Copyright notice

All content copyright 2010 by Chelsea Biondolillo. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 106

Today's Ask a Not-Yet-Successful Writer (with a heart of gold, folks, really) is inspired by a post on Adventures in Children's Publishing. Martina's post was aimed at fiction writers with busy lives and offered some ideas for seven "mental" tasks/exercises that could be done when you just can't get to the typewriter/pad of paper/laptop/fancy phone to actually write. The suggestions were focused on stuff like characters and subplots and world-building--all very important things to the fiction writer. I originally wondered if I could come up with a list of seven things for the essayist.

Now, since I am feeling feisty and only around seven people read this blog (I love you all), I'm going to just go ahead and say that there is time. This list (with the exception of number one) is about what to do when you don't want to/can't write. So, number one...

1. Get to the computer/pad of paper/typewriter/fancy phone. If writing is important to you, then the time is there. If it isn't important, or if you are too scared to do what you love, that time will get eaten up by other tasks. You find time to do a million little things a day that don't matter, so trade "reading yahoo news" or "youtube videos of cats" or just laying in bed hitting snooze overandover for something more important to you.

Hemingway said, "Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail." Start with ten minutes, then twenty. If the next day is too busy--back to ten. If you don't even have ten minutes, congratulations! You are living a life worth writing about rather than the life of a writer--find a biographer.

2. Get uncomfortable. You should try to write what you want to write everyday. If this is fiction, write fiction, if it is essays, write those. But know that this isn't always possible every single day. Mix it up by trying out some online prompts or an online contest outside of your regular genre. I did this with NYC Midnight's competitions, and it was a good way to keep my pen moving. Plus, mental exercises keep you young and out of literary ruts and tic-like tropes. By using the external constraint of a contest, I give myself a hard deadline and limit for the departure (slash distraction).

3. Take an office day. If you really can't focus your mind or settle into a groove during your writing time, take an "office day". Things you can do: submit stuff. Unless you are so lucky (and hateful) that everything you have written sucked up into the ether of publication, you have some pieces that are in need of a home. Look them over, tweak or not, then write a brief cover letter and submit them to an appropriate journal/site/mag. If you don't know what publications are appropriate, then your first office day is to list all of your potential markets. NOTE: this is not so helpful to the novelist, sorry, but then the original post is, so go read it.

4. Exercise your brain. I can't recommend that you do any of these things during your writing time, but when you are otherwise disengaged but still online, check out vocabulary builders (like or grammar quizzes; play Twitter games like #cnftweet and #micropoetry. Read about writing on sites like Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Brevity, HTMLgiant (that's just a random list of some that I like, not exhaustive, ranked or otherwise endorsable) and then compose a response to what you just read--you don't have to post it, just write it.

5. Write some shorter things. Sharpen the saw, so to speak on a book review, or a love letter to your favorite singer (or both, if you're a lucky fangirl like me). Every now and then I will stumble upon a "category" or "feature" in a print or online magazine that has guidelines something along the lines of "Hey have you ever....? Tell us about it, if we like it, we'll print it!"

The "Last Book I Loved" column on The Rumpus is like that. Have you ever loved a book? Then all you have to do is write about it and email it to them. The same with McSweeney's Internet Tendency. That whole site is a free for all: write a list, review a food, whatever and email it. They took my 7 grad school rejections piece and have turned down several others. This print magazine that I like has a feature that I would call "extended letter to the editor." Anyone can submit. Guess what? I'm anyone. You're anyone. Send things out. Rejections only hurt the first hundred or so times, supposedly. So get on it.

6. Sparingly: make a list of things you WILL write. Don't be a perpetual list maker, but if you're really really stuck, and you have some kind of hangup about "write whatever comes to mind, even if that's 'I can't think of anything to write'," then write a list. Include some of the shorter or uncomfortzone type stuff mentioned in 5 and 2. I kind of like physical reminders, like tacked up index cards (for each idea), this way the list can't get crazy and I can add things like outlines to the list items.

