Thursday, March 31, 2005

Status Report

Days without coffee: 0. That's right. I broke today. HOWEVER, the making of it I can blame on Mr. E, and the drinking of it I can blame on the dark, slimy addict who lives in my chest...but funny enough, it wasn't all that yummy, though man was I PRODUCTIVE today. Coincidence? I doubt it. I'm back off for the rest of the week and weekend if I can keep the slimy addict at bay.

Days without refined sugar: 5. That's right; the most obscene glucose-based product to enter my digestive tract has been dried figs. Albeit, they're SWEET, but it's not a hostess cupcake, you know? (mmmm, cupcake, grrrrllllrrrg).

Cups of tea consumed this day: 4. Only 1 caffeinated.

Number of times I shooed our nearly-obese cat away from food bowl as he howled in emotional subjugation of his intolerable feelings of abandonment? Uncountable.

Bike Rides up formerly impossible hill reinvigorating pride in the human machine: 2. That's right, babies. These lungs are getting stronger! Plus I had to take a break from jogging.

Page-mark achieved in new novel: 170. (Hey, vote for your favorite title: "Strange but Familiar" or "Going Home." The novel has to do with family. Estranged family members getting to know each other again out of circumstance. Post it here at the blog if you don't mind. I'm serious! Marcus--I see you there. You never say hello).

Overdue checks from already published articles and projects: 5. I won't tally the cash. It will make both of us cry.


-Followed up with agent who holds Shaky Grounds fate in "their" hands. Received "will read it this weekend response." Woo-hoo! -Received one new freelance assignment from a new publication source ("The Writer" Magazine).

In other news...

The snail rager

I don't drink beer, but snails do, apparently. Not that I'd have to spend much on a mini-kegger just for them, they have no preference, but if they're munching a little too freely on one's marigolds, for instance, a little beer in a deep cup will make sure they never munch again...though the word will get out around the neighborhood that there's beer on the block, and they're too dumb to understand that beer= death so i will likely get a horde. However, in the absence of beer, one can substitute yeast and water. In the absence of pure yeast and water, one might get creative and see how a dissolved chicken bullion cube works (it's GOT yeast in it, number one, and for fuck's sake, the critters like Dog Food, so how picky can they be?). Either my cat will drink it, the ants will overrun it, or it will work.

After Martha Beck's "Leaving the Saints" I am LONGING for scintillating, non-fiction reads on spirituality...gripping stories that I can't put down...tales of transformation and redemption, epiphanies and you know of any? Please recommend. And RIP Terry Schiavo...finally the poor woman is at peace!

Tune in next time for: Tips on Zero Waste; The Pub Crawl; My little brother's 16th Birthday extravaganza. JPR

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Day Three Without Coffee

I'm not quite as grumpy as I thought I would be! Though I have had slight headaches and sort of feel prickly in my skin, even though I've been drinking lots of Green Tea. Man, if I ever get cancer after all the Green Tea I drink, I'm suing somebody. It should be noted that I do not intend to go off coffee permanently. I haven't decided how to modulate it yet, but I may only try to drink it weekends...we'll see. I stopped drinking it to give my whacked out body a break from all stressors, so it will be necessity rather than choice.

The Fish handoff to the Russian mafia:

I fell asleep at the chiropractor yesterday. Not DURING adjustments, silly. He has this cool machine that he hooks your troubled muscles up to and it sort of tenderizes you before adjustments. It makes your muscle fire without needing your consent. When Erik went to see him for the first time and had it strapped to his leg, since Dr. T gives you control of the, uh, controls so you can modulate how high the strange pulse is, Erik, of course, had to turn it up to see what would happen, and his leg shot straight into the air. Such a boy. When I first tried it, it gave me an incontrollable case of the giggles. At any rate, with those puppies on my neck and butt, and a hot pad of some kind on my torso, I drifted off to sleep. It was a most wondrous sleep, and I woke to Dr. T's kind, face (strangely resembling, Erik and I have decided, a more square-jawed, better looking Ed Begley)...and then I did that thing you do when someone calls too early and wakes you up, and you pretend to be awake even though you're still stuck somewhere in dreamland where the Russian Mafia was just about to give you the fish handoff, which you had to get into your parents' bed before the world ends...where you say "oh, yeah, I'm awake, no, really, I'm fishing with Russians. What? I said I'm fresh as a rose..."

Sewing Miz Oates

I have the opportunity to interview Joyce Carol Oates for Word by Word and though I've said yes, and we're working on a date, I am, quite frankly, terrified. Mainly because of rumors, shall we say, of her responses to interviewers in the past who had not read all of her six million books. I like Miz Oates' work, but I'll be honest, if I read every book she wrote, I'd have to make her my project for a year. Fortunately her latest book, "Sexy" is slim and doesn't appear to be as, say, "We Were the Mulvaney's." I've already received one suggested question from one smart writer friend, but if you have anything you'd like to ask Miz Oates about her work, do weigh in!

No more cement legs!

