Sunday, December 19, 2010

Laws of attraction

Lovely evening the other night with other writer-types, who seem to find each other even in the middle of nowhere, like iron shavings attracted to a central creative magnet. The kind of gathering powered by human interaction rather than electricity, entertainment without being bombarded by entertainment. Technology allowed guests to showcase their talents and a faraway friend to attend. But the focal point was people and their imaginations. I'd had a long week so I left early, but would have liked to stick around for more.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Feathers and feet

Got a request for partial manuscript from one of the few literary agencies that doesn't accept submissions via e-mail. Unusual enough now that getting the letter was a tiny bit charming, like delivery by owl. Let's hope our feathered friend delivers more good news.

Also, ran a 5K last weekend...

Friday, November 26, 2010

The extra mile

Not sure what's come over me but I've been a competitive fool lately. The last month spent in a workout competition at my gym, logging an insane amount of miles on the cardio equipment. Won a frozen turkey. Day after, the turkey trot, my first road event. Running is different than putting miles on cardio equipment but I talked myself through two miles, a first since I don't know when. Probably has something to do with needing minor victories. Teaching myself endurance, patience. Learning to push a little more. Can you do one more mile? Can you go twenty more steps?

Can you write another page? Can you send another query letter?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


A short piece for Three Word Wednesday. The words are advance, pander, shuffle.

Mornings came earlier and night came sooner and people seemed more tired, hungry. Truckers wedged themselves into vinyl seats and made her feel important. She was the go-between, the pander for their addiction to coffee and stale danishes. Old men with crossword puzzles, young men with want ads. The old men wanted to chat, the young men didn’t. Times were tough but people still ate out. They saved money by not tipping. She saved money by not paying her bills. If her phone got turned off, so what? She only heard from creditors and her ex. They sounded the same. She’d pin the phone between her ear and her shoulder and say, yes, I know, and shuffle through her deck of dollar bills – once fifty-two of them, exactly – and think about how quickly they’d be dealt. Hospital, credit card, electric. Babysitter, phone, gas. Rent, groceries. Every month was a test: All of the above, none of the above, or choose A and B? Maybe she’d “borrow” another bag of bread, another giant can of vegetables from the diner. If Emil noticed he never said. Maybe he knew that the deck was stacked against her. Once he advanced her a check when her car wouldn’t start – something with the transmission, the mechanics told her, and then handed her an estimate for seven hundred and some. No car, can’t get to work. No work, no rent money. Pay for the car, rent goes unpaid anyway. Sleep in the car, lose the child. She smiled through it, smiled at work, because if you didn’t smile and pretend then you made even less money. She was an actress paid to perform. A tight-wire act.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jobs for Haters

Got a kick out of this Yahoo article, "Jobs For People who Don't Like People." Or, as the URL says, "Jobs for Haters." Funny because 'writer' is on the list. Also funny because introversion is invariably and erroneously equated with hating people. (Just because I don't care to yammer on endlessly about nothing...) Extraverts get their energy from being with people. Introverts get theirs from being alone. And honestly, I've got enough conversations going on inside my head...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Quote of the day

"Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterwards summer may not come." --Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, November 19, 2010

Faith and Love

I’ve had two requests for full manuscript from literary agents …and two rejections. It feels as bad as you think – you finally break through the steel walls only to get tossed back over the side. You know you have to start over, if you can recover from the jolt. Four or five weeks of imagining that “maybe” might turn into paper and ink and glory and everything you’ve been working for. But instead it feels like everything is breaking.

Two choices: Give up or don’t. I don’t have the magic formula for getting through but so far this is what’s worked for me:

1. Wallow. Let yourself have the moment but put a time limit on it, as hard as that is. Stop thinking about what might have been and focus on what will be.

2. Contact friends and/or mentors and tell them the sky is falling. They’ll remind you that it isn’t. (One wise friend told me that if it’s too easy, people will hate me and I won’t have a good story to tell…)

3. Realize that if you got that far, your query letter must be pretty good. So that’s one less thing to worry about.

4. If you got feedback, accept it as a gift and say ‘thank you.’ Take another honest read of your manuscript. Do they have a point? Will integrating their suggestions or addressing their issues make the story stronger? Take what you can use. (I received feedback both times – the first made sense, the second maybe not as much.) Realize that agents have widely varying tastes and it could be simply a matter of finding the right person.

