"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Monday, March 29, 2010

Color Schemes and Bloggy Gadgets

I've been fiddling with my blog layouts, gizmos and gadgets. I'm a scaredy-cat when it comes to change in my corner of the computer world. I break out in hives when my mouse acts up and suffer paralyzing inertia when my computer has an unexpected break-- ah,shutdown. I have this fear that everything will somehow disappear never to be seen again. Though we all know that things posted to the internet never really disappear.

So, please tell me what you think. Is this easier to read than my white on black? I've feared for some time that my blog's dark background made it hard on the eyes which is a very bad thing in bloggerland but I've hesitated to change it. Then I stumbled upon this post by the estimable Michelle Davidson Argyle, aka Lady Glamis, aka The Innocent Flower, which made it seem easy. By the way Simon Larter's back and has a great guest post on her blog about flash fiction. (Hint... a secret way to trim the fat off the bones of your novel). After you post a comment here and tell me what you think you can go over thata way.

Should I revert back to my old ways or do you like the lighter scheme better? This has been so stressful I have to take a break for a bowl of ice cream. Next thing you know I'll be putting up an actual picture of myself!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Speaker's Corner

Hyde Park,
where anyone can speak their mind.
It’s Sunday so there’s religion—
urgent voices and eyes that would drain you.

At the far edge is a Marxist with a different stick.
His long hair whips across his face
as he extols the virtue of public transportation
Across the green, the park moves with soccer.


I liked the idea of a Speaker's Corner for my Friday Flash entry.
If you or anyone you know has written a Friday Flash 55, go tell the G-Man where you can find more brevity and wit and get feedback from coast to coast.

And then have a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday Uplift --- Eureka!

Nathan Bransford wrote a very interesting post recently on the Dunning-Kruger effect. Do you lack confidence in your writing? It seems that might be a good thing.

This was like an Eureka moment to me. And what an interesting concept. If you’re at the pre-agented stage in the journey to publication, you’re especially susceptible to agonizing self-doubt. If you suffer from lack of confidence in your writing skills (as I believe we all do from time to time), make your way to Mr. Bransford's posthaste.

Lack of confidence can be debilitating, and with each rejection it becomes harder and harder to maintain a decent level of self-esteem without which one cannot gather the courage to forge ahead and resubmit. According to the Dunning-Kruger effect, lack of confidence can actually be an indicator of talent. Likewise, when people are incompetent at something they tend to lack the ability to realize it.

Maybe this theory can also explain the recent actions of certain Republicans in the House and Senate. Maybe it explains why the Texas Board of Education is trying to write Thomas Jefferson out of history. These self-proclaimed historians have traced the idea of "separation of church and state" back to Jefferson and they don’t like separation of church and state, so they would strike him out of American History. What is troubling about this is that the textbook industry contains very few textbook publishers and because of the tremendous purchasing power Texas has, what they want schoolchildren to know can make its way into classrooms around the country. From sea to shining sea, Thomas Jefferson could become but a memory.

But this blog is supposed to be principally devoted to the craft of writing, so back to Nathan. Read his post. I’m calling this the Wednesday Uplift. You might be underrating your abilities. Go see what I mean.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Prolificacy

I would like to thank Sarahjayne Smythe for awarding me the Prolific Blogger Award.
According to Webster, prolific means "marked by abundant inventiveness or productivity."

So what does it mean in blogspeak, this writer in a state of congitation with the contented dog at her feet? According to the inventor, "A Prolific Blogger is one who is intellectually productive...keeping up an active blog that is filled with enjoyable content."

And folks! That ain't easy! Do you see the worry etched into her brow?

I don't think I'm very prolific but I do try to post something meaningful at least two or three times a week. The temptation to put up anything is always whispering in my ear, and I'm constantly swatting it away, so I'm grateful, Sarahjayne, for this acknowledgment.

Check out her blog. She, herself, is an extremely gifted and prolific writer.

Now for the rules. No groaning. This one is easy.

1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers.

2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog from which he/she has received the award.

3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to this post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.

4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we can get to know the other winners.

So who are my recipients? I'm glad you asked. I've given a great deal of thought to this, and I know some of you are on a blogging hiatus or don't do awards but that doesn't mean I can't tell you what a great blogger I think you are. No pressure from me....just appreciation and a little bit of a shout-out. You are prodigious, not only on your own blog but with the time you spend commenting and supporting other writers. And you are . . .

