Saturday, July 30, 2005

Whoever thinks that writing isn't hard work should try doing it for one solid week. Just one week, nothing else, eight hours a day. I don't even care what kind of writing: ad copy, letters to the editor, thank you notes, I'm not even talking fiction, articles or the variety of stuff I do for a living. How is it that after one week of sitting on my tuccus (sp?) in my chair, moving barely more than my fingers (don't worry, I leave the house to get my exercise), I could be FATIGUED in the same way I used to be fatigued when I did massage? I'll tell you how. Writing uses up lots of brain energy, draining the energy that should be sent to keep your limbs spry, your heart beating vigorously and your mood elevated. If you think there is no such thing as brain energy, I can tell you that you are very, very wrong.

A lot of my brain energy this week was expended in the form of drumming up creative ideas to pitch to editors for articles I want to write. This is no simple process for me, because though I am happy to take an assignment to write on just about anything so long as it pays well, when pitching ideas, in order to write a query that is sizzling enough to capture an editor's imagination, I have to come up with ideas that interest me, first. So I've written more pitches than I care to really remember this week to a number of different publications. Some have landed and are giving me much glee. Others hover out there in that cruel nethersphere of editor's in-boxes. Others are quickly and curtly rejected. All in all, though, keep in mind, every bit of this work is un-paid. The pitches that land are the ones that will bring the income, usually on publication, though a few pay on acceptance, and those 'others' pay long after publication, which is just downright mean.

I've found myself drawn to social issues and the environment most of the time if it isn't an artsy type profile. I like stories about people with big visions and lots of passion who are working against the odds, or against time, or against the disparaging flick-off attitude of big corporations to try and further a dream/cure/attitude shift. I like stories that remind people of resources right at their fingertips, or how good their lives really are, or how they'v overlooked something that could make their lives better. In truth, I just like to write about people and what they're doing.

As for the novel, I'm seriously about five chapters shy of ending the first draft, with a little work to do in the first half before I'll show it to anyone. Two of the characters' plot-lines have crystallized and make perfect sense to me and feel like they're on-target and full of all the right balance of suspense and tension and revelation. The other, which in his own way is really the most important, despite that he may not appear to be the protganoist, is still working itself out for me. It's the one with the most gray area, and I know exactly why it's gray to me--it's my life-long weakness as a writer, my most difficult character to get to know, and maybe for that reason it's all the more important for me to get to know him, not just for the sake of the book. I love him, I know he's meant to be, and I just want to make his storyline so convincing, his decisions so believable that the reader will not be able to dislike him even for the bad choices he's made.

It's been very hard for me to figure out how to write the necessary drama unfolding between these estranged characters, and as such, I'm under-writing it because I'm afraid of sentimentality, of hyper-drama where the reader thinks, "oh give it a rest!" There's already one character who balances on the edge of hysteria, though she mostly keeps it in check, so the rest of them can't also...I also am really trying not to do a whole lot of psychologizing about why these characters are they way they are, and let the reader extrapolate what they will out of it.

Anyways. I WILL meet my goal of a finished draft by my birthday on August 30th. You can take that to the bank.


I like underdogs and I also like entrepreneurs.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I've given myself eye strain again, so forgive me if this is full of typos. I did this one other time. I can't figure out what conspires to produce it though...because there are just as many times I do not give myself eye strain despite how much time I spend in front of my computer. Is it the way I lean? The number of hours I spend editing versus writing? Is it when I offend myself with terrible prose? Who knows.

At any rate, last night I returned to a writing group that I last sat in on a few days before I left for my very first residency at Bennington...two years ago. This group is one that emphasizes creative process, play and letting loose. It is not a workshopping craft group. It is not a networking group. It is the most delicious, wonderful group of women and I have MISSED THEM SO! It was like sliding into a hot tub when your muscles are sore, or like eating really good chocolate on the first day of your period. It was so great to let go, to just write, and to be with these wonderful friends who seem to write directly from their guts, their souls. It really was so nourishing for me. I felt myself well up with tears of gratitude as it was happening. So good!

The group was in particularly good contrast to this sense that I should be doing something with my degree, chop chop chop, you know.

Anyway, yesterday marked a day of a sudden onslaught of new projects lining up at the plate, including some that will be a creative challenge and suddenly I felt it again, the juice of determination, the inspiration of new goals, and I realized, why fight this part of myself? I am motivated by goals and by challenges. Not even just motivated, but entirely jazzed, turned on, electrified. Why tell myself that I should be something different when this is how I work? When I get jazzed in this way, it always leads to more good things, so I think I am just going to go with it.

