Friday, August 31, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: The End

I'm spending this end-of-the-summer weekend visiting my parents' new house in New Jersey. I'm hoping this weekend will mark the end of some bad dynamics that have arisen in the past few years.

You see, my mom and husband have a bit of a checkered past. It's a long-ish story, but it boils down to a day a few Christmas's ago that I spent hysterically crying after my mom criticized a ton of stuff about my then fiancĂ©—first to me, and then to him. She and my dad left, and we didn’t speak for a few days (which isn’t that long, but felt it. Time slows down when you know you’re ignoring/avoiding someone).

She has since apologized profusely, but once words are out there, you can’t take them back. So when B displays any of the tendencies she attacked him for (being too aloof, not wanting to spend every waking hour chatting with her, etc.), I get uncomfortable. I spend the whole time wondering if she’s judging him. And for some odd psychological (I’m sure!) reason, I tend to take all this discomfort out on B, wishing that he could act however it is she wants him to act.

So this weekend, I am setting an intention to not play into this dynamic any longer. I will just concern myself with my own feelings, and with making sure I am relaxing and doing what I want to do—not worrying about what someone else may or may not be thinking. And I definitely won’t get mad at B, no matter how he decides to act/spend his time.

Here’s to the (hopefully) end of all that! For more endings, click here. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Walking in circles

B told me about a very funny interview he heard on NPR today. It's with writer Merrill Markoe, who has a new book out called Walking in Circles Before Lying Down. As you may have guessed, it's about dogs. If you love animals, or just need a laugh, listen to the author discussing her book with Robin Young on Here and Now.

On a totally unrelated note, I thought I'd announce to the blogosphere my new fitness goal: to run or do yoga every day of the week (with maybe one day off). Try to keep me honest--ask me how it's going in a few weeks! Best Blogger Tips

blogger annoyances

I've been trying to get this picture to be my bio pic for days now. I'm hoping that posting it here will make it easier to get it into my bio... Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Grace Paley

"None of it happened, and yet every word of it is true."

Grace Paley said that about her fiction, and I think it just about sums up how I think of my work, and how I hope readers will think about it.

Paley died of cancer yesterday. (Click here for her obit.)

I took a seminar this summer where we did close readings of a few of her stories, and boy am I glad I did. I learned so much from her writing about what makes a short, short story work: how the story can simply express a moment in time, and show the slightest change in the character at the end. In that way, I think that Paley's fiction is the heart of truth--after all, to paraphrase the Eagles, people change so slowly if they ever change at all. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Feedback on feedback

What is it about getting feedback from my mentor that throws me into an emotional tail spin? I got my stories and comments back yesterday, and they were really positive. The most positive I have ever gotten (which I think makes sense because this was definitely the best story I've handed in). But still, I can't stop thinking about the comments and trying to make sense of it all...

I got home at 10 last night and saw the envelope in our mail pile. I ripped it open before even saying hello to Brian. I then sat in the living room reading the responses like a zombie while Brian tried to talk to me. When I came up for a breath and he asked, what is that? I told him my mentor response. After I read all the comments, I answered Brian's other question of, what did he think? He liked it, I said. And that was it. Then I went to sleep and lie there thinking and thinking and thinking about the comments.

And I woke up, thinking about them some more. I'm thinking about how to revise the story, how to respond to some of the questions that were brought up regarding my essay. All while I should be focusing on my next story, which I'm now worried will disappoint by not being as good as the first (it's definitely a harder birthing process for this one...). And I'm wondering if my new mentor isn't pushing me hard enough (way to turn good news into bad, huh?).

Anyway, how do you react when you get feedback from teachers, writing groups, friends, etc.? Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Scribbilings: Dear Diary

I'm using this Sunday Scribblings to help me get into the head of my new character, Celia, a woman who is going through a divorce and moves from NYC to Boston to get away from her husband and his mistress. Here is one of her diary entries:

Dear Diary,
I haven't written those words in years. Maybe since those days of 7th and 8th grade when I was so worried about pimples and boys and fitting in. Just like everybody else, though the worst part of course was how alone in my worries I felt. I realize now that there are probably hundreds of women going through the same thing as me now, and probably thousands before me who have too.