1. Tricia at Tailspinning
2. Cat at Words From The Woods
3. JonPaul at SkyMeetsGround
4. Jonas at Twilight
5. Jemi at Just Jemi
6. Andrea at A Blurred History
7. Carol at Carol's Prints
8. Wendy at Musings From Down Under
9. Annie at Quiet Commotion
10. Nessa at The Chrysalis Stage

And there are many more writers I've met along the way who are also worthy of this designation, and I could just keep going but for time constraints. It's time to go to work. And you know what they say about that. "It isn't work unless you'd rather be doing something else." And from the minute I arrive to the minute I leave, I'd rather be doing something else. The best thing about "work" is the 60-minute drive during which time I read my manuscript. Of course I read while I drive. Don't you?

One more thing before I let you leave. I have a question for everyone who is in the query process. Do you include a link to your blog under your name at the bottom of your letter? Should we? Is it like dessert? If the agent wants more they can have it?

Have a great week. Me? I'm going to try to live up to my new handle as I finalize my query and the lucky agents to receive it. (I'm working on my confidence). Optimism breeds success. Onwards and upwards.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Taking the tone of the company you keep

We passed three bars before we found one
you could be seen in.
You threw darts that wouldn’t stick
and I looked for songs on the jukebox
that wouldn’t make you want to leave.
Everyone wants to leave the country to turn fifty.
After the train pulled out
I fluffed pillows into the shape of you.


If you write a flash in 55 words (no more and no less) vist the G-Man (Mr-Knowitall, himself) and let him know. If not, visit him anyway and read some others.

What are you doing today? I'm watching for my first robin, planting seeds and query pondering.

TGIF and all that jazz.

Here's to blogging! (raises coffee cup)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

P.O.V. (the masterful experiment)

I woke in the middle of the night troubled by the weight of my unsent query letter. Is it specific? Is it succinct? I kicked my way out of bed and settled on the couch with The Sound and the Fury to take my mind off the unsent Memories of Snow. Thus it was that at two in the morning I was trying to get a handle on the confusing dialogue and brilliant but exasperating P.O.V. of the manchild, Benjy. Faulkner's narrative weaves back and forth between decades with no warning. It's no wonder I didn't understand it the first time I tried to read it. But I think I'm finally beginning to appreciate the greatness of this literary masterpiece, the risk of beginning a novel in the P.O.V. of an adult man who is mentally three years of age, and the sheer genius of pulling it off. I'm only now getting the symbolism of Benjy's castration and Caddy's soiled drawers (a symbol of her promiscuity), and the reason behind their brother, Quentin's, obsession with time and eventual suicide.

I was reminded of the recent news out of the state prison in Lucasville, Ohio about a prisoner on death row. His third execution date is set for today. He tried to commit suicide with a drug overdose before the last one, so they had to postpone it until he recovered. I wonder if he broke the hands off his watch and put them in his pocket like Quentin did? He was unconscious for some time and they nursed him back to health so he could be executed properly. He's recovered and they will execute him today by lethal injection. I expect it’s already been done.

One can only take so much Faulker at two in the morning, and I put the paperback, penciled up with dates in the margins to help me follow the shifts in time, aside (it is a tragic story, but at least it is fiction). I leafed through my Eliot Coleman gardening book, The Four Season Harvest. It, too, is wonderfully written with photos to complement the wealth of knowledge this gardener from Maine has accumulated over the years.

Earth is so kind - just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest. -Douglas Jerold

I've been tickling the earth in the green house. I dug up a worm here amongst the argula ***envision picture*** and tucked him back under the soil. Please use your imagination as I live in internet no-man's land and couldn't download my pretty photo.

This morning I was gifted with another sign of spring. I heard them first and dashed to the window for a look. A flock of geese were flying overhead, heading north.

Godspeed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gravity

Many of my blogging friends are writing about love scenes and here I am, writing about dust. I wouldn't blame you if you hit exit. Get me the hell out of here! But I wish you'd stay. Sometimes I don't feel like writing about love. Oh, I like nothing better than a good love scene, the warm calloused hand sliding over the knee, under the skirt, oh, God! don't stop! and I like writing them as much as reading them. It gives me that funny feeling in the groin just thinking about it, but sometimes I have to write about what makes me sick.

