Monday, December 21, 2009

An ode to Poet Mom

I had the pleasure and honor of attending the book party for Underlife, the first book by Poet Mom (aka January Gill O'Neill). I am finding it hard to describe how wonderful it was. In fact I'm getting teary even trying to. It felt like a dream, and it wasn't even my book party! I can only imagine how much January was/is floating after wards.

The first part of the event--the reading--was held in Jan's hometown library, a historic building that set the scene beautifully.



I got lost getting there, and arrived just in time to hear Erin give a polished and proud introduction of her friend. It was a bitterly cold evening, and I brought a rush of cold air in with me as I quickly found a seat among the 40 or so people gathered. My eyes were wet from the biting wind, but they overflowed with happy tears when Jan took the microphone and did a wonderful job of thanking the friends and family who supported her, and then reading several brave, funny poems.

Jan looked GORGEOUS and read beautifully and confidently (click here for a short video of her reading). Everyone hung on her every word, and she got a standing ovation when she finished. AND, the bookstore selling copies of her book sold out almost immediately after the reading, and had to dip into Jan's own stash to fulfill the customers.
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After the reading, I chatted with a number of the interesting people at the party. I was nervous going in since I really only knew the star of the show and the emcee (Erin), who I knew would be busy. But everyone was warm and welcoming, and just as quickly as my cold toes defrosted in the warm air of the library, my nerves melted. And best of all, since the audience was filled with many of Jan's writer friends, I got to talk writing! One of my all time favorite subjects. :)

Since I know January in real life, I know how much work she puts into her art, and that knowledge made being part of the fruition of that work all the more sweet. She signed my copy of Underlife, and pointed out that I even got a shout out in the acknowledgments, since I had read and commented on the manuscript.

One of my favorite touches from the party was that she had a copy of Underlife for all of us to sign, a guest book for her to remember all of us who were there for what must be one of the highlights of her life--the party really was one of the highlights of mine! Best Blogger Tips

Dear Friends: The low-lights of the year

As promised, here is my sarcastic, always-look-on-the-dull side anti-Christmas letter.

I'm finding this letter hard to write, not because I had a perfect year filled only with happy, pride-inducing moments, but because it's part of my flawed psychological make up to bury the less-than-happy memories in hopes that I can pretend they never happened. Hence the years and years of therapy.

From said therapy, I can tell you this flaw is all my parents' fault. In fact, one of the low-lights of the year came in the days after Thanksgiving, when my family stayed with us. In true Bug-family style, no one talked about anything that was bothering them until my parents decided to leave early, giving no reason why (and of course I didn't ask for one, not only because that would truly go against our nature, but also because I didn't want to make them thing I didn't want them to go).

So now B and I are very much looking forward to spending Christmas with them! B is especially excited about the fights being with them will bring up between the two of us, because you know it's awesome to have to pretend you're totally happy with one another because your in-laws are watching your every move.

Speaking of in-laws, B's family has had a spate of bad luck this year: two elderly grandparents are hospitalized and don't seem to be getting any better, a middle-aged uncle got diagnosed with cancer and died about 2 weeks later, and my step-father also just received a cancer diagnosis. The guilt we felt about not spending Christmas with B's family? Now quadrupled.

On my own health front, I spent all of November and part of October battling a bug that made me exhausted and achy. Then, just as that cleared, I got a bout of chronic headaches that strike everyday between 1 and 2 p.m. They're so precise I don't even need a watch! Talking with my doctor to figure out if they're migraine or tension headaches, but either way, headaches are one of those poorly understood conditions that call for lots of trial and error. So I see lots of doctor's appointments in my future. It'll be a good excuse to get to know my doctor better.

B has also had a list of illnesses (chronic and acute) that I won't go into here lest I breach his privacy. But let's just say it's a long and varied list, much longer say, than the list of things I want for Christmas. Fun!

Now that health and the families are covered, we can move on to the low-lights of my writing life. They mostly consist of the pile of rejection letters housed in my desk drawer--a new one just added to the pile days ago! What a nice surprise to see a SASE in my handwriting amidst the cheery green and red envelopes in my mailbox. I couldn't wait to open it to find out who had rejected me now. (An anthology of stories about baseball, if you must know.)

We also added an insanely difficult-to-train dog to our little family. Nothing like a dog that constantly, and I mean CONSTANTLY, needs attention/reassurance to annoy the crap out of you. And speaking of crap--he's also been difficult to potty train! And our other dog has developed the wonderful ability to grab food off of the counter no matter how far back you place it/what kind of security system you set up. Say bye-bye to lots of "cooling" Christmas cookies...

I think that covers most of 2009. Looking forward to learning what will ail me, my family, and the world in the New Year. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dear Friends

I know the Christmas Letter is the butt of many, many jokes. But truth be told, I like getting these letters tucked into holiday cards, especially when they're from friends and family I don't talk to all that often.

The letters provide a little peak into their world, kind of like Facebook status updates do. Of course, the letter (and Facebook) generally just highlights, well, the highlights of the year. Rarely do you hear about the minor and major heartbreaks that hit us all day to day. And rarely does a Facebook status update--or a week of status updates--really capture the gritty part of a person's life.

I understand why this is--people are much more comfortable sharing happy news with a large number of people who they don't talk to in their every day lives. Sharing miseries and misfortunes is much more intimate, and therefore shared for those friends and loved ones who are in our day-to-day lives, not those who are in our virtual world or on our Christmas card lists.

But something gets lost, too, when we share only the sweet things in life. We don't allow ourselves to be truly known, and we also perpetuate the myth that bad things don't happen to everyone. Then when we ourselves are going through a hard time, we look at all the "happy" people around us and feel that much more alone.

So wouldn't it be fun if we shared an anti-Christmas letter, featuring only the low-lights of the year? Me thinks it would. I'll post mine in the next day or so. If you're so inclined, please do the same. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A little bit of Hope

I subscribe to a wonderful e-newsletter for writers called Funds for Writers. The editor, Hope Clark, sends a weekly email with a list of publications calling for submissions, grants for writers, etc. Each newsletter opens with a letter written by Hope, and the most recent one really hit home, so I wanted to share it with you. Here are some excerpts from it:

I counsel writers who fear rejection. Some fear they waste
time writing when the piece might not be accepted. There are
two frictions going on here.

1. The fear of complete strangers.
2. The naivete that only published writing is worth the effort.

...

You determine your outlook, not the naysayers. In reality,
as you dwell on why someone rejected you, your competition
is querying, pitching and advancing their careers. Stewing
in your juices is self-deprecating.

Unfortunately, many folks get stuck in a personal-put-down
rut. It's more comfortable than the risk of putting themselves
out there for scrutiny again. They fuss about editors, agents
and publishers, when they'd be more successful if they sucked
it up and worked harder instead.

Move forward in your writing career. Write. Query. Take the
rejections on the chin and don't go down. Move past it. Don't
look back. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, December 11, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I think I've posted before about this 6 Word Memoir Project. Currently they have a 6 Word New Year's Resolution Project. I just posted a few on the site:

More: writing, kissing, dog walking, connecting

Will do more "wants," fewer "shoulds"

Remember: Where you are is OK

Listen to inner voice when deciding

What are your resolutions-in-6-words?

