Tag Archives: writing

Thursday Thoughts, Vol. 2

Saw two great, completely unrelated movies today: My Life Without Me, which held me spellbound and resulted in me cancelling my chiropractic appointment so I could watch to the end even though I have DVR. Made me cry a little, and vow to be a better person. Watch it! Everybody, I am talking to you! Also: Men In Black. I love that clever, funny, malecentric show! Noisy Cricket! Funny, the world needs more funny. Hopefully I will be viewing Elf this weekend with my church lady gurrls. In the spirit of fellowship we will be watching some holiday flick, eating and exfoliating our hands with a sugar scrub.

Here is my recipe for a homemade sugar scrub that will leave your hands or feet so silky soft for pennies: 2 Tbsp. sugar stirred up with 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, optionally you can add a few drops of essential oil or the zest of two oranges for a refreshing scent. Mix well and rub one tsp. gently into your skin. Rinse away with a small amount of liquid soap. You are welcome!

I am conflicted. I have a couple of novels I am working on, about which I feel pretty good. One is in revision, one is in process. They both need a lot of work. I have one memoir completed (Hollywood University, two chapters up for your review under Blogroll over there in the right column,) but no idea where to send it. Eight rejections to date is nothing, NOTHING, in the world of publication seekers, but I carefully research the folks I send it to. I don’t throw queries around like glitter, friends. I am seriously not knowing where to go next with this. Let it ride? Wait for God to provide the opening at the right time? Or is God waiting for me to show the persistence needed to carry this thing through? I hate these questions. I’ll keep looking but I think I might need to work on some noveling too.

Just had the awesomest (thank you for the word, Amy of Lucy’s Football) time writing the next blog post of So then SHE said…with my BFF Kelly. Think “Password” meets “Who’s on First.” Check it out! Hope you like it. Love!

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Top 10 Things I Do When I Should Be Noveling

10.  knitting, or crocheting, or some other archaic pastime (living history!)

9.  checking my sons’ grades on the internet (terrifying)

8.  searching my pantry for carbs (chocolate? graham crackers? stale crackers? good enough!)

7.  playing beyond Tetris on my phone; I am not getting any better (so ashamed…)

6.  checking my wordtabulous site stats (am I relevant?)

5.  babytalking to the cat (we both like that)

4.  checking my email; surely someone has sent me some charming forwards (see the silent monks singing the Hallelujah Chorus at http://voxvocispublicus.homestead.com/Index.html)

3.  checking out the blogs I follow and trying to give some thoughtful comments to show I care (because I do!)

2.  getting sucked into whatever reality nonsense Mr. Wordtabulous is watching at the time (Marathon Boy-horrifying and fascinating)

1.  blogging my dysfunctional life approach for all to enjoy (Cheers! Now go get something done!)

This Blogger’s Prayer

Oh my God, oh my God, please. Please let someone read it who gets it. Please let someone read what I wrote and say, “Wow, that is so [cool, right, inspiring, funny, ANYTHING.] Please let me not be just another asshat who is obsessed with being noticed, even though that is what it feels like I am. Please help me understand what it is I am doing or what it is I am supposed to be doing. Why do I keep feeling like putting words on a page? I mean, I am glad my mom and a couple of my long-suffering friends take the time to check in, but does this whole writing endeavor make sense? All this effort and angst for what? There is so much crap out there, God, have you SEEN all the crap out there? I don’t want to be putting out crap. I know I shouldn’t care about being liked, God, but then why did you build me so I care so MUCH about whether people like what I do or write? That is freakin’ mean, God. Harsh. To make me so insecure and so exhibitionistic at the same time, and then to wrap me up in the culture that says “If you can dream it you can achieve it,” but then make me so cynical that I know that is idiotic. Is this is a joke? Am I amusing you? I didn’t take you for snarky, Lord, but I am feeling like the dork stumbling past the cool kid’s table, and you are snorting milk out of your nose. OK, that’s not true. You wouldn’t laugh at me. But you are keeping some secrets and it sucks. I hate not understanding the direction or the point of this.

