Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Data overload

Anyone who regularly reads blogs, much less posts their own; who belongs to any more than 1 writer's forum (or message board or forum of any kind) eventually goes through what I am going through now: Overload.

It's too much to not only read all these sources, but to maintain contact too, which then of course makes your connections wonder if you died. And blogging, well, that's fallen off too. Though it is summer, and the energy is different. And I have a writing life. Right now I just can't keep up.

I read only a few blogs--thankfully bloglines tells me when my favorites update. I check in to Zoetrope and Backspace but posting there is exhausting right now. I visit Myspace usually only to deny someone's "friend request." I'm feeling less and less interested in the online world these days.

It's the real world that's calling me. The one with actual bodies and sunshine and gladiolas and fuzzy cats in it. The one with rolling hills and redwoods and swimming pools and outdoors concerts and soft grass in parks and bicycles. You know what I mean? I think you do. What are you even doing reading this (except Patricia, for whom it is not Summer because she's in South America and therefore has an excuse to stay inside).


This past weekend I taught a class at the nearest community college. The class only had three people in it, but they were the kind of students who are so engaged an interested that they feel like ten students. It was a significantly positive experience in many ways. Not the least of which was realizing that a literary life is possible down here in my "new" community and second, realizing that I am starting to like teaching. Enough that I'm considering doing more of it. I like the workshop or day-class format the most, meaning that I'm not sure I'm ready to investigate teaching on a full-time level.

But as I've been trying to figure out where my career is going, what I want, and what to do if the freelance life doesn't support me indefnitely, teaching is the thing that keeps rearing its wordy little head. After all, I did go ahead and get the one graduate degree that is most favored for teaching creative writing: the MFA, even though it had nothing to do with teaching for me. I have taught, sometimes against my better judgment, classes and workshops on writing for the past three years at various institutions and community centers, some more successfully than others, and I did just complete a "how to" instructional book on writing for writers. Could the signs be any more obvious.

The reason I have resisted teaching has been insecurity. There's the whole, "Those who can't write, teach" baloney. And the fact that I don't feel like an expert no matter how much I may know. I don't yet have a successful fiction publishing career, either, so a part of me continues to fear that this makes me somehow not "qualified" even though I've written six novels and hundreds of stories and will continue to do so.

Teaching, ultimately, is about being both utterly vulnerable and firmly organized. It's sharing what you know, admitting what you don't, and being interested in helping others take the same journey. So anyways, the fact is, I'm interested now. I want to explore my teacher-side, and I know that now that I have opened these doors, interesting opportunities are going to come in.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Theme song

You have themes, whether you're aware of them or not. We all do. We are all drawn by whispered undercurrents, stories we live by. If you're an artist of any kind, these themes tend to be easier to see--always the same shadows or pomegranates in your paintings; always the lonely can-do tomboy with the absent parents in your writing; always the same baleful notes in your music. You get the idea.

If you don't make art, you might be drawn to it, not really knowing what it is about those chicken-dropping Jackson Pollack paintings that you just love to look at, or why it is that the only movies worth seeing are comedies, no matter how bad or raunchy. Or maybe your themes emerge in the canvas of your lived life--the same kind of lover or friend or job that you choose over and over again, striving for mastery of some ineffable point in time that's beyond your memory.

Maybe the theme emerges organically--time and again you stumble across something emblazoned with the image of a hummingbird, and after awhile you think, okay, I get it--I don't know why, but this means something to me. I'll look for it. I'll recognize it and consider the hummingbird as a sign that I'm on the right path.

Do you know your themes? Do you want to?

The one that is driving me on right now, in life and in writing and interest is community. How to find it, make it, sustain it. I'm studying how isolation damages the soul, and trying to understand why it is that some of us need more of it than others.


Monday, July 23, 2007

My Harry Potter (7) Review: NO SPOILERS

Holy Shit!

I leave you with those words to read for yourself.


