Tuesday, October 31, 2006


First of all, where are you people? You can't tell me Halloween is a holy holiday of any kind? Unless you practice one of the more authentic versions, like Day of the Dead or Samhain, you're just using it as an excuse to get off early, admit it!

What I want to talk about here today is my commitment. I'm a very committed person. And while this is true in all the important areas of my life, what I'm here to talk about is my commitment to long-running series on TV.

This high virtue of mine stretches back to the years when, despite the absurdity of it, I never missed an episode of Voltron--a morning cartoon. Oh how I thrilled to the moment when those five separate ships came together into the ass-kicking robot-man himself. Awesome. I even wrote little stories patterned after it. Then there were Good Times, Silver Spoons, and that show with Tony Danza whose name suddenly escapes me. I watched these into the ground people. Amazing that I exhibited such dedication even before the golden days of TV.

In highschool I stuck with Twin Peaks even after everyone knew that the show had slipped from edgy and hip into that dark netherspace of David Lynch's mind where no one should stay too long. Long after the dwarf man came dancing into people's dreams and Bob--the force of evil-- made any sense, after Sherilynn Fenn's sexiness wore off and Kyle Maclachlan's Agent Cooper went from stick-up-his-butt to warm and fuzzy, I hung in there. I even went and saw "Fire, Walk With Me" in theaters, despite that it tied nothing together.

I did the same with The X-Files. NINE years of my life I tuned in, taking the bait and waiting for Scully and Mulder to get it on already, dangling from episode to episode with more questions than answers about the alien conspiracy and suffering through Annabeth Gish's terrible acting, and Mulder's disappearance and death and resurrection, and their baby, and mulder in hiding, and the baby being an alien, but then not, and then given up for adoption to save his life until the juicy climax. I hung in there, and I would have to say it was worth it.

The thing is, network television audiences no longer have the kind of dedication I do. Even when a series is great, it usually lasts no more than 6 seasons (Six Feet Under, Sex & the City, The Sopranos), so I know that my days are already numbered with LOST.

I am one of the few who has the mettle, the true perspicacity to hang in there while more and more questions mount and the plausibility angle gets stretched ever thinner. I know that if it were up to me alone, the series could spend possibly 7 or 8 years getting to its penultimate truth. But I doubt other television viewers will exhibit my brand of diligence without some answers, pronto. My husband, who is at fault for turning me onto the show in season one, now walks through the room muttering statements of disbelief and probing me for answers after each episode simply to prove that he was right to stop watching. The sheer number of commercial breaks could push the most patient of us to the edge. Yet somehow I keep showing up, with anticipation even, to find out what kind of unholy experiment these Others are putting our crew through week after week. I show up wanting to see Kate and Sawyer get it on, to find out who Sayid will get to torture next, and if Hurley is going to be killed off in order for the producers to justify the fact that a fat man has lost no weight despite eating nothing but bananas and mangos for 71 days. I keep showing up to see what crazy message Locke gets from the Island next, and to see if Claire and Charlie will become a true couple, and to find out what the others want with babies.

I'm just afraid that I might be one of the last few hangers-on in a time where shows are canceled before their first seasons are even through.


Monday, October 30, 2006

My blog has become, unfortunately, too public a place. That is to say that my family reads it from time to time and I can't always say what I really feel. (E. excepted--he knows everything I think/feel anyway).

So without talking about the personal details of my own family I can instead turn outward to you readers and say: Please, please, please take care of your future. By this I mean, think about your loved ones. Are you expecting others to take care of you in your old age? Aside from my opinions about whether or not this is fair, if you believe someone will take care of you--are you sure? If they do not wind up there for you at the end, what will happen to you then, and who will wind up paying for it?

Have you thought about your retirement? Have you begun to prepare for it? Are you expecting the government to come through for you with social security? I hope not.

Do you know what will happen to your house and your assets after your death if they are not paid for, and who will end up having to deal with the hassles, the paperwork, the taxes?

Are you counting on some distant windfall, some inheritance you believe you are entitled to? And what happens if it doesn't come?

Do you spend lots of money on gifts and gestures for your family by going into debt? Then you aren't thinking about them. You aren't loving them.

I don't mean to lecture, to scold purely for the sake of it. I am doing so because I know that love and money are often interchanged. I know that while you love your family, you can still screw them over, hurt them, make life hard for them by not taking care of YOURSELF.

Think about that.

I am all for living in the present moment, but not at the cost of other people's futures.