7. Rewrite. When I really have a good week of morning writing, I might get something drafted over the first three days and through an initial edit during the last two. Sometimes, I wake up with an idea of a section or phrase that needs tweaking, and I will pull that piece up and begin the pushing and pulling of words. I have passages that "need work" that I highlight in working drafts, so some mornings I may feel up to that, if I don't feel up to something else. Just like there is always admin, there is always revision.

I am a procrastinator, and I know that I tend to avoid the most painful things for a million papercuts. The list above is what I do when I "don't have time" or "can't write."

I also have the dubious luxury of having school application tasks to fall back on as well when I am feeling stubborn or petulant. [Speaking of, I think I have all seven Statements of Purpose done. I need to sit on the last three for a couple of days to be sure. Next week, I will shore up my longer manuscripts and begin the bundles.] And of course, research. [I finished mining the last book (and using up an entire lil packet of sticky flags--it is a good book). The final notes will be written tomorrow, then drafting. For reals, yo.]

These are other tasks of the writer, and can--and must--sometimes take the place of writing. Just like a composer has to practice an instrument, we have to practice words: learning them, saying them, stringing then knotting them together. Someday those knot-tying skills may mean all the difference.

Monday, November 29, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 105

Here's a bit about my totally analog research hack:

I read through bee book three of four on the bus today. Bees are so cool. Not as full of personality as birds, but so damn mysterious! They just vanish. Disappear. Where do they go? Why? MYSTERIOUS!

As promised, I got my index cards and got to work once I got back home.

I don't know if I learned this method in middle school or high school. It seems like I had to use it for a French paper on Haiti, which would mean Ms. Bangs and at least tenth grade. But I feel like I was already familiar with it by then.

Anyway, it goes like this: most research papers have an intro, conclusion, and at least three middle points. More than three and you're letting the topic get away from you, fewer than three and you are missing something. Plus, three is a nice pyramid: rising, climactic, falling action, I mean data.

In any case, each body section might have other sections, but I keep my organizational methods at a level I can handle. So three it is.

Index Cards
Something to keep them in with a way of dividing them.

Today at OfficeS-Mart I found a little plastic box/envelope thing that holds my 4x6 cards (enough room to get a good amount of info) and has 5 lil clear dividers. Here are the dividers and all of my cards so far --two more books to go.

Research 1

On each card is the work cited name, the page, and the section. Then the quote or data that I think I might need. Here are some of my section 3 cards:

Research 2

It's maybe silly, but I am a hands-on kind of workerbee. This way, after I have all the cards, I can lay each section out and organize my research physically and then write the words in between the facts.


In other news, a very old friend called me today and asked how I was doing. He has learned that "okay" isn't worth a damn, so he asked me to give a 1-10 ranking. I surprised us both by saying "Six. No, 7. No, definitely 6."

I mean, six isn't shitty. It's a damn sight from awesome. But it is definitely not shitty. Also, I sent off for some of my PCC transcript copiess and all of my UCLA copies. That leaves the rest of PCC (I only get 3 free a day), PSU, and MCC for a total of $68.00 in remaining transcript fees and $215 in application fees.

I haven't yet put the biggest chunk of garage sale money in the bank, as it will fritter away the moment I do. After my rough draft is done, I will pay for the Pdx and Wy app fees. Since I am dragging so much ass on this research, I want to wait to pay the hefty Univ of Washington fee ($75) until I know I will have a paper for them. I am waiting until all transcripts are in to call up Kansas State and talk with them about whether or not to apply.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 104

Yeah. I didn't get all that done.

I did more reading about bees. Got two new great books and found a good online resource. The issue is that I only know one way to write a research paper and it utilizes index cards and a lot of analog work. I am trying to translate it into a modern method and am coming up method-less. Which means I am getting some index cards tomorrow.

To save myself from the shame of un-productivity, I submitted a piece to a sleek and lovely online magazine. My mini-essay is slightly unconventional, and so are some of the other prose pieces there, so that could work out.