5. Revise. Going through your manuscript again can help remind you why you fell in love with this in the first place. Madly in love. That you and writing were made for each other.

6. Don’t lose the magic while pursuing the magic moment. Dive back into your novels where the magic lives.

7. Write. Write some more. Keep going. Are you writing?

8. Send out more queries. My advisor tells me about another student who sent out 99 query letters and struck on the 100th. (Which makes me wonder why it’s never the first or second? But he does have a good story to tell...)

Got some work to do.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Sometimes the universe throws a bone. The free table at my tiny local library usually contains tattered remnants of mystery novels or the latest issues of a popular Lutheran publication. Happened to pass by on a day when the library was cleaning out its literary reference library. Why not just Google, you say? Reference books are an informational and inspirational minefield. Flipping through turns up information you wouldn't have thought to Google. Tidbits that can spark story ideas. Did you know, for instance, that people born on Saturday "have the gift for seeing and detecting vampires"? Straight from the Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend (pictured). Yup. Useless information is the stuff novels are made of.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Recipe for frustration

ME: (Returning Aimee Bender's fabulous literary novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake to the library, hoping to start a discussion about the book's magical realism.) This is a great book. It's about a girl who discovers that she can taste the emotions of whoever who made her food.

LIBRARIAN: Oh, does it have recipes in it?

ME: Um, nope. No, it doesn't. (End of conversation.)

I suppose I could have kept trying but had a moment of what's-the-pointism. Been walking around a bit stunned since I started teaching, wondering what kind of educational budget cuts or saturation of bubble gum culture have brought me students who have never heard of A Catcher in the Rye? Claude Monet?

How one of the most frustrating questions in the world has become "Do we have to take notes?" because what it really means is "Do we have to know this?"

Yes, dammit. Yes, you do.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cause and effect

Here's a story for Three Word Wednesday. The words are effect, immense and shimmer. These are actually last week's words... running late.

Taillights shimmer in the black wet road like Christmas and then I am alone on the highway, me and my rain-spotted windshield, my rain-spotted life. The road looks like Christmas and the stores too but it’s not even Halloween, but you wouldn’t know it because everyone acts like someone else, they wear their costumes year-round. I see no real people. Nobody sees me. Efforts produce only sameness, a cause produces the same effect. The road goes everywhere at once but people wear holes in small sections of it, confined by some invisible lines drawn by a notion of what they should. What I should, what you should. Complacency is the drug of choice; it kills the pain of desire. Seeing through the masks is another kind of death.
Windshield wipers. A miniscule twist of steering wheel. A low voice on the radio talking about health care. In the distance, headlights. Large globes aiming beams into the immense night, yellow running lights surrounding the tractor, a deluxe version, a rolling house. The road changes, illuminates, and I see how it could lead to a destination on no one’s map.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Class is in session

I'm showing a blogging class how easy it is to post. I've also told them how important it is to post regularly (ahem).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hard habit to break

I finally replaced my missing library card (An exhaustive search turned up only my California card – the one picturing the adorable rodent Dewey Decimole. Get it? Deci-mole.) And then of course I found my local card in my wallet. Duh.
I take after my dad, who tends to purchase books, rather than my mom, who is a checker-outer. Even after I became a full-time student I got by with used books, gift cards and the occasional bag sale. (Or dumpster diving foray.) Once in a while I even said #!%* it, I want the new book. But necessity has made the public library long overdue. (Get it? Overdue.)
Hard to say no to free books.
It’s just so hard to give them back.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Finally saw "Inception" and took my dad back for a second viewing. Enjoyed the multi-layered dreaming and the use of time within each element. A favorite line: When Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character says another character's "subconscious is militarized."

A psychotherapist's nightmare.

Monday, September 6, 2010

End of days

Sometimes I watch televangelist Jack Van Impe and his wife Rexella because I get a kick out of the crazy s&*# they say. (And isn't "Rexella" the best name ever? It sounds like she should be married to a dinosaur... I guess she is, kind of.) Anyway, Jack and Rexella say the current popularity of vampires and zombies in pop culture is a sign of the apocalypse.

Another good reason to stock up on books.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ancient history

Another entry for Three Word Wednesday: The words are break, negative and surface.

