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

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Catfish Dreams - Friday Flash 55

A turtle breaks the surface of the pond with his ancient head and swims silently along the bank. The water level is up. He leaves a wake. Catfish float on the bottom, dreaming of summer. The turtle suddenly dives with a flip of his tail. Overhead a young eagle soars across the water looking for food.



This is a flash fiction piece in exactly 55 words for the G-Man. Write the same and let him know. Why? Because it's fun. And it's good for your writerly brain, like crossword puzzles and scrabble.

TFIF and time for writing.




Monday, March 26, 2012

Erasure

I've been tweaking my blog's template lately so if you've stopped by and thought you were at the wrong place, I hope you didn't leave or roll your eyes. Please don't go! Please bear with me. Actually, I wish there was a way to revert back to what I had, but it doesn't seem possible. Oh well....the big picture in my header now is one I took last summer on Lake Huron. I love the way the water foams and pools and how the sandy pebbles in the foreground stand out in sharp detail. Doesn't it make you want to pick one up and skip it? What I also liked about this photograph is the way the watery horizon seems to gently follow the curvature of the earth. I can't wait to walk that beach again.

After a week of summer weather it looks like March has returned. I put the plastic domes on my seed trays last night and hope the greenhouse stayed above 40 degrees.

If it rains, I'll sharpen my pencil and work on my manuscript. I love editing with pencil, the ease of erasure for a change in direction, the tweak to a minor character and the shrug of a shoulder, crossing out a pesky adverb or a redundant phrase or an uncharacteristic bit of dialogue. Those things are easy and fun to fix. It's the big changes that are hard: rewriting an ending, or correcting a major flaw in the narrative. It'll take a week of rainy weather to get a grip on that. And pot after pot of coffee.

Have a good week.

Friday, March 23, 2012

VARIATIONS ON A THEME

The Literary Lab has just announced that their new anthology, VARIATIONS ON A THEME, has gone live on Amazon. The collection of short stories is available in beautiful paperback form for only $8.56, a very good price for a nice print book. Isn't the cover awsome? It makes me think of Jack In The Beanstalk meeting Hansel and Gretel.


Writers were asked to create work inspired by one of two stories: “The Tinderbox,” a classic fairy tale, or “The Huntsman,” by Anton Chekhov. I'm excited to see how all the stories fit together in what I've been told is a tight collection of magical storytelling. As always, the proceeds go to a charitable cause.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gaitskill's Camera


VERONICA, by Mary Gaitskill is horrifying and cruel, and impossible to put down.  It’s a raw, disturbing critique of the modeling industry: the pimps and photographers, the exploitation and narcissism. But it’s also the tender story of an unlikely friendship between two disparate women in 1980s New York. Throughout the novel, Gaitskill moves seamlessly back and forth between past and present, so effortlessly you barely realize she’s doing it.

The story begins when Allison is middle-aged and cleans offices, but with a body so wrecked she can barely wash windows. Gaitskill then takes us back in time to a sixteen-year-old girl who is oblivious to fashion. She runs away from home and meets a fashion model and is drawn to the lure of modeling.
From Allison’s first shoot with an agent:

I didn’t know how to pose but it didn’t matter. Then he said he had to see me naked.
“We aren’t taking any more pictures,”he said. “No one ever shoots you nude. I have to look at you because I’m the agent.”
He turned the music off and looked at me. “You’re five pounds overweight,” he said gently. “And your breasts aren’t that good.” He touched my cheek with the back of his hand. “But right now, that doesn’t matter.”
Veronica is the eccentric middle-aged office temp Allison first meets while working between modeling jobs as a temp doing word processing for an ad agency in Manhattan. Plump, with bleached blonde hair and a loud sensual voice, Veronica is the complete opposite of Allison. She proofreads like a cop with a nightstick, and her voice resonates with "been there, done that". 
"Excuse me hon, but I’m very well acquainted with the use of the semicolon.”
Then Allison gets a chance to go to Paris to work the runway. This is a passage from shortly after she arrives:
He said I needed a haircut. Called a hairdresser, told him what to do, and sent me to the salon in a taxi. The salon was full of wrinkled women staring fixedly at models in magazines. When I walked in, they frowned and glared. But the girl at the desk smiled and led me through rows of gleaming dryers, each with a woman under it, dreaming angrily in the heat. The hairdresser didn’t even need to talk to me. He talked to someone else while I stared at myself in the mirror.
This is one of the more caustic scenes from a shoot with a photographer who was considered an artist:
The girl was fifteen and he spent the whole day telling her she was bloated and fat.
“The lips are too thin, Andre. Can you work with that? And while you’re at it, do something about those bags under the eyes.”
I was drinking orange soda and giggling with a stylist.
“My God!” cried the photographer, throwing another Polaroid on the ground. “Can’t you do better than that? Do you even know what fucking is?”
The girl’s mouth quivered. She was thin-lipped for a model.
I tipped my head back to look at the deep and bright blue sky.
“Okay,” the photographer sighed. “Look. We’re going to be shooting from the waist up only. Just put your hand down your pants and make yourself feel good.”
The girl’s mouth was twisted with embarrassment. Tears shone on her face.
“You haven’t got the lips!” yelled the photographer, “so use your eyes! You’ve got the eyes! Use them!”

Paris doesn't work out. Cheated out of her money and locked out of her apartment, Allison moves back to New York. Her career takes off again. She gets a larger apartment. As soon as she does, the work falls off. 
I was supposed to be in a swimsuit spread, but I stood next to a girl with big boobs and a butt like a mare and the photographer said, "You look like her twelve-year old sister!" During an evening-wear shoot a client suddenly appeared with a tape measure and held it to my hips and said, "Look at this! We can't have this!"

