Is this thing on…?

I’ve been avoiding this website like I avoid my voicemail…

But there are a few pieces of housekeeping (I imagine mostly for my own benefit, at this point, which is silly because being me, I already know these things):

1. I’m traveling! Check out my travel photos and commentary on my Tumblr page (which I actually do update regularly, unlike certain blogs I know).

2. I plan to reconfigure this website so that it’s less blog-focused at some point in the next year or so! Hopefully someday I will have writerly news to post on it, and perhaps something else interesting TBD.

3. Speaking of writerly news, I have an agent! Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency has graciously offered to be the front lines of my novel-selling army, though I could have probably come up with a better metaphor. Hopefully our super-duo will have yet more news in the coming months.

4. Oh and! Stay tuned for the publication of my short story “Camouflage” in some 2013 edition of Kaleidotrope.

 

So much news! I should go on a six month vacation more often.

Keeping up with carnivores.

This started as something else entirely.

Not really sure what to do with these. Use as pot holders? Stuff in strangers’ pockets? Hide them in plastic easter eggs?

Right now they’re on the coffee table, next to my feet and a neglected guitar tuner.

Improv Embroide-poetry

Today I bought one of those embroidery hoop thingies, some thread,  cut up an old shirt, and decided to write a poem.

At first I thought I’d write it first and then sew it, but then I decided just to make it up as I went along. Hence the “improv.”

The inspiration was an article that the ever-inspiring An Owomoyela linked to. I was particularly drawn to this section:

4. Use your hands

…I think the more that writing is made into a physical process, the better it is. You can feel the ink on paper. You can spread writing all over your desk and sort through it. You can lay it all out where you can look at it.

Oh and also this one:

5. Side projects and hobbies are important

…By side projects I mean the stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens.

So? Well… my embroidery is terrible (never done it before) and my poetry is worse (though not as bad as that diary filled with poems from high school) but it felt good. Really good. Can’t wait to do another one.

...punctuation-less

Where’s it going to get you?

I went to see Lynda Barry speak last night. She was amazing. I’m a particular fan of her book One! Hundred! Demons!, which was the first time I thought — hey, maybe I should learn how to draw.  Last night she talked about working on something arty and how sooner or later, that asshole guy in your head — you know the one — starts saying “This is stupid. Why are you working on this? Where’s this going to get you? What a waste of time.” She said she imagines him as a literal asshole, like some drunk dude at a bar peering over her shoulder and saying this stuff to her. And how, in that case, she’d toss her beer on him and make him buy her another one. Or maybe I made up that last part because that’s what I’d do. Not that I drink beer. Scotch, then. Anyway, check her out.

I’ve been a lot of talk lately. Waaaay back in July, I wrote this blog at Jeff Vandermeer’s website, thinking it would shame me into actually doing what I set out to do. Basically, I want to learn to draw, by drawing comic strips featuring whatever new thing I’m learning at the time.

Funny thing about shame — it’s pretty much the worst motivator. Even when it works, it takes the joy out of the thing you’re trying to motivate to do… making it so you never want to do that thing again.

So I made up every excuse I could not to post this comic. I drew it in pencil, saying that when I inked it, I’d post it. I’ve been working on a novel, so I said… when I finish the novel, I’ll post the comic. I have a new job, so I said, when the job gets easier, I’ll go back to drawing. Then I stated to convince myself it wasn’t really all that important anyway. I’m not an artist… what’s the point? Why spend energy drawing?

Then I remembered this thing Lynda Barry said — something something joy of creating… something something fear holding you back, something something where’s it going to get you? What would you say if someone asked you that about a nice bike ride? Where’s that going to get you? What’s the point?

So. I sat down with my favorite Papermate blue pen and scribbled this out. Just to get it out there. Just to have the joy and satisfaction of finishing it, of having it be something I did — however amateurishly. I’m posting it here. My first comic strip.  I thought I’d learn to draw anthropomorphic frogs. See if you can identify the characters. I hope you can read my chicken scratch.

See… “Where’s it going to get you?” is a trick question. It gets you here, just like every other damn thing.

Rereading

I was a voracious reader long, long before I ever wrote stories of my own. I was hooked from my first encounter with Go Dog, Go. I used to win public library summer reading contests (the prizes for which were always more books) and classroom contests designed to get non-readers to read (I was never very popular). Writing a good story always seemed so impossibly mystical that it never even occurred to me to try it until my early 20s. Those first stories were wretched — let us never speak of them again.

But the point is, the more I started to write, the less and less I read.  Not because I didn’t want to or because I was worried about copying, but because I became a jaded, hard-to-please reader. I’m not entirely clear on when this happened or how, or even what I can do to make it stop, but I’m ashamed to say it has become very very difficult for me to get through a novel. The reason I started writing is because I love reading, so what does this mean? I shudder to think.

Historically, I have had a couple of emergency books I could go to when the non-reading got really bad. Books I know I love and that inspire me. But — I don’t know. My reading ennui is turning into one of those antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Sometimes, even the books I love can’t keep me interested. Which is why, when I started today to reread The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor (by John Barth), I was relieved. Because this book is amazing, and inspiring, and I’m getting to enjoy it again… I may be a little more jaded this time, but I’m going to think of it as an ability to read with a slightly different perspective. I love this book. You should read it. And, now that I’m back on the reading wagon, I want to know what you (if there are any yous out there anymore) reread when you need inspiration. I need more books to add to this pitifully short list.

Coming down the pipeline

Both metaphoric and… hyperbolic?