She brushed the dirt from the bubbled surface of the box and blew the remaining dust away. Opened it. A break in the stone wall between then and now. A flash of items, evidence of a past she only partially believed. A tiny resin figure of a fantastical character, a child’s toy. Coins with dates from forever ago, never spent. Some kind of ticket covered with the writing that she’d never learned to read. A miniature, conical shell from a place far away. And a treasure – a piece of amber cellophane, the kind of thing she knew about because her grandfather had collected them. She held the color negative to the light and reversed the image in her mind. People, a family. Gathered around a table filled with food.
She dropped the negative back in the box.

Friday, August 27, 2010


You might have noticed in recent posts several comments are deleted... it's not that I don't like what you have to say, it's just that this blog has been bombarded with international spammers who want you to look at naked pictures of young Asian women. I figure that's something you can find yourself if you really want to see it. I've set the comment filter now, so unless your comment is obscene, threatening or otherwise offensive, you'll likely see it posted soon after you leave it. That is all.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Another entry for Three Word Wednesday. The words are abstain, halo, and prayer.

Darkness comforted her, the quiet of it, especially now. She stepped outside in cool air, marveling that people refused to abstain from chaos. She looked up. Bathed in the illuminated sky, the crystalline moon halo. Spoke a prayer that was simple and not. Let everything be okay. Let this pass.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Trashy books

So, I happened to be driving behind a Half Price Books on Sunday afternoon and noticed this horror... a dumpster full of books. That's right, you guessed it: I went dumpster diving. Snagged about a dozen titles before they politely told me to move along (for liability reasons).

What about donating to a library sale? Or the local American Association of University Women, which has a major book sale to fund scholarships? What a big, frigging waste. Among the dumped: A biography of Amelia Earhart. Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina. Seriously... Dorothy Allison in a dumpster.

And this hard-boiled crime gem from 1936: Confidential, by Donald Henderson Clarke, complete with a Mary Astor lookalike pouting on the cover. A blurb from the jacket:

Barry Ross was a newspaper reporter who would cheerfully have confessed that he was a worthless scamp, far too fond of women, far too lax about money, far too indulgent in liquor. But he had human decency and he responded to the dark loveliness of Rhoda Field, and these traits started him on a campaign to "get" the biggest big shot of New York crime -- Steinhart.

To quote a line from the novel: You look too nice to be in a dump like this.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life imitates art

Belated entry for Three Word Wednesday. Trying something a little different, a stream-of-consciousness, word-painting kind of thing. The words are grimace, stumble and phase.

Paint cool paint fingers slide through slide through slide through gelatinous cool paint. Color and life and places and faces grimace. One phase to the next. One ends one begins. New places emerge in smooth streams. Rumbling stones stepping stones we stumble. We rise. Sun rise mountains. Cool stream cool stream of paint of thought of life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Memory lane

Drove through a town where I used to live today and pulled into the junior high parking lot and asked at the front office if I could look around the school. The principal said I couldn't do that but he'd be happy to give me a tour, and he spent nearly an hour with me showing me the additions, changes, and things that hadn't changed.

Visiting my old school has been on my list since I started an exploration of my past for a new YA novel, which has so far remained in the idea stage. A drive-by of my old house a few months back told me that maybe this one needs to simmer for a while, that maybe walking around in the hallways of my school was something to save for later. I stopped on a whim today and it turned out to be a good thing.

I wondered if forgotten memories would surface with visual cues. But instead existing memories were bolstered, validated, strengthened. The rooms were locked and hallways silent. I asked to see rooms that had long ago changed purpose. I expected things to look smaller but instead they looked bigger. The corridors and stairwells remained familiar, maybe because they still sometimes show up in dreams.

I don't know how this visit will process, surface or manifest in the story, but I sense it was a necessary step toward the novel's creation.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


About 86 pounds yesterday (in disguise). Today about 104. Tape measure won't fit around it tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Purple garden

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's alive

Today: 48" circumference, approximate weight, 52 pounds. Gained 12 pounds since yesterday. I bet if we put a webcam on it you could see it grow.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Growth rate

It's been more than a month since my last post and I guess that's mostly because things are the same... agent searching, job searching, working on the next book, revising the previous one, doing a little freelancing and part-time editing to pay bills. Still contemplating the big questions (such as what's next). Some of those questions can't be answered right now. So I'm enjoying the summer (as much as that's been possible with the humidity, rain, storms and bugs).

