Monday, December 3, 2012

Bye bye, Blogger

I've moved. Follow me at my new location at:

Thanks so much for visiting.

Kirkus Reviews

It's up.

The "Dolls Behaving Badly" review is now up at the Kirkus Reviews Website. Check it out, that is if you have the $$$ for the subscription rate.

If not, I've included tidbits below:

"The author’s narrative (that would be me!) style is witty and completely down-to-earth and creates the expectation of a meaningful message that is ultimately delivered....Despite, or perhaps because of, her very human flaws, Carla is a character who is easy to love, and her journal is an engaging read."

So nice to get a good review in Kirkus. Heck, it's nice to even get a review in Kirkus. So thanks, Kirkus! When I become rich or at least out-of-writerly-debt, I promise I will buy a six-months subscription as a way of paying it forward.

Hope everyone is staying warm. It's 3 degrees up here in Anchorage tonight. The skies are clear, the stars vivid, the moon still fat but no longer round. When I walk outside with the dog I can smell the neighbor's wood stove. It is a good and cozy smell. Winters are harsh but still, so much beauty.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winter blues (or why I write in Alaska)

It's getting cold up here in Anchorage, about 2 degrees right now, with temps forecasted for below 0 later tonight.

I'm not a winter person, even though I run throughout the year. The cold bullies me. I suffer. If I wear too little, I'm chilled and miserable. If I wear too much, I sweat and become chilled and miserable.

Yet, there's a beauty in the cold, in the winter, this far north. Right before sunset (which comes earlier and earlier; we're down to less than six hours of daylight and losing fast), the sky turns the most remarkable shade of blue, which spreads out until everything is cast in shadow and the snow fades to lavender and running through it is like running through a dream.

Full moon over Cook Inlet--that's downtown Anchorage in the background, nestled against the Chugach Mountains.

Winter is a time to slow down, to cozy up inside the house with a good book. It's a time to write poems and finish essays and stay up all night working on a novel, and who cares if it ever sells or not? When the sun finally rises and the air turns lavender and you're exhausted yet strangely exhilarated, such things don't matter.

Sunrise over Kenai Lake, around 10 a.m.

I doubt I'd be the writer that I am if I didn't live in Alaska. I'd still write, of course. But without the mountains and the inlet, the bears and moose and occasional glimpse of a wolf, my writing would be tamer, less wild. I wouldn't take as many chances. I wouldn't reveal as much of myself. I wouldn't burrow down deep or as far or as often. I wouldn't risk letting go of small pieces of my soul.

Seward Small Boat Harbor, last winter

Sunrise over Mt. Benson

Sorry if I sound melodramatic. It's the blues. They do me in every year, but in the best possible way.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chick lit rants, and another review

Today a friend emailed that the Seward Phoenix Log had posted a review of Dolls Behaving Badly.

I wasn't sure what to expect. Seward is a small Alaska fishing community (about 1,800) at the end of the road system; it isn't exactly known for its literary merits. I know: I used to live in Seward and edit the very same small town newspaper.

Me, sitting at the halfway point of Mt. Marathon and looking down on the town of Seward.

I was refreshingly surprised when I read the review by Wolfgang Kurtz (yes, I think that is his real name) who, according to his bio, is kind of an everyday man, now a small town newspaper editor.

Granted, it doesn't compare to the Kirkus Reviews review in weight or merit, but why should it? It's an honest review from an honest man who honestly admits he doesn't normally read books written by women.

What I like is that he mentioned Erica Jong, Anais Nin and Ayn Rand. In my review!

He referred to them as "chick" writers, hee, hee.

Here, I must digress (and I apologize, Wolfgang, this has nothing to do with your review. Sometimes a woman simply can't, and shouldn't, keep her mouth shut).

Jong, Nin and Rand are women. But they write (and have written) serious works on serious women's issues.

Why is it that when men write books on war and politics, they are highly esteemed. Yet if a woman writes on topics important in her world--birth, body issues, relationships--she risks being lumped as a chick lit writer, you know, just-another-woman-writing-self-involved-women's-topics.