Amazingly, I think those few words about sum up my goals for the year, at least at the meta level. More specifically, I hope to:

Finish a draft of the novel by March, spend the spring revising, and then have writer-friends review it over the summer.

Publish a #*^&$% story already. (A few are out in the world, hopefully finding wonderful, loving homes as we speak.)

Really think about whether I want to say yes to something before doing so. I've found that I get really resentful when I say yes to things I don't really want to do, which isn't fair to myself or the person doing the inviting. After all, it's not her fault I overbooked myself instead of possibly disappointing her.

Put the time and effort necessary into my marriage to keep it strong. It is the most important relationship in my life, but nurturing it can fall by the wayside if I'm not careful, which is so silly because nurturing it is actually quite enjoyable!

Walk the dogs in the woods/dog park once a week, no matter the weather. I love getting out there with them, and so do they. Just have to make it a priority.

Continue my routines regarding: morning pages, meditation, exercising, and writing.

That's about it from me. I'd love to hear your resolutions, too! Best Blogger Tips

Boston Book Festival

I attended a few of the events at the first annual Boston Book Festival, and really enjoyed them. The best part was seeing the hundreds of people who schlepped out on a very wet weekend to celebrate literature. For those of you who missed the event, the organizers just posted videos from some of the sessions on their web site. Enjoy! Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Notebook: completed!

Remember the journal I made ? I used it all up! Every page is filled with either morning pages or chapters of my novel. It's a nice reminder of how much I've been writing lately, and how I finally seem to have found a system that works. I feel like I'm getting a lot of work done, I'm not stressing about it, and it seems to be an organic part of my life as opposed to something I'm constantly worrying about smushing in.

Here's my current system, FYI. If you don't have a routine that's working for you, I hope this inspires you. If you do have a routine that is working for you, please share it in the comments:

* I write morning pages (three, sometimes two, pages of journaling/brain-dumping) on the train ride into work in the morning.

* Two nights a week I either come home or go to a coffee shop and write my novel, longhand in my notebook, for about an hour.

* One of the weekend days, I also devote an hour or two to the novel.

* In these three focused times, I usually get a rough draft of one chapter done. Once it's done, I'll spend another hour or two typing it up, editing as I go.

Assuming I can stick with this routine, I should be able to have a draft done by March--just in time to celebrate during my 10-day trip to Costa Rica! Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Artist's Date

I am a big fan of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Even though the book is a little too hippy-dippy spiritual for my personal taste at times, I think it offers amazing insights into artists' minds and hearts, and the many things that derail us from getting our work done.

One of the concepts Cameron suggests for remaining creatively productive is a once a week artist date, where you go somewhere by yourself with the sole purpose of getting in touch with your creativity/giving your creative brain a chance to come out and play.

I'm not all that great about making time for these dates, but I came across information about an interesting-sounding multimedia exhibit at a gallery in East Boston. Even though this is a crazy time of year, I am committing myself to taking a few hours of vacation time, leaving work early one day, and heading down to the gallery and then out for a nice dinner all by my lonesone. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, December 04, 2009

Books, books, books

I recently read an amazing review of Alice Munro's latest collection. As I've mentioned here before, I heart Alice Munro. But I want to share this review because it itself is a work of art--it basically serves as a short guide as to how to read, think about, and write stories.

I also loved this review on Salon.com of a book about Christmas, called Tinsel: A search for America's Christmas present. The last lines of the review are so poetic:
Without belaboring any of his points, Stuever gently unveils a place where, in celebrating their most iconic holiday, people long for a past that never existed, beguile each other with bogus sentimental yarns, scare themselves with the imaginary menaces lurking "outside" their sanctuary and try to retreat further into a safety that actually bores them stiff. That's Christmas, American style: a gingerbread house too small and sweet to move into, but we keep trying all the same.

Lastly, I was excited to see the New York Times top ten books of 2009 list. I plan to use the list as a reading guide for my first books of 2010.

Have you read any great books or book reviews recently? Suggestions welcome! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 30, 2009

Writing about NaNo

Check it out! I published a column in the Easton Journal on my NaNoWriMo experience--namely about how trying to write a novel in a month can be about community-building as much as it is about novel-building. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks-giving

Thanksgiving is about two things: Food and being grateful. (Football probably makes the list for lots of people, but not this non-sports fan!) So I thought I'd make this Thanksgiving-eve post about both.

First, the food. I've been doing a lot of cooking lately, and I thought I'd share some of my new favorite vegetarian recipes:

These spicy sweet potato patties are a delicious side dish, or, if you eat enough of them (and you'll want to!), they're a filling meal.

Here's an easy-peasy brocolli dish that's a little more intersting than the typical brocolli fare.

My mom's Italian, and so I was raised to love love love Italian food. Since my husband doesn't eat cheese, I rarely make the dairy-heavy dishes, but I made these cheese-stuffed eggplant roll-ups recently, and boy was I glad I did. Yum, yum, yum.

And lastly, here's my favorite Thankgiving recipe of all time--acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, cranberries, and hazelnuts. Even the turkey eaters who bless my table on Thanksgiving save a big spot on their plate for one of these babies. I've altered the recipe here and there since I've been making it for 5+ years now, but it's delicious as is, too.

****

Now onto the giving of thanks. Like most people I know, I've got a ton to be thankful for. Even as we all deal with life's little and big challenges (in my case, a nasty cold/flu virus that has been attacking my poor immune system for the last 4 weeks now!), there are so many things we take for granted, like clean water and warm homes and the internet (really! Think about how the internet has changed your life!).

But I'd like to list the things that are more personally meaningful to me this year:

*Finding--no MAKING--the time to nurture my budding novel and various other creative pursuits.

*The friends who encourage the above.

*The husband, who seems to truly get just how important writing is to me (even though he won't "let" me quit my job and write full time.)

*This blog's readers! It's been so much fun to "meet" new people and reconnect with old friends via this blog.

I could go on and on, but those are the blessings on my mind at the moment. How about you, what are your top 4 things to be thankful for this year?

Here are some pics from last Thanksgiving, enjoy!


My sister-in-law with my chicken chalkboard

My dad being silly while my mom smiles beautifully for the camera.

My mom and I getting down to work.

A Mayflower replica Brian made

The place cards I made

(I'm having some trouble alighning the captions with the photos...hope it's obvious which should go with which!)

Happy Thanksgiving all! Best Blogger Tips

Friday, November 20, 2009

New blog element

Check out the left hand column for my list of "desert island books," aka books I could read over and over and over again. I'm sure there are some I've forgotten, and hopefully I'll come across many more in my reading path...I was happily surprised to see how many short story collections are on there. I tend to plow through novels, but savor short stories, so maybe that's why. I'm still contemplating a book of poetry that should go on there. Will fill you in when I decide...

How about you, what are your desert island books? Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Wild Card

A few random writing-related things on my mind today:


A teacher at Lesley University (the amazing place where I did my MFA) has come out with a new book I want to read, Yarn: Remembering the Way Home. I didn't work with Kyoko Mori much, but she seemed like a lovely, thoughtful person, so I'm guessing her writing will be, too. Also, Kyoko is giving a reading tomorrow night near Boston. I can't go, unfortunately, but thought I would spread the word...


The lovely and talented Erin Dionne is giving away swag with a phrase from Shakespeare's plays to promote Erin's YA book: Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet. One of the pieces of merch is a mug with this quote from Mid Summer Night's Dream: And though she be but little, she is fierce. As a petite, 5'2" woman, that quote sang to me. My next random purchase will be a t-shirt with that quote on it.