Part of the fun: Dad and I are growing a giant pumpkin. Last year's attempt failed to germinate. This year's popped out of the soil at the beginning of May (pictured). Last week the pumpkin measured 20" in circumference (also pictured), yesterday 39", today 42". My practical father constructed an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the pumpkin's growth rate and figured it had gained 7.6 pounds overnight based on its dimensions. Growers in the film Lords of the Gourd say these things can gain 40 pounds a day. The vine is incredibly long and headed toward the house. I'm a little scared.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer dawn

An unusual occurrance yesterday -- awake before sunrise. Makes me wonder what else I've been missing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

One of Those Places

Maybe it’s the Earth-old granite or the glacial lake. American Indians called it Spirit Lake but it was erroneously translated to Devil’s Lake in the mid-1800s, according to the park’s Official 2010 Visitor Guide. The sensational name attracted visitors, which pleased the railroad, hotel and tourism officials. It remains an attraction, complete with tie-dyed t-shirts and cheesy beaded belts, but yards from the visitor center are ancient effigy mounds in the shape of a bear, a lynx, a bird. Rocky trails lead away from the beach crowds. Dense hot forests where trees vibrate in the rain. Turkey vultures soar on thermals and somehow you’re above them, watching the quiet lake. Heavier rain sounding like tearing paper. In the moisture each step is deliberate, life-giving, bone versus rock. The biggest daddy-longlegs I’ve ever seen, a delicate creature hugging a boulder as old as time. Ripples of prehistoric lakes. I am one thing, one blink.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Straight and narrow

Been a while since I've written anything for Three Word Wednesday, so here we go. The words are hidden, noble and roam.

The world’s largest ball of yarn (the one that’s usually in the midwest somewhere) is hanging over my head but as I drive it begins to unravel. There are always lines. The ones we cross, the ones we don’t. The ones we roam. A line drawn on the internet between my house and yours. The ball unwinds. It becomes flexible, pliable, my thoughts of you unjumbling and pulling tighter, clearer. I drive over other lines, squiggly black lines, repair cracks on the interstate. Lyrical lines that resemble Arabic text. Maybe unsuspecting motorists are driving over sacred poetry and don’t even realize. Mystic tomes about noble dervishes spinning in circles instead of going from point A to point B. Hidden words that people drive straight over, hidden songs that offer a wish for shapes.

Friday, June 4, 2010


A backyard surprise last week, coming in for a landing on some nearby property.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Been preoccupied lately with the big questions, and trying to cobble together some kind of income and figure out how I'm supposed to start paying for student loans that are coming due much faster than I can deal with them coming due.

Enough worry that the previous rush of creativity on New Novel has slowed to almost nothing. A weekend of frivolity and unworrying helped. Last night I realized I should've been asking my characters the very question that's been keeping my undies in a bunch: What happens next?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Favorite purple

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Painted lady: Anita, Iowa

Not a completely purple house but loved the purple layers. Stopped at this small town on my way home from Denver and had a slice of raisin cream pie at the cafe where the screen door sticks and picked up a copy of the Anita Tribune in which the spaghetti dinner is front page news. My favorite item was in the lost-and-found section:

"LOST: Men's reading glasses, Fri., March 26 in the afternoon, around 3 miles east of Lincoln Center on G-35. If found, please call (x)."

I picture a frustrated spouse winging the glasses out the car window. And probably for the cost of the ad the guy could run down to Walgreens and get himself a new pair...?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


One of the other great things I pulled from the AWP Conference, another thing I already knew: There are all sorts of literary journals and magazines looking for submissions. Somehow it helped this visual thinker, though, to see hundreds of them all spread out in one place and to talk to the faces behind faceless submission guidelines. Sent a few short stories to one already and heard back already: No, thanks. And the guy accidentally hit "send" a bunch of times so I got like seven or eight rejections at once. Seven or eight reminders to try again.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Went to the AWP Conference in Denver last week, a jam-packed, everything-you-can-possibly-think-of-related-to-writing event. Added joys: Seeing school friends and staying with another wonderful friend and her delightful 5-year-old daughter, who wanted to take me with her to show and tell (she was supposed to bring “something found in nature.”) Alas, I had to turn her invitation down. Some of the sessions at the non-stop conference schedule:

