Friday, December 26, 2008

Cool journal call for submissions


I heard about this neat publication called The First Line. They supply writers with a first line, and you use that line--exactly as is-- as the first line in a short story and submit it to them for review and possibly publication.


The line for winter submissions is:


Herman Sligo was a bit actor who played Uncle Emil in three episodes of the popular television series The Five Sisters.


Submissions are due 2/1/2009. I'm going to make an attempt at creating a story around this line. Anyone want to join me?
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Publishing Question

For those of you who have published in journals before or know about the process, can you tell me if it is as good to get published in literary magazines published by colleges and edited by the MFA students, as compared to literary journals that may or may not be affiliated with a college and that are edited by a professional staff? I'm making my list of places to send things to, and I want to "tier" it and first send to the more prestigious places, etc. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, December 22, 2008

Check... and check

A snowy weekend equals a productive weekend for bug. On the writing front, I:
  • Read and commented on Jessica's stories
  • Sent her my stories for her comments
  • Researched a few more places to send my Cartes story too (which I will do tomorrow)
  • Started to flesh out an outline of my NaNoWriMo manuscript. I only got about 5 chapters in, but I think I'll stop there and start writing those five chapters because I think that I need to get those down before moving on to the next batch.
  • Researched some writing retreats and realized that I don't want to apply to any until I have a better sense of what going will help me accomplish that I couldn't get done taking a "staycation".
I also finished a very complicated hat that I knit for a sick coworker, and a hat that I knit for my cousin (though I may have to redo that one--it depends on how much it shrank during blocking. It came out way too large for some reason...). And I wrapped all my presents and sent out a few Christmas cards. (If you don't get one, please know that it's not because I don't love you! I only sent cards to people who live far away, who really love getting mail, or who I know I won't see for a while.) Best Blogger Tips

Friday, December 19, 2008

A snowy weekend

This weekend is probably going to be quieter than I planned, with the impending snow storm and all. I've given myself a writing break to allow myself to recover from the madness of NaNoWriMo and also to embrace the madness of the holidays. I'm thinking a snowed in weekend might be a good time to get started on that revision.

But where do I start? That's a question that's been plaguing me. But Chris Baty of NaNo fame (he's the founder), gave the following advice and I'm going to follow it:

Make a 10- or 20-page book synopsis that travels through your whole novel, laying out the key things readers learn and see in each chapter.

I'll let you know how it goes! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, December 15, 2008

Writerly list of things to do

Among the many Christmassy things I need to do, I'd like to get some writerly tasks completely too.

1. Apply for writing residency. This weekend.
2. Send Jessica two stories for her review. This weekend.
3. Read Jessica's stories. This week.
4. Start reading TI's thesis. This week.

There are other things on my longer term list, but I'd like to keep things as simple as possible so I'll leave it at that for this week.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

A fine balance

One of the lessons I learned from NaNo was that I could write for an hour or more everyday. But I also learned that I don't want to. Well, no--I would like to get that much writing done. But I don't want to give up the things I have to give up in order to devote that much time to writing.

I'm a social person. I need to go out. I also need to take care of my house, do freelance work, do volunteer work, and do other crafts. I say "need" because really, those things are important to me and make my life happy. Just like I need to write.

So here's my new plan. I'll let you know how it works out!

  • During the week, my work days will be devoted to my day job and only my day job. Duh. Sounds obvious, but I can get distracted at times, as I'm sure we all can. But with the economy being how it is, I need to be more productive than ever at work.
  • I'll go out 2 nights a week after work for drinks, yoga, knitting group, or dinner with friends.
  • The other 2 nights, I'll go home and take care of house stuff and write for at least 1 hour (or take care of writing business, such as submissions).
  • The leftover weeknight will be flexible--some weeks I'll go out, some I'll write.
  • Saturdays will be my writing day. I will write for at least 3 hours every Saturday. I'll also get stuff done around the house as needed, and devote at least 2 hours to freelancing.
  • Saturday nights will be a date night with Brian most of the time (the exceptions would be for parties we're invited to as a couple, family stuff, etc.)
  • Sunday will be a more social day for knitting groups, book groups, dinner with friends/family.
I still need to work volunteering into the schedule. Now, I do random volunteer work here and there. Ideally, I'd like to do something more consistent, but we'll see how that works out.

If I can implement this plan, I think I'd be very happy with this life! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Good essay

I'm a little in love with Garrison Keillor. Or, more precisely with his writing and the subjects he writes about. He makes life seem so simple, even when he's pointing out what makes life messy. He seems like a man who has his head screwed on straight, and coming from a woman who often loses her head, this seems like a very fine quality indeed.

Reading his recent essay on Salon also made me realize once again why I love writing and reading so much: there is something so touching when someone expresses sentiments you have felt (and maybe not even noticed). It makes you feel so much less alone in this crazy world. And when someone expresses them as well as Keillor? That's pure magic. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, December 08, 2008

How I spent my November

Phew! I was a bit burnt out after NaNo, hence my not posting for a while. I promise to post this week with some of the things I learned from NaNo. For now, I leave you with a picture that pretty much captures 99% of how I spent November.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winner!!

I did it! I wrote 50,000 words in one month! Through all the craziness that life through at me, I wrote and wrote. It's a lot of crap, to be honest, but it's my crap and I am so very proud to have created it!

Now I'm going to give my little fingers a rest and stop typing. First, I'll leave you with the quote on the winner's certificate, which I will be printing and proudly hanging in my home and work offices.

Through storm and sun, you traversed the noveling seas. Pitted against a merciless deadline and fighting hordes of distractions, you persevered. You launched yourself bravely into Week One, sailed through the churning waters of Week Two, skirted the mutinous shoals of Weeks Three and Four, and now have landed, victorious, in a place that few adventurers ever see.

We congratulate you on your hard work, salute your discipline and follow-through, and celebrate your imagination.

You did something amazing this month, novelist. We couldn't be prouder. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 24, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Lessons learned

I'm not done with NaNo--I still have about 14,000 words to write. (Scary! Especially considering the fact that Thurs. is likely to be a wash.) But I did want to write about one of the things I learned from NaNo.

Recently, I got to a point in my story where I felt like I was done with it. Not as in, "This novel is awesome and totally complete!" but as in, "I have nowhere else to go with this." But since I made this promise to myself and the NaNo world, I needed to push forward anyway. So I started writing from another character's point of view, just to help me get into his head.

And you know what? I realized that this story should be told from multiple points of view! That M.C trying to figure out her sister's suicide impacts the people she interviews in various, interesting ways. So that's where I'm taking the story now. I'm guessing I wouldn't have learn about that part of the story as quickly (or maybe at all) had I not made myself sit down and write when I felt like I had nothing more to say.

So, thank you NaNo!

(WriMo word count as of 8 p.m. on Monday: 37,830 words) Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NaNoWriMo: I did it!

No, I didn't hit 50,000 words on Day 18.

But I did allow myself to try something new--writing from different characters' perspectives, and it felt really good! I got 2,100 words written in about an hour and a half. And I like them. (Well, I haven't reread them, but I liked them as they were coming out.) But more importantly, I like the idea of making this story from more than one point of view. So now I have a whole bunch of stuff to write, which means that I will get to 50,000 words, I just know it.

Feeling inspired as I break to go to my physical therapy appointment and then get some much needed food into my stomach. Best Blogger Tips

NaNoWriMo Update

I fell a bit off course because I had my lovely friend Gracie (who has a new fabulous blog about cooking and eating) come visit this weekend.

But I skipped dinner last night and wrote 2,000 words to help me catch up. I'm at the point where I think most of what I'm writing is pretty awful and won't make it past draft 1, but the point here is just to get the words down, and that's what I'm doing.

