Category Archives: reading

The Writer’s Dilemma…

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I have started working on a new story, so what is happening is what always happens- I am finding it harder to come up with the time and energy to devote to this blog. It’s funny, because they are such different things, and both of them give me something I want. Blogging has the immediate reward that I love- I have the ability to see who has read what I have written, who I have reached, who enjoys my writing. I get that immediate gratification that I love so much.

When I am writing a story, though, it is different. The story starts to materialize in my mind before I ever sit down to start sketching it out. It always starts like this- I am washing dishes, or walking my dog, or sitting on the toilet, and my mind goes “what if…say a girl was walking her dog early in the morning, like this, and they were by a cemetery…and the dog dragged her into the cemetery, and she lost the leash, and when she was trying to grab it, she fell…into an open grave…” Or maybe I start to see other parts of the story first, and then that first part comes to me. Eventually, it becomes almost painful not to start writing it out. I don’t get any immediate feedback on it, and most of the stories I have started, I haven’t even finished, for one reason or another. I lose interest, or something happens in my life that takes me away from writing, and when I come back, I just want to start something new.

I want to develop better habits, a solid writing routine, because- I have finally realized- this is everything to me. If I don’t get on the ball now, when will I? When I was very young, I already knew that writing was my calling in life, but I thought I had all the time in the world. I don’t know what I was waiting for. I don’t want to wait anymore. So, here I am, back to getting up at four every morning, so that I can have this time to write. I’m two chapters in on my new story, and I intend to finish this one. I also have decided to finish the editing of my first finished novel, and start sending it off again. I figure one of two things can happen- it will be rejected, or it won’t. I don’t need to get all nutty over it, I just need to do it. If no one wants it, then I will come up with something else. I don’t need to be afraid. I should be more afraid of doing nothing.

I plan on continuing blogging, and actually, I wrote a really good one earlier this week, but decided not  to publish it in the interest of not pissing off everybody in the world who disagrees with me…especially a few particular people whom the blog was aimed at. If they weren’t people I knew personally, I probably would have gone ahead with it, but I am trying to be responsible with my words these days, and not go around stabbing people with my literary sword. Although it sure is tempting sometimes.

I am very interested to hear about your writing routine- are you dedicated to it? Is there a time of day that works best for you? Do you have a hard time blogging when you are caught up in other literary pursuits?

I know this is a short one today, but I really just wanted to check in, let everyone know what is going on with me. I’ll be back before you know it!

Why I Write

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I woke up a few minutes ago, and did what I always do- started my coffee, grabbed a cigarette (I know, I know, I’m working on it…), and went out and set down on my front step with my phone. I checked Facebook (that evil time eater), then I checked my WordPress account. I had an overnight “like”, so I did what I always do again, and checked out their blog. It was a photography blog, but I only saw one picture, which was very good, by the way. What I did see was a letter she’d written to her husband or lover or whatever. It was very sweet and heartfelt, and told me a lot about the person who wrote it. It also reminded me of words my grandmother might have written, or thought at least, about my grandfather. 

What in the world, you may be wondering, does this have to do with why I write? Well, when I read those words, I was so reminded of my grandmother, Eileen, that I wanted to write down the story of my feelings for her- that she was so beautiful on the inside I could not have told you if she was truly as beautiful on the outside as she seemed to me. I was blinded at birth by her inner beauty. I know she had pouffy white hair, green eyes, huge boobs and tiny, beautiful hands. I know she loved children more than anything in the world, except for my grandpa, who was the center of her universe. I wanted to find a way to tell you that she lived a life that most of the world knew nothing about, but to me, she was an anchor in a stormy sea. When she died, I lost the last piece of my true home, the tiny corner of the planet where I could still be a child, and feel safe. 