More soon

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I am surely going to get in trouble soon. For all this mindless gazing about my office when I should be editing, for reading over old stories when I should be working on the novel, for taking time to snap photos of the first bloom on my gorgeous gal tiger lily when I should be weeding the morass of crab grass growing beneath her, threatening to choke her out. And who will exact the punishment on my stealing of moments? The same threatening overlord punisher I have always feared--nebulous, nameless, a creature with the power to make good things turn bad, friends become enemies and family disown me.

On the other hand, that Lily's beauty is fleeting. The very next day her tips were curled, and her sisters' heads starting to brown. Sometimes the moment is the only sufficent unit of time for doing these seemingly pointless things. The more moments you hold off, the more you ultimatley wind up not living.

And here is a photo of my favorite pair of high-heels. Please, don't laugh at the skinny little calves, the veined, pale feet. Let me live a little longer in the illusion that when I wear these, I am beautiful.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A friend of mine has been diagnosed suddenly, unexpectedly with a serious cancer. She's one of these types who eats healthy, exercises and is in uncommonly good health otherwise. She is lucky in many ways, if one can use the word luck and cancer in the same sentence. The fact that she IS so healthy is why she's still with us. They also got out all the obvious tumors, which were not yet in any organs, only on. They seem to be ahead of the game.

I want to be careful what I write about her. This is her situation, her life, her suffering. Though there is probably nothing more humanizing than the suffering of someone you know, I don't feel that I have much claim to what is happening to her and I don't want to extrapoloate too much from her experience as if they were happening to send a message to ME. As a writer, sometimes you do have to draw the line. I also want to protect her privacy.

Still, the reason I'm even writing this, is that she said some things that hit me profoundly, and also--and this is really rather creepy--there is a character in the novel I'm writing who has precisely this kind of cancer--coincidentally. And I see that I got so much wrong because I was guessing and imagining. And it kind of freaks me out that the writer in me is already at work, seeing my friend's illness, and applying to my own novel information I would not otherwise have gleaned. In other words, the fact of my friend's illness has helped me to clarify and write a more believable character in my novel. And I feel sort of sick about that.

I went to visit her yesterday and was surprised how good she looks. Though yesterday was the first day she had the feeding tube out, so I think this gave her exceptional good attitude. From all that I've ever heard from cancer-survivors (and god, how many of us know a bundle of them), there is a HUGE spiritual component to the disease for those who can go there. It seems to offer a kind of possibility of understanding something on a spiritual level that others do not and will not get. She said to me, "If I could impart something to others not going through this, it's that regular life is where it's at. That's it. That's the good stuff." This, as the simplest thing, like getting in and out of her hospital bed by herself, were attempted. She also said she had no idea what kind of suffering others went through, that she had never even come close to imagining it. She talked about her assigned values to things, how she'd overly-identified with her body. This is a woman who used to teach dance before her writing life took over, and who is very in touch with her body.

I understood the things she said in my own way. Regular life as she put it, the life that I have both come to appreciate deeply since I have been able to take advantage of it by working at home, and that some days seems to trap me in a bubble of despair, that life is IT. And it can easily be squandered, and shouldn't be. Maybe there really is no point to this yearning for success and wanting to be recognized. Maybe that just comes if you give enough attention to the work and put one foot in front of the other. The constant yearning, if I've learned anything in this past year, actually keeps everything at bay. Cyndi interviewed Lee Martin for Word by Word, and he quoted someone, I think Isak Dinesan, who said something like, "One should approach writing with little thought to hope, or failure."

He reiterated that idea that if you simply give the work all that you can give it, and don't think about success or failure, you sort of point yourself more in the direction of success inadvertently.
So here I am talking about success, when my friend is working hard on surviving this illness. I think she can do it. She has the health, the willpower, and the support of friends right now, who are turning out in droves, to do it.

I know it's a cliche that the suffering of others makes us think about our own lives differently. But it does, and it should! I was also affected by her comments about the body, how we see it, treat it. I realize how much of an ambivalent relationship I have to my body. How I'm kind to it sometimes, but most of the time I'm unhappy with it, whether how it feels or how it looks, and how silly this is in the grand scheme, that our vehicles for consciousness consume so much of our time. How much time and energy we lose in paying heed to vanity. How often we let our impulses for alcohol, sugar, heart-stopping foods run the body instead of giving it what it needs. Or worse, assuming we ARE our bodies...

