“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” –Thoreau

10 November 2011

"The Feminist Homemaker"

I've been published for the second time on A Practical Wedding, the excellent wedding blog run by Meg Keene. My contribution is part of series they call "Reclaiming Wife," which is mostly about real women being really, truly, painfully honest about what marriage means for them. They are focusing on "reclaiming feminism" this week. I used the opportunity to discuss my struggles with joblessness, homemaking, feminism, and the future. You can click the link above to get to the website, or the photo below to take you directly to my writing. My article is up now, so I hope you'll head over there and check it out!

14 October 2011

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT (IN CAPITAL LETTERS)

It's official. I'm going to graduate school.

I'll begin attending the Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2012. I'll be working toward my Masters degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults. The writer-in-residence for our first semester will be Libba Bray-- author of the New York Times bestseller A Great and Terrible Beauty (a very good book) among other titles. It's a two year low-residency program, among the best low-res writing programs in the country (The Atlantic, Poets & Writers, ect). Plus, they offer my specialization. Most of the other schools I spoke with (full- and low-residency) either "don't do" young adult literature or assured me they could "make it work." Umm... no. Graduate school is too expensive for me to trust you'll somehow "make it work." The VCFA program is focused, innovative, and very exciting. I think I'm going to learn a lot.

Four books on this display were written by VCFA alumni.
It's scary, of course. It's a lot of money and a lot of time. My health isn't very good, I don't have a day-job right now, and we'd like to add children to our little family in the next few years (human children, obviously, since we already have the fuzzy variety). I've given serious consideration to whether or not it's even worth it; we all know a degree won't guarantee success, or even employment. But Casey assures me we can make it work and Casey never lies to me. Usually. Cue the weary sigh.

I have to give special thanks to the former-professors who submitted letters of recommendation for me. Well, they were formerly my professors. They are still professors, just not mine. Steve Buhler, Virgina Smith, and Stan Brown: Thank you! If I end up teaching college courses someday, it will be thanks to their influence. And to all three of my mothers, who gave me feedback on my submission materials. Chris Cary, Becky Cary, and Cindy Diers: You rock! I literally couldn't have done it without them.

That's it, I guess. That's my big news. I guess I'll go back to saving Marte Possen's life now.

06 October 2011

Bored.

A. Age: 26
B. Bed Size: Full. I've had this bed since junior high. Casey loves it (he's a cuddler) but I think it's too small (because I, for the most part, am not).
C. Chore That You Hate: Doing the dishes. I love to cook, but nothing will ruin a perfectly lovely meal like having to clean up after it. This has become the spouse's chore.
D. Dogs or Cats: I love them both, and the rest of my family favors dogs, but I'd choose cats every time. Lucky for Princess Catherine and Henry the Wonder Kitten.
E. Essential Start to Your Day: Sunshine. I wake up with the sun.
F. Favorite Color: It depends on context. I like to wear gray (I know, technically a shade) or blue. I like to decorate with brown and red. I like to eat green or yellow. But my official "favorite" is purple. Weird, right?
G. Gold or Silver: No preference. I wear both, often together.
H. Height: 5’4" but people always think I'm taller.
I. Instruments You Play: None. I played the clarinet once upon a time and the guitar. I think I flirted with the violin and flute. Nothing stuck. I sing instead.
J. Job Title: Writer. Occasional actress and model. Hopefully I'll be able to add "graduate student" soon.
K. Kids: They are fuzzy. Catherine, a six year old calico tabby we sometimes call "Cat", and Henry, a one year old marmalade with too much energy.
L. Live: On the northside in Chicago, Illinois. We rent.
M. Mother’s Name: Christine, called Chris, is my biological mother. Rebecca, called Becky, is my stepmom.
N. Nicknames: Jenny. Jenn. Jenna. Child (thanks, Dad). Bear (thanks, Grandma). Sweetheart (Casey is not terribly creative). Panda (from high school). Elf (from grade school). I think that's about it.
O. Old-fashioned Favorite: I have a lot of these. I love scones and shepherd's pie and black tea with milk. I prefer antique furniture. Family traditions are important to me, especially at holidays. I like antiquated names.
P. Pet Peeves: People who put their pets up for adoption because they moved to an apartment that won't take them. You chose the apartment! How could you consider apartments that won't take pets?
Q. Quote From a Movie: "This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then - explode." (Serenity)
R. Right- or Left-Handed: Right-handed! Not even a little ambidextrous.
S. Siblings: Younger brother, Gordon, who got all of the height and the cool name.
T. Time You Wake Up: With the sun. Sometimes I go back to sleep though.
U. Underwear: Uh, yes?
V. Vegetable You Hate: I don't hate vegetables. I can do without raw onions, but I love them cooked.
W. What Makes You Run Late: Cat vomit. Usually.
X. X-Rays: Hard to come up with one for the letter X, eh? Umm... I've had several. Arms, legs, head, chest, stomach. Well, some of those were probably other kinds of scans. I give up.
Y. Yummy Food That You Can Make: Enchiladas. Scones. Spaghetti and meatballs. Quiche Lorraine. I'm all over the map.
Z. Zoo Animal: I love manatees.

14 September 2011

Migraine poem.

THE RENT

paying
the rent some
times
feels like we
re look
ing down the barrel
of a loaded
gun

cliche and pain
ful in the same
empty
ways

the means beyond
that work
ing poor
that fragile
static

unclear
unwanted

paying hospital bills
with our blood

which
we discover
means less than we
think

you laugh

the gun
fires back

and you can
not make
be
lieve

not the way
that you used to

that
well
ran
dry

too







Poetry lives in my head, even when my head is killing me. Sometimes getting it out of there helps.

Blessings.

11 September 2011

A cinquain, a photo, a memory.


I CANNOT MAKE THIS BEAUTIFUL. I CANNOT.





she died

the way i would

not want:





       sweat and grasping









       breath

              rattling loud enough to






                                        fore


    warn god.









 
 
 
 
 
 
The school administration told our teachers not to tell us.
Matt Davis, my speech coach, refused.
He was the first teacher to turn on the news, shortly after the second tower was hit.
Passing students just stopped to stare.
Eventually, Davis wheeled his TV into the hallway because his classroom had filled up.
My mother, like so many other parents, called my cell phone crying.
I sat on the concrete steps outside until my legs stopped shaking.
Then I walked home alone.


Blessings, everyone.

08 September 2011

Competitive Illness

I swear I'll write about writing again. Eventually. Someday. In the meantime, here's my two-cents on a topic I feel overly-qualified to discuss. My husband, Casey, suggested I write a little bit about a very strange phenomenon I've decided to call competitive illness.

I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease several weeks ago. It's not a particularly rare disorder, with perhaps 500,000 cases in the U.S. alone, and so most people know someone who suffers from it-- a brother, an uncle, a best friend's cousin. Crohn's Disease is an autoimmune disorder which causes a person's white blood cells to attack their own stomach and intestines. It's not really clear why this happens, but I've always had a tendency toward the odd and untreatable. Migraines, rashes, ear infections, benign tumors-- my history of illness has always hinted at an abnormal immune system. You grow accustomed to weirdness.

