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 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