Reading, Writing and Teaching the Literary Fantastic
Ellipsis as Art: Crafting Omission of Information in a Text
Tribute to Mahmoud Darwish
Byronic Vampires and Melancholy Green Men: Harnessing Genre for Literary Use
That’s Private! Using Personal Details About Others’ Lives in Fiction
Young Adult Fiction: The New Literary Voice

That was just the first day. It’s good to have a two-day drive after an information overload. Some of it’s beginning to unravel for me. The basic take-away: Stop worrying so much, sit down and write.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


From "The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton" by Jane Smiley:

“One thing I’ve noticed is that when a particular notion enters your head, then its very particularity makes everything tend toward it, and the tending goes faster and faster. One day you will have barely thought of something, and that little thought inspires such excitement and fear that you don’t want to think of it again, but some few days later, maybe three or four, the thing you could hardly think of is now done, and you are embarked upon a new life.”

Friday, April 2, 2010

The air we breathe

It’s been kind of a theme lately to delve into my past. I went by another old house of ours, one that figures strongly into a period of time I’m revisiting for another novel. This story, unexpected and close, requires journeying to places that are harder for me to go. I had ideas of stopping by my old place some weekend, maybe even knocking on the door to ask if I could wander around the yard, if not intrude completely and ask to come in.

I didn’t need to.

Driving by was enough, at least for the time being. Sometimes the past is best revisited gradually.

People talk about places being vortices of energy and when it comes to new age theories and paranormal speculation I keep a skeptical open mind, if the contradiction makes sense. I don’t know what’s true or not and it’s wild arrogance to assume we know everything about everything, but I also think things like “energies” are subjective and largely based on our own moods and experiences.

But I do know that for me some places feel like the air is charged and other places feel like the air is dead.

My old neighborhood is one of those places where the air has drained out.

I needed to get out of there, to take a deep breath.

I passed a little girl on my road and I wondered if she lived in my old house, if she tried to sleep now in my old bedroom, and whether it still had the wallpaper with the blue flowers that looked deceptively cheery in the daytime. At night the dark parts of the design stood out like demon eyes.

I don’t know if it was my own volatile mix of preteen energy and unhappiness alone or if something else was there. But I was afraid at night and afraid to go to school during the day and hated coming home and hated going to school and if whatever was there fed off negative energy then it had itself a feast.

The air hasn’t moved.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Truth or dare?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The things we keep

Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of recycling drafts of my novels when I’m finished revising, and this is good; I haven’t missed them.

I’ve started doing this because I’ve dragged around about seven different versions of my first novel, the one I’ve put in a box, my troubled literary offspring that tried to grow up too fast.

I’m still holding on to original notes, original versions that are terrible and wouldn’t want anyone to see. But it’s kind of like a journal for me, an interesting study of how my story/writing developed. Still, I’m trying to pare down, keep just interesting pages of notes or beginnings or certain scenes. I like seeing how far I’ve come but I also hate seeing how bad it was. I haven’t given up on it; it just needs to hibernate for a while. Incubate. Immolate.

When I do resurrect it, it won’t be the same book, nor should it be. I’m not the same person or the same writer.

That’s part of why origins are so interesting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vote of confidence

The note mom left me after reading the first few pages of my new novel. She's already thinking ahead to film rights but I think we should team on a graphic novel instead.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Summer Nights

We stopped in a smallish city where we lived when I was nine and ten, decided to have a look at our old house. My parents were unsure of the direction but I knew those streets, having traced them into my brain summer day by summer day, bicycling back and forth to the fairgrounds swimming pool on my mother’s old one-speed. The blue one with the basket. I once tried to steer it while also holding a snow cone, which ended up in the street when I came to a quick stop. Beautiful red ice and my last fifty cents. I picked off the stones and put it back in the paper cone.

Most of the houses still looked the same. If anyone repainted their house then they had chosen the same mustard yellow or olive brown. Bigger trucks parked in tiny driveways. Our house now had a connected garage but was otherwise unchanged. The biggest difference was the height of the trees and the size of the sled hill at the park across from my school, which had seemed so looming. Especially because the older boy across the street had shattered his leg there one winter, failing to navigate around a pine. His little sister was my age and we used to play but she threatened during one ill-fated game of something to never speak to me again and made good on her threat.

