Friday, August 31, 2007

The Lost

Last night as I was worn out, in bed, and thinking about poetry while I got around to falling asleep, I started thinking about a poem. I had been thinking about writing poems about my experience in Arkansas, but this one wasn't about that, though it was somehow related. As I lay in bed, I got the first few lines, the last few, and an idea of what I wanted to do with it. I thought about getting up to write down what I had so far, and thus not forget it, but I decided to trust it to my memory which has worked for me in the past. I ran over the lines time and again before I drifted off, to fix them in my mind.

I just now remembered the poem. Except, I don't remember it. I have a vague sense of it. I'm thinking it had something to do with someone I used to know, a female someone, and revolved around a tough experience I had. Beyond that, though, I'm blank. I can't even remember what experience it related to. Urgh. For future reference: bad idea to trust solely to one's memory when one has a fever.

Whether the poem was a brilliant one or not, it's lost to me and I don't know if I'll regain it. Sometimes, these things pop back up at unexpected moments, and sometimes they stay lost. I usually think that if the idea was good enough, it'll find its way back to me. That if it wasn't, it's okay that it's lost. This usually keeps me from getting bummed about losing things. This time really irks me, though. I had something, but now it's slipped away, and I don't even have a clear idea of what it was. That's the most frustrating part.

What do you do when a great idea crosses your mind? Do you trust your mind alone to hold onto it? Do you write it down? What kind of system to you use, notebook, post-its, computer files, the back of your hand? What makes an idea stick in your head? Do you find that if you can remember a certain line from the story, you can pull the rest back out of your head? Or, if you've got the title, you've got it all? Also, what do you do about lost ideas? You ever get any of them back?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Literacy Lifeline

"The best vision of the future is grounded in the best understanding of the past. With this in mind, draw a personal literacy lifeline..."
-Donald McAndrew, excerpt from Literacy Leadership

Tonight was the first meeting of Katherine's class, The Reading Writing Connection. I'm looking forward to it much more than the one I took with her last semester, Theories of Writing, which was so hard-core theory it hurt. This one's a little more touchy feely with reflective writings and all. As our first reflective exercise, we created literacy lifelines. The idea is that you map out your reading/writing history and where you had your high points and low points. We had odd-shaped paper and Crayola markers and everything. It was a very hippy assignment, and even kind of fun. Though, I think I would've liked it much better had I not been dealing with a brand new head cold and mild fever.

We did some sharing afterward, and a few people mentioned having breakthroughs and epiphanies thanks to seeing it all laid out in front of them. Things like, "I stopped reading anything, and writing anything for a long time. Then I came back to school and as soon as I started reading again, I started writing again too." Kinda neat.

It also firmed up how my process works. In general, reading comes before writing for me. Most of what I write is somehow reacting to something I've read. If I'm reacting negatively, I'm basically trying to do it better than the essay, story, etc. that I read. If I'm reacting positively, I'm trying to stretch the concept in what I read, or see where else it can lead me.

For my part, there were no major epiphanies, though it helped me realize just how large a role various teachers have had in my enjoyment of reading and writing. Teachers are important. Last semester I had a chat with my friend Shawn, and she told me how one of her professors from another school basically flat-out told her, "You suck at poetry, never write it again." Funny, since she doesn't. Still, that one comment from one person stuck with her and from then until just this past summer, she hadn't written any poetry because she believed she couldn't. With respect to the literacy lifeline, that's a low point.

Here are a couple of points on my lifeline:
1st grade - learned to read
5th grade - had an awesome teacher who always read to the class for a while after recess
6th grade - I wrote my first ever complete story, everything up until then was only starts
Junior year of high school - met Camii and started writing letters to her when she moved
Sophmore year of college - took my first creative writing workshop class with David
This year - started a blog about writing

I think it's funny to see the overlap in what I try to talk about in this blog and what Katherine wants us to do in class. "I want you to reflect on and analyze your reading and writing process," in short, figure out how it all works for me. Here, I already have a head start. Very cool.

So, let's get meta. Why don't you do your own literacy lifeline? Take a big sheet of paper and map out the high and low points of your reading and writing history. What kind of patterns do you see? How do reading and writing connect in your mind? In your process? Notice anything you hadn't realized before?

The Conspiracy Continues

Scary trousers, spooky pants... Where will it end?

October '07 Writing Marathon

Me: Do you know that the date for the next WM is yet?
Katherine: Yeah, it's on the Save the Date cards.
Me: Oh yeah. (I not only took care of getting them printed, then put them in mailings, I also wrote the dang things. You'd think I would've remembered something so obvious. Ha!)