But not really. I'm probably the only who moved to a strange city to make sure I never would drop my hot coffee all over my tighted legs when I saw my husband and his mistress in Starbucks, after he told me he had stopped seeing her. And I'm almost definitely the only one who finds healing in the Boston Aquarium--going each morning as soon as it opens to stare at a new spot in the giant column of water that makes up the middle of the building. It's dark and fairly quiet at that hour, and it's the only place where I lose myself and forget my loneliness and fear and betrayal. The fish swim past--different shapes and sizes and colors--and it's amazing how I can be staring at one fish only to realize that there are three more between me and it, only I couldn't notice them and my current obsession at the same time.

And the fish make me laugh. My face will be right up against the tank and an ugly, ugly blow fish will swim by, centimeters away from my face and I'll startle and laugh at the same time. Those moments are probably the only true laughs I've had in months.

I joined a book club, at the insistence of Jen [narrator's best friend in New York, who introduces her to one of the book club members]. The women are all really nice, and I'm sure I'll like going eventually. But I left my first meeting feeling lonelier than I had when I went in. They all knew each other so well, they'd gone traveling together, watched each other get married and have babies.

I realize now that Bobby's gone, nobody knows me that well. Jen is the closest, but we've definitely grown apart since she had her babies. And plus the last few months it's all I could do not to push her away completely. After all, if your husband can betray you and decide unilaterally that the marriage wasn't worth working on, how can I trust anyone? Jen and I met at the same time I met Bobby, so we don't even have more longevity that I can point to as a reason to trust her.

It's impossible for me not to think and think and think about everything--both was has happened and what will happen. That's why I love the aquarium. When I watch the fish, I just watch the fish. It's like an instant meditation. If only they were open 24 hours a day, I might just move in.

For more diary entries--real and imagined--go to Sunday Scribblings. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, August 17, 2007

Goals for the weekend

Thanks to my fellow bloggers' advice (and some days off from work due to food poisoining--hey, at least I got some down time out of the deal!), I've managed to make some progress on my new story. Continuing that progress plays a major role in this weekend.

Work end:
* Write forward for 2 hours every day on story
* Fill out the last section of my thesis essay
* Finish Nervous Conditions (TI,Repeater did you read this for Tony? I like it.) And start on next book.

Fun end:
* See Paris Je T'aime, which I am shocked that Brian is going for!
* Go to a one year old b-day party and an evening adult party involving lots of alcohol and sitting outside.
* Go see the seals at the aquarium! I gave B a gift certificate for Christmas for a chance to "train" the seals. We're finally going! I'm sure I'll post pics. :) Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 16, 2007

city living blues

We've had trouble with our upstairs neighbors since they moved in. They're loud, loud people who LOVE to blast gross techno music. We've finally, FINALLY started making headway with them (after getting into a screaming match in the middle of the street this winter).

And then, our neighbors on one side (our houses are separated by like 10 feet of grass) have decided that it'd be a fabulous idea to start hanging out in their parking lot, which is very close to our backyard, porch, and bedroom, playing--you guessed it--gross techno and house music out of the back of their car. Oh, and their teens also just sit in the parking lot at all hours of the day/night and rap/talk really loudly.

I'm trying to figure who to talk to--they're renters and I have no idea who owns the building. I wish I had faith enough to try to talk to their mom or them directly, but dealing with Tweedle Dum and Dummer upstairs has sucked that faith right out of me.

I swear, it's only since we bought a place that we've ever had serious neighbor problems. Why oh why does this have to be the case, when we can't move (easily)???