The visit made me dig out our VHS copy of Grease. My friends and I watched it back then as many times as their cable channel played it during waking hours, with no notion of its innuendo or generational significance. Or that the actors who played the Rydell High students were probably in their thirties, because that’s what high school kids looked like to us. We danced like maniacs to John Travolta singing “Greased Lightning” and begged our mothers to buy us rummage sale shoes that vaguely resembled the ones Sandy wore in the final number.

We measured and compared our wealth by our collection of Breyer horses. At twilight we clandestinely ran through our neighbors’ backyards instead of using the sidewalks, because that imaginary world where we were unseen and invincible belonged to us. That short time seems forever long and forever preserved somewhere, a section of memory hardwired. So powerful that I wondered aloud whether our sweet old neighbor still lived there, my mind tricked by her unchanged house and the plastic Easter eggs hanging in the window. But as soon as I said it I realized how ridiculous it was.

But in that time and place she’ll always live next door.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Charlene and the Chocolate Factory

Here's a 3WW entry, a little belated. The words are pulse, shard and weary.

Another time or place she would’ve made other choices but she found herself chasing one weary day with another, stacking time and building hours while other people lived better lives.
The shakers continuously pulsed, ridding the chocolate pieces of excess covering. Perfect pieces for perfect people in perfect houses. Sweetness all around her but all for someone else.
She turned and felt her elbow bump something that shouldn’t have been there. The bottle hit the cement, broke into a couple of large pieces and a few chips, some of them sharp.
The chocolate skittered by on the shaker. Pieces of glass on the floor, dangerous.
She bent, touched the imperfect pieces.
One sliver, tiny but strong. A little pressure would break skin.
Just one shard, pressed hidden in a perfect piece. It traveled down the line on its way to a pretty box, to a lovely store, to some perfect someone.
Licked her fingers. Hummed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Found a couple of treasures in my mailbox this week, words of encouragement among them. As always these things come at the right time. Reminded me that discussions of usefulness are largely useless. Planning is smart but knowing yourself is smarter. The real world isn’t real and to live life by someone else’s parameters is tragic.

My choices might mean there are things I won’t have. But there are things I don’t want.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Could we just ... not?

This Yahoo article about Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe dealing with criticism about her weight just makes me crazy. Could we just please, please stop commenting on women's bodies being too large, too small, too whatever? I cringe every time a late-night talk show host recycles yet another joke about Kirstie Alley or Nicole Ritchie (or sometimes both within the same joke). It's ridiculous, pointless, cruel, childish and sexist. Let's grow up and move the f@*# on.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Go, girl

Here's a networking site for women who write, as mentioned on Charlie Rose. There's an group within the site for just about any interest/genre, and if you don't see yours, you can create your own.

As an aside... an editing discussion. It's common to say "women writers" or "women aviators, etc...." (and I've used it myself out of laziness or because I'm following the crowd) but I actually kind of hate this because nobody would say "men writers." Better to say "women who write" or if you must differentiate, "female writers."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

Creature from the fictional lagoon

Filled out my forms at the eye doctor a while ago and put 'writer' as my occupation. (I've put myself in this mindset now, income be damned.)

Didn't think much about it but then the assistant got a hold of my forms.

Her: "You're a WRITER?!"

Me: "Um, yes."

Her: (Pause) "I never met a WRITER before."

She could've exchanged 'writer' for 'swamp monster.'


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Looking glass

So I had a little post-graduation depression. And I was freaking myself out thinking, all that money, time and effort can be wiped out by one lousy query paragraph.

I’m thrown back into this pocket of uncertainty. Searching for an agent, searching for a job at the same time. Rejection from two directions. Fear and discouragement. Fear of discouragement.

But there’s only one thing to do: Keep going. And try to look at things from a different perspective, one that will keep me from hiding under the covers and saying, ugh, forget it.

For one thing, I’ve got a damn good book. I am so frigging proud of this thing.

And for another: All that money, time and effort – of course I can write one lousy paragraph.

A little Eye of the Tiger and I’m ready to go.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Battle gear

When I finished the bulk of my MFA work in November, a moment of relief and accomplishment quickly waned into the feeling that the training montage was over and oh, crap! Now I have to go fight the dragon. (Aka the publishing industry.)

So I've started the search for a literary agent. And I think it's going to take a while before I even get to the damned dragon.