Recently I bought three new pairs of jeans, all with some form of spandexy-stretch material woven in so that, while they aren't like the stretch pants of my youth, they have a nice amount of give, while still maintaining their shape (they're all Levis). And then I went and put on an old pair of pants that has no stretch, and woah baby, I felt like someone had dipped my legs in cement! It was the oddest experience. So here's to pants that stretch...see, jogging has given my legs new muscles that I didn't realize had developed thanks to the stretch jeans...I highly recommend them.

P.S. If you're anywhere near Marin County and get a chance to pick up a Pacific Sun, you'll find an article of mine in there on a very interesting website, "" and it's co-founder, Martha Ture.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Where is all the back-stabbing?

I figured out what's been missing from my blog: gossip. No name-dropping, no back-stabbing, not even the slightest mention of pop-culture (this blog cures the latter). Even though I do have a very cool writing community all around me, and even though there have certainly been "interactions" over the years, I guess I'm of the mindset that you don't fling hash where you live. Which isn't to say that I don't THINK it. I've just learned that my judgments aren't always that reliable, and they're usually defenses against something. It's only when I have a real grievance, when someone has "wronged' me in an undeniable way, that you'll hear about it. Yet, since changing my attitude about life, I rarely feel wronged anymore. I suppose I could seek out a good wronging if I worked on it. Since I'm much more house-bound these days due to the whole working at home situation, it's hard enough for me to get myself out into the world each day. When the weather is good, I force myself to exercise (note the word: 'force'), and that has been paying off, though it's painful too.

Speaking of pain

Last night on Sixty Minutes they did a feature on two runners who do these 70-hour races across some insane amount of mileage. They run for 70 hours. No sleep. They stop to eat as they run, calling for deliveries and having a team of friends drive just ahead or behind in case they crash or croak. Now, I believe that there is something rather beautiful to the challenge of exercise. Even my piddly little jogs test my endurance and prove something to me about how the body is as much driven by the mind as by its own strength. But 70 hours?? I can't think of anything--not one thing--that I would want to do for 70 hours. The woman featured, according to her family, couldn't NOT run. If they took a long drive, they'd have to let her out to run up ahead, go have a meal, and then catch up to her. makes you ponder: what is she trying to outrun?

Today the test begins to see if all that they say about not drinking coffee is true. Better clarity, no "crashing" during the day, less stomach upset, etc. What that means is that if I seem cranky, I'm NOT DRINKING COFFEE. I've given myself just a week's break. If I choose to go on, you'll hear about it. I've now been a full-fledged coffee drinker for about eight years. Erik really turned me on to coffee as a regular habit when we met. I had always loved the smell, but not the taste, because I'd had it black, or in the form of a mocha, which was too sweet. Then he started making it in that little apartment on Slater street, with milk and sugar. Lo, I was addicted. It's really strange because I actually feel sad, like "what if I keep not drinking it?" Like I'm saying goodbye to a friend. Isn't that pathetic?

The New-New Age?

But if I'm going to be nice enough to this body in order to keep open to a higher plane of reality, to a spiritual center, I think sometimes you have to vary up the deal. You can't treat it badly all the time and then expect it to be the receiver of divine energy. Don't worry...when I say divine energy I haven't gone over the deep end. I just don't know how else to refer to spiritual things without using new-age language. I wonder if the newage is going to be like postmodernism. Because technically we're now post-post are we also in a new-new age?

I'm a big fan of "The Sun" magazine, even when it's dreary and a little too radical even for my tastes. But i loved this bit from editor Sy Safransky:

"In an article entitled, "Where's the miracle in a Tsunami?" the spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson suggests that those swept away by the tsunami didn't die in vain because their dying "helped to awaken slumbering humanity to the sanctity and fragility of life." I doubt that a grieving parent in South Asia would find much solace in such new-age Sophistry."

Amen. Or, uh, something like that.

This was a ramble. So there it be.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Back-Up Child Gives Me Life

Though realistically there are about sixty-five million tiny little details that add up to the reality of my existence, for the sake of today's blog entry, I'd like to reduce it down to just one period of time, one little constellation of details.

I thank the Jews. Not my current temple-going friends, not the strange duo I worked for as a vitamin buyer (whose son was a born-again christian, the husband a professed methamphetamine user and the wife prone to showing people her undergarments in the store), nor the innumerable good people of the Judaic faith around the world.

I thank the Jews who thought to themselves in 1947, "we've had enough of this wandering, we gonna get us some Jewish State, baby, oh yea!" And when they looked down on that glistening jewel called Palestine, they knew a homeland when they saw one. NOW, before you go accusing me of being anti-this or pro-that, the ONLY reason I thank them (though a part of me understands even that which I think is essentially a very bad choice) is that because of that war that founded the State of Israel still in crisis today--my grandparents were living in Jerusalem and on the front line, literally--my father exists. My Oma urged my grandfather that in this terrible time of war, they needed what I like to call a "back-up child." A child they could cling to in desperate love should something terrible befall their sad, first-born, my uncle. Hence, my father. Though my Oma was already 36 with a six year-old son, she was apparently quite urgent in this goal.