I have a new plan if all the apps come back negative again this year. This plan could totally change, who knows what will happen? But if I get good news from my Federal Application for Financial Aid, I may try to apply to an undergraduate program for a BS in biology. Maybe back home. We'll see. I really like science, even if statistics and physics and chem sort of freak me out.

365 days of being a writer: day 103

I did write yesterday, but did not have time to blog.

This research paper is really hanging me up, and I am not sure why. Is it the strictness required with inline citations? Maybe I just don't believe my potential thesis? I mean, I believe it, very much so. Bees need saving. But, maybe I don't believe that a research paper is the best way to say that?

In any case, I started the first section yesterday, and hope to finish it today and make serious progress on the other two. Right now I am in the Burton Barr Library, where the light and architecture are inspiring. I just wish the seats were a bit more adjustable.

Go to your local library today. Check out a crazy book you'd never buy. Like Something on Colony Collapse Disorder, for instance.

Friday, November 26, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 102

Slow news day.

Originally, I wasn't going to buy anything today, but then I signed up for a book club. I will probably have to cancel it almost immediately, but I love Powell's, and I am intrigued as hell by The Instructions.

There wasn't much action on the holiday table today, so I wrote a few blog posts for the store site. It's marketing copy, but I am getting better at it. For whatever that's worth.

I'm feeling really withdrawn--I haven't felt that way in a long time. Usually when I am burnt out, I freak out. Now, I am just shutting down, hibernating. I feel very strongly that I don't want to deal with anyone. It would be completely OK if I were being a bit more of what I consider productive.

Also, totally informal poll: o.k., ok, OK, or okay?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 101

We're in the hunnerts now. Maybe I am serious about all this.

Furthering my progress towards grad school apps, today I wrote up a 2 page CV and a "one page resume"--which I am assuming that particular school is using interchangeably with CV, as why would they care that I was a Camel girl, or an ice-cream scooper at Baskin and Robbins (oh, so many years ago--the closest to fast food I ever got).

I was also uncomfortable at Thanksgiving dinner after working at the store all morning and afternoon. Everyone's uncomfortable at Thanksgiving, that's part of the deal--except usually I'm not. We aren't fighters or stewers. There is never drama, just eating til we're sick and then some re-tellings of stories so funny that my mom cries.

Yet, my family has morphed into this collection of friends and relations that I don't even know. After the week of being nice to strangers and smiling til my face hurt and trying to be a calm, happy moment in what is otherwise a stress-ball of a week for people--I just wanted to be home, and not "on." But there's no home here. I didn't grow up here. This is my parents' and my sisters' home. Their (nice) friends and family all wanted to chat and be all chummy and ask me how was work, and how's my cat, and what have I been up to. It was really all I could do to not just stand up and walk out. I spent too much time away, I suppose, living in other states and States. My spot has been filled in like a sand hole at the ocean's edge. This is not a whiny, oh-sad-me thing, just an observation--a reminder that I need to get out of here.

A writer friend recently reminded me about the loneliness of the writer. It's the third-wheel syndrome of the perpetual watcher, I think. You can't belong and observe.  Perhaps this is why I look to other writers or knitters or amateur runners, to feel like I belong to any community at all in all my otherwise solitary pursuits.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 100

I am so glad I called today being a total washout. Self-fulfilling prophesy or some very much needed realistic expectations? I'm going to file as latter.

No writing happened today (except ONE turkey related #cnftweet). [Oh, and if you didn't get here from Twitter, you can follow me @devakali]

My one writerly task (besides reading a great first chapter in Susan Brind Morrow's book Wolves & Honey) was to finally get a copy of the Winter VenusZine with my article in it. I'm supposed to get a contributor's copy, but I don't remember if I ever did last time. It's worth $4.50 for at least one copy for my clips file which means I'm paying them to let me write now--I am the opposite of that one law about money flowing toward the writer.