My annoyance about this (which I swear is about to bring me to tears) is amplified by the fact that thanks to food poisining, I haven't left the house in two days. Only 1.4 years until B finishes school and we can move...
OK, rant over. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No traction

I'm having trouble getting going with my new story, which I don't think is normally my problem. What do others do when they get stuck early on? Advice would be most welcome. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, August 13, 2007

What the world needs now...

I believe this is the second time I've blogged about Cary Tennis' advice column. What can I say, he writes about artists a lot in an eloquent way. Today's question is from a visual artist who is finding it hard to deal with rejections. Cary's response is long, but here are some of my favorite parts, with some personal comments.

"I have experienced literature that opened the skies for me, that made the earth tremble, that proved the existence of a world right alongside ours, so far superior to ours..... Every time I write I think I am required to make the skies open. I think I have to make the earth tremble. I think I have to reveal the existence of a dazzling universe quietly superseding our own, right next to us in another dimension.... So naturally I fail every day."

I went to a meditation class last night, and one of the themes, if you will, was forgiving yourself. Every time your mind wandered from your breath, you were supposed to say to yourself, "I forgive you." It was so amazingly nurturing to say that to myself about 100 times. That's what this part of Cary's column reminded me of.

This part about finding a supportive group of fellow writers also hit home. I feel so blessed to have found and continue finding other like-minded writers:

"You need constant encouragement and reinforcement in order to keep going. It's not even about feeling good so much. It's just about keeping going. I began to think about athletes....A batter gets a hit maybe every four or five at bats. So that's pretty tough. How would an athlete deal with all that rejection? In sports there is rejection and pain. But there is also joy and encouragement. There are coaches. There are teammates.

Those of us who work alone trying to make the heavens open up and the earth tremble, we need regular encouragement. We need coaches to say, Hey, good game. We need hand slaps and high-fives. Without support we will stop sending out our work."

And lastly, I will point to the part in his column where he explains just why it is that people need positive reinforcement just as much as constructive critism:

"Others have been hard on me as well, and I have sort of invited that. I have said, That's OK, give it to me straight, I can take it. Actually, I couldn't take it. But I would say I could. I believed in the interest of telling it like it is that everybody had to be hard on everybody else and on themselves. That would ensure that we were all aesthetically honest and pure.

Well, so now I am thinking, what good does that do if we become so embittered and afraid of rejection that we can't continue our work? I think what we need is more acceptance and more love.

Well said, Cary! (Click here to read the whole article.) Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My Saturday in pictures

Brian and I took a day off, and a day trip to Portland, where we visited an alpaca farm and drank some of the fine local beer. I also bought lots of yarn and finished a knitting project (which I'll post a pic of after it's been blocked).

(Click on the collage to enlarge the photos) Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

2 new backwards schedules

I've got a lot to get done this month, for both my MFA and MA programs. Luckily my teaching assistantship/grad assistantship don't start for another month, so I can focus my energies, as following:

Next MFA submission due: Sept. 10 (consists of 1 new story, 7 pages of 15 page essay)
Sept 1-9: Revise both as needed
August 24-31: Spread time equally between essay and new story, getting a draft of each done
August 17-24: Concentrate on expanding essay, continue to write at least 1 hour on most days
August 10-17: Free write on story every day (1-3 hours)

Next MA submission due: Sept. 15 (consists of expanded 25 page essay, 2 revised short stories)
Sept. 7-14: Revise Rest of June
Sept. 1-7: Continue writing essay
August 24-31: Write new parts of essay
August 17-24: Revise Trying
August 10-17: Finish braindumping on new short stories I am adding to essay, and revise/expand other sections of essay

And what's up with no one commenting on my blog this week? Is no one visiting? Am I a pariah??? Best Blogger Tips

New story

I sent out my first MFA package on Monday--god, what a good feeling it was to put that in the mail. This is my first mentor who is requiring mailed packets as opposed to emailed, and while it does add another layer to the process (printing and getting to the P.O.), I also got a more tangible sigh of relief when I dropped that sucker in the box, and can imagine it moving across the state.