Someday women's bodies, words and experiences will be as highly valued as men's. Someday women will have complete freedom over their reproductive and sexual choices, regardless of religion or location. (Imagine women making laws to determine when, why and how men access their little magical Viagra pills!)

Sorry for the rant. I couldn't help myself. It happens.

I'm totally off the point. My book isn't serious fiction and isn't meant to be. It probably is closer to chick lit than literary fiction. It's mainstream, women mainstream, and I intended it to be as such. It's not as steamy as Jong or Nin, but it has its moments. But still, how heady to see their names listed so close to my own (!!).

So thanks, Wolfgang, for reviewing my book. I appreciate that you took the time to step outside your comfort zone. People so seldom do that anymore. The next time I'm down in Seward, I'll take you out for tea at the Sea Bean. Who knows, maybe Erica Jong will dock off one of the cruise ships and join us. Stranger things have happened.

The full review can be found here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spicy lentil soup, and another rejection

What is it about soup that makes you feel so warm and snuggly inside, so safe and protected? Maybe it's because you must eat it out of a bowl, and when you wrap your hands around it, the warmth seeps through your palms and the smells drift up and you feel like a child again, sitting down for lunch, your mother invisible in the background, but still there.

I rarely eat soup in the summer. Once winter comes, I can't get enough. With the darkness creeping in and the temps lowering (it was 15 when I came back from my run today), my belly craves warm, thick, spicy tastes.

Since I'm getting over a nasty flu, I decided to make lentil soup with a lot of onions, garlic and kale, for immune boosting properties. As an added kick, I chopped up two jalapeno peppers and a healthy dash of red chili pepper flakes.

Veggies before I butchered them for the soup.

As I waited for the soup to cook in the crockpot, I worked on my novel, ran nine miles (and met up with a mother a baby moose), took a long bath with a Margaret Atwood novel and checked my email.

Of course there was another rejection waiting for me: WomenArts Quarterly Journal doesn't want my nonfiction essay, "Eating." The piece is about my sister, who died of complications of an eating disorder, so maybe that's why I baked cornbread. Suddenly, I wanted (needed?) a thick slice of cornbread slathered with margarine. I wanted it more than anything.

So I baked up a batch, adding chili flakes, since I had used all the jalapenos in the soup. I slid it in the oven and MM and I took the dog for the walk in the dark, with the snow hard and crisp beneath our boots.

When we walked back in the door, the smells of soup and cornbread greeted us and I swear, my eyes almost filled with tears, I felt so hungry and yet so grateful. I filled a large bowl with soup, cut two big pieces of cornbread, spread on margarine, sat down and ate. The tastes slid across my tongue and the peppers burned my throat, and it was warm and soothing, like a nice, long hug. 

Sometimes I wish I said grace before meals. I don't now and probably never will. But tonight, I wish I had.

Spicy Lentil Soup

1 quart vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 cups lentils
1 onion
4 celery stalks
2 cups chopped carrots
4-5 chopped garlic cloves
2 large jalapeno peppers, chopped
4 cups kale, chopped
Chili pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Throw all the ingredients in a crockpot, crank it up on high level (for 5-6 hour soup) or low (for 8-10 hour soup). Serve in large bowls with goat cheese and chopped bell pepper topping. Serves 6-8 small appetites or 4 hungry Alaska runners.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Goodbye Twinkies, hello Boiler Journal

I was bummed when I heard that Hostess closed down camp.

It's an end of an era, not just for the overly fluffed Wonder bread and sickeningly sweet Twinkies, but for a time when kids ate sugary treats each evening and no one worried about childhood obesity or juvenile diabetes because, while those things happened, they didn't happen often and not usually to people you knew.

Back in the days when I could hit a fastball and sometimes even a curveball, when I hated to take baths and dreamed of one day meeting Johnny Bench (who, I knew, would be impressed by my batting stance), my favorite snack was a Ho Ho. I loved unwrapping them from their foil wrappers and how chocolate inevitably got on my hands, and I loved sticking my tongue in the swirls of white icing. I always felt slightly sick after eating one and even that I loved; in my childhood mind I equated sin with an upset stomach, and I though I didn't believe Ho Hos were sinful, I knew that sin tasted the way a Ho Ho tastes: Sweet and overpowering, with the lingering of chocolate crumbs against your teeth.

