My Unpracticed Writing Method

I say unpracticed because, although I know what works for me, I suck at practicing it and keeping up with it. I was definitely reminded of this while reading this post on Maud Newton's Blog and the attached links about Hilary Mantel's method when writing. Some of the specific methods that she outlined that stood out to me were:

Become a magpie. Collect anything that attracts you: images, phrases, little glimpses, footnotes from books... Cut them out if you can, record them on blank postcards, scribble them in a notebook.

  • I always carry my writing notebook with me where ever I go, and to even make things easier on me, I've gotten myself these mini-notebooks that will fit into my purse to jot down ideas, etc. Now I just have to use the notebook more, often it lays forgotten at the bottom of my purse, the edges of the pages shredding from the friction of me taking out and putting in just about everything from my purse, but the notebook of course.
Start developing snatches of dialogue (you adore writing dialogue) and unconnected scenes. Increasingly, the information you are collecting will be written down as if it'’s already part of the book.

  • I'm always writing down little snatches of dialogue that I find interesting and amusing, and in fact have become addicted to the "Overheard at the Beach; in New York City; and at The Office" blogs because the dialogue is just so juicy it makes my mouth water. Now, if only I had stories that the dialogue would fit in...
Avoid working to a set plot; it will make your writing feel mechanical. Just fix on the feeling you want to leave your reader with and work with that goal always in mind. Though it will fill you with anxiety, you must work with the maximum uncertainty you can tolerate. (If possible, choose a historical topic, where at least some of the outcomes are set in stone.)

  • I have noticed the more I set my plot, the harder I struggle to finish the story, which is the problem with my current story. But I also have the problem of not having Any plot idea for a story and just going off of pure feeling and having the story dead end before it even really got anywhere. So I guess I have to find the happy medium.
Cultivate a kind of vagueness about the novel, to allow your unconscious to set up connections and juxtapositions. Combine this with a surgical attention to the minutiae of each paragraph.

  • I totally agree with this one. Sometimes I can look at one single sentence for an entire hour, only to change it in a minute the next day.
As the novel grows, it must take over your life. Get up in the middle of the night to work on it, then go back to sleep and dream about it. Because your material is strong and macabre, and linked with your own experiences, inevitably you will start having nightmares. Take heart! These are a necessary part of the process, and signal that the book is going well.

  • I used to do this ALL the time back when I was in college, but with the real world job it's so hard to get out of bed even with a great idea. I used to write all night into the wee hours, night time is when my creativity is at its highest, but no more. Now I'm trying to make myself write every day after I get home from work. Not an easy thing to do and I am Far less creative.
Press on, refining every paragraph, paring away extraneous matter, positioning every semicolon, until the manuscript is ready for submission.

  • Yup. You can drive yourself insane with those little details though...

Mantel also discusses the life of the characters in her novels on Mslexia (excerpt found on Book World):

"But identifying this closely with one's fictional characters carries a price. 'The more available you make yourself to your characters, the more you risk destabilising your own core,' says Mantel. 'Sometimes I'll walk around the house thinking "Why am I so cold?". And then I'll realise that I've just killed one of my characters, and they're cold, so of course I'm cold.'

Indeed, writers are rather like psychics, she suggests. 'There is a part of you that has to be available day and night to this group of people who keep talking to you, who nobody else can see, but you're in their service'. In that sense she's like Alison? [the psychic in Beyond Black] 'Yes, writing has to steal up on you. And that's what people always say about ghosts, that you see them out of the corner of your eye.' "

I found this very striking since the character for my first novel in character was a very real person to me before I even had the idea of the novel. My gal Lizard literally (well as literal as your mind can be) climbed into my mind and perched there, as if sitting on the edge of a dock, swinging her mud smudged legs in dirty cut off overalls and told me that I had to write her story. And what could I do but oblige? There were days when I wrote those first 40 or so pages that all my thoughts were in Lizard's voice and whenever anything would happen, I would think, what would Lizard do/feel/think about this? Sometimes I do feel that the life of a writer is one of distraction and not completely of your own, ghosts from some other world grabbing your attention so that their story can be heard. Sometimes you just have to give in to that inner voice and ignore the rest of the world. At times I sure do feel bad for my husband, but then, he knew what he was getting into when he married me, so that feeling quickly goes away.

P.S. Very excited, a dear friend of mine (hugs and kisses to you if you're reading this, you made my day... I will call you Very soon) said that my blog is like his NY Times, if not his Bible. Wahoo! I'm so excited to be of use to someone and am very flattered. Thank you Darling for checking in regularly, now I feel as if I have to put something important here. :)~

P.P.S. And yes, I am breaking my no blogging at home rule, but I've recently become quite busy at work and may have to for the time being, but on a good note I did write and revise before I blogged! That's progress, right?


2 AM (Just Breathe)

Not only am I obsessed with Anna Nalick and her music (so soulful and deep, You've gotta check it out... my current faves are 2am, Catalyst and Wreck of the Day) but it is also 2am and I am awake so I thought the title would be appropriate!

