Copyright notice

All content copyright 2010 by Chelsea Biondolillo. Seriously.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Forty five!

I promised myself no more drunken NYC posts, so the Enchilada will return with its regularly scheduled content tomorrow. Woo!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

365 days of writing: day 44?

Today, I tried to blog from a show in Brooklyn on my phone. I failed. I did my writing on the plane to New York--it was really amazing: I started out, thinking about this thing I wanted to write about ( photography) and ended up writing about my self image. How it changed, from before I was married ( unphotographable) til after.

I realized that I have no mojo in Phoenix. When I show up, no one says 'woo!'. It's a little thing, but it makes all the difference in the world. Who cheers when you show up? How does that make you feel?

I'm definitely drunk and I really need to piss. On the G, waiting to connect to the R. Godamned a toilet can seem so beautiful in the mind's eye.

Go listen to the High Irons. They're my old fave band in Brooklyn. Too drunk to link right now, but listen to them, they're the best.

Did I mention I wrote today? Better than last trip. "Oh, the places you'll see!"

Also, drunk. I love you, goodnight.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 43

I called in sick today, for everything. My body finally shut down from the no sleeping and crying every day. Some days are just sick days.

I finished my sweater design and added some directions. First order of business upon return is getting that thing published. I also poked around some school websites, as I have been encouraged from a few directions to try at least the fully funded programs--I am adding Texas Tech's MA program to my maybe pile. It comes very highly recommended. It's such a long shot that I get a little tight in the chest thinking about applying again, but I am tight in the chest a lot of the time thinking about being stuck here.

Tomorrow, I head for New York for a friend's wedding reception and hopefully some recuperation. I'm bringing the computer this time, so I will continue to write and post.

Monday, September 27, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 42

I had planned on pitching my column to another online journal today, but I don't work at a desk anymore. I did my morning writing (which I posted earlier today) and that was it.

My newest non-fiction book is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Also, still chipping away at Spunk and Bite (as well as the New Kings of Nonfiction). I think I will be taking some fiction with me to NYC in two days.

Is it wrong to want to escape in academia? Remove oneself to only study? I feel like I am supposed to apologize for wanting to do it, or that I need some nobler reason for attending school. What's wrong with wanting to focus on learning, and nothing else for two years?

On dreams, writing, and not winning

First, to those still searching for column results: I did not win the McSweeney's column contest. I did not get a sweet but encouraging rejection note. I saw what you saw on the website.

It's supposed to be good for me to write first thing in the morning.

All night I was up with dreams. Terrible, anxious dreams. First, there was a toddler, supposedly my sister, and she grabbed at a pincushion of mine (to be a brat) and then when I came close to get it, she squeezed the pins, and they stuck in her skin and her clothes. She didn't cry. But then she ran, and the pins lodged into her deeper, and I had to get her to pull them out.

I grabbed her by the legs as she ran past, and she fell down, and then the screaming began in earnest. In the dream it was from them worrying deeper into her skin, not from me grabbing her--she knew it would hurt to pull them out and didn't want me to do it. Piercing, shuddering, hiccupy, terrified crying. I pulled out long pins from her back—8 inches at least, some bent. She screamed louder. Once I was done with her back, and was about to flip her over, she had stopped screaming, but I had woken myself up. That was 1 am.

Then I dreamed that I had won the McSweeney's column contest, but they wanted me to write a column on fisheries, their workings and politics and greenness. They wanted four columns in the next year. I was confused, but when I looked out my bedroom window (from the pink and red room on Mitchell street, when I was a kid) there was a giant, clear lake outside, up to the window sill, full of trout and salmon. So I bravely told everyone that I could do it. I would go back to the library on Holgate, I would find out about fisheries. In my dream, though, my awake mind must have decided that was too frustrating.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 41

My internets are back, thank heavens.

Today I had to wake up at 3 am to do inventory at my day job. Home by 1 pm, but by then I am useless. Waited around in a haze of exhaustion intoxication. I have slept poorly all week (no, really!) and today incapacitated me. I napped for an hour, maybe, then had dinner at my parents.