I'm hoping to hit 2,000 more tonight. I'm hopeful that I'll finish this crazy thing, though I know Thanksgiving is going to mess me up a bit, since we're hosting a house full of family. And this internal editor of mine is coming on strong, telling me over and over what BS I'm writing. But I'm trying to duct tape her mouth and slog on through. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Your opinion please!

So I'm coming to a blocked place regarding my novel. I know MC has one more family member to visit on her quest to figure out why her sister killed herself. But that surely won't take up 25,000 words. So now what?

There's a potential love interest brewing between her and her best friend, David. I would like to expand that, but I'm thinking there might need to be more tension there. Maybe another man comes out of the woodwork and thwarts David's efforts? Any other ideas?

What else could happen? So far, her visiting with her parents has led to a tentative kind of reconciliation between her and each of them. I'm thinking something different has to happen when she goes to visit the aunt (That's the last family member she needs to learn from.) I think what she learns from her aunt is just that living with the death of someone close to you will never get easy, but it will get manageable. Not sure how that comes out, but I assume I'll figure that out as I go. But if you have ideas...I'm open!

I think M.C. has to come to terms with the fact that she drinks too much. Not sure how to make that happen... Any ideas?

And any thoughts on what else could happen? The themes of the book so far are suicide, alcoholism, and reconciliation.

Any ideas, prompts, thoughts, direction, etc are most entirely welcome. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Day 12: I'm getting tired

My excitement is starting to wane a bit. I think I'm getting a little burnt out. I'm not going to stop, mind you, but I want to be honest about how I'm feeling. I'll do my 1,600 words today, though I'd much rather just watch TV, clean up, and then take a bath. (I'll try to write and then do the latter two.)

I'm taking tomorrow off from writing because my dear friend Gracie is coming to town from Seattle, and Kerry and I are meeting her for dinner after work. I might not get to write on Friday, though I'll try to squeeze some in in the morning, before G and I go off to have some fun in Boston.

Then on Saturday, she's having coffee with a friend to give me some time to write in the morning. She leaves on Sunday afternoon (wah!) so I'll have time to write then. And I took Monday off work just in case I need some more hours to devote to NaNo'ing, so I'm not too worried if I fall a bit behind.

Anyway, that's where I'm at: still devoted, but glad to have some time to spend with some dear friends and to get away from this damn computer. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Day 11: A very short post

I wrote more than 3,000 words today! So I won't be writing much more here. But I am at 21,055 words!! 21,055!! That's more than a third of the way there! Whoo hoo!! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 10, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Day 10

I can't believe it's Day 10! And that I'm at 17,000 words! I'm pacing myself perfectly (not to jinx myself). I have tomorrow off from work, so I'm going to try to hit 20,000. That way, when Gracie comes to visit this weekend from Seattle (yea!!), I won't have to be too stressed if I miss a day of writing.

The writing is moving. I'm getting a much better sense of what this story is about--M.C. finding her way back to her family, which she has been estranged from for a long time. In doing so, she really fulfills the wish of her sister, which M.C. didn't even know about until she started to look into why Sister killed herself.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm sure a lot fo these 17,000 words are pure drivel. But they're words. Words that wouldn't be there without this challenge. So thank you NaNo!

PS--Check out the awesome NaNo badge I added to the blog (on the left)! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 09, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Days 7, 8, 9

I planned a fun writing day yesterday--a friend met me at Borderland State Park and we took a long walk with Chloe the Wonderpup. Then we went back to my house, had a quick lunch, and wrote for a few hours. (Well, I wrote and she wrote/read/napped.) I got 3,000 words done, which made up for my lack of writing on Friday.

At the end of that session, I got the feeling like maybe I didn't have enough of a story to continue onward for another, oh, 40,000 words. And I started to get anxious. But this morning, I wrote my way through it. I think I have enough to get me through the week at least. And hopefully by then, I'll be able to brainstorm my way through any other block. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, November 07, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Day 6

Not much to report. I got about 2,000 words in yesterday at a library-sponsored write in. I'm taking today off because the writing time I had set aside for myself is now being devoted to a friend's father's funeral instead. But I figure I can make up the word count over the weekend. (And of course I think it's important to go support my friend!) Will post again over the weekend for another update. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Day 5

I broke the 9,000 word barrier! Which means that tomorrow, assuming all goes as planned, I'll hit 10,000 and be 1/5 done! I feel like I'm just getting into the meat of the novel, and I'm excited. I know the next two major plot points, and it feels good to have some direction.

I believe MC goes to NY to talk to the guy who was dating her sister when she committed suicide. They haven't talked since her funeral 5 years earlier, but MC wants to ask him if he has any more information now about why she might've done what she did.

From the boyfriend, MC learns that her sister had been in touch with her dad, which MC didn't know. (Their dad left when they were little and started a new family somewhere else.) MC then goes to see him. Not sure what happens after that... Best Blogger Tips

NaNoWriMo: Day 4

I'm late in posting about yesterday's progress, but I have a very happy excuse, what with the history-making election and all. When I walked into my office this morning, a person who works in the building greeted me with a huge smile. He said, "I don't recognize this happy feeling in my chest." I said I knew just what he meant. And there's one word for it: hope.

As for NaNo, we had a write-in yesterday at the library cottage and a few people came, despite having to fit voting into their day. That's what I call NaNo dedication. And I hit my daily word count goal, getting to almost 2,000 words. It was, dare I say it, easy yesterday. The words just flowed. Now, they might be utter crap but that's something to worry about in December. Now, I'm just worried about keeping up this pace for 26 more days...

Current count: 8,000 words Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 03, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Day 3

This is going to be a short post because it's 9:30 p.m. and I'm behind on my novel word count. I just want to say that a huge benefit of NaNo is that I'm forcing myself to find time to write, even on really busy days like today.

Work was crazy, and my commute took way longer than usual. Then I had some freelance stuff I had to do. So I didn't get to start on the novel until 9 o'clock. If that were to happen when I wasn't involved in this challenge, I would've given up and allowed myself some TV/relaxation time. But with this challenge before me, I said, "1 hour of writing is better than nothing" and got down to it. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 02, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Day 2

Day 2 was harder than day 1. Much. I spent about an hour crying--For various reasons, but among them was the "fact" that I just can't do this. This was after B and I looked around for a good coffee shop to write in. We were in the city, where there are a ton, but they were all crowded. We ended up in a Borders nearer to our house, but I found the space annoying. There were screaming kids for one thing.

But now I'm back home, post cry. There's a fire in the fire place, a screwdriver on the coffee table next to me, and Thai food is on it's way. I decided not to worry about moving the story forward, to just brain dump from the main character's point of view. I'm writing it as a conversation between her and her friend, David. Not sure if it'll go anywhere, but this is all about the word count, right?

So. onward, if not upward. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, November 01, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Day 1

I started out the day by sleeping late and then going to PT to work on some exercises to help with a persistent shoulder problem and headaches. Then Brian and I headed over to Starbucks to get our NaNo on. I was surprised at how scared I was! I had forgotten how intimidating it can be to embark on a new writing project--not to mention the fact that this is really my first foray into novel writing.*

But with the help of a mocha, I got started. The words have been coming. They're not good. And I'm switching between third person and first. But I'm writing. And I'm grateful for that.

My goal is to write 3,000 words/weekend day, and 1,600 on weekdays. I'm up to 2,200, with the whole night ahead of me, so I think I'm in good shape. For today. We'll see what tomorrow brings!

Good luck fellow NaNo'ers. Let me know how you're doing!


* I did sort of attempt a novel once. I wrote a short story, and decided to expand it into a novel. I got about half way through before I realized that it really didn't have enough of a plot to be anything more than a short story. So I revised it in its short form. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 27, 2008

Last class, new beginnings

Tonight was the last class of my Boston Center for Adult Ed class on memoir writing. This is about the 5th time I've taught the class, and every time it is so different. Goes to show you how much the students' personalities affect the classroom.

