In Other News, I'm not really sure why the spirit moved me this way, but yesterday while grocery shopping, I decided to buy a box of Pinwheels. I don't know if I like them. My father loved them and I was frightened and disgusted by them as a child, but I also hated most marshmallow things. Lately I've been craving these brownies that my mom used to make that involved putting a layer of mini-marshmallows on the top of the brownie batter, then drizzling chocolate over it and baking (this was the only form of marshmallows I loved). The pinwheels will probably pale in comparison to those homemade goodnesses. But I'm going to open them and eat them when I finish this novel draft. I'm very very close, but I needed an extra carrot to hang on the stick. Speaking of, time to get on that.
Mmmmmmm, you will be mine soon.
The residency met half of my expectations and exceeded the rest. Truly. And it probably would have exceeded the former expectations about how much work I would complete, if I hadn't lost 2 full days to illness. (And maybe a morning or two to hangover, ahem.) In the end, I came home with nearly 3/4 of a second draft of my novel complete, and a renewed vigor in the novel itself and my ability to finish it. (August 31st I am sending it out to readers. For real.) But also, despite physically languishing, I feel emotionally and spiritually renewed by the experience, of being in a bubble where I carried no keys, no wallet, no phone, where my dominant role was as artist and creator, where people assumed the best of me and in turn I often acted the best version of myself. I had a bad day or two, I had my moments, but my overall anxiety and preoccupations were distant memories. This is what I'm trying to cultivate in small doses and bring back with me. In some ways, being sick is helping me do that -- I'm being very slow and intentional in my reintegration to everyday life, I'm stitching all the best parts of each bubble together. I didn't fully realize how much periods like this are integral to my work, and I basically don't want a year to go by without me knowing I will be attending some residency, somewhere. Ragdale again, for sure, others across the country and world, or at the very, very least ones of my own creation, but really, there are so many existing ones out there, so many possibilities, its ridiculous for me to even box myself into thinking I can't get into others if I just take the time to apply.
And I also came home from the residency with 11 new spouses. Our group bonded very intensely, and I loved that when I came down the stairs, or walked across the courtyard, when I heard voices in the kitchen or dining room, it didn't matter whose they were -- I knew I would sit down and have a great conversation and laugh and learn something new. And when we would turn to each other at dinner and say "how was your day?" it had a whole new meaning and understanding. This is my first residency/artist colony experience, and I know this is somewhat of an anomaly (normally it would happen with a handful of the group, not everyone so cohesively). I didn't expect it to happen, no one did, it was just the alchemy of us we couldn't control. I'm grateful to know that this experience of finding creative kindred spirits didn't stop at grad school. And I look forward to those visits in the next months, years, decades, where I know we will reconnect and break open a bottle of hungarian apricot brandy and dance and laugh even more.
I intended to write more concrete stories, like conquering the most nauseating carnival rides, or adventures in north shore shopping, or bird-watching, or midnight trespassing swims, or taking the whole fleet of beloved ragtag bicycles through the mansion streets to the beach where the new Kennedys played touch football in the sand, or viewing lightning storms under the safe canopy of a screened in porch and a circle of friends and a bottle of Jameson's. Maybe I just did. Longer versions aren't guaranteed to do it justice anyway. I'm probably too dewy-eyed and misty anyway.
Now I must go to the grocery store, because I suspect in the whole time I was gone, that didn't happen.
There are up-sides to this plan not working out, I have some other strategies in place, but today I think I'll let myself mope and be disappointed a bit. Tomorrow I'll start looking at plane tickets for possible trips and focusing more energy on the Ragdale residency at the end of the summer. Because I don't want to just relegate that to some runner-up experience.
I'm glad that I started my online savings account first thing this morning BEFORE I went to the UW website and saw the posting of who got the awards, because otherwise I might have blown all that money on something to temporarily make me feel better. Well, I still might buy some underwear.
ETA: Ok, disabling comments seems so extreme, so I'll just straight up say -- please feel no obligation to send *hugs* or anything like that, sometimes that isht just makes me feel straight up more icky. Save your commenting for the posts where I really spill my guts!
Let me not dwell on those poor fowls' fate,
A stumbled life 'neath conveyor belts;
Nor think of global ways to innovate
Veggie diets that prevent polar ice cap melts.
My mind rests not on Christian teens
In polo shirt and peanut oil soaked
skin, from cleaning out the fryer screens --
their farm-raised job forced by us dopes.