If you've ever been really ill, especially with something only marginally treatable, then you'll know exactly what competitive illness means. It strikes whenever another person discovers you are sick, and it is most of the reason people with chronic illnesses keep them under wraps.

Competitive illness, as I define it, is a natural phenomenon wherein Human Being #1 feels an overwhelming need to prove to Human Being #2 how minor the illness of Human Being #2 really is. It is usually accomplished by countering HB2's information with stories from HB1's life or the lives of those people he/she knows, all of whom are far sicker than HB2. This is not the sort of behavior that is limited to particular people; rather, it seems to be a natural human reaction to illness.

Some people just can't stop themselves from competing for the title of Sickest Person in the World. If you have a headache, they have a migraine. If your feet hurt, they have a bad knee. If you develop Type 1 diabetes, they most certainly have debilitating Type 2 in their families and it's really only a matter of time. Cue the wailing widows.

But even if you aren't competitive with your own personal illness-- men, especially, prefer to tell the world that they never get sick-- you undoubtedly suffer from competitive illness anyway. Since I've discovered I have Crohn's, I have chosen to inform only select family, closest friends, and coworkers who need to know why I've been missing so much work. Of the people I've told (perhaps 15 in total), all but two have informed me that they know someone else with a severe case of Crohn's Disease. And not just Crohn's, but severe Crohn's. As if one would assume they have mild Crohn's unless you clarified it for them. As if the symptoms of Crohn's Disease can feel mild in the middle of a flare-up-- which, incidentally, they can't.

My husband tells me it's possible that people are just trying to be polite; that they want to relate to what I'm telling them without having to say: "Wow. That really sucks." He believes that they want to tell me about their own experiences with Crohn's, mostly second-hand, without scaring me, and so they make it clear that this only happens in severe cases. He thinks it's a way of saying, "Luckily, I'm sure you won't have to deal with this."

I'm not convinced this is true. I think it's more likely that people use this as a defense mechanism. When human beings are uncomfortable, we try to deflect the uncomfortable thing-- in this case, the awareness of another person's pain. Our automatic response is to belittle discomfort. We tell small children they're fine when they fall down and cry. We tell our preteens and teenagers to get moving, to just "suck it up."  Heck, this girl's parents never let her miss a single day of school. When someone tells us they're sick as a dog, we tell them just how much sicker they could be. Stop whining. Quit crying. Get back to work.

I have gathered that I don't seem like a normal Crohn's patient: I am functional. I can eat. I have maintained my good humor. It's true that I have high internal pain tolerance (read: I can withstand more pain on the inside of my body than the average person, although my skin sensitivity is average). But withstanding pain isn't the same as not feeling it. Migraines, TMJ, plantar fasciitis, back pain... these are par for my course. I can function in day-to-day life with a higher level of pain than average. But sometimes people, even my own family, choose to view my ability to cope as a sign that I'm okay. "Okay" is always relative. If anyone bothered to ask if I was okay, I'd answer them honestly. And the answer would be hell no.

All right, yes, I can deal with it. I am dealing with it. I go to work and I clean my house and sometimes I even make dinner I won't be able to eat. Only my poor beleaguered husband has to go through knowing what "dealing with it" actually entails, and that's probably exactly as it should be. I don't need other people to validate my illness for me but I am tired of being made to feel like I have prove to others how much pain I live with. I'm not in competition with your brother, or uncle, or best friend's cousin. I don't have to live up to your standards of human sickness. I don't really care who you know or how sick they are. Don't try to be polite. Endeavor to be honest. And honestly?

Wow. This really sucks.

14 August 2011

Super Slim Me

Last week, I had the opportunity to watch a rerun of the BBC special Super Slim Me, which followed television presenter Dawn Porter on her quest to achieve an American size zero, or what the British apparently call "Hollywood Zero." She wasn't doing it with the intention of remaining that size-- this isn't one of those obnoxious reality weight-loss shows-- but rather as an extreme example of what being a size zero actually means.

Ms. Porter had three months to drop from an American size 10 (UK size 12) to a size zero, and she was monitored along the way by doctors and nutritionists. Losing that much weight so quickly is inherently dangerous. She had to cut back to 500 calories or less each day, and she began a strenuous exercise regimen. At a certain point, she even resorted to trying out some of the Hollywood "fad diets" which other celebrities have famously used-- Beyonce's maple syrup beverage, for example, and the Cabbage Soup Diet.

The weight did indeed fall off, but at a steep cost; her hair and skin became dull, her mood was unpredictable, and she was terribly miserable throughout the process. When Ms. Porter interviewed celebrity stylists and personalities in the U.S., they told her honestly that being a size zero was crucial to one's success in Hollywood. Zero is the gold standard, the brass ring: achieve that, and new doors will be open to you. They also admitted that maintaining that size is hell, that they're hungry all the time and obsessed with the scale. I'm not sure they'd have been as honest if an American interviewer had been asking the questions.

I've been bothered by this super-slim phenomenon for years. I have friends and colleagues who've been told that losing weight was critical to their success as actors. Heck, I've been told that myself. I've begun to think, in my cynical mid-twenties, that any female actress who believes she doesn't need to lose the weight is kidding herself. We all succumb to the pressure of the film industry eventually, or we stay poor, starving stage artists. Devil or the deep blue sea.

But I received some eye-opening advice from a colleague at my current day job. I was eating a hotdog for lunch in the staff room, and I commented about how "bad" it was for me. He stopped me immediately. "Don't do that," he said. "Don't think of your food as 'good' or 'bad.' Don't do that to yourself." I wasn't sure what he meant. He explained: "Food is energy, it's nourishment, it's food. There is no 'good' food. There is no 'bad' food. If you allow yourself to label it that way, you just set yourself up for negativity and failure."

You know what? He is right. There is no bad food. So long as we are eating lots of different kinds of things, so long as we eat when we're hungry and stop when we're full, then we are just eating food. When did Americans begin to develop this adversarial attitude toward nourishment? When did food become the enemy? Why do we idolize people who control (read: severely limit) their food consumption?

There's a prevailing theory in the U.S. that we have to stop eating as much as we want in order to be healthy. But the Japanese eat as much as they want, and they are healthier than we are. Perhaps the real issue is that we don't celebrate food enough! We don't allow ourselves to explore the billions of different foods the world has to offer, and what we do eat gets consumed in our cars, in front of our TVs, or at the bar. We don't stop when we're full because we're too distracted to notice that we feel full. And how can we know that we love "healthy" foods like sushi, or nicoise salad, or tandoori chicken if we've never even tried it?