So, the next writing marathon is going to happen October 20th, and I'm already looking forward to it. What a geek am I? The last community WM, in April, was a lot of fun. Some people wussed out on me, something about a writing convention... However, there was a good turn out otherwise and John trekked down from Springs to join the merriment. We added a couple of my school friends and were off about downtown. Very entertaining, and I wound up with some good story germs.

This next one is open to all ages, like the last one Jenny and Shane went to. They said it's fun that way, some of the kids are better (and more entertaining) writers than the adults. It'll be interesting, to say the least. I already put in for the day off from the bar, so I should be in good shape - though I am going to be babysitting overnight at some point in October, and it could well be that weekend. Still, the kids always have friends I can drop them off with. No big deal. Or, maybe one or two of them would want to come. That could be fun too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

As Promised

"Yay! Soon you'll be posting at all hours of the night."

Just got home from work. Busy night for a Wednesday. I even got hugged by a customer for the first time that it wasn't inappropriate. One of the few times I didn't mind making a new "best friend" at the bar. This gal was out celebrating her birthday with family and they were all a very pleasant group.

Thanks to waking up at six thirty this morning for no particular reason, and a long day of feeling a touch sick/allergic, I'm very glad to be done for the night, even if it is only about eleven. Early-ish for a bar night, but I'm okay with that. Sleep is good.

Online At Home

"I don't think they're coming."

This morning it started raining. Then it started downpouring and storming, complete with thunder that was instantaneous with the lightning, so I unplugged my computer. I started wondering whether or not the internet was going to even happen today.

Low and behold, the rain eventually let up and two guys knocked on my door to install my internet connection. An hour later, and now I'm posting my first ever blog post from home. It's cool, even if my Internet Explorer decided not to work. On the bright side, Firefox works just fine. If only I had time to enjoy my new home internet connection, but alas it's time to get ready to go to campus, then to the bar, which means my next chance of breaking in my new modem will be sometime after eleven or so tonight. Ah well, such is life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Breaking It Down/September Goals

"My goals for September are..."
-Jenny, Deb, D.B.

Deb likes goals, and every month she sends out an e-mail with her goals and asks everyone what theirs are. Some months, I make a list and send it back to her. However, by and large, I don't find monthly goals all that helpful. I say "I'll do X" and then when the last week of the month comes, I do it.

Then, recently, I tried weekly goals. It worked. I got three of four of my goals done, spread over two weeks. While looking at goals in respect to a month works fine for others, I work much better looking at a week. Having seven days to do something creates a lot more immediacy than having 28, 30, or 31 days. Another advantage is that I don't have to think about the whole picture of what I want to accomplish, I just have to focus on doing one or two things at a time.

Another way of dividing goals is something I learned from the knife job (i.e. sales) where we'd have to come up with three sets of goals: must do, should do, could do. First one was the bare minimum, the third was really going for it, and the middle was somewhere in between. The advantage of this is that, even if you don't accomplish everything you could, you're still hitting some goal. Maybe you're not a superstar, but you've accomplished something. On the flip side, if you hit your must do, or should do, goal and feel like it was easy or find yourself with extra time, you've got that loftier goal to aim for.

So, here's what I'm thinking: Instead of just listing my goals for the month, I'm going to get a little more particular about it. I'm going to break things down, make it into chunks. Also, I like the idea of having certain overall themes that I'm aiming for, like "publication." With all this in mind, here are my September goals.

Themes: Work on publication, be more social, and develop an online presence for my jewelry.

Specific goals for the month:
Must Do - Research and submit to a minimum of five publications. Create an shop for my jewelry. Do critiques for the writers group and submit.
Could Do - Submit to ten publications. Create business cards for etsy shop, and look into other ways of promoting my jewelry, like getting a project published in a magazine.

Specific goals for this week:
Create shop. Look over my writings to see what might be ready to go out into the world. Go to bartender John's Labor Day party.

Next week:
Go to rogue writers meeting on Monday. Have all critiques for group finished. Research possible publication venues. Do edits on works I want to send out.

Yes, I know it seems pretty anal to break everything down that far. Still, it makes me more productive. And yes, I know it's not technically September yet, but I'm doing what Jenny does and I'm counting months by writers group meetings. I do have a system.

Alright, after all this about my goals and how I'm going to tackle them, what about you? Do you set regular goals? What kind of system do you have? How meticulous are you about mapping out those goals, and do you break them down into ambition levels?