End sermon


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday Miscellanious

Why Pavlov did not train cats. Need I say more?

* * *

Don't feel sorry for me.

This gorgeous car on the left is in about the same shape as what E. and I call "the manky car" on the right--the 1992 Dodge Colt that my dad gifted to us so we could sell off my old Saturn. When people see me in the Colt I can tell they feel sorry for me. by the way they glance pityingly at me from the height of their Chevy Maximus Grandus, or whatever those big ass cars I see everywhere are. They wonder if I am unemployed, or perhaps work for minimum wage at Taco Bell. They feel a little superior and relieved that they, thank Jebus, can afford to drive something more luxurious, something they aren't afraid to be seen in. What these people don't know is that I can afford a new car--in the American sense of "afford" which is that we could easily make a car payment on some snazzy new hybrid--and eventually we will. But right now it's a glorious feeling to own two cars that drive perfectly well without a monthly payment on either. It's nice to have low insurance and not to care if someone swipes my car with their door or puts a small dent in it.

Now, I imagine that others have the same feeling about Mister silver volkswagon rabbit, or whatever it is. I even did. I thought that my car looked pretty darn good next to his. But in the second photo (which blogger is too much of a bitch to post) you would see that Mister silver has a protective lockbar on his steering wheel to prevent its theft.

So you may laugh all you want, but he values that car and he isn't going to risk having it stolen. He probably has no car payments and low insurance, too. And that's enough reason to keep it out of the hands of all the petty thieves who are just dying to steal it :)


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Eightfold Plastic
I thought credit card companies had sunk as low as they could possibly go, outside of handing free cards to children in schoolyards like cheap drugs. Then Citizen of the Month, a new blog I stumbled onto, has brought to my attention that now you can buy enlightenment on credit...and with moderate interest for the first 3 months.

Below is text from the Visa website (showing picture of a hippie yoga girl) [the bold comments are me, embodying what I believe the ad execs who designed this ad really meant.]

Finally, a credit card for people like us [you know, priveleged people with trust funds]

Some people say money is evil… [
But they're obviously poor and stupid]

We say “how” money is used determines the effect. [Thai massage with hooker=ok; Thai massage with young Thai boy= not ok]

The Enlightenment Card was founded on the idea that money is energy and if used with positive and integrative intention, can have the power to affect change in our lives and the world [but we'd be happy just getting wicked rich] Everyone uses a credit card [all your friends are going into debt, why not you?] so why not have one where people can earn points towards positive products and services that enhances their overall “Conscious” life path? [See our line of "you can be a hippie too" cards coming out in Spring]Some of the categories of rewards you can earn points toward are yoga classes, organic products, retreats + workshops, travel, books + DVD’s, personal care, spa treatments [see note on Thai Massge above], and more…And, members can even redeem their points to make donations to charities such as Trees for the Future. [A non-profit dedicated to making fake trees out of recycled credit cards, after all the real trees are dead].

What self-respecting person would get one of these cards?


Monday, October 23, 2006

Dreaming Survival

Some months ago I was reading up on the science of dreams, a subject that has long fascinated me. There's been very little study done on dreams until recently and lots of speculation as to their function/purpose. Most people I know lean towards the side that suggests dreams are psychological puzzles about our own feelings/thoughts that we need to unlock so as to better understand ourselves. But there is, actually a biological function of dreams that science uncovered that I think is interesting. I've come to see it working now that I know what I'm looking for.

Science suggests that dreams are designed to help us integrate our memories. Originally, this was to integrate memories such as how to kill a mastodon, how to make fire, and how to skin a boar so that we didn't lose precious survival skill time while we slept. In other words, dreams were night-time lessons that made sure we survived.

But memory is a vast tundra and now that we have evolved to have so much more to remember, from content of books to world news to social/family mores and then some, our dreams have a lot more territory to cover.

However, I notice that if I have done/read anything new, my dreams are full of references to what I did or read that day. I've been reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, (which I'll be blogging about on Nov. 3), a gorgeously textured novel about people caught in the struggle of Nigeria that turned into the Independent nation of Biafra (famously remembered for its starvation). I read a lot yesterday, so it was deeply imbedded in my unconscious last night when I fell asleep. And then I dreamed of Africa and African people and related threads. I had also watched Sixty Minutes, which took yet another look at the horrific situation in Darfur and my mind's eye was full of those haunted, starving, persecuted people.