Speaking of lovely and talented writers I know, Ms. January Gill's first collection of poetry is about to come out! I can't wait to attend her book party and celebrate this awesome accomplishment. Now go buy her book. :)



And lastly, there's an interesting talk going on at Harvard Book Store on Dec. 2 that I plan on going to. Author Steve Almond will discuss his new book, This Won't Take But a Minute, Honey. The interesting thing about this book is that he self-published it, using an on-demand printer located in Harvard Book Store. I'm curious as to why an established author would go the self publishing route. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 16, 2009

Things I've said no to



* Going on a Halloween bike ride (which sounded really, really awesome)

* Joining the Lion's Club

* Going to my mother-in-law's for dessert on Thanksgiving

* Tutoring an extra evening with the ESL volunteer work I do

* Extending my family Christmas trip to Arizona so that it would take up all of my holiday time off

Which isn't to say that I didn't want to say yes to all of these things (OK, I didn't want to say yes to the Lions Club--being on one town committee, the cultural council, is more than enough). But I am learning my limits. Learning to listen to my instincts about how much I can actually do. Learning to honor the part of me that needs down time, and needs writing time. Learning that if I don't fiercely protect that time, it will get taken up and taken over faster than you can say "Sure I'd love to." Best Blogger Tips

Friday, November 13, 2009

Glee!

I was home sick AGAIN today, but instead of complaining about my coughing and sneezing, I instead will tell you about my new favorite show, which I discovered during my hours of convalescence: Glee! It's about a high school glee club, and the humor is ironic, the characters are well defined, and the musical numbers are uplifting.

It's just about the only thing in the world that has made me nostalgic for high school. It even made me ask myself the question that sometimes bounces around in my head, Do I want to teach high school? Obviously it'd be a major career change, but it's something I think about from time to time, and this delightful show brought up those thoughts once again.

You can watch most of the episodes on through Fox's website (link above). Check it out. Let me know what you think. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaNo, MeMo, and Cold-Mo

A brief check in to let you all know that I'm still alive, still writing and still meditating, and STILL SICK (ugh, more on that below).

NaNo looks very different for me this year than it did last year--instead of writing like a madwoman every day on my laptop to get my word counts up, I'm taking a more sane approach of writing in my notebook three or more times a week. Then when I finish a chapter, I take some time to type it up, doing a small editing job along the way.

I've finished both steps of chapter 2 thus far. I finished chapter 3 on paper, but need to get it typed up still. I will be starting chapter 4 by hand tonight, at one of our twice-weekly meetings at Easton's Ames Free Public Library cottage. I must remember to take pictures soon. It's a lovely space, and being there really does get me in the mood to write.

So, about this damn cold/cough. It. Will Not. Go. Away. It's like one of those burrs that gets stuck to your clothing when you're walking outside. When you notice it, you pull it off and think it's gone, but then for weeks afterwards you find little spikes embedded in your jacket fibers.

I thought this cold was a goner after I spent a ton of time resting and relaxing this weekend. I was still coughing on Monday and Tuesday, but my energy was back and I felt mostly normal. Then yesterday, I wake up with a headache, and promptly go back to sleep. I slept for hours and still felt exhausted. Today, I dragged my achy butt out of bed and to work, but I am not happy about it. Contemplating staying home tomorrow, though I'm a wee bit embarrassed to take off more time to nurse the same damn cold!

Anyway, that's my rant for the day. Out damn cold, out!

Hope you all are feeling better than I am, and writing just as much! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Some days off

We have Wednesday off in honor of Veteran's Day, and so I took tomorrow and Tuesday off too, just for fun. I have no real agenda for these days, though as anyone who knows me can predict, I do have a long list of things I'd like to get done. That said, in honor of MeMo (MeditationMonth), I am planning to play it by ear, just doing what I want to do when I want to do it. No pressure on myself to complete anything in particular.

Here are some of the things I think I'll feel like doing/hope to get done sometime relatively soon:

Write everyday
Meditate everyday
Make some cool napkin rings for Thanksgiving
Frame some photos to give as gifts
Alter a few pieces of clothing to make them more comfortable/useful
Continue knitting Baby Emma's sweater
Paint the stairs
Work on my Bug room (aka home office)
Rake leaves and winterize the backyard
Make my wedding photo album (5+ years after the fact!)
Try some new recipes
Watch artist-themed movies I have from Netflix (Pollack and Frida, at the moment)

Let's see what the spirit moves me to actually do! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday Scribblings: Interview


My parents and me at my grad school graduation.

I don't know what prompted me to check out Sunday Scribblings just now, but I'm glad I did. The topic is interview, and immediately I thought of a project I have been meaning to do for ages, but that I keep backing away from. I want to interview my parents, on tape, about their childhoods. My dad grew up in Germany during WWII, so clearly he has a lot of important stories that should be recorded. My mom had a less historically significant childhood, but one that I am personally curious about none the less.

Also, I think back to these tapes my brothers and I made of my grandparents when we were kids. Sometimes we would press "record" without telling them, and capture snippits of fights or conversations about mundane details of life, like what's for dinner. After they died, being able to listen to their voices was such a gift for all of us.

I think I shy away from doing this because my family is not a particularly touchy feely one. We don't talk about emotions, or even what's important to us as much as I wish we did. So it's scary. It feels like I'm taking a sailboat into emotionally choppy waters with a crew that has never experiences those waves before.

But as scary as it is, I know it's something I will regret if I don't do. I promise, with this blog as my witness, to get recordings made over the holidays. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ripped from the headlines....and NaNo update

In my writing classes, I often use news stories as writing prompts. When I read this news story about a murdered woman whose body was identified 55 years after she died, it grabbed my attention as something that could spark a number of fictional stories. (I post this with no disrespect to her family intended.) So if anyone's looking for a writing prompt, consider yourself served.

Yesterday, on day 3 of NaNo, I finished a draft of chapter 2 of my novel in progress. Today I'm going to type it up (I've been writing long hand) so I can send it to my critique group. Then tomorrow, I'll start on chapter 3, hopefully making up for today's lack of freshly written words.

I'm fairly amazed with myself for getting a whole chapter done already! It's challenging to move this quickly though, so I'm glad to take a night off from moving my characters forward. I need a little time to percolate.

And now I'm off to have some tea-- one of the plus sides of cold evenings is an intense craving for tea. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Music and writing



I had an annoying evening last night--my train was delayed because of wet leaves on the tracks (Really MBTA? Wet leaves? You didn't expect wet leaves on the tracks in the fall? Maybe you could, I don't know, CLEAR THE TRACKS OVER THE WEEKEND, LIKE I RAKE MY DAMN YARD?) and a dog that is willfully REFUSING to be trained. (Maybe his name, Rufus, comes from a play on refuse.)

So when I got to my NaNo time, I was not in the mood to write. But it was only day 2, and damn it if I'm giving up that easily. I started writing, and then found myself distracted by Facebook and the web in general. I turned off the computer and took my notebook to my bedroom, where I shut the door to get away from said annoying Rufus. But I could hear him pawing at the door to get in.