So my writing group, that started at 7pm, has just left my humble abode. Granted, it was the same three as last time, same cancellations and no shows (sigh) but what a group we are! I can't imagine how late we would have been here had we had more people! We discussed writing and critiqued each others' work (after the girls could pull themselves from inspecting my library and cuddling my array of animals), which was so helpful. I'd been struggling for, hmm, about two weeks now on an ending for a story I've been working on and it's been pulling-my-hair-out frustrating. The girls gave me wonderful ideas and places to go, helped me clarify things that I was unsure about by asking the right questions about my characters or what I wanted the characters to be in my story and gave me some great tips on getting an ending hammered out! I'm so excited to work on the story and I LOVE that feeling... it is rare after you've been banging your head on a story for a couple of weeks. I hope that I was just as insightful and helpful to the women and their work as well. Then we started chatting causally and that lead to discussions of literature and art and that led to "kids today" and the changes in parenting this generation, which disturbs us all. We progressed to feminism and the way women are portrayed in the media and how sexy is not about how naked you can get without actually being naked. It was one of those college, idealistic, devastating, enlightening, hilarious (with stories shared that we all know the unspoken rule will never be uttered from each others' mouths outside of our circle), intellectual discussions that fills you and makes you feel like a human being, not just a zombie trying to get through the hustle and bustle of your uninspiring life and your uninspiring 9-5 job. It was the type of talk that reminded me of my dream to work internationally in underdeveloped countries, in war zones, in highly diseased areas to help the most deserving and the most helpless people, trapped by birth by a poverty and a life that is doomed from its beginnings. I think I've even agreed to go to Calcutta or some other underdeveloped country to work with lepers or refugees in Uganda or something with one of the girls! How wonderful. I was disappointed my current Uganda trip has fallen through and now I have found another opportunity to look forward, perhaps after my first year of grad school for Social Work? Hmm, that's starting to sound like a plan. One of my groupies has a friend that does work in those countries with an organization. How wonderful would it be to share this experience with a like-minded woman whom you've already bonded with so deeply with the most important parts of yourself? Your writing (which I consider the window to my soul), your thoughts, dreams, passions, pain, ideals and of course your most embarrassing moments! :)~

It was 2am before we knew it, and no surprise, my hubby who was dutifully staying out of our way in the basement with his Baseball Tonight, video games and exercise bike was dead asleep downstairs, bless his heart!

This entry is probably very naughty grammatically as my eyes are refusing to open all the way and I may have to come in tomorrow and touch it up, so apologies for any sloppiness, I really do try to put out cleaner posts than this!

Very at peace and so happy with the bonding of minds and hearts tonight, there's nothing like your girls no matter how amazing your man is.


Flood Inspired

A very interesting read, thanks to Flood, that discusses creativity and its link to depression. As a writer, a graduate with a psychology major, as well as someone with chronic depression I found this article extremely interesting. What I find interesting is not necessarily the findings, which is that mildly depressed people (the story of my life) are more prone to be creative because the depression causes them to be more sensitive to their surroundings and to other people's feelings. I definitely agree with this because many of my friends and loved ones (won't say who!) that have never dealt with depression are definitely less sensitive to their surroundings and to people than I am. Also, I was a part of a women's depression group in college and found these women to be the most sensitive women I'd ever met and when talking about my group friends versus my college friends that I had met through other avenues, I've kept up with more of my group friends. I have a much deeper bond with them and am more comfortable relating to them about every day life hardships. Often when I'd try to relate to other friends, they wouldn't understand or would respond insensitively.

What I found myself wondering while reading this article (the psychologist in me, damn, I'm never going to escape her, am I?) was with depression, even mild depression, can come a loss of interest in or enjoyment of your favorite activities (such as writing or art perhaps?), feelings of emptiness or hopelessness, feeling stressed, nervous, or overwhelmed, trouble concentrating or making decisions, fatigue or lack of energy and headaches. Now, while these symptoms may be less frequent and less intense with "mild" depression, they are still present and in my opinion can impede with your creation of art. Not necessarily in the creativity factor but just having the energy or mind set to create art at all. I know when I'm going through a bout that I have very little energy and the last thing I feel like doing is writing, and if I do get myself to write I'm excessively hard on myself and end up quitting feeling dejected and like a failure - or is that just a writer thing that has nothing to do with depression?

I don't know an answer to this, just my own experiences and my curiosity. Like I said, the psychologist in me wants to organize a study measuring the actual productivity of mildly depressed people, but of course I'm a Project Coordinator, not a Psychologist and the resources aren't there for me. Sigh.

Also, a wonderful story, also provided by Flood (thanks, you're rockin' my world today!)

I am Chinese


Natalie Raps

I was in love with Ms. Natalie Portman before, but this has just cinched it. I'm so pissed I missed her on SNL! If anyone knows when it'll be rerun, let me know, please.

You know, you just gotta support the short, bi-racial, educated brunettes making it big out there. Did I mention that I see Nat (as her fans affectionately call her) as my successful twin? Yeah, that's sooo how I'd be if I were the cool twin. LOVE HER!

Holy Ba-Jezus!

As seen on Book Ninja, this thing really does freak me out! If such a freak of nature does in fact exist, I ask, where are the pictures? I need a visual of this baby! I can't stop imagining a shiny stainless steel machine sprouting out liquid pages that quickly harden into the paper that we know and love. If anyone lives in Washington D.C. or happens to be in the area, stop by the World Bank bookstore for me and get me a picture!

