Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I'll Have A 777 Straight Up, With A Twist

If this is a 777, I'll take three, please.
Photo courtesy of:
http://www.cocktailsdrinkrecipes.com/
When I first started blogging, I have to confess that I didn't understand the purpose of blog hops, challenges, themed recurring posts, or awards. What are these strange, alien customs, and why do people do them, I wondered? What could be the possible reason?

Well, a year and a half in, I look back on my naivete (and yes I am skipping the accent on the final 'e' because I can't figure out how to get it into my post, dammit), and shake my head. I want to tell myself, these things are great, you idiot. When you get tagged in one you don't have to come up with an idea for your post that week!

So I owe Loni Townsend a big THANK YOU, because she tagged me in the 777 challenge last week, and now I don't have to come up with my own idea for this week. She also said some nice things about me, but mentioning them would negate the self-deprecating, snarky tone of this post, so I'll just say she's great, and you should go read her excerpt: it's from her WIP This World Bites, which is releasing NEXT MONTH, and which I can honestly say is hilarious and intriguing and entertaining, because I got to read it a few months ago. So, go check it out!

There - wasn't that fantastic?? Good. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Now on to the 777 challenge. I'll let Loni explain what it's all about: "For the challenge you have to choose a WIP, go to the 7th page, scroll down to the 7th line, and share the next 7 lines or so."

Easy enough, right? Well, Loni sort of requested that I choose one of my nonfiction WIPs, which is a little bit more challenging, because they're all fairly short (i.e. much less than seven pages long.) So I cheated a little bit; or rather, I put a little twist on the challenge, and double-spaced one of these pieces, and hey! look at that: it's more than seven pages long, and usable for the challenge!

So, here it is:
The hike we were merrily attempting with borrowed sneakers, one water bottle, and two apples was nearly six miles round-trip, with an elevation gain of approximately 2,200 feet. It was the sort of hike we usually did with plenty of water and food, proper shoes, and a detailed trail map: a bit difficult but entirely possible for the average weekend hiker, as long as that hiker was prepared.
Of course, we didn't know any of that when we started climbing. We thought we were on a short jaunt that would end in a glorious view, and as time passed and the day grew hotter and the trail showed no signs of ending, we started to privately doubt our trusted informant, then to openly question her, then to wish we’d never met her.
Isn't this out-of-context thing really confusing kind of fun?

Now I'm supposed to tag people, and free them from the requirement of coming up with a blog post. Unfortunately, I cannot remember who has done this and who hasn't, and who's been tagged and who hasn't...so...I'm (figuratively, not literally) taking a page out of fellow blogger M Pepper Langlinais's book, and I'm tagging all of you. 

That's right. If you're reading this, and you want to do this challenge, I say GO FOR IT. Let me know you did it and I'll give you a shout-out the next time I post...

...which will be in the New Year, because I'm taking the next two weeks off. So, take the challenge if you'd like, and comment here letting me know you did, and I'll visit you and then link to it when I get back.

In the meantime: Happy Holidays, everyone!! Have a wonderful Christmannukolstice and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dribbles and Drabbles and Drivels, Continued

I'm doing a tidbits and snippets post today, one more in my little Dribbles and Drabbles and Drivels series. You know, the one I started in October, and decided to make into a series. See how that works? It's nice to be the Supreme Ruler of something, even if it's just a little blog.

Here's what's on my mind this week:


1. I Literally Can't Use Any Other Word. Literally. 

I use this word a lot. In fact, too often. This is in spite of the fact that many literary and writerly types lambast the overuse of the word, lament its misuse, and mourn the loss of its original definition. I know what it means, of course. I know it doesn't mean the same thing as 'figuratively.' And yet, I can't help myself. Is there any better word to use when you really want to accentuate and exaggerate? Is there anything better for expressing hyperbole?

I think not.

And as you may have guessed, I sort of kind of like hyperbole. A little tiny bit.

So I'm going to just keep committing diction crimes and using it when I shouldn't.

Oh, and The Oatmeal has the best take on this that I've ever seen. Go read it.


