Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer Recap

It's been a long while since I've stopped by to blog.

Just so you know, I haven't had coffee in over a week. Why, you ask? Well, because I've had a cold and when I'm sick, coffee is, weirdly, the last thing in the world I want. So I've been countering it off with lemon tea and orange spice tea, which makes me think of my favourite season that is on its way.

(Enjoying my new Audrey mug.)

As for my coffee abstinence, I don't know how long this will last. I don't know if I'm more anxious or tired, or restless.
Anyhoo, summer is winding down, but it's not finished. I recently wrote a piece about Modern Art and St. Louis' Kodner Gallery...
...and also interviewed local Haiku poet Ben Moeller-Gaa. I'm also working on a new story that may be just a short but might turn into a novella. I don't think I have enough to do. 

Stay tuned also for a new writing venue I will be contributing to!

Meanwhile, I've been enjoying little things, like walks and cafes...

...finding bodies of water...

...and running into Tiger-dogs at the Festival of the Little Hills.

So do you, my unstable readers/writers, find yourselves cleaning up more than your home as summer winds down? As you start to put away the pool floaties and swimming trunks and pull out the cornucopias and Halloween cats, do you find yourself sweeping up those old projects and starting something fresh?

I love the beginning of a new season. I feel more energized, like when I used to pull out brand new school supplies from a brand new backpack without any pencil smears or the smell of packed lunches.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

'Having Lots of Loves', or, 'Springtime for Duckies'

This warm spring is propelling us straight into a very, very warm summer. I've already welcomed it with a bomb-pop and some BBQ (in the oven, not on the grill...yet).

Cutting through Forest Park almost every day for one reason or another lets me watch the people run and sunbathe by the zoo, and Shakespeare in the Park will be starting in a matter of days.

Spring has consisted of relaxing little times, like hanging out at McGurks with local poet Ben Moeller-Gaa, discussing his interview I will publish soon...

Or maybe hanging out in the evening under a tree where no one could find me.

Noticing little things about this city I never have before...

Or doing a bit of caching. Do you see it?

How about now?

I was musing today, my unstable readers, about how people label those of us who have multiple jobs and interests as "unfocused." 

I used to think, 'We're just curious about many things and have many passions.' But I've just realized something important. We are NOT unfocused. You CANNOT hold down multiple jobs and interests and BE unfocused. Our heads are spinning a million miles an hour, and yet we get it all done. The amount of focus we must possess is imperative to our personal and financial successes. Not to mention, it makes us a heck of a lot of fun to be around.

Now, I guess I should be fair to those to say we do too much, the ones who tell us we should concentrate on one thing to ensure a goal. We must target our drives and energies into one objective. To this I say, "I understand how you can be confused and concerned. Now pardon me while I finish this short story in time for my dance class."

I don't know why, if you do many things or have many, very different achievements on your resume, you are labeled as wishy-washy or childish. Now, I agree that you should pick something and do it well, as working hard on one thing can produce a bigger result than concentrating on a bunch of different things. But is it fair to call it 'unfocused?' Do hiring companies and employers regard a candidate and not choose them because they have "too much going on?" When did this become such a negative thing?

Courtesy of the Internets (and Reel Obsession), I bring you eight multi-talented celebrities ('cause a list has to have financially successful people, for 'eight multi-talented non-famous people' doesn't hold the same level of awe).

Now just to make sure there's no question about my "lack of focus," here are some ducks for you to enjoy:


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Another Series of Events

How goes it, my young or old, lovely or creepy, and yet arguably unstable readers/writers? If you live anywhere near me, you must be enjoying this weather, but beware: it can be unstable. Just like us. We seem to have dodged hail-month, which other states call the month of April.

Many of my jobs are so close to Forest Park, and for the last few days I have found myself taking the long way home by using the snake-roads through the woods and trees and golfing greens.

 And since the weather is wonderful, I've taken in a few minutes for a Geocache:

 And my adventures may or may not have been filled with corny 90's playlists:

I had a nice Easter. I also had an epiphany regarding my short-story/submitting-to-journals-journey I shall tell you about later.

The evening before Easter, I had the opportunity to hang out with Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. Okay, I listened to him speak at an event. A secret one. No, just kidding. But in my mind we DID hang out, and it was secret, and I was a part of a secret hanging-out club full of brilliant writers with a secret handshake and campfire songs.

It was the Family Read Night at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters, and it included a snippet of his new book 'File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents.'

It is very difficult to explain the brilliance that is disguised as stream of consciousness that Mr. Handler dishes out to adults and kids alike. He speaks to them as readers, but I was there listening as a writer. Especially when he spoke about curiosity and how important it is (and lacking it can be) in storytelling. 

"I am always curious when something happens," he said. "That's why literature is good, good literature, anyway, because we are curious when something happens. The world has always been a mysterious place to me, a place that’s foggy and suspicious as my hometown in San Francisco, and when I’m in my hometown and when I’m away I find myself asking all the wrong questions in the grips of some kind of series of some kind of events."