Newest article in VenusZine

Think good thoughts for me tomorrow. I'll be at the grocery store, selling the very last of the garnet yams, bouillon cubes, and vegan marshmallows. Please send eggnog and a large bottle of quality dark Cruzan rum.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 99

Pretend that this post starts out with a funny "99 bottles of beer on the wall" tie-in.

I tried to enjoy a great show tonight and was instead a grouchy puss-baby the whole time. There was just too much humanity for me to deal, especially after a day of being crowded and leaned into and over and the whole range of personalities of our generally over-privileged, under-mannered clientele. Most of the shoppers today were pleasant, but a strained pleasant. Like, if this goes without a hitch, I won't totally lose my shit. Which is the kind of person I turned into, on entering the sold out show. The elbows, the loud awful laughy girls. The opening band taking way too long to get to each song. And above all, the press of people. Really, what's surprising is that anyone wants to hang out with me at all (and trust me, I am grateful for the guy that does).

Then, like a sign from Archie Bunker's ghost, this article is on my yahoo home page when stagger home ashamed of my attitude: Jobs for People Who Hate People. Number three? Writer. What a relief.

My brain is too fried from grocery madness to get any writing done these last few crazy days. Instead, I worked this morning on my manuscript for Texas Tech. All I have left to assemble for them is my CV. Anyone have a good template?

Monday, November 22, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 98

Somehow, I think my 100th day will fall on the day that I will be least likely to cope... You think retail work at Christmas is crummy--try manning the "Turkey Table" at everyone's favorite fancy grocery store the week before Thanksgiving. All day, I explain the difference between free-range, organic, and heritage turkeys. I offer tips on how much turkey to get, whether to brine or grill or smoke. I prioritize people's week and schedule their errands--and I sure as Hell better not Fuck Up Thanksgiving.

For the most part, it's actually a pretty good gig. I get to do a lot of talking, which I love (though it really wears me out, it keeps me from over thinking). I get to be a helper--and I really like being a helper more than being In Charge. The lack of recognition is a drag, but I turn into a total fascist DICKtator when I am in charge.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 97

I really tried to write the bee paper this weekend. But I didn't.

OK, that can't be true, or I would have written it. The problem is that I can't work without a deadline. How can I ever "be my own boss" if I show no urgency to complete the tasks I assign myself? I would totally fire me.

This one is particularly hard, because there is no larger reason to write this paper. It won't be published anywhere, no one (except a few die-hard friends who would probably be down to read one of my grocery lists if I asked then to) will want to read it. And it's gotta be FIFTEEN pages long!

Today, I reworked my outline, in the face of all my research. I separated each section and gave them page counts. The (new) plan is to write each section at a time, and really 2, 3, or 4 pages isn't so bad. That's the (new) goal for this week. That, and print out some manuscripts and SOPs. I need to start officially applying to these programs, and paying for the rest of my transcripts. I am still just over a hundred bucks short for the transcripts, but I am hoping I can spread those out over a couple of paychecks to lessen the sting.

How do I know if this is really what I want to do, or if it is just what I don't want to fail at?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 96?

All I managed to accomplish, writing-wise, today was some research on Colony Collapse Disorder. That, and a good long sleeping in. I really needed that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 95

The first hundred days are drawing to a close. What have we learned? That I am unstable and whiny, but at least I manage to get some writing done and submitted anyway. I can't be awful, as some things, in rare instances, get accepted. We've learned that I might not be strong enough for this gig: too cry-y.

The four pieces that have been so soundly trounced recently by editors have undergone varying levels of edits. The blackbirds are hibernating or being punished or something, but the other three have been tweaked, so it's fitting and proper to get them out to new editors. I also need some new pieces. My daydreams are becoming more fictional or fictionalized. How much fiction needs to be added to memoir until it's a story? Not in a Frey-an lie kind of way, but in a Hunter S Thompson this-can't-be-real kind of way. There are some hard stories in my mind, and it might just be easier to get them out if they weren't so much mine, you know?

