Thursday, July 30, 2009

56.5 hours

Since Saturday morning, I have worked 56.5 hours.

I know there are people in the world that work like that. But I am not one of them. Although I guess I am now.

Today after work (because today there was an actual after), I went grocery shopping. Grocery shopping, people! I never knew how enjoyable it can be when the first time in many days you are not in front of a computer.

I am not complaining about working a lot. I've actually been enjoying it because 1) I know it's temporary, 2) there's that whole team feeling that comes from working long hours with just a few other people, trying to get a magazine out the door, and 3) there's something to be said for working toward excellence for the sake of excellence...

Since last Saturday, however, I have thought every day about my blog. And here's just a sample of what I thought of writing about, if I'd actually written:

  • Hip pain

  • So You Think You Can Dance (again)

  • bobby pins: their history, my obsession with them, all the different places I come across them in my life (my purse, my car, my drive way, the kitchen, found stuck to the bottom of my foot on the way to the shower, and, yes, in my hair, under some twisted hank of bed-head mess)

  • that whole thing with exercise: how your mind can convince you, absolutely, that it would, in fact, be an unhealthy, self-abusive act to exert yourself in any way (only to do it anyway and feel afterward as if you've just had a massage).

  • And on this first night in many nights that I have not had to bring my work laptop home with me, I shall now sign off and engage in the most enjoyable act of sitting and breathing (and, well, watching So You Think You Can Dance).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Been Taking a Break from a lot of Things

Like from not eating dairy. Best ice cream cone ever. Being across the street from the Grass Roots Festival we could also hear the distant sound of zydeco, accordions, banjos, and lots of "woo hooos!"

I have been putting off posting—I haven't gone this long since the beginning of this summer (which is kind of a mis-statement since it's not actually summer yet, apparently, since it hasn't been hotter than 85 and it's late July. This anti-humiditarian is a-ok with that, tho.).

Since I've last posted about my early morning visit to the trainer, I

  • Had a second early morning visit with the trainer (he's the second trainer on the page)

  • Watched a most amazing duet on So You Think You Can Dance that I keep watching over and over (first video you come across when you scroll)

  • Went to Ithaca, NY, and back to see family, eat whatever I wanted (see photo above), laugh a ton, dance on hay, sit by a fire (like I said, not summer), and celebrate my sister and her best friend's birthdays

  • Watched a pretty incredible tap performance last night at Jacob's Pillow (or "the pillow" as its familiarly known in dance circles), Jason Samuels Smith and A.C.G.I. (Anybody Can Get It)

  • Noticed (just this morning, like right this second) how my speedy typing (a writer at work nicknamed me "the little machine") reminds me of last night, the speedy fingers on the keyboard. Typing fast is no tap dancing but if you start going into the gets interesting (i.e., JSS's cousin was part of the performance last night--he does a spoken-word/rap thing and afterward he talked about the connection between that and the tapping).

So within each of those things above is a blog post. Which is why I've been procrastinating starting up again. Which thing do I write about, and how do I do it in the limited bog-writing time (the big question for everything, right?). And I love that I just wrote "bog-writing" because that's how it's felt lately. Very boggy.

I thought before I head to workin' on a weekend, I should just break the more-than-weeklong hiatus and say something, anything. So there you have it. (If you have a vote about my next post, feel free to say so).

[Also, note that you can now subscribe to my blog post, and you'll get an e-mail when I post; at the rate I'm going, you won't be getting daily nudges or anything]!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


She who goes to the physical trainer first thing in the morning should be rewarded with great sums of cash.

[I know, I know, it's good for me, I agreed, it's my fault, I get it. Still. Cash. I'll take 50s.]

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cups and Ice #2: GBF

[Above taken from a notebook I've been keeping on a creative project I'm collaborating on with a friend, a project that you will most definitely get to see, explore, and feel called to participate in when it's launched next year. I would say "drum roll, please....." but it's not quite at the drum roll stage. It's more at the faint-slightly-annoying-tapping-coming-from-over-the-mountain-range-that-will-take-about-14-months-to-get-here? stage. When you hear that slightly annoying tapping, that's us! Me and Creative Partner in the laboratory, preparing to astound you.]

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Blog on Frogs!