2. Don't Be Such A Trope.

Because we all need more reasons to waste time, procrastinate, and get lost in the Internet Wasteland, some idiot genius (idiot-genius?) created an entire website about common modern tropes, and now I'm going to share it with you! I know, you can thank me later. Gifts are welcome, too.

What's that word again? You know, tropes: "commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clich├ęs in creative works."

I dove into while doing some research (once upon a time when I used to write fiction) and could not get out again to save my life. At least I enjoyed drowning. Go on, go for a swim. You know you want to.

(Disclaimer: you probably have to be a giant movie/book/TV/creative nerd like me to enjoy this sort of thing.)


3. It's Christmannukolstice Time!

Yes, I got another table-top tree. Yes, I'm still Jewish. No, I don't care that I'm not supposed to have one. It just makes me happy.


One year, I'll get a real tree ('real' as in 'enormous', because this tree is not plastic. No, thank you.) And then the heavens will open and pigs will fly and writers will all use the word 'literally' all the time and I'll be a real girl and there will be world peace and prosciutto will be prescribed to treat headaches and heart disease and I will have a magic tool that freezes time so that I can get enough sleep AND work AND write and...

What was I talking about?

Oh yes. Trees make me happy.


What are you up to this week? Do you have a tree/bush/item with holiday significance in your house? Literally?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Insecure Writers: More Confessions

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! The IWSG is an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!

Happy IWSG, everyone. I hope you had a great, food-full, friend-full, grateful Thanksgiving, and have recovered from your tryptophan-induced overeating-induced comas!

I have something to confess today. This is hardly new: I'm Jewish, so I often feel guilty. Weekly, in fact. I wake up and feel that squirming in my stomach, and know that it's one of the days when I'll have to figure out why I'm feeling guilty. Sometimes, there's an actual cause, but a lot of times, it's just general life-guilt. When that happens, I root around in my personal pile of vices, minor misdemeanors, mistakes, and small faults, until I come up with one I can confess about. Since today is IWSG day, I thought it was a fitting time for this particular confession, which I've been putting off for a couple of months:

I'm not working on my novel.

I know, I know, I'm sorry! I'm beating my chest in guilt and repentance. I spent an entire month talking about it and pushing it and trying to get everyone intrigued about it, and then I continued complaining about it and posting about it and whining about research, and now I'm telling you it's sitting in a file on my computer, collecting virtual dust.

Here's what happened: I got distracted. No, it's really true. I was having trouble querying Cloudland, and I realized a few things: 1) I wanted to do something (anything) to make the querying process easier, and thought a few publishing credits couldn't hurt; 2) writing novels takes a really long time (if you're me, that is); 3) so does building a writing career (that includes getting paid); and 4) I'm impatient. Really impatient.

So I decided to change my approach, and took a creative non-fiction class. And I loved it. I started working on writing, editing, and polishing personal essays; on researching places to submit; on compiling lists of places to submit each piece; and then on submitting. Wash, rinse, repeat.

It's fun and time-consuming, and for a while, I tried to rotate working on non-fiction and fiction, but it turns out, I'm really bad at switching tasks like that. Also, to be honest, I'm enjoying the non-fiction. And not enjoying the fiction. Much. Or at all.

So last month I put my novel aside, and I'm leaving it there.

FOR NOW! For now. Not for always.

I'm a firm believer that in order to be a writer, you have to write, no matter what, but I'm also a firm believer that if it's not any fun, not even a little bit, you probably need a break.

So I'm taking one.

Whew, I feel better.

Don't worry, everyone. I will get back to the novel. Just...not right now.

Do you write anything besides fiction? Do you have more than one job? How do you juggle everything?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving for Writers

It's almost Thanksgiving, so of course that means it's time for an obligatory Thanksgiving post. I neglected to do this last year, but in my defense, it was my first Thanksgiving as a blogger and I couldn't tell a turkey from a sparrow if you roasted it in my face (pardon the terrible turkey metaphor, but it's another obligatory part of a Thanksgiving post.) It was also Thanksgivukkah, a wholly invented holiday during which American Jewish families were obliged to spend twice as long over dinner and eat twice as much as usual, all while playing dreidel, counting their blessings, and lighting candles, in order to satisfy the requirements of both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, so I was far too busy making room in my stomach for mashed potatoes and potato latkes to write my obligatory Thanksgiving post last year.

