Sunday, March 30, 2008

Breaking up over books

This essay from the NY Times will make book lovers smile. It's about how we judge potential loves by their book knowledge/choices. Though the idea that people would only read/admit to reading books that might make them look good to suitors strikes me as very sad, and makes me glad that A) I'm not single and B) I don't live in New York. The second assertion may not be fair--since the article focuses on New York it's only natural that the people admitting to altering their tastes would also be from New York. But having grown up on Long Island and having friends in the city, I feel qualified to say that Manhattan is a much more judgmental place than the rest of the world. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Calling yourself a feminist is an act of gratitude

I try to keep this blog about writing and other crafts, but occassionally something outside of this realm is so damn appealing that I need to post it and spread the word. If you don't call yourself a feminist, check out this video and hopefully be enlightened. If you do, watch it and be inspired.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Knit pics

I'm very bad about posting pics on the blog. For some reason, it seems like a big pain in the tush. But since I am doing too much thesis work to write anything much on the blog, here are some pics of baby gifts I knit earlier this year.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Can intense people/overachievers be OK with calm?

I recently got introduced to some wonderful craft blogs (links on the side of my blog). These bloggers' lives are what I've always dreamed of. They write, they craft, they hang out with their children, who do their own crafts with their sweet little fingers. They are just like the person who, as a kid, I assumed I'd be when I grew up.

My husband and I are in the process of buying a house--our dream house--the kind of house where I imagined myself doing all that crafting and writing. It's on an acre of land, so we'll have plenty of room for gardens and hanging out (and animals--lots of dogs, rabbits, etc!). It's big enough that I'll get a craft/writing room, where I can decorate as I please and leave yarn all over if I want to. (Of course I'll have to work to help pay for the house, but that's just a pesky detail.)

So now that I'm getting to a place in my life where I can really envision myself living the life I've dreamed of for so long, I find myself asking, Will I really be able to? Will I be able to devote so much time to things that give me pleasure? Will I be able to not feel incredibly guilty doing so? Will I be able to enjoy it without feeling like there are better things I ought to be doing with my time? (Like, say, saving the world.) Is it OK to relax and enjoy life? Will I just find something new to worry about?

I guess I'll find out in the months and years ahead. (I assume that finalizing the buying of this place, selling our condo, and moving will give me enough to stress about in the near future.) But in the mean time, the idea that I could be worried about not worrying is something I Just Don't Get.

For more writing on things that baffle us, check out this week's Sunday Scribblings. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Me and my laptop take a trip

With a condo on the market and a house that's about to be ours, I'm finding it a wee hard to concentrate on my writing. So I'm going away, just me and my laptop. We're taking a bus to Western Mass tomorrow, checking into a B&B and holing up there. When we emerge, I'll have finished drafts of all my thesis stories. Here's my plan:

Tomorrow I'll finish a draft of Cartes Postale, Aneurysm and Sit, Stay (Sit and Aneurysm need just minor work, and I have a detailed plan for Purpose.)

Friday I'll revise Northern Exposure and Bee Keeping (both of which are in their third draft, but need some serious revision still).

Friday night my friend Kathy comes to join me, and Saturday we'll spend the day at a yoga center.

I'm confident I can get the work done once I'm away from the mortgage brokers, realtors, and boxes of my real life. I am so looking forward to only having one thing--my writing--to focus on.

I don't know if I'll have internet connection, but if I do, I'll try to spend some of my down time catching up on the blogs that I haven't had a chance to visit in a million years... Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Every MFA students' fear

If you're worried that, post-graduation, without the structure of an MFA program, your writing will falter, check out this thoughtful advice: Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Last thesis story

I am finally, finally beginning the last major revision for my thesis. There's a ton of minor things to do once I'm through with this, but it will feel good to at least have an idea of the structure and meaning of each story. So now's the time for me to start brainstorming about this story.

Title: Carte Postale

What is it about? A young woman, Chloe, who goes to France a year after her husband unexpectedly dies. She is taking cooking classes there--something she learned about while researching culinary vacations for the magazine she writes for, but her main reason for going is because vacationing alone seems like a hurdle a newly single woman should jump.

Who is Chloe? Chloe is all about jumping hurdles. She's very successful in her life as a magazine writer, and she wants to feel competent about grieving, too. She has tried very hard to keep it together, especially in relation to her mother-in-law, who was obviously grieving herself. Her mother in law is a bit self-centered, and she gave Chloe something to focus on while repressing her own grief.