Today and yesterday were spent working on SOPs. I need a draft of the bees essay by the end of this weekend or else I am seriously grounded.

Have gotten more retweets from @cnfonline; they feel like little tiny acceptance letters, each and every one.

I mentioned on Facebook that I had a folder system for my submissions. Here's what it looks like:

My Contributions to Slush Piles around the world

The top two folders, 2009 & 2010 are full of pieces that were rejected. ACCEPTED is self-explanatory. All of the rest are pending. I use folders so I can store the exact version that was submitted along with any cover letters etc. Plus, with the folders closed, I don't have to be assaulted with volume of the first two compared to the third.

In the beginning, I reread all these posts first thing the next day. Now, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. Sometimes, when I read back over one, I have no recollection of writing a particular phrase or passage at all. It makes me think that this act of blogging about writing is becoming a sort of wordy trance. Or else, my sleep and sanity cycles are so fucked up that I am just a zombie by 10 pm. I'd like to hope for trance.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 94

I haven't updated my knitting blog since September, but it gained a follower today. This blog gets updated every day, and still only has one. I think that's sort of funny.

My mind is like a teapot, and it is right now in that shimmering moment before the whistling starts. Picture: the pot seems to short of shake--but it's really just a sound, a radiative hiss--while bubbles begin to take shape on the bottom and sides, not yet popping to the surface. There is this pressure inside, like I need to scream, and I can't relieve it.

I am trying so hard to get up early enough to run, because that would help. But there's always something that keeps me up too late. So then I wake up late, and race through the bare minimum of that of what I need to do, already behind. And then I get home, and I want to catch up, but I am so exhausted that I just make shitty food and watch junky TV shows on hulu. I have no idea how to stop this cycle without withdrawing from the outside world even more completely.

In other news, Brevity sent me their rejection notice the day before yesterday. It ended up in my spam folder, delaying my receipt of the news. I thought all of the work that I sent out in the last three months was finished and ready, but I am especially fond of the mini-essay that they read. I am not even sure where else such a thing would belong. And I am sure that the fact that I feel exactly the same about myself is totally unrelated. Totally.

I've become self-conscious of the occurrences of the following words in these posts: I, but, so, also, and and. ANDbutsoalso, it really drives me up the fucking wall that I can not EVER remember how to spell the following words without spell check: occasionally, occurrences, occurred, desperately. There are a few others that hang me up, but those I almost always get wrong the first time. Did phonics do that to me? Did I lose the brain cells responsible for those words on an acid trip in the 90s?

Maybe I am allergic to my own weakness. This could just be a case of psychological hives. A fever-dream brought on by anaphylactic shock of the spirit.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 93

I'm in entropic mode, it seems. Every day, I just race home to write or avoid writing. I don't go out, talk to anyone in the real world, do anything. (Except my writing ritual in the mornings.)

Some people find a maintenance mode at some point. They garden. They have circles of real life friends who come over for barbecues. This totally happens. What am I running away from or to all the time? You know what would kick ass? If THAT became more apparent.

I worked on my SOP for Kansas this morning. Done but for one sentence, I think. I'm still looking for winning examples out there or a good SOP mentor. If I get in anywhere this go around, I want to start a site with the SOPs of accepted candidates. Doesn't matter the program, just winning personal statements. See? Even I can't not call it winning. The alternative is losing. Or at least as winning as a DNR (which is to say not very).

An engaging article that did not demonize MFAs came to my attention today via the Twitter machine. It didn't totally idolize them, either, but it did make me wish that Syracuse had a nonfiction track, so I could sneak into dreamy George Saunders' workshops. The Faster Times: You Are Not the Only One Writing About Moldavian Zookeepers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 92

My scheme at work to keep up social media has somehow backfired in a not even remotely humorous Lucy-esque manner. I was so exhausted at the end of my day, that I worried a little about my ability to drive home, and I have almost no opportunities to write.