First, metaphoric: lots of things have been going on. The biggest (and most nerve-wracking) being a new job that I’m starting a week from today. No more dildo-slinging for me, unfortunately, though once a dildo-slinger, always a dildo-slinger, I think.  I hope to still be a presence at the store in some capacity, but we’ll have to see how the new schedule works out. More on that soon. I’m also working on several projects; none of them finished.

Basically, I’m trying to justify these months of not blogging. Particularly since it was one of my New Years Resolutions. Why is this so hard for me?

Second: Hyperbolic. For your entertainment, a conversation I overheard at the coffee shop today:

A lady is talking to her friend about how dolphins are higher beings and how after the BP oil spill they committed suicide on purpose (porpoise? ba dum bum), washing up on shore to make a point to humans that we’re too attached to oil.

The other lady says: “You’ve never heard of that?”

First lady says: “I’ve heard of it, just never thought of it like that. Maybe I was just unawakened or unenlightened that it never appeared to me that way.”

Dolphins as martyrs to teach humans a lesson about energy consumption? Discuss.

Adventures in gluten-free breadmaking

When it came to light that I am allergic to approximately all delicious foods, I figured I might as well cut my losses and just be done with bread for good. I mean, you can get gluten-free bread at the supermarket, but I hesitate to even call it bread. The “loaves” are about the size of my fist, about as heavy as my head, and cost about ten dollars. It’s okay, I thought. I can handle it. I like eating meat and vegetables… FOREVER.

I perked up a little at the discovery of frozen gluten-free waffles, which can, in a pinch, substitute for bread… quite deliciously in fact.

But then, glory of glories, I learned of a magical breadmaker that has a dedicated gluten-free setting. What does this mean, you ask? Well, to be honest I’m not 100% sure. But I think it has to do with a) the fact that you have to mix and knead the shit out of gluten-free breads to make them even moderately elastic and bread-like, which is something that regular breadmakers don’t do. b) the paddle has to be really sturdy to support those super-dense gluten-free flours without cracking. c) there’s maybe one less rising cycle? Gluten-free baking is a finicky art. Some things work out really well (ie my now-famous gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free bacon chocolate chip cookies) and other things are total failures.

Then for my birthday this year, some of my friends, no doubt tired of listening to me complain, chipped in to buy it for me! So far, I’ve made 4 loaves of bread with my magic breadmaker. The first one was mediocre because I got too impatient and didn’t wait for all the ingredients to become room temperature. The second one was transcendent. It had the taste and consistency of real bread. I used it for a SANDWICH. I don’t know if you realize how amazing that is. The third loaf was a total flop because again, I got impatient and didn’t use the right ingredients. However! I did use the bread-like product to make croutons. The fourth loaf was good. Not great, but good.

But the point is, even GOOD bread is a revelation to me. I can dip it in things! I can put things on it! Toast! This breadmaker is amazing. I’ve only used the GF setting, but it has several regular bread settings, as well as a “dough” setting for if you want to mix and rise dough but then cook it in the oven (for, say, rolls or bagels), it has a “pasta” setting for, I can only assume, making pasta. AND it has a “jam/jelly” setting for making jelly. I find this last setting a little inscrutable, but I trust my Breadman implicitly. I know he wouldn’t let me down, not even for jelly.

I may not be able to blithely toss bags of bread into my shopping cart like the rest of you, but now I can make delicious alchemy out of sorghum, teff, and a whole bunch of other weird grains you’ve never even heard of!

Happy Valentine’s Day

In honor of this most milquetoast of imaginary holidays, I give you my celebratory feast:

Gluten-free vegan red velvet cookies with vegan cream cheese icing. Roughly pilfered from this recipe.

Pan-fried chicken hearts with a side of golf sauce.

Feels good to eat the heart of another animal and wash it down with a crapload of sugar. Mmm. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Garden State

I’m a little bit slow here –  just watched Garden State last night. But I have some questions. Or, really, one question.

I found this movie barely watchable. The dialogue was irritating to me… almost on par with Juno, it had a strange combination of melodrama and cutesy aloofness, as well as one of the movie tropes that I find most aggravating. I don’t remember the conversation about the movie when it came out, so can someone tell me what I missed? What does everyone like about it?

As it is right now, I’m thinking I might have been better off watching the Superbowl. Is that one word?

Advice and the giving of it

I’ve been writing a novel for almost three months now, so I think it’s safe to say that I’m an expert at novel writing. In other words — you can pretty much take my words as the gold standard on this particular endeavor and success, women, and riches will inevitably be showered upon your person.

Wouldn’t that be nice to hear? I’d love some definitive advice on novel writing. But it isn’t to be. Each novel, they say, is different. Each writer is different. Each writer is different while writing each different novel. How irritating is that? So I found when I turned to Twitter for advice on whether or not to start editing my novel from the beginning before finishing the first draft.  The resounding answer? Yes! And also: No!

What’s a girl to do? I decided to do both. When I feel inspired to write new stuff, I plow ahead in the rough draft. I’m not much of an outliner, not yet anyway, so I usually set my sights on a distant plot point and try to swim steadily toward it. When I’m feeling more analytical, I take a look at my first chapter, ripping it up, writing new stuff, taking notes, thinking about character. And you know, this method has been working really well for me. It satisfies both my need to create new stuff and to feel like I’m making progress toward a story that actually makes sense and that I wouldn’t be upset about the world seeing if I got run over by a bus.

I’ve also been steering clear of buses, just in case.

But of course, if there’s any advice to be given about writing, it’s that no one way works for everybody. And I’m always open to new ideas… so does anyone have new ideas to share? What writing/editing combo works for you in shorts or long stuff? How much has the advice of others worked for you?

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