[Just a note that over there in the left column you can now subscribe to my blog and get an e-mail when I post.]

Today I went to Frogs: A Chorus of Colors, a live frog exhibit at the Berkshire Museum. Went with KD and had a blast (especially inserting appropriate voices and comments on behalf of the frogs—they were great sports!). I forgot how cool frogs are. How could I forget? I loved the dart frogs, the really poisonous ones with bright colors who look like race cars!


The last one here is called a "waxy faced monkey frog" (coolest name ever).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Powering Down

Last night, I did something revolutionary. With the help of a long-distance friend, I shut my computer down at 10:30 p.m. I know, I know, it's a little extreme. Let me explain:

On any given weekday night, after 8 hours at work in front of a computer, I come home, eat, get online and don't get off until approximately 12:40 a.m. (I'm not mindlessly surfing. I'm getting things done, really important necessary things that absolutely can't wait.) If it's a Friday or Saturday, chances are I power down even later than that.

Here's what I manage to get done once the laptop is put to sleep:

  • Floss and brush teeth, wash face, worry about the-barely-noticeable-to-anyone-else-but-totally-noticeable-to-me discoloration of my teeth.

  • Remember, in an overwhelming wave of anxiety all the other things I was supposed to do before bed (put clothes in the dryer, wash dishes, put together snacks for next day, do prescribed stretches and exercises, call my friend who lives in Chatham who I haven't talked to in weeks, relax, read, etc).

  • Actually do all these things at 1 o'clock in the morning (except relax and read), all the while berating myself for it (i.e., "I can't believe I did it AGAIN!"

  • Get under the covers carrying a small knot in my stomach for how tired I know I'm going to be the next day and how much better I'd probably feel—physically and otherwise—if I could manage to be more balanced in my approach to life.

Here's what I managed to get done last night from 10:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.:

  • Floss and brush teeth, wash face, worry about the-barely-noticeable-to-anyone-else-but-totally-noticeable-to-me discoloration of my teeth.

  • Realize in an in an overwhelming wave of relief all the things I was now going to be able to do before bed (wash dishes, trim and file my nails, do prescribed stretches and exercises, text my friend who helped me shut down the laptop to say thank you, read a little).

  • Get under the covers with a sense that everything was right in the world, or at least my world, and tell myself: remember this, remember how this feels.

I woke up at 8:30 a.m. refreshed, clear, and unencumbered by thoughts of how I wish I'd done it differently the night before. It may not sound like a big deal. But I've been wanting to do that for probably close to three years. This is the habit I've had, one I have not known how to break, until my friend said, "Text me at 10:30 p.m. and tell me you're off."

I'm now at my computer—which I feel happy to see by the way—cup of decaf next to the keyboard. Will finish up some online tasks and then head out the door for a hip-hop class. Good start to the weekend I'd say.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Cups and Ice #1: The Beckoning of Lovely

Cups and ice—the things you bring to the party when you don't have time to make a main dish. So I'm introducing this new series of short posts that will allow me to share things that make me feel like...well, yes, like dancing. Or writing. Or making something that will make other people want to dance or write or make things that will make other people get the idea.

I will say this about the creator of the following film-to-be trailer. Amy Krouse Rosenthal should be more well-known. Her name should be shouted from the shoulders of a tall man. She should be honored in a ceremony next to a fountain, no in the fountain in a city's center. She's a quiet and mysterious heroine of mine ever since I read her innovative memoir, An Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (Denise H, best birthday present ever! Or was it Christmas? I can't remember...). This is her latest project, The Beckoning of Lovely. (I feel like she crawled inside my mind...but as a very hospitable guest.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


This post won't be long as I seem to have a developed a rapid-onset case of tendinitis in my right hand/wrist/arm, with some pangs in my left hand.

Turning on a light switch, opening the toothpaste, digging in my purse for a pen.


My inner hypochondriac is on the loose. I've been typing for 15 years. And now?

Probably I need to rest. A thing I don't do enough. More down time (I've been saying this for like, what, 5 years?). Meditation probably wouldn't be a bad idea either.