Imagine if there were a magic machine that could print entire books in mere minutes. You could go to a bookstore or coffee shop, choose a book online from millions of digital titles and then—poof!—out would come a fully bound book. You could get rare and out-of-print titles, in any language, and for less because the inventory isn’t stored on site.

That machine exists—it’s called the Espresso Book Machine—and it’s currently being tested at the World Bank bookstore in Washington, D.C. (The New York Public Library and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in Egypt, are each getting one in the fall.) Former Random House editorial director Jason Epstein, a legend in the industry, and former Dean & DeLuca CEO Dane Neller are backing the venture. “We’re on the verge of something really powerful here,” says Epstein.


Is Technology Killing Our People Skills?

This article discusses whether cyber romance replaces the passions of the past, but I extend this to all people interactions. I've noticed slowly the transition both romantically, but also in friendships and professionally, shifting into less personal interactions in lieu of electronic interactions. It did start in the romantic department for me, in high school I was asked out a couple of times over IM (Instant Messaging for the two of you out there who don't know!) and of course was creepily hit on by total strangers until I figured out how to keep people from searching for me (I wonder what it was in my profile they were searching for that brought me up? Under the age of 18? Icky!), I started romantic relationships over IM, flirting, even if it was in person that I asked the boy out or was asked out (yes, it was more normal for me to ask the boy out, including with my husband! What can I say, I'm a woman who knows what she wants.) Once I even broke up with a boyfriend over IM. But when it came to friendships, the easier of the relationships back then, I opted for the old fashioned phone. I'd talk on the phone with my friends for hours rather than IM with them. Did I pursue my romantic relationships online because it was easier than in person? No, not originally. In fact, it was usually the boy who started it online, I still preferred the phone or in person than online at the time, but perhaps it made them feel more comfortable. They always had the comfort of asking me out online and if I said no, as I did once, they could always retract it, claiming it was a joke, as the boy did, without betraying any real emotion of rejection or disappointment. And the truth was, of the boys who asked me out online, the ones I said yes to were always awkward in person and the relationship never worked. I think this says something about this method.

In college everyone IMed. You'd IM each other about dinner plans, Friday night plans, classes. I'd even IM my freshman roommate while she was in the room sitting at her desk!! Frankly, it was easier than yelling at her to take off her headphones so I could ask one simple question. Note the word "easier" prop up again. Hmm.

After college I was surprised with how much of the job search actually took place over email. I believe I was actually informed that I was hired for my job in an email! I kept calling because I was trying to decide between two jobs and couldn't get a hold of the HR director for a decision, but instead of calling me back she emailed me. I was happy to have gotten the job but a little surprised at the informality of an email rather than the phone call. Already I was feeling like an alien for calling her rather than just emailing her.

And finally, the text messaging era was a complete shock to my system. When text messaging first came out, I didn't pay any attention to it. I really didn't think it'd take off. How cumbersome and time consuming to type out a message on your phone? Who would do that? Then slowly it started creeping into my interactions with my friends. Friends would text me for plans or just to say "I love you" (which was really sweet). Or if they were having a bad day, they'd text me "Grr, bad day. Call me." Okay, I was getting into it a little, responding to their texts, but not really initiating with a new text message. Then slowly some of my friends would Only make plans through text messages. I couldn't get a hold of them for anything, but only minutes after I called them and left a voice mail, I'd get a text message in response! The height of my despair came when people started canceling on me through text messages rather than calling, as if calling was just too much work. I couldn't believe it, I was mad at a couple of friends for canceling on me in this way, but should I be? Is it acceptable to cancel on a person in a text message now? I found it rude and impersonal, but they didn't seem to think anything of it and they never followed it up with a call, just a "did you get my text?" the next time they saw me. So then I felt silly for being mad, because apparently it's completely acceptable. Sure it makes sense, texting while at work so you don't have to make your party plans with your co-worker's hearing you ask "So are you going to hoe out or go just a little slutty tonight?" And it's nice when you're busy and you know you'll end up talking with your girlfriend for over an hour if you call without even meaning to (which always seems to happen!) And I've noticed I'm texting my friends more, often in response to their original text, but on my own too. It's just easier. Plus, people don't seem to answer their phones anymore, maybe they're busy, maybe they just don't feel like taking the time to actually talk on the phone.

Is this sad? Is it a backward or a forward step for humans socially? Sure, communication is quicker, more efficient, but is this better? I do find myself slightly uncomfortable now interacting on the phone versus electronically. I can always convince myself I'm too busy to call, but am I really or is it just too much trouble and less predictable, so therefore, more uncomfortable? We've all had the uncomfortable feeling of trying to end a phone call when the other person doesn't get our hints and keeps talking. Are we trying to avoid this or avoid the confrontation or guilt trip a friend may give you if you call to cancel plans?

