Sunday, September 11, 2011

Can You Believe It

I AM SHOCKED at a recent finding at my front door.  Do you remember a past post discussing the evil world of book theft and the untrustworthy postal system?  Well it appears that my posting while still pertinent to many around the globe does not actually pertain to me.  Take a gander below:

This is what was at my door.  And for all those not able to see the fine detail, allow me to share with you my own up close inspection.  Those dark spots at the top under the packing tape are dead bugs.  Yes DEAD BUGS TRAPPED IN TAPE.  The whole package is covered in dirt and the bottom right corner has seemingly buckled under what I can only image to be a lonely, dirty, and unfavorable voyage from the bookseller's shelve to my door.  If you haven't concluded it already, let me tell you this is my SUSPECTED stolen book finally delivered 3 to 4 months after the fact.  Now I have two copies of this fabulous book and a moral  complex if I should apologize to the suspected (now imaginary) book thief I lectured several post ago.

It appears to me now with the "red herring" in hand that my package was not carried off my any opportunistic book enthusiast, but rather delivered to the front apartments of my building rather than the rear.  And I remind you I DID put signs up around the building and I DID go check the front foyer with no success.  It is my suspicions now that the package was perhaps inside the front door inside the foyer that gives dwellers access to the stairs to the upper apartments.  This door would have been closed upon my previous inspection and thus why I had no success in my investigations.  It is also possible still that there is a book enthusiast in my building that held on to the package but did nothing with it out of guilt for these many months and when the moral dilemma became too much for them they returned it to its rightful door mat.  Either way, I am just glad it finally arrived.  Because I have two copies now I can gift one of them to someone.  Although this was not my original intent I do love gifting books to people. I already have a few in mind so if you're birthday is coming up soon watch out for it or I might wait until Christmas if I need the perfect gift for someone who has everything or is just plain hard to shop for.

Chat soon!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Buried in W.Burroughs' "The Naked Lunch"

The first time I heard of William Burroughs was in college.  A girlfriend mentioned his name and book ("Junkie") in passing along with Jame Frye's "A Million Pieces."  I read "A Million Pieces."

Sidenote: I still loved that book despite what Oprah's says.

Back on Track: Burroughs still stayed in my mind as a must read author.  Of course, this does not mean I went out and bought any of his books right away.  College was a long time ago for me.  Sigh, nostalgic glance/stare at nothing specific, float back to reality.  At home one day, I was looking for a good reason to buy more books and I turned on a documentary on William Burroughs, a Netflix instant watch selection.  I only watched about a third of it because I really should have been doing other things for work - the work that pays me.  But in that thirty minutes I actually saw the man, heard him speak, and began to get the idea of his attitude.  I knew he did lots of drugs and liked to drink - a lot.  But I didn't know much more than that.  Those thirty minutes talked about his attitude toward sexuality and what he thought about himself being called "revolutionary."  He didn't seem to make a big deal out of it.  He was just being himself or that's how I took his attitude.  He wasn't one to speak out unnecessarily about himself or opinions.  Yet, he didn't seem to pass over the questions asked of him.

I also learned in the brief time I watched the film that "The Naked Lunch" was among his early novels.  I think the film said it may have been one of the first novels he started to write but not necessarily published first.  Having a thing for first books lately (read previous post) I bought it.  It just so happened one of my writer date friends had the book too.  So we decided to read it together and gave ourselves two weeks.  As I normally do I began the book on my train commute to work.  It took me just the first page to realize I'd gotten myself into something sick, deep, and truly beyond my norm. Two weeks was not going to be enough, I knew that right away.  And luckily, my girlfriend agreed.  We agreed to postpone our reading schedule to focus on other projects.  Because I have uncontrollable type A tendencies I kept reading the book.  I figured it was going to be one of those books you have to read over many times before you even break into understanding it.  If my own intuition wasn't enough the guy at the DMV warned I'd gotten myself into something deep, sick, and best to read many times over.

I'm not sure how to read this book.  Earlier in the summer I read a book that made me uncomfortable, but not like this book.  It's not a straight narrative, I think its a pschological narrative, if that makes sense.  Its been just over four weeks and I still am not at 100 pages of this 200 page book.  Now there are lots of plain ole busy life reasons I have not gotten far in the book.  However, to be honest I don't think they are the culprit this time around.  It bothers me I have to work so hard to try and keep my head above water when reading this book.  I find myself just pushing through the pages as fast as I can because I already know I have to reread it.

I'd like to hear other peoples opinions and advice about reading Burroughs or other novels/authors they found difficult to keep up with.  I know some people don't even keep going if they aren't into the book or author.  I can understand that, but I would at least like to get through one whole book of Burrough before writing him off as "not my kind of author."

Wish me luck, I'm going to need it.  This is certainly a book I will be reading the notes and extras at the back and wish I could have read in a class with a teacher or expert helping me along the way.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Growing With Your Favorites

I recently finished "Lying Days" by Nadine Gordimer.  For those just tuning in she is my favorite author.  About a year and half ago I thought I managed to read all her novels and felt pretty accomplished as a fan.  But upon acquiring a critical work of hers that listed all her titles I was delighted and surprised that there was almost more than a handful of her novels I had only not read, but did not even know about.  These turned out to be her earlier works, the titles you won't find in most bookstores and have to search for online.  I asked and got many of these titles for Christmas that year.  "Lying Days," was among my gifts and what thrilled me even more about receiving this title was that it was her first novel.  Having it in my possession felt inspiring and like finding a "golden ticket" in a Wonka bar.

When I sat down to read the book I soon felt deflated.  It usually takes me about five pages to really lock into one of Gordimer's novels.  Her writing has an air of assumption that is not always easy to slide into.  Her first lines typically volt the reader right into the story, a character, or setting.  It takes reading through a few pages to acclimate oneself into that world and learn the subtle cues in her writing that add depth to her story.  I was shocked upon beginning the "Lying Days" to discover how bored I was as a reader.  There was significant time and attention spent on describing an opening scene.  Rather than an insightful description of place the writing came off indulgent and wordy.  It was a sharp contrast to her later novels that tend to be shorter with more concise language.