My Opa said to me tonight, "having another child was the last thing on my mind." Who can blame him? He was busy standing sentry with a rifle against the Israeli army, which was more like a band of guerilla fighters at that time. Can't be good for the sperm count.

So my father came into life as insurance against his brother's. No wonder they never got along.

Now, as I sit pondering the connections that bind my family together, seeking meaning and trying to rescue the straggling lines of family that stretch off into the oddest places--to South America, to France, to the East Coast--my grandmother's memory is slowly dissected and reassembled in the chambers of her poor, infarcted frontal lobe. She remembers things all out of order, and is continually surprised by details such as the fact that I am my father's daughter (forget trying to tell her how he and I are related to her). Tonight she said, in the same strange broken English she has always spoken, "if you are the daughter of Elon, then you and he and I, we all have something in general." For a brief moment I thought she was acutally remembering how we are related...but this thought passed only briefly through her mind and settled on another far less plausible reality:

"You and me, we were in the same children's home, right?" She asked. I reluctantly shook my head, because to say no to one of her amalgam memories is to try and construct another one that will make sense to her, quite a tall proposition.

"No? But why then do I remember you as a child?"

Oh boy. This one's a whammy. We just keep cleverly coming up with shortcuts around the fact that she can't remember, because otherwise one starts to question the reliability of one's own young memory. "Can't some things just remain a mystery?" I said. I thought she might cry, but she laughed. "Okay, so it's a mystery," she said, as if this was just the right answer. It wasn't good enough for Opa. These discussions make him infuriated in his very subtle way, which is nonetheless kind of scary, like one of those Akido guys who can knock you over without even hitting you.

Tonight, as she seemed to realize for the first time yet again in ten minutes that I was Elon's daughter, my Opa said, "This is not news! It has been so for all of her thirty years," and the hair on his head sort of bounced with fury and his little jaw tightened (he is a tiny man: barely five feet tall). And as I tried to disentangle myself from the labyrinth, he spat, "Can we talk about something else?" This is a big deal for him to say. At first I felt chastised, but then, as she ran marathons of memory around us, pinning a detail from Germany to a detail from New York, splicing Kibbutz memories with my childhood visits to Shelter Island, I could see how exhausted he must be.

Oma and I Go to Summer Camp

Somewhere in the course of conversation, at Opa's prompting that I "tell one of MY memories," ("Which one?" "Any...")I mentioned playing Stratego at summer camp. This provided just the segue in the miasma of her brain that she needed, and from a narrative perspective, I must say she worked it in quite well. We knew each other from summer camp! Yes, and pretty soon she was describing activities we had done together. Why not. Summer camp it was! Me and my 89 year-old grandmother holding hands and skipping down to the mess tent to drink bug-juice.

Then Erik, the doctor of psychology, got talking with her one-on-one, and he told her about a memory he has of he and his younger brother going fishing. "The thing is, my brother, he doesn't remember being on this trip with me," he told her. "But I like to remember it that way."

"Yes, this is it," she said. So he pressed on. "Maybe you and Jordie weren't at camp together; but it's nice to remember it that way..."

She liked that very much. He has such a way with her. My way is to get sad, amused, frustrated, bored, furious...

But damn it, in the end, I'm always grateful, because I'm here to tell you about it thanks to them. (Do tune in for the next part of this series: the salacious saga of the Ohio Protestants on my mother's side, okay? Don't miss the story of how my grandparents learned which fork to use

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

My Nose, and its Search for the Divine:

I have to say that I like this new photo of myself better because it more honestly reveals my nose...which I usually try to hide or couch at clever angles. There's nothing inherently wrong with my nose except that when I see it from the side I always am shocked by its appearance. Must it be so long? It's like some kind of ancient symbol embedded in my body; it means "god's lone warrior" or something. It points people to a spot about four steps in front of me, which is probably my space cusion comfort zone. But it also looks a bit like if you pressed my eyeballs into my head, it would shoot lasers, or possibly silly string.

Oh, and the photo is taken like that to showcase my haircut, not to hide a pimple or anything. Though there's always that.

I just have to say that I'm reading a (non-fiction) book, which I do not regularly do, called "Leaving the Saints," by Martha Beck. Her publicist sent it for Word by Word, and at first I was all blase and uninterested, but some little spark of interest caused me to have them send it and oh man am I glad they did. I mean this is a book I would NEVER think to look at...but not only is it helping me to understand the character of Thea in the novel I'm writing, who is a bumbling spiritual seeker since running away from home at 16, it's resonating with something inside me that I can't quite explain well.