Those foods we think of as "bad" are very cheap in the U.S. Our government subsidizes the creation of chicken nuggets and french fries because those industries provide our country with many, many jobs. Simultaneously, our media outlets tell us that we have an obesity "epidemic", that we're too lazy, too gluttonous, too fat. The mixed messages wreak havoc on our self-esteem and our collective psyche. Those who can afford to eat the most delicious food in the world won't touch it, in an effort to reach and maintain a size zero. Those who cannot afford it don't even know what they're missing. They pile on cheese and chocolate and salt, and they pile on pounds too. More is better when it all tastes the same anyway.

I'm tired of Hollywood actresses claiming they eat normally, and models saying that they are "naturally thin." Naturally slim exists. Naturally 5' 11" tall and an American size zero does not. Women cannot naturally maintain a body mass index under 17, and anyone who claims they do is lying. These lies are damaging to the person saying them, and to the audience hearing them. And they need to stop. It's one thing for an Olympic athlete to maintain such a low body fat percentage-- I'd argue that level of physical training can hardly be called "natural" anyway-- but size zero is another matter entirely. Unless you are very short, size zero simply isn't healthy. To reach such a small size, women are sacrificing the health of their bodies and minds. And most women know, realistically, that they'll never achieve that super-slim ideal, and so they give up before they've even begun.

We believe we have to go to war with our bodies if we want to be fit, but that simply isn't true. We have to stop "conquering our cravings" and "controlling our portion sizes." We need to stop fighting with our food. We need to start eating passionately. We need to savor every bite, and learn to love our healthy, functioning, miraculous bodies. What more can we ask for?

04 August 2011

Driving a car and other impossible feats.

I hated learning to drive. I mean, I hated it. Most teenagers look at driving as a kind of rite of passage but I spent most of my fifteenth year thinking up reasons to skip the whole thing. It scared the crap out of me. I was nearly seventeen when I finally learned, and that was only after my parents shipped me off to driver's ed summer school. One of my (innumerable) faults: I hate being responsible for a stranger's health and happiness. Theoretically, I believe in being my brother's keeper, walking in his moccasins and all that, but realistically it terrifies me. What if you screw it up? What if you hit a biker with your door, or forget your turn signal, or miss the crosswalk sign? It's a lot of responsibility, driving. And I was pretty sure I was not ready for that.

My father was my original driving instructor, and he is not known for his patience. We would trundle out to the county fairgrounds, which were usually deserted, and he'd attempt to teach me how to shift gears manually without making my stepmom's old car cry out in pain. Needless to say, I sucked. I really, really sucked. Eventually, he would get frustrated and tell me to drive home. That was the worst part of the day, since there were actual cars to navigate and actual lives at stake. (Yes, I was and am seriously neurotic. You would think I was making Sophie's choice, when really I was just deciding which street to turn down.) Our driveway was so steep, I don't think I ever successfully pulled that little manual transmission in to park. When my father gave up on teaching me-- and on giving me a car with a manual transmission-- I was secretly relieved. I had dodged the bullet, I believed, and so had anyone who might have had to drive on the same roads with me.

But my success was short-lived. In the end, my parents enrolled me in driver's education courses at the community college. It was a boring, stodgy sort of class. The instructor droned on and on for hours about the shape of street signs and the importance of wearing seat belts. We drove around the parking lot for the first few days, and then ventured out into the quiet, suburban neighborhoods surrounding the school. And I did learn to drive. I may never be an excellent driver but I am certainly a conscientious one, and parallel parking is overrated anyway. When I finally "graduated" and received my driver's license (after two attempts at the written test, naturally), I sat out on the porch with my father and drank Capri Sun in the late-summer heat. I admitted to him that I'd thought I'd never learn to drive, that it was just too hard, that it was probably impossible. He laughed, and then he told me something I have never ever forgotten:

"Difficult is not a synonym for Impossible, you know."

It's not a revolutionary idea. I don't suppose Dad invented it. But it was a light bulb moment for me, one of those rare and perfect phrases that just sticks to your bones. Proverbial soulfood.

Without that mental mantra, there is absolutely no way I could have survived two years in a long-distance relationship, graduated from college in four years, moved 500 miles to Chicago, began an acting career, ended that career by choice, gotten married, and embarked on a brand new life as a writer. My father believes in following dreams-- all of them, wholeheartedly, no matter how often they change course. He never lied to me about life being easy but he also never allowed me to think of my dreams as unattainable. Nothing is impossible, but nearly everything is difficult. Accepting that reality marked my first step toward becoming an adult.

It's strange, isn't it? Becoming an adult? I think we all mark that particular rite of passage in our own way, at our own time. It varies so wildly. Was I an adult when I learned to drive? Hell no. What about when I moved into my first apartment? Probably not. When I graduated college? Maybe. When I got married? Well, I hope I was one before that. Some cultures set societal deadlines for adulthood (Bar and Bat Mitzvah, Shinbyu, Quincea├▒era, even a society Debut). My father was only 21 years old when I was born, which launched him into adulthood much earlier than I myself began it. Our society allows us to delay the "adult" distinction almost indefinitely. Because, it turns out, being an adult is difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.

The truth is that, at least for me, adulthood arrived gradually and with very little fanfare. I eased into it. It wasn't so much that I fought my adulthood; I didn't dream up ways to get out of it, as I had with driving, and I wasn't nearly as fearful of the consequences. Sure it sucks. It sucks hard. My adulthood grew out of my acceptance of responsibility, not only for myself but for the world at large, and responsibility is all about doing the things the universe asks of you. And it hurt sometimes. And I think it is supposed to. But isn't there something beautiful about finally taking ownership for your place in the world?

Difficult, as it turns out, really isn't a synonym for Impossible. It's a synonym for Life.

Thanks, Dad.

30 June 2011

The poem as a stream of conciousness.

what I write is crap today




this is my lunch break:

standing in the kitchen wiping up
masala leftovers
the edges of my right hand
catching drips
as it rubs the crust
of naan
into
streaks on the side of a takeout container
I waste the quiet daylight
sending cell phone images
of my cats
over the lines I never use to make phone calls
there is a portrait of our rabbit
leaning against the dining room wall
I took it down
because seeing it up
made me cry
packing it away makes me
feel worse
if that were possible
she died last year in her handmade cage
we could not save her from
the water
she could not keep inside her
our parents must worry about grandchildren
we have filled the void
meant for tiny human fingernails
with whiskers and the clippings of translucent claws
and I cannot imagine the pain
losing a child would bring
it is my husband’s birthday today
if the writing will not flow
then I will have to set my work aside
celebrations trump inspiration
when there is love in this house
sometimes I worry
the Gods
forget
the furred creatures of the world
when our wars consume
their omnipotent energy
there is nothing left
for a whisker
a translucent claw
I hope for fields of leafy greens
and piles of strawberries in the Beyond
wherever that fluff of cotton
hops to now
writing will not surge forward
when I am morose
but there is something about birthdays
which makes me weep
when I think of all the
creatures
whose birthdays are over
we lost our grandfathers this year
three of them
they could have told us perhaps
if it hurts to die
if the light which went out
of their eyes
was traveling forward
toward something even brighter than
a dying spirit
if there is anything brighter than that
after all
we always talk about death as a loss
because I think we know
instinctively
that we know nothing
about that Beyond place
if it is leafy
if it is sweet
maybe it is we who are lost
I think
wherever those eye lights are going to
they have surely found their way
by now
God
I hope so

14 June 2011

Where do your ideas come from?