It's a 4-class course, and I think we might need more classes to really do the topic justice, and get into a better routine for workshopping. But to be honest, that's a big commitment for me. In fact, I'm thinking about proposing a one-shot class for next semester/year in place of this one. I need to brainstorm class ideas that would be satisfying in such a small dose. Maybe something on ways to overcome writers' block. Any other ideas?

Onto new things... It's almost NaNoWriMo time! We have our South Shore group social tomorrow night, which will be held at the wonderful Easton Ames Public Library cottage. I'm hoping this will not only result in my writing a novel, but that I'll also meet some writer friends in my new 'hood. And I'm thrilled that Brian and I are doing it together. It will be fun to work on such an intense project simultaneously. And we'll have an extra motivation--not wanting to fail in front of one another--and extra support, too. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, October 24, 2008

Election Whimsy

I haven't been knitting much lately, which is making me sad. (Or is that vice versa?) In any case, I can't help but share this adorable knitting idea. Knit your candidate finger puppets. (For the patterns, you need to sign up for a free account at lionbrandyarn.com)



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Writing and financial woes

I don't know if this is a fallout from the economic insanity going on around us, but I just found out a long-term, well-paying freelance project of mine is most likely ending. No, this isn't a disastrous blow financially (like, say, losing my job would be), but it does mean some rejiggering of our budget and a leaner Christmas than planned. And it's a scary reminder of all that is not right in the world.

So, I'm networking to try to make up that lost income.

On a happier note, I'm about to add a new link to my left hand column, where publishing contests and calls for submissions are posted. Check it out! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 20, 2008

Good article

As many of you know, I love my local library. This NY Times article is about a brave man in Columbia who brings the library to people in remote locations--he rides a donkey and drags the books behind him. What an inspiration!

A whimsical riff on the bookmobile, Mr. Soriano’s Biblioburro is a small institution: one man and two donkeys. He created it out of the simple belief that the act of taking books to people who do not have them can somehow improve this impoverished region, and perhaps Colombia. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Q & A with my NaNoWriMo character

I'm currently at a coffee shop, looking through a book Brian recommended called Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins. (Full story: B actually only recommended the first few chapters; he said the ones after that weren't as helpful.)


As readers of this blog know, I like to do an interview with my characters to help me get to know them. Collins suggests a similar exercise, and breaks the questioning into three levels of intimacy; A for small-talk-like questions, B for follow-up questions, and C for deeper questions, the kind you'd ask of someone you really wanted to get to know.

For example, an "A" question might be, Where did you grow up? A "B" question might be, Did you enjoy that place? A "C" question might be, What's your best and worst memories from living there?


I'm starting to think about my NaNoWriMo character, MC. Here is an interview with her. I'm going to try to progress from "A" questions to "B" questions and then to "C" questions.



"A" Questions

Where did you grow up?
Outside of San Francisco

What do you do?
I'm a bartender

Where do you live now?
Somerville, MA

How many siblings do you have?
None

Are you with anyone?
Nope.


"B" Questions
When was your last relationship?
I'm not really a relationship kind of person. I have a few fuck buddies, guy friends who I have good sex with. All the benefits of a relationship with none of the mess.

Do your parents still live in CA?
They're divorced, have been for years. She still lives in the same house we moved to after the divorce. He lives in Hawaii

Do you like your job?
Sure. It's a job, you know? I get to sleep late, get paid to hang out and talk with cool people. In fact, my customers are my closest friends. We don't hang out outside of the bar, but I enjoy their company and laughs inside of it.

What are your least favorite parts of it?
Getting hit on my the non-regulars. The hangovers.

"C" Questions
Are you close with your parents?
That would be a big no. I haven't seen my dad in 10 years. Well, 5 if you count my sister's funeral, but I didn't talk to him there. My mom is another story. we were never really close, but we got along fine. Sarah and I would visit her for Christmas and whatever. But we haven't talked much in the last few years.

I thought you said you were an only child?
Well, yea, I am now. I lie about this every time someone asks. Sarah killed herself 5 years ago.

That's awful. I'm so sorry.
Yea.

Is this what you imagined your life to be like at 29?
No. I was supposed to have some smart person job. I went to college. And Sarah was supposed to have finally relented and moved to Boston. Or maybe I would've moved to New York to be with her. I guess that depends on whether she was still with Eric. He was what was keeping her there, I knew. I also wasn't supposed to be drinking so much. I was supposed to see my mom's problem and recognize it as something I should avoid. But all of this changed when Sarah died.

Are you mad at her?
What's the point.
[After a few drinks]
Sure, I'm pissed. How could she leave me? How could she leave me to deal with our parents and life all alone? Why didn't she tell me what was going on? Best Blogger Tips

Friday, October 10, 2008

Good quote from the winner of the Nobel in literature

The French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio won the 2008 Nobel prize in literature. I love this quote he gave (from the NY Times article on the announcement). It conveys one of the reasons why I think it's so important to write and read fiction.

Asked at the news conference if he had any message to convey, Mr. Le Clézio said: “My message will be very clear; it is that I think we have to continue to read novels. Because I think that the novel is a very good means to question the current world without having an answer that is too schematic, too automatic. The novelist, he’s not a philosopher, not a technician of spoken language. He’s someone who writes, above all, and through the novel asks questions.” Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

NaNoWriMo

I've officially signed up for the craziest thing I've ever done: trying to write a novel in a month. (To read more about the group/idea, go here.)

Brian is doing it, too, which I hope will help keep me accountable. I also hope that trying to write so many words in such a short amount of time will get me to get over feeling so scared about creating shitty first drafts. I mean, the only way to get through this kind of challenge is to be 100% aware that most of what you write is going to be crap. The goal is just to get stuff down on paper, so that you can sift through it and hopefully have something to work with and fix up come December.

Brian and I worked with the library in our new town to set up a writing space for NaNoWriMos. The library is amazing--they gave us access to a cottage where we can meet and write two nights a week. Other NaNo-ers have set up write-ins at various coffee shops and bookstores in the area.

To be honest, I'm really scared about doing this. What if I can't? But I'm also excited to have a new, hard-to-reach goal and to have a community building around it. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Writing exercises

I'm not writing. I just don't have the energy, the drive, the desire. I've even been questioning whether I should write at all. I'm thinking about how much easier life would be if I gave up this dream and found a way to be content with my (fairly successful) work life.

But I know I'll get out of this place eventually and remember why I love writing. In the meantime, I'm going to commit to doing some writing exercises. Instead of focusing on any goal-oriented project like, say, "finish a short story", I'm just going to take writing prompts and go with them. No goal. No nothing. Just write.

I think it's a step in the right (write) direction. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, September 29, 2008

Nothing to say...Good article on writing

I haven't posted in a while because, frankly, I've had nothing to say. I'm dealing with some stuff that is keeping me from writing. And since I don't want to go into that stuff I just haven't been posting.

But I read a great article on Writer's Digest's web site today that I thought I would share:
http://writersdigest.com/article/writers-life-giving-it-up/

It's by a recent MFA graduate who is having doubts about his writing. (Sound familiar?)

Here are two of my favorite passages:

Worst of all, there was no one pushing me forward—no thesis advisor demanding pages, no editor lashing me to finish before deadline, no father demanding I get out of his hot tub and start writing.

Everyone talks about doing things—how they have an idea for a book or magazine piece or whatever—but how many of those people actually sit down and do it? The irony was that I’d already gotten through the hardest part and now I wanted to give up. It’s like quitting a marathon in mile 25 because your shoulder hurts. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Forgotten step

I forgot a very important step between writing and editing--letting the story sit! So I'm leaving the Obit story alone for a while. Instead I'm writing a first draft of another story I've been thinking about for a while. This one is about a woman who goes home to see her parents after a break-up, but doesn't find the consolation she needs there. I'm not really sure what will happen. I guess that's the fun of the first draft!