I tried to begin reading the novel at least four different times, never getting past the first twelve pages.  I had many other distractions at the time, one including my thesis so that may have contributed to my lack of devotion.  About a year or more later I decided to revisit the novel again and felt better about sliding into the story.  Those first twelve pages finally seemed to be filled with some riches upon reading them the fifth time.  I was still bored in some places, but I was letting myself really read the book instead of just trying to absorb the book.  This may only make sense to dedicated readers, but sometimes when one sits down with a book they are just absorbing it or trying to get through it without even knowing it.  This is also another reason many people advocate for re-reading books.  So that one can go back and see the things that they may have missed or overlooked without knowing it. 

I managed to finish the book between reading it to and from work and at night when I allotted the time.  It's not one of my favorites of her, BUT I found it very insightful to her as an author.  Gordimer's novels tend to focus on the lives of people in South Africa living during political turmoil.  Her stories focus entirely on the character and not so much the political atmosphere, yet, it makes the reader feel the important struggles and choices people in that world had to make daily.

"Lying Days" on the other hand was more a coming of age story.  It focused on a girl becoming a woman and facing that pivotal point in her life in South Africa where she had to decide if she was the type of person to join the cause or live outside of it.  I liked the novel and the story as I could relate it to Gordimer herself.  I don't think it was any coincidence it was her first novel.  Everyone's first novel seems to tell something of themselves one way or another.  And reading about her life in an interview online also makes me believe it was an important story for her to write.  What was also different about this story compared to her other works is the uncertainty her lead female protagonist feels about herself.  Most of Gordimer's woman character (that I have read of) come off strong or at least at peace with themselves and who they are and the lives they live.  Helen, in "Lying Days," at first seems she is this way too, but is really fighting herself to be the woman she thinks she should be. 

Gordimer's writing stayed indulgent, wordy, and at time very lofty throughout the novel.  I think she could have cut some of her philosophical tangents and achieved the same affect she wanted in her story.  True, young character coming of age do tend to over analyze, but that's not what readers want to indulge in with them.  Readers rather indulge in the character's choices and consequences of their choices.  That is the juice that helps carry a reader through the story.

I'm glad I finally managed to put "Lying Days" on my read shelf.  It helps me see Gordimer's transformation and growth as a writer more clearly.  It gives me motivation to sludge through my first novel and the ambition to see past that novel and on to the next one.  I have several more of her early works to read still and hope I can break into them faster than I did "Lying Days."

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Big Birthday Post

I'm another year older and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.  Well, that's half true, I have too many things I want to be when I grow up, its silly.  Pictured above are some of my favorite gifts related to this blog my friends and family gave me.  Not pictured is the Barnes and Noble gift card I also received, but wasn't skilled enough to hold for the picture.  Excuse the shirt, you'll have to read the message backward because I'm not crafty enough to flip it around.

So far, I have spent my birthday being almost assaulted and spending more money on myself than intended.  That's typically for 20 somethings right?  I got up early and made myself cute to renew my driver's license.  Because I have not changed my address on my license since I graduated college (for two reasons I am lazy and one of my best friends still lives in that apartment) I did not receive my renewal reminder.  Luckily, my boyfriend got his the other day and it reminded me.  I had the day off work so it wasn't that big of an inconvenience.  Strolling into the municipal building, there was a woman ahead of me carrying several bags and wearing a...rather revealing outfit.  I hesitate to state it that way because if fitted properly I don't think the outfit would have normally been revealing.  But in any case, her shorts were a size too small or just too short to begin with and they rode extremely high up her backside.

There was a moment when I was trailing her into the building and trying not to notice the more than half exposed bottom of hers that I thought, "should I tell her that her shorts are riding up or is that impolite."  I decided it was impossible for the lady not to know the situation going on behind her and concluded perhaps, she didn't care.  So I carried on to the DMV.  She seemed to be going in the same direction and at one point I was making my way past her.  I glance briefly at her as happens when you past people walking or perhaps I looked out of sheer curiosity.  Either way I soon found I needed to throw up my arms in defense.

Maybe the woman was having a rough morning and didn't enjoy the attention of others (review wardrobe choices), or maybe she was having a bad hair day.  Either way when I was passing her she took the arm closest to me holding several bags and swung it towards me.  She then proceeded to yell at me and tell me I smell like alcohol and more obscenities.  In turn, I told her she was crazy (reflecting back now never tell a crazy person they are crazy, it promotes craziness).  I increased my walking speed and turned into the DMV glad to be rid of her.

Naturally, she was going to the DMV too.  She swaggered in, dumped her bags into an empty chair and moved to the back of the line directly behind me.  Like any seasoned city person I ignored her hoping her crazy wouldn't fare up again.  Wishful thinking.  I felt her lean in touch the back of my hair, and take in a good sniff.  When I turned around and told her not to touch me she started in again with the comments of me smelling like alcohol.  Now, while I admit I like a good glass of wine, I typically only drink after noon.  It was only 9:45am at this point so I had to refute her claims.  Luckily, I didn't have to stand in front of her too long before I was able to be called to a counter and complete what I had came there to do.

Not the way I planned on starting my morning.  But I made up for it with some retail therapy.  And although I had a gift card for the store I went to I still had to hand over more of my own cash than I intended to give up today.  Yet, when it's your birthday, its makes for a great excuse to indulge in the things that make you happy.

The rest of the day should go much better.  I plan on drinking the rest of my coffee out of my new mug/over sized teacup (see above pic), taking my pup to the dog beach, and dinner with some great friends tonight.  And right before bed I hope to pick out some books to spend my gift card on.  If you have any suggestions send them my way.