Most of the submission guidelines sound like this:

"Dear 'Writer,'

If you MUST send us a query -- and we would rethink this if we were you -- we'll try to get back to you within six weeks, maybe, if we feel like it. We receive lots and lots of mail from everyone and their hamster, and considering how many hamsters think they can write books, that's a lot of mail. (Long, protracted, world-weary sigh....) But, if you have to. Whatever. We know you've worked hard on your manuscript (tee-hee-hee).

Sincerely, Not The Agent For You."

I was hoping for some kind of VIP room or something.

(Long, protracted, world-weary sigh...)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Purple birdhouse

Thursday, February 18, 2010


End of a journey, start of a new one. Still processing. Perhaps it was appropriate to celebrate at the end of the earth, or somewhere that felt like it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dinner’s ready

More TV fragments; collected over several viewing sessions.

The gloves are off; the battle has begun
I’m sorry that you got jealous
What’s that like?
That was a tragic thing
Some people’s body image is out of whack
Yes, it’s hard to be the loving, sexy wife in the evening
Think color, then fabric, and then think texture
Hubba hubba ding ding woof woof
I’m not supposed to get you excited
Dinner’s ready
The truth? Why don’t you tell him it’s your fault?
Let me know how we’re doing
I still have an hour

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Another TV fragment poem. This time I combined two sessions of channel flipping.

I’m the guy with nothing to lose
I’m selling you a car that I know is faulty
If a business venture falls through we simply move on to the next one
The safest thing to do is remove it before the infection spreads
Big bank CEOs are admitting to screwing up
Leave your money at home
Is there a problem officer?
Is my cable TV tax deductable?
I can feel my stomach sucking up against my spine
I really care about you
She plays up the folksy image but she can be tough as nails if she needs to be
Purchase your tickets to win your $35,000 dream wedding
Looks like it’s another great room ready for the showhouse tour
What we mistakenly call our thoughts, our dreams, have actually been put there by a system
What do you want?
We’re all missing those contributing factors
Must be here someplace
Well, what about you?
Isn’t he getting any better, doctor?
It was a setup, a setup, I tell you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Judgment call

Here's another TV fragment poem. Flip to a channel, write down what I hear. Flip to the next channel. Rearrange. This one's a shorty.

Okay, where does it hurt?
Lots to do today on my list
Painstaking task of measuring the size of each woman’s hippocampus
We also had this complaint over the weekend in terms of how fast they were getting the new troops over there
It’s strictly a judgment call and not subject to review
Tom, Dick and Harry’s
Adjusts independently to their unique sleep number
Somebody has to stay here
No matter how you’re working up an appetite
Mouthwatering breakfasts and lunches all year round
When you’re heading for home, fair skies
Thank you for watching

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Here's a not-quite-Three-Word-Wednesday story. The words were Grieve, Beacon and Kindred. I got one word in the story, one in the title and the last is left implied.

They told her it wasn’t a normal way to grieve. She stretched out on her brother’s grave, languishing in the grass. Last year it was dirt. The feel of the cold grass under her back reminded her of days when she and Rick played under the big tree; there was one like it in the cemetery. She liked to put her feet on his gravestone, the smooth cold rock cooled her soles. Sometimes she traced his name with her big toe. She read him her favorite books; once a whole novel. She was there all day and her parents came there even though they hated coming there and demanded she get in the car, it was late. She left the book on the stone and said she’d be back soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Anybody can get in

Had so much fun with the first TV-fragment poem so here's another:

Here’s a quick check on what’s happening
You may not be seeing the whole picture
So many things are happening
There’s a synchronicity going on here tonight
Nothing written, nothing planned
It’s time to stop hesitating
They’re watching and they’ve got signs
She studied them while they were studying her
You’ll be looking in her eyes
What you’ve given us is hope
You’ve got to know the difference
You need a cool head
Anybody can get in
Who can afford one? Well, now you can!
You’ve certainly made this look easy
But some feel we lost something
Inspector Clay’s grave! But he ain’t in it!
Having mechanical errors here
They can see the two survivors on the floor next to the counter
The flesh was cut with a scalpel but the bone was cut with a high-speed saw
Don’t throw it away; protect it in the freezer
Restoring this is quite a hobby
Or you can just let that patient die; that’s completely up to you
You’ve got to be crazy
Just so you know I find your lack of puritan modesty very refreshing
Give me back my syringe
Get out in your area
They oughta get these birds and put ‘em to death; the sooner the better
I love the show
Oh, I don’t like that
Life goes on
I wrote that