I'm also gearing up for NaNoWriMo. I can't wait! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Editing my new story

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I am happily writing again. I have finished a very very messy first draft of a story, and I need to figure out how to go back and revise it. And this story will need re-visioning in the truest sense of the word. As I said, it's a mess. But it's a mess I've created, and that makes me happy.

Questions--asked and answered--that will help me revise

1. What is this story about? On a plot level, it's about a male reporter who helps a widow grieve by rewriting her husband's obit. The husand's parents wrote the one that ran in the paper, and it was factually accurate, but not emotionally accurate. She wants a document that she can show their unborn daughter that better captures her husband as the 3-dimensional person he was.

2. Whose point of view is it in? Right now it is told mostly from the point of view of the male reporter. I jumped into the widow's point of view when he starts to interview her about her husband. At the time, I was thinking I was doing this just to ease the writing of those parts. But I'm wondering now if maybe the story should have both points of view in it. I think that's something I may hold off on exploring though until a third draft if the POV doesn't seem to be working.

3. What is the emotional story? I think the story is about this reporter who is a bit dejected; he just went through a divorce and is questioning his rather spur of the moment move to the island of Nantucket to be a newspaper reporter. He thought he would like the work more, that it would matter more. But it feels like a bit of a grind, like he's just reporting on these wealthy people and their wealthy people problems.

4. What unexpected element has come up as you're writing? When I was writing in the POV of the widow, she went down this road about how the husband couldn't really stand up to his wealthy parents, that they gave the son money--even a house in Hyannis--and that he felt beholden to them because of it. I think the couple fought over this, with her feeling like she'd rather be less wealthy and not so much under their thumb. She wonders if he would've regretted his weakness in this area if he had lived longer.

5. What are you going to do with this element? As I'm typing this, I'm realizing that maybe talking with the widow about her seemingly perfect husband, with all his money and his beautiful wife and baby-to-be, makes the reporter feel worse about himself, makes him question even more what the hell he's doing with his life.

But then the widow asks about him, how he ended up on the island. He tells about how he just picked up and left after his wife left him, that he came here knowing no one, and having never worked at a newspaper before. She admires him, and talks about how that's something her husband never would've done, moved away from his parents, and that whole element of his parents' control comes out. It makes the reporter feel a little better to know that even people who look like they have it all figured out are just slogging their way through life, too. And now, maybe when he asks himself what the hell he's doing there, instead of hearing his ex-wife's shrill questions about why he would move to an island in the middle of nowhere, he'd hear this widow's amazement at his bravery.

And, as the widow talks more and more about this, she realizes that if she stays in their house, she'll be in the same boat. So by the end she is contemplating moving back to the little, artsy town in Rhode Island that she lived in before she met her husband.

6. How does it end? She falls asleep peacefully in his office as he types up the obit, feeling truly useful--because of him she'll have an obit that reflects who her husband truly was, and because in helping this woman create it, he also helped her realize that she didn't want to stay in the controlled situation she was in.

***

The end, among other areas, still doesn't feel quite right. Something is off regarding the reporter and his emotional development/arch. But I think I need to get into draft #2 to figure out what it is. Or maybe I'll post an interview with the reporter to get a better sense of who he is.

And now a question for you, readers: I'd like to know something about how you revise, on a very practical level. Do you just into the Word document you've already been working in? Do you open a fresh document?

Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Good quote

"Stop thinking, start writing"
~Sara Gruen

In a recent Writer's Digest, Gruen, the author or Water for Elephants, said that was what she told herself when she was trying and failing to write. I think it perfectly sums up my own writing struggles, when they occur.

(Though luckily now is not one of those times! I'm working on a short story and enjoying it, and I have an idea for the novel I want to pursue in November for NaNoWriMo.) Best Blogger Tips

Monday, September 08, 2008

Another submission

I sent my paris/postcard out to another journal. This makes 3 that it is under consideration with. I'm planning on sending it to 2 more in October, and then I will start sending out my next story. My plan is to have a few stories out to 5 journals each at a time. Then I'll wait for the acceptances to roll in and move on from there. :) It's my nature to be all negative and say "wait for the rejections", but I stopped myself. Let's remain positive, shall we? Best Blogger Tips

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sacrifices/cutting back

So at that BPL talk I went to on Monday, Matthew Quick talked about the many sacrifices he and his wife made to nurture his writing-namely, they moved from Phili to outside of Boston to live with his in-law's rent-free so he could work on his writing full time. Talk about a sacrifice!

I'm realizing that I, too, need to make some sacrifices in order to start pushing full steam ahead. Namely, I have to go out less. I spend a lot of time socializing. Some of it really nourishes me. Others of it feels like more of an obligation. And there's a whole range of things in between. So while I'll obviously try to keep the nourishing stuff in, and throw the obligatory stuff out, the overall result is that I won't be going out as much.

I think a reasonable goal is no more than one night out after work per week. And only one planned activity per weekend day. So if I plan to play tennis in the morning, then I don't also have people over for dinner that evening.

I have a sneaking suspicion that not only will I get more writing done, but I'll also enjoy life a tad more when I'm not running all over the place. And hopefully blogging about this plan will keep me honest about sticking with it! Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Gratitude Post #2

I'm feeling myself slipping back into my recent funk, so it's time to be grateful again.

On Monday night, I went to a reading of first-time authors at the Boston Public Library. Each writer told his/her story about getting a first book published, and then read a bit from the book. It was very inspirational--the overall message was to just work really hard. I especially appreciated one of the author's outlooks. Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Lining Playbook, said that hard work can outrun talent, that he might not be the most talent writer out there, but he sure did work hard--both to write the book, and to find an agent. I also feel that with hard work, a person can do almost anything, so it was nice to see that confirmed (did I mention his book as already been optioned for a movie??). The other writers--Amy MacKinnon and Brunonia Barry--also gave interesting talks about getting to where they were.

So, I am grateful to live near Boston and to work in the city, making it fairly easy for me to go to so many literary events. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Gratitude Post #1

As I posted last week, I am doing some Gratitude Postings this week to keep me focused on how many wonderful things I have in my life (even though it can seem like the crap outweighs the good on any given day; hence the need for Gratitude Posts!).

When I think of gratitude in relation to writing, I immediately think of the community of writers I have around me, and the people that support me as a writer. Here is a very short list, which surely doesn't encompass everyone:

  • My MFA buddies. One of the best thing I got out of school was the friends with whom I can commiserate and talk about writing. It's amazing to have friends who went through the same schooling, who are at similar places with their writing, and whom I just love in general.
  • Blogging buddies. I love having the blog as a place to write about writing, but most of all I love the conversations it allows for, and the friendship it creates and rejuvenates. For example, I worked with/for the fantastic writers Boston Erin and Poet Mom, and then we lost touch. We reconnected mainly through our blogs, and now I consider them to be two of my Writing Gurus, my go-to gals for writing questions.
  • Non-writing friends and coworkers who get it. Not everyone does, and it can be frustrating. But I am very grateful to those non-writers out there who sympathize with my struggles, and who ask in very kind ways how the writing is going.
  • And lastly, but certainly not leastly (a word I just made up), my dear husband B. Not only does he put up with me during the many crazy ups and downs of a writing life, but he also (god help him) encourages me. And he believes in me, even when I can't really figure out why.
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Some time away

Without planning to, I took the weekend off. I gave myself total permission to do nothing productive. I even napped in a hammock, the quintessential relaxing endeavor. Now I'm back, feeling very refreshed. And the odd thing is, I even managed to slip some work into the weekend--I created a chart to track my submissions, and researched some journals to submit to. But it didn't feel like work. The beauty of not expecting anything out of yourself.