I couldn't write today, am in fact, having a hard time just typing. I did read a bit, somehow, and I think I even retained a bit of it. I finished a collection of essays about birds: it had a couple of winners, a couple of not-up-my-alleys and at least one that was by a "famous" author, yet FULL of terrible typos. If you are a terribly famous writer, are you above editing? If you managed to get a famous writer to contribute to your anthology are edits considered "pushing your luck"?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 40

No Internet means no post of substance. It's a drag, I wanted to wax poetic about 40 days and 40 nights.

I wrote this am. Deliriously.

Several folks have found me by looking for news of the column results. I haven't heard any news, I'm sorry.

Friday, September 24, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 39

There is still only one "follower" on this blog. I haven't looked up who it is yet. If it's you, hello.

I have been drinking.

A very old, very good friend of mine came through town. Though I was mad, sad, and untouchable in my pain, I agreed immediately to meet him for dinner. That's what you do with people who still love you, difficult though you are, after more than 20 years. I expected a sad and admonitory (I'm making that one up, as I don't want to go to and see if it's real) conversation. It was not. We talked about people we had loved and who had loved us. We listed who we stalk on facebook and who we would if we could find them. We discussed the problems with facebook, and how we hated it, then we discussed further, and with glee, the folks we'd found unexpectedly, and what they said when we did. He hit on the waitress, I told him how the waitress probably thought he was a dirty old man.

All this to say, sometimes all I need is perspective on my pain and suffering. Someone who just met me can say, it could be worse, or, I know how you feel--but I don't know that to be true. With my friend Warren, he knows. He knows it has been worse, and he also knows (more importantly) that it is often bad just like this. But that it is all ok, 1, 3, 5 or 10 years later. We can look back and laugh at anything.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 38

More desperation writing. I finished two shorter pieces that I started working on through my "morning" writing.

One, a travel-ish piece about Coney Island got shipped off to the New York Times and the Washington Post travel sections. If you're going to fall, fall big, right?

The other is another essay about roadtripping with my grandparents, in the vein Seeing Seaside, but about an inland bird preserve. That one went out to Flyways and the Sonora Review.

I had to write a little bio for all of these. It ricocheted between being really pitiful sounding and not so awful through out the day, not unlike my serotonin levels I'm sure. Here it is:

Chelsea Biondolillo's essays have appeared on McSweeney',, and in The Rio Review. She is a contributing food/diy writer for VenusZine magazine and Her work has been recognized in the University of New Orleans annual writing competition, NYC Midnight's short story and flash fiction contests, and Austin Monthly's short fiction contest. She received her BFA in photography from the Pacific NW College of Art.

McSweeney's is supposed to announce their column contest winners tomorrow. I guess if you're out there, cross your fingers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 37

I wrote desperately today. First thing in the morning and on my lunch breaks, I updated a travel piece, a personal narrative/memoir, and a "humorous" piece that is/was "under consideration." I made lists of places that might take any of them. I was frantic, but it doesn't matter. I still came home and applied for three different business analyst positions.

Two years in and I haven't made a single cent off my writing. It is time to throw the "all-in" towel in for now. Maybe if I get another good job, there will be paid holidays, sabbaticals, and retirement that will afford me time to write. Maybe, if I can keep a real job long enough to get out of debt and save something, I will have the heart to try again. As it is, I can barely feed myself and have no savings, or credit to fall back on. My mother, the sole breadwinner of any substance for the entire family, was laid off last month. It is irresponsible and selfish in the extreme of me to need their help any longer.

It's not like this is the last post or anything. There's no offer on the table, so I will keep writing until there is. Then after, as time permits.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 36

Despite all of yesterday's misery carrying over today with enduring clarity and sting, I got my morning writing done. Then I went to work and did my second to the last day of social media. I also fought with the bank, heard from the mechanic, and cried a lot. I absolutely love days where I cry a lot at work. Nothing says "no wonder she's a failure" like bawling at one's desk.

I'm going to bed early.

Monday, September 20, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 35

It could happen that I give up. I might not have it in me. It has always been a fantasy of mine, this struggling artist type sweating over her work, piling up canvases, prints, typed pages. I have imagined the walls of her studio, the shapes her life's work might take. But I may be too weak and delicate of a creature to see it through.

Today, I read this lovely, and terrifying and stark essay by Andrew Altschul over at The Rumpus. I love the nurturing quality of the site, from Dear Sugar to the Long Haul, S. Elliott et al, seem genuinely concerned about the writers and readers of the world. (I love them even when they don't respond to my submissions.)