I can't tell you if this is a positive or harmful movement in our society because truly it's a little bit of both. I think it's fine as long as we remember to call each other every once in a while, just to chat, rather than email. If we pop over to our co-worker's cube or office to chat rather than just do it over IM. Yes, actual human interaction is unscripted, you can't delete what you're going to say before you hit send or use yellow faces to display your emotions instead of actually expressing them through words or your own body language. But it's that unscripted nature that makes it special and unique. The way a person scratches his head as he's thinking deeply about something, or how your friend shifts back and forth on her feet when she really wants to say something but doesn't want to interrupt you. These are things that make us who we are and you can't get these things through any electronic communication. After a while, I just have to call a friend just because I miss the sound of her laughter. I don't think I could ever give that up.

Totally Unrelated Side Note: I found this humorous so I thought I'd share.

Last week a former employee brought her children to work to visit and I asked her if she was going to lunch with us. She declined, saying that the only way she could get her 3-year-old son to get out of the house and behave was by promising to buy him a Happy Meal at McDonald's.

Fast forward to last night. We desperately needed to go grocery shopping (the bane of my existence, that and cooking). Tired and whining, I tried to get out of it. After trying many different methods to try to get me to go and behave myself, finally my hubby got me to go by promising to get me a Happy Meal at McDonald's if I went with him. After I heartily agreed, on the drive to the grocery store I remembered my former co-worker from last week and felt slightly embarrassed. But hey, I got a sweet-ass pirate skull that tells you your fate (like an eight ball, but only it's a pirate skull). Rather than the dull eight ball "No" and "Yes" answers, it's answers consist of "Nay, scallywag", "The seas look rough", "Aye, Captain", and my favorite, "No way. Arrrgh!" (I just like saying that one out loud in my pirate voice).


Bad Habits, Dirty Habits

Yes, so I'm joining the many others who have not only become addicted to blogs and blogging, but for the first time last night as I went to sleep, was I thinking about the book I'm reading, the story I'm writing? No, I thought about what I wanted to blog the next day. I'm so OCD, I almost got out of bed to blog it right then, but I convinced myself not to. I had already shut down my computer, after all. I'd read Derek Rogers' admission about having to force himself to write first and blog second and since July 9th he has been rather quiet on his blog, a sign that he's actually getting writing done! Good for him, now that's what I need to do. But see, since I usually blog during the day while I'm at work and try to write at night when I get home, I shouldn't have a problem, right? Well, for some reason since at home I am also connected to the internet I still end up blogging, or reading blogs or doing something blog related! I mean seriously, who knew blogging would be such an awesome experience? I get to run my mouth, meet really great people (and fellow writers!) such as Sandra Ruttan, Brett Battles, Derek Rogers, Bill Cameron (who's a Miami alum as well, small world!), and Amra Pajalic among others I know I haven't mentioned (including Flash Flood who has a great post up about blogging pals, since we're somewhat on the subject)! I'm meeting people that I wouldn't have otherwise met, and in the not so literary area of Cincinnati, it's great to have writer friends to chat with, exchange ideas, etc. So despite the addiction component of blogs, I'm very happy for all of the support and relationships that are forming due to it, and to be honest, while I'm not writing fiction while I'm blogging, I Am actually writing more than I had been since I've been writing blogs, and truthfully, any writing is good practice. Though I do need to have a no blogging rule while at home rule to keep me from procrastinating and finishing that story with the ending that I can't make up my mind on. Doh! So thank you blogging friends and also thank you to my dear friend who turned me onto blogs, you Did start the addiction you know, in more ways than one.

Sooo, in potty news, I read this article (found on Book Ninja) and had a thought, is it sad that there's a book that I exclusively read on the potty? If you haven't noticed, Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams has been on my "Currently Reading" list for some time now, and it's because I only read it when I'm in my upstairs bathroom on the, ahem, potty. It's a big book (all of the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books are put in one gi-normous book) and I just keep it on the edge of my tub, in easy reach from the toilet and only read it then. Sad or not, that is my reading place for that book, so don't be surprised if it stays up on my "Currently Reading" list for a while longer. And if you want to borrow it, I promise to sanitize it before I lend it out.

Glad I got some of my blogging juice back, yesterday was just horrid.

European Excursion

I need some more wonderful suggestions now that the hubs and I have narrowed down our Europe city choices. We've ended up having to push back the trip (we were going to go in December) to March but as a trade off we get to go for longer, so I'm still very excited! And now, for the unveiling of the cities (drum roll please): London, Munich, Rome, Barcelona, Paris and Dublin. We plan on spending 3-4 days in each city, except London, probably about 5 days there at least. So what did you do that you absolutely loved, what did you do that you wish you hadn't wasted your time with? Where to stay (again, cheap, but clean)? Where to shop and what to buy (I heard something about cheap jewelry, perhaps in Rome) ? How should we travel from city to city, plane or train? Just give me all the juicy details! From my last post, I already have some great info (thanks again guys!) that really helped us decide where to go, so we reallly appreciate that input! I know, this does seem ridiculously early to start planning all the nitty gritty details, but anyone who knows me won't be surprised. I'm the girl who packs two weeks before my vacation and then ends up having to unpack to get to something that I prematurely packed. Over-planning calms me. :)

Europe Here I Come (well, I will be coming, in about 8 months... oh, but I'll be there!)


