Sunday, March 29, 2009

How to start seedlings

In honor of spring, I take a break from writing about writing to write about gardening. I'm starting vegetables from seeds this year for the first time. Throughout the (long, long) winter, I did research and ordered seeds for plants found in a basic vegetable garden, including 3 different kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, basil, parsley, and lettuce.

Now that we're about 6 weeks out from the last frost around here, I'm starting those seedlings indoors. Before the seeds sprout, they need warmth more than light to germinate, so their temperory home is atop our dryer, which I will try to use once a day for the next seven days so the seedlings get some heat.

I bought a few peat cups, which you can plant directly into the ground when you move the plants outside. This helps not disturb the fragile roots that have formed. I also learned that you can make your own peat cups using egg cartons and toilet rolls, so I did that as well.

I bought seed starter mix, which I've heard is essential:

And lastly I labelled the containers so that I wouldn't mix up a sun-loving tomato with some shade-loving kale.

I'll post more pics when the seedlings sprout, and I move them under the plant light, which I plan to install in another part of my laudry room.

I love the feel of dirt beneath my fingernails! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, March 23, 2009

David Foster Wallce

If you haven't read the posthumous profile of David Foster Wallace in the New Yorker, you must. It is so beautiful and touching, and it really captures just how crazy-making it can be like to be a writer. I was scared to see how much I related and empathized to his struggles.

My favorite line of the article:
“Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being,” he once said. Good writing should help readers to “become less alone inside.”

That's exactly why I read--and write.

RIP, DFW. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Maybe it's the change of seasons. Or the stress of the economy. Or the stress particular to my workplace at the moment. Or the stress of adopting a new (un-housetrained) dog. Whatever the reason, I'm exhausted. From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep.

And this means I'm not writing much. It's one of the only things I do that takes a lot of energy that I can easily cut out of my life. But, though I imagine life would be easier if I could be content with just coming home after work and watching TV, that's just now who I am. So it's not like I'm ready to give up and stop writing. I'm just frustrated with my current situation, and hoping it passes soon.

What I'm trying to do to keep my energy up and stress down in the meantime:

*Going to sleep early
*Eating well
*Exercising (though of course it's the last thing I want to do since I'm so tired!)

Any other suggestions are most welcome! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, March 16, 2009

To Dos

Posting my lists of things to do has led me to a helpful discovery: What I expect to get done in a given time period is not equal to what I actually can get done. What I expect to do in one week generally takes me two weeks.

At work, I've had to start estimating the time a project will take before I start, in order to give a cost estimate to clients. That's a harder task than I thought at first, because stuff comes up and things change. But I'm getting better at it, and I'd like to apply that ability to my writing goals as well.

Why does it matter? Well, psychologically, it's nice to get done what you plan to get done.

So, this week, I plan to:

Finish chapter 3 of my novel. That's it.

Back burner writing tasks to keep in mind:
* Revise The Rest of Her and send it out
* Keep sending out Cartes as publications open their submissions
* Look into freelance opportunities that I've emailed to myself.

Non-writerly to-dos in the near future:
* Hang paneling in office
* Paint office walls
* Buy lights for office
* Start seedlings Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Dear Past Me, Dear Future Me

It's been a loooong time since I scribbled. But I like this prompt and am going to use it to brainstorm from the point of view of the main character in the novel I'm working on. Here goes.

Dear Past Me/Future Me,
What the f*ck? Is this some therapy bullshit? That crap does not work, I don't care what all those shrink-a-dinks say.

Ok, that skepticism out of the way, here goes. I wish I could tell a past me to cherish my time with Carrie, that the time will end much too soon. And that things are not always what they appear. Someone who seems much more stable and happy than you yourself are might actually be way more f*cked up. F*cked up enough to take her own life. Oh, and past me? You yourself are not suicidal and you never will be, so give up on that messed up "dream" before it takes hold of you and won't let go until a monsoon-like October after your 30th birthday.

Future me? What can I tell you? I don't even know who you are. And I guess that's as exciting as it is scary.

Em Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Take my breath away

The highest level of writing, in my experience, is that which takes my breath away. Literally--the words, sentence, idea makes me gasp and forget to breathe for a moment. It doesn't happen often, so I thought I'd share a paragraph that did it for me. It's from an essay in the New York Times' Sunday Magazine by Bernard Cooper:

"The only story I know is the one about Brian dying....It’s as if we met so we could be together when he dies, paid the mortgage so we could be together when he dies, sustained ourselves with food and love and hard work so we’d one day come to the realization that everything up to this point was a prologue. The story has started here, now, when time is finite."

Beautiful, no? Best Blogger Tips

Monday, March 09, 2009

Writing resources: New Finds

A few writing resources I wanted to share with you all:

1. Coffee House for Writers. I was aware of this group a while back, and then they fell off my radar. But I came across them today, and their newsletter about fiction writing caught my eye. I liked their selection of articles, which cover things like writing flash fiction and promoting your novel.

2. Review Fuse. I haven't tried this personally, but it's a neat concept: You can submit your work to this web site, and it matches you up with writers of similar skill levels who will critique your work. You critique others' work as "pay back". As far as I can tell, it's completely free.

3. Funds for Writers. I get the weekly e-newsletter, which lists publications seeking submissions, grants, and writing jobs. I've found some interesting publication through it. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, March 02, 2009

Weekly to-dos

I realized with pride that I finished almost all of the to-dos I posted a week or so ago. So I'm inspired to post some more to keep myself accountable.

Non-writerly (in order of importance:
Organize tax info for accountant

Put up panellng in office

Scrub down upstairs of house


Finalize short short and send out

Continue working on novel--try to get in a few pages every day, since I realized that when I took a break last week due to my insane flu, it was harder to get back into it.

Catch up on writing exercises for class Best Blogger Tips

Good links, Fun photos

I wanted to share some interesting stories about writing I've come across recently, as well as some photos of my insanely cute new dog, Rufus. (He's the gray one--Chloe is our black lab, whom we've had for 3 years.)

Last night, I heard a great piece on NPR about creativity. It was a speach by Carol Becker, Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts. She talked about living the artist life--with all the fears and loneliness that can come along with it. One of my favorite parts was when she talked about how important it is for artists to play--to let themselves get immersed in something that interests them, even if it might not seem like something that will pay dividends in the near future. She talked about a student traveling (to the Mid East, I believe) who got obsessed with the many shades of gold used in the regional archictecture. He spent the whole trip photographing examples of gold, and I'm sure he gained a sense of the depth of color that he couldn't get any other way. I find myself doing this in more literary ways when I can get obsessed with the root of a word, or when I can read a novel or short story again and again, always finding something new to marvel at.

Dean Becker also talked about how perfectionism can just kill an artist, so I was intrigued when I saw this article about perfectionism in the Boston Globe this morning. Though I'm certainly not as bad as some of the perfectionists profiles, I do have my share of perfectionist tendencies. I really liked this analogy: Say you pay $2 for five minutes at a do-it-yourself carwash, and clean away about 80 percent of your car's dirt. That makes sense. Then you pay another $2 for a second round, and clean away another 10 percent. Your returns are diminishing. Then another $2, which yields only about 5 percent more. At some point, though having a clean car is a fine goal, you are clearly wasting your time and money.

And lastly, an interesting article on the copyright issues that are arising for the Kindle because it allows users to listen to e-books aloud--and it isn't paying writers or publishers for audio rights. Best Blogger Tips