Let me try anyway. I was raised without religion. I mean without it at all. Period. Zippo. Not so much as a "Jesus Christ" or a "Shalom." Nobody talked God in my houses. They talked a lot of astrology (see prior post: Zodiac Girl). They threw the I-Ching. They consulted with psychics and Reiki-masters. (I realize now, in retrospect, that taking lots of drugs probably helped this along). So, despite growing up with the supremely Jewish last name, Rosenfeld, in a school where two of my best friends' last names were both "Moore," I felt positively exotic, but strangely a-religious. Plus, my father, despite having been barmitzvah'ed, did not practice Judaism in any way shape or form, nor, I discovered to my horror much later in life when I was hoping to "plug into my Jewish roots," did my grandparents, though they were certainly raised Jewish. Plus, I'd only ever been to church by accident--because I slept over at a friend's house who had to go to Sunday School; for weddings, that sort of thing. So I actually grew up to fear and feel suspicious of all things god--the Jewish God and the Christian God, both.

When I came to College in 1992, Sonoma State was teeming with young Christians. On one occasion when my boyfriend and I had suffered an egregious fight that I thought was the end of things, a guy I knew in passing asked if I needed someone to talk to over lunch? Well, I thought he was offering his friendship when I needed it most. Turned out he was offering me the key into the kingdom of Jesus. I felt betrayed. I wanted a friend and he handed me religion?? Only now in retrospect do I understand that he did believe himself to be offering friendship, but I wasn't that kind of girl. Some comparative religion courses I took softened the wall for me. I could say "God," without feeling ashamed, and even admit that maybe I believed in something akin to God--minus the white robes and beard and all that hokum. Tough the more I have talked to people over the years, the more I realize that most people do not believe in THAT particular God.

However, having been bereft any ceremony or tradition or sense of connectedness in the earliest days of my life when I probably needed it most, I grew up running away from any sense of source until I hit the age of 20 and broke up with Morgan. For one thing, I had had an almost transcendent experience in deciding to leave him, like a pair of hands was pushing me out the door, like try as I might (and I did try) not to leave him, the universe, or God, was having none of it. And from that point forward, once free from him, and from aspects of my personality that he brought out in me (as I did in him), I began to attract (and still do) Seekers.

Seekers like me. I mean it. They find me. Whether they are seeking the goddess within, or the big father without, offering the Tibetan Love Hug or believe they have written the text to change the world,or they have had a visitation by angels...they keep showing up in my life. While this used to freak me out and make me think that I was just attracting crazy people, I think it's more like the universe's subtle attempt to tell me that spirituality, that GOD, for God's sake, doesn't appear only as that white-haired father or blonde-haired Jesus. It has many faces, but really only one. Mine. Yours. Lately, really in the last year, but more passionately in the last six months, something has awakened inside me...something that, when I started reading Martha Beck's book yesterday I realized had been a plea, a longing of desperate proportions for some kind of spiritual connection that I have, as of yet, not experienced. Or not in a long time. Only in blips.

I started meditating about six months ago. Erik is the meditator in this relationship, the Buddhist scholar. I resisted it for a long time...but since making the leap to working for myself and writing this frustrating, mind-numbing, but wonderful novel, I've needed a connection to my source more than ever, and for the first time in my life I'm not scared, afraid or embarassed about it. Still, it's not the kind of thing you can just spout left and right. Spirituality scares people. Religion is tidier because it's got all those rules and fits into boxes. Spirituality is like that free-form hippie dancing at Grateful Dead concerts, it's like poetry without meter and rhyme. And in a time when there are a million other false alternatives stretching their sparkly, entertaining, glossy arms out to fill that place in us, who needs a spiritual connection, right?

Well I do. I do, and I'm scared to say that because everyone I know who has asked to get really connected has gone through some kind of physical trial and I am so afraid of pain. But maybe that's where it is...who knows. All I know is that I want to be connected, write from that place of real, deep, meaningful content and not let the world with all its flashy tricks press in on me too tightly.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Something strange and scary is happening to me. Once upon a time I was what used to be called an "over-achiever" and has now been politically correctified to be "super achiever." I have, as a rule, always loaded my plate to ever-teetering heights, juggling tasks and jobs and emails and people with the skill of a Cirque de Soleil performer. Sure, it has taken its toll in a variety of ways, on psyche and body alike. But up until very recently it could still be done without much consequence.

I don't know if it is the process of having been in graduate school for nearly two years, having done the radio show for equally as long or if I am starting to wear out on the process of trying to get a book published, but a switch has been flipped inside me and the result is not pleasing me. I can't do as much. Not only am I less motivated (a problem I have NEVER had), I get positively frozen at times. I stare at my novel-in-progress and feel as though I am being asked to take the SATs all over again.

The irony of course is that on some level this is probalby healthy, since over-doing is an adaption to unhealthy circumstances to begin with. It comes with a strange sense of grief too, like something is being lost, though that seems silly. I feel silly writing about this, but maybe in my own way I'm hoping someone will advise me.