Finished Fun Home and the Feeding of My Book Addiction

Usually I blog while I'm at work since my typical task at work takes less than half a day to complete (if that) and literally for the last two weeks I've sat at my desk doing nothing (the people who give me work to do were not in the office), but today I WAS TOO BORED AT WORK TO BLOG! Now I've reached an all time low at work, I think I'll need to start bringing smelling salts to work just to keep me going through the day.

Anyways, I've been on a reading kick, finishing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (loved the book, but god, what a cumbersome title) and Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was of particular interest to me as a former Psychology major as it's first person told through the point of view of a young autistic boy. I enjoyed his voice and his thought processes, Haddon does an amazing job of giving us a glimpse into the world of an autistic child and at the same time giving us a very real understanding with how his autism effects those who love him. I've heard that autism is perhaps the hardest disorder for a parent to deal with in their child. Think of a child who won't cuddle with you because they can't stand to be touched or doesn't say "I love you" because they don't truly understand what those words mean. Christopher's parents are less than perfect in dealing with his autism, but you can tell that they genuinely love him and are pained by his condition. I really enjoyed Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, though I was left wanting more at the end of the story. I guess I was disappointed that the story was so solely about her father, I especially wanted to know more about her mother or more precisely, Alison's relationship with her mother. It was mentioned but glossed over. I was also disappointed that her brothers were like cardboard characters, they were there only to demonstrate something about her father or herself, they were not actual characters in themselves like Alison's parents were. I found this flatness leaving me annoyed and almost wishing they weren't even in the story (though I know it's a memoir and you can't take out characters like with fiction - this is why I could never write non-fiction, I like to manipulate too much). Overall, I liked the flow of the story, I found it intriguing how Alison kept going back to her father's death at the different stages of her life with different "theories" on it. Nothing will ever top my favorite comic memoir (Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman who's still the bomb diggity in my book despite recent bad press) but Fun Home comes as a close second... though I have only read two comic memoirs to date. It's a good read, disturbing, sad, touching and thought provoking. I definitely think that more than anything, it's about a daughter's relationship with her father, and then throw some sexual ambiguity and sexual identity crisis in there too while you're at it.

Since we're talking about books, is anybody else addicted to books? I think it's a sickness, like how other people are addicted to food, drugs and sex (ahem, you know who I'm talking about, you dirty dirty boy), I'm addicted to books. Less glamorous, I know. Perhaps less costly, but none-the-less I'm overboard! I easily have 200 plus read books, 100 unread books and a wishlist of 100 books - and this is after my yearly purging of books that I sell or give away because I never want to read them again (okay, so this usually amounts to one or two books, but it's so hard to let go of books, you Never know when you might need them). The pinnacle of my realization of my addiction is when after having had a rare fight with my mom, my method of combatting the icky feelings was to splurge and buy six books. I actually went in planning to only buy three (The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beloved) but there was a sale (get 3 for the price of 2) and so on the specially marked books I found The Plot Against America, The House on Mango Street and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I'm out of control! Hey, at least I stuck mostly with the classics (and a new Asian writer, wahoo!) But what else am I supposed to do with all of my friends moving away? Hmm, I've had two people I care about move away in the last month, my remaining friend from high school is moving next month, and most of my other peeps are planning to move in the next year or so. I have tons of time on my hands now. Sigh, I'll be going book crazy, well, at least until football season starts that is! September 7th, mark your calendars, Miami @ Pittsburgh. By the way, did I mention I met some fellow Steelers fans on my street last week while walking my dogs? Once we realized we were on the same side, we were like ol' buddies, ah, gotta love Steelers fans! Go Black and Gold!

Oh, and a special addition to my nearing football anticipation and delight: A Bengal Gets The Taser.

I challenge the Bengals to get half the team arrested before the season even starts. I really believe in you guys, you can do it!

P.S. I've added some maps of states and countries I've visited at the bottom of the page. Pretty pathetic, I know, but hopefully I'll be adding to that very soon with my Europe trip in March! I saw a magnet version on an RV a couple of weekends ago and was so jealous, but of course I don't own an RV so it wouldn't make sense to get a large magnet map. Low and behold, just a couple of days ago I saw this online version on a friend's blog. The geek in me had to do it and somehow figure out how to post it here, even though, as I've already mentioned, it's pathetic. Man, I need to get Out more!


Bushisms of The Day

A couple of Bushisms of the day, just because I'm in the mood (as in it's the end of the work day and I'm desparately surfing the web to get through that thirty minutes that feels like hours).

"We shouldn't fear a world that is more interacted."—Washington, D.C., June 27, 2006.