Hospitals make me sick. The sterile maze of hallway, doors opened to bare backs on beds, the indignity of disease, how it diminishes and reduces one to zero. The gift shops all have the same trinkets and flowers and get-well balloons. Get well. Get well. But what if they won't let you go home? Then how do you get well? I suppose it's the smell that starts the quiver in my belly, the oh-I'm-going-to-be-sick twinge in my gut. I'm not much use in a hospital, other than to sneak in cookies and date bread (real food) books and newspapers, but even when you pull the curtain you can still hear the roommate groaning. I can't adjust a pillow without glancing at the monitor and staring at the squiggly life lines and all those fluctuating numbers, and I think I have a heart problem or a lung disorder or what if that little bump on my ankle that when rubbed sends tingles into my toes is not benign? What if it gets bigger? Why can't I make an appointment? I so admire nurses and caretakers and doctors and everyone who works in a hospital. My sister held hearts in the operating room, the warm center of gravity in the palms of her hands without moving for however long it took to disconnect and reconnect and suction and suture. She retired early but not without varicose veins. All that standing. I stand most of the day too, but I could never do what she did.


The door swings empty. Dust settles.
Flesh accommodates.
Even a feather obeys gravity.
The old lady stumbles but she recovers.
I hurt therefore I am.

When you crossed the hospital lobby
Did you think to escape
With only shaking hands?
Pick up your feet.

Make a wrong turn and you could come up missing,
Walking back at yourself with the look of another.
in elongated mirrors hung in corners.
Don’t breathe.

Grandma couldn’t without the ventilator,
hissing and pumping a nasal gurgle.
(Did I dream that noise?)
The incident, unforeseen, took her down
one day before she was to come home,
one from which she could not recover.

It’s raining again at the window bed,
Steady as the pocket watch ticking
from where no one can see it.
It paces us through gathering events.
In a place like this . . . the only time I ever saw
my father down.

Out of time. And when was it ours?
Sometimes we can’t go home but would it matter
if we don’t recover?
We get along. Dust settles.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Finding Truth in a Tree

She put her arms around it, listening
to the leaves shuffling their cards.
The bark was rough
like the bristle of her lover,
the resonance of his voice.
But she only smelled the rot of the wood—
the bowels of her longevity
and nothing more.
The tree was dying
and no longer spoke to her.



If you write a Flash 55 visit the G-Man to let him know. You'll get feedback from the most gracious host from coast to coast and from his followers as well.

Thanks to all of you who visit my blog. Even if you don't comment I feel you right . . . here, like Men who Stare at Goats.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Character Flaw

I was stopped at a traffic light on the airport-access road when I noticed her sitting on the curb with her head in her hands. She was dressed in jeans and a baby blue sweatshirt. She didn't bother to stick out a thumb. Nobody picks up hitchhikers anymore. I looked for a stranded car. Nothing. A companion walking the berm. No one. What was her story? Was she running away? Miss a flight? Did she need a ride? If not, why was she sitting on the curb? And if so, why didn’t she act like it? She carried nothing, not even a purse.

She was as out of place as the wheelbarrow I once spotted in the middle of a wintering field with snow on the horizon and the crops in the barn. Nothing except in things. Left in the center of a fifty-acre field, a quarter of a mile from a house or an outbuilding. What happened to call the owner out of the field with such urgency he left his conveyance behind? Why can't I get that image out of my mind?

The light turned green and I accelerated with the rest of the traffic, behaving as expected, like a good citizen. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw her stand and stretch. Hands in pockets, going nowhere.

Inside at the checkpoint I was checking IDs. The man standing in front of me was shaking so badly he couldn't get his wallet out of his pocket. I waited. He was thin with long blonde hair and an angular face. Shaking. He pulled it free and I checked his license. I let him leave it inside the clear sleeve of his wallet. I could see what I needed to see. He wasn't expired. I followed him down the line and watched him try to take his shoes off. Painful. I pointed him to a chair. He declined. The cops would think him under the influence, or an addict. What's an addict but a person in pain? Maybe his blood sugar was low. That was it. He was hypoglycemic (the disorder of the hour), hair lank and hands shaking, a mess, but he had a plane to catch.

The airport is a bad place to be sick in. Strangers watch, afraid to extend a hand. Everyone's afraid they'll catch something. A cold, an addiction, bad luck, sudden hair loss. I talked to a man at the MSU Organic Conference who fed his chickens a bad batch of Purina chicken feed full of GMO corn and they all lost their feathers. Every last chicken lost every last feather.