Last night Joy L. and I went to this reading for a publication that I had a piece in. It was held in a nice little place in Cotati and there was free food, but I really didn't know anybody (except for Joy--my portable friend for the evening :) ). And not only that, they all seemed so young and I had this strange out of body feeling, almost a panic, that I really shouldn't be there. I'm not sure if it was the strange fellow usurping Joy's seat and drinking her wine that did it, but we were equally ready to leave. So, guiltily on my part, we pushed out into the rain and holed up in this funky little cafe across the street that is one part thrift store, or maybe the place where the Franklin Mint creatures go when they're not loved anymore, and equal parts coffee shop, ice cream parlor and was cool. There, we had a nice talk and it was truly the best part of the whole evening.

I felt all full of great ideas and energy and a surge of belief in myself, only to get up this morning and fall apart under the pressure of the blank page. Yesterday I was full of belief in myself and good cheer, and today I'm slumped low. I don't really understand it. I seem to experience a downfall day after each day that I feel really good. I think that I feel this way only in direct relationship to my desire to achieve certain things. In other words, when I ride my bike and jog on the weekend, sit in cafes with Erik and relish in the small things of my life, I'm happy. When I want more, bigger, things that require praise and reward and validation, I begin to slide into this place of despair. So shit...what should I do?

Suggestions welcome.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Stick

Myfanwy passed the stick to me:

1. You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be? In line with Myf's Sci-Fi theme, "Stranger in a Strange Land," Robert Heinlen.

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? I don't know where to start. Most recently, the character of Henry from "The Time Traveler's Wife." But then, I also sort of had a crush on Claire in the same book.

3. The last book you read:

Um. Well, the very last? Probably Alison Anderson's novel, "Darwin's Wink" for Word by Word and Tom Bissell's, "God Lives in St. Petersburg."

4. What are you currently reading? The collected novels of Jean Rhys, and a biography of her, for my Bennington Lecture. Also "Other People's Houses" by Lore Segal.

5. Five books you would take to a deserted island:I hate these sorts of questions. But here goes:

"The Time Traveler's Wife"-Audrey Nifenegger

"Invisible Cities"-Italo Calvino

The Collected Fiction of Jorge Luis Borges

"The Mists of Avalon"-Marion Zimmer Bradley (yeah, I know not great literature...but that book would be so great on an island).

Grimm's Fairy Tales

I'm passing the stick onto Katie Stohlmann (

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Oh procreation...why dost thou taunt me so?

Childbirth (and many aspects of child-rearing) make me really suspicious about there being a God. I mean, I was already suspicious thanks to the hippie-colored childhood of mine, with the I-Ching and astrology taking the place of any Holy Ghost or Baby Jesus...but anything that requires the female to give up nine months of her bodily comfort, then another 1-2 years of her identity/autonomy/sleep to only partly assure that her offspring does not grow up to take her to therapy, well, that can't be the act of does however make me lean more toward the idea of Satan.

We just spent a few hours with our very sweet niece. She's a good child. I mean it. Two and a half, happy, adjusted, a normal, sweet kid (Erik's genes). If I could put in an order for one of those I'd be really more inclined to do it. And maybe you can. Maybe the recipe really is in the holding environment, in the containment as the psychologists say...

But shit...why does it scare me so? Not the part about being responsible for another life, not even the childbirth part (okay, a little), but the part about how you keep (or dont') your own identity and still raise a healthy human being who is grateful you were their parent. Erik is actually much more disposed to parenthood. He's great with kids, he understands their psychology due to his training, and they love him. They flock to him like I've never seen. Me...well, i get tired, bored, irritated more easily. To me, they're just little people, and I don't like all people...fortunately most of the kids I know I like, and most of my friends are great parents who surprise me (and themselves) with how much they are capable of giving and doing...But yikes. See, I'm thirty, which isn't old, and there's still plenty of time for me...but the longer you wait, the easier it is to keep waiting. The more you think rationally about not having kids, the better the argument sounds for not having them. Think of all the money, time and resources you save! Think of all the quiet dinners and movies out you can have. Think of all the comfort of having control over your life...

What happens if you don't have kids? Do you regret it? I don't know.

See all I write about, over and over again, are adult children and their parents coming to terms with the past (and occasionally dealing with the present). I don't intend to write this story over and over again, but I compels me, and I think the reason is that my childhood was so bereft of parents behaving as parents should. It has literally given me a preoccupation with trying to reconcile how these kinds of things happen...I really don't write about lovers nor about death, nor about chance encounters or siblings. I write about parents and their children...I write about how it went wrong or could go wrong, and how they are fumbling and bumbling to get it right again.

So...who knows when and how the answer of whether or not I should procreate will be answered. I won't leave it up to God, that much I know for sure. Not the same jerk who supposedly put me in this position in the first place...


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

See everything as a dream, as a show, as a film.

When the body is born, all kinds of things happen to it, and you take part in them because you take yourself to be the body. You are like the man in the cinema house, laughing and crying with the picture, though knowing fully well that he is all the time in his seat and the picture is but the play of light. It is enough to shift attention from the screen to oneself to break the spell.
When the body dies, the kind of life you live now, succession of physical and mental events, comes to an end. It can end even now, without waiting for the death of the body. It is enough to shift attention to the Self and keep it there. All happens as if there is a mysterious power that creates and moves everything. Realize that you are not the mover, only the observer, and you will be at peace. Of course that power is not separate from you, but you must begin by being the dispassionate observer. Then only will you realize your full being as the universal lover and actor. As long as you are enmeshed in the tribulations of a particular personality, you can see nothing beyond it.