My Ipod happened to be nearby, so I plugged in the earbuds and tuned into one of my favorite bands, Iron and Wine. I usually can't write with music, but for whatever reason last night it helped me get in the zone. I think the choice of bands was important--I know Iron and Wine's songs so well that I can appreciate them without listening too hard. Plus, the feel of the music is what I'm trying to get across in my writing, so the tones matched.

I just tried listening to music while doing editing for my day job, but that didn't work. The stuff I'm editing is pretty scientific and complex, and the music was just distracting. My conclusion? Music is a good sometimes accompaniment for my writing.

How about you? Do you listen to music when you write?

(Oh, and I'm not sure who created the adorable image I posted here, so I can't give credit, but I do want to link to a place where you can buy shirts with the image on them.) Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaNoWriMo: Day 1

Here's a short look at NaNo Day 1:

Slept late (thank you daylight savings!)

Went for a long walk with sis-in-law and Rufus (the dog)

Read for a while, and contemplated taking a nap

Got a text from two NaNo buddies (in fact, I met them during last year's NaNo and have become friends)that they were coming over for our write in

Frantically cleaned house and made coffee

Chatted for a while, drank Irish coffees, ate lots of pumpkin bars I had made two days ago

Then wrote 5 pages!

Made a bunch of yummy food: Butternut Squash Pizza, salad, and mixed veggie curry with basmati rice

Ate some of the curry; divvied the rest of the food into tupperware to take for lunches

Wrote 1 more page to reach my daily goal of 6 pages!!

Now off to fold some laundry, and then meditate.

Om and Happy Writing to all! Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Good quote

When a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, to live inside an imaginary world, the pains of this world disappear. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exists.
~Paul Auster in his novel Brooklyn Follies Best Blogger Tips

Bye Bye October

On this last day of the month, I thought I'd revisit the October to-do list I posted ealier, and see what I actually got done.

Tasks I completed
Finished one of the baby sweaters I'm making for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's babies, in time for the baby shower and the baby's birth! I also ordered the yarn I needed to finish the other baby sweater.

Got the short short "Marriages Mysteries" revised. Waiting for a friend's comments and then will send out.

Got the longer short story "Trying" revised and sent it out.

Sent out my body image essay (still need to get this out to more mags)

Wrote a pitch for the Coupling column of the Boston Globe


Didn't get to:
Write a pitch for an article on simultaneous submissions and find some writing mags where it might find a home.

Write a pitch for Utube's first literary journal, Shape of a Box. (Though I did brainstorm about this and plan to go back to it.)

Extra writing I did that wasn't on my list
Worked on a story titled Obit Artist. It's based on something I started last fall, but then left simmering on the back burner until now. I plan to work on it a bit today in hopes of having a first draft done before WriMo begins tomorrow.

On a personal note, I'm not doing too much for Halloween this year, and I am just fine with that. We'll hand out candy and then head to B's aunt's and uncle's to hang outside with a fire pit and some drinks, watching the kiddies run around. I will leave you with a picture of the pumpkins we and some friends carved earlier in the season:



Also, I grew my very own pumpkin in the yard this year! Picture of the cutey to come... Best Blogger Tips

Friday, October 30, 2009

2010: A Publishing Odyssey, Part II

I plan to listen to Part I of this conference call this weekend (via the download feature on the website). Assuming I like it, I'll call in for Part II on November 4. The calls are supposed to cover the changing world of publishing, so I thought some of my readers might be interested too.

2010: A Publishing Odyssey, Part II

Posted using ShareThis Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, October 29, 2009

NaNoWriMo, and also MeMo

As some of you may have gathered from reading this blog or knowing me in real life, I have the teensiest problem handling stress. It's not that I can't keep cool in a stressful situation--those I'm generally fine with. It's that I can't relax when stress levels are at normal, everyday levels. So, basically, I'm stressed whenever I'm not in crisis mode or lying on a beach somewhere. I'm only slightly exaggerating.

I mention this now because I've decided to give myself a lifestyle makeover that includes lots of relaxation in November. What better time, right? Since I'll be trying to write 50,000 words that month? Wait...

This does make sense, I swear. I want to set up a daily or almost daily meditation routine (MeMo= Meditation Month). What has kept me from successfully doing this in the past is finding a dedicated time to fit it in. Most people suggest first thing in the morning, but clearly those people don't realize that if I sit on a cushion with my eyes closed directly after getting out of bed, I will fall asleep. And that's if I make it out of bed on time in the first place.

So my thinking is that for NaNo, I have to say no to lots of the things that normally keep me away from my house until late in the evening. Therefore, I theoretically should be able to set aside an hour before I go to bed to meditate. See, makes sense, right? I even bought a meditation cushion today.

Three more days until I officially break it in... and start NaNo! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 26, 2009

Some NaNoWriMo inspired math

Writing 50,000 words (the definition of a novel, according to NaNoWriMo) over the course of a month = writing 1,666.67 words a day.

250 words = a typical type-written, double-spaced page.

Therefore, writing a novel in a month = writing 6.67 pages a day.

Doesn't sound so tough when you break it down, does it? Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Words of Wisdom on Writing

Just in time for NaNoWriMo:

"Writing a novel--actually picking the words and filling in paragraphs--is a tremendous pain in the ass. Now that TV's so good and the Internet is an endless forest of ditraction, it's damn near impossible."
Steve Hely, in his novel How I Became a Famous Novelist

[As an aside, I didn't like this book. In fact, I stopped reading it half way. The constact stream of ironic humor kept me at a distance from the narrator, so I never started caring about what happened to him. That said, Brian loved the book, so clearly the voice appeals to some...just not me!] Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Break time

I just love this video, which talks about the benefits of sabbaticals. How nice would it be to take a year-long break from all your responsibilities every 7 years or so? Imagine what your mind and body would feel like--during that year, and then for the years after. I feel the tension in my shoulders draining just thinking about it.

I doubt I'll ever have the opportunity to take multiple year-long sabbaticals, but I am hoping to work shorter sabbaticals into my life through writers' retreats/colonies. I will surely show this to my boss(es) when I try to convince them to let me take some extended time off.

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Best laid plans... (once again)

OK, whoever created that schedule must have thought she was working with a super human who doesn't need to sleep, or any down time. As if yesterday, I could really: Go to work, commute home, let out the dogs and feed them, go to a 2 hour meeting for the Cultural Council, and then come home and write. Aside from the fact that I left myself no time for dinner, there's no way my little brain could focus on writing after a day like that.

So, my new plan is to write for a few hours tonight, and to write for a few hours each on Saturday and Sunday. Much simpler. Much more pleasant. Much more doable.

When I made this decision this morning (while writing my Artist-Way inspired morning pages), I felt an instant calm wash over me. I enjoyed my writing/reading time on the train for the first time all week. I enjoyed my walk from the train to my office. I felt like I could breath. Is there any better indication of a decision well made? I think not. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 19, 2009

Libraries and e-books

After reading this NY Times article on libraries buying and loaning e-books, I'm left with two clashing views. I love libraries. I borrow books just about every week. I read a ton, and if I were to buy every book I read, I'd be broke and have a house that was condemnable due to clutter. And in a broader sense, I think it's only right that literature be available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay for it. In this vein, I don't see why libraries shouldn't buy the rights to e-books and lend them out like they do traditional books.

