Thursday, April 26, 2007

What a change in perspective (and some Cosmos) can do

As my loyal readers know, I've been having a hard time getting started on my new story. I wrote about 8 pages in the third person, and was pretty bored with it. Then, tonight, after making myself a cosmo and doing some reading (and drinking) on my porch, I started thinking about my story in the first person. And bam! I have an interesting voice to work with.

(A special thanks to my brother, who taught me how to make a killer cosmo when I saw him two weeks ago.) Best Blogger Tips

Monday, April 23, 2007

What if.... I tell you a bit about myself?

In the wonderful writing book, What If?, there's an exercise on character development where you ask yourself the below questions about your character and then yourself. I'm not sure what the point of asking yourself the questions is--maybe just to show you how much you know about yourself and therefore how much you ought to know about your characters? In any case, here are the answers for me.

1. Characters name: Christine
2. Characters nickname: So many! She never liked the name Christine/felt at home with it, so she embraces nicknames. CJ, Bug, Ceej, Chris, Chrissy (as a kid). One day she hopes someone will nickname her CeCe.
3. Sex: F
4. Age: 27
5. Looks: Gorgeous! Just kidding: 5'2", petite frame, light brown straight hair, shoulder-length at the moment with layers. Blue eyes.
6. Education: BS in communications, currently pursuing an MA in Literature and Creative Writing and an MFA in writing
7. Vocation/occupation: editor
8. Status and money: comfortable
9. Marital status: Married
10. Race/ethnicity: White
11. Diction, accent: None really. She lost her Long Island accent when she moved to Boston, and never got a new one. She slips into her old accent sometimes when she's tired or drunk (wawtah for water...)
12. Relationships: She likes relationships. Thrives on them, actually, and tries to cultivate them vigorously with the people who she meets and really clicks with. Has had to prune away some older friendships when they didn't grow with her.
13. Places: Grew up in N.Y., moved to Boston for college and stayed. Spent a semester in London and LOVED it. Loves to travel and see how different people live.
14. Possessions: Too many of them, though she's not into stuff for stuffs sake. Her favorite possessions would, oddly enough, be electronics: her laptop (which is sadly dying), her camera. Has lots and lots of books. And shoes.
15. Obsessions: Many.
16. Beliefs: That learning to be aware of your feelings is the best thing you can learn to do. That reading can make you a better person. That having a community of like-minded people around her keeps her sane. On her good days, that we're all doing our best and we should help each other out whenever and however we can.
17. Sexual history: I'll leave this to the reader's imagination. ;)
18. Ambitions: To publish a novel, to publish short stories, to teach writing, to not have to work full time in an office, to have lots of dogs, to calm down.
19. Religion: More spiritual than religious. Has a tough time truly believing in anything, though she definitely believes in something, though that something may be undefined.
21. Fears: conflict, being taken advantage of, being in pain
22. Attitudes: Liberal
23. Flaws: perfectionist, overly sensitive, not able to always process emotions before acting, often running late (lately)
24. Strengths: Not afraid to work hard towards a goal, open minded, kind, willing to help others, responsible, flexible
25. Personal preferences: Warm weather over cold, walking over driving, being outside over inside, quiet over noisy, wine over beer, staying in over going out.
26. Astrological sign: Cancer
27. Talents: Standing on her head. Best Blogger Tips

Another (f'n) backwards schedule

Can you tell I'm both a little behind and a bit annoyed about my last MFA submission of the semester?

Here's a backwards schedule to help me get there:

May 7: submission due
May 6: proof and finalize submission pieces, write letter to advisor
May 5: Concentrate on IS submission; do first edit of story. (Aghhh!)
Friday, May 4: Edit annotations.
Next week: Write two to three hours a day to get a draft of story done by Friday.
This weekend: Write second annotation. (Workload here is light because I'll have a house guest and a friend's wedding.)
This week: Do in-depth character study of main character (a suggestion from my mentor), read as many short stories as I am able to find topic for second annotation. (I did one this weekend.) Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Rooted

Since lovely spring weather has finally befallen Boston, I spent a few hours in the garden yesterday. I planted some bulbs, and fertilized the buds that are emerging. I don't know what it is I love about gardening. Being outside is one thing, seeing results of my efforts another. And, though of course I could explain the way plants root and sprout and grow through science, there is a bit of magic there too. I put something that looks like a clove of garlic in the dirt and a few months later yellow and purple and blue flowers wave to people passing my house? Magic I tell you.