September Challenge: I Dare Ya

Becca: Hello?
Me: Hey, it's Ali.
Becca. Hey, whatcha doing?
Me: Checking up on you.

I've been thinking a lot about taking risks lately. My friend Becca has been talking about getting an EMT job for a couple of months now. Working just at the bar isn't cutting it. The problem, she's been dragging her heels about actually applying for the damn thing. "What if I don't get the job?" Becca asks. Well, if not, she'll be exactly where she is now, so nothing's lost. Finally, I made her a deal. She gets the application turned in, I'll buy her a drink. I called yesterday, she hadn't done it. She promised she would today. She better not wuss out on me.

The other night I read through my journal, back to the time I spent in Arkansas. Talk about risk, yeesh. I went to another state to open up a business, run it for the summer, and come back. While I did all of those, it didn't work out so well, and I ended up in a very bad financial and emotional place. Still, I took the risk. It paid off, only it took me a year or two to see how. That's probably the riskiest thing I've ever done, and I crashed. More importantly, I survived and learned a lot. I'm a stronger person now because of what happened then.

There are also other risks I've taken which turned out rather better. Take getting published for one, joining the writers group for another, college, living on my own, buying a new car... Or, like in another post, I've written scary poems. It seems that the more I risk in my writing, the more others respond to it. The more risks you take in life, however they pan out, make you a better person. Risk is good, even if it burns you.

Here's my challenge: take some risks this month. Think about that thing you've been thinking you should do, or write, but you've hesitated because it's risky. This is your month to do it anyway. For my part, this month is going to be about opening an online shop for selling my jewelry and sending out submissions to pursue publication. Those two things are pretty scary for me. What's scary to you? Think about it. Now, go do it.

Monday, August 27, 2007


“I find it interesting that all four stories that were submitted are about spiritual crisis.”

The past couple of months have been a reflective time for me. So much has changed in respect to my personal circumstances, my priorities, my future, and even my definition of myself. I wrote in my journal the other day and looked at things I had written as long as five years ago. It’s interesting to think of the blank pages in that book, of what I have yet to write in it. Strange to think that even though I don’t know what’s coming next, I’m already headed toward it.

Then, as I was driving home from the writers group meeting last night, I saw a shooting star. I can’t remember the last time I saw one when I was alone, and this one felt somehow like it was just for me. A wish only I got to make. It’s a bad idea to pass up the opportunity for a wish, so I tried to think of one.

What did I want? I want plenty of things, but what was worth wishing on a shooting star for? I started trying out wishes like I was shopping for a shirt. Something with the right color, cut, fabric. Something that felt right. A wish for money? Success with selling my jewelry? Success in writing? A clear answer to the MFA/Ph.D question? Nothing quite fit.

My mind went to events over the past couple of weeks, and conversations about crises, stories, how things begin. I thought about challenges, potential, being afraid, and about making something out of nothing. Of how last week I decided that my next challenge for everyone is going to be about fear, and how sometimes the best thing that can happen to us is rejection or failure.

Over the course of many years, many letters, and a decent number of our respective rough patches, the one thing Camii and I always remind each other is to have faith. While neither of us are religious, we do hold to the belief that as long as you’re looking for it, something positive will come out of anything, even the worst situations. She’s told me more than once that, “I know it’s tough and you’re hurting, and that you might not be able to see it now, but know that this will turn out for the best. With time, you’ll see how this hardship was a good thing.”

It took me a few miles, but I finally found my moment of clarity. It all came together, and I knew what I had to wish for. What it is that's more important to me than anything else. I wished for possibilities.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Teh Internets: A Blond Moment

It's quiet on the blogs. Too quiet. I guess I had better post. Maybe get a trend going.

But, what to post about? There has been an interesting thread on the CSFWG yahoo group about how easy/difficult it is for a straight guy to write a lesbian love scene, as one of the members is contemplating doing just that, but I've decided to duck out of that whole conversation early. Because, seriously, there's just nothing I can say at this point. In case you're wondering: the consensus amongst the guys who've spoken up is that they're in favor of it. The women are more cautious. Could that mean something?

How about I post about my nifty new internet connection at home? Yeah. Except, there was a hitch. Sometimes I have a hard time with transposing stuff like dates and times. So, a few days back when I thought I had an appointment for the installer to come today, I actually had one for next Friday. This explains why no one came between ten and noon. Whups.