Sometimes when I'm searching for information on the topics pertinent to my work, I stumble upon something which proceeds to become my work. These are rare, precious discoveries. Most of my writing springs from multiple sources-- a massive river formed by smaller tributaries. The tributaries feed into my larger concept over time, filling it out and giving it horsepower. A small tributary might turn a small water wheel, but the larger river will power Hoover's dam.

I can get caught up in the magic of those tributaries. It is so thrilling to discover something pertinent, something that motivates me to make changes, something that explains a character to me. Characters are very much like real people... you don't know everything there is to know upon first meeting them. They don't arrive fully-formed; they have to grow up first. I've been acquainted with some of my characters for years and I still discover things about them that surprise me. And even though these surprises are wonderful, I don't ever want to lose sight of the river's source. Because that is what gives my work focus.

My newest project has a very embarrassing source. I think it best to put it out here now and get it over with, before I become too invested in the story to admit its inception. The new book was conceived after viewing a music video for Beyonce's song "Run the World." I am not in any way anti-Beyonce; I think some of her music is quite good. But the song "Run the World" sucks. It's just not good music. The message of the song is so childish and silly. "Who runs the world? GIRLS!" This is patently untrue. Girls do not run the world. Very old, very white men in tailored suits run the world. They also run the banks, the universities, the hospitals, and the space program.

The music video, on the other hand, is incredibly provocative. The imagery is glamorous and post-apocalyptic, when it doesn't even seem possible to be both. There are lions and hyenas inserted for no apparent reason, except perhaps as examples of animal societies in which females totally overpower the males. Although, in that case, it seems ironic to use a male lion rather than a female lioness. Maybe he serves the same function as Beyonce's randomly inserted male back-up dancers. "Look at this enormous male predator! He is lying at my feet! Girls rock!" Or maybe his mane was just pretty.

Anyway, what really struck me was the way that the women "fought" their male counterparts. They wore skimpy little outfits more suited to the beach than to combat. They undulated and licked their own fingers. They caressed the male soldiers' chests. Also, they had no weapons. The men carried guns and wore flak jackets; the women carried flags and wore makeup. It seemed to imply, at least in my overly analytical brain, that this hypothetical war would be won through sex. Or perhaps the withholding of sex. I find myself incredibly intrigued by the concept.

So, that was the source. That was the mountain top full of melting ice. Since then, many tributaries have worked their way into my work (this article, for example, and this book). Many more will continue to do so as time goes along. As writers, we are honor-bound to acknowledge these sources (if only in our own heads). Is your source a kids' movie? The motel you stayed in last winter? An uncomfortable memory from college? Find your way back there, from time to time. The source is so important. It is rare. It is precious. Don't get lost in the tributaries... you can be side-tracked upstream, and never make it to where you most wish to go.

09 June 2011

From a formerly-raging teen.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece entitled "Darkness Too Visible: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?"

Here is a quote from that article:

"Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care."

LIKELY??? "INDEED, LIKELY"?????

Alcoholism, self-harm, suicide, and depression may have "periods of vogue," but they are also real, quantifiable mental illnesses. To pretend that kids are going to jump on some kind of self-harm bandwagon might make the parents of the kids doing so feel good ("See? We're not to blame! It was the fault of books!"). Realistically speaking, even teenagers who try destructive behaviors because they read them in books are already dealing with underlying issues. Happy teens don't start gauging themselves with paperclips. Happy teens don't start shooting cocaine. Happy, well-adjusted teens don't try to commit suicide.

Books are powerful, but they aren't that powerful.

Anyway, I'm not going to spend a lot of time going into this (although believe me, I could) since many other writers whom I respect have already done so. I'm just going to direct you to their intelligent commentary and let you make decisions for yourself.

Because, you know, thinking for ourselves is the point of being human. Isn't it?

Colleen Mondor - "Maybe, finally, the books teens read are being honest"

Laurie Halse Anderson - "Stuck between rage and compassion"

Linda Holmes - "Seeing Teenagers as We Wish They Were: The Debate Over YA Fiction"

07 June 2011

An award ceremony, Chicago-style.

    Last night, my husband Casey and I attended the Joseph Jefferson Non-Equity Awards, which everyone lazily refers to as “the Jeffs.” It has been described to me as Chicago’s version of the Tony Awards, which actually isn’t much of a compliment to the city of Chicago. There were dollar-store electric tea-lights wreathed in sparse plastic flower petals lining every table. The “light buffet” consisted of chopped-up fruit on skewers and slices of tortilla wrap stabbed with frilly toothpicks. A raggedy red carpet led in from the street, but there was no valet to park our car. Casey suggested we walk out into traffic in an effort to arrive regally. I nixed that idea. To add crudity to bad taste, the event had a cash bar. We even had to pay for my orange juice.

    So to equate this event in any way with the Tony Awards is laughable. I counted four award recipients wearing jeans (recipients, mind you, as there were a great many more among the nominees). We were crammed together like sardines, feasting on day-old cookies served on tiny plastic plates, and we were sweating. It was unbearably hot. The sound system sucked, the projections were awkward, and at one point the wrong name was read off the award-presenter’s cue card. The announced recipient got up, gave her acceptance speech, and then the emcee had to inform us all that “Surprise! There were two winners!” There were not. The attempt to save face was mortifying for everyone present.

    The entire night took me back to college and to our yearly departmental banquets, organized primarily to hand out scholarships and reward those deemed most likely to succeed. Those “most likely to” never made much sense to the student body, since the community of adult voters seemed to covet good looks and sweet dispositions over talent and drive. Tickets cost money—$25 a head, which is big money when you’re an undergrad—and everyone paid the cost. We knew those awards weren’t really that important, but we took them very seriously. Nervous 18-year-old girls picked out evening dresses and pimply boys looked up YouTube videos to learn how to tie their neckties. The event was always dry, it being a university setting, but we ate an excellent buffet with real silverware and remembered to put our napkins in our laps. It was an honor to be asked to be a presenter. When it came time to hand out awards, we all slid a little further forward in our seats.

    The details are not what really matters here. What matters, as my designer and director friends can appreciate, is the atmosphere. Those awards mattered because we made them matter. Human beings must grant personal importance to something (a person, a place, an event) in order for that thing to be important. We control the atmosphere, and in turn the atmosphere grants us the mood, and that mood will color everything that comes after. Are the Jeff Awards important? Important enough to warrant plates the caterer has to wash? At least two spotlight operators? Itchy suits and uncomfortable shoes? If they are, then we must prove it. If they aren’t… well, what the hell is the point if they aren’t?

