Tuesday, January 30, 2007

To take my mind off this little waiting game I'm unfortunately playing...

Anyone up for reading a short essay? It's one I hope to send to Jane Magazine, per BostonErin's suggestion. I'd love some feedback. No worries if you're too busy. Remember, be like me, have no goals! Best Blogger Tips

Still nothing

Just in case anyone is wondering... still haven't heard anything from that editor. I was thinking I'd give her til Friday and then send her a friendly "what's up" email. Does that sound like a good plan?

Sigh... Best Blogger Tips

Monday, January 29, 2007

Waiting and nailbiting

So I sent a query into a yet-to-be-named-here magazine a while back. Heard nothing. Then, this weekend, I got an email asking a question about how the essay ends. (This mag specifically asks for queries only, not the full thing.) I emailed her this morning, and she emailed me back immediately asking me to clarify further. Then... nothing. I'm not sure if that means she didn't like how I answered the second question or if I'm just being impatient. Please send good vibes my (and her) way! Best Blogger Tips

No goals, an update

The first part of my no goal week went really well. It was remarkably refreshing to be able to do what I wanted, and not what I thought I should do. Then I had a meltdown over the weekend. (see last post.)

I'm wondering if maybe something about the weekend triggered it, having less structure or something. So I'm going to try to bring some structure to my weekends. I'll do my morning pages at least one day (both if I already took a day off in the week). I'll walk in the woods with Chloe at least once. I'll do yoga and/or meditate on at least one of the days. But these are not goals, just suggestions. :)

I'm going to get organized as to how I'm doing with my MFA reading, but I think I'm keeping up. If so, then this no goal thing may just work... It's not like I'm allowing myself not to do anything (god forbid!). It's more that I'm not bumming on myself if I don't get everything done that I wanted because, after all, I didn't have a concrete goal that I failed to meet.

Last night was a good example of how no goals helped: I was knitting the beginning of a really cool purse. I wanted very badly to finish the base. But I was also getting frustrated with it, and knew that putting it down and doing something else would help. So I did. I didn't worry about my internal goal. I just let the knitting go, and read a really great story and felt much more satisfied. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, January 28, 2007

TGI Monday?

Another Sunday feeling out of sorts. Not sure what the problem is this time, but figured I'd post and see if that helps. FC and I had a nice writing date yesterday at Panera (great soup, difficult place to find!). I got out a very shitty first draft of my story.

Maybe that started my angst. First drafts are always so hard. I know in my head that I need to just get it out, but it's so hard not to be uber critical of myself at that stage, questioning what the hell the point of the story is, what the hell I'm trying to do writing in the first place.

Add that to the fact that my pain in the arse neighbors had a loud party last night while I was trying to spend a quiet evening at home, and you have one out-of-sorts Bug. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. I can't believe I'm looking forward to Monday. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, January 26, 2007

Publishing in literary journals

I was going to post a list of some of the fabulous things I learned at a publishing panel I went to at Lesley, but a fellow MFA-er beat me to it, so I figure I'll just send people to her wonderful post. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Contest

So it seems that the new relaxed me is blogging less. Don't make me feel guilty about it though! Here's a link for a contest for novelists that I thought some of you might want to see: http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474976881959 Good luck!

~Relaxed bug Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

No more goals

I spent yesterday evening in bed, watching a bad movie, knitting, and having yet another existential crisis. Through this one, at least, I figured out a way to possible prevent another: NO MORE GOALS.

For whatever reason, I can't seem to balance the act of having a future goal with the act of enjoying the present moment. How can I enjoy the act of knitting when all I am focusing on is getting the shawl done, and therefore I stay up way too late working on it? And how can I enjoy writing and learning if all I'm focused on is getting to all the Writing Fantasies listed in an earlier post? And in that case, not only are the stakes much higher, but there is an endless amount of work I could be doing to get there. So when I don't do any one of those endless somethings, I feel bad.

So, here's what I'm going to do. My only goal for this month is to be in the moment. That will probably include lots of meditating. But that's the only goal I'm allowed. It doesn't matter how often I get to the gym. How much I knit. How messy my house is. Whether my bathroom gets painted. Even how much I write. Of course I'll make sure I get my MFA submissions done, but nothing else matters. I don't need to send out any queries or write any essays.

This idea seems a bit insurmountable. My heart is racing just thinking about it. What if I waste all my time? What if I get nothing done? I need to be OK with not getting anything done. Nothing. Nada. Scary! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, January 22, 2007

Nostalgia

I'm feeling so nostalgic for my MFA week! It struck this morning when I saw a coffee stain on my jacket, which must've been from trying to carry coffee during the residency, since I don't drink it on the go in my regular life.