A quick call to Comcast and a forehead smack later, and I moved the appointment up to Wednesday. This time I wrote down the time, the day, and the date. On the downside, this means I miss my goal of being hooked up this week. On the upside, I'll still be online before Katherine's class starts - she's fond of having an online component in her class requirements.

In other goal-related news, I started the chicken heart story a few days ago and made pretty good headway into it. Got the "what's the story about?" question answered, always important, and I'm now up to the middle-ish part where the story takes a turn. Just gotta finish it off before the meeting Sunday, and I'll hit three out of four goals for the past two weeks. I can live with that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Almost Online

"Congratulations! You have successfully completed your order for Comcast Services."
-Comcast website

Alright, I'm officially signed up to get hooked up on Friday morning. In two days, I'll have "teh internets" at home. I'm already excited, despite my paranoia about viruses and such.

That's one more goal I can check off, now there's only one to go for this week.


"My biggest fear: I have not finished the chapter I promised the Ali-demon. *Shuddering*"

There's been a lot of talk on the blogs lately about man-eating-deadlines and me being a demon. A lot of, "I gotta finish it, or else."

Today I got some Chinese food for lunch. It's a guilty pleasure 'cause I know it's all terrible, sodium laden stuff, but it's oh-so-good. Lately, I've been working on being/eating healthier and thus, my trips to the China Moon have decreased. So, going today was a reward for myself. I've been really good about hitting my goals lately, and generally productive, so I deserved it.

Another writer I know always has a supply of M&Ms when she sits down to work. Chocolate = productivity (or the other way 'round, I suppose). So, I'm wondering. Other than the big bad deadline, what motivates you? What I mean is, what's the pay off? You can't give me any intrinsic things, I want materialism. If you hit a writing goal, do you indulge? In what? Or, if you don't reward yourself, why not? Would having M&Ms by your computer/notepad help your writing juices flow?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

August Challenge: Summing Up

My big challenge for the month was to get up and get moving. While I was housesitting I did some exercising, 'cause they have machines for it in the basement. No dice. Back home again, I made some bread and did some cleaning. Again, no dice. My hopes of thinking while moving didn't quite pan out.

However, I have realized that some of my best thinking about stories time comes in the car. The chicken heart story was born during a trip across town. Then I got to thinking some more and realized that one of my all-time favorite characters, Kelda, was born a few years ago on a trip across the country.

So, while taking a walk might not be the ticket for me, driving apparently is. Belonging to a writers group in another town is proving doubly beneficial, not only do I belong to a writers group, but I have that drive to do my thinking during. And here, I never quite thought about it that way. Now, if only gas weren't so incredibly expensive I'd really be in business.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Of Albatrosses

"Outside, the albatross perched on the fence and looked toward the sea. It cocked its head as if it saw something in the distance, then gave up and began to preen. As it did, the albatross began to crumple in on itself, like a scrap of used paper, and its feathers faded to the color of bone."
-Albatross, Word Count:4,552

My aim was to finish the story in time to send it to Camii with the letter I put in the mail Saturday afternoon before the party. While that didn't happen, I'm still feeling okay on the sending it to Camii goal because I just sent her an electronic version (which I finished yesterday, which was in keeping with my other goal) and so the story I finished after I sent the letter will actually reach her before it. I'm calling it a win.

I also finished reading through Scar and marking it up a bit. I think that's the one that'll be my submission this month. As Jenny said, "What kind of critique do you want? Do you want one about how great you are, or do you want to fix a story?" Okay, those aren't her exact words, and she said it a just a bit nicer. That's the jist though, and I think I'd rather have some help right now instead of worship (not to knock adoring fans, of which I'll always take more - not to mention, the first).

I'm pretty pleased with the week. I hit the two goals I wanted to, even with a party to prepare for. Now I just have to do my other two goals, and I'm in good shape for the writers group this weekend. Thank goodness I already did critiques.

From the Author Herself: A Visit From Nalo Hopkinson

"The New Moon's Arms wasn't much your cup of tea, I gather. :)"
-Nalo Hopkinson

Some time ago, I posted a review of this book on my other blog,, never expecting it to attract the attention of the author herself. It's kinda cool. Of course, she disagrees with some of my comments. She even defends herself a bit, though she never gets outright defensive. I appreciate that, because there are few things I dislike more than a writer who listens to/reads my critique of their work and then proceeds to not only disagree with me but say/imply that my opinion is totally invalid. So, even if I wasn't a fan of the novel, I can respect her for staying professional in her response.