But this post is not a manifesto on the egregious outrages of genocide, though I could go there; this is a post about our dreams and our memory and how they are linked, and how incredibly cool it is that the way our minds present information while we are sleeping is in these surreal, timeless, elaborate montages that make many of us wake with a feeling of great portent or meaning. And when I do write a dream down and look at it clearly I do come to a greater understanding of myself, so perhaps this suggests in the evolution of survival, that self-awareness is, in fact, a survival skill in a far different world from the one in which our neanderthal cousins first dreamed.

I'm very interested in other kinds of dreams, too, especially prophetic ones--which features in my novel. I know people who claim to have had these dreams. These, I think, are closer to intuition. I have this belief that if an event is already in motion, that it can be "detected" intuitively (others would say "psychically" but I don't like the associations that word conjures). For instance, my mother's husband dreamt of a fiery plane crashing into a skyscraperthe night before 9/11. We know the plans for that were already in motion, so somehow I don't find it that strange that he could have dreamt such a thing. My husband once dreamt of a terrible bus accident that killed many people. He woke up and found that such a thing had indeed happened and was already in the news.

Anyway...if you have theories on dreams, I'd love to hear them.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Be-Bop, RIP. 1994-2006

That photograph was taken last night. Be-bop was my first cat after I left home. In college I worked for a flamboyant woman prone to fits of rage and fierce moods, but she did some nice things for me. One of which was to take me to the animal shelter and pay for the adoption of a kitten. He was the runt of the litter but the most persistent in climbing to the front of the cage, and so I took him. His ears were enormous on his tiny head. Other parts of him were tiny as well. My boyfriend and I thought he was a girl at first until my friend Sarah used her uncanny knowledge of cat genitals to set us straight. The feminine "Tayla" was quickly replaced by "Be-bop"a nickname that derived from my boyfriend's family somewhere.

Be-bop went with me after the boyfriend and I split up, and lived with me in a couple of less than perfect situations. When my mom and i, both newly single, moved in together again for six months, Be-bop and the late Dylan--a border collie/australian shepherd mix--were mortal enemies. A fence was erected to keep them apart in the hallway. Just as I was moving out at last to move to Santa Rosa to be closer to the man who is now my husband, they had crossed the species divide to become best friends. Unable to tear them apart--and frankly a little glad to be free of the responsibility--Be-bop became my mother's cat.

When my Mom met her now husband Paul, Be-bop quickly made his allegiances clear. He was Paul's cat, end of discussion, and would fall slavishly at Paul's feet to be loved while sneering in disdain at the rest of our attempts.

After the ferocious wild kitten Mojo joined the family, followed by special-needs, distemper baby Otis, Be-bop became a grumpy old curmudgeon, wandering the house muttering under his breath and taking out his frustrations with the fellow cats on his scratching box. He spent most of the last few years outside to find some peace.

He was never a cuddly cat, but he had character and pride and was the best hunter I ever saw, slaughtering (and yes, that's the proper word choice) birds, lizards and the occasional mole and even squirrel! over the years. He was a good cat, and he will be sorely missed.

Last night as I visited my mom, when it became evident that he was not doing well and that he shouldn't be allowed to suffer any longer, we had to keep pulling little Otis off of him. Otis, the youngest cat in my mom's household, kept running up to him, and climbing on top of him, wrapping his little orange paws around Be-bop's back, as if he could keep him in the world a little longer, or stop him from hurting.

I fed Be-bop his last meal of raw hamburger.

Our animals all share parts of our lives, and when they go, they take parts of our history with them.


My cover story about the controversial new documentary The Bridge, which captures on camera those who attempted and those who succeeding in committing suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge in 2004 is published today in The Pacific Sun, an Alternative Weekly paper out of Marin County, CA.

Here's the beginning:


The Bridge, a new documentary, opens with a wide-angle shot of the stately Golden Gate Bridge gleaming its signature red on a rare fog-free day. Birds dip elegantly into the wind, kayakers row in the bay’s calm waters—except for some slightly ominous music, this could very well be a promotional video for tourism in San Francisco.

That is, until an average-looking man in a green shirt climbs over the railing and leaps to his death, disappearing in a circular splash.

The leap looks effortless since the camera can’t truly capture the reality: The man fell at speeds of up to 80 mph; the impact of his body against the water like hitting concrete, likely shattering many bones and puncturing organs.

Nor does it capture the fact that he may have lived for a few minutes in great pain before either drowning in the water or in the blood filling his lungs.

