The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Another Fairy Tale

           Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a community of writers. Each one of them had their own little castle, and met every evening so they could chat, procrastinate about writing, and sip beverages.

photo by Gary Shield Photography

         "Aaah, a community," you might say, and you perhaps envision a group of writers who only had altruistic intentions. Thoughtful authors. Collaborative creatives. 

         You'd be wrong.

         Just like in Chuck Palahniuk's brilliant (but twisted) book Haunted, these writers tried to sabotage each creative ways.

          Some of the sneakiness involved food. Fireblossom got the whole kit and kaboodle hooked on Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai Tea. One evening she brought several bottles and soon, every single one of those writers was bellying up to the upturned, empty jugs like guinea pigs at their water bottle, desperately trying to get the last drop. Lynn served up some spaghetti (a la Nora Ephron) and everyone gorged themselves. Tammy whipped up some stuffed tomatoes (Oh, how healthy? Au contraire.) that made even one writer swear off her decade-long avoidance of pork and beef as she stuffed them into her gaping piehole. (Later, this writer could be found hiding in a corner, with mayonnaise smeared around her mouth, mumbling, "Bacon...yum.") Even Donna Volkenannt
brought to the table a potato salad recipe. After everyone tried it in their own little castle's kitchen, they all looked like potatoes...

        Some of the sabotage centered around diversion.  Beth would regale the group with tales about her travels. South America. Australia. Her beauty (tall, skinny bitch) along with her hypnotizing stories got all the writers off track. Val would lure her colleagues into her blog, baiting them with wry, pointed posts and then would hook them again...because as her followers are well aware of, Val's replies to comments are just as amusing as her posts are. Lisa was another one of those diversionary ones. She'd rent kids, claim they were her own (even though she clearly was too thin and too young to have spawned the grown-up rent-a-kids) and then host a brilliant meme, Book Blurb Friday.  

        And some of the stealth and sneaky goings-on had to do with blinding their fellow writers. 

        Donna won the Erma Bombeck contest, and she'd flash that eight-foot tall trophy at you like she was sending signals across the canyon to the Lone Ranger. Linda always had--in her pocket-- a list of the publications who had sent her an acceptance letter that day, and after reading the seemingly neverending list, her colleagues couldn't see straight. And speaking of straight...You wished you weren't after reading Fireblossom's daily serving up of poetry. She does it all--blazing hot love poems, hilarious stabs at society, channeling of Emily Dickinson. The lady's way too mercurial... 

        Some of the authors living in this community resorted to old school medieval fun. Cathy C. Hall would keep her fellow writers from writing by jousting and challenging other punsters to duels. She'd unsheath Cathy-on-a-Stick and threaten the other writers.

photo by Sioux

        And finally, there was a musical duet to divert us. Lynn and Tammy would whine play a sad song on their tiny violins. In perfect harmony they would sing, "Thisisawful-Itispurecrap-Don'tyoufallasleep." The chorus was, "Mywritingstinks-It'sreallynothing-Helpmehelpmeplease." (And they never even served any cheese with that whine.)

        And since it's a fairy tale community, do these writers live happily ever after? Why don't you finish the book you're currently reading, and once you've read the last word on the last page, ask yourself "Was I moved?"

        'Cause writers have that power. They can do that. They can move you. And while that doesn't make it all happy, it makes it all good...

                                             The End

Friday, July 6, 2012

P Envy

        Unlike what Freud claimed that all women have, I have p envy, but it's not an envy of something that would--if I had one--get regularly caught in a zipper.

        I have publication envy.

        Talking to another writing friend recently, I discovered I was taking the joy out of writing for myself. Looking at the success of others was making me a wholelotta little crazy.

photo by mikekingphoto

        After this conversation was over, I began thinking: what is my "finish line"? What kind of goals am I chasing?

        Looking at the never-ending list of another writer's publication credits makes me a little envious. A couple of my friends need an extra front page on their blog so all their published stories can be listed. You want to read where their pieces can be found? Get a glass of iced tea and sit down, 'cause it's gonna take a while.

      When I hear of a friend's story getting accepted--and I had sent a memoir to the same anthology and yet heard nothing--I am genuinely happy about their success. Really, I am. But a small part of me thinks, 'Shoot. Another one of mine that didn't make it.'