In Altschul's essay, he recounts (safely, from the rearview looking back ten years ago) a time when he considered the possibilty that he had ruined his life. The crying, the isolation, the small catastrophes, it all

Sunday, September 19, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 34

This entire day was spent writing. It's amazing how much you can tweak one thousand words... I had a rough draft last night, but finished the draft after breakfast. Then I pushed and pulled at the phrases until I had wrung out as much clarity as possible, in what turned out to be a pretty complex story:

TITLE: The Deciding Vote

SYNOPSIS: In a city torn apart by a burgeoning genocide, can five people look past their assumptions and make a decision that will turn the tide toward peace, or are they doomed to add to the body count?

It's basically a nihilistic ditty that uses genocide and  people's inherent desire to form groups against danger as vehicles to show the absurdity of notions like good vs evil. If I had to analyze it, anyway. It's flash fiction, not epic Russian literature.

Then I did a quick edit (for passive verbs and adverbs) of the starlings essay which I renamed and will be submitting to the American Literature Review competition. It's not like I think the name is the SOLE reason it hasn't made it, but the new title is definitely snappier.

Tomorrow, I hope to get some work done on the grad school application process.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 33

I fell down a rabbit hole today reading about what a pervert J.D. Salinger is supposed to have been, and poor Joyce Maynard whom it's said he tried to deflower. I hate finding out that my heroes are just jackasses like everyone else.

Last night, before bed, I brainstormed four possible plots for my Flash Fiction challenge 2 submission. This morning, in the few minutes I had before work, I outlined story arcs for my two favorites ideas. I bounced the two options off coworkers while I spent the day hawking vitamins and tweeting about meat department specials. But I already had a favorite, and I began embellishing it as I retold it.

I asked, "is it dramatic?" And, "is it dumb?"

Tonight, after dinner, I wrote a new outline, based on my revisions. Then filled in a rough draft. As it stands, I am 50 words over the limit, so tomorrow will be about clarity and brevity. And finger-crossing.

In other news, my contact in South America wrote me back and said he would gladly discuss hummingbirds. This is very good news.

Friday, September 17, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 32

Today I did some research while waiting to get my flash fiction assignment.

I'm sort of bummed out that this one gets cut off. I'm curious where he was going with the whole Black Mass/Jesus thing...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 31

Today, I thought about what kinds of goals I want to set for the next month. I have a few things I need to get done:
  • Mail recommendation packets to the folks who have said yes
  • Finalize my statement of purpose
  • Finish one of the three essays I have been rolling around for the last couple of months

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 30

One month, down. It has been rough! I still don't have a routine down, but I am feeling the distant drumming of one. Here's what I have managed to accomplish this month, toward my goal of being a writer:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 29

Today's news is already old news. I missed a chance to write about famous photographers for I'm mostly relieved, but also disappointed in myself. I dragged it out until my time ran out. Because really, I don't want to spend every free minute writing innerweb non-content for extremely low wages.

But then, a part of me thinks that maybe I still don't get how this works: I have to spend years writing in anonymity working minimum wage jobs and drinking myself into cyrrhosis of the liver, then I will sell one essay. Then, years later, I will have a nervous breakdown in a garret somewhere, and sell two more essays. I will spend most of the next decade trying to pay my grouchy landlord in flash fiction and haikus and getting into fistfights with other passionate authors.

It's not the fault of the universe (who makes up these rules) that I waited until I was nearly 40 to get my shit together. Maybe I will sell an essay when I am 52, if all this fast living--like staying up past 10--doesn't take me down first.

I blogged today at work, and I did not submit an essay for a job. I was optimistic for about 25 minutes, and they felt great. I also finished a sleeveless sweater, which I will write about on small hands tomorrow. And I completely forgot to note that I submitted a story idea to a favorite girly mag of mine last week. Fingers crossed.

An essay without an audience, or Freaks: Retro Edition

I waited too long. I knew it could happen: I would drag my heels so long on the photography essay that the job would fill in the meantime. And so it has.

But here is the result: a nice little essay on Diane Arbus after the jump. She was always one of my favorites while I was studying photography in college.

Monday, September 13, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 28

I did a lot of knitting today, waiting for my car to be fixed. I wanted to do a lot of writing, but the knitting was there, and the TV was on. Knitting lends itself to Law & Order marathons in a way that writing just can't.