So goodbye Hostess. Goodbye Twinkies and Ho Hos, Ding Dongs and those little fruit pies I used to binge on before college exams. Goodbye Sno Balls and Cup Cakes and the spongy Wonder Bread that I once believed God used to make the communion host. The world will be a healthier place without you but oh, what a price to pay!

(If I had a Ho Ho here right now I'd bite down for emphasis but alas, I have only whole grain cereal and soy milk, which shows how far I've fallen from my childhood.)

But on the heels of that sad news, I also have good news: The Boiler Journal wants to print one of my creative nonfiction pieces.

This is a piece called "Communion" that I have, literally, been working on for years, mostly because I wasn't sure if the ending worked, which really means is that I was uncomfortable with the ending because I was uncomfortable admitting to the ending. Owning up your own past can be damned scary. Once you write it, once you say it out loud, you can never take it back. You have to carry it around with you. It becomes both your burden and your blessing.

I wrote and rewrote this piece for years until suddenly, a few weeks ago, I felt it was time. I don't know why. Maybe I was sick of it. Maybe I was in an especially strong mood. Maybe there's someone out there who needs to read it and universal telepathy triggered inside my head.

Ironically, I published a poem titled "Communion" years ago. I've always been intrigued by communion, eating the body and blood of Christ, that very sensual, very primal and fierce act, and how it is performed with such quiet ceremony, everything so clean and so very white, as if to wipe away all passion, all urges. No wonder it keeps sneaking through as a metaphor in my writing.

P.S. You can buy 1,000 communion wafers for $18.99 on Amazon. The outside package says, "For the Lord's supper service." Wild! Check it out here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

An award, and another rejection

My essay on running, cleverly titled "Running," was chosen as the Sport Literate Essay Award winner and will be featured in the upcoming issue.

I'm not sure when the upcoming issue comes out but I'll be sure to add a link (as if you're all on the edge of your seats waiting to read my little essay).

What is so cool about this is that two photos of me running in the mountains will be included. They both make me look bad-ass. I'm not, of course. Or maybe I am, when it comes to running. When it comes to life, I'm a sissy. I cry easily. Small things scare me. My hands sweat whenever I'm introduced to someone wearing a business suit. Yet I often run alone through the mountains, jumping over bear scat and disregarding caution. To me, this spells freedom. Foolish freedom, probably, but what freedom isn't a little bit foolish?

Me, running my bad ass very slowly over the trail to Rabbit Lake.
So even though I was pumped about the award, I was still disappointed when I learned tonight that I wasn't awarded a grant from the Awesome Foundation. I didn't expect to get it, since my writing project didn't meet all the guidelines. But I couldn't help applying. I think it was the name: Awesome. It just feels so good to write. I wonder what would happen if I taped the word awesome all over the house? Would my writing improve? Would my confidence? Would I become a better and more deserving person, someone worthy of awesomeness?

And why is it so hard to say to myself, late at night with no one awake but the cats, "I am awesome?" Why does it feel so embarrassing? Why do I expect to hear a stern voice scolding me, telling me to come down from my high horse, to stop acting as if I am too big for my britches?

Fuck it: I am awesome, even though I didn't get an Awesome grant.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Three rejections and an acceptance

It's been a couple of those weeks: The rejections just kept pouring in.

I had poems rejected at Amethyst Arsenic, The Fine Line and Plume.

I was starting to feel unpopular.

Plume and Amethyst Arsenic sent me wonderful rejection letters, so that perked me up a wee bit. (And thank you, Daniel, for calling me a "fine poet.")

Then this happened: I found something exciting in my email box.

Nestled amongst the promises to increase my penis size was a nice letter from Third Wednesday asking if they might include one of my poems in their next issue.

I'm glad it was good news, too, because I have a cold and there's nothing worse than receiving a rejection letter when your head is plugged up and your throat is sore and you feel all woozy and sad and can't stopping thinking about the boy (what was his name--Mike? Mark? Tom?) in high school who didn't ask you to the homecoming dance.