That said, I know how much work goes into creating a book. Writers deserve to be paid for that work (much more than most published writers are currently paid). I hope to publish a book some day soon. I hope to make money off that book so I can devote more of my time to writing. So I'm sympathetic to the worries of publishers and authors that no one will buy an e-book if they can get it for free from their library. This argument doesn't apply in the same way to print books--when you buy a print book, you get something you can keep on your shelf and lend to a friend. The same is not true when you buy an e-book. So while I sometimes go out and buy books that I read in the library and really loved and want to own, I can't imagine the same would be true for something I read on my computer/Ipod/whatever other devise one might have.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this debate. Please comment away! Best Blogger Tips

This week's schedule

[Edited on Tuesday: I realize now that this plan is a wee bit too ambitious. I learned this when my body would not get out of bed this morning, which means no spin class for me. I will edit this post throughout the week and add bracketed notes describing how much of the schedule I actually stuck to. This is an important part of learning one's limits--another lesson I seem to need to learn again and again.]

October is slipping away too quickly! (I won't even talk about the fact that it SNOWED here this weekend, making it feel much more like March than October.) It's been a good month, filled with lots of fun social engagements. But, and this seems to be the story of my life, when my social calendar is full, my writing book is empty. Balancing these two needs--the need to feel connected to others and the need to write--is going to be my life's work, it seems. (If only I could ditch the need to work and the need to fulfill what can be lots of other obligations, I'd be all set.)

So, as I always do when life feels too hectic to get a handle on, I need to make a schedule. (I'm also tracking my exercise here, because that's another thing I can't live without if I want to stay sane.)Here goes:

Monday
Exercise: Yoga-pilates class
Writing: Journaling on train in the morning/Revising on computer in the evening
(Also have to fit a PT appointment in the evening, which I go to for chronic headaches)
[Got all of these items done. Whoo!]

Tuesday
Exercise: Spin class
Writing: I have a Cultural Council meeting in the evening. Will probably need to prep for that on the train ride in to work. I plan to go to Starbucks after the meeting to get my journaling/revising time in.
[No spin class, slept late instead.]

Wednesday
Exercise: Run, hopefully before work outside with Rufus (the dog) if the weather is nice.
Writing: Brian has class on Wednesday night, so I plan to take this time alone at home to really pound out some revisions. I'll journal on the train ride into work.

Thursday
Exercise: Nothing formal, some walking to and from the train/various out-of-the-office meetings.
Writing: Journaling on the way into work. Nothing else.
Evening: Volunteer ESL teaching at Unity Church

Friday
Exercise: Yoga class
Writing: Plan to head to a coffee shop to write before meeting some friends for dinner and this Bill Maher show (!).

Saturday
Exercise: Hike with Brian and the dogs
Writing: Will journal post-hike while B studies. Then we'll head to the Boston Book Festival.

Sunday
Exercise: Yoga class in the morning. Then errands. Then I'll head into Boston to work on writing in a coffee shop until book club at 5.

This feels like a good balance of writing and socializing. Let's see if I can pull it off...Wish me luck! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Easton's Cultural Corner

As part of my role on the Cultural Council, I pitched a column to our local newspaper, The Easton Journal, covering cultural issues. They bit, and my first one was printed on Thursday. Check it out here! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Poetry Wheel

A while back, I read somewhere about a poet who rented a booth at a fair and charged a dollar for a poem written on the spot, using a theme or words that the customer offered. Years later, I ran into a similar concept in a NYC subway station--a guy was sitting behind a table with a big sign that read "POEMS". For a donation, he would type up a poem on the spot on his typewriter and give it to you. I participated, and though I can't find the poem he wrote at the moment, I remember it was about a girl in a red coat (the color of coat that I was wearing).

When the Easton Cultural Council (which I am the publicity director for) wanted to come up with an activity we could bring to the town's Fall Festival, those two experiences came to mind. I googled around a bit, and voila! I found a kid-friendly poetry activity: The Poetry Wheel.

Luckily, a friend of one of the Council members had a wheel he made for carnival games at his temple. We borrowed it, and I made some word tags using words I cut out from magazines.



When I first suggested the poetry wheel concept, some members seemed a little hesitant: Would kids really want to write poems at a fair? Wouldn't it be too much like school?

We figured out the answer when, during the first hour of the fair, we got more kids than the three adults manning the booth could handle. We had a line! (Granted, we did offer them candy as a prize after they completed their poem. But even still, 9 out of 10 kids seemed to enjoy the writing part as much as the candy part.)

I just hope one of these budding poets will look back on the Poetry Wheel as one of the things during their childhood that inspired and excited them about writing.

(We also decorated the booth using lanterns made out of soda bottles and tissue paper. We're hoping to bring a lantern walk to Easton, similar to the lantern walk Brian and I participated in in Jamaica Plain for 10+ years.)


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More on saying no

If I believed in the universe sending me messages, I would take getting this article in my email box about the freedom that comes from being able to say no as a sign. Especially since it comes on the heals of my post about setting limits.

Along those lines, my friend Shannon just wrote about fitting creative pursuits into her life in a beautifully titled post, Row by Row.

Even if I don't believe the "universe" is sending me this message, I'm picking up on it none the less. Must. Say. No. Best Blogger Tips

30 and Below? Not any more...

I think of myself as someone who's not overly concerned about aging. But I'm starting to wonder if that's just because I'm still relatively young! A few things conspired to make me think about aging: I spent time with four generations of family this weekend, I was incredibly excited when I got carded at my cousins wedding, on the plane ride home I learned that I am not that much younger than People Magazine, and, most relevant to this blog's topic of creative living, I came across this contest for young writers. I clicked on the link announcing the contest and realized I'm too old to participate! Talk about a reality check... Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Writerbug regrets that it is impossible, under any circumstances, for her to...

I recently learned of a writing/poetry blog I really like, Book of Kells. Kelli has a post about productivity that I found especially relevent to me and to many of my friends, who are trying to accomplish much--and succeeding, though sometimes at the price of their happiness and sanity.

The post talks about a writer called Edmund Wilson, a very influential book critic in the 1920s. Here's how he dealt with being asked to do too many things: One, he didn't worry about trying to please everyone, which of course is impossible and only distracts you from the things that are important to YOU. And two, he used the following form letters to decline requests:

Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him without compensation to:

read manuscripts
contribute to books or periodicals
do editorial work
judge literary contests
deliver lectures
address meetings
make after-dinner speeches
broadcast;

Under any circumstances to:

contribute to or take part in symposiums
take part in chain-poems or other collective compositions
contribute manuscripts for sales
donate copies of his books to libraries
autograph books for strangers
supply personal information about himself
supply photographs of himself
allow his name to be used on letter-heads
receive unknown persons who have no apparent business with him.


Pretty awesome, no? What would your list look like, if you had the balls to hand it out?

My list of things I won't do would include:
Stop to hear your schpeel/sign your petition when I am exiting the grocery store

Plan office parties/buy going away presents even if it means that no one else is going to think to do it

Say yes to social engagements that I am not 100% excited about going to. (This already feels impossible, even in my imaginary life. I will ammend to say: "Say yes to social engagements that I am not 100% excited about unless the guilt regarding saying no feels too great." God I'm weak.)

Feel the need to keep friendships going when they don't seem to be nourishing either party

*********
If I could implement these things, I bet my life would feel much more balanced, especially in terms of getting to spend time with the people who really do nourish my soul. At the moment I seem to have many many more friends who I see every few months, than friends I get to see on a regular basis, as often and as much as I would like to.

