Friday, March 30, 2007

Deepest, darkest

When I saw this week's href="">Sunday Scribblings topic, of course I thought of "secret". But I didn't want to be that obvious. So I let my mind ramble, and I came to this woman. Thought I'd share her character sketch.

She's sitting at a cafe, drinking black coffee and watching people duck under
the awning outside to escape the rain. She thinks how cozy they look,
all huddled together like people looking share some experience. She's
young, 30ish, with straight black hair like Elvira. She's taking her afternoon work break, escaping the squeaking of the photocopier and the insistent cough of her office mate.

She likes her desserts dark and rich. Coffee, chocolate, cake. She
threatens one day to open a bakery called the Deepest Darkest. It would
specialize only in things she loves. Her boyfriend says that that's
what's wrong with her: that she's egotistical enough to think that
anyone else would care about a whole store that caters just to her
desires. She thinks egotism is underrated. If she's not going to make
the world conform to her needs, who will? Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Counting Backwards

I'm way behind and I'm having a hard time concentrating on my MFA work this week, so I need a backwards schedule to get me going. Here goes:

This weekend: Draft 1 annotation, read three short stories and decide on theme for other annotation. Write for at least 2 hours a day to get a full first draft down.

Next week: Draft second annotation, spend at least one hour each night revising story.

April 6: Finalize story

April 7: Away--no work!

April 8: Revise annotations, proof story

April 9: Write letter, send in submission Best Blogger Tips

My dream "job"

I just found out that an organization called 826 is opening a creative
writing space in my neighborhood. The mission, according to their href="">website
is: supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and
expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their
students to write.

Could that be any more in line with what I
want to do with my life? Nope. I immediately downloaded a volunteer
application and filled it out. I'll mail it tonight on my way home from
work. Please, please, please, creative gods, look down on me and let me
be a part of this amazing project! (I'm so excited I'm having trouble
pressing "publish" on this post, as if I might jinx myself somehow.) Best Blogger Tips

Who's your audience?

The Urban Muse tagged me for a meme answering the question in the title.

It's interesting to think about who the audience of this blog is, since I can't really say with any authority. Right now this is mainly a space for me to describe my journey through my MFA program and connect with other writers. Eventually, I'd love to make it a place where other writers come for inspiration and to realize that they're not alone in the process. I have some ideas on how to do this, but I just don't have the time to devote to it right now. Some day...

If you're reading this, say hi in the comments so I know who my audience is!

If you want to ponder the question about your own blog, please tag yourself. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I got some great feedback from my mentor recently. She's still not one
for doling out praise, but I could tell that she liked my new work (and
annotations--thanksMISers !) much better than my last.

I still have a lot of character development to do. That's one thing I find hard about writing a new story every month--I feel like there's just not enough time to
get to know the character. I guess that's what revision is for.

My mentor also said something that I imagine an astute shrink could also
say about me: "You tend to beat around the bush at dramatic moments."
Yup. That's me. Crouching under the bed to avoid emotionally difficult
situations. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Plans by five

I tagged myself for this meme. Thanks to Laini (of Sunday Scribblings fame) for introducing it to me.

Five month plan:

* Recharge my creative battery at my MFA residency at the end of June.
* Finish 2 short stories, and revise 2 others
* Read lots and lots of great books
* Continue meditating and journaling on more days than not
* Have a kick ass garden and allow myself time to enjoy it and all the wonders of summer.

Five year plan:

* Publish some short stories and essays
* Get some writing teaching gigs
* Move to N. Carolina
* Get another dog
* Finally make a decision as to whether or not we want to have kids
* Visit, in no particular order: Costa Rica, Australia, India, China.

Five decade plan:

* Learn to be calm
* Make a living off of writing creative stuff
* Figure out a way to reach and inspire other writers
* Really cherish life. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, March 26, 2007

I'd like to thank the academy...

What an honor! Becca gave me a "thinking blogger" award! So sweet! I really can't believe it. I feel like I just won an Oscar.

I will definitely play along and make other people feel as good as I do! Here are the rules: Think of five bloggers that provide you with some flavorful, spicy, comforting, food for thought, and then:

1. Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to the original post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display your 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

And the winners are.... (I cheated and picked more than 5. Sorry!)
1- Of course I have to give a shout out to the three women who keep me blogging (and from going crazy in general), my fellow MFAers Fat Charlatan, Transitions Ink, and The Repeater. All of these women are so smart in every sense of the word, and so generous and supportive, too. They have really made my MFA experience what it is!

2- And I'd like to honor two other writer friends who were also my bosses back when I interned at a publishing company: BostonErin and Poet Mom. Poetmom is such an ingenious poet--both in how she writes and how she thinks about ways to market her writing. Erin has had so much wonderful success in the recent past that she is a true inspiration.