    The fact is: I enjoyed myself last night. My husband and I got to dress up, which we like to do. We were with a lovely group of people from Caffeine Theatre Company (who should not be held responsible for my commentary on the night). The musical performances from each of the nominated musicals were fun and performed well. I didn’t even mind the crush of people too terribly, since I was so pleased to see a large turn-out from the Chicago theatre community. Overall, I’d go to the Jeffs again. I hope I get the opportunity to do so.

    But I also hope that the way we reward our theatre artists will improve. And I hope that those artists will learn to take themselves, their craft, and the city more seriously. It’s rather chicken-or-the-egg, isn’t it? Do we blame the fact that we dress and act like college students on the reality that our event is sub-par? Or is the event merely living up to the beer-and-brats Midwestern attitude that keeps Chicagoans so scruffy and sloppy? It’s not just about the debatable merits of tennis shoes and exposed bra straps. It’s about how we perceive the gravity of our own accomplishments. The Jeff Awards are the highest honor available to Chicago theatre artists, and so the ceremony should be conducted accordingly. There’s nothing rad or rebellious about treating this event like a joke. It certainly doesn’t prove how big or blas├ę you’ve grown to be; if anything, it makes all of us smaller. If we want the world to take Chicago theatre seriously, we have to show them that we take ourselves seriously first. It’s a basic rule of business, and the business of theatre should not ignore it.

    The city of Chicago is a haven for artists of all kinds; it is poor repayment to act like the work we do only warrants plastic flower petals and a cash bar. I want Chicago to stop thinking of itself as a Second City, and start to take the international artistic accolades it so richly deserves. But this city can’t do it without your help. Think of this as a call to arms: From now on, wear a jacket and tie to your own goddamn opening. Proofread the freaking programs. Stop referring to your performance spaces as “crappy little church basements.” We've earned the right to think of ourselves as professionals, and to treat our own efforts accordingly. If you can’t think of these things as a right you’ve earned, think of it as a display of respect for the city which has given you her trust.

03 June 2011

Book two, still chapter six.

    Rhetta emerged from the oak trees with a very self-satisfied expression. A few paces behind, hanging his hooded head, walked a familiar figure. His tanned skin was obscured by smears of mud, but it could not disguise the black marks across his face. The three-wolf guard trotted at his ankles, driving Clever out into the open.
    “Well, of all the addlepated--!” began Marte, lowering her bow.
    “Hostler Clever,” Finn cut in, “what in the God’s name are you doing here?” Llyde was visibly confused as the dogs began to lower their guard.
    At first, it seemed Clever might not answer at all. His cheeks were flushed and, although he did not fidget, he was consumed with nervous energy. It radiated out from him, making the pack dogs scratch and snap and shift their weight uneasily. Finn had learned the art of silence; he waited for Clever to calm himself enough to speak.
    “You left,” Clever finally mumbled. He glared at them all from the cover of his cloak hood, daring them to disagree.
    “Yes,” said Finn. “We are returning to the capitol.” He ran his hands across his face and grunted in frustration. “What are you doing here?” he repeated with waning patience.
    “And you’re gonna go all that way, by yourselves?” said Clever.
    “What are you doin’ here?” cried Marte. She returned her bow to its position across her slim back, but her eyes shot arrows all the same.
    “Look, all you left without a word,” said Clever. “Marte’s been packin’ for days but won’t say why. Then I hear it’s th’ capitol callin’, and you three answerin’ th’ call, and I got to thinkin’—“
    “Yes?” prompted Finn.
    “I got to thinkin’ that maybe I’d better come too,” he said. “Just to keep an eye out. Only maybe I wasn’t allowed.” He adjusted the pack on his shoulders warily.
    “So you snuck after us?” said Llyde.
    Clever merely shrugged. “Sneakin’ is a way to put it…”
    “Clever,” said Finn, “I’m afraid I still don’t understand. Why did you think you should accompany us?”
    “I got uses!” cried Clever. “You’ll need help with th’ horses and hounds. You’ll need someone to watch your backs, since Gods’ only know why you brung a soft-hands scholar and a little girl!” Marte made an angry noise which he ignored. “’Sides, I’m bound to you, ain’t I?”
    “You’re bound to the country, Clever,” sighed Finn. “To Duragand. It’s not a personal attachment.”
    “It is to me,” replied Clever.

30 May 2011

It's Memorial Day.

I did not write this. Indeed, I probably couldn't so it's a wonderful thing that Emily Dickinson did it for me. This poem says more about death than I could ever hope to, and much more eloquently. It's beautiful and bleak.
Death sets a Thing significant
by Emily Dickinson
Death sets a Thing significant
The Eye had hurried by
Except a perished Creature
Entreat us tenderly

To ponder little Workmanships
In Crayon, or in Wool,
With "This was last Her fingers did" --
Industrious until --

The Thimble weighed too heavy --
The stitches stopped -- by themselves --
And then 'twas put among the Dust
Upon the Closet shelves --

A Book I have -- a friend gave --
Whose Pencil -- here and there --
Had notched the place that pleased Him --
At Rest -- His fingers are --

Now -- when I read -- I read not --
For interrupting Tears --
Obliterate the Etchings
Too Costly for Repairs.


28 May 2011

Book two, chapter six.

    The sun came up with a whisper instead of a shout; Finn opened his eyes to Marte tapping him awake. She was neat and tidy, ready for the day and eyeing him with her customary bright-eyed glint. Living with Marte, as Finn had done for over a year now, often made one feel like a lay-about.
    Finn pulled himself out of bed and allowed her to help him into his traveling clothes. He splashed his sticky face and hair with water. As Marte tucked last minute items into his packs, Finn shaved and gnawed through an unsatisfying breakfast. He watched as she pinned her long braids around and around her head, a few stray hairs curling against her thin neck. “Marte,” said Finn. “How old are you?”
    She glanced at him, startled. Her blue-gray eyes were thoughtful as she slid the last few pins into her crown. “I don’t rightly know,” she said. “Never did keep track. A course, I got to be at least fourteen. Figure I was ‘round eight when my ma died. Why d’ya ask?”
    “No particular reason,” said Finn. “Lord Llyde questioned me about it and I found I did not know.” Finn fiddled with the buttons on his waistcoat to avoid looking at her. “This life…” he went on. “It may not be, well, appropriate. For a girl of your age.”
    “Where I’m from, girls my age are married, Finn,” said Marte flatly. “Havin’ babes and tryin’ to please a husband ten years their elder.” She slid a wicked looking blade into the holster of her boot and laughed without humor. “I’ll take campaigns with you over that life any day.”
    There was a long moment of silence as Marte stood back up. Finn felt her waiting to see which way he would jump.
    Finn exhaled heavily and nodded, his cheeks hot. “I don’t know how I’d have done it without you, you know,” he told her. “Any of it. I’d still be trapped in Kamien, a pet mage and a fool.”
    “You’re no fool,” said Marte. “You’d work it out your own self, given time,” she held out her hand in a manly fashion. “But thanks all the same.”
    Finn smiled and grabbed her hand, pulling her into a hug that he hoped said more than his blundering speech could do. She stiffened a moment, in shock, and then hugged him back.