Speaking of which, I think the very reason I am having such a hard time writing right now is because I'm expecting too much from myself and my writing. I'm not allowing myself the time for Shitty First Drafts. I'm expecting to have been published yesterday.

So I'm going to start over in creating my post MFA writing life. I'm going to experiment with ways to keep myself writing, but also keep myself enjoying the process (with room for the occasional freak out of course. What kind of writer doesn't freak out from time to time?). I'm not sure what the experiments are going to look out, so stay tuned. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Getting to know you....

I've figured out some of the problems regarding my story. One is that I'm putting way too much pressure on myself--something about having graduated makes me feel like I should be producing a ton of high-quality work, which is just stunting my creative process. Not sure how I'm going to get over that...

Something that's easier for me to fix is this: I did a ton of journaling/blogging about Janine, my main character, when I started the story. But then she changed A TON, and so did the story. I never re-brainstormed about who she was. So while the plot of the story feels right, the voice of it doesn't, because I don't know my character yet. So stay tuned for some "getting to know you" exercises. I'll probably post an interview with her later on this evening.

Also to come: Next week is Gratitude Week on Writerbug. I'm going to spend the whole week staying positive on the blog. I've been much too negative/whiny--on here and in general.

For now, I'm off for dinner/drinks with a friend. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 28, 2008

If I used all the time I spend fretting to write...

...I'd be published by now.

This transition from MFA student to graduate is harder than I thought it would be. I thought having my degree would make me feel like a "real" writer. Surprise: it doesn't! I don't know what will. I want to say publishing a novel, but my guess is that if I did that, and wasn't a best seller, I'd still feel like it wasn't enough. I think this feeling can be a good thing--as it pushes me to do more and more. But right now, the feeling is so overwhelming all it does is make me cry.

So I'm taking tomorrow off, having a full me-day to regroup. So far the plan is to wake up, walk Chloe, do some yoga, and then head to Salem for a day at the beach, writing in a cafe (assuming I find a cool one), eating a nice lunch, and wandering around town. I hope to use some of this time to think about what I could be doing--right now--to make my life more the way I want, to make me feel more like I am a writer.

I say "right now," because "quitting my job and writing all day" just ain't gonna happen.

Wish me luck! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Writerly events

Some literary events that I will have the pleasure of going to in the next month:

Let me know if you'd like to join me! I have "dates" for each event, but the more the merrier. :)

Though I lament the end of summer as much as the next New Englander, September sure does mean the beginning of the lit scene here in Boston. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, August 25, 2008

Slow but steady

I didn't follow the writing schedule I posted last week. I'm not exactly shocked. I think I post schedules/goals that are just a *tad* out of my reach. While it is sometimes depressing that I never seem to be meeting these goals, I also know it's motivating, and if I made the goals too easy, I wouldn't be challenging myself. Also, I often forget to list certain tasks in my list, tasks that must be done before I move on to the later task. Like in last week's list I forgot to put down an important scene that went between what I had labeled scene one and two. (That last explanation is just to ward off any of you who might be thinking, "She couldn't get through that measly list of scenes to write? Pathetic!" Or maybe that's just my internal editor talking?)

So, this week, I still have three items left over from last week's to do list:
1. Journal about Janine's friendship with Rita, who comes into the next scene. I need to get a better understanding of how these two interact. TO DO: TUESDAY, on train ride to work.

2. Write the third scene, where Janine's friend Rita comes to the hospital, and asks Janine a bunch of questions that makes us (the reader) realize that what Janine has been thinking/telling us about her marriage isn't exactly true. TO DO: WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY EVENINGS. THIS IS A BIG SCENE, AND MIGHT TAKE MORE THAN ONE DAY OF WRITING TO GET THROUGH.

3. Write the final scene, where Janine finds out her husband came out of surgery alive, and she realizes how much work she has ahead of her to repair her marriage. TO DO: OVER THE WEEKEND

Other writing-related tasks to do this week:
**Create a workshop proposal for a class on collage-making as part of the creative writing process for a local non-profit looking for writing classes. This will be done with B, so that should be super fun.

**This weekend I'd like to organize a few writing-related things, namely my sending-out process. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A writing meme

Becca posted this meme for writers, and I couldn't resist answering her questions.
  1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both? I write fiction mostly, but I dabble in essay writing, too. I like how non-fiction helps me work through/think about my life more clearly, but I'm drawn more to fiction. Writing and reading fiction also helps me to work through the issues that arise in my life, and there's something so satisfying to me in knowing that there are infinite possibilities when you start a work of fiction, and the work is getting to the place where you know you've landed in the one that's perfect for your story.
  2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook? I do have a writing notebook. I've been using my morning commute to journal (by far the best way to spend that time!). I would say I spend half the time writing about my life, and half working out problems in the story I'm working on. The latter is so amazingly helpful--that way when I do my "real writing" later in the day, in front of the computer, my pump (brain) is primed.
  3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful? I usually think I know the motivations and conflicts before I start. But then as I'm writing, new things always arise that make the story better/more interesting and complex.
  4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work? I guess a little of both, if you can be. I can get in procrastination phases, but I'm not a good procrastinator when it comes to writing--ie, I don't have fun procrastinating. It feels like something is hanging over my head.
  5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time? Again, I think I do both. It just depends on my mood and the time I have to spare.
  6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer? I'm in the process of training myself to write anytime. My life is just not calm enough to allow for a regular time for me to sit in front of my computer.
  7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate? I'm realizing how incredibly flexible I am--again, my answer is that I can go with any of the above. Though if I'm in a bad mood, noise will annoy the crap out of me.
  8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?) I do my journal long hand, but my actually stories are all typed.
  9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write? I agree completely with what Becca wrote: "I usually think I know the ending - but it seems like it often surprises me!"
  10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write? No. I don't think it really makes sense to try to write one way or another. It'd kinda be like asking me to grow my 5'2" body into that of a super model. Plus, by the time you notice a trend in publishing, it's way too late to start writing something in that mode and get it published before the trend has passed.
  11. Editing/Revision - love it or hate it? I both love and hate it. I hate the pressure I feel when I revise--ie, that I need to be perfect because I'm perfecting something. But once I get into it, I enjoy the process because it allows me to get even deeper into the story/characters.
Thanks Becca for the great meme! Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A schedule

I'm off schedule--both in terms of blogging and general writing-- since I was away for a long weekend, visiting family and getting some beach time. But as I wrote about last week, I had a major epiphany with the story I'm working on. And now I have a plan to tackle the story: I'm going to start over. Completely over. Just rewrite it from scratch. I've done this before and found it helpful, though I'm not sure why. Maybe not having something to fiddle with makes me try things that I wouldn't try otherwise. In any case, here's my plan to get a draft down this week:

Today: At lunch, go to the hospital near my office and journal about being there--the sounds, smells, sights, etc. This is important since my story takes place in the hospital.

Tomorrow: After work (before hitting a jazz concert with B), write the first scene, where Janine brings her husband to the hospital after convincing him that he is having a heart attack, not indigestion. They're nasty to each other, and he brings up the fact that she killed his dog.

Thursday: During lunch, write the second scene, where Janine fumes in the patient lounge, and overhears a doctor apologize to a patient and be forgiven. She fumes even more about not being forgiven for something much smaller, that happened much earlier.

Friday: After work, before doing whatever B and I are doing, Journal about Janine's friendship with Rita, who comes into the next scene. I need to get a better understanding of how these two interact.