But, when I got home (still without a car) I finished up that Demand Studios article and submitted it for editing, and I finished the draft of my Arbus essay. It's short, ideally an engaging encyclopedic entry. I will apply with it tomorrow and see what happens. I meant to just do one more piece of it, but then there was this really nice 45 minutes of flow, where all I wanted to do was explain her work, and why it is great (to me) and terrible (to others, like Susan Sontag). Was it flow or zen?Can't say, but it felt good.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 27

I really needed a weekend. Today, I slept in a little, woke up and went to yoga in a park, came home and had breakfast tacos, and then had a productive afternoon. I feel great.

To keep the distractions at bay, I tried out a kitchen timer. After 30 minutes of writing, I did 30 minutes of housework, and then I got to have 30 minutes of knitting time. By the end of the day I had done nearly three cycles. The knitting reward really helped get the other two segments going (thanks to my friend Corrie for the reward suggestion). As far as writing goes, I managed to outline and research one Demand Studios article, write up the remainder of my notes from my hummingbird banding trip, and start an essay about Diane Arbus--which I am going to use to hopefully get a gig with I also got all kinds of other small tasks done.

In the past, I've tried to spend all Sunday on the computer "writing"... but that usually ends up as a big old "let me see what everyone I've ever known or heard of is up to" and "while I'm at it, wonder what's trending." Today I don't think I hit Facebook at all.

Tomorrow I need to take the car in to the shop and I'm not sure if I'll be waiting for news here, there, or somewhere else. I will take my notebook and a pair of socks to finish. Thirty minutes appears to be my threshold right now. Any more than that and I get distracted; any less and I can't focus. So, I will treat it like pushups and start with three sets of 30.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 26

My mother said recently that loving me takes a lot of patience. Not for her, presumably, but for those who take on the burden voluntarily. It's true: I am self-centered and selfish. I carry hurts around for far too long. I'm a crier. I get obsessed with a thing to the detriment of all else.

This week has been hard on me and those around me. I haven't gotten enough sleep all week. Every day has felt like a frantic dash. I am trying to fit writing (and the few things that keep me sane) in to days that are already very long, and there just doesn't seem to be a graceful way to do it.

How do you do it?

The Saturday bus schedule means that I get to work an hour early, so I got my 30 minutes of writing in before the day had a chance to crush me. I wrote a bit more on a topic that came up in that memoir workshop from a couple of weeks ago. I am looking forward to sleeping a little bit later tomorrow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 25

I procrastinate and give it the cutesy name of "distractor mousing." I picked up this darling sound-bite from one of the would-be saviors in an unending line of such, who promised to help me be more productive and less self-sabotaging (for only $19.99 + tax). While I found her tone and attitude easy to relate to, the sad fact is that I am going to continue to procrastinate as long as it "rewards" me. No matter how many ways you give me to stop.

When I put something off until the last minute I have a built in excuse for--and self-defense against--failure. "It would have been better, but I was just so rushed at the end, I couldn't give it my absolute best." The assumption being that there IS some better I would have given, given more time. But since I always put shit off until the sudden death round, I don't ever have to actually prove it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 24

I am the queen of distractor mousing. I supposedly sat down to write 20 minutes ago. Since then I have: rearranged some photos on a shelf; moved the shelf so I could plug in my laptop in a spot more conducive to writing; dug up slippers to wear, though I haven't worn slippers in eight months; filed my nails; tried on a sweater in progress; plucked my eyebrows; considered reorganizing a photo album "really quick." I am so afraid to fail at writing, that I put off the actually doing part. And I know I'm doing it! And now, there's a dish that might need washing really quick. I will be right back.
OK. Now that I have organized all of my past submissions, cleaned off my desktop (it was very cluttered), dug through old cassette mix tapes to find tonight's perfect soundtrack, and tried that sweater on again--now it is time to write!
After all that pussy-footing around, I got maybe 15 minutes of writing and 30 minutes of research done. I also wrote a ridiculously gushing and pleadful letter to the Dean at my former school, requesting a recommendation. He never responded to last year's request, pro or con, so we'll see if my writing at least gets noticed this time around. I dunno, maybe give today a C+? (If only I would apply myself more.)
Ray Bradbury on Writing Persistently

Note to self: Can I do this if I'm not as sure that they're all idiots as Ray was?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 23

The days when I write at work sometimes feel like a cop-out. I had high hopes for my after-work time, but after the bus and a longer than usual walk home, conversations with real-live people... suddenly the day is gone. It is really hard for me to do any writing when there are distractions like Facebook or Boingboing or Twitter. I pretend I can do two things at once, but I can't.