Luckily, the morning ritual experiment continues. Today I wrote a draft of my statement of purpose for Texas. I asked my writerly Twitter followers if anyone could look it over, but I guess we aren't those kind of friends. Hey, that's cool.

But, ritual! Helping!

Informal poll 
Is this a totally lame line: "A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand perfect words are priceless"?

Monday, November 15, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 91

In thinking about my malaise or writerly dysfunction--it seems to me that the key (if there is one, and who knows) is to keep writing even if I have no hope of it meaning anything past my own action of doing. Is that zen? Should writing be about action only?

Isn't that what people do? They do things for the joy of it? Even though this is more about exhaustion and confusion than joy. If not school, then what, working in a grocery store the rest of my life? And if it is supposed to be only about process, how does anything ever get done? This post already has too many questions. I don't know how writers do the hard stuff--I don't know what sustains them through the bleakness of probable failure.

But then, when I train for a half marathon, I know it's not to win. This makes me a tourist, I suppose, not an athlete. There is something in the completion that has value to me, even if it doesn't to anyone else. There's something to setting a goal and then reaching it. Is that something enough to build a life on, though?

This morning I tried to start a kind of ritual: some sun salutations, hot tea, then writing. It was awkward, and I got very few words down, but it's maybe a start.

I don't know why I feel so despondent when I confront this research paper. What the fuck is wrong with research? Nothing. I have learned some cool ass shit about bees. Stingless bees, naked honey hunters, Varroa mites that decimate whole hives. Mark Twain even wrote a brief essay called The Bee where he posits that bees are really human. It's wonderfully funny and weird, as though written under the influence of a fever.

It's late and I need to sleep.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 90

Three months in, and I feel I have hit a wall. I didn't want to write again today. I wanted to enjoy a day off: knit, bake squash, watch old Bob Newhart shows on hulu.

I spent some time reading my bee research, but I have no desire to sit down and write that paper. Does this mean I don't really want to go to school all that badly? Or that I don't have what it takes to write? I'm just tired of feeling like I am running in place.

Supposedly my latest VenusZine article is on newsstands now. If anyone out there see the Winter issue, take a look at the "slow cooking" article and tell me how it looks. Last time it was months before I got my single contributor's copy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 89

I was going to take today off from writing. But in the end, I did a thirty minute free write. I just couldn't bring myself not to do it. I read a blurb today that suggested a little ritual before writing, to train one's brain to get ready to focus. It's an intriguing idea, and one I'd like to pursue next week in the mornings. I am not sure what exactly my ritual will be yet.

The garage sale netted me $30 bucks less than what I needed for my applications, but I still have a pile of art supplies that a coworker is supposed to be buying for $30... It might just work out. I am still hoping that a pledged donation will come through for my UCLA transcripts. They charge $8 each. Because they are bastards.

My sister and I talked a lot today about her childhood, mine, and my mom's. It was weird, but a good way to spend a cold morning while strangers picked through some of my most prized unprized possessions. We met some more of the crazy neighbors. My favorite was Dude from Across the Street who is probably 50, with full color tribalesque tattoos all over two arms and one leg. He was wearing baby blue boxers covered in fish and a turquoise tank top. His skin was a boiled-pink sort of color, and he seemed to be bleaching his yellowy hair more blond--it stuck up in whip cream like peaks all over his head the second time he came over. He bought all of my posters, so he's alright with me. My sister was glad to finally be rid of a panini maker for a dollar that was in its fourth garage sale. I was glad a cool woman bought my pretty and delicate Madame de Dia de los Muertos. There was entirely too much interaction with the neighbor who offers up favors and gifts unasked for, only to turn around and ask for favors and gifts. "Here's some cat food you didn't ask for and don't want, can I log into your wi-fi?" I am terrible with such interactions; they make me want to stay inside.

