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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Thursday, July 03, 2008

350 words: day 1

I did it! I wrote 350 words last night, which was precisely how many I needed to get through that paragraph I needed to add to Cartes Postales. Whoo! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Plans

Ok, it's been a while. I'm slightly embarrassed. But hey, stuff happens. And at least I've returned, right?

So now that I've graduated from both my masters programs, I need a plan to keep me writing. My MFA buddies and I decided on setting a word quota for ourselves. Mine is 350 words, 4 days a week. (Which means I better get writing tonight since I didn't do anything yesterday or Monday...)

I also need some other goals, so here are some for this month:

By July 11
Add paragraph to Cartes Postales and send to the friends who have generously agreed to read it.

By July 25
Research journals and begin sending Cartes out.

By July 31
Decide which other of my thesis stories I would like to send out.

What are your writerly goals for the month? Best Blogger Tips
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