As a result, I now have to write a post that's twice as good as usual, to make up for it. But don't worry, I won't make it twice as long, because as we all know, I have brevity problems, and we'd still be here next Thanksgiving if I did. 

I decided that this obligatory post should be about writing, because the title says it should be. Also, I've been far too serious and sentimental in my recent posts, and it's time to get really serious and write about serious writer things. Without further adieu, I present the list of Writerly Things For Which I Am Grateful:
  1. Fun with Grammar: I'm a writer, so I get to be pretentious about grammar, and say things like "the list of writerly things for which I am grateful" instead of "a list of writerly things I'm grateful for," even though the latter choice sounds better and is less awkward, and might actually be more correct.
  2. Fun with Language: Similar to #1, being a writer entitles me to pontificate at length whilst utilizing a magnificent and multifarious montage of words, and to indulge in the pleasure of the occasional alliterative diversion. Of course, I might sound like a jerk doing it, but that doesn't make it any less fun. 
  3. Confidence: Writers work with supreme confidence; it's one of the pleasures of the job. I've never met a writer who suffers from a lack of confidence. That's why we all take part in the Secure Writer's Support Group once a month, to remind each other to be humble. 
  4. Sarcasm and Satire: I also get to use tools like irony, humor, sarcasm, and satire in my writing, and say the opposite of what I actually mean. This tool also works quite well in real life. 
  5. Reading Is My Job: This might be the biggest perk of being a writer, and one that, #4 aside, I am profoundly grateful for (for which I am profoundly grateful?): I have to read. No, really. Check any blog or book that gives writing advice, talk to any agent or editor, and they will all say the same thing: you have to read if you want to write. Since I was the child who had to be forced to put her book down and play outside, this requirement isn't exactly a burden.
I could go on, but I did promise to let you go before Christmas, so I'll leave my list with just one more writerly item I'm grateful for: you. Thank you for stopping by, giving my blog some of your time, leaving a thought or an idea or even just a wave, and making me part of your life. I appreciate it!!

What's on your gratitude list this year?  Leave a couple of items in the comments!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Don't Fish, So...

...I thought I'd hang up my sign and go writing instead.

Photo courtesy of http://thoughtontracks.com/2013/11/06/gone-writing/

Yep, it's one of those "life is interfering with my life, and I need to buckle down and get something done" sort of weeks. If I don't visit you this week, I will next week, I promise.. 

See you next week!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Life In The Concrete Jungle

Well my friends, I'm happy to say that I went to New York again this past weekend, and I did in fact avoid doing a swan dive across the pavement this time. I was happier about that than is probably normal. (But then I've never claimed to be normal.)

I was visiting the New Messiah, of course, but unlike the last time, I had no half-baked, hair-brained writing ideas to discuss with her. I'm too busy drowning in research and non-fiction submissions to brainstorm any new ideas or force my poor friend to soothe my insecurities. No, I was there purely for a visit, and a celebration.

You see, the New Messiah is pregnant. I know people get pregnant and have babies all the time, but she is my dearest friend, my "favorito" (another old nickname, always pronounced with a fake Italian accent and great gusto), and I have been jumping out of my skin to hug her and admire her growing belly and just celebrate with her since I found out, over six weeks ago. Any new life is a cause for celebration, but when people you dearly love create that new life, and nurture it and nourish it and create space for it to grow, it takes on a bright, vibrant, astonishing meaning.

At my core, I've always been in awe of pregnancy, but that awe fades so easily in the course of daily life. Awe is an overwhelming emotion, a giant, breathless, expansive thing, too big for the needs and pressures of the everyday. Pregnancy is miraculous, but it's too hard to focus on the miracle. It's much easier to grow accustomed to the idea and forget the awe, especially in my day job. I see prenatal clients all the time. I deal with the aches and pains: the sore lower back and the stiff calf muscles; the frustrating symptoms of sciatic nerve compression; the exhaustion and sleeplessness and worry. I treat the symptoms and try to soothe the client, and in the process I forget the fundamental miracle of it all.