Which brings me to another point - why defend herself to me? Sure, I didn't care for this book she sweated and bled over, but so? Am I really that important? I'm just one reader. I mean, come on, if I had a dollar for every critique I've received that was along the lines of, "This just didn't work for me," I'd have a lot of dollars. Plenty of other people liked it, and more power to them. I'm just one small fish in a very big pond. Not that I'm complaining, mind you - I'm feeling kinda flattered that an award winning writer not only read my critique of their book, but also took a few minutes to respond to it. That's pretty nifty. It's definitely one of the most interesting things that've happened to me lately.

You can find Nalo's blog here:

Friday, August 17, 2007


"Wait, what style of sticking place are we talking? WD-40 gets ANYTHING unstuck."

Wow, what a response on that last post. I'm entertained at how often booze was mentioned. Well, I guess it worked for Hemingway... All the same, I don't quite think it's the thing. I do like Deb's bracket idea: "You could do the bracket thing with [then stuff happens] and write the ending that you have in your head. Let it sit and see what you need to have happen to connect the first bit to the last bit." It seems there are many practical and entertaining uses for the things.

Of course, there's a simple answer for how to get me going. Deadlines. Lots of writers are procrastinators and people who like working with a pending deadline. It gets our butts in gear and in some ways does the same thing as genre jumping. Having a time limit frees us from a certain degree of responsibility because, after all, I couldn't have spent any more time fixing it, could I? That was the beauty of workshop classes with David, because I had to make a brand new story from scratch and have it ready in a week, or sometimes two days, or sometimes the next day.

Right now I'm working on a letter to send off to Camii (who's been my wonderful pen-pal for many years now) and since I both want to send the letter by tomorrow, and send a copy of Albatross with it, this means I have to finish the story right away. This also helps me meet my goal of having done with it by Sunday. So, last night, after signing the end of the letter to Camii, I left the TV on for background noise, sat myself down in front of the computer, and got to writing.

Jay Leno came on, then Conan, then Ryan Seacrest and at that point I called it a night. 'Cause really, Ryan Seacrest? Ugh. Over a little more than two hours, I got from point A to point B-and-a-half and added about a thousand words to the story. Not bad. Makes me wonder just how long this story is going to end up though, as I've already hit eight pages. Granted, a "short" story can be rather longer still, but it's longer than I tend to write. I wonder if it's some of the mindset from writing a novel that's rubbing off. Hard to say, but as long as it works, it works.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Sticking Place

"But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we'll not fail."
-Lady Macbeth, Macbeth

I started writing a new story, Albatross, the other day and at first all was going swimmingly. Of course, there were the questions, like "should I keep character X or not?" but nothing too daunting. I got the characters introduced, got the conflict going, then got to the point where the character finds out the big secret and starts to react to it. Then... well, I got stuck. I know about how I want the last few pages to go, but the next page is giving me trouble. Where do I go now? What is point B?

I know what I have to do, I have to just truck on and fix what needs fixing later. I'm just having a hard time doing it 'cause I want to have a less-fuzzy idea of where to go next. This limbo place is irritating. On the up side, I made myself a deadline: Sunday. So, better or worse, I've got to get it done.

When you hit that sticking place, what works for you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Coincidence? I Think Not.

"The email from Paramount that came in earlier today contained good news -- Stardust opened at Number 1 in Russia, and took 3 million already -- and bad news -- we were Number 4 on Friday night in the USA and took 3 million. Which means, it went on, that the projections are that we'll easily break $100 million internationally; and that as the majority of US reviews are good to excellent*, and the exit polls they've done on people coming out are as good as could be hoped for, that Stardust will hang around for a little while longer in the US (which is, after all, about 40% of the theatrical market) and hope that word of mouth does what the ad campaign has significantly failed to do.*"
-Neil Gaiman, blog

Over the past few days, thinking and talking about Stardust and learning that there's going to be a Serenity special edition DVD, a parallel occurs to me. It seems that perhaps Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon are actually twins (fraternal, mind you) who were separated at birth (well, and born four years apart). The point I'm working up to here is that both created brilliant movies which didn't quite hit the mainstream. One reason in both cases is that publicists didn't quite know what the hell to do with them. Is it a western? Sci-Fi? Fantasy? Adventure?

