Kids…Yeah.

unicorn

Once upon a time, I was childless. I slept in on the weekends, could come and go as I pleased, and only had to be responsible for my own bathroom habits. Who was that innocent, carefree person of years past? I hardly know anymore, but old journals suggest she was terribly self-absorbed and actually whined about not having enough time to write. Now, I wonder what I actually did with all that free time floating around.

Since my daughter came into my life, I’ve learned to use my time more efficiently; and I’d like to think I’m a little bit wiser. There are some things I’ve learned about parenthood in the past ten years that “young me” had no inkling about. You guessed it–here’s a list:

  1. Tooth brushing is an agonizing, tortuous activity. Who knew?
  2. I am now responsible for another being’s pee/poo on an intimate level never dreamed of (especially with a spina bifida kid).
  3. Speaking of which, I’ll not only learn how to pronounce “spina bifida”, but way more than I ever wanted to know about it. Ask me about cone enemas, I dare you.
  4. Wow, I’m really not the center of the Universe. There’s a kind of relief in that knowledge.
  5. After years of absolutely no interest in other people’s children, suddenly, every child is my child, and I find them interesting and precious.
  6. At ten, my daughter is beginning to personally remind me how dumb I actually am. (Eye rolls and “Don’t you get it?” are common occurrences. Um, no?).
  7. Being a parent forces me to be social with other human beings. I guess that’s good?
  8. I’ve made the rather appalling realization that I’ll never stop worrying. Never.
  9. Having a child is truly a great way to see the world anew, with innocent, wondrous eyes. And that’s good for a writer, not to mention just about everyone else, too.
  10. I’ll never know a greater, deeper, more unconditional love. Never.

Having children is not for everyone, and there was a time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a parent myself. But Lilly is the best thing that ever happened to me, pee/poo notwithstanding. And I am beginning to get those weekend sleep-ins back. Which makes me a little sad, since it means she’s growing up. But I’ll take it.

 

 

 

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Obsession

crossword

Recently, my daughter and I have been obsessed with crossword puzzles. We’ll sit at the kitchen table at the end of a day and tackle the daily crossword in the local newspaper. We love them so much I bought a booklet of crosswords from the racks at the store, and we tackle those, too. It doesn’t matter that they’re fairly easy. We don’t want to be too challenged; we just want to fill those little boxes.

It’s the latest obsession in my life, one of many over the years. Something tickles my imagination or interest, and I fall into it deeply. Here’s a list of the obsessions I’ve indulged in since I was a child, more or less in chronological order:

  1. Star Wars. I fell in love with Han Solo at ten.
  2. Tarot cards. I had several decks and many books. I loved the artwork, and the idea of self-awareness and improvement through their symbolic language.
  3. Goddess lore.  I desperately needed female empowerment in my twenties.
  4. Yoga. I wanted to be like those practitioners who could twist into pretzels. I never got there. Now I just like to eat pretzels.
  5. Anne Rice novels. Weepy, tortured vampires spanning the centuries. What’s not to love?
  6. Arthurian legends. It began with The Mists of Avalon, and fanned out to whatever book on Arthur and Camelot I could get my hands on.
  7. Lord of the Rings (movies, then books. Sorry, purists). Tolkien is wonderful, but Peter Jackson made it more digestible to me.
  8. Austen/Bronte novels. I don’t feel I have to choose between apples and oranges. Propriety and passion are equally entertaining in these ladies’ works.
  9. Writing in Dunkin Donuts coffee shops. I have three in my town, and I rotate which ones I write in. I can’t drink any other coffee.
  10. Writer’s journals/Journalling. It’s the only writing I do these days; I’m not reading novels, but writer’s journals (mostly women): Woolf, Plath, Nin, Sarton.

I’m sure there will be many more obsessions in my life in the years ahead; what we cling to, circle around, devote ourselves to says a lot about who we are.

What are your obsessions? Drop me a line, and we’ll talk about it!

 

The Roads Not Taken

If I weren’t living the glamorous life of a writer/cashier, here’s a list of occupations I might have gone into instead:

  1. Vet Tech/Veterinarian
  2. Voice Actor
  3. Librarian
  4. Bookstore Owner
  5. Barista
  6. Art Museum Tour Guide
  7. Classical Music DJ
  8. Audiobook Reader
  9. Literary Agent
  10. Zookeeper

As you can see, my life must involve any combination of animals/books/coffee. And if I ever get bored with groceries, at the very least I can head over to the nearest Starbucks for that backup dream job. But you can be sure I’ll have a notebook in my purse.

barista handbook
Coffee is serious business, people.