O! I am plagued anyway by these thoughts
My conscience instructs my stomach to behave
Until the caravan arrives in the lot
And I abandon my friends with nary a wave.
The hot crunch of the coating is tasted
And tears roll down my face, elated.
There are a lot of things I'm finally ready to get over lately, I think, most of them related to issues of confidence and awareness of myself and acceptance. Though what I'm realizing is that many of these things, I had before, but then they kinda got eroded in these obscured and unexpected ways over the years.
Ok, I just went into my e-mail to look something I'm going to cut-and-paste here and he already wrote me back. It said "fair enough. take care." See, self? That wasn't so hard. Crisis averted.
So, nearly 2 weeks ago, sebastian6 posed some questions to me and I'm finally getting around to addressing them here. They've been rattling around in my brain a bit, though I'm not sure you'll be able to tell, as I'm just going to freewrite my answers, I don't have anything I'm prepared to say (I feel like blogging is really one or the other -- its a fully formed quasi-essay in my head that I'm anxious to sit and type out, or its just a meandering, organic thought parade.
( mythology )
tracijean also gave me a writing challenge but I need a minute to work on that one before I post it.
In Other NewsTM, I'm going to Ragdale!!! I just got a phone message announcing my acceptance!!!!!!!
And maybe you will buy it.
And maybe you will turn to the feature story on gay FTMs.
And maybe you will notice a sidebar to the story about why fags should have sex with transmen.
And maybe you will recognize the writing. Or the name. Or maybe both.
Yesterday I had a mostly zone out day, partly to practice for my vacation, I suppose. Partly the weather was crappy and I felt no inclination to leave the house at all. Except I needed quarters to do laundry. After a few hours, I managed to make myself walk to the currency exchange, and as a reward, rented two fluffy movies from the Redbox. I got The Invasion and Superbad, and I have to say, I actually enjoyed them both. I recommend low expectations and non-sobriety. I was really surprised by The Invasion, as it got horrid reviews, but I think if you are a fan of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and movies of that time and genre, you can appreciate aspects of this new version. It was kind of a good bad movie. Like Transformers, which I watched last week. Because during all the really bad dialogue, I was cackling nonstop because they obviously took it DIRECTLY from the original cartoons.
I have a few things to finish up before vacation, but I have three days which is plenty of time to do it. Mostly I need to complete and send off this fellowship application. I've been working on tweaking the opening chapter of my novel, though I am feeling a bit torn about whether I send them 30 pages of this new work, which I'm more jonesed about but is much less polished, or 30 pages of my other novel which has some superb writing (um, if I do say so myself....I was meaning more in the revised, polished sense when I said it, but ok). Topically, I find it makes me skin crawl. I think I might do the latter only because they want to see what's representative of my work, there's no promise of what project I'm doing. But even the thought of opening up that document is making me queasy. I'll sleep on it. Maybe in the morning I will be kinder to it.
Four days! I leave Friday morning! I have new seersucker shorts to wear! And vacation boxers! I still need to buy suntan lotion.
Also, I know everybody's doing it, but I do like this Vampire Weekend record. I also like the new Cat Power too. There, I said it. Between this and the Jenny Lewis confession, I feel so much better.
I leave for Miami in 11 days! I just faxed off the lease agreement for the condo I'm renting! Its a studio with a nice bed and leather couch and tv with cable and a full kitchen, and its the rate that I was willing to pay for less-nice hotel room. And there's a pool in the condo complex. I realized recently, this is really my first real vacation totally alone. I have travelled alone to places but usually crashed at someone's house -- sometimes I barely knew the person and we didn't interact much (or we became crash-course friends while I slept at their house), other times the purpose of my trip is to spend time with the people I'm staying with (i.e. every trip to California). But this time its me, and only me, for five days. I'm still contemplating whether I'll take the laptop or not. Except I know I'd just end up going to an internet cafe to check in and paying money, so I should just bring it. I think it will be handy if nothing else for googling places to go and getting directions. And maybe buying a used bike off craigslist for cheaper than the cost of a rental. Then I can sell it back before I leave for 2/3 of the price I paid.
I need to buy sunscreen! And start planning outfits! Or rather, my two nice outfits, since most of the time I'm going to be in swim trunks and flip flops. Vacation. Oh man.
The woman I'm sharing the office is with is a little...intense. Possibly high maintenance. She's already pulled some office-drama-talking, the stuff that I generally am happy to avoid because I'm not here. I already very much miss my cubicle-partner and told her that as she left today. But the office is huge, we're not all up on each other, and its only an hour a day, so I think I'll survive. She did compliment my cologne, which as you know, that's a soft spot.