28 April 2011

I woke up to this on my computer.

I only vaguely remember writing this poem, some time late last night. I do this sometimes.


WRITTEN AT MIDNIGHT REGARDING THE SUN


do you love to eat the sun

does it taste
like eggs soft
boiled
like olive
oil like
the town you grew up in
on the coast of maine
where sun is a cele
bration
like lobster
like stars
starfish swimming and feast
ing on oysters
arms wrapped to crack
the creak
of dockline and age
rustling sails of ships which
dream of sail
ing
under that cracked
open sun

do you love that
                    that sun?





01 April 2011

National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month is upon us. Apparently. So here is something new, a memory of the Japan I love.






before the tremors cause me to forget



          suzy
tried to fit her
fist




       in her mouth.

                     we sat


on the train.




              a Japanese man cried,




       laughing.





26 March 2011

Successful screenplay-to-novel conversion!

I am 69 pages into the Epic Screenplay-Novel Conversion, where-in I turn a perfectly good series of television screenplays into an arguably better novel. It may not actually be better. I'm not really sure. But (!) I really had no choice. You see, no network in their right mind would purchase more than three episodes of a brand new series, even if the series were seriously rockin'. I have written those three episodes, under the series title "Shiver", and cannot really justify producing any more. But the story isn't finished! It's not even close to finished! I have so many ideas, and so much further to push these characters. The only sensible way to do that is in a novel format.

Hence, the Epicness.

Anyhow, six chapters in and I'm still chugging along. The novel is still "serialized" in a way, since I'm dividing it into (probably six) parts. These parts are more for my piece of mind than anything else, so they may not end up in the final product. But the first part is done.

Here is a sneak peek of the novel, which I am tentatively calling "Relic". This scene is from chapter four:


     It wasn’t easy faking it every day. She knew Nyah wasn’t buying it and there wasn’t much Kate could do. She’d never needed a lot of sleep but even so, she couldn’t keep going like this forever. She needed rest. She needed whatever psychosis she was nursing to just lay off for a while. Maybe she needed some kind of drug.
     Her floor routine sent her spinning, end over end. Every time her feet hit the floor, she pushed off harder. She wanted to feel exhausted. She wanted to wear out every single muscle. She wanted to lie down on the sweaty mats at her feet and slip in to the kind of deep, dreamless sleep everyone else was taking for granted.
     Kate caught the edges of an uneasy feeling. She paused her routine. “Hello?” she called out. No answer. “Hello?” Still no answer. She thought she heard something off to the left, but it was the creak of an old window casing.
     Her ponytail whipped her in the face as she turned her head, sticking a little to the light sweat along her top lip. Her breath was finally starting to become a little ragged, her lungs finally noticing the strain. She sent her body into another series of barely-controlled layouts.
     There wasn’t any time to react. One second she was flipping herself across the mat toward the dusty mirrors. The next second, she was flat on her back and her entire body had begun to shake. Her skin was rippling, shivering uncontrollably. She sat up, flinging her gaze around the room.
     There it was, lurking in the far corner. That weird, gross wavering in the air. It looked like heat waves rising off over-heated pavement but it was more— solid, somehow. And a hell of a lot more wrong. Just watching it move made her stomach cramp.
     She lurched to her feet, vigilant. Kate had no idea why ghosts were following her. She didn’t want to see any freaking dead people. She wanted to scream at it. She wanted to kill it. If you can kill a ghost.
     It slid toward her. She hated the way they moved more than anything else. They could slide through the air, like oil or fast-moving molasses. They were hardest to see in the dark, when her only warning they were near was the quiver in her muscles. Any time they slid into the light, she couldn’t tear her eyes away. She’d never seen one out in the daylight before.
     It advanced on her too quickly. She could smell something strange— like the air which blows up from an unused cellar. That smell paralyzed her. She couldn’t make her body obey the command to retreat. Her muscles were all seized up and cramping.
     That was when the lights in the gym began to flicker. And yes, it was so B-list horror movie. When they shut off completely, Kate felt the mobility return to her limbs. She took off at a run toward the door.
     The ghost swooped in between Kate and the exit; she turned on a dime and shot back toward the windows. It blocked her again. Kate backed up toward the center of the room. She could feel the paralysis descending again. It never occurred to her to scream.
     The doors of the gym burst open. Frizzing red hair streaked across the gym, landing just in front of her in a voluminous cloud. Kate was hardly in any state to process what she was seeing. The air crackled with some kind of electric energy. Charlie’s voice penetrated the fog Kate was buried in.
     “This ain’t your terrain,” Charlie drawled in the direction of Kate’s ghost. “It ain’t gonna be. Clear out.”
     There was authority in that voice, a backbone of steel. Kate was feeling kind of like she might swoon. At least, she thought this is what swooning would feel like.
     The ghost folded in on itself, origami fog, and when it stretched back up again its texture had changed. Huge, and misty, and human-shaped. It advanced on Charlie slowly, mockingly, as the redhead stood her ground. They were nose to metaphysical nose.
     “Ya don’t belong here, slip ‘n slide,” hissed Charlie. She was practically spitting. “Don’t make me tear out that ephem’ral throat.”
     The ghost rose up, growing in size, and opened wide, hinge-less jaws like a cobra about to strike. Charlie didn’t flinch. Kate heard a dull thud from the direction of the doorway, and then a sound like a gun being cocked.
     The corner of Charlie’s mouth twitched upward.
     “Well, I did warn ya, you stupid shit.”
     Light exploded from the doorway. It knocked Kate to her knees, momentarily blinding her. The most horrific screeching sound reverberated from the gym walls, deafening and sick. When spots cleared from her eyes, the gym was filled with foul-tasting dust. It was as gray and flaky, hanging in the air like cigarette ash. Kate turned toward the gym doors.
     Joe was only a half-step into the room. Some kind of heavily-modified shotgun hung to the floor at his side. He was slack-jawed and big-eyed behind glasses coated in dust. Charlie leapt lightly to her feet.
     “Well, Joey!” She sounded like a little kid on Christmas morning as Joe handed her the shotgun, mutely. Charlie held it up, aiming toward the windows and testing the sight. She was grinning toothily when she turned back to him.
     “I’m gonna call this baby a success!”

08 March 2011

The YA Subscription.

 
My combined book review of Tamora Pierce's Alanna: The First Adventure and Trickster's Choice is up on the blog The YA Subscription. I focused on whether or not these titles were appropriate selections for Bitch Magazine's "100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader." They originally selected 100 titles, opened them up to discussion, and then removed three books. Riot ensued. The list is a real hot button among young adult readers and writers right now, mostly because the magazine caved so easily to pressure from (I can only assume) really, really nasty librarians from Texas. Or readers of Bitch Magazine. Whichever.