(No, that pic is not from my garden. It's not that warm here yet!) Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, April 21, 2007

My problem

Part of my problem (see previous post about exhaustion) is that I rebel against myself in the silliest of ways. I know that having a set routine will help me feel less overwhelmed. I know that getting up early, at the same time each morning and doing my morning pages and then meditating before taking Chloe out really helps me get focused. But part of me hates the idea of being so rigid, of making myself do things when I really don't want to. In the same way, my teenage self loves not worrying about making a mess, leaving her clothes in piles in the bathroom or on the bedroom floor, even though the rest of me knows that it makes no sense to do so since I'll eventually have to to pick them up anyway, and in the meantime the mess will stress me out.

So, starting tomorrow, I will set an alarm and actually get out of bed when it goes off. I'll drink my (decaf) coffee while writing and then give myself some meditation time. I'll do this for 7 days. If at the end of those 7 days I don't think the routine is helping me feel more in control, I'll be allowed to revert back to sleeping in and getting ready for work like a mad woman. (Being neater will have to wait. One thing at a time!) Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I'm exhausted. Physically, mentally, you name it. I think it's because I let myself take a long break between MFA submissions, and I enjoyed it too much. Now I don't want to get started again--I want a real break.

So, I'm once again going to back off of the other things I expect of myself. This blog might be quieter than usual. Friends might not get seen as much. My bulbs might not get planted, and my shawl might not get knit (as much as I really, really want to...) I'll still keep some room for fun (tennis, walking Chloe), but no obligations about it.

Though I'm fighting myself here. I really want to sew Chloe's bed this weekend. But it is feeling more like an obligation, something that's just waiting to get checked off the to-do list.

OK, bye for now! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reading question

I have the opportunity to read part of my creative writing at a thesis forum (for that other degree I'm getting that I rarely talk about). They want 15-20 minutes. How many pages would that be? Anyone know?

PS--Day one of the Purple Bracelet Challenge: Not so good. This rainy, raw weather ain't making this easy! Plus I had a hard time sleeping last night, and a harder time not complaining about it. The bracelet did make me think first beforeIM'ing my coworker about a slightly annoying situation. So, a minor victory, but I'll need to start over tomorrow. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A complaint free world?

A church in Kansas City is trying to get the world to stop it's bitching, complaining, kvetching, etc. Participants in the challenge get a purple, plastic bracelet (ala the yellow ones Lance Armstrong made famous a few years ago) and they need to switch it from one wrist to the other every time they complain, gossip, or criticize. The goal is to keep it on the same hand for 21 days (meaning you don't complain at all for 3 weeks! Imagine!)

I read about this challenge through a friend of a friend, N2N. She had ordered 10 bracelets and said she would mail them to the first 10 bloggers to respond. I immediately emailed her out of some deeply ingrained desire to take on each and every challenge put before me, and to always take advantage of free stuff. It was only after she so kindly sent me the bracelet that I stopped to think, why am I doing this?

Sure, I could use an impetus to stop some complaining, and all gossiping and criticizing. But all complaining? I don't think so. Some of it is necessary. It makes me feel better, allows me to express how I'm truly feeling in the moment, and hopefully sets me on a path to not get in the complaint-inducing situation again.

That said, I do a lot of unnecessary complaining. I bitch about the weather even when I don't truly need to, but am just looking for something to say. I bitch about annoying little things at work (like the construction that's going on outside my office window, or a loud talker in the office) mostly because a coworker and I have gotten into a bad habit of IMing each other about things like that. Those complaints aren't particularly justified, I don't need advice about them, and spouting them doesn't make me feel any better.

So, blog world, I pledge to try my hardest to only participate in what I'm calling "necessary complaining", and no criticizing or gossiping. Wish me luck. And get your own bracelet here... if you dare! Best Blogger Tips

Friday, April 13, 2007

New story

Though this week has been insane, I have given my brain a small chance to rest in that I didn't make myself think about the new
story I plan to write for my last submission of the semester. When I think about a story, it's pretty much all I can think of. Even when I'm not "working," part of my brain is sorting through things I see and do to see if any of them might berelevant to my story in some way.