3- My last category is people whom I don't know in real life. It's amazing how much inspiration you can get from total strangers, and how great it is to "meet" people online: Tori has such wonderful, honest posts. Gogo writes about grad school and finding her way through the world beautifully, and, lastly, this is a new blog I found recently and have been really touched by: Hallelujahs Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Just not feeling it

I've put in my writing time for today--two hours--but I just wasn't feeling it. I was neither in the scenes enough to get lost in the story, nor out of the story enough to be able to instill in it a sense of theme. Part of the problem, now that I think about it, is that there are more than one themes fighting for attention. And I think I'm trying too hard to get a handle on that. I need to just write and see how things go. I'm being too controlling. (Shocking, I know.) Tomorrow I'll spend my first writing hour freewriting about the character and the situation. Then the next hour I'll go back to the scenes and see where to go next. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Kitchen

It's been a while since I scribbled. But I'm glad to be back just in time for the anniversary! Congrats, Laini and and Meg. This blog is a wonderful addition to the writing community!

kitchen is often a mess. Dishes in the sink, spilled stuff on the
stove, mud on the floor from my dog's paws. But there is beauty behind
the mess, and I've been trying to focus on that. My husband cooks a lot
(and is not a good "clean as you go" chef; he usually leaves a trail of
dirty dishes, counters, etc. behind him). I try to look at the
splatteredstovetop as a symbol of the meals we've shared, and of his
nurturing nature. I try not to focus on the fact that it also
symbolizes our being too busy after dinner to give the kitchen a good
scrub down.

(I'm also trying to devote 2 hours on the weekend
to cleaning so at least everything is neat for a short time. Right now
we just clean when we find the time, which isn't nearly often enough.)

Those are my random thoughts on kitchens. Click here for more. Best Blogger Tips

First writing went OK!

I think it was something about writing my fears of the first draft. After posting my last post, I sat down and wrote for 2 hours. I'm sure what I came up with wasn't good, but it wasn't awful either. But more than that, I clarified some of the story's themes, and I have a game plan for the draft. That's what I'll be doing this weekend--connecting the dots. I also want to get some reading done and spend time outside. I'll soon be posting pics from the garden--spring has sprung in the form of tiny green shoots poking their way through the ground. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Beginning again

What is it about beginning a story that is so scary for me? It's like every time I start over I have to beat down the same fears: fear that the page will remain blank, fear that anything I do put down on it will be utter crap, fear that my last story was as good as it gets--and that wasn't even very good.

Why don't I think these thoughts when I start a new yoga class, or begin a new hike, or start cooking a new meal? I'm guessing it's because I care more about writing than just about anything else. And because my ability to do it (to whatever degree) seems very mysterious to me. I know how I do yoga--I practice and my muscles get strong and then I do it better. I assume that writing is the same way (as I wrote in my F*ck Inspiration post, below). But I don't actually know that. I haven't had a personal trainer tell me it's so in 100% of the cases.

Is this starting fear the same for everyone? Or are you afraid of another part of the process? Best Blogger Tips

For Boston locals

I am a member of the National Writer's Union (and urge all writers to join--they have great resources on things like contracts, and it's a good community of writers in general). Here are some events open to members and non-members. I'm thinking about gonig to all the Writer's Life series except the MFA one. Let me know if you'd like to join me!

The time to grasp the innards of book contracts is before one lands
on your desk – from agent or publisher – marked “Sign & return ASAP.”
WHEN: Saturday morning, March 31, 10:30-12:30
WHERE: Barnes & Noble, Kenmore Square
WHO: Chris Ammer, National Contract Adviser for the National
Writers Union, and Barbara Mende, Grievance and Contract Division
WHAT: A two-hour session on everything book authors need to know
about getting better contracts and how the union can help them. Topics
include copyright, subsidiary rights, royalties, warranties, option
clauses and more. The free session is open to NWU members and the
general public.

2. Shaping and Taping:
The Art of Taking Your Writing Off the Page and Submitting it to
Public Radio.
WHEN: Saturday, April 28, 2007
WHERE: Community Church of Boston, Copley Sq.
TIME: 10 am to 1 pm
COST: $25 NWU members, $35 non-members
WHAT: Back by popular demand! Writers/commentators Leslie
Brunetta and Judah Leblang and audio producer Robert Smyth will
give a three-hour workshop that offers writers hands-on experience in
reading and recording a short (200-400 word, two-to-three minute) essay.