Thanks everyone for tuning into "Write Now" and making my birthday a day to remember. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Slow She Goes

Writing has been going slow.  Waking up in the A.M. is still very hard.  I admit some days I just can't do it.  I've now pushed the time back to 6:45 A.M. and thats just so I stay a nice person.  When I tried to get up any earlier too many days in a row, I felt like a person I didn't even know.  But the good news is, whether I'm getting up early or not, I am still trying to make time for the writing.  This of course is why its so slow.  I can only get snippets of time to do the writing before I'm off or distracted by anything else.  But it feels good to at least make these attempts.

BUT if I had to find something else to blame other than myself I'd pick the heat.  I love the heat Chicago has been having.  The downside, though, is my dog doesn't go for as long of walks, but we make sure to get him out as much as he can stand.  And even though the heat can be unbearable sometimes, it's preferable to the below zero weather Chicago can get in the winter.  But here is how the heat can work against (me at least) a writer.  You start typing.  You stop to think. Sweat drips down you arms and little sweat pools form on your computer where your wrists sit.  You get up to wipe yourself down, to get a cold drink, to switch locations.  Maybe you even turn on the air conditioning.  You cool down.  You sit back down.  You think about what you wanted to write.  You get distracted, maybe even sleepy.  Sitting on your couch cooled by the AC and beautiful weather out your window sleep seems natural.  You're content with yourself and the day, but the writing, the writing has to be done.  You will get it done right after your little siesta.  Then you pass out. 

In my defense, I drank a cup of coffee trying to fight sleep off, but it didn't work.  Next time, I'm going to get stronger coffee, move off my couch, and maybe take some speed.  Kidding! No after school warnings please.  Heat, I love you, but cut me some slack.  I appreciate not getting sunburn, yet, this summer season, but I would also appreciate a gentle breeze even now and then to keep me awake.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mothering and Writing

As most experiments, the first day results always seems to out do expectations then the remaining days never live up to the first.  On the days both girls napped I did better in terms of sitting down to write with the right attitude.  It would be the middle of the day, I would be slightly tired, but I'd rally and do the work.  On days only one of the girls napped it was much harder to make time during the day for writing.  For example, one day I decided instead of posting to my blog in the morning, I would try and get a paragraph or so in while they ate breakfast.  This didn't work very well because the older one took advantage of it by eating very slowly, playing with her food, and trying to hide the fruit her mother instructed she eat.  The younger one wanted attention and I was instructed to feed her her yogurt if I didn't want to clean it out of her hair and off the floor when breakfast was done.  I managed a few sentences that morning, but nothing worth bragging about.

The most valuable lesson I took away from watching the little ones is to try and do the writing before the kids go down for bed.  The day I tried writing after everyone was done for the day, I realized I was done for the day too.  I had no juice left in me to strung the chords of creativity in my brain.  Thus, that day no writing got done.  Well maybe part of a sentence, that counts right?  This helped reinforce my getting up early to write ambitions.  The pro writers, if that's what you'd call them, have the right idea.  Do your work first thing before the day gets tainted or bogged down with the happenings of life.  I've been home a few days now and haven't kept to my writing schedule because I'm being selfish and giving myself some days off.  But come tomorrow, I'll get back on that horse.

In other related news, I think I am going to get rid of my desk.  I love my desk because its old and has character, and a LARGE top surface for clutter to mingle on 24/7.  The problem is I rarely sit and write at my desk.  For example, I am writing on my laptop now at my high top table, looking at my desk.    It fits well in my apartment, but it would also clear up more space to walk around in the apartment if it wasn't here.  The functionality of the desk is low, based on my not using it, and I always want more space in my apartment.  So, is getting rid of it the right thing or should I hold on to it for ... for what purpose?   A writer needs a desk, right?   A space they can mark as their place of creation?  Maybe, maybe not.  I'm going to think it over some more, but I did just clean it out today.  I don't want to put it in the back alley it does deserve better than that.  Maybe I'll try and sell it or give it to one of my friends.  I'll keep you all posted.

Monday, July 11, 2011


The first day was good for me, the babies, and the writing.  We attended a baby date with one of my best friends from high school and my nieces were having so much fun they played right through nap time.  We got back home right about when they would have been getting up from nap time.  So I switched up the schedule a little on them and let them sleep for like an hour and half.  I don't know too many things about kids, but I know not to let them nap too long at the later end of the day or you'll be up all night.  I took that time to have my third cup of coffee and sit down with my writing.  It was very tempting to lay down with the ladies, but I wanted to make an honest attempt at fitting in my writing while "mothering."  My word count was better than my early morning sessions, 384.  I probably could have written for a bit longer than I did, but this is where the balancing act comes in.  If I wrote longer and I'd pay for it by being up all night.  So instead I chose to be satisfied with the timeI had to write and kept the babies close to their usual schedule.  I don't think I have to remind you all of my feelings about sleep, being up all night with energized babies might break me at this point in my life.  So I chose to keep a good balance of my competing priorities.

It all turned out in my favor.  I got as much sleep as I could hope for and my nieces aren't cranky or whiny.  I'm finding time to blog in the am with plans to work on my novel in the late afternoon.  Let's hope I keep it up today.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Blast into the Future

So, because I'm the "coolest mimi (aunt) ever,"as my niece told me yesterday, I'm babysitting her and her sister for four days.  My sister and her husband are going on a long over due vacation together and I get to be "mom" to their one and three-year-old.  I've done this in the past but not with both of them or for as long.  I told her "no worries, I just wing it."  Just in case though she wrote me out several pages of detailed instructions that I am hanging on the refrigerator for quick reference.

Me and the girls get along pretty well and I think things will go more smoothly than anybody may originally think.  Of course I'll let you know how I really feel in four days.  But during this time I would like to "play the role of mom" as I might really play it with my own children.  Amid all the nap times, play times, and eating times, my sister didn't schedule in my writing time.  Being single without kids I already find it hard most the time to fit in my writing.  Add two kids and it might feel like I should just give up, right?  I  admit in the past when I have watched my nieces and tried writing a paper or just reading a book it didn't go so well.  When I finally got the free time I often used it to nap.  But I like to think I have matured since then.  So how do you write when you also have two kids to chase around?  I don't know, but my guess is to always have your laptop out and bang away at it every chance you get.  This will take some training to being able to insert myself back into my characters and story at a rapid speed.  If I can accomplish that I might have an all-star quality on my side as a writer.  However, if I cant...well that is what editing if for.