It seems having a ready category is all-important, which boggles my mind because I'd rather watch a dozen movie like either of the two I just mentioned over a single viewing of the easily categorizable (is that a word?) From Dusk 'Til Dawn. So, what gives? I can't help but think of a comment John from work made, that he didn't like novels that mix genres. Is that what it's all about? Do we get uneasy when something's hard to describe? I can't hardly believe that, but it's true for at least one person. For me, mixing genres makes a story immediately more interesting. I mean, come on, what are you going to do with cowboys in space? I'm curious already. How about you? What's your take on genre mixing?

Oh yes, another creepy coincidence: Nathan Fillion of Firefly and Serenity (not to mention Buffy) fame has the nickname "Captain tightpants" and I just learned that Neil Gaiman has been dubbed "Scary Trousers." That can't be just coindence, now can it? I'm telling ya, there's a connection...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Feature? Truth or Dare

In thinking of how I ask so many questions of blog readers, I thought I'd try an experiment and open the door for you all to turn the tables. So, if you have any questions you'd like to ask me or the readers of this blog, or any ideas for writing challenges, send them to


I came across an interesting article on MSN:

Now I'm curious - would a more structured blogging world be a good thing, or a bad one? I'm with the pro-anarchy camp. How about you?


"Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, are large seabirds allied to the procellariids, storm-petrels and diving-petrels in the order Procellariiformes (the tubenoses). "

Yesterday in her blog, Jenny posted about working on two or more projects at once. The timing is kind of coincidental given how when I saw her yesterday and she asked what I was submitting to the group this month, my answer was, "Well, maybe I'll do the one I talked about a while back, but it still doesn't feel right. Or, maybe I'll do the one I just started writing, or maybe the chicken heart story." Three possibilities for one month. Wow. Compared to the rate I was writing, I've suddenly become downright prolific. What gives?

Maybe it's like that saying, "If you want to get something done, give it to someone who's busy." The idea being that being busy makes one efficient. When you have all the time in the world to do something, that's how long you'll take. The funny thing is, in my experience it tends to hold true.

My last semester as an undergrad was the most grueling few months I've probably ever experienced. I was taking eighteen credit hours, working at least thirty hours a week at two different jobs, occasionally babysitting, and working on a novel. Oh yeah, and I had a boyfriend who fit in there too. Due to my work schedule, my weekends were the only time I had to myself, and by "weekend" I mean Sundays. If I was really lucky, I worked at the bar in the morning and had Saturday afternoons and evenings too.

Despite the 12+ hour days, I was on top of all my homework and class readings, and I submitted a new chapter of Oracle to the group each month (as well as doing critiques on everyone else's submissions). That semester was probably the single most productive time of my whole life. No joke. I got a lot done because I had to, and because once you get accustomed to that pace, it's easy to keep it up. You start doing lots of multi-tasking, like working on the novel during a boring class.

Then I got my B.A. in December and took the spring semester off. Needless to say, my productivity dropped. There are some people, like Deb, who take advantage of extra time and write more. Then there are people like me who think, "Ah, I can finally take some time to be a bum" and watch TV all day.

Lately, my aim has been to step up my writing. At first, all I could think of was, "But I can't think of any stories to tell." I had notes in a notebook, and half-finished projects, but they weren't enough for some reason. Then, for no particular reason, it seems the damn has broken. Perfect timing, seeing as how the fall semester starts on the 27th and I'll be taking a class with Katherine (i.e. monstrous work load). Of course, if past evidence is any indication, the added demands might end up being good for me.

Speaking of productivity and what I want to accomplish, now is the perfect time to talk about goals. Between now and the time the new semester starts, here is what I am going to do:
Finish the story I'm about six pages into, currently titled Albatross
Write the chicken heart story
Do a read through of Scar and see if there's anything I can fix (like the title) before I hand it off to the group
Get an internet connection at home

For this week, I think I'll focus on finishing Albatross and doing a read through of Scar. That's manageable.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ending the Book Doldrums

I hoped The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy would bring me out of my reading slump, but that didn't quite happen. I love Terry Pratchett, but this book had two things against it - the age of the character and the genre. Sometimes I enjoy reading about teen protagonists, and sometimes I'm up for some sci-fi. This time was not one of them.

However, I'm once again optimistic. After watching Stardust I decided that:
1. I really need to read the book
2. Given the illustrations, I probably ought to just buy it

Today on my lunch, I went over to the bookstore where Jenny works and picked up the last illustrated copy - what luck! I stuck around a bit to chat with Jenny, then had to get some lunch and head back to campus. So, as we speak the book sits in my car waiting for me to get home so I can read it. I'm very excited to crack it open (especially since Jenny said the book ending is less corny than the movie ending) and that in itself is also exciting because I haven't been that excited about a book in quite some time. *I tried, I really did, but I can't think of how to add anymore excitement into that last sentence.*

Stardust and The Point of Writing

"A fun, funny, action-adventure, fairy tale. With cross-dressing. What more could you want from a summer flick?"