In the workshop you'll do the following:
}}} Record an essay, commentary or vignette
}}} Get supportive feedback on your reading style and learn to shape
your work for radio
}}} Participate in critiques of others' work
}}} Get tips on approaching local NPR stations and national NPR
}}} Discuss creative ways to take your work "off the page" and
market it to NPR, college stations, and other venues
Sign-up is limited to 12 participants and those on the waiting list from
last time get first dibs. To pre-register: contact National Writers Union,
Boston Chapter co-chair Barbara Beckwith, or
call 617-868-3143.

The Writer's Life Series

Check out our link for the details:
or go to CCAE to sign up.

April 11 - From Idea to Bookshelf:
Authors Share Their Publishing Stories
The authors discuss their book projects, and the journey from
conception to publication. They reveal what went right, what went
wrong, and what was unexpected.

April 18 - M.F.A. Programs: Weighing the Pros and Cons
With enrollment skyrocketing in M.F.A. programs in Creative Writing,
the panelists will discuss the pros and cons of these programs, as well
as ways in which they may be shaping, for better and worse, the nature
of today's literary fiction. They'll also pose the question: do you need
help in order to write, or you can you trust your own instincts and
go it alone?

April 25 - Blogs, Websites and E-Zines:
Navigating the Literary Landscape Online
Tart and opinionated, erudite and thoughtful discussions about books
all over the Internet offer a refreshing alternative to the mainstream
press. Panelists will direct you to the best and most heavily-trafficked
literary sites online, as well as discuss how, in starting your own blog
or e-zine, you can share your love of books with others while hopefully
finding an audience for your own writing.

May 2 - The Paperwork Behind Publication: The Art of Communicating
with Editors, Agents and Publishers
After the joy of having your work accepted for publication comes the
real paperwork. In an evening of "show and tell," three writers share
queries, invoices, proposal letters, requests for contract changes,
demands for overdue payment, email exchanges over editorial word
changes, and more Best Blogger Tips


I haven't read a book in a while that was worth singing about. Finally, I randomly found one and am pushing all of you to read it to: The Red Devil by Katherine Russell Rich. It's so beautifully written and very deep. It's a memoir of a woman's experience with breast cancer, but it's really so much more than that. It's about life, really. I can't explain the book well enough, but I promise you it's worth reading. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, March 18, 2007

F*ck inspiration

I stole the title of my post from Poetmom, with whom I had a late lunch today and who is an inspiration unto herself. I agree 100% with her Sunday Scribbling post today on the topic of inspiration.

I think that if we sit around waiting to be anointed with inspiration, we'll get very little work done. Plus, what do you do while waiting to be inspired? I'm most likely to start doing something useful, but not inspirational--like cleaning or calling one of the friends with whom I don't keep in touch well enough.

Writing--even when I don't have an ounce of inspiration in me--inspires me. It's like exercise that way. I may not realize that my arms are getting stronger while I'm lifting weights, I may in fact hate the act of lifting weights. But the next time I go to try those muscles, the lifting will be a little easier. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, March 16, 2007

Good vibes, please

My conference has been really great. Today, I got two potential big freelance projects. Do I have time for these projects? Not really. But here's the rub--in the next few years I want to transition into doing freelance full time, so I need to build up my clients now--while I still have a full time job and am in school. So, the overachiever/worrier in me finds it impossible to turn stuff down. I'll have to make time somewhere if these pan out...

Tomorrow I will be giving a 90 second "shameless pitch" on the heart transplant memoir I am ghost writing. There will be an agent and a few editors who rate the pitch and can decide to work with you based on it. There are also 100s of other attendees watching you. Kind of like a dweebier version of American Idol. I am crazy nervous, especially since a few co-workers will be in the audience. It's one thing to flop in front of strangers... another to flop in front of people I'll have to see on Monday morning! So, please send me good vibes! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Life purpose

On my yoga retreat I took a seminar called What is Your Life's Purpose? It was very yoga-ish and touchy feely, but helpful none the less. Before starting on the exercises, we defined "life's purpose" as anything that, when you do it, you feel completely satisfied on a grand scale. Eating ice cream is satisfying, but on a grand scale? Probably not so much. Your purpose might be something you enjoy so much that you lose track of time when you're doing it and/or it makes you feel really proud when you are done with it.

The most useful part was when we had to write for a few minutes to answer the question posed in the course title: What is Your Life's Purpose? Try it. You may be surprised.

I wrote a lot about teaching writing, about showing people how amazing your life can be if you find a way to express all those deep down thoughts. I wrote nothing about getting published in women's magazines, which may be why every time I try to set that as a goal for myself, I don't go after it with as much gusto as I'd expect.