The books removed (Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott) were all removed for the same reason: RAPE! Which is apparently "feminist" only if every single woman in the book is mopey and sad and sympathetic toward the victim(s). It was decided (by someone, I'm still not sure who) that listing these books on the Bitch Magazine reading list would "trigger" rape victims and cause them further trauma.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

I'll let you take a moment to soak that notion in.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Look, including them on a list like this doesn't force anybody to read them. It's pretty presumptuous (read: conceited) of Bitch Magazine to assume that their list is so important it might trigger relapses of any kind, or that anyone will turn this into next year's must-read list. And by the way: these "rape books" are GREAT BOOKS. Unlike the staff of Bitch Magazine, I have read all three of the titles removed and most of the others as well. Several authors--Scott Westerfeld and Maureen Johnson, among others--have asked that their books be removed from the list after the scandal broke. Bitch Magazine has not-very-politely declined to do so. They've also replaced the removed titles (to hide their shame and avoid changing their fancy list title) with Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley and Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden... Perfectly acceptable titles, if a little on the tame side. So that's where we stand now.

Amy Stern has come up with a proactive way to vent our collective frustration... via blogging! Go to The YA Subscription and check out her excellent reviews of A Wrinkle in Time, Sold, and The Skin I'm In. Join the discussion. Write a review.

Wishing you all the blessings imaginable.

07 March 2011

Prose poem #2.

Without Appropriate Gratitude



In Sunday School,
hands clasped,
heads bowed but peeking, always
peeking up to see who is peeking too,
we listen to someone

tell God how thankful we are.


Praying makes us all seem grateful

when you do it for the group.

I am thankful for my Barbie mini-van.
For my Lisa Frank notebooks.
For the ball which bounced out
of someone else’s four-square square.

I am thankful for the A
on the exam I did not study for.
For the friends who passed on phony secrets
and got another girl in trouble.

For eating lunch at the right table.
I am thankful for sneaking in uncaught after curfew.
For losing three pounds.
For the way he looked at me today.

I am not thankful for God’s ability to
feed thousands
with some bread and fish.

I think bread and fish
sound like prison food.

Someone else’s thankfulness is forced upon me and I think...

well, I find it absurd.

I think that I’ve never really learned
to be thankful

this way.
That right way.

Amen.

21 February 2011

Books aren't dead.

I've been reading so many essays on the downfalls of Borders (downfalls, plural, as there were many). It makes me sad and angry, and I suppose a little petty. I've ridden two sinking ships into the surf so far--Ethel's Chocolate Lounge and Borders Bookstore--and both times I've ended up in a lifeboat while my friends and comrades struggled to float. I'm not sure why that is. I'm no expert in grief, or in job-hunting, or even in books, but I keep coming back to this quote:

"The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it." (John Ruskin)

This sentiment could not be more true when it comes to working with books.
 
When I started at Borders Bookstore a year and a half ago, I was elated. I'd really pushed to get that job, and I knew that working with books was where I belonged. Yes, I took a pay-cut... Because Borders paid legitimate experts in the field of books like they were high school drop-outs taking orders at McDonald's. Not that there's anything wrong with working for McDonald's... You see the pettiness cropping up? It does that a lot nowadays. But I've never really measured success and failure in dollars and cents.

I wish Borders would have pulled through the recession. I wish people, loosely referred to as "customers," had remembered that if you stop purchasing from a local store, that local store will die. If you buy a coffee while you browse the racks at Borders or Barnes and Noble or even your local independent, and then order what you want off of Amazon from your iPhone, that's not the same as patronizing the business. We weren't there to sell you coffee. I quit my job at Borders due to loss of hours--that was perhaps three weeks before the shit really hit the fan. I'm not a corporate mind-reader or anything; I just knew the business was dying. There are a lot of places available to lay the blame, but I know intimately how it looks and feels when a business is on its last legs... I think I could recognize that feeling with my eyes closed. And it feels a whole lot like "browsing."

I'll tell you something important, something that trumps all of the above self-indulgence:

Books aren't the problem. People still want books. Some may want them on their Kindle or Nook or iPad, but they still want them. And they still want people to help them find books. That's the irony, actually-- customers would come into Borders, accept our help locating a title or offering recommendations, and then tell us to our faces that they wanted to "check the price on Amazon." And we were supposed to smile and say "all right, no problem" when we wanted to say "next time find our own damn book, you lazy jerk!" We were not librarians, but most of our customers--even the nice ones--treated us like a library. It costs nothing for Amazon to let you browse all day long. It's costing the brick and mortar stores everything. "Browsing" is killing the bookstore; and I know nobody wants to hear that.

I found myself while working at Borders. That sounds really stupid. Ugh. Well, it's basically true. I went into that job a nervous actress-singer-painter-writer-poet with an unfinished manuscript and a chip on my shoulder. I didn't really know who or what I wanted to be when I grew up, or when I was going to grow up, or how. Working for that bookstore, surrounded by people who love the arts and love literature, made me happy every day. I loved my job in a way that I had never really loved acting, or even singing. I finished my book while working there. I started another. I worked through my screenplays and made decisions about grad school. I got married while working there. I became a grown-up while working for Borders, and I appreciate that so much. I am thankful to the staff I got to work with, who are, for the most part, incredibly giving human beings. They love books, and they loved their jobs, and they're really hurting now (even if they won't admit it). I know, because I'm really hurting too.

So, just know that you are in my prayers. You were my comrades-in-arms for eighteen wonderful months and I thank you for that. I hope you're proud of what you've become, because you are beautiful examples of humanity. Now go out into the world and find something better.

Blessings.

Two more excellent essays on the closing of 200 Borders stores:
The JQT Plan
Chicago Ex-Patriate
 

14 February 2011

Feminism and YA lit.

"Bitch Magazine posted their list of 100 must-read feminist YA titles. Then they removed some. Lots of debate ensued." Join the discussion here:

The YA Subscription

Amazing idea. I'm going to contribute a few reviews. Check it out!



Blessings y'all!

09 February 2011

R.I.P. Brian Jacques.

"Brian Jacques’ first Redwall book was published in 1986, introducing a world of talking mice, badgers, voles, and the like who were tasked with protecting their peaceful woodland home from invading rats and weasels, as well as various “monsters” such as snakes and eels. Over the course of 21 official Redwall novels (a 22nd is due in May) and many ancillary collections filled with maps and trivia, Jacques unfolded an epic tale of heroism told in especially vivid language—owing to their origin as stories for children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind, where Jacques had spent time as a milk deliveryman—that captured the imagination of even the very young, many of whom became lifelong devotees."

Lifelong devotees. Like me.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Bless you, Mr. Jacques. Rest in peace.

07 February 2011

Book two, chapter five.

