N

Gogo for O
Kerry for P. (I'm not even sure you're reading this, and your blog seems to be down right now but...)

Best Blogger Tips

An outline and a shorter list

Here's a chunk of the To-Dos I'd like to get done this weekend (which is a long one thanks to Veteran's day, but it may just be a normal one thanks to an insane work project that might need some love over the weekend. Brian is away at a mystery writer's conference and I have consciously left a lot of my time open to get stuff done, and/or relax. Ha.)

  • Get my interdis study plan created
  • Get a second draft done of my short, short story
  • Work on my Chloe essay. Hopefully have some semblance of a draft.
  • Work on my thesis. (Not sure how to chunk this into smaller pieces yet so that's as specific as I can get, unfortunately.)
  • Bring up Christmas decorations from basement
  • Set up sewing/knitting area
  • Freelance projects (bleh)
  • Possibly go to the hardware store for some project goodies
  • Possibly work on my new story, for which I now have the start of an outline:
    • Scene with mom showing how she is now, post aneurysm
    • Scene where aunt comes to visit to see how mom is doing, and where aunt sheds light on the fact that the mom is acting how she used to act, before her marriage.
This new story's writing process is reminding me a lot of the saying, "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 06, 2006

The beginning

Here's the beginning of my new story:

"This is Dr. Dent. You paged me?"

I hate Dr. Dent. I was hoping he wasn't on duty today. I sat down on the step in the hallway of my mother's condo building. With only 800 square feet between the two of us, it was the only place where I could be sure she wouldn't hear me. "This is Emily Richards. My mother, Lucille Richards is your patient. She had an anneurysm two weeks ago?"


I had been hoping for some sort of personal recognition. "Well, I don't know how to say this. Mom's been acting strange since we got home yesterday. It's just that..." " I was babbling, I knew it then. He made me nervous. The other three doctor's on my mother's team, as they call themselves, were friendly and informal, like we were all chatting about blood vessels because we happened to love them, not because a blockage in one nearly killed my mom. But not Dr. Dent. I didn't want to say the next words aloud, not to Dr. Dent. But I had to. "She's been singing. All the time. And she never sang before, not even in the car or at birthday parties. She said she had an awful voice. Which she doesn't. But I guess that's beside the point."

"I'm not sure I understand. You're calling because your mom is singing?" He said it like I was a child, not a 33 year old woman with a master's in public policy and a mortgage bearing down on her every month. And the worst part is that I played into his condescention, playing the part of the unsure idiot.

"I know it sounds strange. But she's just acting like a different person. Singing is just an example."

I can hear papers being shuffled in the background. "I see here she's scheduled for a follow-up appointment next week. Do you think this could wait until then?"

"Well, if you do. You and your colleagues told me to call if she seemed to be having any symptoms, and well...I just wanted to make sure this wasn't a sign of anything gone wrong. "

"Singing? No." I could hear the smirk in his voice. "I'll see you on Tuesday." Best Blogger Tips

To Dos

As we all know, I need my structure. Here's a very long list of to dos for my post-submission time. I'll check in weekly to let y'all know how I'm doing. Talk about accountability...

Writing to do's, in order of importance
  • Get my interdis study plan created.
  • Write new story by Dec 4, to hand in for my January residency. I currently have three ideas floating around:
    1. A woman's mom has a stroke/anneurysm and survives while the woman is out of town and unreachable. She goes to her mother to help her recoop, but discovers a side effect of the illness is new personality traits, like singing along to the radio when she hated to sing before. She talks to her aunt about this, and they realize these traits were ones the mother had before she was married to a jerk who bruised her spirit.
    2. I was totally enthralled by a man I met at breakfast at my hotel in Santa Fe last week. While I was waiting for my bagel to toast, he basically told me his life story--He was from Arkansas, visiting Phoenix to play baseball, and now in SF to visit his ex-wife, if he could find her, to deliver tax papers. I liked the idea of doing a kind of road trip story, where the purpose of the trip comes out in snippets as the man is talking to strangers.
    3. Something about how a child loves Christmas and hides in that love to get away from his abusive family. So from Sept. through Jan. he'd sit in his room in the dark, listening to Christmas caroles by candlelight.
It seems the first is the most developed, so I think I'll go with that one.
  • Revise the short short story about the man who thinks he's dying and SEND IT OUT! There are a few contests/calls for subs for short-shorts.
  • Get a draft done of my essay about adopting Chloe, submit it to my writer's group, and then SEND IT OUT!
  • Resend my cleaning essay out if it doesn't find a home at the first place I sent it to.
This is something I haven't talked about here because, well, it makes me very anxious and because I think it makes me look insane. Here's the deal. When I signed up for my Lesley MFA program, I had every intention of having finished the Harvard MLA program I had started. But through circumstances beyond my control, things got delayed, and delayed and delayed. So, now I'm doing my thesis and the MFA program at the same time. (Did I mention I also have a job? Insane, I know.) So, during this time off from my MFA, I need to plow through getting a very good draft of my thesis proposal out. Something that is so good that it will get approved and will take minimal effort to expand into a thesis in the near future. (FYI, in this program, the thesis isn't as bad as it sounds.)