Ironically, I was reading a story in Alice Munro's Selected Stories on the flight here that commented on mothers.  The story was "Miles City, Montana" and the main character is going on a road trip with her two kids and husband.  She is reflecting on herself as a mother and the type of mother she is and wants to be.  She says,

"I had dread of turning into a certain kind of mother - the kind whose body sagged, who moved in a  woolly-smelling, milky-smelling fog, solemn with trivial burdens.  I believed that all the attention these mothers paid, their need to be burdened, was the cause of colic, bed-wetting, asthma.  I favored another approach - the mock desperation, the inflated irony of the professional mothers who wrote for magazines.  In those magazine pieces, the children were splendidly self-willed, hard-edged, perverse, indomitable.  So were the mothers, through their wit, indomitable" (p380).

My sister is a great mother.  She takes the time to develop her children's interest and teach them things before they may even need to know them.  Mainly, she devotes, a lot, of her time to her kids.  I see many great mothers do this and in my single, selfish state of mind I think - I don't want to watch cartoons all day or repeat the same trick 100 times in twenty minutes.  And because I think this I don't know how I'll be as a mother.  Instead of worrying too much, I think will I worry enough?  Or will I be one of those crazy artsy moms who scream out in desperation - Mommy needs to work now go play somewhere else.  I know I don't want to turn into a mother "whose body sagged, who moved in a woolly-smelling, milky smelling fog." I don't think any woman really wants that to happen.  Watching my nieces is a great trial run and lets me know that not all my worse fears will come true about myself.  Having my own kids is nowhere in the near future, but I want to know that when I do that I will still have time for my writing.  I know most mothers must deal with this in their own ways trying to  stay involved in their own interest as their children require more and more of their time.

So, here I am day one alone with the kids and writing over breakfast and morning cartoons.  We'd be done by now and playing outside but my three-year-old niece is trying to whine her way out of eating her banana.  And although this may be the only time I write today I know at least I took the time to devote some minutes of the day to the process.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hanging In There

It's been a week and I have been lazy about posting.  I think about it, does that count?  I took the holiday to rest despite my big plans to write like mad over it.  I got out of the city which was something I really needed.  I would like a private lake cabin to retreat to every weekend of the summer to replenish my mind.  Retreating to one is also a great way to get some solid reading done.  That is what I did over my holiday weekend instead of writing. 

Small confession,  I mentioned in an earlier post that I discovered I do not write like Alice Munro as much as I previously thought.  This is still true, but also, when I wrote that I had a small feeling that I didn't even like Munro as much as I previously thought.  I don't think I shared that because it felt like slightly admitting a previous teacher of mine had been right about her.  NO WORRIES, as it turns out reading through majority of her Selected Stories I feel like a mind f**k has been done to me.  The stories are arranged in the order that she wrote them and I feel perhaps that why I had those earlier feelings.  As I get further in the stories and toward the end I really find myself twisted into some of the character's lives.  Tricky of you Alice, tricky.  That is not to say I love all the stories only that I developed more of an emotional response to this author than I originally thought I would.

About my EARLY MORNING WRITING, I'm still doing it.  It's not as consistent as I would like but it's getting done.  I've officially vetoed getting up at 6am until I get used to getting up at 6:30.  That little half hour makes a huge mood difference for me.  Best feeling ever though is when I do manage to get up right away and get a solid word count in before work.  I know if I keep with it it will become second nature, but geez this beginning period is rocky.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ordered, shipped, and RECEIVED!

My books cames in yesterday.  I was a happy receipant of two used books ordered online.  Now I feel pressured to finish Alice Munro's short story collection so I can crack open my new books.  This holiday weekend is going to be books books galore!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It Continues...

If you took bets I called it quits after one week - pay up! Last Thursday was the most difficult to get through. I wrote the least amount of words (171), BUT I found something interesting, and important, out about one of my characters. This was huge because as much as I thought I knew what my novel was about I didn't know many specifics about my characters. Well now I know one of them has dropped out of college. That's potentially good stuff, right? Lots of examples to chase after and cause and effect scenarios to arise later.

I took a break from writing on the weekend. The sleep experiment made me more than moody by Friday and I already had a jam packed schedule ahead of me for the rest of the weekend.  Monday, I would have liked to sat down and added to the word count, but I took the day to recover from my weekend and pay special attention to my pup.  He is sick.  This morning, though, no excuse was acceptable and I was up and typing.  Another secret reason I avoided writing over the weekend and Monday - I didn't know what to write next.  This morning felt tough and each word and sentence was fragmented writing but I squeezed out 228 words.  I'm proud of that for now.  No onward with the day and the vet I go. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day Two - Change Up

295 words today. I had to check that count three times just now because I kept forgetting as I tried to login to my blog. Good indication at how my body is taking the VERY slight change in sleeping pattern. I couldn't get up when my alarm went off today. I got up to use the restroom in the middle of the night and could not fall back asleep for awhile. Its funny how that can happen and not so funny when it puts you on your arse when the alarm goes off.

I didnt give up (completely) though. I fought the sandman! And I eventually won --> fast forward to a half hour after my initial alarm and I got up. I still had the time to give myself an hour to write but I only took about 40 minutes of it because my morning was already off. Instead, I took my dog for a walk - quite a treat for him. The pup is not sure about this whole mom getting up early thing. He likes to follow me to bed and usually gets up with dad, who gets up an hour later and takes care of him the entire morning. And on the days mom is still in bed (I only work part-time)and dad leaves, the pup makes sure to wake me up so I don't waste my morning getting more beauty sleep than dad. Long story short, the pup deserved the walk, my experiment is throwing off his morning too and he walks so nice when he's sleepy.