And that, right there, is the point. Understanding is my anchor; research and analysis is how I control my world. You want to be my anchor and want me to know that control is an illusion. Dude. I don’t have to like it, but I see your point. As always, God, oh my God, 1) help me, and 2) thanks.

Wrath Averted

It was several years ago that a friend called me, asking for my help. “I have a problem,” she told me. She worked at a high school and a family of one of the recent graduates was demanding an apology because their graduate’s diploma wasn’t available at the ceremony. It had been withheld because the student had some library fines, which the family said they had paid. My friend agreed the fines were paid, but not in time to get the diploma inside the folder for the ceremony. The student felt humiliated, and the family was aggressively seeking payback and even threatening litigation. The school wanted my friend to write an apology to make the incident go away. My friend, who is very intelligent and empathetic, had had it. “I am so upset I can’t even think, anything I come up with would just make it worse,” then she schmoozed me, “You are so good with words, can you come up with something?”

My friend was more than capable of coming up with the words, but she had lost the objective distance she needed to frame her response to the family. It is so difficult to overcome our own feelings of pain or anger, especially when we are feeling attacked. Like a contagion, retaliatory instincts had spread from the student’s family to my friend. It happens between people, people and institutions, cultures, and governments. I often wonder how much litigation, property damage and even death could be avoided if it was easier for people to slip out of their own experience to see and feel events from another’s perspective. When I was a little girl, weeping in sadness or frustration over troubles with my friends, my mom would urge me to look at the situation from the other girls’ point of view. It was highly unsatisfactory. “Why aren’t you on my side?” I wailed, picturing myself adrift on a raft of self-righteousness in the stormy sea of injustice. (Even for a little girl, I was very dramatic.) Eventually, I caught on to her philosophy and over time became more analytical about conflict. It helped me “simmer down,” as my dad would say when my temper threatened to boil over (which is helpful because I had inherited a temper that is constantly threatening to boil over.)  I felt that I had some of the skills needed to help my friend out.

I congratulated the student on reaching the milestone of high school graduation. I thanked him for paying the fines. I commiserated with his disappointment that the process didn’t work out in time for the event, but celebrated that he had had experienced a beautiful ceremony with his friends to mark the successful completion of twelve years of hard work. I thanked him for letting the school know his concerns and wished him well. It was easy for me to do because I knew all those things were genuinely felt, even by my frustrated friend. “Yes! This is perfect!” she said. She still had a kind regard toward the student, but it had all been choked back behind fatigue and anxiety in the face of the family’s umbrage. Was the family satisfied? I have no idea, but there was no lawsuit. Is it fair when only one side acts compassionately? As Dad was fond of saying, “life isn’t fair,” and as I would say, “that’s not the point.” Even if it doesn’t feel fair, it is best. I sometimes think it is only simple proverbs like ‘Walk a mile in another’s moccasins,’ and ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath,’ that keep the world from bursting into flames. It can sometimes feel like humanity is forgetting these ancient approaches; I know that I do at times, but I hope that there are still parents in the world aggravating their children by pulling them along to a higher road, one we can all travel together.

The Story Awaits

It is 4:18 a.m. Forty-five minutes ago my cat, bored and perhaps a bit underfed, woke me with a leap and a brrrowp! Demanding food and attention, he instead received exile to the basement. Adrenaline from the ambush and thirst kept me up while my mind slowly churned into wakefulness, despite my better sense that cried out “No! Stop it! Sleep now, think later!” Too late, in so many ways. Dark-of-night true confession: my writing is bugging me. My unfinished article for this month judges me from my desktop. The grim grind of begging to get Hollywood University noticed, of laying it out there for rejection is almost harder than I can bear, though with only ten queries down I’ve barely started. My unfinished novel, on the other hand, is past the charming precociousness of youth and is entering awkward adolescence. I want to nurture it to maturity and beauty but it just seems to be glaring at me with that “you don’t get me,” kind of attitude. I think of the grim grind and wonder, what is the point? Maybe the naysayer, the practical one who points out for my own good that my manuscripts will probably never be published is right. I keep telling myself that naysayer is speaking of statistical probability, and not making editorial judgments, but it is impossible to shrug off the suspicion that I suck. Especially at this time of the morning.