Never too old

Saturday morning I rose early--dressed in my closest approximation to a witch, donned my wand and time-turner, and headed over to BookSmart. There, my fellow staffers were similarly transformed, as was the store, which now boasted a Three Broomsticks, a Forbidden Forest, and its own Herbology class, staffed by Professor Sprout.

You can say whatever you like--that this was all marketing; that it's just a series of books; that we're grown-ups for christ's sake! But I swear to you, there was all kinds of magic present in that store for the 6 hours that I passed out books to happy customers, adults and children alike. It's hard to explain exactly--but there's something profound about letting yourself be amazed, drawn into a story, and to love people who are only as substantial as the pen they were created by.

Then, for the past 48 hours, E. and I have been reading aloud to each other the final saga of Harry and his pals. I've eschewed most email contact, TV, phone calls, etc. We're at about page 520 and hope to finish it today if possible. We wanted to read it fast to beat out the jerks who post spoilers. Anyway, I thought I'd just post as many pictures as I could and let them speak for themselves:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Oh, to have HER problems!

I am sure that no writer at this moment faces more pressure than JK Rowling for producing "the next thing." She admitted in a recent article that she does not expect to write something "as popular" as Harry Potter ever again, but I sort of hope, on her behalf and ours, that she does, even if it is, as she claims, as unlikely as having lightning striking twice in the same spot.

I, on the other hand, don't have JK Rowling's problems. My problem as a fiction writer? What to focus on? Here are my three candidates:

1. My latest novel, The Servants, which I think of as a "pseudo thriller" because while it has thriller elements, in good Jordan style, it manages to straddle any actual neat categories (no, not on purpose). I've sent it out for feedback three times, made changes and sent it to my agent. I'm waiting for her thoughts before carrying on with it, because I know she'll have them, and I trust her opinion.

2. My YA fantasy (called The Traveler right now) that I've written about 100 pages of and which I like very much. The problem is, I can't really decide if the plot is original enough yet--I'm trying to read as much YA as I can, but it's hard to tell. I like my character and her story, and the plot has crystallized some, but still...is it worth pursuing?

3. My first ever true adult fantasy novel (tentatively called The Catalyst). About 50 pages written. No, not fantasy as in elves, magical kindgoms, etc...but there is no other way to describe what happens to the characters. What I like about this most is my main character, who is a smack-talking former foster kid, less than five feet tall who wants more from life than to live and die in her middle of nowhere southwestern town working as a waittress (fictional), and who is thrilled, upon visiting the hospital with her pregnant friend, to get involved with an alleged murderer with amnesia and a coma victim who keeps spontaneously bursting into flames.

I just wish I could focus right now.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

On Strike

For more than 30 days (32, to be precise) I have been on a sugar moratorium. This is not because I am on some fad diet or because I wanted to lose weight. Rather, every once in awhile my body goes on the physiological equivalent of a labor union strike. Nothing gets done, negotiatons with various bodily systems fail, and there's nothing for me to do but retreat and clear out the building.

Sugar is always the number one culprit, along with dairy, assorted wheat products, anything refined, etc. So, this means that for 32 days I have enjoyed NONE of the following among my former favorites:

--Chocolate (which rules out all assorted candy bars: twix, reese's fast break; kitkat, etc)
--Caramel in all its glorious forms
--Ice cream (esp. mochi ice cream treats from Trader Joe's or Caramel Sutra, from B& J)
--Pudding of any type (Bananas Foster, chocolate and Rice pudding being among my faves)
--Skittles and red vines--long my movie theater staples

Now, I'm not perfect. I still put sugar in my coffee (and yes, I still drink 1 cup a day--but not two or three anymore. And any sugar I put in is brown, unrefined). I have had a sip or three of someone's soda. I also eat fruit. In fact, I eat scads of fruit (yes, I see the connection) but strangely, no matter how many nectarines, bundles of grapes, peaches, cherries or blueberries I ingest (and 100% fruit juices, too), my body does not treat them like other sugar. No blood sugar lows, no weight gain (I have, inadvertently lost weight but that's neither here nor there), no pains in my tummy and other things that fall into the category of "too much information." I also eat a lot more veggies (which is kind of like saying a Panda eats a lot more Bamboo--I always ate a lot)...but fewer refined carbohydrates and more good protein.