I'm just rambling now. This is all just a kind of frenetic musing that isn't going anywhere specific. All I can say is that if you've stumbled onto my blog to read this post, though you don't know my friend, imagine that you do know her, and send her a prayer, a thought, a rush of white light to speed her on the healing way.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

I adore this man Mark Morford. I adore every column of his I've read so far, though I balance on the edge of wanting to laugh and double over, vomiting at the truth of his latest, "America's Big Malignant Tumor."

Do yourself a favor:

I found this article after watching a clip of Bill O'Reilly [at] that puny, putrid, skany little man with his "let me tell you why you're wrong," and over-use of the word "disgusting" to refer to just about anything "Liberal" said with the most vitrolic thrust a man like him can muster, so that quickly "liberal" sounds like he's said "twat" or its more angry hard-consonant cousin, which I won't write here since children read this blog.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Well, I'm feeling like a real artiste these days, by which I mean I've got all the requisite mood swings, am feeling about as social as a trauma victim and have not yet reaped any significant sum of money for my writing. Not only that, but the only real relief I seem to get from these ridiculous mood-swings is when I am listening to music. So, as I see it one of two things has happened: One, I have been swung back in time and am actually 16 again, OR, the fact that I have been giving so much more attention to my creative life in the past three weeks is actually stirirng up the troublesome, strange, beautiful world of the unconscious, which is known to pack a lot of chaos with it.

Since this is California, and I am a good Californian, it seems only right that I talk a tiny bit about what I have learned about myself in therapy, right? So, what seems to me to be happening is that this constructed edifice of a persona that I've diligently erected since about the age of 18 is finally starting to crumble. Not on its own; I'm willing it to. I'm tired of being the "busy, busy, busy" girl who can't show a crack in the veneer. Which means that the little banished drama-queen is returning. I remember these feelings, these moods. I know you!

It's all well and good for my writing, but I can't help but wonder if what is required of me to write is equal to a personality disorder or dysfunction, which is irritating. I hate the question: "does one have to suffer to make art." I really don't know. I met an artist, a pastel artist, actually who claimed to be and always have been happy. He certainly seemed happy, and truthfully, his art LOOKED happy. Lots of bright colors and happy scenes, rendered with a deft and skillful hand. But strangely, personally, I didn't feel the urge to want to hang his work on my walls the way I have with so many other artists. I look at what art is on my walls, much of it purchased by artists I or E. have actually known, and I see darkness, complexity, not straightforward happiness. The "happiest" painting we have is actually an Asian Monochrome ink painting done by a former teacher of mine. It isn't so much happy as just existing. The piece demonstrates the meditative state--just being-ness. So...what a strange dilemma, to want to BE happy, which I tend to be if I am writing, but to find that the act of writing temporarily makes me feel weird, moody.

So the new Harry Potter, copy number 5 million and sixty nine, or whatever, is sitting atop a high shelf, waiting for E. to take his test so we can devote hours to reading it aloud. I couldn't even read my friend Invisible Girl's blog entry yesterday because it contained spoilers. We've read them all that way. E. usually does voices too. It's fun. I can't wait. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Meanwhile I just finished Ursula, Under and my GOD what are you waiting for? Rush out and purchase it TODAY!! It is breathtaking. I want to have written it. It's a wonderful study on geneaology in the loosest sense of the word with compelling stories and characters and an exhaustive (for the writer, I assume, not the reader) attention to detail. This is the kind of book that makes me WANT to write a review.

So I figured out today what the content of the final chapters of Strange but Familiar will be. And as it stands it appears I have five final chapters to write and then I'm done with the initial draft. I'll do some fleshing out and then those crazy souls who said they would read it will be put to the test...

Now Playing: Suzanne Vega. Nine Objects of Desire.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Oh holy overload, batman! I went from dry to overflowing in a matter of a week--and no that is not a personal hygiene reference. As I am winding my way toward the end of this novel, an ENTIRELY NEW novel idea has come shoving its way through what I thought were very well-paid, beefy guards protecting my creative energy from just this sort of thing. I mean, don't the muses know about cross-pollination, about energy-sapping? How do they expect me to be true to these three time-wrought characters who have already waited long enough for me to give them their full stories with these two new characters and their slightly magical, strange little worlds erupting into the quiet meeting room? Tell me that, huh? Don't I already struggle with choices, with choosing between things?