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Instant messaging

The other night I was flipping through the channels in that absent way we do and became aware of how many messages we're hit in a small fragment of time. How strange they sound when taken out of context. So I tried a project -- I flipped through all the stations (we get about a dozen) several times, writing down the first or second phrase I heard. I rearranged the phrases below into another poem thing:

Oh, I didn’t mean to startle you
It’s a great atmosphere; we’re having a lot of fun
Double bubble all the time
That was incredible; you were like a bond girl
Love me? More than anything in the world
But you’re on your own
The face that finds sanctuary behind this mask
It stands up to stress; it stays flawless all day
Thank you so much, that’s perfect
We didn’t want anything too extravagant
You only owe $8,400
Hey, hold on a sec
Check out the hub caps that they try and pawn off as flying saucers
Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble
That’s enough
Sunday I really have my hands full; that’s bath day
It’s a pretty somber locker room
Do some of the things you want to do
Drinks and passing out raffle tickets
It should be a welcome haven for visitors
She just can’t wait to get home to it
Small companion animals
Stay free every day
Then we found out that it wasn’t a drill
Evidence placed him at the crime scene
Definitely feeling a little blue tonight
To realize how easy it is to get lost here
Never returned to the jungle
What we had today was just a shame
You guys really don’t have anything else to talk about

Monday, January 18, 2010

Midwestern montage: Iceland

Photos really don't do justice to the landscape here. We've had the kind of weather where it warms up enough for fog and then the temperature drops and all the moisture freezes onto the trees. Everything looks a little fictional.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Everywhere it seems there are ghosts

Trying something different today. I've been keeping a dream journal for the past month or so and I've taken one or two lines from each dream, rearranged them and created a new dream below. Not sure if it's a poem or a cross-genre something-or-other, but here it is:

Last night I dreamed of a winter place
A beautiful cold lake surrounded by tall pines
Some kid in a picture I’d never seen
But it wasn’t me
I run through a maze of buildings
I pass houses that have too many rooms and not enough windows
Digging through my bag for something to wear, I change naked in an abandoned doorway
People gathering inside but first I want to see the storm clouds
Stash my keys by a tree in the rain
The cold lingers
The shacks are shells only
The table is full of dishes but I don’t recall food
A lot of people were there following me around
In a house with too many other people, strangers
Different creatures with different needs
So go, I tell him
Everywhere it seems there are ghosts
Chairs that move themselves
Spooky messages on a typewriter
Younger girls I don’t know are trying to sleep on the floor
We are all tired and fall asleep amid the chaos
Mermaids come back from the sea in various states of decay
Something haunted them, they cannot speak
Bodies underneath the surface
We’d been driving over them all this time
I bought a classic Mustang that needed paint
The cop tells me to drive from the front seat
Police on horses run by
Saving Grandma from wolves but they like pepper spray
I tell her that there’s a training program to put her Bassett hound in the FBI
She says I must choose
The beautiful boarded up houses that stand in a clearing
A next door neighbor who’s lost her mind
Slipping on bodies under a giant sleeping bag
Skeletons buried in the yard
It’s happening for real
Killer in the room
Gristle and blood
A few of us have escaped
Trying to get everyone out but people going in instead, long lines of them
I yell at them to leave
Pieces of my ear tear off easily
Nothing burns down
I decide there’s a better course of action
I buckle in for a landing that’s really a takeoff
I turn over and over in the air and then I see the bird
Fear of falling causes me to carry the banister with me
I wait in line to report the problem
Men in suits want something from me
They’ve been stuck on the planet for a while now
A girl and a cowboy are the only other ones who wait until the last minute
We’re moving on; there’s not much time
The guitarist opens his case, plays a familiar tune
It feels right to dance, like I should’ve been doing it all along

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The art of conversation

Here's a belated story for 3WW. The words are drain, epic and nibble.

One person says something. Maybe it’s important, maybe it’s not.
There’s a five-second pause. The sound is traveling through space and time, traversing generations. The words are churned and processed and ultimately accepted or rejected or held in limbo awaiting more information.
Words repeated lose momentum. People talk underwater. Thoughts drown with the weight of misperception. Lifelines are thrown but rarely caught. Epic ideas dissolve. More things go unsaid. Drained by the effort of explanation.
A spilled glass of wine become every mistake, every failure.
No one bites, only nibbles.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy day

... to friends far away.