What roads have you not taken? Any regrets? Leave a comment and we’ll talk about it!

 

 

List Lover

journal

Lately, my writing has gone inward. All I want to do right now is to write in my journal, to reconnect to and renew my commitment to the first kind of writing I ever did. And that’s what I’ve been doing the past few months, with all thoughts of fiction-writing (or essays or memoir or blogging) seemingly out the window. And that’s okay. But I have to say, I have missed blogging. Blogging is a kind of digital diary, and I don’t want to let it go completely.

In keeping with the personal journalling theme of my life right now, and since I’m such a lover of lists, I decided to try to post a top ten list once a week or so. The lists could be just about anything, but I’ll try to make it interesting. Feel free to list your own answers in the comments; this could be fun!

Here’s my first list:

List ten reasons you write (or draw or paint or play music, or whatever art form you pursue).

  1. I love stories (fictional or personal) and love to tell my own in writing.
  2. It makes me feel like I have a voice (I often feel like no one listens to me).
  3. I was the quiet kid (and adult, too).
  4. I’m better at writing than speaking.
  5. It’s my form of immortality.
  6. I can live vicariously through my characters.
  7. It’s the shy person’s alternative to acting.
  8. I have a compulsion to fill blank lines.
  9. Whole worlds live inside me.
  10. It’s a good excuse to sit in cafes and sip coffee.

Why do you do the thing you love?

 

Concerning Craft: To the Writer Who Is Not Writing

Loved this, it seemed relevant to my life right now…

Little Patuxent Review

This guest post comes from Alicia Mountain. Her poem, “Without Drawing the Blinds,” appeared in LPR‘s Summer Issue 2018 (available for purchase at this link).

Mountain is the author of the collection High Ground Coward (University of Iowa Press), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Thin Fire (BOAAT Press). She is a lesbian poet, critic, and educator based in Denver and New York. Keep up with her at aliciamountain.com and @HiGroundCoward.

Hello, Writer.

I know that doesn’t sound like your name right now. It did for a while. When people would ask what you do or what you’re studying you’d say, “well, I write! I’m a writer.” But now that the words aren’t coming, you might feel like you aren’t entitled to your name, like you aren’t earning it. I’m writing to tell you that’s not the case.

So you haven’t written…

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Towers, Ghosts and Handmaids

Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching lately:

dark tower books all

I’ve been slowly but steadily making my way through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series over the last year or so, and finally finished the seventh book and the last in the main series (the eighth, The Wind in the Keyhole, is more of an addendum, a further adventure and untold story that I haven’t read yet–but plan to!).

I find Stephen King an interesting author, if only because he’s written books I have absolutely no interest in reading, while there are others I find, if not brilliant, then impressive and endlessly entertaining. This series is obviously in the latter, or I wouldn’t have continued to read thousands of pages of it. It’s hard to summarize such an epic tale, but it combines fantasy, western, science fiction (and a little bit of horror) to tell the story of Roland of Gilead, a gunslinger of Mid-World, who seeks to save the Dark Tower, which holds all the worlds of creation together. His main antagonists are the Man in Black, and the Crimson King, among many others. His allies are his ka-tet, who he’s “drawn” from other worlds and times: Eddie Dean, Odetta Walker (aka Susannah Dean), the boy Jake Chambers, and Oy, a kind of cross between a dog and a raccoon called a billy bumbler.

Each book, of course, presents its own conflict and goal on Roland’s long journey, weaving a complex, compelling tale that only King could manage. In it, he incorporates several characters from his other books (which in most cases I had not read, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story), and creates a kind of uber-story, gathering them all under the same cosmology. King even inserts himself into the story, which I found a little outrageous at first, but then, this is a story about stories, and he’s the ultimate storyteller. It all fits.

I hurtled through the last 100 pages of the last book, dying learn the mystery of the Dark Tower. And was I disappointed? Not exactly. I didn’t know what was at the top of that Tower, but when Roland opened the last door, after unimaginable trial and tragedy, what lay behind it was unexpected and shocking. That’s all I’ll say, except that, based on my new knowledge, I’m rethinking my opinion on the Dark Tower movie I reviewed a few months ago. I hated it. But I’d watched it before I finished the series, and I was missing some vital information. Now it makes some potential sense. But that’s another blog post.

woman in black daniel

My book club recently read The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill, in honor of the season–we love a good ghost story this time of year! We enjoyed the book and decided to watch the 2012 movie with Daniel Radcliffe.