“The bridge has this magical ability to practically erase what happens there,” says the film’s director, Eric Steel. “Someone jumps, there’s a splash, the boats come by and then it’s as if nothing has happened. I think that’s really the same way we deal with suicide and mental illness in general. But once there’s an actual film of someone jumping off the bridge you can’t just forget it; the image won’t disappear.”

Steel and his crew filmed the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge—the side of choice for most jumpers since it faces the majestic cityscape—for the entire year of 2004 and captured on film most of the jumps made or attempted. Then he interviewed the families, friends and even one of the rare survivors. The result is a 90 minute film, which has set off a storm of questions about his intentions, and about who is responsible for preventing jumpers.

Since it opened in 1937, the bridge, with its accessibility by car and walkway, has been a means to an end for roughly 1,500 people (not all bodies are recovered, so the numbers aren’t firm). Contrary to notions circulated in the media that it is the number-one suicide magnet for jumpers worldwide, the vast majority of those jumpers—87 percent according to a study commissioned by the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California (PFNC)—are Bay Area residents. Marin County residents are the second-most frequent jumpers; San Franciscans the most.

The subject of suicide is as old as the bridge itself, but it’s back in the public discussion due to the confluence of Steel’s documentary—which opens in select theaters on October 27—and a new study approved by the bridge’s board of directors that will determine the feasibility of a suicide barrier. The study is the eighth and furthest step the bridge has taken toward a barrier. Two million dollars in private funds were raised through private donors and a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The study will conduct wind tunnel testing for the first time.

Steel and his supporters believe that his film played a role in getting the board to reach this decision. Members of the bridge’s board of directors and some opponents of the film disagree with crediting Steel, opening up a divide that is as wide and complicated as people’s feelings about suicide itself.

Read the rest HERE

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


There are multiple definitions to the word surrender; I prefer the one that means accepting things as they are (not the one that means laying down your weapons and giving in). Since I turned in the big article on Monday I have experienced a sudden rush of relief that translated into the elusive feeling of surrender I have needed for awhile now. I have suddenly been able to apply this quality to everything in my life.

-I cannot control the publishing industry.
-I cannot control people's opinions or thoughts or even their reactions to what I write, say or do.
-The town I live in now will never be the town I left behind.
-I have only this one life.

So I've been looking at my town through new eyes, or rather, through the lens of my camera and deciding that even what is mundane about it isn't so bad. See for yourself:

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Here Comes the Meat Truck

Last night, while waiting for E. to get home from work, I heard a strange sound outside my door, like the bodies of small dead creatures being dragged up my stoop. (It is the Halloween season after all, and my thinking gets darker with the waning daylight.) As the sound grew closer I determined that it sounded more metallic, like someone on a pogo-stick, or impossibly high heels, no, wait...crutches! Then, this someone knocked on my door. Now, for a moment I entertained a terrible notion out of a story like "the Monkey Claw" that something had happened to my beloved, his cell phone had died, he couldn't contact me and had to drag himself home, bloody and beaten.

The knocker pounded louder. I knew that whomever, or whatever, was on my porch was not a visitor I wanted to invite inside, but I admit, I was curious (no, my parents did not teach me not to open doors to strangers at night when I am alone, obviously!).

So at last, I opened the door a crack. What stood before me was indeed a man, supported by two cheap, silver crutches. What was most distinct about him was the unique sanguine pallor that only the newly drunk possess and the heady perfume of booze fumes. He swayed back and forth, back and forth. Those crutches weren't doing a very good job of holding him up.

Ah, I thought, he's broken down, needs my jumper cables and then he's going to try to mug me. I had my old self-defense tricks already in mind (Eyes, eyes, eyes!)

"Yes?" I asked.

"Do you... guys....eat food in your house?"

"Well, we've been known to," I said, or something like it.

"Meat? Chicken, fish, steak, shrimp?"

My suspicions more than piqued, I was already thinking, you try to show me your meat and I will use your crutches against you in the worst way possible. (Get him on the ground, then pound your fists into his groin)

"We only eat chicken. Chicken for every meal," I answered, or something like it.

"Well I sell meat to your neighbors, can I show you my selection?" (When in doubt, just start screaming and flailing your arms)

*Let me point out that there was a definitive slur to his words, matched in time to the rhythm of his swaying.

"No thank you. We buy our meat at the store and we're very happy with it that way."

