How I earned my first 2 dollar bill….

I have to thank my husband’s auntie for this experience. She, of her own volition, got on the stick and asked whether she could use my short stories for a reading group in her retirement community. It slays me, really! I don’t know what I imagine, but it’s nice so far, and having a deadline looming overhead is keeping me moving a little bit.

Actually, if I’m being quite honest, reading critically for short story writing has turned out to be much more helpful than I’d guessed. First off, you don’t want to be a rambler if your narrative is supposed to be succinct by nature, so you start thinking about how to say everything in much smaller, more meaningful mouthfuls. When you write long, you get a little lax. I’ve used the running metaphor for writing before, and it still holds true. When I set out on an hour or more looooong run, I’m only worried about being able to make it for the return leg, so I take it easy, and coast, and delve off into fantasy or two. On the days I go fast and short, I have to remain in the moment, focus on form, and push myself. This is exactly how I am feeling as I move through short stories. A little bit of endorphin, a little panic, a glance at the clock every few moments, and eventually, I can see the end nearing. I’ll breathe when I’m done.

Through the auspices of this reading group, I’m expanding a story I mentioned before, based on someone I observed in our neighborhood. Instead of one tiny piece of his pie, I’m making the rest of it, into a village narrative. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m in the home stretch of the second in the series. I wish it had been easier and more quick, but holy hell, we got the mother of all snowstorms last week, and I’ve been on my own with our kids, with my husband overseas on business. To quote Metallica, “…frayed ends of sanity/hear them calling me….” Tonight was a particular challenge, with our younger child going apeshit several times. He’s always been high strung, a colicky personality to the bone, but tonight was a new level of freakout. It’s tough to get him ramped down from those moments – you tell him he’s got to chill and do some breathing, and he screams that he’s CALMED DOWN NOW!!!!!!! I have never met this kind of kid before…and it’s chemistry, too – his extra-extrovert to my sanguine (normally) introvert. We collide like matter and antimatter – and clusters of black holes are littered around us by day’s end. I love his passion, for the most part, but it might kill me.

And for my efforts, I have gotten a modest fee, and a genuine two dollar bill to frame and baffle my husband with when he arrives home. It’s not perzactly publication, but if I can get a little feedback, and a collection of stories to play around with, it’s well worth it.

To be continued…..

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Distractions

A veritable myriad of them. There’s the coverage of the trial here in CT that has everyone’s attention; the prosecution of the animals who destroyed a family three years ago in Cheshire. There’s all the cooking that I like (love) doing once the cooler weather sneaks in. There’s the Big E, calling to me with promises of maple cotton candy and lots of other food, food, food.

I have a secret weapon now, though, taped up in plain sight so that I can see it every time I sit down here. It’s a business card. It has an agent’s name on it. It was given to me by my dad, who happens to have known this person since he was a kid. The agency is in L.A. – I’ve heard of it before – it’s sitting and cheering me on to finish writing more, lots more, so that I can then pass it along to him.

Sometimes I put Pippi:

A really great piece of art by a fab artist named Sarah Mensinga

 As my profile picture when I’m feeling rebellious.

She bravely charges into any situation, scowling at naysayers, and ignoring the opinions of those who don’t matter. I try really hard to be like that, but I often end up with the other half of her personality: distracted by the urge to go on a pirate adventure.
I did manage to get out about 5 pages yesterday. I have a new means of keeping myself from being totally distracted by the internet (and facebook), at least. I am writing everything out longhand, and then transcribing it. It also achieves another purpose; I can edit and rewrite as I’m typing from my penciled pages.
I just have to keep looking up at that card. I need to remind myself why I’m doing this, but also that I now have a ray of hope.

Open head; empty onto page.

It would be easier than the current mode of getting everything out there.

Or a usb feed, plugged straight into the noggin, downloading everything. It might not be coherent, but you could edit.

I have promised myself a long day of writing, probably taking a day off of running/biking to do so. I have finished the second draft of another short story, the one I previously mentioned, based on one of my great-grandmothers’ childhood experience of being put into an orphanage. I don’t know if it’s any good yet – I am letting it rest (like a ball of dough) – and will go back to it next week.