I'll tell you one thing, for a long time now, at least five years, I've been seduced by the idea that a literary work can have a magical element without being classified as something off-color, or worse, being unclassifiable at all. Somewhere between Jorge Luis Borges and J.K. Rowling is the perfect novel. I'm thinking The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I'm thinking The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. And now, this book I cannot put down, Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill (who will be featured on Word by Word August 3rd). What these books all have in common is that some element of the narrative defies rational belief, but yet does not make you, reader, think "This cannot be! How dare she make up such a farce and call this a novel, rather than a fantasy!" That is because we all share a longing, I think, for the unexplained, the slightly mythic, the part of ourselves that still has no satisfying answer for the age-old question of why we're here, and how we got here, and what existed before the big bang. We want magic because there are already so many unanswered facets to reality that on some level, magic is a part of life. In all three books, the characters don't get off easy by way of the magic of their circumstances. If anything, their lives are harder, more tragic. But the reader is lifted beyond the mundane.

I was just having a conversation with the umpteenth friend who finally got me to read The Kite Runner, for which I am grateful not only because it is a beautiful book,very well-crafted for the most part, and one in which the love of Afghanistan is communicated indelibly in a time when I think we need these love stories of Middle Eastern countries more than ever, but because it broke my dry run of reading. However, I told her somewhat apologetically that, "it didn't blow me away," and I was rather suprised at myself, because by all accounts it should have. It blew everyone else I knew and respected away. Which is not to say that I was unmoved, by god no. But perhaps I'm no longer surprised by literature, or rarely so. I want to be more than blown away. I want to be transported. I want to be brought just shy of communion with the higher source. And that is also what I want to write. And whether or not this strange, foundling tale one day old that is trying to be told through me is anything like this or not, I do not know, but I know that it feels in the writing of it like I felt reading any of the first three books I mentioned. And that's the litmus test to keep writing or not.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I'm not generally one to post links to other articles, but this one, stolen from my friend Marcus Grimm's website (which is rather funny, as he is on the east coast and this is an SFgate link, so this link "traveled" east first before coming right back to you)

A teaser :
(by Mark Morford)
"Our culture allows almost no room for creative breaks. There is little tolerance for seeking out a different kind of "work" that doesn't somehow involve cubicles and widening butts and sour middle managers monitoring your e-mail and checking your Web site logs to see if you've wasted a precious 37 seconds of company time browsing or reading up on the gay marriage apocalypse.

"We are at once infuriated by and enamored with the idea that some people can just up and quit their jobs or take a leave of absence or take out a loan to go back to school, how they can give up certain "mandatory" lifestyle accoutrements in order to dive back into some seemingly random creative/emotional/spiritual endeavor that has nothing to do with paying taxes or the buying of products or the boosting of the GNP. It just seems so ... un-American. But it is so, so needed. "

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A random photo of my mom's cute cat, Otis, who is permanantly small and a little special, but very sweet and fetches a ball like a dog when he isn't hanging out in the dishwasher.

J.D. Salinger. J.D. Salinger. J.D. Salinger. J.D. Salinger.J.D. Salinger. J.D. Salinger.

No, I haven't lost my mind. Do you know that the single most googled link that brings people to my blog is one reference I made A YEAR ago to J.D. Salinger (which was really a post about Joyce Maynard, who visited Bennington last summer)? And now that I've added his name as such, I'm sure to get a fresh new onslaught of visitors. Fascinating that on a weekly basis people are searching links to J.D. Salinger. High school students doing reports on Catcher in the Rye looking for quick online bytes? College students writing comparative essays? Book lovers seeking long lost work of his, or word that he's suddenly become a socialite? I have no idea. But it's rather charming. I should start peppering in other authors to see if they too are getting as much internet search action. Oh we should all be so lucky.

I am plugging along on the novel. I'm quite sure I will have a finished ROUGH draft by the end of summer at this rate. I mean, it's scary how close to the end this thing is. And then, then I have to go back through and beef up one character's storyline, up the stakes, make sure there's enough forward momentum and scenes in place where summaries are acting as placeholders right now. Oy, the writing has only barely begun. But hey, this is fun, right?

As I've been reading the blogs of my friends and assorted comrades in literary life, I've begun to feel guilty for just how terribly BORING I am. Why do you keep coming? My stat tracker tells me that you do, but I don't understand it. I have no interesting anecdotes. I've become increasingly anti-social actually and if it weren't for the fact that my dearest friend Emily lives down the block (alas, for two weeks more only!), I may never speak to a person in the flesh again. Okay, at least rarely. I don't know if I need to remedy this somehow, but I just don't feel like being with people very often. I like them plenty, but I'm even aware when I go into stores how when I interact with the clerks and such, I sort of don't know what to say, or how to respond, and I feel as though they're staring a bit at me funny, like they can tell I've got problems. See, I used to be SO social, SO comfortable in front of people, crowds even. Is this the real me, or was that person the real me?