"Yeah but if there were no stores then I could, like call the police, cuz then, cuz then they could come and arrest you for negligence, you know, for going on a hunger strike!" he managed.

I was THIS close to saying "You crazy fuck, get off my doorstep" when he laughed and said, "That was supposed to be a joke."

I got the distinct impression that he'd forgotten how to tell that joke.

"Oh," I said. "we're content with our meat."

"Are you sure you don't want to let your guard down so I can show you the meat products I have to--"

"Oh yes, I'm quite sure. I'm going inside now," I said.

I shut and locked the door and then went upstairs to my bird's-eye vantage of the street where there was, in fact, a meat truck, its hazard lights blinking, parked in the middle of my street.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Writing is work. Writing is hard work. It may not be back-breaking physically but it is mentally challenging. My brain feels like a construction worker at the end of a project. If you believe writers just sit around and type and have it easy, you're ignorant. I feel totally comfortable saying so.

Yesterday I spoke to one of the rare survivors of a suicide attempt by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. 98% of jumpers die. He's a statistical improbability. He's been through a lot in the 6 years since that fateful day. His life is a miracle, but it hasn't been an easy recovery from the mental illness he struggles with. Now he's back on track, has his life in balance and he is working to educate others about suicide prevention.

Just now I got off the phone with a fellow whose friend jumped less than two months ago. This fellow had purposely not gotten close to any new friends lately because he had lost a number of friends in tough ways. Then he started to open up and bam...the guy jumped. This fellow's body was never recovered. He had only been married four months.

Whenever the media reports on suicide attempts from the bridge, it draws copycat jumpers. Someone, whose identity I won't reveal, told me: "By writing about this, just know you're going to kill someone."

It's funny because the issue of responsibility is at the heart of this article. Should I feel responsible for writing about it? I don't know if I should, but I do.

Look for the article next week in The Pacific Sun.

I'm fried.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Here is the frustrating thing about writing: The space inside which ideas are formed is vast and continually expanding, like the universe, just pure potential. So when you begin to write you take something fairly ephemeral and you pin it down on the page like a dead butterfly. Once it's pinned, the idea becomes more and more limited because this is the nature of ideas, they become static once captured. You give a character life and he or she makes decisions and you paint a few sets and work in a theme and pretty soon you become enamored of these static ideas, people and plots. They start to feel, well if not exactly real, then familiar, like cities you visited with your parents as a child and cherish, though you vaguely remember them. And once that happens, your ability to see them as having unlimited potential disappears. They can't make any movement, say any line of dialog or embark on any adventure, they can only do certain of those things if you intend to make sense, or tell a story or get to a point.

And that is frustrating, because when the idea was gooey and hot in your mind, it was big and wild and alive with possibility. Then it just becomes a thing, an object that can be discarded, criticized and cut from the page, forgotten before it was ever fully born.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lights. Camera. Action!

I'll admit that I have long dreamt of being interviewed on TV, probably by Oprah or Diane Sawyer for my first novel. Though that hasn't happened yet, today I got my first taste of talking books on a widely-viewed television program, NBC-11, in the San Francisco Bay Area, results of which are here. (Be warned, you might have to watch a 30 second commercial first).

Timing is such an interesting thing. NBC-11 began this new feature, called The Quills, just this past August, in which they feature a five minute conversation with an independently-owned bookstore about book recommendations. They started it after a rash of indie bookstores either downsized or went out of business in the Bay Area due to a red tide of Barnes & Nobles stores.

Since moving to my new town, I made a concerted effort to connect with the owners of the local independent bookstore, Booksmart, since I assume that people who read might show up there (yes, as well as people who lurk, wander, read dirty magazines and just want to use a public toilet, but still...). They asked me to represent them on today's edition of The Quills despite the fact that no woman who is not anorexic wants to see herself on TV (you know the whole "ten to fifteen pounds heavier" rule) and I tend to get dry mouth and diarrhea before an act of public speaking.

The result turned out pretty well, I think, though I couldn't tell while doing it. Upon reviewing it, after I realized that heavy make-up has its place and that place is televison. Next to Laura Garcia-Cannon I looked peckish, dark-eyed and double-chinned, but thankfully they focused mostly on my profile so at long last, the family cheekbones I inherited came in handy.