"The world which we seem to be in is one full of catastrophe and strife. It is full of other things, too, but catastrophe and strife have always seemed to me the most interesting parts."

"I loved literature," he went on, speaking of his relationship with books. "I also hated it. You never love a book the way you love a book when you were ten, and also you never hate a book the way you hate a book when you were ten. And nowadays I read a lot of books I don’t like, I just don’t throw them across the room…as much."

"These stories enraged me, because they took something interesting like catastrophe and strife, and then forced the ridiculous and boring and moralizing life lessons onto the catastrophe and strife like a pair of last year’s pants onto the legs of a young man packed off to see the Nutcracker for the umpteenth time. It wasn’t that the books didn’t mimic life. They didn’t mimic the way life went."

"Mr. Snicket is a member of a secret organization," he explained, of those who love literature and the arts, and that this organization raised him and nurtured him, "although like most people who raise us and nurture us, they also drive you crazy...and drive you away." 

He went on to explain that he has a basement packed with boxes, packed with letters, from children packed with questions, and the question they ask most is, 'Is it real? Is there actually a secret organization of literature?'

"And I say 'yes,'" Mr. Handler says. "And you are in it. We believe in aristocracy, we in the secret organization, not the aristocracy of power, but an aristocracy of the sensitive and the considerate and the plucky, members are to be found in all nations and all classes, all towns...there’s a secret understanding between all of us when we meet. We meet in libraries and bookshops, we meet on park benches and classrooms. We represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory over our race and cruelty and chaos."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I have been out walking...

Not really, but I feel like it. I also must start raking all the leaves and gumballs out of my yard, which is usually a two-day job.

I also feel like filling rooms up with white sheets and white comforters, and polishing hard-wood floors. Spring does that to me. I want to clean and purge and make donation trips to Goodwill without having anxiety.

I also scored a copy of Ben Moeller-Gaa's new Haiku chapbook!

Signed, too. Stay tuned for another interview. 

So, these days I sit and worry when I'm not working at my jobs. But I have JUST "picked up" (see: opened document) my work-in-progress (yes, THAT old novel I'm still editing). It is strange that we're not supposed to neglect our projects, but when I give it room to breathe, so the words aren't so familiar and stagnant I really feel that disconnect makes me like what I've written. No, it makes me WANT to work on it enough that it is very possible I just might like it. That possibility. I don't know if the rest of you struggle with fickle thoughts and a love/hate relationship with your own words. 

These days I just want to purge out all the cobwebs and old stuff: old words, old scenes, old thoughts, and make them fresh. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What I Need to Learn About Discouragement

It has been awhile, my unstable readers. How goes it?

First up, I'd be lying if I told you I was writing every dang day and carefully submitting carefully edited pieces to highbrow mags, carefully. Instead, I'll be truthful and admit it: I'm getting rejections and I'm not writing diddly-squat.

This is a time of year when the past one is always riding along on my coattails. In the aftermath of 2013, an obstinate and yet uneventful year, it is holding on fast and I am now trying to shake it off. While I don't suffer from any kind of mania, I am starting to get my footing back.

So get this: last night I'm sifting through my Word docs and I open up one I first drafted back in 2009. And guess what? I actually think some of it is good. Kinda funny. Of course, there were darlings galore, and plenty of adverbs, but I remember this one being my very very first novel, EVER. I remember working SO hard on it, taking my laptop with me to every cafe under the sun, and the music playlist I assigned to it. I know, right?

I also realized I write very differently now. What happened? Is this a good thing? Am I still being true to my "voice?" Sure, we ALL make changes to our art, but does this old novel belong in my life now? I don't know. If you have advice for me, hit me up.

This also makes me unsure of where I am as a writer now. Especially when I know I have a good idea, but when I put it to screen, it ends up feeling contrived. Boring. Flat. Stupid. The one I'm working on and editing right now, especially. And let's be honest here: another writer could do the idea justice, not ME. I have more than once felt that I just may be too dumb to write this novel well. 

What do you do, unstable readers, when you have too much on your plate? Or more specifically, when you have a lot of writings and you don't know which one is WORTHY of your TIME and effort? And then you groan and turn on TCM, because it is easier to watch Doris Day and Rock Hudson battle wits than to let your works-in-progress suck out your ever-loving soul? They are like children pulling at your shirt, morphing it into a rag.

On that note, I've interviewed Ms. Dawn Leslie Lenz on this very topic: women in creative fields and how they make it happen, day after day, their energy and focus, their passion and drive.

Happy spring, everyone!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What I Learned About Editing the First Draft

So, have you ever been involved in a project? I'm sure you have. And you know how you try to figure out how to make the thing work, connect the wires to other wires sticking out of the creation, because if you just jab them into places they don't fit, it might look okay from the outside, but when you switch it on, it will catch on fire and burn up, sending the structure into a pile of rubble?