I was pleased to pick up the copy of The Writer--August edition already on shelves, and I actually recommend this magazine to writers more and more. What I found at Bennington is true of how I regard this magazine: the most seeminly simple and possibly insultingly basic information often needs to be heard again and again by writers. The writer's essays on craft are always enlightening. And I'm not ashamed to pimp my own article which runs NEXT ISSUE (I'm already listed on the website under next issue in fact on writers choosing to go unagented to small presses. This includes some text from the quotable Terri Brown-Davidson.

Also, a few books to keep your eyes peeled for. One comes out sooner than others. My friend Laila Lalami, whom many of you may know better from her blog: 's first book, a collection of linked stories --Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits-- will be out from Algonquin in October. And sadly, you'll have to wait until next summer to catch the fabulous Ellen Meister's George Clooney is Coming to Applewood, but it will be worth the wait and I will remind you. By then, she'll likely have a pub date on her second novel as well. She's a hot number. I see movie options in her future. It's cool to have friends who are becoming successful right before my eyes. It's hopeful and inspiring.

I'm FINALLY reading The Kite Runner. I mostly like it, though I'm a bit irked by the predictibility of parts of the plot, the whole "oh gosh, he's really my brother" detail, and the "character's wife is conveniently unable to bear children so that later he can adopt his deceased brother's child." But hey, that's why it's a plot and not real life.

I'm trying to go see this homeopath that works for Kaiser. My dad's got the inside scoop on it...because though I'm not sick/sick anymore, I don't feel right, and at times think the sickness is coming back...and I don't want to take any drugs and I don't think it's something that requires a cat scan or MRI--so I figure I'd go the route of sensitive holistic treatment. We'll see. It probably means I'll have to give up coffee, and that sucks.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

You know that feeling you get when you are anticipating something wonderful, but at the same time unknown or diminutive people are tumbling on a trampoline between your gall bladder and your spleen? I've got that! I've had it since I got home from the Indigo Girls concert and lay down in my bed at just shy of midnight. It's the feeling that some really wonderful, yet overwhelming news is coming down the pike; it's the feeling that something I want is hurtling toward me; it's the feeling that I may have to make a decision that, while scary, will be the best thing that ever happened to me... THAT kind of feeling. You know, like I just won the Alaskan lottery and must claim my igloo and personal dog-sled team in thirty days or lose it. Or that Word by Word's grant came through, with the stipulation that I must interview only writers from countries that end in "stan."

The trampoline feeling has brought with it the urge to do all kinds of new things. Write stories! Pull together that Story Collection! Email that publisher guy I interviewed! Pitch that article! Call in favors! Ask for things I've always wanted. Buy that printer/fax/copier/scanner I've had my eye on.

I'm not saying I know WHAT "it" is that might be creeping toward me in destiny's slimy little jaws...and it may be nothing at all. Or it may be some Stephen King-style bad news--a severed limb, a sudden death--that is just masquerading as a premonition of good news. It may also just be the MANIA that accompanies being a creative person, which I must admit I haven't really felt in a long time because it's been suppressed by the despair of being a graduate student, a self-employed freelancer and a stifled novelist all at the same time. It may also be some of the goo that seeped in last night as certain Indigo Girl songs, like that one I always call "Chickenman," or the wonderful "Virginia Woolf" started recalling my undergraduate years, which are now far enough away from me that they require music to elicit memories of them ...those years in which I was SO MESSED UP that my first serious relationship inspired such trauma in me that I lost thirty pounds. Yes. Thirty.

It could be any of this, or none of it. It could be that my immune system is still in shaky territory, evidenced by the continual sore throat on only one side of my throat each morning and the wobbly feeling in my knees each morning BEFORE my coffee. It could be the hallucinogens of too little sleep, the insanity that the daily, steady whir of power-saws and hypnotic pounding of nails by the contractors next door is creating in me.

Or maybe, baby, my ship is about to come in.

Stay tuned.

Oh, and I forgot to give you a Now Playing for the past few days: Appalachian Journey, Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O'Connor. It's brilliant.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Hello World! I think I have returned from the morbid land of the sickly. While I am still weak and protecting my energy, I am so much better.

And Morbid it Was
In the second phase of being sick my thoughts turned dark...surely I had some strange illness that was slowly chewing away at my insides. Surely my days were numbered. I started having conversations in my head with my husband about how to talk my mother through the aftermath of my death. I mean, crazy stuff! Then the funky dreams began. I had a nightmare one night that came back to me while I was meditating last night and so prickled me with terror that I couldn't focus on my meditation!