When I got there I was ushered into the green room, which was pretty spare, though I'm not sure what was with the life-size cardboard cut out of Ellen Degeneres. About five minutes in, mayoral candidate and San Jose city councilmember Chuck Reed--a tall, suave politician with hair plugs that are growing in nicely--and his assistant were ushered in. Because I'm new to the area, I didn't recognize him, which was probably a good thing though I could tell he was in politics. Clearly a man who means business, he quickly got to work shaking me down for my vote by finding out what my interests were and then extolling the virtues of the many places to hike, bike and walk around here (wonder what recommendations he'd have had if I said I was an S & M dominatrix...). He was on to discuss the polls, in which he and his opponent, current Vice-mayor Cindy Chavez are neck in neck. After giving me his spiel, and a small newsletter devoted to his exploits, he was whisked away to be on air. I knew he was a Republican as soon as the talking head asked him about some sort of ethics scandal.

Eventually I was taken by a very nice lady to an area not far from the stage surrounded by a sea of cubicles with busy employees. I was behind the stage, so I could read the teleprompters. I always wondered what kind of action went on around the talking heads between takes and during commercials; the answer is, not as much as you'd think. It's still very interesting, though, just to see how it all operates.

Laura Garcia-Cannon and Brent Cannon (I think they're hitched) did their bits, reading from the teleprompter, improvising a little, typing things into their little tiny keyboards at their desks, then they'd go to commercial and resume normal human expressions and cadences. The one busy producer--who was literally dressed in sweats and comfy Skechers--was a frenzy of perpetual motion, running around moving chords and cameras and yelling out how much time was left between segments. I said to her at one point, "Wow, you really break a sweat, huh?" She laughed but was literally moving too fast to reply.

During takes, Laura lifted her little hand mirror to see that her hair was still in place and that no errant booger had shimmied down her nostril while she fervently discussed the woman who gave birth on the side of the road, the giant pumpkin and the pill to aid in the breast cancer battle.

Then they moved me to a little seating area "on-stage" though still to the side of where the talking heads regularly sit. The chairs are very close together; far closer than I am comfortable with, and I'm rather long in the leg so I was sure I would be kicking her the entire time. Fortunately she is petite and slender so that didn't happen. They wired me up with a microphone and then, with very little pause between the bit she'd just finished, she moved right on to me. A slew of cameras honed in on us and I tried to pretend that I was on a stage at a high school auditorium, not on a program the entire bay area could watch.

The results of our conversation can be seen at the link above, or here again if you're too lazy to scroll up.

It was an experience. Though I must say I look composed in the video, my heart was pounding out of my chest.


Friday, October 06, 2006

The Third Day Book Blog

Spearheaded by the eloquent Patry Francis, of Simply Wait blog fame, and author of the forthcoming novel The Liar's Diary (Dutton), I am joining forces with a bevy of other bloggers to conduct an online book club via blog. On the third day of each month we will blog about the same book.

Visit me here on November 3rd, at which time I will talk about the book that is already gathering buzz: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Readers are cool.


In an attempt to give my brother-in-law more fodder for making fun of me, I want to talk for a moment about Yoga.

I've been doing mine by video tape because I recently accepted that I can't stand to exercise in public;I don't like being looked at doing just about anything, actually. I've done a few different tapes and each time the practitioners--always willowy and yet impossibly strong women with tiny waists and juicy but toned thighs-- make these poses look as easy as blinking. Some of the poses are certainly easier than others, but not a single one--except maybe the one where you lie on your back and do nothing--comes easy to me. My heart races, I sweat...I get a cardio workout just standing in one place! What this tells me is that these practitioners are either bionic humans or they have worked a long time and with much discipline to get to that effortless stage.

Kind of like writing.

Now, I do not claim to be an expert and I freely admit that writing is not always effortless for me (and any of my steadfast readers can attest to how much revision my work needs) , but in my work as an editor I am constantly running into new writers for whom "simple" tasks are difficult. And it is tempting at times to say, "you really don't know by now that you need to dramatize, not simply tell the reader your story?" Which would ultimately just shame the poor new writer. I can remember many, many hallmark moments, most of which happened in my twenties even though I've been writing since first grade, in which some crucial piece of information suddenly came clear to me. The moment of humiliation at not having already known that was usually brief so long as someone smarter/wiser/better wasn't standing nearby criticizing me.

If you take on the job of being a writer who strives after publication you will meet with a lot of criticism, some of it constructive, some of it just harsh. The problem is not that there are a lot of mean critics, but that there are a lot of careless/ tired/ non-disciplined writers whose work gluts the desks of these editors, agents and fellow writers. And we writers have blind spots. We think we're done and then someone else takes a peek and voila, we discover we have a poorly-built second draft.