So here I go to try and get some rest.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

How Studying Creative Writing Changed Everything: Part 3

The image above is the, that's not quite right...the proof of the fact that I indeed did spend a few years in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, earning my MFA degree in creative writing. And the fact that it's crooked seems appropriate. It was a rough process. Rough and wonderful and one of the best things I've ever done.

At first, I was sure I'd made a huge error in deciding on this particular program, because of its location, because of its location, and because of its location. As it turned out, the train that ran half-a-block from the apartment I shared with fellow student, Angela Jane Fountas, the way it shook our windows every hour or so, the pea-green sky during tornado season, the town and university thick with a history that was hard to stomach—all of these things wound their way into my poetry collection. (The fact that AJ rescued me from a roach-infested apartment across the way, inviting me to live in hers, is a testament to the sort of people that that program attracted...or maybe to Seattle where AJ had recently lived...or to the Greeks who are AJ's people...).

In any case, I could do a little commercial for University of Alabama's MFA program right here (the optional fourth year they offer, the so-cool-you-want-to-eat-it literary magazine the Black Warrior Review, their awesome reading series, the visiting writer's program, and the quality of the other students you are in workshop with), but I won't.

What happened to me at grad school could happen to anyone at any creative writing program;

1) I read novels for homework. And poetry collections. And I wrote papers. And stories. And poems. And essays. (I also got introduced to the work of some writers who changed the way I wrote. Too numerous to mention here in full, but here are a few that come to mind: Janet Kauffman, Alice Notley, Tomaz Salamun, and Larissa Szporluk, to name just a few.)

2) I got to be an editor in chief of a literary magazine (I mean, come on, CHIEF, in my title? It was a dream come true...).

3) I had TIME (this was KEY for me...just the time) to figure out what I liked and why I liked it, and then change my mind.

4) I got to experiment and write badly and even, mid-stream, change genres.

5) I met some people who I have been friends with since and are some of the most important people in my life.

6) I became a teacher!

7) I became a writer.

7a) Graced one semester with a fellowship, I was only required to teach one class, and, being finished with my class credits, I was able to just write. And I wrote daily. I'd never done that before. And I haven't done it since. Not like that. But that laid the foundation, and was the first time I really felt like a writer. First time I wasn't doing it for anyone else, that I wasn't just writing in my journal anymore. I was learning a craft. A craft! I started to enjoy how my mind worked—especially when I was sitting at my desk with my notebook. I started to think: maybe I can do this. For a long time. Maybe forever.

7b) I'm still doing it.

7c) There were some years after grad school that I didn't write at all, and wondered if I ever would. It was when I stopped worrying about being "literary" that I started to write the work that would make me the most proud. But I never would have written that stuff unless I'd had my experience in school to write against.

Self-discovery (the most non-literary word there is) is really what happened. Who I was, my values, my beliefs (about God, love, staying alive or not staying alive), the downfalls in my own character—these all became unseparate from the poetry i was writing. Writing wasn't a thing I was doing. It just was. And is. And ever. And I'm so glad.

Friday, July 03, 2009

How Studying Creative Writing Changed Everything: Part 2

I don't think my first story in my first fiction-writing class was any good—I believe the assignment was to take a mythological theme and write a story based on that...I chose, no surprise, the story of the Phoenix, and wrote about a mysterious sexy guy on a motorcycle named Caley who was adored by the narrator, a young Southern version of yours truly (who liked to listen to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald). Caley was hit by a car, was seen running his bike off the road numerous times, laying in the road awash with wounds, but then there he'd be the next day, not a scratch on him. It was a sweet story, and awful probably. But I'd done it. I'd written something from beginning to end, in a voice, in character, and even more than that, I started to understand something about my own interiority in relation to language.

I'd found a way to have a conversation with something that wasn't quite here but paradoxically more here than anything else I'd encountered. And I started being an observer—of what and who was around me, what and who was living inside me (there were a lot of people in there), of my past and the narrative patterns it consisted of, and this thing called the imagination.

The act of writing in a more intentional way, studying it as a craft (rather than just writing in my journal), felt like this: When a drawer comes off its runners and you jiggle it around and get mad and swear and, finally, because you're desperate, you slow down, take a few breaths, and feel around, you get a sense. And miraculously the edges of the drawer click into place.