Sri Nisargadatta

( I don't know who he is, but I like this very much!).

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


I think I am being punished for all the times I have told another writer in the throes of block or frustration: "Just write. Just sit down and write and it will come. Write crap. Write the cheesiest, romance drivel you can think up, but write."

I'm doing that and the beauty is apparently buried much more deeply than I realized. See, just like in life, with my characters I make snap judgments. In the first draft I don't generally know them all that well, and I make assumptions about them that later turn out to be wrong.

Okay...more later. I have to do some real work now.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Job: Research Assistant. Pay: Unscrupulously low. Benefits: You are a masochist, you don't need any.

On Word by Word I am often prone to ask people how or if or why they research for their novels, always asking with the secret sense of loathing on their behalf for having to do such a terrible, awful, horrible thing. Some, like Andrew Sean Greer, author of the Confessions of Max Tivoli (which I persisted in mis-pronouncing), make research sound like great sex. Others are closer to my side of the fence, though they still make themselves do it. They have a little something called willpower that I do not have.

Perhaps this bias of mine against research stems from those few stupid papers I did in college on such topics as: wormholes, depression, whether or not God was a compassionate or veangeful God, and the language of scientific writing. See, NOW, those topics sound really interesting! But back to my 18 year-old self, who was much more interested in being the submissive girlfriend and possible award-winning international journalist than any kind of serious writer, the topics, and the research required were tedious, because this was pre-high-tech Charles Schultz info center at Sonoma State University.

So I had to look up all those little subjects and pick out a handful of dewy-decimal ordered books that may or may not have been close to my subject, and spend hours in the dusty but strangely comforting nooks of the Ruben Salazar library surrounded by those beautiful, odd little books, listening to the hushed mutterings of my peers while looking out on the green commons ...oh my GOD! I miss this process. I loved it. What am I saying? Google has ruined me. That's what has happened. Google has taken the joy out of it for me. Cursed search-engine!


My point was that I hate research because I'm not able to stop, to know when something is enough, and I'm sort of unnaturally afraid of it (I'm also lazy). I think it comes from a place of wanting to believe that I can make up everything worth writing down...but the more I write, the less I feel this is true. I mean, sure, if I want to write about the four walls of my office and the number of plates in my kitchen dish-drainer, then I probably don't need any research. Then again, I think maybe I need help. Like the character of Daisy Andalusia in Alice Mattison's book, "The Marriage of the Two-Headed Woman." Daisy helps people organize their clutter, and for the man she has an affair with, she organizes newspaper articles into subjects and categories since he's collected them but can't put them in any order. I need this. Someone to go with me on one of these library excursions and, having an understanding of what it is I need, essentially tell me which books, possibly even which paragraphs to read.

I'm such a sad sack. This research hang-up could really keep me from writing about a lot of stuff...

Aw. Well.

Here's another beautiful mind-fuck from the Tao-Te-Ching for you:

"Always be without desire
in order to observe its wondrous subtleties;
Always have desire
so that you may observe its manifestations."

P.S. Hilary Duff.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Inspired by Alice Mattison's sharp-tongued instruction that I read more poetry (in order to stop writing "jargon"), and also by Myfanwy's similar good taste in poetry, I'm posting one today. Don comes to Bennington, and one of the best "lectures" ever was when he and his longtime friend Robert Bly got together to talk and read poetry...

Donald Hall

To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Rider Takes a Hit

Writing in any serious way is ninety-percent picking oneself up from the hard, dirty floor where one has been knocked due to: criticism, writer's block, frustrating characters/language, insults from people who think writing is meaningless work, and getting back on that fucking dead cliche of a horse.

Which leads one to ask: why do it? Why bother? There's no guarantee of publication or money. There's certainly no guarantee of kind words of praise since everyone's a critic...Why?

I have begun to think more and more that writing, the need to do it, is a disease the way they say alcoholism is. It is, however, incurable, and forget a twelve-step program; we'd be scribbling on our hands during meetings and occasionally, they'd find us dead in our rooms, a pen jammed into our jugular veins. If they did come up with a cure, we'd all turn into either tax accountants, librarians or sex offenders. Simply, we just can't help ourselves.

So we have no choice but to put ourselves out there for feedback, to seek advice from the wise counsel of elders who have been at this for sometime. A I said before, I'm working with the magnificent Alice Mattison my final semester here at Bennington. And i'm writing a new novel for my thesis (and for other reasons) and I am reminded that man, writing is fucking hard. I am lazy. There are steps I don't want to talk, layers I don't want to probe and language I don't want to tighten. Doesn't this seem to then go against the idea that I am compelled, diseased, even, to write? I think it's the dark irony of the disease. You are compelled to write, but there is no guarantee that it will ever be any good. For particularly egregious sufferers of the writing disease, in fact all you can churn out, day after day, is trite drivel like this, rife with silly puns and trite statements that has to sound smarter than it is.