Now the time has come to start the thinking process hard core. I want to begin writing on Monday, using my new but so-far-trusty method of writing forward for 2 hours at a time (meaning no going back to edit or reread).

My new story will be a mystery of sorts, inspired by, I assume, Brian, who loves mystery books, movies, and radio dramas. Here's the basic premise. I'd love to hear what you think!

A woman comes home early from a meditation retreat (for a yet to be
determined reason--maybe everyone was coming down with a stomach bug
and they suggested everyone leave). She didn't have her cell phone or
any way of communicating with her husband, as part of the desire to get
away from it all. She and her husband had been having problems (of some
sort, though nothing super serious), and the retreat was a time to get
away and think on her own for a week. She comes home and finds her
husband is not there. The house is fine, though some of his personal
affects are missing. And there's mail all over the kitchen floor, but
that's normal because their cat always knocks it off the table, where
her husband leaves it.

She calls some friends, no one has heard from him. He works for himself, so there's no office to check with. After the requisite 24 hours, she calls the police. They are very snide with her and imply that he obviously ran off, probably with another woman. Though she knows how it looks, she knows that that is not true. Despite what was going on between them, she knows he would never do something like that. The cops all but laugh at her. She goes to a private detective who basically does the same thing. She's getting angrier and angrier, and also starting to doubt herself and her husband, though most of the time she is still convinced.

Something else has to happen at this point, but I'm not sure what. Maybe she ransacks the house for clues of an affair or... something. She probably also has frustrating phone calls with family and friends. Eventually she finds a detective who believes her, and her sense of relief is amazing. I want that to be the climax of the story--that finding someone who believes her, and believes in her marriage is the important thing. The denouement will be when her husband comes home--he had gone
to help his brother on his fishing boat, and had left a note that the cat knocked off the counter with the pile of mail. His phone had fallen into the water, which is why she couldn't reach him, and he hadn't bothered calling because she wasn't supposed to be home yet anyway.

Themes will be: trusting your gut, trusting in marriage (even when it's hard),
and the relief that can come when someone believes you.

If you have thoughts on the idea, ways to make it better, what to have happen in the middle... or anything... please comment! Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Poetry Thursday

A poster from last year's Poetry Month hangs proudly on my cube wall. It has snippets of lots of different poems. Here's one my favorites--and one that is particularly relevent on this dark, dreary, and snowy morning here in Boston:

I wake to sleep and take my waking slow


And in other literary news, here's a reading that I may try to go to next week, though I'll have to be late because of my French class:

A Reading by Grace Paley
with Robert Pinsky and Samantha Mineo Myers

Wednesday, April 18
7:30 p.m.
Boston University Photonics Center
8 Saint Mary’s Street, Room 206

Reception and Book Signing to Follow

GRACE PALEY is one of the most celebrated and widely read short-story writers in the United States. Her most recent book, The Collected Stories, gathers short fiction from earlier collections, including The Little Disturbances of Man and Later the Same Day. Paley’s many awards include grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Vermont. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A night off

After reading about TI's fabulous plans for her day off, I just could
not make myself work last night. Instead I drank tea and knit.

And I started making my Chloe a new bed. (Brian has decided she can't sleep with us anymore since she monopolizing the bed. And the ones for sale at Petco, etc. are like hundreds of dollars. So I bought some foam and covered it in fabric I had from a previous project. Now all I have to do is get up the nerve to sew it together and put in a zipper. My sewing machine scares me. I feel around it like I did around computers 15 years ago--like I can somehow make the whole thing break by touching the wrong button.)

So marvelous. Though I'm not sure I'll be feeling the same way tomorrow night when I have to play catch up. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


this word came into my inbox, courtesy of one of those word-of-the-day emails. It made me smile after I studied the pronunciation. Words crack me up sometimes.

abecedarian \ay-bee-see-DAIR-ee-uhn\, noun:

1. One who is learning the alphabet; hence, a beginner.
2. One engaged in teaching the alphabet.
3. Pertaining to the letters of the alphabet.
4. Arranged alphabetically.
5. Rudimentary; elementary.