It's not so often that I find myself totally and completely impressed with a story. It happened Friday, though. (Okay, granted, the very end/epilogue part was a bit corny for my taste, but everything up to it was aces). As I walked out of the theater, all I could think about was, "Wow."

Between that movie, and a new post John put on his blog, part of which is: "This has brought me back to the reason for wanting to write in the first place: I want to tell stories. I want to be someone who take another human being, and transport them to a time and place of my choosing and introduce them to characters who can enrich their lives." I'm in a mood where it's all making sense. Why write? Why bother? 'Cause of Neil Gaiman.

Wait, that leap might not have been clear. Let me elaborate. The idea John's describing is one I've heard from Neil Gaiman, who I love and adore. That we can go from so many blank pages to an audience/readership being impacted by what you put on them... That the story someone loves is only in existence because you brought it forth from your imagination...

That's why I write.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Way it Goes: Germs and Process

"It was bought on the morn
Of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died."
-My Grandfather's Clock

While I was driving home today to pick up a few things, I got to thinking about how I ought to write a new story this month. Here's the jist of my thought process:

5 miles away: What kind of story should it be? I've been doing so much fantasy, but I don't really want to do something literary/mainstream. Hrm... Oh, how 'bout a magical realism type story? That could work. *Thinking about an old story about a woman with a literally broken heart* Don't want to do a heartbreak/love story though, somthing else.

4 miles away: Yeah, but what about? It's gotta be something strange. There's that one story I read, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I think, or someone else completely - the birdman/angel story. Angels - feathers. Magical realism = a discovery story.

3 miles away: It's a story about a chicken heart that keeps beating after the chicken is killed. Like the way rat and mouse hearts used to keep beating after we killed them to feed to birds at the Raptor Center. Sometimes we'd cut it out and watch it sitting there on the plate, beating outside of its body.

2 miles away: First line: "When Mathilde slaughtered the chicken, its heart kept beating." Yeah, Mathilde is a weird name, but I can't think of any other that'd work. It's Jenny's fault for telling me she won't name the baby (if a girl) Gertrude, 'cause the only name that'd go with it is something like Mathilde.

1 mile away: Great, but what's the story about? And where's the "magical" element beyond the weirdness of the ever-beating chicken heart?

A few blocks away: *Envisioning a scene where Mathilde is in the kitchen, cutting up the chicken, and her daughter (10 yrs old?) Chloe sees the heart, pokes it.* Oh, hey, what keeps the heart going? How 'bout human blood? *Envisioning something like in Pan's Labyrinth where the girl gives the mandrake root a drop of her blood* What if it's Chloe's blood? Is it Chloe's story, not Mathilde's? *Thinking of the song My Grandfather's Clock, except why couldn't it be a chicken heart instead?*

Home: Great, now I'm back to the beginning 'cause I have to figure out what Chloe's story is. But hey, there's a chicken heart in it. That's progress.

That's a very very rough idea of how I went from nothing to having a germ to work with. The story is still very ameoba-shaped in my head and it might change back to being Mathilde's story before I'm done. At the very least, now I have something to work from - an image that is very vivid in my head and makes some kind of sense to my subconcious, though I couldn't say exactly what. Now it's time to ferment it - I mean, put it in the crockpot.

P.S. I looked it up, and it was a Marquez story I was thinking of. The title is "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Good News

"Alas, with school beginning soon and a Monday class, I doubt I'll be seeing the rogue gang again any time soon."

Now I feel a tad silly. I was sure I had class on Monday, but when I checked my schedule it turns out I was mistaken. Class is Tuesday. Whups. Aside from feeling foolish, I'm also pleased as this means I will be able to meet up with the rogues during the semester. Cheers.

The Things We Write for Money

"Describe your goals and aspirations; school/community activities and awards, work experience and any unusual family or personal circumstances that warrant our attention."
-Prompt for the institutional scholarship essay

Why they require an essay in the first place is totally beyond me. I mean, come on, I've already checked all the boxes that tell them whether or not I'm a minority or a one-legged lumberjack. Do they really need an essay? Seriously, who reads it? Besides, when they say "write an essay" they completely leave out the part about length, so what if I write a mini-novel? Is that bad? Ugh. I hate having to write this thing.