Let me know what you find out! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, March 12, 2007

Random, random

I'm not even sure what to post... Some updates: I'm still sick. Today's
form of the cold is laryngitis. Fun! But luckily I was well enough to
enjoy my weekend away and bond with my friend, Kathy, who lives in NY
and who I don't get to see enough.

Yea for yoga. Now, here, I
am making a promise that I want all you readers to hold me accountable
to: I will meditate every day. Be it morning or night, I will do it. I
have triedabout a thousand times to do this, but I'm hoping it sticks
this time. I feel like it might because I've been fairly disciplined
about morning pages. (Well, disciplined is relative... for me, that
means that even if I skip a day or two I eventually remember to get
back to it.) I bought a chanting CD, which I guess won't come in handy
until my voice is back...

Some things to do:
Tonight, clean the condo! Straighten up, vacuum, and clean bathroom. Then read for IS.

Tomorrow: Host neighborhood meeting (hence the cleaning) and then read more.

Wednesday: Haircut! And eyebrow wax! Some shopping afterwards. Maybe I'll go to a cafe and have myself an artist's date.

Fri, Sat.: I'm lucky enough to be able to go to this
conference on writing medical memoirs
for free through my
work! It ties inuber-nicely with my IS project of writing a doctor's memoir about heart transplant.

Sun: I want to do a bunch of craft projects (sew Chloe a bed, hem some pants, work on framing some photos. And then it's an outing with two of my favorite writers (poetmom and BostonErin) to write and eat chocolate!

OK, I feel roughly organized (if mute--which is an awfully odd feeling. I can't even get myself some coffee!) Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sick sock

I don't know how this started, but Brian and I call each other "sick socks" when we're not feeling well. Today, I am a very sick sock. I was fine last night, and then I woke up with a head full of cotton and I get out of breath if I walk up a flight of stairs. I've slept pretty much all day. I just hope this goes away before tomorrow night, when I leave for my yoga retreat. I'll be sure to drink lots of juice and "chicken" soup (ie vegetarian chicken soup). This has also but a crimp in my revising schedule, but I am pretty happy with the story, so even if I don't get to revise it anymore, I think it will be fine. Back to bed. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Essay suggestions?

Exciting and random news. I teach a freelance writing course at an Adult Ed center in Boston. Brian and I had been tag-team teaching it, but then Brian got too busy and had to stop. Yesterday the director asked Brian to teach an essay writing class, which is random since B doesn't write essays. B told the guy to contact me, which he did, and now I'll be teaching that class! I'm very excited. And I need your help. I want to use published essays in class. Any suggestions? I'm looking for stuff that's very good, but not too long or difficult. I'm thinking along the lines of David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Pam Houston. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, March 05, 2007

Newsworthy inspiration

I'm nowhere near done with the story I need to hand in on Friday. But while I was battling insomnia last night, I decided on the situation that will be the basis of my next story: A beekeeper will be travelling cross country with her bees when she gets stuck in a blizzard. She will take shelter in the only house nearby, and then... I don't know. I'm guessing something will happen and someone will learn something. :) I think the young woman's dad will have recently died, and she's taking over the job they used to do together. The house she visits will have a teenage daughter who finds her job fascinating and kind of repulsive.

The inspiration for the story? A great NY Times article on the dying art of beekeeping and how (cheaper) honey imported from other countries means that beekeepers have to schlep their bees around the country to sell their pollinating skills. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Random PSA

I recently updated the list of favorite writing blogs on the left. Check them out! Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Final countdown

With only 6 days* to go until I need to submit my next MFA work, I need a backwards schedule. Here goes:

This weekend:
Finish preliminary revision of my story, finish first drafts of both annotations (which will involve rereading one story)

Do a revision focusing only on making sure each sentence, scene, word is necessary. Also start thinking about the heart of the story and whether it is best expressed (Thanks TI)

Another focused revision, this time going into each scene and making sure it is strong enough. This will mostly mean doing what I said in my last post about getting fully into the scene and making sure it is described well. Also what BostonErin said about making sure the reader can "see" each scene well.

Go over the mechanics that Carolee suggested in my last post's comments.

Read story aloud.

*I'm going away on a yoga retreat next weekend and so I need, need, need to be done with everything on Friday so I can fully relax all weekend. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, March 02, 2007


This weekend will be all about revision. I've got a draft, and I know some of what's wrong with it. I will fix that stuff (making the character more consistent, researching how I can better incorporate the themes into the story's details).

After that, I think I'll do something new with my revision--I'll take the story scene by scene, spending time truly transporting myself into each scene so I can write really close to the characters and be true to what is going on.

Anyone have other tips, tricks, or suggestions for revising? Best Blogger Tips