Today, I’m hoping that the writing process will be cathartic. I’d love to stop feeling so…buffeted by life today. One of the least favorite aphorisms about writing is that it’s a “lonely job” or whatever you want to call it. Yes, fine, I know it’s easier to physically write when you don’t have someone swirling around you asking for another piece of toast, or what you’re doing on the computer. But I don’t think I would prefer to exist in a hermit state. That said, I find myself considering that, perhaps, life as it is might be better somewhere else. We’ve stayed where we are for a number of reasons, not least of which are the people who teach our autistic child. I’m personally reluctant to uproot, mostly because I dislike moving and changing, but it seems like a constantly repeating scene of reaching out, only to be rebuffed. I try to tell myself that it’s not the case, but that’s not easy when you’re prone to self-doubt. I’m just a little tired of feeling like I’m taking the risks I told myself I needed to (when I realized I was becoming a hermit), only to keep perceiving a message that everything that comes back in return is out of pity, or something.  Stir that up with a nice measure of betrayal of trust and unresolved anger, and you’ve got yourself a drama in three acts. 

I have struggled with unhappiness, the self-created kind, previously in life. At this point, I’ve come to a place where I really work not to allow it to take control of me anymore – something my husband misreads as foolish optimism from time to time. There are still moments like this morning, of being completely overwhelmed by yet another rebuff, as well as home stuff, when I find myself going to pieces over my omelet not behaving itself. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few hours, but I keep thinking that the only solutions are: cut myself off again, or we go somewhere else, where things make more sense. We’ve been saying now for a few years that our next step, what we really want to do, where we really want to be, is to find a small farm. I can envision the whole thing – especially since we both hate cities (at least to live in) – but I’ve also dug in my heels about making premature moves. I’m a believer in the idea that the right thing will come at the right moment – or at least the moment when you realize you’ve got to get up and get on it.

Somewhere, lurking off in the distant dusk, is this sense that I have, though…that we’ll get there, and that will be it. Just us. Nobody will care that we’ve faded out of the hustle and bustle. That’s my little monster that I still kick back under the bed. I see the danger of letting this post go on for much longer, it’s like staring at the sun; dangerous and alluring. And it could go on forever, cycling around and around, while I get nowhere. Phooey.

Up in arts

You can’t please everyone. We’ve all heard that one before, right? I mean, it’s pretty obvious. There are so many choices in the world, especially in this day and age. Free will gives us the capacity to make those choices and to express opinions. For every idea that comes into the world, there will be those who find it compelling, and those who will hate it.

This clearly applies to art, perhaps more so than other idea forms, because art is intended to be subjective, and to be provocative. Remember the Sensation exhibition that toured, landing in New York City about ten years ago? One of the pieces was by an artist named Chris Ofili. His rendering of the Virgin Mary included a small amount of lacquered elephant dung. It created a near-hysteria in the media, and if asked, most people would only remember that it included elephant poo. It challenged people, however, to step back a little and think about what constitutes art.

Who hasn’t had an argument, or at the very least, an impassioned conversation over the merits or crappiness or a movie, for instance? I remember going to see Gladiator (the Russell Crowe extravaganza, and not the Cuba Gooding Jr. fight-flick), with a group of people I didn’t know very well. I hadn’t mentioned my background in this particular time period; I usually go to movies to have a good time, not to dissect them, unless it’s a really BAD movie. After it was over, the people I’d gone with trashed the film, in particular that Commodus would “never” have fought in the gladiatorial arena, as an emperor, they believed that it just was not done.  I chose that moment to keep my mouth closed. They would not have, probably, enjoyed a lecture in Roman history from someone like me…but I strongly felt that they were wrong, especially about the movie being a bad one.  And that Commodus had indeed played around in the arena. But that’s where the art-as-subjective thing comes in. My take on the thing was way off of theirs.

Another example would be how my husband adores the Rocky movies, the Godfather movies, in short, anything that is gritty, “real”, and full of pathos. He thinks I don’t like them because I don’t get them. Sorry, honey, I just don’t like to watch movies that are on those subject matters, that’s all. Just like he’d rather not sit through anything that reads, “Jane Austen’s” whatever.

When I write, when anyone writes, my preferences seep in, I write what I understand, what I enjoy, what I believe. Any artist does that.  I prefer idealism and optimism over observations of who’s a bum, regarding who needs to die because they went against the family, or of turtles in their glass bowls. Writing, at least from my point of view, is all about what’s in my head…or what’s in the head of anybody who picks up a pen, pencil, keyboard, and lays it all out there. I know that not everyone is going to like what I write. But I keep on doing it. There are so many motivations, some of which I have touched on already, but the primary one is how much I love doing it.

I also like drawing, painting, and cooking, but I don’t think I do any of those as well as I write. I think. I hope. Um, I have to go check the oven, before I burn something.