Story/Novel update: I have absolutely NO clue where this novel is going or what it wants to be. However, my 30 second sales pitch makes it sound earth-moving, life-changing, and marvelous. This morning I just switch into whatever scene I thought I could write and threw my type A personality and need for order out the window. This is something different for me and for now it is racking up the word count and forcing me to figure out my characters and their lives. These are all good things.

Here's crossing my fingers that tomorrow feels more like the first day and not more sluggish than today.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Finally An Explanation

What is a sleep deprivation experiment, you ask? Followed by, how could she tweet such a cliffhanger so early in the morning? Well let me explain...

Monday, I played catch up as most writers do after neglecting my writing and writer duties for a good few weeks. This included reading everything in my Google Reader. I struck gold. A past classmate and fellow writer was blogging about something writers always claim they do. And by writers, I mean the visiting writers that travel around the nation for "Reading Series" appearances on college campuses. At these events someone will always ask - "Could you talk about your writing process?" Nine times out of ten the writer will say they make time to get their writing done by getting up extra early to write before their day gets started. How simple, you think, how obvious, right? Then all the students leave thinking to themselves that they will do this early writing technique too (or some students opt for the stay up all night alternative). I, too, thought this every time I left one of these events, BUT I never actually did it.

Well, perhaps it's because it's a person I actually know and admire, but reading her blog the other day really jump started my motivation. So I set my alarm an hour before I usually get up and went to bed at a decent time. When my alarm went off, I mulled over my options (as is always the case when I say I'm going to get up early for anything). And I'll even admit I was going to let myself go back to sleep, I even tried to get back into a slumber. Yet, my guilt, I think, kept my mind clicking at a fast pace and sleep was no longer an option. So I got up and opened up the laptop and began pounding away on the keyboard. I decided to work on my novel project since that was the project I was avoiding the most. I started about 10 minutes after I planned too and I allowed myself distractions because complete focus that early is not normal for me. I wrote, I checked my email, I wrote, I checked facebook, I wrote, I took the dog out, I fed the dog, and I wrote some more.

It was about five minutes from when I told myself I'd call it quits and I thought I'd just stop anyways. I mean how much more could I write. I had 281 words, I was still stuck in the same scene (the first scene) and I had no idea where it was going or what was coming next. Guilt got a hold of me again. I could not quit early. Quitting early defeated the entire point of getting up early to dedicate time to writing. (Maybe I'll save "quitting early" for a time when the experiment becomes more of a habit) So I stuck the five minutes out and ended with 356 words. I was not blown away by the word count. However, put in perspective...I strive to write 500 words a day (I hardly do but that is my long-term goal). If I would have quit early I would have only been just over half way there. By sticking the five minutes out, instead, I was more like two-thirds of the way to my goal. And if I didn't get up early at all I would still be at zero words today. From that perspective I feel pretty good about my writing today.

So why call it the sleep deprivation experiment and not something with writing in the title? Because the hard part about this experiment is not so much the writing as it is the giving up of extra sleep time. I confess I LOVE to sleep. Some people tell me I sleep or want to sleep more than anyone else they know. Eight hours is never enough for me. I prefer to get a solid nine or ten hours in if I can. When I don't, I can be moody and short-tempered. YIKES, right? Well, day one results are in and it was a long, long, long day. But a GOOD one! I was up and alert for a solid two-hours before I wanted to crawl back into bed. But I was close to a Dunkin Donuts to snag a coffee and bring me back to life. I worked a good eight hours, took the pup to the dog park for an hour, and even got in a run. Current status --> TIRED. The couch never looked so good. But the extra encouragement throughout the day from friends that knew right away what I was doing this morning makes me ready to start tomorrow the same way.

In other new, before I go, I ordered East of Eden again along with Joshua Henkin's Matrimony. He was one of my very first graduate professors and I should have read his book years ago. My bad, Josh. But better late than never, right? The books are being shipped to an non-disclosed address for the safety of all parties and objects involved. I want to help the world love literature and read books, but on my own terms. You got me?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Crime & Forgiveness

I am late posting this but I still feel as strong about it as I did a week or so ago. I ordered Steinbeck's East of Eden using a fantastic gift card given to me. I was anxiously awaiting its arrival and after waiting over two weeks and checking the mail at all hours of the day I finally called the store. They claimed the book had been delivered days before, so I called the post office. They seem nice enough to look into the issue for me despite their poor reviews but all they could tell me was it was probably stolen. I will not go as far as to include my list of suspects in this post BUT I will say I was extremely upset. I have already read the book and fell head over heels for it. And when my good friend mentioned that she was going to be reading it soon I jumped at the chance to escape into that world again and have someone to dish the "dets" with.

For awhile afterwards I did not think there was anyway to come back from this tragedy. (No I don't think I am being dramatic) I had my assumptions that someone took the book out of desperation hoping it was a biology book that they could sell for $$$$ lots of dollar bills. Then they opened the box only to be let down. But then I thought to myself, I hope whoever has my purchase actually opens it and their curiosity gets the better of them and they READ the book. And by reading it they become enthralled with literature and its magic. Then because they are sorry for their theft they remember my name so that one day while feeding their new appetite for books and reading they purchase my newly published novel as a gesture of apology for stealing my book (scene fads into darkness and sappy triumph songs plays in background). And that was how I got over my book thief.

In other news - I am way behind on my writing. No new novel additions - but a newly revised Charlie Hoot draft of Story One (it has no title yet, just the first story I wrote in my anticipated series). This morning - through some sinus congestion I will be working on getting a new draft of my "Charlie Flies" story. And despite my lack of writing (insert slap on the hand) I have been more than up to date on my reading. I am juggling three different books/journals right now Alice Munro's Selected Stories, Salt Hill's Issue 27, and Mark Bittman's Food Matters. What a selection, right? Most important thing learned about juggling these particular books --> I don't write as much like Munro as I once thought, nor do I want to. Not in a bad way either, I just know at this point in my writing that that is not the direction I see myself going. It is always great learning things about yourself.