Sometimes I want to lock myself in the women's bathroom and stay there until The World leaves.

But back to my traveler. Was there a connection between him and Baby Blue? Only in the interlocking circles of my mind. I didn't stop to help her because to do so would've made me late. (Like the circles of Dante’s Inferno, this was bad. This was probably number four or five.) But what's more important than getting to work on time? Nothing in the beaten-down soul of the American worker. We're all energizer wind-ups.

I didn't help her, but I could help him. I picked up his shoes and set them on the x-ray belt. From a co-worker’s reaction, you would've thought I'd picked up a cow patty and threw it at her like a Frisbee. What? Oh, I'd forgotten to don my smurf gloves. I despise those nasty blue gloves made in some slum factory in Asia we have to wear. You ever notice all those bottles of hand sanitizer sitting around airport checkpoints? Yeah, everyone is obsessed with GERMS. Squirt squirt squirt. Hand sanitizer does not take the place of washing with soap and water and I don't think I'll come down with Rocky Mountain Fever or some other exotic disease because I picked up a man's shoes.

I ate dirt when I was five and probably a little cow patty too. I would've helped him take those shoes off and put them back on if he'd wanted me to. People don't always want help. Is it easier to extend a hand than to take it? I never do enough. But I swear I’ll do better the next time I see someone sitting on the side of the road.

Monday, March 8, 2010

God Move Over

In between editing my novel and reading my latest issue of Poets and Writers and exploring online literary magazines and soaking up content (this week's favorites are Scarab , the world's only mobile literary magazine created just for the iPhone and iPod touch, Pure Francis, a little gem out of Chicago, and Bloody Bridge Review, a shameless plug, I know,) I've been paying frequent visits to my greenhouse to check on my fledgling attempts at growing spinach and arugula in February. Oh...but now it's March and the sun is higher and the snow is melting and we have to open the doors when the sun is shining because it otherwise gets too hot. And while writing is my first love, everybody needs to eat (even writers) and people deserve access to safe food free of GMO contamination.


I attended the Michigan Organic Conference at MSU this past weekend which elevated my blood pressure along with my resolve to do more to spread information on the rampant contamination of our food systems. Genetically modified organisms (God Move Over, some call it) have been brought to us by Monsanto, the same company who brought us DDT and Agent Orange and then lied about their safety. Those involved in seed production say Monsanto is buying up seed companies with the intent of owning all of them. If you control seed, you control food, and if you control food you control people.

High fructose corn syrup, which is in everything from cereal to ketchup, is 100% derived from genetically modified corn. GMO foods have been proven by scientific study to accelerate aging, affect fertility, cause immune system problems and allergies, and a 50% increase in breast cancer. Oh, and if that weren't enough? They can turn our intestinal tracks into little pesticide factories, yet these studies have been swept under the carpet by the strong arm of Monsanto political influence. They have a lot of money and they don't care about your intestines.

Now you might not want to think about such things because your head is full of your WIP. You’re more absorbed in keeping a handle on your wayward protagonist than what you’re about to put in your mouth but I know I want to live long enough to add more accomplishments to my literary arsenal (it took me six years to write one novel!). I don’t need any of the aforementioned health problems to add to the other obstacles we writers experience.

So what's this all about? Can we get GMO foods out of our grocery stores the way the Europeans and the Japanease did? I believe we can through activism. We can’t wait for our govt. to act, because they won't. But all we need is 5% of the population to denounce GMO to make it financially burdensome for the likes of Kraft, Nestle, Kellogg, etc. to continue to use it in their products. If you can't buy organic try to at least avoid GMO foods, processed foods and fast food. Make your voice heard. Ask questions. Be diligent. That 5% is you.

So here's to good eating and writing well.

Friday, March 5, 2010

First,

you lose the impatience of youth,
linger over emerging bulbs
And let the phone ring.

Mirror mirror on the wall,
from the first step out of bed
to grinding the next day's coffee,
I am my mother after all.

I rub the bump I’ve developed in my palm
And gauge the knob on my wrist.



The idea behind this Friday writing game, called 55 Fiction Fridays, or 55 Friday, is to write a complete story in 55 words. If you can do it, don't forget to let the G-Man know. I'm amassing a number of these nuggets and who knows....I might find another story idea buried in the rubble. Give it a try, those of you out there who say you can't do it. The story is right outside your window (or in the palm of your hand).

T! G! I! F!