"I've reminded the prime minister—the American people, Mr. Prime Minister, over the past months that it was not always a given that the United States and America would have a close relationship."—Washington, D.C., June 29, 2006

And my favorite:

President Bush: Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?
Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times: I can take them off.
Bush: I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.
Wallsten: All right, I'll keep it, then.
Bush: For the viewers, there's no sun.
Wallsten: I guess it depends on your perspective.
Bush: Touché.
—Exchange with legally blind reporter Peter Wallsten, to whom Bush later apologized, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2006

On John Gardner

An interesting article about John Gardner and his likeness to his character, Grendel, in his wonderful novelization of the Beowulf legend, titled Grendel.
Gardner -- who died nearly 25 years ago-- shared much with his most famous creation. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that, in his public assessments of some of his most esteemed fiction-writing peers, Gardner was as brutal and reckless as Grendel. In his scathing 1978 polemic On Moral Fiction , he calls Philip Roth "creepy" and dismisses Saul Bellow as "an essayist disguised as a writer of fiction"; Mailer, Albee, Vonnegut and many others come in for similar drubbings. Their work was not just bad, in Gardner's view, but dangerous.
Also, check out this moving essay by Steven Bauer called The Blessing about his relationship with John Gardner, who mentored him through his early days as a writer. Bauer gives a wonderful insight into Gardner as he presented himself to the literary world and what he was to his students, whom Gardner is famous for mentoring relentlessly.

As John Gardner approached the podium, the bustle and buzz increased. The man who prepared to speak looked very like the man I’d seen around the Bread Loaf campus, but even bigger, as though this public occasion had magnified him. His crumpled shirt was dignified by the bright splash of a tie. He bid us good morning, pushed his thick white hair out of his eyes, and informed us that in the next hour he would tell us everything we needed to know about the writing of fiction. From another’s mouth, these words might have seemed arrogant, self-serving, even ridiculous, but John spoke them with the gravity of someone about to reveal an elaborate mystery. I sat up straight, opened my notebook.

Okay, Just a Couple More...

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Gotta get the brunette to represent, and look at how patriotic she is with her cute little outfit.

Such bravery, and it even rhymes!

I Cum In Peace

Why didn't I think of this? This is too good to be true, an event I could actually kick ass at (or something like that). A Masturbate-a-thon in the UK! Now, this might sound lewd and grotesque, but it's all for charity, and there are a number of posters to prove it (see below, I picked out some of my favorites, but for more please look here). Under a Masturbate for Peace campaign, the UK is taking this idea from non-other than the US where the San Francisco-based Centre for Sex and Culture, has run mass masturbation events in the US for the past five years to raise money for safe sex groups according to an article on the Guardian website. Finally the US is creating a positive image for ourselves to the outside world. The event kicks of on August 5th, 2006, so if you can't make it to London in time, feel free to participate at home. You know I will. It's for peace, after all.

Oh, too many posters to choose from...

Couldn't have said it better myself!

Uh oh, I have more books than that that I've read. Man, I'm such a slacker!

Oh my, what a big missile you have...

Thatta girl, representing the women masturbaters out there! Now we need a brunette, just to be fair.


Just what I needed this morning... :)


Today in Dog Rights

A new hero has risen for dog rights, Mark DelCore, a 39-year-old traumatized by the 9/11 attacks (he was working out in a gym in lower Manhattan when the planes hit). DelCore said that he was covered with a "light dusting" of an unknown substance (which attached to his wet skin) as he ran north from the scene, resulting in a skin condition which is soo rare that it doesn't even have a name yet. DelCore apparantly has the skin condition all over his body and it requires exposure to the sun all over his body. In addition, his little rat terrior is his "service dog" - although he does admit Cheekies (the dog) is not actually certified to be a service animal (minor detail of course). And in here comes his heroism, he is suing a naked beach on Fire Island for not allowing dogs on the beach. They allow seeing eye dogs but not service dogs (although, again, Cheekies isn't Actually a service dog).

Well, enough said. Read more about this lawsuit and help DelCore fight for animal rights on The Smoking Gun.


And We're Off!

Well, we had our first writing group/book club meeting this past Friday! The turn out was a little underwhelming, but for good reason. One lady was sick with a stomach virus, another broke her leg, another's getting married in two weeks so got wrapped up in wedding stuff. But there were still three of us and we got a book list started and some ideas for the how we're going to do the writing group side of it. The next group meeting (which will be focused on writing) will be at my house, yikes. To say that I don't know how to prepare food is an understatement... guess I'll buy a veggie tray or something. :)~ I'm very excited though, hopefully more people can make the next meeting... another thing that makes me miss college, people out here in the real world actually have lives and it's so hard to get people together for things.

In other news, something that irks me. I'll try to not get Too political but I just read yet another forwarded email about supporting our troops, this one was called "The Daughter of a Soldier." It was very sweet and tear-inspiring (though I've been emotional since the touching Espys last night on ESPN... you think I'm joking? I mean, Steelers winning 'Best Team' was a teary enough, but Big Ben with his heart felt speech and shout out to the 'Best Moment' winner, Jason Mcelwain, the autistic boy who had SIX three pointers in the final basketball game of the season for his school. And the soccer in Afghanistan? Come on, how could you not cry?) and I do support our troops and our soldiers... which is why I personally want them out of Iraq. I know I'm treading on sensitive ground here, but I'm so sick and tired of people saying "support the troops!" and yet they want the troops to stay in Iraq. I guess it just depends how you view supporting the troops. And then they go on and on about how without the soldiers we wouldn't have our freedom and our rights, but last time I checked Iraq wasn't taking away our freedom or rights. There were No WMD in Iraq, Iraq was Not connected to 9/11, and so what Really are our troops fighting for? Only Bush can tell us and he won't. So yes, I am a patriot, despite what some people might try to say. I'm a patriot because I truly care about the living souls in Iraq that are dying. Stop crying for the little girl whose daddy has been in Iraq for 11 months and Bring Her Daddy Home To Her!