Stay tuned in, more to come this summer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Today Was A Great Day

A few things about today:

-I started training for my new job at national non-for-profit. It was very intense. I love it.
- My first of two book orders arrived. (To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Lee Harper & Willful Creatures: Stories, by Aimee Bender)

I am one story short of finishing my recent short story collection (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, Ben Fountain). The collection is a must read. Fountain's prose transcends the reader right into the the war-stricken, tragedy-ridden, and tormented lives of characters and countries he writes about. I haven't cried, but have found myself cheering for some of the characters. As much as I love this collection, I'm glad I'm near the end because I want to crack the spines of my new books. Buying books is so much fun.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day One Results

The writing date was great. Lots more people have discovered our little cafe but it didn't ruin the mood too much. Except, there was the half hour or so when a two mothers brought their kids in to sit down while they chatted. I have nieces and I love kids but to be funny I told my friend, "What do they think this is McDonald's?" Ha, that makes me laugh a little only because my grandpa use to take me and all his other grandkids to McDonald's and lets us order whatever we wanted. Then he'd let us run around in the play structure. These kids, though, to their credit were pretty well behaved for the most part. The only incident that I was not fond of was when one of them tried to break into the bathroom when I was in it. The door was very flimsy and I thought me yelling "Excuse me, someone's in here," would be enough, but the little kid was persistent. Luckily, the door held and there were no embarrassing moments for me to recover from.

As I expected, I did not write as much as I wanted to on our date because we chatted a lot and bounced ideas around and sometimes just got distracted from what we came there to do. I don't mind this though, because the entire experience still adds to my life as a writer and because I miss some of that conversation in other parts of my life. So the writing date produced two friends catching up, discussing MFAs, the benefits of cross genre reading, and about 350 words into my first novel. The word count does not end there. I went home took my over energized pup for a walk (He almost made me cry in public because he doesn't always listen. If you see a woman being dragged down the street by a large puppy, good chance it might be me.) Then I came home and kept writing until my sinuses clouded my train of thought. In the end, I got about 100 more words out of myself for the day.

I put off posting my results until today because I wanted to see if I would do anymore work. I thought about it a lot but never sat down again. Not too bad. Typically, when I sit down to write something new, I am happy if I can reach 500 words for the day. That equals about one full page of words single spaced. It doesn't seem like a lot but if you factor in all the creative thinking and processing that goes behind it then it adds up.

Today, I plan to continue on the novel. More to come.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Page One, Chapter One?

All the graduation celebration is finally over. I had a party with friends and got the FINAL notice that the graduate office posted a "PASS" grade in my account. School is really over, for now. I've already thought about a PhD program, but we will see where my life is in about five years.

I kept up a good pace of writing once I actually finished my thesis and admit the actual writing has slowed down at bit. However, the process (which includes brainstorming) is still going strong. One reason the writing is not keeping up is fear. Fear of what? Fear of finishing something else. It's a long process and thinking about how long it may actually take is debilitating sometimes. I wrote a couple children's stories, but they still need to be edited and transformed over several drafts. I have a novel idea that I even workshopped a chapter or two during my graduate program, but now I have to grow it. This is where the brainstorming is really picking up speed.

I've determined I'm starting completely over. The section I workshopped is maybe 30 pages and not my best. In this case starting over is easier than trying to salvage anything. But when I think about sitting down and beginning this novel I think more about the individual characters than I do the story. I'm fine with that except I wonder if what I write will be more character sketches or storyline. I'll find out tomorrow. Tomorrow I have a writing date with Ghost Ocean's editor, Heather Cox. We try and meet every or every other week depending on what we have going on. I specifically asked to meet this week to make myself actually start writing again. Plus, she's a great friend to talk to about books and writing in general.

So here is a preview of what I will be writing about. The book is going to follow the lives of two sisters. A tragedy at a young age has made them very close until one sister suddenly takes her life in another direction. The book will follow each of them struggling to find their own identity apart from each other while still trying to hold on to a part of themselves in the past that made them so close. I know that's a vague description, but I have to keep the good, tricky, and "oh no she didn't" parts secret until the book is ready for publication. :)

I will admit the original idea came from events in my own life. HOWEVER, since writing those first few chapters almost two years ago AND rethinking the concept, the book is certainly not following any true story lines. I like it better this way because its more fun, easier not to get stuck on what "really happened," and true fiction.

Lastly, a big motivation to start the writing comes from my grandma. I received a newspaper clipping from her today of a local girl who made it as an author. Grandma wrote at the top of the clipping, "If she can do it, I know you can too." Oh grandma, thanks for the encouragement. ;)
I will post something tomorrow to confess how the session went.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bittersweet Endings

Today was the last day of my teaching internship at College of Lake County. I assisted teaching an ELI 108. It was suppose to be an English 108 (or developmental class) but things were misread and I had the option of sticking with it or finding another class. I stuck with it even though it was not what I originally intended to take. It fit well in my spring schedule and I had already had one college level composition class internship under my belt, so I thought this would be an interesting change. By the second week of class I was very happy with my decision. It became very apparent this class was one of those rare classes that really make the teacher as well as the other students in the class happy to be in the classroom. Everyone in the class was excited to be there and VERY eager to learn. It really made the job easy to love and gave me more desire to pursue a teaching career.

Teaching was something I always went back and forth with as a career. I love learning and helping other learn, but I felt too young to be a teacher. I know this is probably a common enough feeling for recent college graduates going into teaching careers, specifically, those that teach older students. However, working with these students this semester really helped me look past that reservation. Most of my students were mothers and/or several years older than me, but when I worked with them it felt more like a partnership than this weird setup of student and teacher. Every student in the class just made the semester great and worked so hard to improve their English language writing skills. This experience has also given me the desire to explore the ELI department more in my job search for teaching positions.

So today I wanted to congratulate my ELI 108 class for a great semester and experience. They are determined writers and editors of their work and my exceptional writing news for the week!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How you doing?