Boo hoo. Back to my regularly scheduled life. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hello, new character

I got some writing done yesterday, and I now have some semblance of an outline. What's missing, though, is a real, in-depth knowledge of my character. So, I'm going to try to have a "conversation" with her here.

Bug: Hello, J.
J: Hi.
Bug: So, tell me a bit about your childhood.
J: I grew up in a typical suburb. Typical family really. I have one sister. We had a dog growing up. My parents are still married.
Bug: Are you close to your sister?
J: Not really. She's a little too...um... perky for my taste.
Bug: Perky?
J: Yeah, she's always happy. Always doing new things, joining new clubs. I'm more of a home body. Well, maybe not home body exactly, but I prefer to have a few good friends rather than a ton of OK ones. And I like people who are OK with being depressed sometimes. Sis isn't like that. I imagine if I told her I was depressed she'd tell me to take up knitting or whatever her latest fad was.
Bug: What about your parents, what are they like?
J: My mom stayed home with us kids, my dad worked as a lawyer for various companies. They're fine people. Again, maybe not the kind I'd chose to hang out with, but what can you do. They talk a lot about nothing.
Bug: So what about your husband, what's he like?
J: Dan is really smart. He's a philosophy professor at a SUNY school in upstate NY. That's why we moved to the middle of nowhere five years ago, so he could teach there. He's not tenured yet, so he works a lot, trying to do well by his students and also publish a ton of papers and get a book idea going. I'm a bit jealous of his career right now. I'm in pharmaceutical sales, which I like enough. I know everyone hates pharma companies, but there are some real positives to us, too. Like the fact that we create new drugs in the first place. But the people I work with, they're really more interested in money than much else. It makes for boring conversations.
Bug: Have you made many friends Upstate?
J: I do have a few women I hang out with. I'm in a book club, and there's a woman I met through gardening, M. She's probably my best friend right now. Though I don't feel as close to her as I wish I did. She's a bit like my sister now that I think about it. She's smarter than Sis, but she's got a perky edge to her, like she doesn't seem to get me when I talk about any sort of "dark" subject, like how someone could cheat on their spouse or how hard it is to get out of bed some days.
Bug: What makes it hard to get out of bed?
J: Hm. That's a tough question. It's nothing concrete, exactly. Just this underlying feeling I always have, but that bubbles to the surface sometimes, that life is pretty meaningless. I mean, why do I bother to get up and get doctors' offices to prescribe one type of drug over another. Or plant bulbs. Or clean my kitchen. These tasks are never ending, and without some sort of bigger goal, or bigger picture, they seem kind of pointless. I don't think I'm making much sense. I think that's because I haven't been able to talk to anyone about this in a while. Dan is really busy and I hate to bother him. And like I said, M wouldn't really get it.
Bug: And what do you look like?
J: I have shoulder length hair. It's brown, though now that I'm in my mid-thirties I have to die pieces of gray, which is depressing. I never thought I'd be one of those women who complained about her body growing older, but it's really weird how quickly it seems to happen. I look at pictures of myself when I was in college, or even when Dan and I got married, and I'm amazed to see how different I am... But back to your question. I'm average height--5,5, fairly average weight. I'm a little broad in the shoulders and hips, no one would call me petite. I think I'm pretty. I've got a small gap in between my middle teeth. It's one of those things that's barely noticeable, but once people do see it, they think it's cute. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Story idea

I had this dream last night where there was some sort of party at my parents' house, and my brother, who is married in real life and was in my dream, was flirting heavily with a stranger. I had to keep reminding him he was married, which he did not appreciate.

In bed this morning, I thought about what an interesting story it'd make if a married man somehow starts hitting on another woman in front of his sister, and the struggle the sister would have in figuring out what to do and how to do it and what her place in the situation is. Especially if the siblings were as different as my brother and I are.

I think I'll tackle that idea for my second story submission. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, January 19, 2007

New semester, new list

OK, friends, here is my OCD side coming out in full force once again. These are my to do's for the weekend. I tried to keep this weekend free of social obligations, but I'm not doing a very good job. I like my friends/my city too much, I think. Anyway...

Tonight:
* Read Ms. Welty for 45 minutes before I go out to dinner and to see the play the Cherry Orchard.

Tomorrow:
*Yoga in the morning with a friend.
*Then go to Java Jos coffee shop and read and write for as long as they'll have me.
*Go to M's house to help her deal with being left alone with a baby for 10 days while her husband is on a business trip.