Everybody has something they are talented at, feel passionately about, are very interested in. If they are lucky, maybe all three. I am not going to try to guess here how talented I am, but I can tell you this- writing is my passion, my interest in it has never flagged. Well, maybe briefly, but never for very long. I told my mom yesterday how I knew that what I wanted to do more than anything (still) was to write- I told her, if I were to lose my job tomorrow, that would suck…but I would get another job. If someone told me tomorrow that I could never write again…I wouldn’t know how to go on. Writing is that important to me. 

There are a million stories inside me, all the time, clamoring to be written down, wanting to come out. There are moments like this morning when I felt compelled to come in here and tell you a little about my grandmother, Eileen. Some of my blogs are like that- the best ones, the ones that people love the most. Those tell themselves. I always joke that when I am writing my best, it’s like I’m just dictating for some invisible entity speaking through me. I can hardly keep up. 

I can’t imagine my life without this love affair with words. It is who I am, a huge, natural part of me. Maybe even the best part. Happy Monday (whatever that means. 🙂 ) See you back here soon.

Meeting Anne Lamott

So, Friday was a day that will live in infamy for a long, long time- if not forever. I tried very hard not to know too much about what happened in Newtown on Friday, I tried very hard not to over educate myself just yet, because I was headed up to San Mateo to hear my favorite writer in the whole wide world speak, and I didn’t want to ruin it. Fat chance. I got stuck in traffic somewhere between San Jose and my destination, and I couldn’t resist the pull of the radio while moving four feet every hour. So, I sat in traffic, and I cried, and I worried that Anne would cancel her speaking engagement due to depression or something.

She didn’t. But let me back up a little and tell you that, up until I was in my car and driving, I really didn’t think I would go. It seemed ludicrous to me that something I felt was so incredibly wonderful was even marginally probable as an occurrence in my own little life. I left so early, and I brought my laptop, just in case, and I checked fourteen times to make sure I had my ticket, and I worried like crazy when I couldn’t remember where my glasses were (they had fallen between the bed and my nightstand) and when it started to rain as I drove over the windy and dangerous highway 17. I was pretty sure that at any moment, something big and theatrical would happen, preventing me from realizing this small but important dream of mine.

Instead, what happened was that I got there pretty much before anyone else, except for the people who were actually paid to be there. I stashed my belongings on a seat in the second row, center, used the bathroom, purchased my book and then perched in a chair in the book signing area for a really, really long time, waiting for her to arrive (she was a little late, but I was super early, so it was fifty-fifty, fault wise). I felt a little weird because I was alone, but when I thought about it, I really don’t have one friend to speak of that I could have brought along- at least no one who had read her books and adored her the way that I do. Maybe my mom, but she lives far away. Anyway, I’m glad I went alone, because now it is 100% my experience, made possible by me, carried out by me, a gift from me to me. I am one of those people who will, if other people are around, surrender all control to them- not because I am a follower, but because I am lazy as hell, so I end up feeling like without them, none of it would have been possible. So, I was alone, and I did a lot of observing, listening, small talk with people I didn’t know and will probably never see again.

It was already a wonderful night before she even arrived. The people around me were mostly older, mostly women, lots of them in recovery, many Christians, intellectuals, thinkers…different, at least for me. The best part of all was that I felt completely at home. I called my mom afterwards and told her “These people were exactly like me.” But I think what is more true is that these people are exactly who I want to become. Who I feel my best self would be, given a little prodding.

So, Ms. Lamott came right in the front door, with no body guards or anything. I mean, I didn’t really expect body guards, but I really thought she’d at least come in the back door, like the celebrity she is in my mind. No doubt, in that room, she was a celebrity of the highest caliber, so when she walked right by me in her jeans and sweater, I felt my eyes get big and she looked right at me, and I said something incredibly clever, like “Wow. That’s HER.”

I stood in line, and had my book signed, then stood in line again, and had my picture taken with her, and by the time I got to her the second time, I could tell the signing was becoming a bit of a strain- her smile was a little less smiley, and she seemed to want to get this whole thing over with. I can’t say I blame her- the line was just going on and on and on, and everyone wanted to say something to her or give her their card and talk about the book THEY were writing (which, I will have you know, I did not do, I just told her how excited I was to meet her and what an honor it was).