It is SO easy to do that. It is SO SIMPLE to think 'eh, this doesn't make sense, doesn't really add up, but who cares, my audience isn't going to care, or notice, and if they do, well, they'll come up with their own conclu--

Wait and back the frick up. They DO notice, they DO care, and if you pull a fast one (aka LAZY WRITING, CODE RED!), they won't want to read your awesome stuff anymore.

Don't be lazy. You have a problem in your story? Stuff that doesn't hold up? Figure it out.

I've been trying to figure out story points in this new novel, its climax and conclusion, what it all MEANS, how the characters comes together. I have been viciously cutting scenes and words, but I've also been doing some quiet pondering about what is really going on in this little world I created. There are SO many paths I can take, and many of them have been taken by SO many other storytellers. I want to be true to my intentions, but I also want to twist that lime so hard, my story bursts at the seams.

If anything has come out of this month's worth of editing, I can honestly say that I recognize the determination and dedication that goes into editing. It is a completely different process than getting out the first draft. The hardest part for me is TRUSTING myself to make good decisions about the story, and make those changes. No mercy.

Also, while you are editing, your mind is going to be on your story more than ever. When I'm doing my first draft, I try not to think about where it's going to go when I'm not writing at the moment to keep from over-analyzing it. Now, when the bones are laid out, I can sit back and figure out why this or that isn't working so well, or if I need to up the amps in the chase scene; how can I make the audience's collective stomach churn even more? And those holes I thought wouldn't be noticeable? Yeah. It is SO much cooler when you know how to fill them. There is a time and a place to be vague, and lazy writing is NOT the equivalent of clever ambiguity.

As you read over your draft, if you have an ounce of a story-telling ability, you will know when something sounds weird. And it is EASY to shrug and look away, to the next word, next sentence, pretending it's not there and all is well with the world. STOP. Go back. Read it again and enjoy that cringe. You might have to rewrite it. You might have to get rid of the entire thing. But trust that instinct, that little red flag that goes up. Guess what that little red flag is?

It is your aptitude rearing its glorious head.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I Learned About Fear (And It's Not What You Think).

This post is about fear. Now, I know what you're thinking. You believe I'm going to be all no fear sista, gonna fight it, crush it, success, we are power, believe in yourself!

But I'm not. Yes, fear can be paralyzing. Fear can box you into a comfort zone and only let you write for yourself, for fear of anyone's opinions, criticisms. Fear is the only thing keeping you down in that pit of hopelessness. Now, go turn on some Sheryl Crow and bust that fear in its you-know-what and embrace confidence! Courage!

And yet...maybe a little bit of fear is not such a bad thing. Let me explain.

Say you're in the middle of a creative project. And say you have a million ideas for this project and every single one of those ideas come out perfectly. You wake up early each morning with confidence to carry them out, and even with slight obstacles, you still know how to deal and get your project going. You anticipate problems and solve them. You know exactly where you're going because you don't let fear get in your way. Even if something doesn't go as planned, oh well. You don't show it, and you certainly don't admit it. You can handle a little wrinkle in your bravery.

Maybe your project turns out just as you expected. But let's pretend for a minute something goes wrong. Maybe your plans fall flat. What you thought was a super-awesome idea, now, looking at It's kinda stupid. Horrible, actually. Suddenly, your courage goes out the window and you have to make a choice.

There are a few ways you can go. You can quit, because your plans, your confidence, your WAY of doing things that always worked out before is dead and buried.

Or maybe your idea isn't horrible; it's You go ahead with your project because you know it'll work out. You summon up your confidence, because fear doesn't belong here, honey.

Now here's the oxymoron. Sure, fear is a bully. But...maybe, just maybe, that FEAR you FEARED so much MIGHT just force you to take a path, a RISK you had no intention of making, because, plan or no plan, you gotta carry that project through.

I now believe fear can force you to excellence. Being out there on the tightrope can be the best path in creative freedom. That's why I feel the brilliant ones who started out with a plan that soon fell through, and had to create a mansion out of toothpicks, created the best magic out there simply because they first panicked, had a torrent of sweaty nightmares, and finally admitted, What in the HELL am I gonna do now? This isn't WORKING.

Some people give up when they get to that point. Because, well, they learned fear must be avoided, so they resort back to what they KNOW works, what they are confident in to succeed. Or they ignored the fear and the paths it offered.

The ones who ALLOW fear to bring out something inside of themselves that can never come out otherwise, go on to break down walls with their insecurity, their shaking hands, and their nervous stomachs. Because in the deepest corners of their souls, they know something special and extraordinary will come from standing in the eye of the storm of sheer terror.

And now for your viewing pleasure, the video that gave me this a-ha! revelation. Steve starts talking about taking risks and drawing inspiration from fear at 12:25, but the whole thing is worth watching.