So, as you can tell, this writer is having a less than great day about her writing.

But I am compelled, therefore tomorrow, no matter how today goes, I'll be back to torture myself and others with my words, to continue to bring people into existence on the page that might make people want to throw such a book across the room.

You must forgive me; I can't help myself.

Today's quote is a poem, since I have been instructed to read more of it. Actually it's a Shakespeare Sonnet.

Where art thou, Muse, that thou forgett'st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power, to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem,
Rise, resty Muse, my love's sweet face survey,
if Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life;
So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I, Tit-head

So the other day, Erik and I were driving to visit friends in Emeryville (that's near Berkeley, CA). Something must have been happening in the city, like a premiere showing of the Vagina Monologues, or a pop-concert or something, because traffic heading toward the Bay Bridge was hell. So I began to notice the bumpers of cars in front of me, because people love to proclaim their seven-letter messages to the world from the rear of their cars, and often I'm amazed at whatever moniker or motif someone has decided sums them up best. Sure enough, a particularly amusing one caught our eyes. It was on the bumper of a large, luxury car, a Bonneville or similar. I nudged Erik. "Does that say what I think it says?"

He looked. "What do you think it says?"

"I Tit-head" (Spelling not accurate here...just wait).

He squinted. Looked closer.

Now, let me remind the reader that I'm a writer, and he is a former English teacher.

"Yup, that says I Tit-head," he agreed. We quickly got to giggling.

We arrived at our destination some twenty traffic-laden minutes later and, amused as I was about someone's decision to brand "I, Tit-head" upon themselves whenever seen in public in their car, related the story to my friends.

Now, let me point out that our friend Jesse is really smart. I mean, MENSA smart.

He asked, "How was it spelled?" I wrote it out for him.

That's "I Tithed," he said. "As in, they gave money to their church."

This was beautiful. It was now EVEN FUNNIER than before. I mean, here these poor people were trying to tell the world that they support their church, and yet, inadvertently, because we are proof of how stupid people are, they were proclaiming to the world what tit-heads they are.

I love that story every time I tell it.

Quote of the day:
(Your quote of the day has been selected at random off my bookshelf).

"Those who experience do not participate in the world. For the experience is "in them" and not between them and the world.

"The world does not participate in experience. It allows itself to be experienced, but it is not concerned, for it contributes nothing, and nothing happens to it."

From: I and thou, Martin Buber.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Praise for Word by Word:

"Word by Word is the writers' Fresh Air. I count on Jordan Rosenfeld to keep the program going as it contributes not only to the literary life of the Bay Area, but, beyond that, to the quality of public radio, which, without such programs, would consist overwhelming of News and political commentary."

--Lynn Freed.Author of five novels, and, most recently, a collection of stories, THE CURSE OF THE APPROPRIATE MAN. READING, WRITING & LEAVING HOME, essays, will be published by Harcourt in Fall, 2005

“Word by word is a wonderful program with a terrific host who knows how to question writers with intelligence and tact and to get them to talk about their work. It is an opportunity for listeners to get to know writers and their work in some depth. Word by Word performs and important service for the community at a time when writers need to speak out and to be heard more than ever.”
–Sheila Kohler, author of five novels and three books of short stories.

“Recently, I was lucky to be a guest on Ms. Rosenfeld's program, talking about a book, an anthology, I've edited. Thanks to her our conversation -- at least her part of it -- was marvelously informed and energetic and surely of interest to all who were listening. For me, it was delightful fun. Her ambition is a keen and necessary one and it deserves, it demands, generous support.”
–Douglas Bauer, author of Dexterity & Editor of the anthology, "Prime Times."

“Congratulations on getting a good new program onto the airwaves--in my experience, radio is the single best medium for reaching people's attention, and I'm always amazed, each time I'm on the air, how many people hear it.
–Jane Hirshfield, Poet.

"I tune into Word by Word to hear interviews with my favorite authors. Jordan Rosenfeld asks the types of questions only a deep reader of fiction can ask, and is a leader in the discussion of today's publishing amid reports of a dwindling readership."

–Susan Henderson, Managing Editor of NIGHT TRAIN literary magazine, a recipient of an Academy of American Poets award, and a featured author in McSweeney's Books The Future Dictionary of America.

"I have followed Jordan Rosenfeld's career since it started and believe that her imaginative initiatives on behalf of good writing should be given all the support they deserve."
--Duncan Campbell, special correspondent of The Guardian in London.

As a writer whose work has been featured on Word by Word, I am deeply grateful that such a forum exists, for both the sake of discussion and exhibition. While there are other public radio shows that present good writing, both on a national and a local level, they are almost universally devoted to the work of writers so well-established that being featured is merely another line on a résumé for the authors. Word by Word, by contrast, is strongly focused on *working* writers, not merely prestige -- and thus provides invaluable insight to listeners used to hearing the more traditional prose offerings. The show's breadth of view and lack of elitism, coupled with its producers' very rigorous eye for artistic excellence, are in fact unique.