So thank you, Third Wednesday. Even though it isn't a Wednesday and is actually a second Sunday, you made my day.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Of bread, writing and lounging moose

Yesterday I tried to write and nothing came. No words, no images. I sat there like a dumb lump. I sat there for over an hour waiting for something, anything to come.

But alas, my mind was a silent and dark space (I imagine it as a closet, slightly musty, with the faint smell of mothballs).

So I made bread.

I highly recommend this to anyone stuck in a creative project. There's something soothing yet familiar about kneading dough, how it both works with and against you and how easy it is to lose yourself to the simple motion of your hands.

I used a basic recipe with few ingredients (after all, who needs complications, eh?) and measured as best as I could; I've never been a very precise person. Probably this is why I'm a writer. But here's the thing: Baking bread is a lot like writing. No matter how closely you follow the recipe, you're venturing into the unknown. Sometimes the dough refuses to rise. Sometimes you don't knead enough or knead too roughly or add too little salt or forget the pinch of sugar or honey to activate the yeast. Sometimes you do everything right and still come out with a flat, dense loaf that even the dog refuses to eat (trust me, it happens).

My brain while writing: An obstinate lump of dough.

I don't think I'd enjoy baking bread if the results were predictable, if every loaf came out perfectly, if I didn't hold my breath before peering into the oven.

Yesterday my characters weren't predictable. They wouldn't cooperate. They scattered across in the page in a mad heap of useless dialogue and small actions that did nothing to move the plot forward.

Finally I pushed my computer aside and took the dog for a walk. So there I was, walking around muttering to myself about my lack of a productive writing day, when I looked up and found myself staring straight at this dude:

Looks like this guy was stuck in his novel too, so I didn't linger. I'd like to say that this moosey meeting caused a great epiphany and I ran home and wrote like crazy but that didn't happen. I ate bread instead. Stuffing one's mouth with hot, buttered bread does little to alleviate a writing block but a lot to soothe the belly. Plus, face it, eating is often much more fun than writing.

Cinthia's Writing Block Bread:

-Cup warm milk or water (I used almond milk)
-Packet of active yeast
-2 tablespoons honey
-Large pinch of sugar
-2 tablespoons oil (I used olive but coconut adds a nice flavor)
-Teaspoon salt
-2 cups whole wheat flour
-1 cup white flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine warm milk/water with yeast, honey and oil. In a separate bowl mix salt and flours. Fold into yeast mixture, mix and then knead. I coat my hands with margarine while kneading to add a subtle buttery flavor to the bread.

Knead for a good 10 minutes.

Place dough into a bowl, cover with a dishtowel and let sit in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.

Punch it down (this is the fun part!), knead for a couple more minutes, place in a greased bread pan, cover and let rise for another 30 minutes or so. You'll know it's ready when it's expanded to double in size.

Slide in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes, remove the bread from the pan, slice, slater on the margarine or butter, and enjoy.


What I'm reading today:
"Pretty is What Changes" by Jessica Queller, a memoir of family, breast cancer and difficult choices.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Not-writing this morning

I'm not-writing this morning. I'm supposed to be writing. I feel obligated to write, since I am at this very moment sitting at my desk at the Kimmel Hardin Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska, enjoying a month-long writing residency in Nebraska City.

My room is right there on the second floor, see the closed blinds? I'm sitting behind them, trying to block out the sun, trying to write.

It's 75 outside, and sunny. The birds are chirping outside my window.

I can't write because last night while working on my second novel (as yet unnamed--why are titles so damned difficult?), my character took over. It was one of those magical times, and I'm sure you know what I mean, one of those times when it felt as if I weren't even writing, as if I were possessed by my character, this other woman, this Sasha Dewey, who is me yet isn't me at all.

The scene that unfolded was chillingly honest, and tender, and odd. It's exactly what the book needed yet, because of this one scene, I will have to rewrite the rest of the book.

I was SO close to being done. I could smell the finish. It was that reachable.

Now I have weeks, maybe months, of hard work, hard writing, in front of me. The result will be a better book, of course. But results are long-term and writing is long-term and is it terrible to want short-term gratification? To see the so-called fruits of my labor lovingly displayed in chapters that fit and interconnect and do what they're supposed to do? To see it now, not in three weeks or three months or three years, but now?