For one, they want you to write about yourself. For another, they want you to make yourself sound good to someone(s) you've never met before. So, how does one write the perfect "I am great and you should give me money" essay for a totally unknown audience? Beats me. Still, my application isn't finished without the essay, and without a finished application, I lose financial aid money. It's a vicious system.

It's funny. In my fiction and poems I have no problems getting personal, but when it comes to nonfiction I'd rather not. I figure anyone who really wants to know who I am can meet me (or read my blog, whatever) but this artificial introduction rubs me the wrong way. I think in part because, even though it's you talking about you, it still has a feeling of fiction. If I'm fictionalizing myself, I'd rather be honest about it.

And yet, here I am, starting a rough draft all about my aspirations so some stranger on a committee may or may not read it. Super. *insert expletives here*

How about you? What do you think of writing bios, scholarship essays, etc. about yourself? Does it come easily, or is it a struggle?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Some Highlights

"I'm not a microwave. I'm a crockpot."
-John (Talking about writing process, a la my fermentation comment - apparently a crockpot is a more wholesome writing analogy than rotting)

"Sign my green bean."
-Jenny (Talking about the possibility of Joss Whedon being the keynote speaker at a local writing conference dinner)

"She didn't used to be like that."
-Shane (Re: my demonic nature)

"We all have to be someone's demon."

"Red heads are always whores or bitches."

"My neice, who's sixteen, came to the house at seven o'clock in the morning because JC Penney's was opening. This was very exciting."
-Mary (Talking about a recent trip back to her hometown, which is small)

I have to say, these people I know are just slightly off-bubble. Just ever so little. Great fun to hang around and chat with, though. Alas, with school beginning soon and a Monday class, I doubt I'll be seeing the rogue gang again any time soon. I always love it when the new semester starts and all of a sudden the life is sucked out of all my nights. It's great.

Monday, August 6, 2007

August Challenge: Get Moving

"Uh oh."
-Deb, in reference to me doing challenges. Don't worry, I'm limiting them to monthly. I promise.

In talking about walks as pre-writing, I got warmed up to the idea. I think that sounds like a good challenge.

So, this month, here's what I want to you do: get off your tush and do something. The key to this challenge is that you have to do something that gets you physically moving and that it has to be something where your mind can roam - so nothing where you really have to concentrate on what you're doing, and nothing where you have built in distractions, i.e. go for a jog without the headphones.

Also, you should do it alone. If someone else is with you, you'll be chatting, not pre-writing. However, pets don't count, so walking the dog would be a great example of something to do. Otherwise, maybe it's time to tackle the dust bunnies under the couch, knead some bread, fly a kite, go for a swim, ride your bike, put a new coat of paint on the house, wash the car, or just go for a walk. Whatever you're keen on, just go do it and think about your next story, poem, or novel chapter. See what happens.

Writing When You're Not Writing (Fermentation)

This weekend I chatted with John at work about his book (and nagging him to come to Springs to meet everbody - to which he declined, again). He said he wasn't really focusing on the book right now because 1. he wanted to give it some time to sit and 2. he was focusing on a new workout routine. This got me thinking about Deb.

Deb has talked about how sometimes she can be really productive with her writing when she's not actually writing. She'll go on a walk and do pre-writing in her head, plotting out the next chapter or solving a narrative problem, etc. Then, when she gets home and sits down in front of the computer, her writing goes that much faster because she already knows what she wants to do next.

So, I wonder, even though John's not "working" on the book, is he still working on it?

It's fermentation time, baby.

I'm always amazed at how stories can work themselves out when we leave them alone. By directing our energy somewhere else, whether by physically doing something, or mentally letting the story sit, we can solve our writing dilemmas more easily than if we sat there in front of the computer, hands on keys ready to go.

My hypothesis is that the key to fermentation is freedom. When we've hit a problem and can't get through it we sometimes get to the point of trying to walk through a cement wall. We keep pushing and pushing, thinking "I have to get through." Then, we go for a walk, lift some weights, or do the dishes. Suddenly, the realization comes - it's time to climb over the wall.

When I worked in the kitchen at the bar, I got a lot of fermentation done. So much of what I was doing, like washing dishes, needed no brain power at all, so I got to let my mind roam. The kitchen is where I solved the problem of whether or not Gwyn should die in Oracle, and a dozen other logistical quandries.

What about you? Does getting active help you write better? Does cleaning the house improve your prose?