Thursday, June 30, 2016

In Which I Pretend To Mock The Bachelorette

I was going to write about how ridiculous and idiotic and silly the show The Bachelorette is

and how I am only watching it because my teen daughter is home from college for the summer and begged me to watch it with her, 

which led to my husband drifting into the room and sitting down to watch, and then, weirdly, led to our grown son, who is also home, briefly, after graduating from school and about to embark upon his adult life on the opposite end of the country, poking his head into the den to see what all of us were doing, and staying to watch too,

and how immediately, we all began mocking the absurdity of the show--the premise, the characters, the vapid dialogue-- 

the bachelorette, Jo Jo, a human Barbie doll, traipsing around in her high heels and sequined ball gowns

(Jo Jo)
earnestly trying to find her future spouse among the parade of glorious men,

in their bizarre pompadour hairdos and pink shirts, 

with their transparent and competitive jockeying for attention and their cattiness and tattle-tale-ing behind the scenes,

nevermind, the man tears and the ripping of T-shirts,


last night, as we settled down in our places together to watch Episode Six, it occurred to me that we were truly enjoying watching this show. 

So, I guess I am not going to mock it after all. 

(Don't be fooled by the attention the teens
seem to be paying their phones... that's a self-protective
form of cringe-watching during the uncomfortable
Rose Ceremony scene)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

In the Weeds


Sometimes I am a liar when it comes to talking the Joy of Revision with my writing students. 

You can do it, I say. You can write a book. Write a messy first draft. Figure out what you have and what you need. Revise. Rinse. Repeat. 

I show them one of my drafts as an example. An array of colorful post-its. 

Look! It's not so difficult! Sometimes it's even fun! And my students nod along, inspired, I think, to try it for themselves. 

I do the same kind of thing when I talk about my garden. I post glorious close-ups of my veggies on social media. Lovely cauliflowers and darling pea pods and gorgeous purple cabbage.

It's not so hard to grow a garden, I tell my friends with less greener thumbs. Scatter a few seeds here and there. Water. Weed.  Repeat.

Okay. I don't completely lie. I admit to throwing out entire chapters, to fighting resistance each morning and girding myself to settle down to my day's writing 

to battling slugs 

But I tend to do this in a funny way. Glossing over the sweaty details. Joking about the actual WORK involved, the TIME

The worm that ate the hell out of the cabbage growing right next to the lovely cabbage picture above. 

The days I sit in front of my computer writing and rewriting the same paragraph a hundred times and then scrapping the entire thing. 

The caterpillars on my kale

The mornings I rant and whine and moan to my critique partner, 

the self-doubting--and sometimes, self-loathing

The creepy purply mold on my cauliflower

The times when I've finished up a revision of a revision and think what I have is the best piece of writing I've ever done and I send it off into the world and it sinks like a stone, unread--  or worse, read and passed on

and I wonder how I will ever find the energy or courage or discipline to start writing another story

The pathetic patch of cilantro after a heavy rainstorm

But, somehow, I do begin another story

Because it is what I do

It's what I do. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

One Kind Day

Yesterday I woke up to news I wish I hadn't woken up to. Another mass shooting in America. But it could have been a bombing. Or a terror attack. Or a riot. Or a police officer shooting an unarmed person. Or a 20 year old man dragging an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and raping her. 

I don't want to know these things happen in the world. I don't want to know that people are terrified and hateful and spiteful and selfish and enraged and ignorant and racist and sexist and contemptuous and self-righteous and greedy and divisive. 

I'm not here to argue a point or pass judgment or blame. I don't want to talk about guns or Islamphobia or homophobia. I just want to figure out how to live in a world that is often a place of evil and fear-- without succumbing to evil and fear myself. 

It's overwhelming. 

My natural inclination is to retreat. Click off the news. Put my hands over my ears and pretend these things don't have anything to do with me. I realize only someone in a position of great privilege can make this choice. I also realize that even the most privileged of us are still vulnerable--

    --if we go out to night clubs or run in marathons or attend church or school or parties or movies. 

Yesterday, after I read the news. I made a meal. I planted basil plants in my garden. I sat with a writer friend at a book event because I knew she was anxious about having to sit by herself, and we ended up chatting with several teen readers and writers. At night I watched the Tony Awards with my husband and teared up when Lin Manuel Miranda, the brilliant and talented writer and performer, read a sonnet about the news we had all woken up to. 

...When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day
This show is proof that history remembers
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love...

Someone on Twitter wrote that the opposite of war is not peace, it's creation. 

I believe this. 

We live in a world where evil and fear and ignorance exist, and on a day like yesterday, especially, evil and fear and ignorance seem to be winning. 

One person can do very little to fix, to change, to solve--

and I am not so naive to think that preparing a meal for your family or planting a basil plant or sitting with a friend or talking about stories to beginning writers or taking a moment to honor music and words and theater and dance and art can counteract all of the pain and suffering and terror and trauma that happened yesterday-- 
                              that will happen today--  
                                                       that will happen tomorrow-- 

but isn't it lovely, sometimes, to think so?   

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Tale of Two Editing Sessions


Your lovely critique partner reads your draft and calls you to discuss big picture issues that you might want to look at as you revise. You agree with pretty much everything she says and are excited about digging in. You open the manuscript, taking note of the 160+ comments and questions that your lovely critique partner has helpfully inserted.

You begin work enthusiastically.

The End


Your lovely critique partner reads your draft and calls you to discuss big picture issues that you might want to look at as you revise. You agree with pretty much everything she says. Damn it. 

You open the manuscript, taking note of the 160+ comments and questions that your lovely critique partner has helpfully inserted and you are horrified by the amount of work that lies ahead.

But whatever. What else are you going to do with your time?

You begin work. Tightening, reworking, deleting, adding, fiddling--

move this paragraph over here where it fits better. No. Move it back. It worked better where it was originally. Delete the end of this chapter. Rework this scene. What's the timeline here? Does this flashback belong in this chapter? Why does the main character say that? What's the purpose of the scene? What's the MC's friend thinking at this point?

More fiddling and tweaking and shifting, cutting

combining, questioning,

wondering if you're fixing problems or creating new ones. Is this necessary? If you take it out, have you made things more confusing? Wait, why did you think this character was funny?

What's the point of this story? Why did you start writing it in the first place? What if you can't fix this? What if it's unfixable? Why are you a writer? What is the meaning of life? Why are-- what should-- Why didn't you-- Who cares if--

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The End

Bonus points if you can guess which scene I acted out yesterday :)