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But when she got up in front of the room to talk, I knew that my adoration for her was well, well deserved. She must be the most calm, most thoughtful, most devoted human being I have ever been lucky enough to be in the presence of. She speaks more beautifully, maybe, than she even writes, which just floored me- for me, it takes so much quiet and so much thought and so much privacy to access that part of myself that allows me to be beautiful on paper. Even now, I am ready to strangle my daughter who will not shut up while she is making Ramen here, in the kitchen, though I have asked, demanded and howled at her to zip it. I feel like it will ruin my day if she doesn’t stop chattering.

Anne Lamott radiated a sort of peace that made you think even a troupe of tap dancing gorillas could not ruffle her, if she was writing. I can’t finish a blog that ten people will read because my teenager is making ramen in the room beside me. I don’t know, guys…I have a long, long way to go. But I keep thinking that I am on my way there, every time I do something like this, meet an author that I adore and hear her speak, attend a writing event in San Francisco that blows my mind…even putting it all out here for the world (all ten of you) to see, just to keep the machine in working order. I am on my way. A gift from me, to me.

Word Nerd

BookS-books-to-read-26957638-1024-768I have a confession to make. When you start talking to me about numbers, my mind shudders to a grinding halt. Even in the most innocent and simple of conversations, the minute you throw in a fraction, i.e.- “Oh my gosh, that frigging pie was SO good , I tried not to eat more than half a slice, but I couldn’t help it, I ate more than three quarters of the whole thing!” Well, rest assured, you lost me at half a slice.

I don’t know why this is, or what is wrong with me. I suspect it has something to do with years and years of humiliating failure in my math classes- it’s kind of like that stupid riddle, what came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, here’s the answer- I don’t KNOW, and I’m tired of trying to figure it out! I’m just no good at math, that’s all. (by the way, that is a terrible answer to that joke, so don’t try it. People will just look at you funny and walk slowly away.) What I mean is, I don’t know if my classes sucked because I was bad at math, or if I’m bad at math just because that part of my brain is atrophied or something.

I remember being in my early twenties and taking some entrance exams to the local college-one of the counselors was looking over my scores, shaking his head. As usual, my testing in everything was really, really great…except for math, which was dismally low. He said to me, and I will never forget this- “Someone, sometime in your life told you you weren’t good at math, and you believed it. There is no way someone can score this high in everything else, and score this poorly in math.”

I have a different theory. I think I’m bad at math because it is harder for me. I have to try ten times as hard at math to do half as well as I do in anything involving words. (Hey, that had multiplication AND fractions in it. What do you know?)  I even do better in word problems than I do in straight number problems. I think maybe there’s a little part of me that gave up when I realized I couldn’t be a superstar in math the way I could with all the other subjects.

But reading…ah, reading. Those sweet, beautiful, wonderful, flowing words that grace the pages of books. The amazing trick of stringing them together, one after the other, to tell a story. A story that can take you places you have never been, places you could never otherwise go.  Books with beautiful covers and wild, improbable tales inside- tales of imaginary places that are so clear in your minds eye, you can revisit them years later simply by thinking of the story you read. Books are the only time machine that truly exists- you can go backwards, forwards, sideways to another dimension. You can go anywhere you want to go, anytime you want to go there- if you only have the pages in your hand and an imagination.

I learned to read at a very young age, and at first it was a neat party trick. It became a source of great pride for me as I grew older, always keeping several grades ahead in ability of where I actually was.  But when life grew rough at home, I discovered the greatest thing of all about my love of words- the escape hatch. All I had to do to be somewhere else, somewhere more beautiful than where I was, was pick up a book and start reading. When we would have book fairs at school, I would go on a feverish mission, hell bent on getting money from my mom so that I cold buy a book.  When they would pass out those little scholastic newspaper thingy’s where you could order books, I would lose my mind- how the hell could anyone pick just one?