       “So, this is normal?” She asked. “This… Seeing that I can do?”
      “Normal?” Master Hatim repeated. He was rubbing his hands together thoughtfully. “No. But then, what is normal for you anyway?”
      They stood up and moved toward his desk. The classroom where Enaya had first begun to learn mage-craft was virtually unchanged, the rows of worn tabletops and creaking floorboards exactly as she remembered them. His desk was a large flat table with rickety-looking legs. Hatim dropped into an over-sized chair behind it as Enaya perched on the top of the first row of tables, her feet swinging.
      “You are not normal, my Lady. No, don’t scowl at me,” Master Hatim went on. “You never have been! However ‘normal’ you thought you were before you entered the Goddess’s service, you can have no illusions about yourself now.” He leaned forward, bracing his arms on his desktop. The smooth brown skin covering his bald head caught the glare of the afternoon sun streaming in through open windows.
      “You were born unique, Enaya Sawyer. You are a uniquely stubborn young woman with a uniquely bad temper. You have a unique way of speaking and of holding your head, cocked to one side like a little bird, just as you’re doing now—” Enaya straightened her head quickly and frowned. When Master Hatim smiled, he flashed a friendly gap between his two front teeth. It lessened the sting of his lecture. “And you are, of course, uniquely Talented. I don’t expect I’ll ever meet another mage with your ability.”
      “So this Searching I’m doing,” said Enaya, “it’s just because I’m odd?”
      “In a way, yes. It’s because you’re special.” Master Hatim seemed to brace himself for something before he continued. “It’s because— well Enaya, it’s because you’re an Oracle.”
      Enaya’s eyebrows shot up toward the ceiling. Her rump slid a little off the desk, and she caught herself with one foot on the floor before she toppled. She could not respond to such an absurd statement and so she merely stared at him, waiting for the joke to finish.
      “Oh, Enaya,” Master Hatim went on sympathetically, “you had to know. You’ve been around mages long enough to know how Powerful you are. What other explanation could there be?”
      Enaya took several deep breaths and braced both hands on the desk behind her. “It’s one thing to wonder, Master, and another to be told.”

03 February 2011

Look! We're famous!

Okay, not really. But my husband and I are on a big-deal, popular wedding blog. And I do consider that being "semi-published" since the entry is really more about what I wrote than how pretty we are... at least, I hope so.

Anyway, I really debated posting this here. I'm proud of what I wrote, and of those involved, and I'm proud of the decisions Casey and I made about our wedding day. It is very personal but then again what is this blog for if not to "get personal?"

I suppose I feel that if I can share this part of who Casey and I are with total strangers from all over the country, I ought to be able to share it with all of you. After all, you're pretty cool folks. So, without further ado:



Much love, everyone. And blessings galore.

25 January 2011

Good advice.

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and somthing else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

— Chuck Close

05 January 2011

Another apocalypse-free New Year!

1.What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?
We got married. That's a biggie. I contacted graduate schools. We went to Boston/Cambridge. I ate a lobster that weighed a pound and a half, by myself. I played Titania on stage. I had a blog entry featured on a very popular website. I lost faith in my community and my country (Lincoln East green card scandal, anyone?), but then I found it again (thank you DADT Repeal Act).

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions?
Well, I'm not entirely sure I had any. I was a little distracted by my engagement last Yule.

3. What are your resolutions for 2011?
Get healthier. This means both eating better and exercising more. Decide whether or not to apply for grad school, and send my application if I decide to do it. Organize my photos and memorablia. Move to an apartment with a dishwasher. Send my book out to more publishers and agents. Finish book #2 and the screenplay for "Magpie." Save money every month.

4. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Two of my cousins had babies.

5. Where did you travel to?
Lincoln. Fremont. Boston. Cambridge. New Haven. Red Feather. Phoenix.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
Savings. And also, clearly defined career goals.

7. What will remain etched in your memory from 2010?
Our wedding! And everything surrounding that event, including the shopping, crafting, partying, planning, and honeymooning. The deaths of our Grandfathers, Don and Warren. The death of our rabbit, Audrey. Adopting our new kitten, Henry, and his rockin' Hallow's Eve costume (he was a golden snitch).

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Pulling together our wedding. For sure. It was a lot of work.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I'm still hung up on forgetting some of the corsages and boutonnieres for the grandparents at our wedding. That was really upsetting. I also regret not being able to get to Phoenix in time to see my Grandfather again before he died.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing life-threatening. I did have my longest-ever stretch of headaches (and that is saying something!), and that put me down for the count for a while. I was seriously worried I might have hemorrhaged something.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
The practical answer would be our car. But I'm going to say my wedding jewelry! I love it. Also, Henry the Wonder Kitten, although he was adopted and not "bought."

12. Where did most of your money go?
Wedding stuff and the purchase of our car (we paid cash).

13.What concerts did you see?
Um, remember how I said we paid cash for our car?

14. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier. Well, I'm mean not exactly, since I'd just gotten engaged at this point.
ii. thinner or fatter? Neither, I think.
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer, but on the road to being richer.

15. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Hanging out with friends.

16. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Stressing out. I have my black belt in stressing out.

17. How did you spend Christmas?
At home in Chicago with Casey and the kitties. It was nice, actually. Very relaxed.

18. Did you fall in love in 2010?
I made a public affirmation of my love.

19. How many one-night stands?
None. Ha.

20. What was your favorite TV program?
"Bones" probably. I also love "The Sing-Off" and "Holmes on Homes."

21. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No, luckily. Except maybe Glenn Beck.

22. What was the best book you read?
"Trash" by Andy Mulligan.

23. What was the best album you bought in 2010?
See, I don't really buy whole albums. Sorry. But I love V V Brown.

24. What did you want and get?
A husband.

25. What did you want and not get?
A book deal.

26. What was your favorite film of the year?
I love me some HP7. Also, I finally saw "The Blind Side" and it was pretty great, if a bit sentimental.

27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 25. That's (literally) all I remember.

28. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Developing some confidence in my own writing.

30. What kept you sane?
Casey. My parents. Kate, Gabby, Kel, and Blair. My cats. It should really say "WHO kept you sane?"

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Barack Obama

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Tea Partying.

33. Who did you miss?
God, nearly everyone.

34. Who was the best new person you met?
Weird question. Best in what way?

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:
Trust people more. Most people want to do right by you. It's an amazing part of being human, this innate dependence we have on one another. Trust people, be trustworthy, and your life will move much more smoothly.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

'Til my body is dust
'Til my soul is no more
I will love you, love you
'Til the sun starts to cry
And the moon turns to rust
I will love you, love you

But I need to know:
Will you stay for all time
Forever and a day?
Then I'll give my heart
'Til the end of all time
Forever and a day

'Til the storms fill my eyes
and we touch the last time
I will love you, love you

Oh, I need to know:
Will you stay for all time
Forever and a day?
Yes, I'll give my heart
'Til the end of all time
Forever and a day

("I Will Love You," Fisher)
Wedding photo, totally un-posed.

Bless You and Yours.
May the coming year be better, stronger, safer, and more exhilarating than the ones before.