But the point of my post (yes, Virginia, there is a point) is that success rarely comes overnight. Those writers who burst onto the scene with a six figure deal and glamorous publicity headshots and pithy quotes and great book jacket blurbs worked their asses off. It is the rare incidence when someone achieves instant fame through little actual writing work. Usually celebrities--Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson, in case you're still undecided, are NOT writers and never will be.

Anyone who has succeeded as a published writer has followed this simple recipe: they kept on doing what they always did: dragged ideas and images from the ether of their imaginations despite most people's attitudes that that was not "real" work; listened to advice and took what they could; cursed the assholes who dared to give bad advice, then later took that too; persisted; drove their family and friends nuts; obsessed a lot about fictional people, cried a little; woke up early and late, with headaches and on an empty stomach; wrote while driving and cooking with one hand; acted moody and unpredictible;suffered bouts of megalomania then despaired that it was no use and they should quit and become a park ranger; kvetched to other writers who understood and to strangers in lines at stores who did not; decided they were the greatest, living undiscovered writer ever; accepted that they were a failed writer on every level; drank too much wine/coffee; gave up writing for one week/month/year; walked until their ankles swelled, even when it rained; did their research; followed all the steps to get an agent; cried when the manuscript didn't sell; rejoiced when it did and spent the next ten years writing books until one became a best seller and suddenly they were an "overnight' success.

See, effortless!


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

This piece of non-fiction The Twins at Lost magazine is the most exquisitely beautiful and painful piece of writing I have read in a long time. Prepare yourself if you are delicate or sensitive to loss, especially around the subject of infants, but you will be changed by reading it if you can.


I never thought I'd say this, but today the words of Billy Joel speak completely for what's in my heart:

You're Only Human (Second Wind)

You're having a hard time and lately you don't feel so good
You're getting a bad reputation in your neighborhood
It's alright, it's alright, sometimes that's what it takes
You're only human, you're allowed to make your share of mistakes
You better believe there will be times in your life
When you'll be feeling like a stumbling fool
So take it from me you'll learn more from your accidents
Than anything that you could ever learn at school
Don't forget your second wind
Sooner of later you'll get your second wind
It's not always easy to be living in this world of pain
You're gonna be crashing into stone walls again and again
It's alright, it's alright, though you feel your heart break
You're only human, you're gonna have to deal with heartache
Just like a boxer in a title fight
You got to walk in that ring all alone
You're not the only one who's made mistakes
But they're the only thing that you can truly call your own
Don't forget your second wind
Wait in that corner until that breeze blows in
You've been keeping to yourself these days
Cause you're thinking everything's gone wrong
Sometimes you just want to lay down and die
That emotion can be so strong
But hold on 'till that old second wind comes along
You probably don't want to hear advice from someone else
But I wouldn't be telling you if I hadn't been there myself
It's alright, it's alright, sometimes that's all it takes
We're only human, we're supposed to make mistakes
But I survived all those long lonely days
When it seemed I did not have a friend
Cause all I needed was a little faith
So I could catch my breath and face the world again
Don't forget your second wind
Sooner or later you'll feel that momentum kick in

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What would I do with my time if I didn't write? What other activities would call to me, beg me to take them on? I've been asking myself this question a lot lately. Once I wrote purely for pleasure. Then ambition got on board. Now I rarely write without thinking of the end result. What could I take on that has no promise or concern of success attached to it that would still satisfy my soul?



Sunday, October 01, 2006

A brief photo essay

I guess October didn't trust that we had gotten the seasonal message, what with all the lazy, summer-like days these past couple days since the equinox. So it brought us a more specific message:

(Hint: look to the left of Buddha)

We also got to kiss our gym membership permanently goodbye; we bought THIS used, and I am ever so happy:

I also watched two disturbing things. One, a documentary of people who jumped from the Golden Gate bridge (which I also happen to be writing an article about) and a 60 minutes episode about kids who are taking to beating homeless people to death after watching a popular video called "bumfights." I can't tell you how disturbing this was to watch. Basic humanity is so easily beaten out of people, isn't it? And then they go on to beat the life out of others.

I tell you, I can be selfish, absorbed, negative and tedious...but I feel like I can say that I have my humanity intact. And the best illustration for that I can give is my friend Michelle with her sweet Olive: