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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Updating the goals…

After yesterday’s ennui-flushing, in which, I confess, I felt a bit like a teenager afterwards, I have through about it a little further. “Rebuff” was probably the wrong word, if not too strong a word. It’s more like me bouncing off the plexiglass of my own making.

Fellini's sense of humor....

As I mentioned, navel-gazing is not a wonderful pasttime, as opposed to Naval-gazing, which very often can be, particularly if dress uniforms are involved. One of the things that happens with writers, or with people who find blathering about feelings in the written, rather than spoken, word, is that we let it all go. Sometimes we forget that others may be wondering what the hell we’re carrying on about. I’m not saying that’s what was completely at play. Part of my meandering in that post was, indeed, wondering whether anything would answer besides my own echo. I guess that’s ego, in the Jungian world….

I think we all have our own particular worries and self-doubts. They show up at the most inconvenient of times. They take a perfectly decent day and make it addled and uncomfortable. And yes, they drag us right back to the upheaved hormone imbalances of our teenage years. I wish I was immune from it – I wish I could stop worrying, fretting, overanalyzing…but I’m not. Maybe accepting some of these things that are too expensive to fix at a therapist’s office is like accepting that, short of a tummy tuck, pregnancy has left some of us with a lasting gift on our bodies….

Anyhow – once I got past thinking like I was still shopping at the Express and wearing a can of hairspray every day – I was thinking about my goal that I’d set a while back. 10 finished writing projects before year’s end. I think I can still manage, since I was nice and vague about the parameters involved. But I began to think further ahead, to the point when our younger child starts full days of school.

For some moms out there, having a career and a life outside is really a high priority. For me, eh, I never liked the office environment…I’d like to work on my master’s and get certified in the state as an archaeologist. I’d like to just work privately, and contract out. Beyond that, I’d rather be available to my kids. So…I think my goal for next year at this time is to have sold some of the things I’ve written. I’m going to worry about something productive, if I can, and build my writing resume. And maybe look into a class here and there. Online.

Whoosh!

Just like that, everything, the summer, my intentions, my memory, has blown right by.

I know what I said I am going to do this year – the blog part of is has simply fallen through the cracks for a few months.

So, to recap, I said I was going to have TEN PROJECTS completed by the end of the year.

Where am I with that?

Well, I finished drafting and editing one short story about a guy in 1876. His name is Augustus Purce, and he’s the town drunk, but he’s got a secret. I got a tiddling bit of input on that one, rewrote it a couple of times, and zing-zanged it off to Glimmertrain’s semi-annual thingie for new fiction. Who knows. Maybe I should send it off elsewhere as well, but I have to check on their rules for that. This little story came about from watching our own neighborhood drunk bumble up and down the street on a regular basis. He likes to blather at anything that doesn’t hide fast enough, and swills from a coffee cup. I sort of took that, and wondered what would happen if he wasn’t really what he seemed. And then had to wonder why someone would do that.

Now, just today, I finished the first rewrite of a story that is loosely based on what happened to one of my great-grandmothers as a child. I had to make her older than her brother, which was not the case in reality – she was younger than he was, and only a baby when the general facts of this story took place. Her father died of TB when she was 6 months old, and her mother, being a practical sort of woman, put her and her brother, Millard, into an orphanage until she could find either work or a new husband. This story imagines what would have happened if the children had encountered someone who was as wounded as they were, and who decides to take matters into her own hands. In reality, my great-grandmother was retrieved by her mother. It just wasn’t a terribly pleasant time for her, nor was her mother’s next husband, who sexually abused her. It’s a sad fact that the way she grew up probably turned her into a needy, terrified woman who married an alcoholic.  I plan on touching into her life again for a another story or two.

I have some more things that I have started, but if I count correctly, I’m about halfway there. I think I’m going to try Zoetrope again soon, but until then, I’ll be back.

not over the hill, yet….

This is one of those birthday years that ends in a “5” for me. Maybe I should do like my neighbor and stick to the anniversary of the 29th birthday…. I’m trying to get used to the idea now, so that, in June, when it hits for real, I won’t get run over by it. I don’t know what I’m going to do in 5 more years, when the really big one hits…hopefully spend it in Mexico, plastered a little bit by cactus juice. I’m definitely not ready for the calendar to start tipping that direction yet. I could be like my husband, who is looking forward to the potential end of the world in 2012. And I do mean looking forward. He thinks it could be fun. Probably he’s talking about the idea of living in the woods and living it up between now and then.

The 35th birthday is one of those milestone years that gives you a slap in the face when you look around and see how many people there are, now younger than you, in positions of authority and success. I mean, seriously, the Facebook guy is 25!  Ten years ago, when I was turning 25, I was driving around the Florida Keys with two dogs in the car, and no ending in sight to a book I’d been trying to write for five years.

I guess that’s why this year has turned, for me, into a taking stock year, a year where I’ve set myself this crazy goal of trying to write so much. I don’t want to let another year slip by – which is what those years do when you slip into neutral, hunker down, and try to avoid looking at the scenery.

So, where am I at…? Well, you should be able to see those little word counters off to the side of the blog, —-> and notice, if you’ve been here before, that there hasn’t been much of a budge lately. I’ve had a lot of little things crop up, and that’s why I’m back to this point of shaking myself a little, to say, “Hey! Wake up, remember you have a lot to do…!” I’ll stop short of smacking myself, because it’s a little self-indulgent (feeling the Simon Cowell vibe), and because it hurts.

I should say that I probably need to go back and rediscover the art of the short story, even though I have not written one of those in over ten years, probably because of the myopia involved in book-length writing. I used to be okay at it…except for that one I submitted to Zoetrope, only to have them say, “but it doesn’t actually seem like a story.” Oops. Well, maybe that was why the title was Dream, people. I thought it was pretty good. I have a good reason to try this year, because there’s a little fellowship out there for parents who write, and have a child under the age of ten. So, here I go…the deadline is April 17th.