I need to fix some house stuff before my Christmas party on Dec. 9 (Boston bloggers, you better be there! Invites to follow soon.) and I want to take on some other projects after our party during the week between Christmas and New Year's, when I have off:
  • paint patched wall areas in our bedroom, and hang art
  • Get wedding pics framed and hung, along with some other photos/memorabilia
  • Redo second bathroom (cosmetic only; will hire someone to do some of it)
  • Paint touch-ups in other rooms
Plus all the stuff that comes along with Christmas--shopping, baking, decorating, etc. Obviously I will need to make this a simple Christmas in order to fit everything else in! So don't expect any presents. ;) Best Blogger Tips

Final submission: DONE!

My final submission for my MFA program is out the door (or email box, as it were). This was a tough one for me, between a work trip that through off my schedule and a very-unlike-me bout of procrastination. So though I was up until midnight last night writing my second annotation, it is done. Phew.


I didn't fall in love with any of the books my mentor had me read this semester. I can't tell if the books just weren't a great match, or if the knowledge that I was reading them to write about them made it hard for me to lose myself in them. Other MFAers, can you comment on your experiences?

But as for the writing, I can only say that in my own opinion, my understanding of story and my writing have improved tremendously. And my love of writing has also increased.

I've noticed that some weird emotions come up after I send off a submission. I get sad and mopey, almost like I'm mourning for the pieces I had to let go. I'm worried that this feeling will be magnified this time since this is our last structured submission for the semester. Though I do want to get a new story done to submit by 12/4 to my workshop group for the January residency, and I have a lot of other writing and house projects I want to get underway. (Post to come about those!)

Anyway, congrats to all the Lesley MFAers out there who have completed their first semester!
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Mornings (and procrastination)

Following my personal theme this month, I am procrastinating doing on my school work (due tomorrow!!). At least this form of procrastination is interesting and useful, unlike the hours of TLC I watched last night.

I am not a morning person. I'm not a night person either. I'm a sleep person. I could happily sleep from midnight until 10 am (like I did last night), and then lounge in bed for a few more hours, relishing in the fuzzy yet very interesting thoughts that come when I'm half asleep and warm beneath my down comforter (which I would've loved to do today, but alas, I can only allow myself so much time asleep when I have deadlines). In that blissful time, I think about my strange dreams (is there any other type?) of the night before, the emotional slush I'm slogging through at the time, what lies ahead that day or week, what has happened recently or not so recently, any stories I'm working on.

Of course this lounging time is a luxury I can partake in only on the weekends. But I've recently started a weekday morning routine that makes it a little easier to get out of bed after only 7 or 8 hours of sleep. I wash up and then I do Morning Pages, three pages of long-hand writing in my journal about anything. It's kind of like a more structured version of the thinking I do while lying in bed on the weekends. It's also like a form of therapy, helping me uncover things that I wouldn't notice otherwise.

After that I walk my dog--something that hasn't been as much fun lately because it's cold and because my favorite walking companion is in India for 3 weeks on vacation. K and I have fascinating conversations. She's one of the few people who I felt comfortable expressing fairly intimate thoughts with right away. (Thankfully she'll be back soon.)

Then it's time for a rush of what to wear, does the cat have food, what can I eat for lunch. And then my lovely and short commute involves walking for a bit and reading on the train for another bit. At work, I luxuriate in making some decaf coffee and eating breakfast (my current fave is whole wheat oatmeal) while I check my email and get my day started.

So, maybe I am a morning person. As long as the morning starts at 10 am, and allows me time to read, walk, chat, and eat.


Read more thoughts on mornings here. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, November 03, 2006

Random thoughts

I don't seem to have many blog-worthy thoughts going on here, but I do want to keep this thing active. So here are some random thoughts for this Friday:

  • I'm trying very hard not to hate winter, but I'm falling short. Anyone have any thoughts on why winter is good? Anything I can think of--drinking hot cocoa, snuggling--are actually things I could do in the summer, so they're not doing it for me. I'm not too big into winter sports, either, though maybe I could try again to embrace skiing/snowboarding...
  • I am still loving morning pages. Any of you who don't do them should really give it a shot. It's easy--just babble on paper for 3 pages every morning. Write about whatever you want. Just don't stop until you've done 3 pages.
  • I'm excited about my lunchtime yoga class. I haven't worked out much lately, between being away for work and then getting a cold.
  • I'll post a pic soon of the baby booties I'm knitting for my friend's shower--tomorrow! Guess what I'm doing tonight?
  • While I'm knitting I'll be listening to The Ha-Ha on my computer, thanks to a free download from my local library. I love the library. (And this book is pretty good too!)
  • I'm looking forward to Sunday Scribblings this weekend.
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