Before I came to the rent-job, I spent most of my day getting intimately acquainted with my new lover, Scrivener. freakysparks introduced us, and while I'm still trying to get a handle on everything the program has to offer, I imported my messy collage of a novel draft and outline(s) and now I have made a perfectly organized, compartamentalized working manuscript, divided into chapters. I got so immersed in the project, I didn't even realize two and half hours had passed, but also, I can't believe I got the whole thing such working shape in only two and half hours. Right now I'm working on trial version (which is the full program, it just lasts 30 days), but as soon as its payday, I'm buying it. I've never really given much thought or interest in 'writing programs' because they didn't seem so much different from Word, but this one has me smitten. It really makes the whole tackling a giant manuscript-in-progress seem much more reasonable.
Hey, Second Class News just came on the radio. Its Friday, ya bastards.
Damn, I should have taken a photo. Now they are all in my belly and less photogenic.
I've been sick all week, I'm mostly better, though I still cough some and ache a tiny bit and in the morning I feel pretty horrible from being horizontal all night, but then I drink some water and neti and poke around and it's ok. And now I'm ready to be out in the world except its cold. Now, I know its Chicago. I know its winter. I don't really complain about cold, hell, I don't really even notice 'cold' as far as any temperature 30 degrees or higher. But its damn cold today. The kind where you have to coax the car and drive with a scarf and hat, the kind where bare skin instantly gets frigid. I went to workout, on a Saturday evening, like a rockstar, and then I decided to follow it up with a trip to the grocery store. Except I forgot the damn canvas bags. So I stopped back by the house, it was on the way, I left the car running, key in ignition, went inside. "I'm not here, I'm not here, I'm not here," I told the dog dancing around me, waiting for me to notice her, our ritual. I went to the store. I counted three cars in the parking lot running, no owner. It is a part of the weather that I love, these rituals, these assumptions and trust that are usually missing in a big city, but come out for extreme circumstances.
At the checkout, I kept telling them to shove more into my bags. I knew it would all fit. They kept trying to give me extra plastic bags too. "You'll have arms like orangutans, carrying that!" I hope so, I thought.
I rush home to cook winter food. Brussel sprouts, next foil-wrapped
But the best part of my day, despite the tough competition of these brussel sprouts and the Wire marathon, was actually figuring out the problem with my novel that I've been marinating on for nearly 6 weeks. It apparently required me to chant excessively "what's your ticking clock? what's your ticking clock?" while clicking a ball point pen to the point of annoying myself. Suddenly all the pieces of plot realigned and made sense. Now I'm all excited about it again.
Tonight is fried chicken for dinner at work, and I admit, I'm a little excited. Its not really the best fried chicken in the world, but it is free and I didn't have to cook it, so there are benefits.
I had plans for making a savory pie today, of my own invention, but worried it would take too much time, it was too much procrastinating on this residency application that I'm sending out tomorrow. Now is the season of summer workshop applications and fellowships and story contests and whatnot. I mean, I suppose technically some of those things are year-round, but there tends to be a higher number of them between January and April. I vacillate between feeling completely hopeful and inspired to utterly beaten down and doubtful, but even in the latter moments, I figure it out anyway. With this residency, I had to solicit two letters of recommendation with quick turnaround and I had two people who stepped up and did it for me, so I couldn't really punk out and drop the ball on my end. Besides, just because I feel a certain way about my writing sample doesn't mean the words themselves have actually changed. A few weeks ago I really liked them. In a couple weeks I will probably like them again. Right now I just need to make sure that I didn't forget the apostrophes in "it's" and all the verbs are present tense, and then just send it off and hope for the best. I'm actually maybe less nervous about this particular application and more nervous about the next one I'm sending out in a few weeks, which is a academic year fellowship that might be absolutely and utterly perfect. But then again, everything is perfect in my head, and my tendency toward fantasizing outcomes is a sign that maybe I really want this thing and that's okay, that wanting. Its a reminder that hey, maybe I'm doing all this for a reason.
When I was working out on Sunday, I realized that my role in the universe of gym caricatures is That Guy Who Is Too Into His Ipod.
It has been a heavy day, a double-dose SAMe day, and strangely, this accidental dumbassery, rather than making me feel worse, makes me feel a bit better. Its hard to take things in life too seriously in the midst of such ridiculous mistakes, I can't maintain a littly black stormcloud over my head when I look like the kid in my userpic. Also, there is the part of me that likes wearing my sunglasses indoors, even at night, but I tend to do that at places like karaoke bars, not my job.