I had four hours of sleep last night. My hair is dirty, my toenail polish chipped. I'm slumped at  my desk, trying so hard to not-write that my hands and eyes and head hurt.

Writing is not easy. And not-writing is even harder. Especially when the spirit of your character rises up through your fingertips and takes you to places you never imagined, uncovers feelings and secret urges you've tried to keep hidden because (dare I say it?), each time you uncover something in one of your characters, you're also uncovering secrets inside yourself.

This can be unsettling.

I'm going to spend the morning and maybe even the early afternoon not-writing. I have three books to read ("Stay Awake" by Dan Chaon, a series of quirky short stories, is incredibly good) and a sunny balcony callling my name. I'll settle down with a bottle of sunscreen, a glass of orange juice, and I'll read and daydream as birds sing and crickets chirp and all around the splendor of autumn leaves waves in the sky.

Later today, after I run or swim my laps, after I feel stronger and more centered, I'll sit down and write. But for now, I'm taking it easy. I'm sitting with myself, alone though not alone because even now, in this patch of sunshine, at this desk in the middle of this small Nebraska town, I can feel her, my character, my Sasha, waiting. She's crouched, as if ready to pounch or sprint. She has so much energy!

I wonder where she'll take me next.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I have a publicist

I have a publicist.

This is BIG news to an Alaska girl who gets her kicks logging long runs in the mountains.

My usual idea of a thrill is being charged by a moose.

This is a much, much better.

My publicist, whose name is Sonya (I imagine she has sleek hair and wears expensive shoes) is, of course, to help publicize my book, slated for release Feb. 5.

I'm going to have to start including her in conversations. "My publicist says it's Tuesday," I'll say with a haughty toss of my (unsleek) hair, and everyone will be so impressed that they won't notice that it's really Wednesday.

But seriously--all of this scares the crap out of me. Publishing a book scares the crap out of me. Realizing that people will soon read (and comment, and criticize, and perhaps even hate) something I wrote scares the crap out of me

I'm not even sure if my book is any good, I've read and edited and reread and analyzed it so much. It's my book, that's all I know. I feel great affection and love for it, much the way I used to feel for my son, when he was still living at home. We'd interact and go through our daily routines, and then I'd look over and watch him cooking ramen noodles or pouring orange juice and my breath would suck in--I'd be so amazed by his beauty.

My book is a little bit like that. It's ordinary and familiar and commonplace, yet every so often I glance through it and my breath catches, my heart pounds, and I am be amazed. I wrote this, I think, and it seems such a miracle, such a truly stupendous thing, that I wrote a book.

And it's not that my book is so amazing; it's not. It's that I did it. I wrote it. I stuck with it through the hard and awful and truly terrible times. I didn't give up, and lord knows I've given up on so many things throughout my life.

So, yeah, I wrote a book. Other people write music and run ultra races and play the flute in the school band. It all connects us in a sense, and I suppose that's what makes it so amazing.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gallery proofs, and another rejection

A few days ago a good looking UPS man knocked on my door. He was holding a package. A package from New York City.

I grabbed it and tore it open with my teeth. Okay, that's a lie. I cut it was my dulled Walmart scissors. But no matter, because inside were my galley proofs.

My novel. And it's a real book! A bit of a naughty book, but a Real. Book. With chapters and everything.

I was so excited that I cried. Then I drove my galley proofs around town and showed people. "See," I said. "It's a real book." (Like the Velveteen Rabbit, my book only became real when I actually held it in my greedy hands.)

The very next day, there was a rejection letter waiting in my email box.

This happens every single time I get puffed up about my writing. Something inevitably slaps me down. I think this is karma. I worrythat I was a critic in a former life.

Anyway, the Plume Poetry Journal doesn't want the poems I sent them. Which is a shame, because I love their journal. (I'm very choosey about where I send my work. I only submit to places that feel like home, journals and magazines that hit me hard and make me want to curl around them and take them to bed.)

But Daniel over at Plume sent me the most wonderful rejection letter. He wrote, and I quote: "You are a fine poet." While my work wasn't right for them, he was sure the poems would be picked up soon. "Our loss," he said.