But here’s the thing. Stories are powerful. I remember that when I read books like Imaginings of Sand by André Brink. I admit, I had trouble with it at the beginning. Firstly it is an intensely feminine story written by a man, and at the start I was annoyed by how masculine the main character, Kristien Müller, seemed to be. By masculine I mean lacking in emotional intimacy and unconcerned about the feelings of others. Sue me. As the story goes on it becomes clear that these qualities are important facets of Kristien, who returns to South Africa after a self-imposed exile to attend to her dying grandmother, the one person with whom she seems connected. While the country around them is heating up for the first post-apartheid elections, Ouma (grandmother) fills Kristien with shocking, rambling legends of family “herstory.” (I hate that word, but is accurate-tales of the unremembered women ancestors, who are carried forward both in the stories and in the bodies of Ouma, Kristien, and her sister Anna.) There are dichotomies here: male and female, black and white, but the divisions break down as the individuals are revealed in their complexities. Brink strings together flawed characters, the history and culture of South Africa, and gender and racial justice, and if that sounds dry to you, I ask you to trust me, it is far from that. The writing is vivid, the tension builds palpably and most importantly, perceptions of reality and status quo are challenged. After finishing this book today, I am looking at my own past and present with new eyes, and that alters my vision of the future. Like I said, stories are powerful.

So I will carry on. Morning approaches, though the October dawn is still a ways off. Today is another opportunity to get patient Hollywood University into the right hands, to finish my article and to nudge Sleepers a few steps closer to completion. The cat, the naysayer, and the grim grind are all only parts of the whole; the story itself is much bigger and it awaits.

What To Do About the Body?

Brad had been a dink, and she was glad she’d killed him, but…what to do about the body? His corvette offered little in the way of concealment, and while the gravel pit was somewhat isolated, it wouldn’t be long before a farmer or even a sheriff’s deputy would drive by and wonder what was up. Leave it for now and come back to it later? Risky. Things had been going so well, too. All morning she had manipulated and connived her way to this meeting outside town, and she had been on the brink of finding out where the money was. But instead of submitting to blackmail, Brad had done the unforeseen. He had fought back, forcing her to shoot him three times. Then she’d added another two bullets out of frustration. It felt right, but now she had an unexpected mess, and still no route to the money. She wasn’t panicked, she had time, but the lack of a logical and creative solution was annoying.

With a sigh, she pushed herself back from the keyboard and stretched. One thousand words in two hours was a snail’s pace, but it was progress. “Whose my boy?” she murmured to the cat by her feet. It was time for tea and a break from murder.

Retreat!

I have been enjoying a South Dakota Writer’s Retreat in Brookings. Enjoying, as in working very hard to find good images and words and ideas, while also eating the best ice cream in the world and Nick’s hamburgers. South Dakota Writer’s Retreat, as in Kelly and I hashing out blog issues, reviewing each other’s manuscripts-in-process, and holding teeny-tiny ad hoc support groups around what it is we are trying to accomplish and how we might  do that. A little bit blind leading the blind, but we are marginally educated and dangerously optimistic and grimly determined. And we love adverbs, which is not in our favor. We spent hours today slogging through technical issues alone, and there were some breathtaking moments, like the one in which I was certain we had managed to delete Wordtabulous. Note: when I am panicking but trying very hard not to display my panic, due to my superstitious belief that revealing panic will seal my doom, my voice becomes thin and high. Also I kick out a lot of heat. I may have actually burned the inside of my skin. I tell you this so you will recognize the symptoms in case we are together when I succumb to stealth hysteria.  Chocolate helps, as does finding out my blog is fine. See? Still here.