Sunday:
*More reading and writing, including:
**Finalize draft of thesis proposal (ugh; not for my MFA) and mail it (yea!)
**Create IS study plan
**Look through interviewing books I have, and order others as needed
*Vegetarian cooking club is coming over. This is really B's thing, so I hope he doesn't need me to clean/help prep... Best Blogger Tips

Sunday Scribblings: Fantasy

I've been an absentee Sunday Scribbler for a while, so I'm hoping to make up for that by posting EARLY. And by wishing Laini a HUGE amount of good luck and congratulations on her book and panel placement this weekend!

This week's prompt is fantasy. I'm going to use it to fantasize about my dream life as a writer, which was prompted by the pangs of jealousy I felt when reading about my friend Erin's wonderful writerly accomplishments. (Is it OK to admit that you're jealous of a friend? It's not that I wish her any ill will AT ALL or don't think she deserves her fabulous life. It's just that I want one of my own, too.)

Fantasy
In my fantasy writing life, I get to:
*publish short stories and essays frequently, and eventually get a book contract.
*teach creative writing in some way
*play a role in some sort of literary journal, even if it's just a college one.
*only take on a minimal amount of non-creative writing work to make extra money.
*get paid to teach at workshops in fabulous places, like Europe.

I think that's it. Is that too much to ask?? :) I don't even need to be famous. Just self-sustaining.

For more writing on the topic of Fantasy, click on the Sunday Scribbling link in the beginning of this post. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Eudora

I've felt fairly unengaged with this blog this past week. Maybe it's just me getting into the swing of things. Or maybe it's because work has been crazy and there's only so many things my little brain can carry at one time. In any case, I'm hoping this post will get me a little bit more engaged (and you too, readers!).

For my first MFA submission, I'm reading Eudora Welty's autobiography and a bunch of her stories. I've read some of the more famous ones, like Why I Live at the PO, before. But not much else. I'm not finding her stories all that engaging--I think because there is a lot of distance between the narrator and the story, so I don't feel as connected to the characters as I'd like (here's the seminar I took on narrative distance coming in handy!). But at the same time, I find the stories really sticking with me for a reason I can't yet articulate.

Have you read Eudora before? What do you think? I'd love to hear feedback from other readers! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Another exercise: An alter ego

This one is also courtesy of Room to Write. And it's also being posted because I didn't get around to writing it out long hand this morning. Though I did fit in pilates, morning pages, and a Chloe walk in the fah-reezing cold.

The short version of the exercise instructions: develop a character sketch of an alter ego. (And don't make her fabulous in the ways you are not, which will just make you sad.)


My alter ego
My alter's name is Rhonda. When her car gets stuck on the side of the road, she does not call AAA or her boyfriend because she knows how to fit her own damn carburator. She also knows what to do in emergencies, like the main characters on my current television obsession, Lost. She acts fast and doesn't second guess herself.

My alter ego is also a bit hefty. If she were to wear a Superwoman costume (which is what I picture her in) a roll of flab would overhang the top of her bikini, and her thighs would be thick like old, oak tree trunks. She doesn't worry about this though, she's too busy saving puppies that run in front of cars and what not. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A writing exercise: seeing

So my plan to get up early enough to do a writing exercise, do my morning pages, meditate, and walk Chloe is off to a rocky start. Today I only managed to walk Chloe and do morning pages. But as "punishment" for myself, I am promising to fit those four things in at some other time of the day if I don't get to them in the morning (save for walking Chloe, which definitely has to be done in the morning!).

So, here's an exercise, courtesy of Room to Write by Bonni Goldberg. The instructions were to see an item using your imagination, intuition, and instinct, and then to comment on which type of seeing was hardest for you.

This morning I wore my old, out-of-date-prescription glasses to the dog park. So, as another dog and owner entered the park, I couldn't see them well. All I saw was a golden blob and a person layered in a ski jacket. This might have been Chloe's friend Barley, or it might have been a potentially mean dog I didn't know. Chloe was off leash, and she wasn't listening to my calls for her to come.

My intuition told me to let her go. She usually only doesn't listen to me around dogs she knows and loves. But my imagination saw all sorts of possibilities, a dog fight being the most prominent. And what exactly is a person supposed to do if her dog gets involved in a fight? It seems awfully dangerous to try to grab your dog with all those teeth bared and adrenaline flowing. So then the image of my hand getting bitten off by my own friendly dog ran through my imagination.

I can't remember what my instinct saw. Maybe it saw that getting in the middle of a (imaginary) dog fight is a bad idea, no matter how much you'd like to save one of the pooches.

But, in any case, as I heard the voice of the other dog owner, I didn't need to see clearly to know that it was, indeed, Barly and his mom. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, January 15, 2007

Perception vs reality

I'm cracking up at Gili's response to my last post. Why? Because I was just about to post one of the least calm posts I have ever posted.