Today it is true, I wrote: two posts, but they were just ads.

I am lucky to be able to write even ads for a living. Yet, I still feel sick, my car's still broke, and I am absolutely beat. This experiment is starting to feel dumb. Maybe I'm just starting to feel dumb.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 22

My chest feels abraded. Like a skinned knee is inside my lungs. Or I have somehow skinned my lungs? What's really bizarro-world is that the whole sensation leaves me craving a cigar like crazy. All day I imagined cherry, rum, and almond flavored blends. Puffing. Letting the smoke roil around in my mouth.

There was that one time, when the week couldn't get any worse, and then it did: I locked myself in my bathroom, because there were people in my house and I sat all the way down and howled, and then I kicked my feet and punched at the floor, impotent. Twenty minutes later, I walked downstairs, out the door. I sat in my front yard and smoked two cigars in the rain.

Not that today was anything like that day. Today I was just coated with a bit of a crummy-gummy glaze. I had to take the bus, as my car is broken, again. I was able to hide out in my office. But there was the same feeling of impotence to the day, maybe. I couldn't perform.

I wrote for work, a blog about squash. The plan was to come home and write 700 words about Diane Arbus--in the hopes of getting this paying gig. But I can't right now. It was really all I could do to get groceries and eat an actual dinner. Please send citrus juice. Tomorrow will be better.

Links to things writerly or readerly

This will not become a links blog, but I have recently come across a couple of things I want to bookmark.

First: this amazing writer's residence in Costa Rica. I now have a dream house, and its name is Casa Kike.

Ursula K. Le Guin's beautiful fictional excerpts from a therolinguistics journal: The Author of the Acacia Seeds

Pat McNees' site, Writers and Editors, has a great links page that I have been working through: Style, grammar, diction. Take a break from playing Bejeweled and stalking your high school boy/girlfriend and try out some grammar quizzes instead.

The Brooklyn Public Library sends out books newsletters, by genre or audience. I signed up for several.

MIT's OpenCourseWare offers course material, including reading lists, assignments, and in some cases, lectures. The list of Writing and Humanistics courses available is impressive (and may be what I "take" for Fall).

Late summer, long shadows

Monday, September 6, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 21

I'm a bit sick, post-travel. Some sort of chest-cold. Today was spent trying to recuperate and tie up some works in progress.

I had to remake the recipe for my wintertime print piece and take pictures of it. This is fairly stressful for me, as I am just barely a cook, let alone a food photographer. Luckily it was a dish that helped me feel slightly less crummy once it was done with its photoshoot and I could eat it.

I also managed to scan and post all of my trip writing, though that shouldn't really count (at least not until I have more than one follower on this thing).

There was also some bed-ridden knitting on my pattern-to-be. And really, that was it. I poked around at an outline for another column-type submission. But my head felt so fuzzy, that mostly I just rambled for a couple hand-written pages. Here's to a better day tomorrow. 

365 days of being a writer: days 17-20

I am home from my vacation. In summary, days 17 and 20 (the travel days) were the weakest -- productivity-wise -- while 18 and 19 were superstars. Here are the first pages from my notebook from each day after the jump.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 16

All of the shameless self-promotion clogging the innerwebs is a bit demoralizing. The twitter accounts that say over and over: read my new blog! read my new blog!... Already I have been counseled that my post tweets come too late at night to "do me any good." Any good for garnering market share, presumably. They are doing a lot of good as far as keeping me focused and accountable.

But there are an abundance of "writers" out there who want to make money a nickel or penny at a time. Their websites and tweets fill my airspace like poorly structured foreshadowing. Some day, you too, will be paid by the click for your "words of the day" and "promotion services." My work at Demand Studios is like that: a writer's sweatshop. Fifteen bucks for well-written, researched writing is a slap in the face, but there are some weeks when $30 is the difference between some stupid little nicety and a week of unsalvaged despair.

Maybe I will start post dating for the morning after, maybe not. Maybe the idea of doing that, just to get people here patting me on the back, feels too needy. Maybe I really need it.