I have way more energy, very little late-afternoon crashing. And I am actually starting to crave all those forbidden goodies a whole lot less. The cravings don't subside entirely, but I just keep reminding myself: There will always be junk food should you need it. Always, no matter where you go.

In its wake, I have become an addict of one snack including a new product (Please, I don't want to hear about its cancer causing potential) I now can't live without: Smart Balance "Buttery spread." Oh I know how dubious that sounds--but it actually tastes BETTER than butter to me, with less greasy residue in the mouth.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Saturday BookSmart had its first author event since the store has been remodeled (Patry Francis who came in March was fabulous, but we had to cram her into a tiny space, unfortunately and didn't dare advertise for too many people). I was more than just a little bit pleased to have a crowded house--meaning approximately 30 people--for our guest author, Ayelet Waldman at BookSmart (Daughter's Keeper, Love & Other Impossible Pursuits, and 7 books in the "Mommy-Track" mystery series). She's a big enough name in her own right--and a great deal of people have read her--but that doesn't guarantee bodies in seats.

Getting people to take time out from their summer schedules on a Saturday afternoon takes a Herculean effort of advertising (and booze and food). Also, just because you have a crowd gathered doesn't mean there will be a great show. Some authors are rough around the edges--better at solitude than public speaking. Ayelet does not fall into the latter description. She's a tried and true performer--meaning, she can talk as well as she writes. No bored shifting in her chair (in fact, she sat up on the table), no "um"ing...no begging the audience for questions (all things I've seen at less successful events) to fill the time.

I'll let the photos share the event:

Friday, July 13, 2007

I can't figure out why, but at various times all day little images from my childhood have been popping into my head. Memories are like that--they bustle in through the doors like a crazy person into Macy's before you really have a chance to figure out what they're up to.

The ones I keep seeing are of me and my mom in the years when she was a really single mom--working at what I imagine to have been the tedious, slightly depressing job of selling cosmetics at department stores. In the days when I was young enough to be reassured just by the smell of her perfume, the whisper of her dry, cold hand against my face before bed. No big trauma comes rushing in--it's not the big events, not the hollywood tell-all moments that have been lopping into my mind, but actually, for a change, just benign things. The way the light came into our attic apartment on Picnic Avenue, in the "living" room, which was also her bedroom. The funny little crimp of her permed hair in those days. The wild jungle tangle of a yard I played in. The ivy-covered roof that I could climb on over the locked garage.

I suppose there's an aura of sadness behind these memories, but I can't tell if it's for what was happening in those days, or more of a melancholy for childhood itself. The negative is what tends to rise to the surface of my readily accessible memory, but truthfully, I know there were also a lot of moments of wonder. That I absorbed and observed the world and found it to be strange and beautiful. I can almost--not quite, but almost--remember whatever wild zag of inspiration first suggested that I should write it down. I know that for a very long time I felt equal parts angst AND admiration for my life.

(I think these musings have been inspired by my reading of a magnificient and dramatic memoir by NPR correspondent Jacki Lyden: The Daughter of the Queen of Sheba. I'll write more about it soon).

In lieu of having anything good to say these days, I'll leave you with cute cat photos. This is our part-time cat"Midnight" who comes to visit us from time to time:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Felonious notions

I recently found a few people on Myspace that I went to camp with (Real Adventure Camp and Gunning Creek Adventures). Camp was a big part of my life from ages 11-17 every summer--a place where I was accepted when that lacked in my other social life. In reconnecting it hit me that the person I am today is so different from that "camp" girl that I wonder if these old friends would "recognize" me if given the chance. In the past decade I have busted a bunch of beliefs that I held about myself for most of my life. It's painful to remember the "fragile" girl I was who believed she was so limited. But I was a child in a vacuum, so if it took me about twice as long as other people to do this, I think that's acceptable.