This is also the first day in awhile for me where I've had significant alone time. The holidays bring lots of people to town that I'm excited to see, like having Elevensies with limenal yesterday, which is all great, until after several days in a row of contact with people and I'm like, why am I so cranky? Oh yeah.
After a phone conversation with drinkasyoupour last night, this morning I looked into a specific writer's residency for later in the year, one near Chicago, and the application is due in less than 2 weeks. And my instinct was to hurry up and e-mail my references to write me a letter, which I did, but this is also good, because at another time my instinct would have been to say, oh never mind, I'll do it next time. Writing feels thick to me these days, I'm out of the habit, and today I opened up my manuscript for the first time since before xmas and squeezed out a page, but mostly I feel sort of unsure and sticky about where its going, about gathering up the forces to make it happen if I don't know where to direct them. I've also had two stories rejected by publications in the past two weeks. And while I don't feel particularly emotionally rejected, I just feel sort of bothered by now needing to resubmit them elsewhere. Waiting for responses from editors doesn't bother me nearly as much as researching new places to send them, I've learned of myself. One day at a time, one page at a time and all that.
Today I won free tickets to a show at Schuba's tomorrow -- Pixies tribute night with Bobby Bare Jr. -- and I get to hang out with vfc who's my plus-one. Maybe I'll wear my sunglasses all night tomorrow too.
Now let's hope it doesn't get lost in the mail.
I have this plan for December and January and February, that involved finishing my novel by the 31st of this month, sending it to readers on January 1st and not thinking about it for 30 whole days. Then in February, I go someplace far away from Chicago, and prefereably warm, like Miami or Arizona or maybe just Austin, and retreat for a week to sit and write and rewrite it all. But, why did I think I could push through and do my hardest writing in the hardest month of the year? Well, maybe December isn't always the hardest. January and February are usually a blur of bleakness, while December does often have some bright moments. Writing has been slow, I always underestimate how exhausting it is to deal with the feelings that come up, and how as much as I need to be alone in it, it gets lonely and exhausting and I need extra recovery. Digression! Digression! So, the writing deadline has been amended to January 15th. I can still maybe take a trip in late February with this plan. It will probably be Austin because I have a friend with a house with extra rooms, even though the average high is only 65 and the average high in Miami for February is 74 (according to googling). But maybe I can dig up stuey from hiding and I could go to Tucson and save Miami for a trip with DYA. Arizona is maybe not as warm, but the idea of desert is highly appealing to me for a writer's retreat. Any opinions on these locales during the winter, or in general, are welcome.
After a trip to the store for supplies (food for dinner and snacks), we hit the ground running with the retreat. In 36 hours, we did five seminars, a workshop, two 'open mics' and two writing sessions. There were handouts and gifts and seven bottles of wine. There was Lollipop Theatre and a nap and a pitcher of margaritas. And there were creative revelations. Lots of them. The order of everything is mixed up, but it doesn't really matter.
Driving around L.A. this weekend, I kept getting the strangest feeling. At first I thought I was sad that I didn't live there. But later I realized it was almost more nostalgic sadness. Part of it might be that I was just in need of some travelling and change of scenery and I only got small dose of it. Luckily, June is only two months away. I need to look into plane tickets.
Tomorrow begins the Three Week Challenge, a plan created for us all individually in overcoming our writerly obstacles. Oh-HI!!
( group picture!! )
My shirt could use some ironing though.
On Friday I had brunch with drinkasyoupour and because she is a therapist as well as my good friend, I of course shared some of my recent therapist thoughts and revelations and ponderings. After we ate and decided to go to Andersonville to poke around a little, I knew in my gut we would see him on the street or in a store. Sure enough, as we were waiting to cross Balmoral, he drove by us. I shrieked a little and told her about it, and my premonition, then she had to go and say, "damn, I wish I had seen him when he drove past." Because he of course ended up parking half a block away and was feeding the meter and appeared to be walking toward us and I totally panicked and made us duck into the bakery. Except we were mistaken, he never came our way. We left and went to buy shoes. I joked about my panicking. Then on the way to the bookstore, we passed him on the sidewalk. Of course. I didn't force us to avert ourselves this time, we passed and made eye contact and did the half-nod/smile thing. Its all ridiculously silly, both at the time and now, recounting it, but also valid because it is uncommon to have an intensely intimate relationship that happens in a controlled bubble and barely includes a handshake. DAYP helpfully pointed out, that being on the other end of the therapist seeing the client in public isn't always necessarily easy either.