But, as the saying goes, there's no rest for the weary, so I'm thinking about my next new story already. This one will be about a woman who's at the tail end of a divorce. She moves from Manhattan to Boston to escape memories and the possibility of running into her ex. She's been fairly exiled the first 2 months she's been there--it's cold and she's depressed so she doesn't try to go out and meet people.

The story will start on a spring day when she's finally going to the book club run by a friend of a friend of hers from Manhattan. The friend had been trying to get her to go since she moved--she thought the main character and the book club woman would hit it off. I'm not 100% sure where the story goes from here--I think what will happen is that these two women will become friends, and after the main character reveals a lot about her marriage and the reason for its failure (the main one being that her husband cheated), she then learns that this new friends of her had been "the other woman" in the not so recent past. The main character has to digest this info, and somehow get over the feeling of being betrayed all over again.

Any thoughts, directions, questions are most welcome! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, August 05, 2007


I promised I'd post links to the Boston Globe articles I wrote this week. Unfortunately only one ran as scheduled. I'm assuming the next will run next week, and I'll post it then. But here's a news brief about some possible changes near my house in Jamaica Plain: Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sunday Scribbilings: Decisions

I think a lot about the topic of decision making. I don't have much trouble making decisions, but I do ponder about their consequences a lot. What if I hadn't gone to BU? What if I didn't take a semester off and got a job interning at the Globe, where I met my husband? (I would like to believe that we would've met anyway, that we were somehow destined to be together, but I don't think I can truly buy the idea of destiny.)

What if I hadn't decided, somewhat on a whim, to apply to Lesley's MFA program? What if I hadn't gone to the Ann Lammott reading on a snowy night in a church downtown, where I met the friend who ended up introducing me to the neighborhood in which I now live? What if...

When I was younger, I used to think that any changes to the major decisions in my life would lead me down a path to becoming a totally different person. Now, I think that despite the fact that every decision impacts the course of one's life, I'd be the same person with similar worries and goals no matter which road I chose. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, August 03, 2007

On a happier note...

In my insane post of yesterday, I forgot to post the good things I'm doing this weekend: Tonight is a BBQ with a friend and her baby while her hubby's out of town, tomorrow is a walk with BostonErin and our doggies, and a movie at night with B. Sunday is another BBQ with friends. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 02, 2007

No time!

I've had this song stuck in my head all week because, you guessed it, I have no time! (I love the part late in the song when they keep repeating "No time! No time!" with urgency in their voices.)

The odd thing is that I have much more time than I will in the fall, when I start TAing and my graduate assistantship. But I had meetings regarding both of those things--and my Harvard Extension School thesis--this week, so all sorts of thoughts, ideas, and worries about them are floating around in my head. Thank god for this sleep/meditation CD or I would've spent a third night as an insomniac last night.

So, what do I do when I feel stressed? Make a list, of course! Here goes:

Things not to worry about right now:
1. TAship (expiration date 8/15, when I should email professor some thoughts on which classes I want to lead)
2. Grad assistantship (expiration date 9/1, when I should email supervisors and touch base)

Things to do this weekend
1. Add baking scenes into my main story for my upcoming MFA submission
2. Revise the short short story that I will be submitting too
3. Expand the outline to my MFA essay
4. Brain dump about the stories I am adding to my final MLA thesis essay

Things that will get done sometime, and it's fine that they're not done right now (really, it is):

1. Fix up my garden (front)
2. Add elevated beds for my back veggie garden
3. Paint the floor/ceiling of my back porch
4. Put together a wedding album (yes, I've been married for 3 years and I haven't done this yet...)
5. Get down the many essays that are floating around in my head, especially one on dealing with a loved one's sickness and an essay on covering neighborhood meetings now, in my own neighborhood vs when I was younger and a reporter for a town newspaper in a ritzy area that I could never dream to live in (and with snobby people worried about the stupidest things...)

On that note....
I have two articles that will be in this week's Sunday Globe. I'll post links on Sunday. Best Blogger Tips