Then all night long, though my dreams themselves were not scary, this feeling of terror kept creeping back over me. I couldn't sleep with my back to the door. Each time I got up to let the cat in or out I felt all the hairs on my body stand on end. I know it sounds incredibly therapized, but I think this is the banished terror of my childhood. Once upon a time I was the world's biggest scaredy cat. Truly. EVERYTHING scared me. And my friends knew how to take advantage of this when I stayed at their house. They played "the shack of horror" with me. They made me ride the "ghost train." I remember being so terrified of a haunted house my father took me to as a child that he had to spend an hour promising he'd never take me to such a thing again. And let's not even talk about the week of lost sleep for both my mother and I when my hippie babysitter Cinnamon took me to see "Fright Night" without permission.

But, after a certain point I got over the brunt of the fear so that the dark and strange sounds and other things that go creep or bump or scratch in the night did not terrify me. But I think a little pocket of it just crept back in while I was sick. And once you let in one terrifying thought, it's hard to hold out the rest. I started thinking of that movie The MothMan Prophecies...God that movie messed me up! That scene where the phone rings, and you know it's his dead wife, and he desperately wants to answer it...or the scene where he goes to that guy's house who claims he keeps showing up each night, and one day finds him dead in his backyard. Yikes! And that horrible remake of Frankenstein with Deniro and Helena Bonham Carter...the scene where her head is sewn onto the other woman's body...oh the images! So I didn't sleep very well last night to say the least.

But I am okay today. I really am. The demons seem to have fled. I feel almost normal, my creativity has returned. I have written 40 new pages of my novel since coming home!! Yes, many of them will need savage re-writing, but I am very pleased with myself. I may have shirked other more financially-sure projects, but I am finishing this novel! I totally can see the end, of my characters just revealed a most surprising detail to me today as I wrote. I did not know this about her...but it made perfect sense as soon as the words came out of her lips. The most unlikely of my characters had an unconsummated love affair that tortures her almost as much as her big secret, which I cannot reveal here.

Other than that, it's painfully hot. Okay, so it's not east coast humid, but still, it's a kind of strict heat that punishes the will out of you, like a drill instructor. It's heat that makes you do push-ups at three in the morning. Heat that bangs pots and pans in your ears. And I've eschewed a cup now, I'm just drinking my favorite bubbly water straight from the bottle.

Oh, and I got to see the galley proof of my article running in The Writer magazine in September. So cool! My byline nice and easy to read. My article running on three pages with a juicy pull-out quote and sidebars. It's so cool I can't stand it! I want MORE!

Oh and I must thank Steve Almond for turning me onto the band Smoosh. Wow. They're just babies. I can't imagine what they will be like in a few years.

More soon.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Yes, I'm alive! Barely. I still feel just this side of rotten, and my body is telling me that I mustn't push it, but I have a clear enough head to think somewhat straight, or at an angle that can be understood.

Beginning of the End
The novel is progressing. What always happens to me as I'm writing is that I think I have so many pages left to go, and as I really begin the final half, I realize that no, I have far less to go than I realize and that I'm just putting off the ending, that in some way I don't want to finish it, don't want to let go of my characters or have to do the work of wrapping things up. So it looks as though I'm really in the home stretch of this first draft, which I began thinking about almost two years ago, and writing a year ago. There is much that will have to be done to it, but I'm feeling good about what stands as a first draft. It's a relief, quite honestly, to not be writing stories.

It Isn't Easy Owning Green
As the first edible greenbeans and tomatoes are ripening on the vine, and I've eaten a number of zucchini and lemon cucumbers from my own trial garden, and as I suddenly have a huge, keening desire for vast expanses of green, a longing is rising in me for my own little stretch of land. Sadly, I don't see how that can be here, in Northern California, where the median price of homes--in my county--is now $600,000. Who can live here, that is, own here, anymore? Not us. Not even us when our incomes rise as they are likely to do in the next year. So naturally this has us wondering, though we're far from plan-making. Where in the world could two born and raised Californians be happy, afford it and not have to live in utter terror that our liberal attitudes might be found out and used against us? I can think of a few places, and who knows what will happen after this summer. Both of us are post-graduate studies. E. is a hair's breath away from being licensed, and though I want to do much more with the current projects in my life, I'm essentially already living the life I want to live. I just want more of it, with less stress-filled moments. I'm not even ashamed any more of what I want. I want comfort, not excess. I want to feel secure, not unreasonably prepared. I want to keep these stretches of free time, time for not only my creative life, but for E. and I to spend just being.