That night I went to the reading at the Chopin Theatre alone and struck up a random conversation with a quirky stranger. It put me in a good mood, to interact with someone who foregoes all the boring trappings of small talk and instead starts conversations with things like: "Do you wear your glasses all the time?" Um, except for when I sleep. "Do you own contacts?" Yes, but I don't wear them all the time. "Oh, because there's this weekly dodgeball game in wicker park that's really fun and you should do....but sometimes glasses get broken, so you don't wear them." After the reading I met up with DYA and some friends and acquaintances at a gallery and then a drink and had a good time discussing movie adaptations of novels, Sharon Stone, quitting things, rock band rivalries that involve guerilla vandalism, and earl grey cigarettes.
Yesterday was a run in the rain, writing group, then meeting up with my former mentor for wine downtown. I took her to Bin 36 which was sort of like eating inside a Crate & Barrel and the cheese was extremely overpriced given the portion size, but the wine was only moderately overpriced and worth it because you could get all these flights. I would definitely return. And I am in love with their Pomelo Suvignon Blanc. I am happy to have found sufficient options for white wines this summer. The conversation included losing large chunks of time to depression, stage zero cervical cancer, brain tumors that are really "mexican worms", screenplays, making a living writing, bad book reviews, choosing which novel to write, and the familial impact of your mother dating a sex offender. She didn't disapprove of me shelving my novel and I even broke my vow and talked about the details of my new novel and she was intrigued. (Oh yeah, have I mentioned I'm starting a new novel?) She was thrilled by the writing retreat we're doing in Ojai. And she gave me a specific editor of a well-known literary journal to whom I should submit a story, with permission to also use her name in the letter. Sight-unseen of what this story is, just on faith of having read my other work. Oh yeah, this was part of the purpose of going to grad school. The connections. Also, to find mentors who challenge but also have faith in you. Also, to meet writers who are making it work and we can just drink and talk about existing in the world together. It was good to be reminded of it all.
By the time I came home last night, I was perfectly sated in regards to all my social time and extroversion. Besides, I've been itching to finally do some writing. See, on Thursday night, on the train ride home, I managed to conceive an entire new novel -- main character, secondary characters, plot, ending and all. I'm not entirely sure about POV and structure yet, but that can come. I'm mostly just happy to not be loathing the thought of tackling it, the way I have been so extremely disinclined for the past year. Today was going to involve some wandering, some sitting, some writing. But now it's raining and I'm less interested in just hitting the street and finding a place to land, especially since I left my umbrella at a friend's house. But who knows, I might do it anyway. My shirt and chest hair deserve it.
I'm only a few dozen pages into Special Topics of Calamity Physics, but I'm enjoying it okay. I think it will be a fast read. It annoyed me right off the bat, because it had two devices I'm burnt out on: a) the Extremely Quirky/Savant-esque Narrator (why does everyone have to be so damn special?) and b) the Self-Consciously Aware of Being a Novel Novel, i.e "I'm writing this book because....". Its a novel, its ok, we suspend disbelief by opening the thing up. Just embrace the device, or subvert the device, but I'm tired of always showing awareness of the device, mostly because it feels sloppy. Like maybe the writer doesn't trust themselves to pull off creating this whole world that the medium requires. Which doesn't instill a lot of confidence as a reader. But, you know, aside from all those strict opinions, I'm reading it. Besides, part of what I'm saying is more about my personal preference as a reader, not so much grand declarations in the literary theory realm. Really, my biggest complaint about this book is that its big and heavy and so carrying it around takes up lots of space in my bag, and it was perhaps not the wisest idea for me to bring it along when I decided to walk half of the distance between home and work downtown. It was even more annoying for me to stop at the library and check out two DVDs and two more books, to add to my back. Oh well.
I was really social for almost all of this weekend. By late Sunday night I was definitely feeling it, so strangely I had the mix of weekend end/monday morning lows, mixed with relief at having back my time alone that comes with a work week. But I'm glad for all the people I saw and things I did all weekend. Well, except for the one piece in a dance performance that was kinda fcked up. I was actually inspired enough by my frustration to write an e-mail to the choreographer this morning, so I suppose that's something. Though maybe a little sad that I never track down strangers to tell them when I like something they've created.
It's Monday morning, and I have a dentist appointment in about an hour which isn't exactly the best way to start off this whole operation. But also, it's something to do.