That said, my priority at the moment is my writing, so some of that is my own doing. (Well, actually, my priority at this very moment is getting over this awful, awful cold, which has pretty much floored me.)

Looking forward to seeing your list! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Dear Diary

As I mentioned previously, I went to see a show called Mortified recently, where people read from their teenage diaries. As expected, it was hysterically funny. It was also poignant.. The readers--men and women, people my age and much older--all wrote and read in different styles and different voices, but so much of the content was the same. It involved boyfriend/girlfriend drama, friends being mean to each other or leaving one another out, people and relationships changing with time... It struck me that adolescence is a time when we all feel so alone, yet in reality, we are all going through the same things.

When I was thinking about writing this post, I realized that that fact isn't just true of adolescence--as life goes by, many of the problems we face are things that feel so isolated, yet that many people face. I don't think there's much of a solution for this. Heartbreak and difficulties seem to inherently make you feel alone, no matter if you know that others are dealing with, or have dealt with, the same thing. But maybe keeping that thought in mind can help getting through that loneliness a little easier. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, October 02, 2009

October To Dos, and NaNoWriMo

October has a special feeling to it now that I'm committed to doing NaNoWriMo again**. I feel like I imagine a mother might feel in the last month of pregnancy, when she's scrambling to get a bunch of things done before she has to devote all her time to her baby. (More on the parallels between writing and motherhood another day.)

So here are the writing/creative things I want to get done in October, pre-NaNo:

+ Finish the two baby sweaters I'm making for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's babies.

+ Get the short short "Marriages Mysteries" revised and send it out.

+ Get the longer short story "Trying" revised and send it out.

+ Send out my body image essay

+ Write a pitch for the Coupling column of the Boston Globe

+ Write a pitch for an article on simultaneous submissions and find some writing mags where it might find a home.

+ Write a pitch for Utube's first literary journal, Shape of a Box. (Love the concept!)

I'm slightly tired from just typing this all, but I think it can get done.

**I am not going to follow the NaNo rules 100%, as I did last year. I am in the process of completely rewriting my NaNo manuscript from last year. Basically I'm using the idea and the characters that came out of all that writing, but I'm not using the actual writing at all. I don't want to interrupt that process to start on another novel. So I'm going to continue working on my second draft of that first novel, with the goal of getting 50,000 words of it (re)written in November. In any case, November is going to be completed devoted to writing, and that's the point of NaNo, right? Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, October 01, 2009

What a difference a year makes

I'm dashing this off before running to meet a friend to see Mortified, a hilarious-sounding piece of performance art where people read from their teenage diaries. I'm feeling a little anxious about going--this is a new friend and I'm realizing more and more what an introvert I'm becoming and how these acts of reaching out unnerve me. That's the reason I'm taking the time to write this now, since writing is one of the things that reliably centers me (walking is the other).

Last year this time was the hardest time of my life. For reasons too personal to share here, last fall was a time filled with darkness and depression for me. I'm reminded so heavily of that time now, as the anniversary of this dismal period is upon me. For example, last year this time, I could not get up the energy or initiative to start up a NaNoWriMo group in Easton, even though I wanted so badly to learn more about the writing and arts scene in our new town. I remember hating myself for not having the focus to do that. (Luckily, Brian stepped up and did this without my help.) This year, on the other hand, I am so excited to welcome NaNo into my life, and I will be contacting our library soon to see about hosting some write ins.

There are other "fun" things, like hosting a French cooking class at my house and having my family over for Thanksgiving, that I look back on and realize how much energy they took up--so much more so than usual because pretending to be OK and happy sucks out whatever little life there is in you when you're depressed.

I know a few friends who are going through some tough times right now. Divorces. Difficult pregnancies. Stresses of kids and working. So I'm posting this now to say, Hang in there. This fall might be truly awful. But in a year, you might look back on this and say, "Phew. So glad that's over and I'm happy again." I hope you can. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Where I write

Check it out, I'm featured on the NaNoWriMo blog! (Along with my cat, Boom Boom)

[34 days until NaNoWriMo 2009!] Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Writers' Group Feedback

As I posted on Friday, I had my first meeting with a novel writing group this week. I got great feedback on the first chapter of my novel (3rd+ draft of said chapter...). I thought I would record some of the edits want to make in the next draft here. I want to move ahead and get the 3rd draft of chapter two finished, so this post will serve as a reminder of what I took away from my groups' comments when I get back to chapter 1.

Opening: Move the section where Emily swings on the ledge of the balcony up, and the part about listening to the party noise below it.

Throughout: Watch the mentions of the rain. A bit heavy handed/seemingly metaphorical.

Scene with Hugh: Make it more distinct from scene with David. Maybe Hugh gets mad that she didn't tell him about her sister's death. He definitely should be aggressive and push her toward contacting Colin. Then the chapter will end with her not quite deciding what to do yet.

*******
typ Things to do
I want to end with a short list of things I hope to get done this week:

**Finish typing up long-hand version of chapter 2; then go back and write out longhand the end of that chapter.

**Apply to the two writers' residencies I flagged

**Revise Darfur and Marriages' Mysteries Best Blogger Tips

How to: Make a Journal

I recently discovered that I love writing in small, spiral notebooks. I find them easy to carry, I like the thickness of the lines, and for whatever reason, I found myself more compelled to write in it than the pretty journal I bought.


That said, I wanted to pretty it up a bit. So I went to my old staple of a craft, collaging.

Brian and I happened to be at the dollar store earlier that day, and I found a book of vintage images there for, you guessed it, a dollar--originally priced $25!

I chose this image to serve as my background:


In my mind, the key to collaging is not using regular old glue. It leaves too many lumpy bumps. So instead, I water the glue down. I pour a puddle of glue into a disposable cup (this one recycled from Brian's breakfast), and add water until the glue is about the consistency of pea soup. I stir the concoction with a straw or coffee stirrer.

This time, I painted the glue onto the notebook cover using a corner of a sponge because I couldn't find a paintbrush.

Next I looked through my image book and cut out anything that spoke to me and added it to the background:





I added an envelope to the inside front cover to hold any random images/words I find inspiring and cut out from magazines or other media. Of course, I couldn't leave that envelope plain, so I collaged that with some of said inspiring words:



And tah-dah! A functional, interesting journal that I can't help smiling every time I write in.
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Random thoughts on a fall Friday

I met with a new writing group last night. It's made up mostly of people who were in the novel writing class I took last fall at the Harvard Extension School, along with someone from my MFA program and a friend of one of my classmates. This is the first time I'm in a group that focuses solely on novel writing. We're meeting once a month, discussing half the groups' chapters at a time. I'm looking forward to giving and getting feedback about my novel from people who are reading it a chapter at a time, like any reader would. Plus, since most of us came from the same class, we have a similar style/vocabulary around workshopping, which made it feel like a comfortable fit from the get go.

+++++++++

My BCAE writers' retreat class was canceled due to low enrollment. While I am disappointed, I'm also grateful to have an unexpected chunk of time free. I plan to walk with the dogs in the woods near my house, go on a bike ride with Brian, and organize my shed into a gardening shed, instead of a holder-of-random-crap shed.