Let it Be
That's another concept I think a lot about. Being sick forces me to just be. I couldn't read, I couldn't hold a conversation, I couldn't even watch tv for my sickest days. I slept or lay there musing. And I have a tendency at the end of a few days of sickness to feel as though I wasted time, but I'm starting to wonder if in fact those pockets of downtime don't provide something else, a window in which the answers to one's requests of the universe can come in without the ego and the personality conspiring to resist. It's like meditation--a time when there are no obstructions between oneself and everything else; everything is flow, is breath. So now I'm grateful that I was felled by some virus.

Ad Nauseum
I spent so much both physically and emotionally while I was away. I'm such an emotionally driven person, a person who has a hard time separating myself from my environment. Changes in my environment directly manifest in my body, through the vehicle of my emotions. I felt adrenalized, sad and elated at the same time; I was sleepless, drank too much, stood next to smokers...all of this is a perfect recipe for someone like me to fall to pieces the way I did. I just needed time to regenerate, and so I've had that.

So now what? Well, yes, I seem to have gone through a slight transformation, or better yet, am in the process of one. I was sad to find that the caterpillar who was becoming a butterfly or moth on one of my zucchini's never made it out of his cocoon, but dried up and died. This made me very sad at first, but a garden is a small patch of life and death. The only death I do not cry over is that of the snails. They are so pernicious and slimy. It's hard to love anything slimy.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

I need to whine, do you mind?

I'm sick today. I've slept most of the day, or simply lain prostrate on the creaky couch the rest of the day. I avoided watching television, but I did watch a netflix episode of The X-Files (I'm on season 8. As soon as the show ended two or so years ago, I began renting DVDs of the very beginning and watching it straight through, to fill in all the gaps. Now I'm going to cry when it's over again).

A darkness settles over me when I'm ill. And I've never been deathly ill, even, only flus and colds, and one case of walking pneumonia. But still, this shadow creeps in, and I feel strangely morbid, and think a lot about death and pain and sorrow. It's unpleasant and I'm doing my best to shake it off by reading when I can keep my eyes open long enough, or exchanging emails, or thinking about my friend Ingrid's new baby or other uplifting things.

What's weirder today is that this has actually been a day of death and pain and sorrow. First, the attacks in London. Fortunately, the only friends I have there are okay, though shaken and sad, but I feel for those who have lost someone or were injured. Plus I cringe at the instant hype of "terror attacks" and the subsequent frenzy that is likely to happen in its wake, with Dubya strapping on more rhetoric, sending more soldiers to Iraq and likely delivering yet more ear-polluting speeches about how we all have to come together again because terror is ever more on the make, and while we're at it we should just not look into this whole Karl Rove-as-possible-scumbag debacle, and would we please just look the other way while he installs another hyper-conservative judge in O'Connor's place?

Then, I get news of a former writing instructor of mine, a lively, talented unstoppable type, hospitalized with some kind of unidentifiable tumors in her liver, and fluid in her lungs. So I'm putting great energy into thoughts that the tumors are benign, and she will heal quickly and it's just the universe's way of telling her to take some time for herself.

Then I hear that bald guy's woman broke her ankle. So it really convinces the hippie child in me that something planetary is going on. And I really hope that's the worst of it. I would rather hear more about new babies, publishing contracts among my writer friends, garden bounty and inspired new ideas. I love knowing that young Lara is starting college at Berkeley, that my sister is beginning high school in fall, that there is newness and beginnings along with the spate of endings, or other states of limbo.

I wonder too, though, if my own sickness, which I kept thinking was going to hit me last week, is a little message about the pace of things. I kept feeling sluggish and ill upon returning home, but then the next day it would be better. So twice last week I actually went jogging (in the heat too, dummy!)...and so why did it choose today to finally slug me in the face? (Yes, I give intelligent characteristics to the virus in my body).

I have really been trying to stay slow and not go into stress. I've got a lot on my plate, but it always got done in the past and was never helped along by my worry. So I'm determined not to freak out. I'm determined to move gracefully and patiently through my life. Which is why I have given in to being sick today. I can't get anything done, and to try to push through it is just a guarantee of prolonging it. With this kind of rest, I could be better by tomorrow afternoon.

But I must say this. The way things ended at Bennington, none of us did a very good job of expressing any emotions to one another. I certainly couldn't. And now, I really am starting to sort of grieve the end. There are locked up feelings about it I want to get out of me. I can't explain it better than that. Even as I feel completely spent on the program, and can't imagine having to go through another semester, I'm an emotional person, and I experience the world primarily through that center of myself. So something is a little stuck in there, and I've got to find a way to move it.