The writing lifestyle is not as glamorous as I would have wanted it to be. But then again what ever is? OK maybe some things in life do live up to the glamor but I find them to be few and far between events. As I settle into my non-grad school supported writing life I wonder if it will ever be as hardcore as some of my friends and teachers. Everyone has their own commitments and at times I do wish I was a notch deeper in the writing community. In time I think I will get where I want to be, but as for now I must say I am glad to be where I am.

Where is that exactly you ask. WELL, I am consistently keeping up the writer habits I managed to acquire during grad school. Here are a few things I've been doing since turning in my thesis:

- Still thinking about some of my thesis stories I was not totally happy with and how I might change them for the better.

- I finished my first Charlie Hoot story and began a second one. A close friend of mine has already read through the first story and has given me some positive feedback. Now I need to dive into the world of children's literature and decide what to do with these stories. Should I try right away for a book publication or should I submit them to a children's journal?

- I've continued to work on my short short and think I've made some good head way with it. I am slow on this project mostly because it takes me in a different place with my writing. Compared to other projects this one is much more fragmented and loose flowing (if that makes sense to anyone but me). I hope it all makes sense by the time I am done with it.

- I've certainly picked up my reading. I have been able to stay current with my New Yorkers as they arrive every week in the mail. This is something I have not been able to do in over 7 months.
- I purchased a lit mag (Tin House) from my favorite books store Unabridged Books and learned that a good selection of lit mags is hard to find in most book stores. The one I got was one of the only three available. So with a few good recommendations I decided just to order another magazine (Salt Hill) straight from the publisher's website. By the time I actually tracked down where I could get it in the city and went to purchase it I figured I would have it in the mail. This venture I am pretty excited about because lit mags was something in the past I had very little time for and never quite got a chance to explore the many available options.
- And when I am bored with all those reading options I like to switch them out with the many books that have gone ignored these past months on my book shelf. I am still trudging through The Instructions and I am determined to finish it. I'm enjoying reading it again, but boy oh boy, books that size can really wear a reader out.

- LASTLY I have submitted to journals AND I even received a rejection notice already from one of those submissions. Even though it was a "we can't use your story at this time" kind of letter it was nice not to have to wait so long for a response.

So there it is folks, my continued life as a writer. I may be dressed in sweats and a robe as I do my work, but if I'm doing it well the words should draw all the same attention that a glamorous lifestyle would. I can live with that.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Keeping up the Momentum

Since my devoted day of rest I have managed to keep up my busy pace. I have applied to at least five jobs since last week, I wrote 1042 words on my Charlie Hoot project, thought of the next Charlie Hoot story I want to write, and picked up "The Instructions" again (I'm around page 420 out of 1000 plus pages). I'm still working my two internship and volunteering at the Chicago Art Institute.

The only thing holding me back this week is a serious acting out from my sinuses. The up and down weather has really kept me under the weather. If I took a 24 hour allergy pill at 9pm the night before. How bad is it to take another one before that initial 24 hours has passed? Nonetheless, I am pushing forward with determination to at least write something each day. And despite how much I dislike cover letter I think I might finally be getting a handle on them. The pup is at least happy I have more time to play and take him for walks.

Lastly, because I thought it is worth a mention for some comedy. I joined a book club. Except we don't actually read books. Hummm. I joined about two months ago and attended a meeting last minute because I happen to have already read the book assigned. I was the only one that actually did the reading. The ladies are wonderful company and extremely busy professionals. So I applaud their efforts to try and read for the club, but I think they have finally given over to what most book clubs turn into - a social gathering. We did discuss in the last meeting of maybe donating books to charities instead of reading them or maybe reading shorter articles related to our interests. But we haven't made any decisions yet.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

...And Then There Was ...

This is me the other day holding the world in my hand. Well, actually it's seven very small and different worlds I created. Yes, folks that is what a completed thesis stacks up to. Please disregard my appearance, I had little time for anything else at this point in the thesis process.

The first day post thesis I am feeling a little empty. There was no urgency to get out of bed and straight to the computer. I actually felt a little lost as I looked at my pup and asked "What are we going to do today?" Now I do confess I did have several things to accomplish today, but they weren't anything of great significance to me. It is slightly odd to have time to do things now guilt-free.

So what is my next plan of action you ask.

WELL, there is that children's book project I started oh just about a year ago. And there is a new children's book idea I dreamed up about two days ago. There is also about three books on my shelf I started and never finished. Also, there's that challenge to myself to write one if not two short shorts. I have one about half way written in my Google docs. And of course there is my goal to add more interesting writing blogs to my reader - I just need to find some I want to follow. I am open to suggestions. And finally there is that job searching thing I can pick up again.

So I have plenty to do and be done. But today I think I will just relax and go wherever my mood might take me. :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back on the Map

I cannot recall how many MIA messages were sent out to me over the course of the last three months. People I rarely even talk to on a regular basis have reached out to me for a confirmation on my a live status. One of my good friends was even certain I had a new person of romantic interest in my life, because as he put it "I am way off the map." I confess there is no new love interest, it is rather a love affair with writing. Similar to other relationship I had to pour lots of attention and time into this affair. And when the writing bored me or frustrated my patience I did what some lovers do and blatantly neglected the writing, as if only to show it I had a life without it too. But, alas, I always returned and after an exhausting three months I have birthed a collection of short stories.

Things I've learned:

-Revision may never be complete in a writer's mind as they continually work on a piece. I thought I'd made several stories the best they could be early on in this process. Yet, I still find myself tweaking (ever so slightly) them with each read

-I have the patience and tenacity to began and FINISH a writing project. This is important because it's always so exciting to start something new, but it's the ending that might give you trouble. Now I know without a doubt its possible to complete an entire work.

-My writing has grown and I will survive without my workshop. The intense amount of editing I've done in a short amount of time has really fine tuned my ability to hear a cadence of a story. It is such a relief to continually revisit a project and already know what I have to change or take further without having to be told by someone. It is a gratifying moment in my growth as a writer because it gives me the confidence to push on in a project and even try something new to challenge myself.