I think the low enrollment has to do with the cost of the class--they charge $90 for a 4 hour workshop, which seems like a lot, especially in this economy. I'm going to talk to them about changing the price, and also about altering the time/day from Saturday morning to a weeknight class that meets for 3 hours instead of 4.

+++++++++

I have a lot of photos of some creative projects I've worked on recently--a journal I collaged a cover for, a lantern I made, and a shawl I knit. Hoping to post some photos/how-tos this weekend.

++++++++
I just stumbled across this wonderful bookstore, located in Western Mass, Montague Bookmill. It's described as:
"a used bookstore housed in an 1842 gristmill, set on the banks of the Sawmill River,a few miles north of Northampton and Amherst, Massachusetts. The mill building is also home to a unique cafe, a gourmet restaurant, an antique shop, and an artists studio."

I think I have to make a trip west to check this place out!

+++++++
Lastly, I learned about this awesome website, VeggieTrader.com, where gardeners can post if they have too much of one crop and want to trade it for another home-grown plant. That way if you get way too many cucumbers, instead of letting them go to waste, you can trade them for tomatoes or something else.
It seems to just be getting started, and the more people who use it, the better it will be. So spread the word, please!

+++++++

Have a good weekend, all! Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book lovers unite!

Who knew there was such a thing as Book Blogger Appreciation Week? (Poetmom, that's who!) It's a week to "recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading." A lifestyle of reading. I like that!

In honor of BBAW, I'm completing this meme. (Mostly its because I love talking, writing, blogging about books.) Let me know if you do, too!

You and Your Reading Habits

1. Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack? Sure. I snack all the time. No particular favorites though at the moment I'm addicted to cheese Pirate's Booty. (Getting a craving as I type...)

2. Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? I only mark certain books, like how-to books. Sometimes I will underline in fiction books if I feel the book has a lot to teach me about story telling. For example, I just bought a second copy of Ann Patchett's Magician's Assistant so I could underline how she shows the main character's emotions without telling the reader what she is feeling. I couldn't write in my first copy because Ann Patchett signed it, and writing in that copy would be sacrilege!

3. How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open? Usually bookmarked with random paper, like ATM receipts.

4. Fiction, Non-fiction, or both? My first love is fiction, but I throw in poetry and non-fiction from time to time.

5. Hard copy or audiobooks? Both. There's nothing better than knitting and listening to a good audiobook by the fire on a cold evening.

6. Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point? I read to the end of chapters.

7. If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? No. I try to remember to do so when I'm by my computer/dictionary, though.

8. What are you currently reading? One Secret Thing, poems by Sharon Olds (Another shout out to PoetMom for suggesting this wonderful collection)

9. What is the last book you bought? Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. (I read a library copy first, and then bought it so I can underline and savor it.)

10. Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time? I almost always have a few books going at the same time. Some are better commute reads, some at-home reads, etc.

11. Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? Any time I can. I do cherish my commuter train reading time.

12. Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? Stand alone.

13. Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? Ann Patchett, Timetraveler's wife, Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott

14. How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?) I guess by subject...Fiction books are generally all together, then how-to books, etc. But in general, I'm not very organized with my collection. I like the juxtaposition of serious books with funny ones, poetry with classical fiction. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, September 11, 2009

To Dos

As readers of this blog know, I am an avid list-maker. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately, and so I am hoping that making and posting this list of things to do will calm me down/organize me. Here goes:

* Promote the writing retreat I'm leading at the Boston Center for Adult Ed next Saturday. (Speaking of which, please check it out, dear readers!

*Look at some old stories to see if they are ready to submit: Rest of June, Darfur, Marriages Mysteries (by end of the month)

*Type up the notes from chapter 2 (of my novel). Continue writing it. I would love to have a draft by mid-October.

*Submit, submit, submit.


And in the spirit of patting myself on the back, here are some "recently dones"

* Organize lists of journals to submit to, and journals I have submitted to and been rejected from (wah.)

* Send first chapter of revised novel to writer's group

* Send essay on body image to MFA friends for review

Hope everyone has a nice (if rainy, in New England at least) weekend! Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Fall time

I've been thinking about time a lot this past week. The change of season prompted some of this. In the summer, time seems both very limited and in abundance. The days are so long, giving me the feeling of, why rush? There will be light for hours still. On the other hand, though, there are so many things I want to pack into each warm-weather day, knowing as I do that they are in short supply. So in that way, time feels very short.

Of course, when time is short, I feel rushed and overwhelmed, feelings I just don't deal with well. And one of the thing that often suffers from my lack of time is my writing. I was careful not to let this happen too much this summer, but I definitely didn't get as much work done on my novel as I hoped.

And so, as we enter fall, I'm left with the feeling of, will I ever get this novel done?? Part of the solution is to learn some patience. Another part is to use the shorter, cooler days of fall to hibernate a bit more, saying no to some social activities to make more time for my writing.

Themes
As these things go, once I started thinking about my time problem, I started noticing lots of other mentions to other people's time issues. Here's a paragraph from an article on Salon.com that I particularly liked:
"You may not feel ready to do something that is necessary. You do not control the timetable. This is evident when people die, are born, get married, move away, are fired, hired, change their minds: You are not ready for what the changes in the world around you require you to do. Nonetheless, you deal.
You don't have a lot of time. You don't get a lot of chances. People get ready, there's a train a-coming. Don't need no ticket, you just get on board."

I also realized that I've posted a number of times on time issues, so clearly this is a theme in my life.

Lastly, I came across this lovely quote regarding how to use time. I love it in that it applies to so much, not just farming and crops.
"It will not always be summer. Build barns."
~Hesiod

Happy fall! Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Umbrella art

I'm heading away for the weekend, but I leave you with a picture of an art installation project that I found very interesting and inspiring. Amazing what you can do with everyday objects.


Click for more umbrella art. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, September 03, 2009

braiding story lines

While I was away, I took the time to catch up on lots of issues of Writer's Digest. One of the articles I read talked about how, when writing a novel,you need three stories lines that run throughout the book. These story lines should be interwoven, just like the strands of a braid.

I found that to be a useful concept when thinking about my novel. I decided that the three story lines are:
1- What happened to Carrie (the main character's sister) that made her commit suicide.
2- Emily (main character) and David's relationship. Will they open up to one another and take a chance on love?
3- The sisters' family and early life, and the current relationships Emily has with her parents(or lack thereof).

Anyway, this video also reminded me of the idea of braiding, though it only uses two strands, and it's more of a study in contrasts and similarities than a true interweaving. In any case, I think it will be helpful to those of us thinking about story telling. And it's funny and about the Red Sox to boot.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Canadian Writers Retreat: In Photos, Part 1

One of the first things Tavi, Tracy, and I did when we got to the beautiful Haliburton, Canada, (no relation to that evil Haliburton company) was take a stroll through the Haliburton Sclupture Park. It was beautiful, and even the sculptures we didn't like very much were entertaining (see the beaver/lamppost picture).

Here's a slideshow of some of my favorites photos from that day. I'll try to make another slideshow soon that shows how we spent most of the week--writing by the lake. Here's Slide Show, part 1:

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Poetry

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt, Poetry, is so timely for me. One of the things I wanted to do with my week away was to read some poetry, and I have read, and listened to, Mary Oliver's beautiful poems.

I'm not quite brave enough to write and share a poem on the blog yet, since I don't, by far, consider myself a poet. What I want to do instead is share some of my favorite lines/phrases from Oliver's poems from the book Thirst.