Thanks for listening to me gripe.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

For a good politically-inspired yuk, visit this link:

Warning: you'll need Windows Media Player for a pc, or Quicktime for a Mac to view. And if you have Comedy Central, you've probably already seen made me laugh like I haven't laughed in some time!


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Is it possible that I have too much time on my hands? I mean this comparatively, of course. I barely have enough time in any given day to do my freelance work, work on my novel, prepare new ideas/pitches for future work and then all the important, sundry tasks like dish-washing, gardening, ipod uploading and exercise. Still, I manage to visit all the blogs of my friends, exchange about sixty-five emails, change my outfit twice, browse various sites online pertaining to interests, research or future ideas, and still...I'm finding myself a little starved for contact.

The problem is that I'm still coming off the Bennington high of eleven days of constant contact, intense daily stimulation in the form of lectures/readings; eating my meals with no less than ten of my friends; perambulating the gorgeous grounds of my college campus and spending after hours drinking beers and chatting with yet more people. Intensive immersion. This is what I realize I am going to miss. Because it was only twice a year, it's not like it ever got to be totally overwhelming; by the time we got sick of each other, the residency was pretty much over. At least I speak for myself. I think the fourth residency had the most stale quality of any of them, but I think that's also because our third semesters were mostly rough and we had all the work of the fourth semester ahead of us. I really can't believe it's over. I haven't looked at my degree again since I got home. I'm going to have it framed along with my BA, but until then, I keep forgetting I have it. Could it possibly be over? No more packets? My thesis done? I really gave my lecture? Why is this so hard to grok?

I feel a little unmoored finally. I think because E. finally went back to work and for the first time in almost a month I am truly alone in my home with only myself, my words and my computer interface to make me feel connected to something. I'm not sure what I think of this. It's not a crisis, but I think that my sense of loss about the end has been delayed. Now, probably, my friends are all adjusting and it's just starting to hit me that things have ended.

I'm also acknowledging that things are changing in general. I feel like we're at a new crossroads, where things are going to shift in big ways. That's good, but it's also a bit unsettling. I'm doing my best to relax into things and try not to control them too much.

I've decided to pick up Alice Mattison's book, The Marriage of the Two-Headed Woman, which I did not get to finish, and finish it. Partly because i want to keep her voice, in whatever form, in my head as I finish this novel.

Sorry to be so boring these days.

Now Playing: Decora.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Please, oh please, let Rove's downfall be the beginning of the end. And a happy Independence Day to the rest of W's administration. I'd like to see some freedom in this country again. Freedom to do more than buy stuff and carve our way into credit card debt.

I have a new bumper sticker idea coming your way soon. They will be for sale. Profits to benefit something I will announce.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

How did it become July without my consent, huh? June felt like three months due to the surreal, hyper-stretched nature of time while at Bennington. No, I haven't completely reconciled that it could be years, or never, that I visit that lovely campus again. People tell me that when the first month rolls around where no packet is due (this one), I'll feel it, but I doubt that. I've got so many things on my agenda to do that I doubt I'll be lamenting the absence of a packet. However, come January, when I should be preparing for a trip to the snowy world of Vermont, I think I will feel it most. Plus, I always suffer post-New Year's depression (though maybe not this time) so there will be a definite hole in my experience at that time. Or maybe not. So much can happen in six months. So much god.

So my ipod has slightly begun to consume my world. I've always loved music, but now it has become a priority, and I simply can't bear to listen to the same music twice in a row. I'm listening to cds of mine I haven't played in years simply because now I have them all at my disposal: Suzanne Vega, Crowded House, old Indigo Girls, Cowboy Junkies, David Gray, Gipsy Kings. It's marvelous. And I'm uploading new music that I've caught wind of but never bought the cd for: Black Eyed Peas, Lucinda Williams, The's an ecclectic mix. Today I'll probably take the first jog of the season with my new jogging playlist all ready to go featuring upbeat music that will egg my sorry butt on.

Music is such an interesting thing because the kind that I'm attracted to is heavily language-oriented, with smart lyrics. I mean, the music has to be great too, but I notice that what I love tends to have an emphasis on the poetry of the words. This reminds me of a wonderful musician who came to Bennington last June, 2004, David Brouza, who set famous poetry of people like Elizabeth Bishop to music. It was amazing.

I think there is something transcendent and powerful in music (yeah, you're the first to point this out, Jordan) that is becoming evident to me as I listen to it in a much greater way. I feel my own creative energy rising and boiling.

Now Playing: Sinead O'Connor, "Just like you said it would be" from The Lion and the Cobra one of my high school favorites.