Now I just have to make sure I get the formatting right for turning in the final project. This is just as tricky as the writing itself because I can't find a clear cut explanation of what it should look like. I've read all the instructions on the school website several times but I'm still unsure about some points. Luckily, I won't be cutting it to the very last second and will have time to reformat if I've misunderstood something. I am just glad to be done so I can rest and read more as well as get back to my other projects I put on hold.

Three cheers for graduation and getting back on the MAP!

Friday, February 25, 2011

I Killed It

Another deadline killed. It was intense. A two week turn around seemed impossible and made me procrastinate more than usual. But I had no choice. It had to get done so I left myself at least two weeks before my final due date. I'm super happy I made it. Plus, I've worked on these stories so much it wasn't as bad as previous deadlines. I will confess there are two stories that still might get significant work done to them before the final due date. But that is because one is still so new and the other one is finally proving to sound better (at least to me) with the ideas I'm adding to it.

I would also like to thank Awake Cafe for writing space. It was a suggested spot from a friend I received months ago that I finally followed up on. It is at Irving Park and Clarendon on Lakeview/Uptown border. The have large tables for laying out piles of papers and computers, decent music, its bright, and good coffee. I was impressed how large my latte was and that they even gave me a little shooter of water to follow it with. (see pic). My only thumbs down is the food is slightly pricey. Otherwise I see many more trips there in the future!

Now I think I will finally pick up that book I've been staring at all week on my book shelf Short Takes, edited by Judith Kitchen and be able to move Monday in peace.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Trucking Along

I had my second meeting with my reader last week and I feel good about my progress. My reader seemed impressed with my revisions and complimented me on my work. GREAT. Small praise like that is really validating to a graduating MFAer. This is mostly because like it or not I will soon be without my peers and supporting writing community. I remember two years ago when my program director said that there will come a time when as a writer I will not need the workshop anymore and I cringed. But he was right. I no longer enjoy reading through all the workshop comments, I am too eager to get to the revision part. This is growth and I welcome it.

But growth also comes with solitude. My MFA friends I miss you! And I say again, sorry, for never coming out and joining in all the festivities this semester. I promise I am not having fun without you. I am usually sitting on my couch trying to figure out how to type while my pup snuggles in close under my arm. So cute.

Goal: turn my thesis package around one more time before the final deadline. That means I am aiming for end of this week, next week Monday the latest. Graduation is getting real and I want to be on that ship. Plus, I am moving at the end of the month and that lends itself to a suitcase full of excuses not to be writing and I'd rather be waiting to get my feedback from my reader.

Side note: I cannot wait to turn in that final thesis package so I can read books again, or even read all the ones I started and had to put down. I may even finally get through all the ones I bought last summer and never got to. Here is to wishful thinking.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Does Someone Have A Lighter? I Need My Fire Started

I am not on target and am having trouble getting done what I need to be done. I am blaming the boy and the dog. They have been home and sick with me and I'm not getting much done. But I could be more strict with myself too. Along with the snow, someone please send me focus.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dragging My Feet

I am breaking from writing today. I am using my blog as an excuse to keep from finishing a new story. I am naughty. About a week ago I had my first thesis review of all my stories. It went pretty well. Three of the stories were received well with likes and points of "you did this so well" shared between me and my reader. Two of the stories I think he could have done without or at least wanted a lot more from them. Which I expected they really aren't my favorite either. And the last story is FINALLY I think close to being done. Of course I thought that last time and I'm revising it again. At least this revision is concerning something new I put into the story. Overall message, my endings need to be less summary and more of a collision point of all the elements in the story resulting in a breathtaking finale. Everyone knows endings are always works in process though so no surprise there.

I need more pages though. I already knew that too. In fact, that is the story I am running from right now. I stick my tongue out at you story - "Late Start." I think I'm running from ending it because I based it more so than my other stories on a real life event. And truthfully I started another story based on another true life event of mine. Always tough to write and end those stories because you try to distance it from yourself and relive parts of it all over again. If you're lucky you even manage to find some closure about the event if the story goes well. Point being, I am cruising on my thesis work. Sort of. I have new deadlines I am making myself hit. One being to finish that new story tonight so I can begin my other revisions.

Fun side note and real life story. I broke down and got Internet again at my apartment. I canceled it a month ago thinking I was moving and after a several failed attempts to secure new living quarters, I resigned to a short lease extension and calling the Internet provider. The man on the phone asked if I wanted cable too. I told him "No I'm a writer and don't need the extra distraction." He surprisingly seemed very interested and asked if I was a "writer writer." Which I took to mean - Can I pick something of yours up at Borders. I let him down easy and told him I still working on my collection and hope to sell it to a publishing house once its finished. His excitement lessened a little, but he still said, "oh, well how is the writing life working out for you in general?" I confessed, "I eat a lot of spaghetti." He quickly said, "At least it's not Ramon noodles." HAHA oh Internet provider man, you're so funny. Good laughs.

Back to writing. If I get desperate for a break, I might go to the gym.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Just Breathe

Last Monday I turned in my first large pack of stories to my thesis readers. I want to thank a dear girlfriend for reading some of my newer stories to help me prepare them better for review. It has been a long and tiring process. But I made it and even turned it in at 10am that morning rather than sweating over it all day. But the race is not OVER. I have to generate a brand new story in order to meet my page requirements. While I do not mind creating new work, it makes the time tables very tough. My friends are already sending out MIA messages looking for me. To them I apologize.

Good news I have not slacked off too bad since Monday. I have almost 1000 words on my new story. I will admit I took the weekend off to enjoy my weekend at home for my niece's birthday. However, I will be back at it first thing Monday. March 15th folks, March 15th. Wish me luck. Friends I promise I will try to make it out of isolation sooner or later.

Last Words (no sarcasm) - I LOVE BEING A WRITER.