The library was, and still is, one of my favorite places in the world. I love the smell of all those thousands of weathered, handled books, the quiet and the anticipation of roaming the aisles, finding some new adventure right in front of you, behind some quiet cover. I still, to this day, miss Borders and B.Dalton and all the other bookstores that have disappeared. The nearest (affordable) bookstore to me is a thirty minute drive from me, and it embarrasses me to have to say that. I mean, what the hell is wrong with this world when the bookstores are dying off?

The most beautiful development of all for me was when I realized that all of those words and stories I had soaked up over countless hours and days, they wanted to come back out, to fill up pages and hard drives and notebooks with words of my own, stories that I created. There are books and notebooks and magazines in literally every room of my home, the hallway included. There are poems scratched on napkins and legal pads with story ideas, and even a full length novel stored in my computer. Nothing in this world makes me happier than words. If you didn’t read as a child, I highly encourage you to try again now. You never know, it may be different now…unlike algebra, which will still totally suck.

Have a great day!

Happy Reading

This will be the last post like this post under this blogs name. In the future, all my ultra-personal blogs concerning others (as well as myself, of course) will be at my new WordPress blog, http://allthedirtylaundry.wordpress.com/. This, my new blog, will not be posted as a link on facebook for all my friends and family to see, and will have to survive on it’s own merit. The reason for this is pretty simple- I don’t want to entice people to read about stuff they don’t really need to see otherwise. I can’t stop writing, and I won’t stop people from reading, but if they want to read it, they will have to either subscribe via email or go actively seek out the dirt on me, my family, and everyone else I know and feel like writing about, of their own volition. Hence, the name…get it?

This blog will revert back to it’s original format and idea, where I will, once again, attempt to rise to the challenge of improving myself in whatever way seems appealing and relevant to me. This could be physically, spiritually, intellectually…whatever. My goal is to try at least one new thing each week to write about, and if that isn’t possible, then I will write about whatever I found made me happy.

This past week, I was swamped with work and personal upheaval. I didn’t have much time to write, and when I did, I’d sit down and nothing would come. I actually finished this blog once, but I’d had the page open a while when I did it, and when I went to save the draft, the page logged me out without saving any of the stuff I wrote. I didn’t waste a lot of time being mad about it, I just figured it wasn’t what I was supposed to be saying.

What I did find time to do, though, was read. I read three books over the last two weeks, and all of them thrilled me to pieces. The funny part is that they were all books I’d already read, but I picked them up at Goodwill for a buck apiece, and decided to read them all again. The first one was “Dead Until Dawn” by Charlaine Harris (whose writing I love, and have read ALL of) which is the first in her Sookie Stackhouse series that eventually went on to be the “True Blood” series. It is such a fun series of books, I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it already.

The second book I read was “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver- the first time I read it, I think I was in high school, and though I thought I remembered it clearly, I didn’t remember most of it at all. It was great to read it over again- there are parts of that story I’m sure I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to fully appreciate yet, when I read it the first time.  I’m probably still not, but it sure made a lot more sense.

Where_the_Heart_Is_Billie_LettsThe third book, and I am just about done with it, but not quite, is “Where The Heart is” by Billie Letts. What a freakin’ fantastic story. There is not a character in it that I don’t love. It’s sweet and sad and funny and triumphant, all things I want in a book, and it’s full of average people with extraordinary hearts. I read this book in my early twenties, and once again, I thought I recalled it perfectly, but there was so much that I’d forgotten.

Anyway, for me, reading is an escape. For as long as I’ve been able to read, I used it this way- books have helped me make it through some tough times, and this past week has been a hard one. I’d be happy to tell you why, but you’ll have to read about it in my other blog. And for Pete’s sake, if you can’t find it by using the link I posted, use the wordpress search option.