I had quite a melancholy evening, focusing on all the stuff I can't seem to do right, like knit the shawl TI and I are supposed to be starting, finish a crossword puzzle, or write a damn thesis paper. And of course, thoughts like that inevitably lead to: What good am I anyway? Why can't I do anything useful like, say, CPR? What's the point of all this anyway?

And that, my friend, is much too much deep thought for the night before I'm going back to work to face 100s of unread emails and some sort of big mistake made by someone (possibly me) that my boss alluded to in a vague email. Yikes. At least Bug, sensing my pending psychosis, is letting the dog sleep with us tonight. Best Blogger Tips

Wow

I'm not even sure what to say about my second MFA residency. I learned so much, yet I can't think of one single point that makes sense to post about. I guess the biggest (and hardest!) lesson was that even though I've learned SO much in the last six months, I still have a long way to go to completely understanding the art of creating a short story.

Now that I understand the basics of story arch (though I don't always employ those basics well), I need to use other elements to make sure the story gets told in the best and clearest way. My new mentor, Christina Shea (who seems brilliant), talked to me about how I need use all the elements of the story, like setting, the details of the characters, and the plot to truly maximize the potential of the story's theme. For example, think about what setting a story in NYC says about the theme as compared to say, setting it in a smaller city. This is all fairly overwhelming--so much to think about!-- but at least I know enough now to realize what I don't know, which is half the battle, I think. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Resolutions

New Years resolutions
Here's another belated New Year's post, and my last post for a while as I'll be at my MFA residency starting tonight. I am SO looking forward to a week's worth of very intense motivation, mostly in the form of being with the other students, who are so inspirational!

I’m big into make resolutions all the year through, but I still like to take some time on the New Year and think about my goals for the year to come.

  • I’d like to do more yoga and meditating, hopefully getting it up to a daily practice
  • I’d like to reinvigorate my morning pages routine (which flagged last month)
  • Be really good to my body, exercise and eating wise
  • Send out a fiction piece for publication (yikes!)
  • And most of all I’d like to really try to be good to the environment. I already recycle ardently, and compost, too. I barely drive. But I’d like to take things one step further. I’d like to consume less by really thinking about whether I need the stuff I’m buying, and then trying to buy from good companies like No Sweat when I can, and supporting artists by buying from www.etsy.com instead of mass marketed products. (Maybe not an environmental help, but it still makes the world a little better, I think.) I also plan to use natural products like vinegar and lemon juice as cleaners instead of chemicals, and to eat more organic dairy and produce. And overall just to keep in mind that my choices do affect the world, and hopefully that by changing my lifestyle I can influence others to do the same.
Best Blogger Tips

A very belated New Year's Eve post

(Here's the post I wrote on New Year's eve but couldn't post because of internet troubles.)

I generally like New Years as a concept. The idea of starting over with a fresh slate, making new goals, looking back at another year over. I’m not big into New Year’s Eve, all the pressure to do something amazingly fun. (This year I’ll be having dinner out with my family and then playing board games— maybe not amazing exactly, but fun.)

This year, I’ve accomplished a lot. (I am mostly thinking about July through December. Late June is when I started my MFA program; July is when I started this blog. The months before that weren’t that great for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into.)

I’ve posted hundreds of blog posts
Written and revised two short stories
Written three essays
Gotten one essay published—my first money made from creative writing! (Still not sure how to spend it; I’ll solicit ideas in a future post)
Published 5 other pieces in the Globe
Got a promotion at work
Gotten 6 rejections
Sent out pieces to 7 publications
Celebrated my 2nd wedding anniversary (and 8 years as a couple)
Made a few new friends (through my MFA program and dog walking
Lost a few others
Knit 1 scarf (started 2 others), 2.5 hats, 2 pairs of baby booties, 2 baby hats, 2 pairs of baby mittens, 5 Ipod covers, and 3 bookmarks
Planted over 100 bulbs, which are hopefully underground doing their thing to get ready to make their bright appearance in the spring.

All in all, a very good (half a year). I’ve very proud of my creative accomplishments, and look forward to doing more in 2007.

Happy New Year all, and thanks so much for reading. Blogging has been a really great outlet for me, and I appreciate your time and cyber friendship. Best Blogger Tips

Guilt and submissions

I'm feeling guilty about not posting. But it's not my fault-- really. My home internet connection is down, and I have two New Year's themed posts on that computer that I can't post! But in the meantime, I'll share my latest ideas: I'm going to submit a query for an audio postcard on NPR, and an article query to a woman's mag who, according to the Writer's Market (my bible), needs ideas for a column featuring women who volunteer. I'll share both ideas in more detail once I get the queries out! Best Blogger Tips
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