Later, over sushi, a friend asks her, "Were you about to have your period, by any chance?"

And finally, this is from a conversation that Veronica and Allison have much later about pleasing people:

Veronica drew on her cigarette, blew out. “Prettiness is always about pleasing people. When you stop being pretty, you don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t have to do that anymore. It’s my show now.”
It’s her show, and it’s her story as much as Allison’s. While reading this, I kept thinking about all the beauty pageants little girls are entered in: Princess this and Princess that, pitting them against each other to see who’s the cutest when they’re barely out of diapers. I wish that anyone thinking to subject a little girl to that would first read VERONICA.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kiss Me I'm Irish

Every time I peel potatoes, I think of the Irish. I don't know why. Maybe it's the old stories about the Irish potato famine that I heard from my mother and my grandmother and have never forgotten. I like potatoes as much as the next person, and it's one of the most versatile root vegetables, but I can't imagine having a diet solely based on potatoes. I can't imagine if that were the case and the crop failed.

Everyone is Irish today, so I wanted to post a little tribute to a resilient people by sharing a list of common English words that come from the Irish. Credit goes to the Scottish for words like whiskey, loch, and clan, but according to Emma Taylor's article at Accredited Online Colleges, Scottish Gaelic grew out of Middle Irish. Thanks Emma. I didn't know that! 

Check it out and amaze your friends with your knowledge of word origins whilst tipping back a pint (I can't do green either). And doesn't hooligan sound nicer than criminal?  A hooligan can be almost charming. Haven't you ever wished that you'd said "yes" just once to that hooligan in your past?

Here's to the "water of life" and a day of fun with the hooligans in your present.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Friday Flash 55 - Tick Tock

The man was a clock.
Tick Tock.
He threatened the teenager who quit without notice.
He punched the migrant worker for no reason at all.
He threatened to kill the irrigation man
who forgot the couplings
Tick Tock needed for his strawberries.
They thought he was all talk
but now they're all sorry.
Tick Tock.


The storm surrounds us and knocked out the power a place away. The woods across the road are backlit by strobes of  lightning, and I try not to put too much stock in what might be seen outside the window on a night such as this. Beware the Ides of March. The man on the loose.

If you write a flash 55 for the Ides of March, make sure you let the G-Man know.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Did you buy your man a silver tie for Christmas?

What has 16,000 reader reviews on Goodreads, 100,000 e-book sales, and is No. 1 on the New York Times e-book fiction best-seller list for sales in the week ending March 3? This is all everyone is talking about.

And I've been advised by some critters to tone down the sex a bit. Now I want to put every erotic detail back in. Sex sells. Big and simple.

Their bottom line in the review: "Our consensus: the book is pretty ridiculous — for every lashing there's an "OMG!" — but if it's making more women feel comfortable discussing their sexuality, we're all for it."

At a time when women's sexualty and reproductive health are under attack,  I can't disagree with that.




Monday, March 12, 2012

The Funeral

His eyes were on me
like an owl in the barn on movement below
and I'm struck by an old emotion.
You see, I met a man who knows
that the highest point in the Great Lakes Basin
lies not far from a bluff where water drops 900 feet
to a river bottom untrespassed.
Who knows that?

Others eat shrimp and drink wine
and don't know they don't know
while he takes me into the forest
and we listen for the loons.

A man who would
rather hunker down at a campfire
than eat shrimp and drink wine
knows things I don't know.

You see I met this guy who pays attention to words
like a tiler to the blade slicing through water.
When I talk I feel his eyes
listening, listening.
And I want to go on and on about something
so he'll keep looking
and looking.

Was it the sound of water falling
or the whirr of a whippoorwill I heard
in the inflection of his voice—in his story of kayaking
on Lake Superior in a storm.
The cry of the loon is interrupted

by the clap of the skeets outside the yacht club.
They punctuate our conversation like a grammarian.
Shooters send their clay targets flying across the water
on the simulated angle of birds in flight
with no mind to the wake inside. Life goes on.
You have to hit your target.

The first time you hear a loon, you know what it is.
Like the first time you meet someone
you already know.
Draw me a map on a napkin
and I'll follow.
Take me kayaking on open water,
I'll follow.

When the silence amplifies what we won’t say or ever do
clay pigeons fly across the water and we look and look.
Only the loon in a lonely decibel
says what we won’t say.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Friday Flash 55 - Catalog Of Last Resort


He’s looking at a catalog for canes
because he can’t afford the shots.

The house is cold—
propane at fifteen percent.

He claims love is not a consideration
in his life anymore

but he waits for her to get home
to turn on the heat.

He looks for the cheapest
and circles it in red.




If you've written a piece of flash fiction in 55 words, go tell the G-Man and enjoy a flurry of attention from his bevy of FF followers.  The temperature is dropping and now I'm seriously freezing. Wonder if I can turn up the heat....

TGIF!

Monday, March 5, 2012

RUTH

The Central Plaza bustles with vendors.
A small woman trails necklaces for sale from both arms
and implores me to buy from her.
Remember Ruth, she says with a smile.

I remember her.
People brown and sturdy as earth,
travelers of space and time,
owners of the maize—
red, black, and gold.

I wish I had something of Ruth’s . . .
jade at my throat or a runner for my table.
A blanket for this winter night.
Eyes like that to lift a glass to.