Sorry, I'll try to get off of my soap box, but I'm slightly seething right now. Sometimes I wonder if people walk through this world with their eyes closed, just listening to others for where to go and how to make their way through the world.

Update: Okay, so I tried to tone this post down due to some consideration from this post on Flash Flood's blog (and yes, it Was worse than this...) I don't mean to offend anyone with my opinions or views, I'm just passionate and can't help caring about these sorts of things. So don't mind me, but I warn you, if you can't handle me online, I'm worse in person. :)


Chain Bookstores Must Die and The Return of Big Ben

As I get more and more into the "literary world" the more I detest the big chain bookstores. It began when an excellent novel by Miami alum Heather Skyler, The Perfect Age came out couldn't be found in any of the major bookstores in the area (only 40 or so miles out of Oxford). You would think bookstores would support local writers, but I guess that's just ideal thinking. All the stories of the short life span of non-bestsellers in these chain bookstores kills me. It used to be (or so I've heard) that a book was given maybe 5-6 months on the shelves before it was pulled, now-a-days you're lucky to get 5-6 weeks if you're not Stephen King or Toni Morrison, or some other bestselling well established author. What spurred this new spurn of detestement is the fact that I went to two different chain bookstores looking for a book I'd been reading and hearing a lot about, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. I couldn't find it in either, which was so maddening because it's been getting great reviews and is a big buzz in the literary and comic world and they weren't even stocking it. Sure I could order it from them, they so conveniently informed me, but I mine as well order it from Amazon then! I wanted to see the book and look through it to see if I wanted to buy it. It's a comic novel so it's something I felt I needed to thumb through before I bought it. I ended up going to a smaller chain (but yes, still a chain) and found the book, one copy. I was very excited and even informed the cash register dude how hard it was for me to find the book and that they are now out of it since I took the only one. To which he sarcastically replied, "Oh man, and I so wanted to buy this book for myself too!" I could have slapped him. I need to do research on Independent Bookstores in my area. There was one I used to go to but it closed, sigh, as most of them are forced to do. They are a dying breed for sure, but at least they don't keep their shelves stocked based on the best sellers list and that's worth the search and rescue effort.

On other news, Big Ben returns to the public eye after his life-threatening accident. Check him out tonight at 6pm on ESPN's Sports Center and tomorrow morning on Good Morning America. I may not be watching the show tomorrow morning, but you know I'm Tivo-ing that shit! Also check out this article on his near death experience right after the accident on ESPN. There's even a nice little video clip of Ben's interview. Looking good Ben, nose is may be a tad bit crooked, but barely noticeable. Not the Frakenstein I was picturing... now for the real test, can you play well enough to bring us back to our second Super Bowl? We shall see.

Before and After for your viewing and comparing pleasures:

Thank you to Dave's Football Blog for supplying the Ben comparison shots.

P.S. Go STEELERS for winning the Espy for BEST TEAM! I'll sure agree to that! T.J. Houshmenzadah (who the hell knows if I spelled that last name right. Sure, I could look it up, but it's a Bengal, not worth the effort) can wipe his dirty feet all over the terrible towel all he wants, but I don't see Bengals' fans voting for their team for best team. Boo Yah.

Did I mention that I'm a football FANATIC? Yeah, yeah, I know. A literary book worm and a football fanatic, doesn't make sense, but it's there. I may be one of the few wives in the country who insists on having NFL Sunday Ticket... why do you think we got Direct TV? Yes, my husband's lucky in at least that aspect of our marriage. :)

Update: Not to leave ol' chinny out, so congrats to the well deserving Coach Cowher for his Best Coach Award. Couldn't be happier for the guy and for the Steelers for not only kicking some football ass but also sports ass in general, wahoo!

Aww, this is why I love the Steelers, a great article about Ben's return and the Steelers' support and love for their team mates - including the rampaging arrest crazy rookie, Santonio Holmes, from Ohio representing...

Further Update: I've found two great links to Independent bookstores, Book Sense even helps you find Indie book stores in your area! Also check out Powell's. Buy your online books from here and support Indie book stores. Peace.


But I Don't Wanna Grow Up!

I don't know how many times I've said "the real world sucks" since I've graduated college over a year ago, but I'll say it again. The real world sucks! Which is probably why I'm going back to school, but then in there lies my problem. Decisions. How the hell do you make these big life decisions all the time? I mean, the last big decision I had to make (before I graduated and was thrust into the real world like a naked baby into cold water) was what college to go to and even that was easy. I had a boyfriend (now husband) who went to a college 45 minutes away from home where I was the last child to leave my single mother. In addition, my best friend was going to Miami and so who better to room with (I now know that you should never room with your best friend from high school, I have yet to hear a success story and I still have bitter feelings about that experience). So truly, that decision wasn't a big deal for me, be close to my boyfriend, best friend and mom as well as go to the "public ivy league" Miami University. Duh, no brainer. So now I feel completely unequipped to make the big decisions as an "adult". Sure, I decided to get a job after I graduated, but only after I'd decided to not get a job and stay at home and write full time, then found out that I had more student loans then I thought and that I didn't have the discipline I wished I did and I was going crazy with lack of social interaction (despite the fact that I'm a writer, I actually Do enjoy social interaction :)~). So even the decision of getting a job just flowed naturally and wasn't the biggest deal for me, I knew I'd either have to get a job or go crazy. And the decision to marry my husband wasn't really a decision for me, I knew for a while before he asked me that I'd marry him, it didn't feel like a decision, it was just a fact.