Lorraine Heggessey and executive producer Jeremy Mills adroitly tapped into a national obsession at exactly the right time, presenting the topic in a way that appealed to experts and abecedarians alike.
-- Victor Lewis-Smith, "Lords of the mobile dance", The Evening Standard, June 11, 2001 Best Blogger Tips

Monday, April 09, 2007

This week

This week, I need to schedule my time, even my day-work time, which I never do on here. But it's getting a tad insane in my little corner of the world. Normally my job is difficult, but not stressful, which allows me to do all my other stuff without feeling insane. Now, it's difficult and stressful, so I'm either going to A) explode like that asteroid I posted previously or B) schedule myself like crazy. Luckily I finagled a work at home day tomorrow so I can plow through stuff without all the office B.S. to interrupt me.

So, here goes:
Staighten up (just the stuff that will drive me insane if I don't do it)
Start revision of chapter for IS project.


Morning goals: yoga/meditation, walk Chloe

Daytime goals:
* Finalize infertility content (2 long pieces , 2 shorter infertility supplements). Choose artwork.
* Edit heart piece, get it approved. Choose artwork for piece.

*Get fact checking back to the Men's Health doctor for review

Evening goals:
*Get down as much of a revision of the chapter for my IS project as I possibly can.
*Laundry, knitting as I can manage

Daytime goals
*Get infertility/heart content approved and out of my hair
*Interview intern candidates
*Update back content per new developments in heart disease
*Get press release ideas to freelancer

Evening goals:
*Start French class
*Finish draft of revision

Daytime Goals
*Finalize cold and flu report
*Carryover from Wed.

Evening goals
*Finalize revision of IS chapter
*Possibly knit with friends if time allows

Daytime goals
*Clean up/pick up on all the stuff that I wanted to get done earlier in the week but didn't.

Evening goals
*Leave for NY! This weekend we'll be at my parents' house, and I'm going to try, try try to really relax for the first time in a while. Whoo! Best Blogger Tips

A beautiful essay

I've had the pleasure of reading some really great essays/non-fiction stories recently. Wanted to share this one with you. I'd sum it up as being about sibling relationships and youth. Reading really good essays reminds me of how hard they are to write. How do they manage to evoke such emotion, without being heavy handed about it? Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday Scribbilings: News

I'm a late comer to this week's Sunday Scribblings...

The News
I am often overwhelmed by the news. And though I surround myself by it--I listen to NPR constantly, I read a bunch of newspapers online--I still feel like I don't know enough to make an informed decision half the time.

What scares me a lot is how often the news repeats itself. Like our situation in Iraq now. We'll probably withdraw our troops relatively soon, leaving behind a country in shambles that cannot possibly govern or protect itself. And then we'll be shocked--shocked!--when terrorist groups who hate the US spring up there. Though this is pretty much exactly what happened in Afghanistan when we financially sponsored a revolution there in the 80s, but then didn't stay involved long enough to make sure the government was run well. (That's just my understanding. As I said before, I never feel well informed enough...)

They say the point of learning history is so that you don't make the same mistakes twice. Where were all our leaders during social studies class, I wonder.

But back to the news in general... The Living Arts section of the paper is my dessert. I love reading the profiles of interesting, artsy people doing interesting, artsy things. They give me hope. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, April 06, 2007

Feeling like my head might explode

I was scooting along just fine, but now I'm feeling a huge sense of
overwhelm. I think this has a few sources: 1-I'm going away this
weekend so I need to get my MFA submission done tonight. 2-I want to
cook a bunch of yummy treats for my trip, which will compromise how
much time I have to work on writing tonight. 3-My "day job" has been
crazy this week. 4-I've been putting together a proposal for a large
freelance project. The amount of time/work this will take is daunting,
but more than that, the thought of negotiating the cost of the project
is stressful for me (and I have to do that in a phone meeting today).
5-I *think* I will be volunteering at 827 soon. I am almost too
overwhelmed to be excited. 6-I'm behind on my interdisciplinary MFA
project. My advisor is very understanding, but I still feel bad. Plus,
that means next week, when I normally let myself relax a bit between
submissions, I will be busting ass on that.