For aspiring writers and passionate readers, Word By Word provides much-need intelligent discussion of the art seldom heard on even NPR's airwaves. When I speak with writers in other countries, they invariably express astonishment at the sheer numbers of writers, and good ones, in the United States, as compared to other industrialized countries. They want to know what our society, what our educational system, do to produce so much creativity. In my estimation, it is not the adulation accorded to the John Irvings and Tom Wolfes that spur Americans to write, but the opportunity through writing to communicate with isolated others throughout a vast land.

Almost half of all Americans live outside of cities, in rural places where readers and writers both tend to be isolated. Word By Word creates an airwave-based community forum for those who love literature -- and those who may come to love it.
--Novelist Anne Mini, Ph.D.'s memoir, Is That You, Pumpkin? Love, Loss, and the Last Passions of Philip K. Dick will come out in 2006.

As a devoted listener to "Word by Word," I can say that its classic simplicity--eavesdropping on host Jordan Rosenfeld and a writer guest's lively, intelligent conversation about the creation of literature--would win over any skeptic about its value in today's soundbite times. Programs like these are crucial for our nation's cultural development: they are what public radio is all about.
--Emily Bloch, writer and editor in Amherst, Massachusettts.

Find out what the buzz is all about! Word by Word airs the first and third Weds. of EVERY MONTH. Listen in streaming live online: (click "listen" at top). And soon, ON-DEMAND. Next show: March 16th, 7pm pacific time. Tom Bissell, author of "God Lives in St. Petersburg" and "Chasing the Sea."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

I love it when an adaptation of a book is so good that you don't even care if they were entirely true to the book. I'm watching the three-part BBC version of Sarah Waters' book, Tipping the Velvet. It's about Nan King, daughter of an oyster-hall family, discovering she is a lesbian in the 1890s when she falls in love with Kitty Butler, a dance girl who does a routine dressed as a boy.

The book is stunning and painful, and the mini-series, so far, is touching, erotic and beautifully-acted. I highly recommend it.

Today, the rain broke and it is so bright and blue here that birds are peeping their guts out. Seriously, they're chirping at the top of their lungs like they're at a cheerleading rally or something. I think they're actually just shouting, "holy fucking shit, it's beautiful and we don't have to keep bailing out the nest!"

Birds probably don't swear, huh?

So I spent most of the last two days writing and fine-tuning a narrative summary (five pages!) for a grant for Word by Word that we applied for through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Let me just say that if this grant comes through, you'll hear a lot less kvetching and moaning about all the work I have to do. I love the show, absolutely adore it, but you know, there's that little thing called compensation. Now that I've been at it for two years as a volunteer, my reserves wear thin at times. But I have a VERY good feeling about this. A very, very good feeling!! Lookout Terry Gross! (kidding...)

I will leave you with this artsy quote from Albert Camus:
"Works of art are not born in flashes of inspiration but in a daily fidelity."

And today's key word is: Beyonce.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Bohemians in the Grove

My friend Colin Berry, also one of the Word by Word crew has this awesome four part essay series up at SFGate. Here is installment two. It's awesome:


I, Wallflower.

Something has come over me. I used to be gregarious, outgoing, often told I was a "social butterfly"--which I have always hated. What a dumb term anyway; butterflies aren't social, they're survivalists, maybe, but not out trading gossip, people! I hate comparisions between unlike things come to think of it, or exaggerations, when someone says, "he was literally ten feet tall.", you mean figuratively!

Such a snob am I.

But now, also, apparently, a wallflower. I've become shy, reluctant, reticent. Carl Jung apparently said that in one's thirties or thereabouts the "inferior" aspects of oneself become more dominant. So now that my flirty, busy, attention-seeking, mate-drawing days are essentially over, I'm letting out the quiet self. This works very well for my writing. I don't miss people now that I see them less. Well, I miss individual people, but I used to crave the stimulation of interaction and I just don't anymore. It takes work. Maybe this is the result of too much time spent behind the microphone on the radio. I've gotten used to asking YOU the questions, of disappearing behind the identity of host or interviewer.

Speaking of radio, all of you who are passing through today, hold a little prayer for BIG MONEY...we're applying for another grant, a much larger grant than the one from the National Endowment for the Arts, and this is one that could use all the visualization help a person can spare.

Meanwhile, novel writing this week has been essentially tossed aside for deadlines and work, which makes me very, very cranky. I've got big character issues on hold. Is Yuri going to get more involved with the now cancer-stricken Lenore, whom he has not really liked, but for reasons he can't fully answer to himself. Is he going to discover yet who this mysterious "Hiram" is that his mother keeps talking about? Will Thea give up her life on the commune and stay? Will she fall for Milo?

Tune in next time!

P.S. I've decided to put a key search word at the bottom of every post, something like -- Lindsey Lohan -- to see if it brings any new visitors to my blog.