       But in actuality, the joy I find in writing does not have publication at its core. Oh sure, it's a great feeling when a story is accepted. It's even greater when the story is accepted and pay's involved.  And when the accepting anthology/magazine is enjoyed by readers all over the country...that's like icing on the cake.

       However, what really gets me jazzed is getting something decent that's not too crappy to bring to my writing critique group...working on something that's completely out of my box, and getting a positive reaction about it from the WWWPs (my writing friends)...letting a longer piece sit, coming back to it, adding a little and letting it sit until I return...trying to write a story without any ellipsis--and almost succeeding...

      Last night we were driving home from visiting our granddaughter. Okay, my husband was driving and I was reading-napping-keeping him alert and awake with disco music. It was a 14-hour trip--a long day on the road.

      At one point I was in the passenger's seat contemplating a habitual gesture one of my characters might develop. I was staring off into space; my fingers were slightly fluttering in front of my face.*

       That's what brings me joy. Getting into someone else's head. Trying to flesh out a fictional character, put some meat on their bones and bring them to life. That is fun... 

         I cross the finish line each time I revise a piece so that the beginning hooks the reader. I cross the finish line every time I write and work on a story until it's completed. I cross a finish line every time I hit the "submit" button--even if it doesn't get accepted.

         Do you have p envy--and if so, how do you wrestle it down to the ground?And more importantly, what joy do you get out of writing? 

*   (When I did this, my husband asked me what I was thinking about/doing. I told him, "You wouldn't be interested." He insisted he was indeed interested. When I told him, "I'm writing a story about Bigfoot, and was thinking about what nervous habits/gestures he might develop," his eyes glazed over, and he reached over and turned up the volume on "Boogie Wonderland."

Next time, maybe he will listen to me.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chambray Shirts and Barbed Wire

         The summer I was seventeen, I worked for the Youth Conservation Corps. It was an all-girl team. We worked in the Mark Twain National Forest, doing a variety of things. We cleared trails. We dug post holes--by hand. We strung barbed wire. My choice of clothing (in that era) was chambray shirts--hand embroidered with the female power symbol, among other things, and worn blue jeans patched with colorful scraps of denim--and those clothes worked when doing the YCC work, too.
photo by Rural Explorer

         It was the summer I smoked grapevine. (We were convinced we would get high.) It was the summer I fell in love with an Arkansas artist who--when we parted--said he'd kiss me good-bye except he had some "chew" in his mouth. And it was the summer I learned how easy it was to be fierce--as long as I stood on my own two feet.

        Since the only guys on our crew were the park ranger (he drove us to our work every day) and the night caretaker (he killed the rattlesnakes and kept an eye on us), all the work was done by the young women. We sweated, we strained but we perservered.

       One weekend, as a treat, we went to visit another YCC site in Arkansas. (Enter and exit the artist with the horrible tobacco drool.) This team was co-ed, and we quickly discovered that the girls on the crew made a habit of hanging back, claiming the work was beyond them, so they could rely on the guys to do the physical labor. 

        There are times when I have to send off a submission and I don't get the chance to share it with my writing critique group. It's all on me. There are times when I bring a story to get critiqued and it doesn't have a title, and I'm tempted to just rely on the group and ask, "Hey, what should I call this?" But really, it's my responsbility to name my baby. There are times when I flounder with a piece, but I channel my critique group members and usually--not always--figure out where I should go with it.

       Obviously, being part of a crew or group makes me stronger, but if we all work together and pull our own weight, we...are...fierce.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Heading to a Circle of Dante's

       I am the oddball (in so many ways). I hate Florida. I am not a beach person. I will tolerate it when I go to France, and used to go every year to visit my grandparents but otherwise, I avoid the sand and the surf.

     But one thing draws me to a place as hot as Hades...and that's my granddaughter.

      I'm going to be disconnected from the blogosphere for a few days. But, I hope to get a little writing done, as well as some reading. (I got the newest Jodi Picoult/Samantha van Leer book, Between the Lines, and was curious, so I read the last line before buying it, since Picoult's daughter had come up with the last line before they even started writing the book.)

     Keep your fingers crossed that 3 gallon-sized jugs of sunscreen will be adequate. Otherwise, I'll be known as "Lobster Lady" when I get back to St. Louis...