Saturday and Sunday: We have a few plans this weekend, but I will find time to write each day, getting through: the third scene, where Janine's friend Rita comes to the hospital, and asks Janine a bunch of questions that makes us (the reader) realize that what Janine has been thinking/telling us about her marriage isn't exactly true. And the final scene, where Janine finds out her husband came out of surgery alive, and she realizes how much work she has ahead of her to repair her marriage.

This is the first story where I'm using an unreliable narrator. I'll probably blog about that experience sometime later this week. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why I write

A fellow writer told me about a dream she recently had where she just published a piece of writing, and then said to a friend, "I'm grateful for the work but I know that when it finally gets published, that good feeling is pretty fleeting." And I know from experience that that sentiment is true. With every goal I reach, I feel good for a fraction of the time that it took to get there.

So why bother writing? I had a glimpse of my answer on Sunday. After writing for a few hours--the miserable kind of writing, where I grumbled the whole time, wondering what the f I was doing, wondering why I don't just give up and spend my time, oh, making cocktails--I had my very own Ah-Ha moment. Something clicked in my story. I got perspective and saw that my way into the story was through using my character's perception of the setting (the hospital) to mirror my character's feelings (confusion and anger about her marriage).

It felt so good to get those pieces to click! As good as meeting any external goal (graduating from a degree program, publishing a newspaper story) has ever felt. And it's lasted a lot longer, too. In fact, I'm still riding on the feeling, which has allowed me to write a little bit of the story each day without grumbling and wanting a drink.

So that's why I write. For the feeling that comes from finally--finally!--making a story work.

Though getting published would be nice, too. :)

I'd love to hear why you write. Leave a comment. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My week in Photos (6)

Monday through Friday of last week looked like this:




Then with a little help of

Comfort foods like:
and




And an afternoon spent like this:


And two evenings filled with good conversations with good friends, and this week I am more like:

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Funk

Like Poetmom, I'm in a bit of a writer's funk. I've been having a very stressful summer for reasons I don't want to go into, and I think all of this stress is taking its toll in a few ways: I'm really moody and prone to crying at just about any moment, and I feel too emotionally tired to write. Because writing, I'm noticing for probably the millionth time, takes a lot of emotional energy. Just beating back those critics who sit on my shoulder mumbling, "You're wasting your time. This scene is stupid, you're going to cut it anyway, just stop writing," takes a lot of energy. And i'm afraid I just don't have it right now.

But the bigger conundrum is that I know that not writing isn't going to make me feel any better. In fact, it's going to make me feel worse. So I'm going to make myself follow a new routine. I'm hoping that, like with going to the gym, dragging my butt to the page will get easier and easier each day.

New Plan
* Go to sleep by 10. Stress is tiring, and therfore I need more sleep. Being in bed by 10 means that I'll actually be asleep by 11, which means that I'll actually get 8 hours of sleep.

*Write everyday. At least 15 minutes each week day, and 2 hours each weekend day. I'm hoping that the small weekday goal will lead to longer writing jags, but I don't want to set the bar too high and then just give up.

*Concentrate more at work. I end up wasting too much time at work, and then feel guilty and stay late to get things done. I'm going to disable my work IM, which we all really use to chat rather than for work. And I'm going to limit my online breaks to 10 minute chunks of time. No more getting sucked into one website, and then another... Best Blogger Tips

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sunday Scribbling: Ask

The first phrase that popped into my head when I read this week's prompt was "Ask and ye shall receive." This reminded me of Becca's post this week about how she decided she needed to do something to take her writing to the next level and that day she saw a sign advertising a new writing group that sounds like it's convenient to her. She called it the universe at work.

My mother has often prays on things, and finds an answer soon thereafter.

My take? It's not so much the universe or God fixing your problems for you, but it's the power of articulating a goal, and then directing yourself and your energy toward meeting it. So asking God or the Universe for a million dollars isn't going to do anything. But asking for a million dollars might make you realize how very important it is for you to have a million dollars, which could spark you figuring out a way to get there. That, to me, is the power of prayer or putting your desires "into the universe".

But now that I type this, I realize, too, that I believe a little bit of mystery is involved too. Like just working out a problem isn't the whole she-bang. Maybe it's that getting to the point where you'll pray for something means that you've thought long and hard about it yourself already. Or maybe it's the surrender of asking for help that gets your subconscious going full force on the problem.

It seems natural to end this post with a few requests for the universe/God/my subconscious/ whomever.

  1. I'd like to find a way to better integrate my writing into my daily life. Right now it's feeling a bit more like a tack-on/must do, than an organic part of my day.
  2. I'd like a best friend. I know I am ridiculously fortunate to have a husband whom I adore and who is also my best friend, and to have many other friends with whom I can celebrate things like my house warming, and a few other friends who I feel super close to even though they are not physically nearby. But I miss having one really good girlfriend who I can do everything with, who I can sit around and do nothing with, who really knows me and understands me, who I can plan on being around for the rest of my life. Not having that makes me feel lonely at times.
  3. I'd like to publish some stories. I'm guessing lots of people have this goal. But I really, really want it. Like when I think about what I want to accomplish in my life, this (in varying forms, ie publish a novel) is pretty much the only thing I'd be ridiculously disappointed about not doing.
What do you want? And do you believe that articulating your goals has any power? Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ugh

Ever have one of those weeks that is so insanely frustrating and stressful that you feel like you could literally explode? Having one. Right now. No fun.

Just scheduled a massage for this weekend. Sigh. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wednesday Wrap Up (5)

Good news to report! I finally, finally, finally sent out my story! I sent it to only two places, since many are closed for the summer, one contest and one general publication. Without the pressure of having professed here that I was going to mail it, I know I would've procrastinated. So thank you, dear readers, for "making" me do it.

I also spent some time editing a short, short story, which still needs some work but is getting there.

All in all, a success of a week.

Next week's goal is to get a draft of my Dead Dog story down. Right now I have a million pieces of it: a few blog posts, some random Word docs, etc. I hope to piece them all together and have a semi coherent first draft. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, August 03, 2008

My week in photos (4): A sad post

We lost both of our bunnies this week. It seems they had a parasitic infection passed from mother to baby bunn that shows very few symptoms until it's too late. It's been a really sad week for us, but we're hanging in.

Oddly, we already have a new bunn to announce (which we got as a match for Doodle Doo before we knew he was sick. His brother, President Reagan, died a few days before him and bonded bunnies usually do much better if they get another mate soon after theirs dies). Her name is Daisy, though we might change it to Dandelion or Lauralei. We're waiting to see how her personality develops and hopefully she'll tell us what her name is. She is a giant angora, emphasis on giant:



It feels a little wierd to have her already because we're nervous about getting attached again to a creature who might leave us (but that's life, isn't it?), and because our grief is so fresh over our first two bunns. But hopefully she'll help us through this sadness. With a face like this, how could she not?


And check out her clydesdale-esque paws:


And just to make sure our other animals don't feel left out of the blogosphere, here's a pic of my Chloe dog, with whom I have been enjoying long walks around our new neighborhood:



And here's Boom Boom, our large and in charge cat whose favorite hobby, by far, is purring:
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday Wrap Up (4)

Week four, with bad news to report. This week has felt very unfocused, writing wise. Probably because the first half was spent in a frenzy to get the house ready for our party, and then the second part of the week was spent on a freelance project. But now I'm back, and plan to refocus.

I did:
**Write part of the short story I'm working on via a Sunday Scribbling post

**Contact a medical intern friend of mine, who agreed to answer some technical questions about the ins and outs of a hospital ER

**Go see Sue Miller read and speak about writing. She was very down to earth, and seeing her reminded me that even my favorite writers, writers who have written 9 books (!), are still people, people who put one word in front of the other like the rest of us.

I did not get to:
**Send my damn story out. I can't tell if it's procrastination due to fear, or if I was really just too spent to do this. Either way, if I don't have this done by next week, I'll... well, I can't decide what I'll do. How about mail each person who comments on this post $5. (So someone comment, otherwise I'll have no consequence!)