*My work is loving the world.*

*the lovely meaninglessness of time*

*For a long time I was not even in this world*

*How to keep warm is always a problem, isn't it?*

*From the complications of loving you/ I think there is no end or return.*

*You have broken my heart./ Just as well.*

*In the city called Wait,/ also known as the airport,/ you might think about your life--/there is not much else to do.*

Beautiful, no? For more poems and writing about poetry, head over to Sunday Scribblings. Best Blogger Tips

Alice Munro

I am such an Alice Munro freak, I once drove from Boston to New York to see her speak. And it was worth it, even though my car broke down and blocked traffic in the middle of NYC.

It's funny, then, that I'm learning about a new book of hers, Too Much Happiness, while I'm in her home country of Canada. And I am so happy to share this wonderful review published in Canada's Globe and Mail.

My favorite line is: "Most importantly, these stories are not asking for our praise, they ask for our attention. They...ask...for silence – and not an awed silence at that (though awe is certainly possible), but the silence that happens when you close a book and pause and continue with your life, less lonely than you were before."

That sentence sums up what I look for what I read, and write. Best Blogger Tips

What I'm reading

I'm taking some of my retreat time to catch up on the articles I've been meaning to read. I thought I'd share some of them with you, dear readers. The first one I'm getting to is a commencement speach David Foster Wallace gave to Kenyon College 2005 graduates, sent to me by my brilliant friend Megan, who always passes along the best articles.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article:
"And I submit that this is what the real, no-bull- value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out."

"There happen to be whole large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration." [This reminded me very much of some of the article I read in last week's Sunday Scribbling posts on the prompt "Adult"]

"The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default-setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it's going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who are all these people in my way?"

"But if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars -- compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff's necessarily true: The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship..."

"The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness -- awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: "This is water, this is water."

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out."

One of the heartbreaking things about this speach is how often Wallace talks about suicide, years before he killed himself. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, August 28, 2009

Question for other writers. Please discuss.

When you're submitting your work, do you submit to contests with fees? If so, how much do you spend per year? How do you decide which are worth paying to join?

I ask because I tend to avoid contests with fees, because it seems that $10 or $15 contests could add up very quickly. But one of the writers with whom I am on retreat said that the two publications she has gotten were both through contests. And she admitted that she spends a lot on entering them. So I'm wondering what others do. Please comment. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On retreat

I am in beautiful Haliburton, Canada, on a self-directed writing retreat with two of my wonderful friends from my MFA program. So far, our days have been filled with:

Reading
Kayaking
Lunch
Writing
Meditation
Naps
Writing
Delicious and nourishing dinner
Writing/reading/listening to poetry on CD

Could life get any better?

I'm working on chapter 2 of my novel, and some other miscellaneous writing tasks. And I am more relaxed than I thought I could be. Pictures coming soon. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, August 24, 2009

My new favorite quote

"A work of art is, first of all, work."

~Paul Engle
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Creative gifting

One of my favorite creative outlets is gift giving. What better way to use your creative/crafty talents than by sharing them with the ones you love?

This is one of my go-to gifts for new parents: a diaper cake!


It's very simple to make, and people seem to love them. Here's a step by step:

1. Buy a pretty plate, preferably something with the design on the edge of the plate, so you can see it when the "cake" is on it.


2. Buy diapers, and roll about 20 individual diapers, tying each with a ribbon.



3. Then place the rolled diapers on the plate, standing them up longwise. Use enough of the rolls to cover the main part of the plate. Then tie another ribbon around the whole layer of diapers.

4. Repeat, making the second and third layers smaller, so the cake is tiered.

5. For the finishing touch, I use basket wrap, which you can get at craft stores. It's basically a cellophane bag that you place the gift in, tie the top with yet another ribbon, and then use your blowdryer to make the cellophane shrink to fit the gift. If you don't want to buy this type of wrapper, you could also use colored saran wrap.

You can also tuck little gifts into the tier ties, such as pacifiers or small toys.

Ta-dah! A gift that's sure to be a hit at your next baby shower. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Submissions Fatigue

I am sitting here, submitting some stories to some journals, and wondering why I find this process so damn draining. I try to make it as painless as possible--Before "submission day," I create a list of journals I want to submit a particular story to, along with the pertinent information about how the journal prefers to accept submissions, the editor's name, etc. That way, when I finally have some free time, I can open the file and run quickly down the list.

In theory. In reality, it takes me hours to submit one story to eight journals. Why? Part of it is that I want to double check everything on my list, to make sure I don't screw up the email address, or whether a journal wants stories mailed and printed in a particular type of font.

Another part of it is that I find it emotionally taxing--No matter how "used" to rejection I get, I still don't enjoy sending my babies out to the slaughter. So I try to give myself frequent, short breaks so as not to overwhelm my system.

Anyone have a better system than the one I described? If so, I'd love to hear about it. Off to bed... wishing my stories good luck out there in the world! Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Adult

I haven't Scribbled in a long, long time. But since I'm trying to reinvigorate my blogging (as I posted about here), I figured I'd return to an old favorite way to get my writing.

On this week's Sunday Scribblings prompt, this question about adulthood spoke to me the most: Are you glad to finally be an adult? I thought about this question the other day, when I heard some fellow commuters talking about their teenagers. The parents were saying how lucky the teens had it--they didn't have bills to pay or jobs to worry about. I shook my head and thought to myself, How wrong those people are. I will take bills and jobs and car troubles and relationship problems and all the other downsides of adult life over the many downsides of being a teen. The most prominent one in my memory? How poorly developed my sense of myself was.

With every passing year, I get to know myself that much better. And with that knowledge comes a sense of confidence that I just couldn't have had as a teenager. I didn't trust that I had the strength to get through the minor challenges that I barely think about now. I remember crying so hard when the Amtrak train I was supposed to get on was oversold and there was no more room for me. I was 19 or so, heading back to college after winter break. When the train stopped at Penn Station, even the doorways were crammed with people sitting on their suitcases.

As the train pulled away, tears of frustration filled my eyes. I didn't know what else to do. I pictured train after train coming into the station already full, and my being stuck in Penn Station forever.

Now, when things like that happen, I know that even if I can't get a fair or reasonable response from the people in charge (as was the case when I tried to get someone to explain to me how they could sell more tickets for a train than there were seats on that train--why have me make a reservation for a particular train if that reservation is meaningless?), I can take care of myself. I can buy a bus ticket instead, or rent a car. I can call someone to see if I can spend the night on their couch and catch a train the next day. I can sleep in the train station if I really have to.

I can also deal with the anger and frustration that comes with these situations by venting out loud or in my head. By knowing that when I get home, I WILL be getting a refund for that train ticket if I had to spend more money on an alternate mode of transportation. And I know that no matter what happens, I'll be OK. I'm smart enough and strong enough to figure something out.

As a teenager, I didn't know that about myself. And I wouldn't trade that knowledge for anything--not the ability to sleep in every day of the summer, not the ignorance of credit card late fees, none of it.

What are your thoughts on adulthood? For others' take on the subject, check out Sunday Scribblings. Best Blogger Tips

A gardening slide show

I'm taking a multimedia journalism class, and one of the simpler tools we're using is slideshows. Here's one of photos from my garden.

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