This is a big deal because poets in the current Plume issue have been published in the New Yorker  and The American Poetry Review. Heady credentials.

Thanks, Daniel. You broke my heart but kinda swelled my head, which is a fair and balanced combination, no?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Final pass edits, and another rejection

The thing about writing is, right when you're feeling smug and sure of yourself, right when you finally believe that you've made it, yes, you've finally made it, that email or letter arrives in the mail informing you that no, you haven't.

Two weeks ago I received my final pass edits for my novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, and early Thursday morning, I handed them back in again, all finished except for a few additional clarifications.

All week I felt like The Writer, like The Big Deal. I even stood in the front of the bathroom mirror in my old, overly sized glasses, and practiced smiling like Joyce Carol Oates.

Then today, after returning home from racing the Big Wild Life Run, I turned on Dirty Dancing (the original version, with Patrick S.), and happily opened my email.

Oh, Patrick, if only I could have danced with you, then literary magazine rejections wouldn't matter so much.

And there it was: A rejection notice. The Heavy Feather Review doesn't want my creative nonfiction piece, but they were nice about it, very gracious, which made it worse: I couldn't even resent them.

 Three weeks ago, ZYZZYVA didn't want five of my poems. And two weeks ago, the Stone Highway Review didn't want another one of my creative nonfiction pieces.

Writerly rejection never really ends, no matter how many awards you might receive or books you might publish. Each time you send out a submission, you're basically starting from scratch. Oh, prior publications may count a small bit, but the bulk of emphasis is on your work.

Sometimes your work doesn't cut it. Sometimes the magazine is looking for something else. Sometimes your writing style doesn't jive with editorial preference. And sometimes it's about timing and moods and the phase of the moon.

More and more I think it's almost always about the phase of the moon but then again, I'm feeling a little cynical today so probably this isn't the case at all.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writing sucks today

I'm having one of those days when everything I write sucks. Even writing my own name sucks (I mean, is that the best way to write my name or is there a better way? Last name first? No middle initial? Two lines instead of one?)

The details can drive one mad. And I'm good at driving myself mad.

I'm stuck on my second novel rewrite. I have my shitty first draft completed and am now rewriting and trying to make the whole book a little less shitty.

This is harder than I can say.

The first two chapters sing, and it's taken me months to get them to that point. I'm feeling discouraged: Do I really want to spend months rewriting one lousy chapter?

It's summer in Alaska. I want to be out in the mountains. I want to run. I want to lounge around eating pretzels dunked in Paul Newman's Ranch dressing.

I don't want to write.

At least, not today.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A grant, and a rejection

I was lucky and honored to be one of approximately 25 Alaska artist who received a Rasmuson Individual Artist award.

Photo credit: Rasmuson Foundation (I'm the startled-looking blonde near the back, hee, hee)

Yes, the money is much appreciated and will be a huge help with my upcoming project. But more than that, it's the honor of having been chosen, the acknowledgment, the pat on the back for a job well done.

Anyone who is a writer knows that such things don't arrive often.

For the most part, it's rejection, followed by more rejection, and then, when you're almost completely kicked down, even more rejection.

So I decided to write this post in thanks, not only for the grant, but for all of those people who unknowingly gave me a slight boost when my writing wasn't going well: The Fred Meyer cashier who gave me her chocolate chip recipe (thanks, honey); the guy at the gas station who told a joke while I was filling my Escort with unleaded; the Walmart employee who chased me down after I left my keys by the toilet paper.

I have many supportive friends, and they've helped more than I can say. But sometimes it's the unexpected gesture that keeps me going. Or, as Blanche DuBois said, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Oh, Blanche, it wasn't all your fault. Truly!

Which leads me to the not so "kind" news.

I received a rejection letter for the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency. It was a very kind rejection, and they sent me $5 (!!).

Turns out I had sent too much with the application fee and they mailed me back the remainder. Yep, I was rejected but still got five bucks out of the deal.

Love you Abe!
 I was a bit crushed. Even though I was recently awarded a month-long residency at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts for October, I wanted more. I wanted not just one residency, but two. Or maybe three. Or heck, an entire year of bouncing from residency to residency and writing like mad and never washing my hair and living like a hippie writer.