The premise of both the book and the movie concerns Arthur Kipps, a clerk in a London law firm, who travels to the northern town of Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of an old widow, Mrs. Drablow, who’d recently died. Her estate, Eel Marsh House, is appropriately isolated and creepy at the mouth of a marshy estuary, a house which gets blocked off from the mainland by the tides several times a day. The townspeople are sullen and distrustful, and while at the house, Arthur encounters ghostly visitations by a terrifying woman in black. While sorting through Mrs. Drablow’s papers, he discovers a family tragedy that explains the haunting, but is unprepared to be so personally affected by the woman’s vengeful malevolence.

The  movie changes a few things and ratchets up the scare factor, giving the story a more traditional beginning, middle, and end format, with Arthur taking action to solve a problem rather than just letting things happen to him, like in the book. The ending is quite different, too, and I’m not sure I’m happy with it, but in the end, it’s a great Halloween movie to hide behind a pillow and watch.

man in the picture

We enjoyed Susan Hill so much, we also read The Man in the Picture, another ghost story, of sorts. This one deals with an old painting of Venice, with masked revelers and gondolas, in which several living people have been trapped as painted figures. It’s another story of a wronged woman gone berserk with hatred and vengeance, and who punishes not only those responsible for her misery, but innocent others who happen to come into contact with her story just for evil’s sake. It’s kind of a disturbing pattern, but definitely touches on female rage and its consequences. Hell hath no fury, and all that.

handmaid 3

I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale many years ago, and though over time the details of the book faded, the disturbing essence of it remained with me. In the middle of watching the Hulu series, I re-read the book (brilliant; read it). The series, with Elizabeth Moss as Offred/June, is just as brilliant and intense, with only a few minor changes that make sense in light of a continuing series. The book was hard to read, but the show is even more difficult, as these characters and terrifying events come to life on the screen.

I watched the first season, which chronicles the events of the book (and with Atwood’s involvement and blessing), but Season Two and Three continues Offred’s story beyond the book, out of Atwood’s territory. I’m on the fence about whether or not I want to continue watching; both the book and Season One ended with Offred possibly escaping her enslavement, leaving one with a feeling of hope. With the continuation of the series, it’s obvious Offred has to be caught and dragged back to Gilead, with more punishment and misery ahead of her. I’m not sure I can endure more of that, quite honestly.

So that’s what’s been keeping me busy lately. Have you read or watched any of these stories? What did you think? Drop me a line and we’ll talk about it!

 

In the Room

who I am

 

I’ve experienced this phenomena that King talks about more than once. When the story I’m writing seems to write itself, when the words come fast and the characters seem to jump out of the paper, when they speak with each other and make decisions, when an important detail emerges from the pen when I never would have thought of it beforehand: with these stories, I look up from the page and think, where did all that come from? Who wrote that? These usually turn out to be my best stories.

Natalie Goldberg calls it “wild mind”. Julia Cameron calls it “the Creator” or a higher power, manifesting itself through us. Elizabeth Gilbert calls it “Big Magic”. Whatever it is, it’s this mysterious voice that, when I’m really in the zone, speaks through me and helps me to tell stories.

Lately, that voice has been silent. I can’t get her to talk to me at all. It’s like she took a trip to Tahiti or something, leaving me alone in an empty room. Okay, fine. Because I’ve been taught not to rely on “Inspiration” or the “Muse”, I sit my butt down in the chair and scribble words anyway. And I start a few things, but without her, things just aren’t coming together. I miss her.

Okay, fine, I tell her. I think I know what this is about. I’m too much in the room with you. I’ve been a little bossy, trying to tell you what to do. Okay, a lot bossy. No, no, I say. That’s stupid. Cross that out. Erase, delete, change, you can’t say that, you don’t know what you’re talking about, no one will like that, no one will listen, you don’t have the right to speak, let alone write.

Okay, I guess I understand why you’d rather be drinking margaritas on the beach.

Somewhere along the way I lost faith in you. Or did I just get scared of what you were saying? Either way, I pushed you out of the room and closed the door, because I wanted to be in control. There are reasons for this: other aspects of my life feel a little out of control right now, and I was feeling panicky. But I’m working on that, okay? Just come back, and I promise I’ll listen.

Heck, I’ll just get out of the way altogether. I’m going to open the door, and just humbly sit in the corner of the room, waiting for you to return. I’ll do the busy work until then, lining up the pens, jotting down ideas in the notebook, blogging books and movies, just showing up. I’ll keep the wheels greased; I just need you to turn them. I’ll go where you lead. Take your time, but, you know, hurry up. Sorry–bossy again.

In the meantime, have a drink for me, and don’t forget the sunscreen.