This is all leading up to the fact that I had a panic attack last night about making some big life decisions... the last time I had a panic attack like this was when we bought our house, perhaps my first real big life decision. Should I stay in my comfortable but sooo boring and sooo not me job, should I go to Africa for 7 months (well, I'm not sure I'm accepted into that program yet, grrr, a whole other irritating situation), should I go back to school and if so should I go out of state and leave the rancid Ohio (okay, slight exaggeration, but I'm really no fan of Ohio), leave my mother, my husband's parents and sisters, our beautiful home (seriously, our house is Amazing, we really lucked out) and stable life? And amidst all of this, when the heck am I going to have babies? How do people actually make these decisions? There's no clear answer, I win and lose out in every decision I make. What if I make the wrong decision and they're too big to take back?

I know, I know. I'm sure everybody goes through this, I'm just surprised it's so hard. I was always very capable, the more independent of my mother's children, good at school, very involved in activities and a natural leader. So why is it so hard to make these decisions for my own life? I guess I thought I was prepared and now I don't feel prepared or capable of making these big decisions. Last night I just let all of my fears, doubts and stress get to me, it probably didn't help that I'm on my monthly (sorry guys, don't mean to gross you out). How do men deal with us emotional women? I can barely deal with myself!

Be honest with me people, does it ever get easier? Does it ever stop feeling like you're diving off a cliff and you're not sure your parachute works?


I'm Back!

Whew, back from a way too short vacation in which I practiced my Chinese (and got yelled at by my aunt for speaking it shamelessly badly), went to the beach (Emerald Isle) on a cloudy day, went golfing at a Par 3 for the very first time (and finished the last hole with 4 strokes, wahoo! To me that counters the 10 stroke hole I had...), cried at one of my best friend's weddings... can she Really be moving to Charleston, away from ME? How dare she leave me in Ohio by myself! I have, hmm, about three more friends left in Ohio before they've all moved on to bigger and better places. Overall I had a great time and got to spend some time with my family and friends I haven't seen since college. You can't beat that! Oh, and I played a ton of my brother's Mario Cart, I even unlocked a level, go me! I should put that on my resume.

Also while on vacation I finished (and fell in love with) Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. I've heard from two people now whose book opinions I respect that they read Beloved and did not like her style of writing and couldn't get into her. But I've also heard that if you want to get into Morrison, you should start with Song of Solomon, which is why I did, and now I want to read everything she's written! I fell in love with her prose and her story. I couldn't start my next book for two days afterwards because I was still living with Pilate, Milkman, Hagar, Guitar, and all the other characters that were so strongly developed in the story I felt as if I knew them. It's interesting, I've read a couple of books recently, all ethnic, that have this element of mysticism and magic in them: Song of Solomon, The Known World, and One Hundred Years of Solitude. This is really starting to interest me as a writer as it adds so much depth to the novel that reality can't provide. I read an interview with Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World, and he discussed this element in his novel, saying that his grandparents would speak of mystical events as if they were reality and so he grew up believing some of the outrageous stories, like the cow who had an endless supply of milk or the whole crow incident. I'm really curious about experimenting with this in my writing, but it seems like such a cultural thing I'm not really sure how to start. I need to re-read some of my Amy Tan books to entice some of the Chinese mysticism out of me, write about what I know (or what little I know) about Chinese mysticism and beliefs. As much as I've studied Chinese literature and history, I still feel stunted and inadequate in my knowledge. I feel more like an American studying it rather than a descendent of the Chinese history. Visiting my family always helps in making me feel more Chinese (by being around the language, the food and the customs) and less Chinese (by not speaking the language well enough, being unable to help cook the food - I'm a sinfully horrible cook, ask my husband - and having forgotten many of the customs in living my very American life in Ohio). The life of a bi-racial is a complicated and confusing life in which you vacillate between two cultures, never quite fitting in either and so you're left feeling like a culture of your own and growing up desperately trying to fit into both cultures. I've tried to write about it, but my stories haven't come out right. I'm still waiting for the right story to find me.

Anyways, I found this list of Banned and Challenged Books very interesting! It's so surprising the grounds some of these books were banned on, for example:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll. Ace; Bantam; Crown; Delacorte; Dover; NAL; Norton; Penguin; Random; St. Martin. Banned in China (1931) for portraying animals and humans on the same level, "Animals should not use human language."

Oh man, check it out and be scared, be very scared...


The Ambiguously Sexual Comic Book Covers

Thanks to Maud Newton, this site will provide you with just oodles of entertainment while I'm away... so enjoy! I know I did.


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