It's amazing to me how easily we can limit ourselves...how quick I was to buy into my own illusions. I cringe to think how I nearly didn't allow myself to find out and have fun doing some of these things (dance, run, swim, cook, go to grad school, marry a wonderful person, play sports, make things with my hand, speak publicly, etc)...

Friday, July 06, 2007

In which Michael O'Keefe and I Trade Bodies

As I was putting on my face moisturizer in the mirror, my own image triggered a memory of my crazy-ass dream from last night.

In it, I switched bodies (accidentally) with a man. The man, for some reason, was Michael O'Keefe--an actor (unfortunately Caddyshack will always stain his resume) who was also one of my Bennington classmates.

I fully remember the corporeal feeling of lumbering around in this male body. The weight of my legs was amazing. I had to really effort to move this big, male body around. It was kind of cool at the same time as it was nervewracking.
Then, in the men's bathroom, for some reason I was putting on pants. But because I was so unaccustomed to this male body, I was having a lot of trouble with my pants, and trying not to let the other guy in the bathroom notice something was off. But he clearly did. And then he crossed his legs (yeah, I know, he wasn't even sitting down a second ago--but this is a dream!) in a very masculine way and I realized that I was still going about things like a woman and that this was going to give me away (why I had to keep this body switching thing secret, I don't know).

Then, since we were on the Bennington campus, I knew that Michael was wearing MY body somewhere and that if I found him I would get the unique experience of seeing myself from the outside! So I tracked "myself" down and found me lying out on the commons, with my eyes closed (kind of like I am in the blog photo up there). My first impression was a slight judgment--my nose was too big and angular; I looked too much like my mother...but then "I" opened "my" eyes and I thought, "Hey, I'm not so terrible."

Weird, eh?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

TAG, I'm it.

Susan DiPlacido (whose new collection American Cool is available for order) tagged me for the following:

The rules:
1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. I become easily obsessed by television shows with recurring characters. They take over my life. Which is why I like summer, becuase there are fewer reasons to be glued to the set :) (On the other hand, I read as much, if not more, than I watch TV, so go figure).

2. Despite a name like Jordan Rosenfeld, and even though my father was born in Israel and given a bar mitzvah, I know almost nothing about Jewish tradition, religion or culture, which other people have often found hard to believe--as if I am just withholding.

3. I eat meat but for most of my life people have assumed before knowing any details that I am a vegetarian. Apparently I "look" vegetarian.

4. I always get a really bad case of the heebie jeebies when packs of birds lift off all at once and fly into the air. (Yes, this happens more often than you'd think).

5. I must keep a glass of water by my bedside every night. And yes, I've spilled more water on myself and my bed at night than I can possibly count. In fact. I spill water as a regular habit on just about every surface possible.

6. I've seen the 4th Harry Potter movie more than 10 times. Six of those in the theater when it was out first :)

7. I am fascinated by snow.

8. When I was about 12, I learned how to do the sign language alphabet at camp. Ever since that time, at moments when I am upset, or feeling something I can't express verbally, I will find myself signing out the words with my hand (a laborious process, one letter at a time). I didn't know I did this for a long time until someone asked me what I was doing. I do it less now, but for a time in my teens/twenties I did it a lot.

I now plan to tag:

Stephanie Anagnoson
Twilight Spy
Laini Taylor
Citizen of the Month
Ms. Lori of One Whipped Mother
Michelle Richmond
Maurie Traylor
Gayle Brandeis

The day of colorful (and obnoxious) explosions is over.