What am I going to do? I just don't know. A personal day is surely in order for next week. And I may try to throw a massage in there, too. But even that may not
be enough! Suggestions or just tele-hugs are welcome. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Poetry Thursday

This is my first foray into Poetry Thursday. I thought one had to write a poem to participate, and since I am not a poet, I bowed out. But then poetmom told me how wrong I was! All one needs to do is talk about poetry. What fun! And luckily, FC just told me about a wonderful poetry resource: American Life in Poetry.

At this web site, former poet laureate Ten Kooser picks a poem each week and comments on it. He allows publications to reproduce the column for free because he wants to see poems reach more people via newspapers and blogs. I love any idea that creates writerly community, and this one does just that.

Here's this week's column:

American Life in Poetry: Column 106


By describing the relocation of the moles which ravaged her yard, Washington poet Judith Kitchen presents an experience that resonates beyond the simple details, and suggests that children can learn important lessons through observation of the natural world.

Catching the Moles

First we tamp down the ridges
that criss-cross the yard

then wait for the ground
to move again.

I hold the shoe box,
you, the trowel.

When I give you the signal
you dig in behind

and flip forward.
Out he pops into daylight,

blind velvet.

We nudge him into the box,
carry him down the hill.

Four times we've done it.
The children worry.

Have we let them all go
at the very same spot?

Will they find each other?
We can't be sure ourselves,

only just beginning to learn
the fragile rules of uprooting.

Poem copyright © 1986 by Judith Kitchen, whose most recent book is the novel, "The House on Eccles Road," Graywolf Press, 2004. Reprinted from "Perennials," Anhinga Press, 1986, with permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

I love the way the end of the poem opens up to be about so much more than just moles. It brought to mind the children the poem mentions, and how much of parenting is learning how to root and unroot children as they grow. I also like the line "blind velvet." It lent sympathy to these creatures who are ruining the garden. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I feel like I'm really getting somewhere with my story. More than that, I feel like I'm really getting somewhere with my writing. First semester the most important thing I learned was what a real story was--that it showed movement of a discernable sort and that it was made up of scenes that built on one another and had true purposes. (I probably knew these basic things somewhere, but I didn't know them, if you know what I mean.)

This semester I'm learning a ton about how to bring out theme in a story, how to use details to build up that theme in interesting ways. And I feel like I can see a serious progression in the strength of my pieces from the first ones I handed in last June to this last one I'm working on now (with a serious blip in there to mark the crap that was the first story I handed in this semester).

So, kudos to me. Hah. Just kidding. But I am pretty amazed with how much I'm learning from this program. I should be an advertisement for Lesley College. Best Blogger Tips


I don't have much to say today. One might ask, Why post then? Because I am needing community right now. And this blog is my main source of connection with writerly peeps. So, that's all. Just wanted to say hello.

PS--It's snowing. Hard. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

For National Poetry Month

I don't read as much poetry as I should, mostly because I find I only like/understand a small portion of poetry and it can be time consuming to find that stuff. I came across Pablo Neruda years ago, and just adore him. My aunt read this poem at my and B's wedding.

Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose
or topaz or the arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers,
thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving than this:
where there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

Suggest some poets I should check out! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, April 02, 2007

How not to have a nervous breakdown

Anyone who knows me might guffaw at this post's title. After all, nervous breakdowns and I are quite intimate. But, I have managed to stay fairly sane around my MFA work. So I thought I'd write about things I've found helpful.

First and foremost, I give myself a 5-7 day break after handing in my submission. I might work on stuff, but I don't have to. During that time I can read books not on my reading list, watch movies, catch up on house stuff I've been putting off, etc. I generally try to plan something nice for the weekend after a submission. This time, I'm going to NY to visit my family. This time off really helps me feel like my degree has not totally taken over my life.

Generally there's one weeknight a week that I don't work on MFA stuff. It tends to be Wednesday, and Brian and I tend to do something nice that night.

On the weekends, work is definitely a priority, but I always squeeze some not-work into each day. This weekend, on Saturday I had brunch with some friends, then worked for most of the day, and then went to a movie at night. Sunday I played tennis and then worked for most of the day.

That's about all. There are still some areas where I'd like to be saner--namely in not freaking out and doubting that I'll ever be any good at this stuff. Have any tips for keeping a balance between work (schoolwork or otherwise) and life? Best Blogger Tips