What happens? She writes postcards to her dead husband, the first kind of journaling she's ever done, even though the grief course she took with her mother-in-law said journaling was a good way to get in touch with the pain.
The writing, being in such a romantic spot, and being away from anyone who needs to be taken care of leads her into real grief for the first time. The grief starts when she pretends to her fellow cooks that her husband is at the Louvre. At first, the denial is only when she's in class. When she gets out, she cries and cries that Ethan won't be meeting her, like she told everyone. At the end of the week, though, she has a mini-breakdown where she allows herself to believe he's alive even after class ends, and when she finally comes out of her imaginary world, she is devastated. But she is also ready to move on.

Some challenges:
*How to present the denial/imaginary world without making it seem like she is crazy?
*How to make the city of Paris come alive in the story

Revision plan:
Reread draft tomorrow during the day
At night, rewrite the cooking class scenes. Make the class span a few days.
Thursday night: Writing group; probably won't work on story
Friday night: Getting a much-needed massage; probably won't work on story
Weekend: Finish revising by thinking about postcard structure, determining what info should be presented to Ethan on each, and in what order. Decide if she needs to sleep with the man she meets (probably yes). Make sure it's clear that Chloe is not crazy, just really wants to believe that her husband isn't dead. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The benefits of watching TV for a writer

In general, I'm not a big fan of television. We don't have cable. I probably watch only an hour or two a week. But, because of some things going on in my life that I hope to be able to blog about soon, I've been a wee bit more stressed than usual. The up side is that has caused me to work out more--I swear, the best way to combat that racing-heart feeling is to make your heart actually need to race. What I had considered the downside was that I've been watching more TV because it's easier to get absorbed in a TV show than it is in a book, when I'm stressed at least.

But I've realized that, while too much TV can certainly be a big time suck and a distraction from writing, it also has its benefits. Currently, I'm hooked on two shows: Grey's Anatomy and Men in Trees. (Lost lost me last week, with all those time travel shenanigans.)

Both shows (and I'm sure others) do something that I've been struggling to do in my writing: they stick to a theme and explore that theme through the episode. For example, in the Men in Trees I just watched, it was thought that one of the characters drowned in a boat accident. His girlfriend is thinking about all she regrets about their relationship--namely that they took too long to get it started. Then, using good transitions, the theme of regret was explored throughout a few of the characters lives, and you saw how regret can mean different things to different people and affect different people differently. Even the minorest of characters--a guy who showed up at a priest's door after a fight with his wife--showed regret.

In thinking about how the television writers brought out the theme, I'm realizing once again how every piece of information that is conveyed in a story really needs to focus on the theme. But my main lesson is that stress relieving TV can be good for the writer--and that if we look hard enough, we'll find teachers and lessons just about everywhere. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

One reason I love the Boston Public Library

I am a huge fan of libraries. (Nerd alert!)

We went to my town public library a ton when I was a kid. My mom is a big reader and we would go together to get books for the both of us. (She later ended up working there.) Now, I'm a "friend" of the Jamaica Plain public library, meaning I donate to them so they can buy new books and maintain their falling apart building as best they can.

My absolute favorite thing about the library is that you can search their web site for the book you're looking for, and if any branch of the library (including some public school libraries) has it, you can order it and they'll deliver it to your local branch! How cool is that?

that I have three books waiting for me. What a treat I'll get this evening!! (FYI, I'll be reading: The Annie I just went online to seeDilliard Reader, Away by Amy Bloom, and A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham.) Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Calm, finally

I'm feeling calm for what feels like the first time in years. I think I had to get to the opposite of calm, as I did last night, to be able to come back to calm. I've learned some lessons through this, though:

1- It does everyone involved good if you say no if you don't think you can make it somewhere. On Friday, I really wanted to go support Poetmom at her reading. But it was an hour away from me, and I had a few things I needed to do after work before I could get there. A last minute flag-on-the-play meant I just couldn't make it in time. I knew I was going to be harried getting there, and I should've just expressed my regrets from the get go instead of cancelling at the last minute.

2- I ended up at a yoga class after doing the stuff I needed to do. It was the perfect anecdote to the anxiety surrounding rushing and canceling plans.

3- Sometimes it feels really good to organize. I spent hours and hours today organizing our condo and our tax documents. Brian went out to do homework at his school. The only time I can happily do housework is if I'm alone. Something about doing it while someone else does anything else (even if it's homework) makes me feel like a martyr. But organizing alone is a fantastic feeling.

4- Bouncing off my wonderful yoga experience, I meditated today, and I'm going to take a yoga class tomorrow morning. I think today's meditation is keeping me relatively calm as I react to:

5- I'm behind on my writing. Again. It's so strange how I really, really, really want the stories in my thesis to be great, but I'm often finding myself resisting working on them. Maybe my next post will be a Letter to my Thesis, ala RB. Best Blogger Tips