I wonder if there is still the same climate of uber-patriotism in the air that will bring me hell for suggesting that the 4th of July is anything less than a divine day of honor in which we celebrate our country through beer, meat and firecrackers. I feel the same way about this holiday as I do about things like Mother's Day or Valentine's Day. If something or someone is important to you, hopefully you spend more than one day a year doing something to celebrate that. And I do love my country. I'm embarrassed by it, and ashamed of its leaders in the past nearly 8 years, but in general I know how lucky I am to have been born and raised here. And it has some cool national parks, to boot :)

Anyway, that said, though I'm not usually a big fan of parades, E. and I were given the special gift of getting to go watch from the roof of the Granada--a gorgeous little movie house that has been defunct for years (such a waste!) right here in downtown. What follows is mainly just a photo-essay of the day from our rooftop vantage.

Marquee against the sky

E. looking at film that no one gets to watch anymore

J on the roof

Planes in a--HOT--clear, blue sky

Yay for the nearly completed renovated library!

The BookSmart float--built from scratch

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Today, instead of swimming--since I like to do that every other day--I rode my bike down to what I have dubbed "the fruit shack." This is a market that sells mainly fruits and veggies year-round, which after more than a year of living in this town, I only just discovered. Or rather--I've driven past it endless times, but I only just went inside for the first time a couple weeks ago.

Anyway, this place is a fruit- and veggie-lover's paradise. Mounds of ripe, happy food ready to leap off the piles and into your basket. It thrills me.

And for $10 I bought the following:

2 Avocados

3 Roma tomatoes

3 Yellow nectarines

1 pound of ripe, dark cherries

3 black plums

4 apricots

3 Fuji Apples

1 Mango

Can you believe that? So much food for so little money! Plus, I got exercise. It just doesn't get much better than this.


Sugar for the Mind

Since Father's Day I've broken up with sugar. No chocolate. No candy, no cakes, etc. The only sugar I allow myself is fruit, and one pinch in my morning coffee. Now, I'm not trying to be one of these self-denying puritans or anything. Let's just say that my body went into revolt and began screaming at me like Mommy Dearest saying: "No...More...Wire, uh, Sugar and Assorted Crap!"

When my body starts talking like Faye Dunaway, I listen.

So thank god for Nina Killham's book, How to Cook a Tart, which my boss has been trying to get me to read for months. In place of real sugar, I've been able to read descriptions like this:

It's one of my own recipes: Peach creme brulee with a brandy crust. She paraded it past Daniel's eyes. "See," she said. "I made your favorite. "Of course I've perfected it considerably these past few weeks. She poured over it a good douse of brandy, then rummaged in her apron and drew forth a long match. One flick and the brulee ignited in a crown of blue flames...

Her spoon crunched into the caramelized topping and reemerged with rich, creamy, peachy dessert. On the plate, the velvety brulee glistened with delicious, crackly caramel.

The book is about Jasmine March, a food lover and cook with a mission to reintroduce fat to a diet-stricken public that has put denial above pleasure. Other characters include a colon-cleansing big-chested fanatic named Tina who tries to steal her husband, her teenage daughter, Careme, an anorexic who is so disgusted by her mother that she tries to become a "breatharian," and a host of uptight, bitchy diet cookbook writers and sleazy agents. The food writing is exquisite and borders on the erotic, the characters are laugh-out-loud funny and the storyline is part mystery and part romance.

For anyone looking for a "light" read that is still a pleasure on the mental and gustatory palates, I recommend this book whole heartedly!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I am notoriously behind what is popular in music, so I'm sure I'm the last person to get into the following:

My sister turned me on to Lily Allen...she is just my kind of pop music (I'm not usually a fan of pop but her music makes me feel good). Perfect mood lifter, and her cockney accent is adorable. Good for working and exercising too.

Otherwise, I've been absorbed by the bizarre, lovely, insane music of Regina Spektor. This video is very mainstream and calm, but much of her other music is wild, untamed brilliance that I adore more. You can hear echoes of Tori Amos, even Joni Mitchell in a lot of her work, but then she's got her own thing going on completely.