So I won't be living in a small cabin in the middle of nowhere in Oregon next year, with no electricity or running water, no neighbors, and limited contact with the outside world, sigh, sigh.

But I will be at KHN in October, and there will be electricity and running water and other people around, and I'm hoping to write like crazy, eat a lot of pretzels, meet a few new friends and run through the Nebraska cornfields.

Where I'll be in October, writing my heart out.

I suppose it's about balance or, as the old motto goes: You win some, you lose some.

Why, then, do the rejections linger so much longer than the awards and acceptances?

Writing: I'm presently working on an essay about running for a lit magazine contest
Reading: Anything and everything by Anne Tyler: I'm trying to improve my dialogue techniques and no one writes dialogue as well as Tyler.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My perfect reader

Last night I met the perfect reader. I don't know her name or who she was but she was in the hot tub at the apartment clubhouse where MM and I were soaking off the hurts of our last run.

This woman, I'll call her MPR for my perfect reader, was a bit chubby. Okay, she was more than a bit chubby but so what? Because she slid into the hot tub across from us and she was holding a book.

A book! In the hot tub!

She sat down, in that churning water, with all of that steam, and opened her book and began to read. I could tell that she was enjoying herself, too.

What she was reading isn't important. It's the fact that she was reading, and that she held the book so carefully above the water, as to not get the pages damp. And sitting there I thought: I want someone to read my book in a hot tub. I want them to not be able to put it down. I want them to carry it with them to the bathroom and the supermarket. I want them to sleep with it beside their pillow (as I so often sleep with my books) because they can't part with it, even as they dream.

I hope someone loses my book, too. Because have you ever found a book somewhere, picked it up an knew, without a doubt, that it was meant for you, that it had been patiently waiting there for you to find it?

Years ago I found a tattered copy of Susan Kenney's In Another Country at a rest stop in Washington state.

I knew it was meant for me. I picked it up, sat there in that dead grass and read for hours. I was transfixed; I couldn't put it down.

What I'm saying is that I want my book to be used. I want it torn and crumbled, damp and food-smudged, the poor binding cracked and worn. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I believe that books only come alive when they are loved.

And what am I loving right now? Poison, by Kathrn Harrison (Oh, Kathryn, I love you so! Or at least I love your writing so!).

Hope everyone is reading, and writing, books and poems and stories they truly love.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pigs and peanut butter cookies

Today I wrote a few pages of my new novel, edited a few pages more. Then, feeling strangely productive, I outlined the next chapter.

I won’t, of course, follow this outline, will end up misplacing it or dribbling it with food. Why, then, did I feel so smug as I wrote? I sat at the breakfast nook, a cat on my lap, and imagined someone viewing from above: “Look at her! She’s outlining her next chapter! She’s a real writer!”

The idea depressed me so much that now I want a cookie. I want this:

All I have in my cupboards are healthy foods. Healthy foods suck when you’re a writer who can’t finish her second novel.

(‘Why write a book?’ I imagine asking God.

‘Why not?’ he’d say with a shrug, and then he’d get back to watching The Food Network.)

My second novel is a mess. I’ve been switching from first- to third-person and agonizing: Which is the stronger voice? Which more accurately portrays my character? My theme? My intent?

Damned if I know.

So, yeah, I want a peanut butter cookie. I want that buttery, white-flour and white-sugar badness in my mouth. I want to smooth it down my throat. I want to bury my head in a plate of peanut butter cookies and eat face-down, like a pig.

Is that you, Wilbur??

I suppose if writing were easier, more people would do it. But really, is it supposed to be this hard?

Today’s stats:

Writing: Stuck in Chapter Ten (I’ve been stuck in Chapter Ten for over a week. I’m getting tired of Chapter Ten)

Reading: White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Quote of the day: “Mom brought me some peanut butter cookies and a biography of Judy Garland. She told me she thought my problem was that I was too impatient, my fuse was too short, that I was only interested in instant gratification. I said, ‘Instant gratification takes too long.’”
     Carrie Fisher, Postcards From the Edge