And that's what we all do with awe, by necessity. We forget it; we move past it; we let it go, and go about our lives until something grabs us by the shoulders and whispers, urgently, Look. And then we do look, and we stand back and our jaws drop and our lungs expand with wonder. That's what happened this weekend.

I looked at the New Messiah, at the beautiful swell of her stomach ("do you think I just look ambiguously fat?" she asked, eyeing herself in the mirror) and felt overcome by awe. "You're building a life," I said, "Right now, right here, your body is making a new life."

Isn't that ridiculously beautiful? Women's bodies can make new life, without any conscious thought, without any directive: the cells double and quadruple, multiplying themselves into a dizzying array of bone and muscle and skin, stomach and heart and liver. Without any intervention on our parts, our bodies can build new human beings.

I salute you, pregnant ladies. I raise my glass of wine (I did all of the drinking this weekend; the New Messiah opted for almond milk and water) and I let the awe come pouring in, and it's as dazzling and broad as the sun. It's that beautiful.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Insecure Writers: Savage Courage

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! The IWSG is an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!

Happy Wednesday, IWSG-ers! I'm continuing my recent IWSG trend of NOT writing about my own insecurities, but instead trying to offer some help, advice, inspiration, or wisdom. I'm not often always successful, but I am trying!

I've been thinking a lot about courage these days. It takes courage to live true to who you are, and to work from that place of truth - and if you're a writer, to write from that place. All the time. Every day. Even when the muse doesn't show up, or when the muse does a runner and it seems as if life is hanging all of its troubles on you, and the very weight of those troubles is enough to bring you to your knees. Still, you have to find a way to live and work and write from that place of truth. You have to dig deeply inside of yourself, to the darkest and heaviest places that have both buried and birthed your strength, and dredge up the courage to keep going. It can be a savage sort of courage, fueled by anger and frustration; or a tired sort, quiet and calm and lined with steel.

I've been reading quite a lot of creative non-fiction these days, and to me, one writer stands out as exemplifying this courage, both savage and quiet: Cheryl Strayed. My first exposure to her was this essay in The Sun Magazine, and I was floored by the sheer naked honesty of that piece. It's turbo-courage.

I was so affected by that piece that I kept reading her work. As I mentioned last month, I read Wild, and then I read Tiny Beautiful Things, and it's from the second that I'm going to draw today's inspiration. The book is a collection drawn from the Rumpus's Dear Sugar advice column, in the years when Strayed wrote as anonymously as Sugar, and both letters and responses feel more like beautifully crafted personal essays than advice columns.

The first thought for today is from a letter about envy. How can we not feel jealousy when others are succeeding, garnering book deals and awards and acclaim, and we are not? Strayed writes:
"I know it’s not easy being an artist. I know the gulf between creation and commerce is so tremendously wide that it’s sometimes impossible not to feel annihilated by it. A lot of artists give up because it’s just too damn hard to go on making art in a culture that by and large does not support its artists. But the people who don’t give up are the people who find a way to believe in abundance rather than scarcity. They've taken into their hearts the idea that there is enough for all of us, that success will manifest itself in different ways for different sorts of artists, that keeping the faith is more important than cashing the check, that being genuinely happy for someone else who got something you hope to get makes you genuinely happier too."
The second thought is taken from a response to letter written by a despairing young writer, who worries that she "writes like a girl" and that she'll never have any success. Strayed's response is to not write like a girl, but to write like a motherf----r. To dig up that courage and get down to work and just work. It's the thought I'll leave you with for today, but I do highly recommend you read the whole thing:
"We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce. You have limitations. You are in some ways inept. This is true of every writer...You will feel insecure and jealous. How much power you give those feelings is entirely up to you."
Good luck, IWSG-ers! I believe in you.

When do you find yourself unable to write, and how do you write your way out of it? Where do you draw courage from? Who are you reading who's inspiring you these days?