**Write 4 days

Bottom line: A thumb's down for this week, with a promise to regroup and refocus for next week. That said, I'm going away on a mini vacation, so no posts until next week! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, July 28, 2008

My week in pictures (3)

You ever have an irrational annoyance with something? Mine is uploading pictures from my camera to the computer. Even though it's quick and easy, I dread doing it. So, this weekly pic thing is a challenge for me! (Note to self, it's the uploading to blogger that's a pain in the bum!)

But anyway... this week's most photogenic event was our housewarming BBQ. We were honored (and yes, warmed) by 40 wonderful friends and family who came and hung in our backyard. Someone at work recently said that he first felt like his house was a home when he came into it during a snowstorm and felt the cold meltaway. Another coworker said that moment came when he finally got art on the walls. For me, it is when I find myself preparing for and welcoming a big crowd of loved ones.

The bunnies were a big hit, especially with the kids:

And so was the food... (though we somehow have 40 leftover hamburgers. And we don't eat meat.)


Unfortunately I didn't take too many outdoor shots of people relaxing in the yard. I think I had too many drinks myself to wield a camera well... But here's a pic or two of the house itself:


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A great quote

“Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”

~ Meg Chittendon

My week in pictures coming later today, featuring shots from our housewarming BBQ this weekend. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Solace

For the third week in a row, my Sunday Scribblings is a look at the world in the eyes of my fictional character, whose husband Bob has just been taken in for bypass surgery.

I went to the patient lounge seeking solace. But even the lounge was cold--both in terms of the air temperature and the general feel of the place. The couches and chairs were upholstered in the thick plaster of diner seats. Probably easier to keep clean, but certainly not cozy. One wall had large windows, but they overlooked a parking lot, and a large building sat about 20 feet away, blocking any farther off view.

I sank into the plastic couch and put my head back. I planned to just rest my eyes, but I must've fallen asleep. I woke to the sound of hushed voices, voices that, I assumed, were trying not to wake me.

A man with a slight accent--Indian? Middle Eastern?--said something about this being the best space to talk in, despite the lack of privacy. A pipe had frozen overnight and flooded his administrative office.

The other voice, a woman's said, "Fine, fine." She sounded annoyed. Like Bob sounded with me a lot.

"I just wanted to apologize again. I can explain to you exactly how the mistake happened if you like." His voice sounded a bit warmer than it had when he was talking about his office flooding.

I heard one of the people shift in their seats, and imagined the woman shifting in reaction to the doctor's apology.

The doctor continued talking, faster now, obviously nervous. "Now none of these are excuses, I know that. There are a number of things I did wrong in the situation. But anyway, it was the end of a 14 hour shift. My twin babies had cried throughout all of the night before, and even though my wife does night duty on the days before my hospital shifts, it's amazing the wails these little bodies can expel. They wake me sometimes even when she's brought them downstairs to protect my sleep. Anyway, I was tired. And the nursing staff who was supposed to assist me got held up in another operation. So the people in the OR weren't familiar with your case.

Again, I'm sorry. None of this excuses what happened. But I hope you can understand. It wasn't just blatant uncaring, or recklessness. It was a series of mistakes, but the responsibility for the end result resides with me. And I am sorry." On these last words, his voice sounded so soft, like he was talking to one of his babies, not an adult.

Of course I was dying to know what this doctor had done. I opened my eyes a little in hopes of getting a glimpse of the patient. Maybe she would be misshapen in some obvious way. But I barely saw her. My eyes stopped on the face of the doctor, a slight man with dark hair and dark--almost black--eyes. It wasn't his looks that were so striking. It was his look. His face looked the same way I knew mine did when I talked to Bob. When I pleaded with him to forgive me, to try to understand that my hitting the dog was an accident, that he was in my blind spot, and that I felt terrible. He had the look of true remorse on his face.

The woman--a chubby , 40-something year old with black, curly hair-- unfolded her arms and sighed. She, too, seemed caught by his gaze. "It's...Well, it's not OK. What happened is not OK. But, I forgive you." She smiled at him. "These things happen."

The man sighed, and then took her hands in his. "Thank you. Thank you." The words seemed to flow out of his mouth on his breath. "I haven't slept since... Haven't eaten. You don't know how much this means to me."

But I did. I knew just how much being forgiving meant. And then it hit me--Bob would never forgive me. It'd been months now. And it wasn't that what I'd done was so unforgivable--"these things happen" after all. It was that he didn't want to forgive me. And that--that--is unforgivable. Best Blogger Tips

Random cuteness

I'm going to make this sweater for my niece for Christmas. Yes, we knitters have to think about Christmas gifts now.

(If you want the pattern, go here: http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEsummer08/PATThelena.html)


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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday Wrap Up (3)

My third week doing this wrap up, and more good (though less structured) news to report. This week I:

*Wrote one Sunday Scribblings entry related to my short story (more than my 350 word count)

*Spent time editing the story I plan to send out--and finalized it! Whoo! What a good feeling!

*Spent time researching journals to submit to Best Blogger Tips

Monday, July 21, 2008

Submissions

A little about my submission processes...

To finalize my story, I sent it to three very smart readers (thank you!) who made great comments and confirmed that it is ready to go out.

Then I read it aloud to check for any snaggles. Edited those, and changed the beginning a bit to make sure I was starting in a place that would really grab the reader.

And now, I am researching the journals whose work I liked while perusing them in a bookstore and finding... that many of them are not accepting submissions during the summer! POO! At least I have a list of places to send to in the fall

http://www.tinhouse.com/mag/mag_submit.htm (Not accepting til September)

http://www.massreview.org/faq.html (Not accepting til October)

http://www.americanshortfiction.org/(Not accepting til September)

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/review/about.html (No info about submissions, but the website is still talking about its Spring issue, so I assume they are not up and running in the summer)

http://www.triquarterly.org/submit.cfm (Not accepting til October)

I also have to find two "nice" rejection letters I got in the past telling me to send more stuff.

I'm hoping, too, that the Lesley folks will start sending out info about placing soliciting for work, so I can add to my list. I'm guessing that too many of these are "reach" publications. But hey, I guess I'll start at the top and work my way down as necessary....

Any lit mags you think I should add to my list? Suggestions welcome. Best Blogger Tips

My week in photos (2)

This week's theme was water, water everywhere.

1- We had a minor flood when our second floor washer decided to spew water everywhere, including through our first floor ceiling.


2- On a happier note, we spent a lot of time at Ames Pond this weekend, a swimming hole that is walking distance from our house.

3- We ended the weekend with lots and lots of thunderstorms.


(None of these photos are mine... I took some of the ceiling mess, but haven't had time to upload them to the computer.) Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sending out--eek


So I'm going to put some final touches on a story and send it out tomorrow/Monday. I sca-red!

Anyone have a system for figuring out which journals to send to?I need to make a list. I looked at some journals in a bookstore and made note of a few that seemed to publish stuff that I liked. I guess I'll start there? I'm not sure how big to aim. I mean, do you send your stuff to the New Yorker on the off chance that miracle upon miracle someone likes it?

Any feedback would be lovingly appreciated.
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Sunday Scribbling: Ghosts

Like my last Sunday Scribbling, this is in the voice of a fictional character whose story I am currently writing. This is background info that probably won't even make it into my story, but which I know will help me understand my character.


I don't believe in ghosts, but that doesn't mean I don't feel the presence of my parents--my mother in particular. They died in a car accident when I was 32--bad weather, an inexperienced driver going too fast on the highway.