I'm not sure what I am in that metaphor. The drawer? The frustrated person jiggling the drawer around? Either way, when I took that first class—in which reading and writing about books was part of the homework, and writing stories and reading my classmates' stories was the other part—something definitely "clicked into place." And I stopped fighting it. My desire to do it got bigger than my fear, as I've said before.

I took fiction. And memoir. And literature courses. I worked on the first issue of PC's national lit mag (Alligator Juniper, which just weeks ago won the AWP Director's Prize for Undergraduate Literary Magazines for the third time in its 13-year history).

I found mentors in my teachers at the college, and consciously understood for the first time what it meant to be a student. I listened to them and followed their direction without pause, because I was in love with language and story, with the flexibility of paragraphs (which could, I discovered, consist of exactly one sentence if I wanted it to), with Lorrie Moore and Raymund Carver, with short story collections and lit mags. I wanted to make people feel what they made me feel. I wanted to be good. Really really good.

I knew I wasn't done being a student, and to keep being one, I'd have to be graduate-school bound, MFA-bound, more-teachers-more-books-and-new-colleagues bound.

So, ironically (given where my very first short story took place) I headed to the Deep South.

(More tomorrow in Part 3! Promise, that will be the last "part.")

How Studying Creative Writing Changed Everything: Part I

Where I come from, everything's a metaphor, so replace "studying creative writing" with anything that's grabbed you by the hair and playfully yanked, and that you mysteriously found yourself putting your whole self into.

If you haven't encountered this yet, a hint: it's probably the thing in your life that doesn't feel like it could be (or should be) "the thing," because it's too fun, too easy, and doesn't feel like work in the way that you are used to. Make no mistake, it's work. But of a different variety. The kind that moves you forward and takes you places and introduces you to people you'd never otherwise meet.

Just like my married friends have told me about meeting my future husband: meeting him will not feel like what you think it is going to feel like.

As for how and when my hair was yanked, well, the actual yanking probably took place pre-adolescence, but the big old pull came after I tried out Syracuse University for two years, then dropped out to follow the Grateful Dead (which is a whole different post), and ended up—after a handful of shows, a lot of drugs, many hot parking lots, and a stream of cities across America—at Prescott College.

There, after a quarter of creative arts courses (theater movement, photography, and "the way of the spiritual warrior"—no joke, awesome class), I finally signed up for Introduction to Fiction Writing. But I backed out at the last minute. So I signed up again, the next quarter, and again I backed out. That's how terrified I was of my destiny.

When I did finally get the courage up (and constructed a good argument for the teacher who wasn't convinced I'd actually take the class this time), I was 23 years old. Sad a lot. Stoned a lot. And hungry for approval. (I'll say that over the years, three of those things have changed. I'll let you be the judge.)

After writing character sketches and monologues and reading Raymund Carver and Lorrie Moore and Amy Hempel and Joy Williams (a few of the Lish-ites, as in Gordon Lish, as in crazy brilliant teacher man as well as Raymond Carver's infamous editor), and we dug into writing our first draft of an actual short story, I knew that I'd found "that thing," my thing. Or at least one of them.

(More to come, on the morrow, in Part 2. Happy fourth—whatever that means to you!)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Great New Site for Women Writers

So I'm a little behind with things, but totally busy at the same time. I only have five minutes before midnight, so want to post something quick so I don't officially miss a day.

This post is dedicated to the brand new (like just over 24 hours new?) awesome writer's website—for the ladies! She Writes. It launched yesterday and already has 250 members or so! It's got discussion groups on everything from the practical like marketing and promotion, literary groups by genre, and a really awesome discussion group on blogging (started by yours truly!).

So you don't have to be a writer with books to be on there—just someone who loves to write and is looking to learn some things about the writing world so they can move forward with the craft (whether you are a blogger, or a poet, or a fiction writer....). Oh, and you do have to be a woman.

It's a really fantastic group of people...high-level professional writers, as well as new folks. Come glean some wisdom! And share some. And be part of the early stages of what is going to grow to be a truly amazing resource.

When you join, look for my group: Bloggers: Let's Make It Work!

I'll be back with more verve in the next couple of days. I think I may be a tad overcommitted. Or just really inspired. It's hard to say which.