I had been living in Manhattan at the time, enjoying my life despite a recent bad break up. That's how I ended up moving back to upstate N.Y. I needed to tend to their house, which I assumed I'd sell. But I just couldn't. I felt my parents there in a way I didn't anywhere else. I'd occasionally smell my mom's floral scent on a towel I hadn't yet used and washed. I'd hear the oldie's station echo through my parents' bedroom with the same acoustics as it did every morning when their alarm rang. Sometimes I would have to do a double take because I'd swear I'd seen my dad leaning against the kitchen counter, coffee in one hand, newspaper in the other.


So I got a job as a paralegal at a small firm near Albany. I took an absurd cut in pay, which was fine since I didn't have to pay absurdly high city rents-or any rent for that matter, since my parents had paid off their mortgage.


It was hard to be there without my mom, who was really more like a sister to me in her last years. If she had been there, we would've been going to the farmers markets together, stopping for lunch at the dinner on the way home and planning what we'd make for supper over our greasy grilled cheese sandwiches. Instead I was doing those things alone. Which was fine, just not the same.


Years passed. I made some friends through work, connected with a friend from high school, Lea, who I hadn't seen since we graduated. She and I got very close, but she had a family--a husband and two little girls. So there were still plenty of weekends where I went about my shopping and cooking and relaxing alone.


I was happy, though a bit lonely. And time was a ticking. I wasn't baby-crazy in a serious way, but like any woman who has crested the hill of 35 will tell you, it's pretty impossible to avoid thinking about the topic of fertility and motherhood when you're starting to realize that you might not have a choice as to whether or not you join that particular sorority.

So maybe that's why I was so grateful to find Bob when he came into my life. Maybe that's why I was so willing to overlook some things I didn't like in how he treated me, namely what Lea calls looking at me without seeing me, listening to me without hearing.

***
To read other ghost stories, click here. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wednesday Wrap Up (2)

I'm posting this on Tuesday night because I anticipate tomorrow to be a super busy day at work, so I won't be able to sneak in 10 minutes of blogging.


The verdict: Success! I clocked in 4 writing sessions this week!
Well, let's spend a minute defining writing sessions, as my friend Robyn and I did via email earlier in the week. On Friday, I wrote more than 350 words about my story for Sunday Scribblings. One down. On Monday night, I wrote 200 words before being interrupted by something. Today I wrote the remaining 150 on that chunk, and clocked in another 350. Checks two and three. Here's where tallying gets a little funky: On Thursday, I spent an hour in one of my favorite bookstores--The Trident on Newbury Street--researching literary journals that I could send my work to. Though that didn't add to my word count, it did consist of time spent on writing activities, and Robyn and I decided to count those hours,too.

I think of it like how you're "allowed" to count short, 10 minute walks in your daily exercise goal. Would it be most beneficial to get all of your exercise by doing errands on foot? Probably not. But the walking does still count towards the greater goal.

Anyway, this week's goal: met!

And let me reiterate how much having this goal has helped me. There is NO WAY I would've sat down and written tonight after dealing with a washing machine that flooded my upstairs and leaked into my downstairs (yes, this happened to me today) had it not been for knowing that I'd be shamed by reporting my failure here.
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

My week in pictures (1)

We adopted two insanely cute angora bunnies (I can spin yarn from their fur!--once I learn how, that is) I'll let the pictures speak for their adorable selves.


























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Friday, July 11, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: My oldest friend

I immediately had a very personal story tug on me when I saw this prompt, but I want to try to use Sunday Scribbling as a means of getting deeper into my fiction writing, so here is the story of my new main character Ellen's Oldest Friend.

**So just to reiterate, this is fiction. Don't want anyone to think I'm airing info about my failing marriage over the
internet. (Not that I even have a failing marriage. Thankfully!) :) **

I always thought that my husband would be my best friend. I thought that's how it worked. I'd have to watch our wedding video to verify this, but I think I even wrote the word "best friend" into our wedding ceremony. But I guess you can't make a person live up to their promises, can you.

Let me be blunt: I killed my husband's dog. No, I never liked the thing. But no, I didn't
mean
to kill him either. Bob knows this. He must--I've told him a thousand times, even had him back my car out of the driveway so he could see that the dog just happened to be lying in the car's
blind spot, and that there was no way I could've known he was there until I felt the impact and heard his little bones crushing. Even though I'm no animal lover, that sound replays in my head sometimes, and I get so nauseous I have to sit down.

There's no way I
could've killed a dog on purpose.

And I guess that's the crux of the problem, I'm coming to see, how can I be with someone who doesn't know that about me? Who can't, even after 6 months, accept my apology and allow us to move on?

It's not that he says he doesn't believe it was an accident, or even that he doesn't forgive me. No, he's much more on the passive side of the passive-aggressive
equation. He "jokes" about my killing his dog, for instance. In front of other people. As in: In response to something I've said that he doesn't agree with: "This from the woman who killed my dog!" Or, if he's trying to get out of doing something he doesn't want to do, he'll say he can't do it because he's overcome with grief. Convenient that the grief only lasts as long as it takes for me to do whatever it is myself.

At the beginning of the story, when I take him to the hospital because he's having chest pain, I'm scared for him. I'm a bulldog (no pun intended; Shasta was a yellow lab, anyway). I bark at the nurses when they don't get him tested right away to see if he's having a heart attack. I repeat Bob's long list of allergies every time a new orderly comes in to give him some new drug. I'm scared, to be honest, that after all the hard work I've done to try to save my marriage after not being able to save Bob's dog (and then working overtime to pay for the $2,000 vet bill), he'll die on me. And I love him, I do. I tell him that as they roll him into heart surgery. He doesn't say it back.

But then, I witness a doctor-patient apology: he operated on the wrong side of her body. I see in his face the same pain and true regret that I felt about Shasta. I wait for the patient to come back with some nasty comment about the surgeon's incompetence or to call her lawyer. But she doesn't. She accepts the apology, saying she'll need some time to deal with this news, but that she knows he didn't mean to hurt her. She smiles.

After that, I know it's time to leave Bob. If he loved me, he would forgive me and see how much anguish this situation has put me through.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wednesday Wrap Up (1)

Welcome to my first Wednesday Wrap Up, a post where I will publicly declare whether I made my goal of writing 350 words per day, four days of each week.

This first week, I did not make my goal. Whamp-waa (the sound effect from games shows when a person loses).

On the positive side, I did write two days of 350 words, and I know I wouldn't have done so had I not been trying to meet my weekly goal. So, I'm going to count this week as a partial success in that it is allowing me to slowly get into my new writing routine.

Final judgement: Thumbs sideways. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The future of the blog

I've got big plans for this here blog now that I'm actually blogging again. It needs some structure. So here's the plan. Each week I'll post:

* My Monday in A Picture: This photo-centered post will hopefully be pics I took myself that reflect what my week/weekend's been like. If I'm swamped, I'll sub in a photo of someone else's that I like/represents the week.

*Wednesday Wrapup: Detailing how I did meeting my weekly word quota (my week will be Wed. to Wed. where this is concerned).

*On Friday or over the weekend I'll post a Sunday Scribblings post or another writing-prompt oriented post.

And of course, there will be lots of spontaneous posts about all things writerly.

Wish me luck sticking with this ambitous posting plan! Best Blogger Tips

Friday, July 04, 2008

word quotas


I can't believe how much this word quota is getting my butt in the chair. Without it, there's no way I would've opened up my laptop and written as I watched the fireworks on TV. I've got no money riding on this, just pride: I made a vow to write 350, four days a week and since I'm quite the procrastinator, if I don't write today, tomorrow, and Sunday, I'll miss my mark the first week out of the gate. So I wrote.


Happy 4th!! Hope you had as inspiring a time watching the fireworks as I did.
Two ideas for future posts: what makes a book "chick lit", and is the very term sexist? And trying to get my hubby to fulfill his writing goals.
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