Much of my non-sale time was spent knitting and crocheting. It is a withdrawal, to knit. But it feels so good to accomplish a measurable and undeniably quality amount of work. I look at my sock that has no dropped stitches, no knots, no wonky increases--it is a good sock. I can't look at a page of writing that is free of dangling modifiers, cliches, and comma splices and know the same thing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 88

My garage sale was today. I ended the day in OK shape, though to pay for apps I need to make about $100 more tomorrow. My flash fiction was also rejected by Hayden's Ferry Review.

Some notes from the garage sale.

365 days of being a writer: day 87

Yesterday I was so tired when my day was done that I collapsed into bed without writing a post.

I actually got up at a reasonable hour yesterday and wrote in the morning. I'm still so foggy headed though from the long stretch of not-writing that it wasn't the most useful time. When I am the most open to possibilities is the moment I get up. With tea, no coffee. So that will be the goal.

Today is my garage sale, I am hoping to make $270 so I can pay for my applications. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 86

All of the writers I regularly talk writing with are imaginary interweb friends except for three. And two of those are brother and sister. Virtual community.

My review is up at The Rumpus! I am really happy to finally get something up that has at least a bit of meat to it. I am bummed that it is almost off the front page after only a day, but IT'S UP!

The Superstition Review has rejected the blackbirds.

From Where I Sit has turned out to be a fantastic resource for my bees essay. & More Spanish.

Yo soy de los Estados Unidos.
Ese gato esta gordo.
Ese gato es gris.
Yo estoy muy cansada.

Buenas Noches.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 85

Oh man, I did not want to write today. I stayed in bed too late to write first thing in the morning (this is really what I need to do, but I can't get to bed before ten --like now-- so it makes getting up at 5:30 nigh impossible). Then I spent all day playing on Twitter. While I wasn't working, I mean.

I have to admit that I was a little heartbroken that none of my tweets made the cut into Issue #40 of Creative Nonfiction.

Letters from the Hive: done. Luckily the last 50 pages were recipes and acknowledgments.

So here's the scene: I get home early, thanks to wearing boots and being able to run faster for my second bus than on slip-on days. Instead of writing the minute I get in, I have to play with a bunch of different hashtags, make a non-dinner all slow-like, tweet some more, make some juice, check Twitter. Swear off Twitter. Move to computer, sit my ass down. Open a word file. Open a pattern that a friend wants me to knit for her, print it. Change the title of the word file. Decide that I need to know the date of Ma Bell's telephone strike (it IS material to the essay, but rightnow?). Noodle on the google looking for the date for a bit. Ma Bell's had a few strikes, turns out. Even one in 1907 in Toronto (not at all material). Check Facebook. Realize the strike date means that I can't change the title to what I wanted, so close first doc. Open a new doc, change IT to the title I was thinking of. Check Twitter. Read about Michelle Obama shaking some Muslim's hand by force-but-not-really. Close browser, focus on second essay. Write ONE SENTENCE. Call my mom for another unnecessary fact check. She doesn't want to talk because it's late and my conversations exhaust her enough in the daytime. Write another sentence. Check clock: it's been over an hour.

Finally, in frustration (or maybe acceptance), I tasked myself with at least completing my Works Cited -so far- for the bee paper. It's done and that's something. Tomorrow I will be reading From Where I Sit, a book of bee, beekeeping, and science essays. And maybe take my vitamins.

Monday, November 8, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 84

Today: bees and Spanish.

My commute was filled with the history of honey bees and Man, and I ended up getting half way through my research book number one. I am not sure if I will read all of the second book or not, as I think it is more about the history of honey than the plight of bees so much.

When I got home I did a hard hour and a half of Spanish.

Hay mucho gente en el restaurante.
Esta coche es barato y antigua.
Es un gato gordo alli.

Finally, I wrote out some notes from my readings today and printed out several web articles that I want to use in the sections on Colony Collapse Disorder and new legislation (which is probably now old, and idealistic legislation) aimed at "saving the bees." That was really it for today. Already, I am stressed out that I haven't heard back from that professor I emailed. You know, one day later. Insert patronizing sigh.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 83

I spent another day deep-cleaning today. More nooks and crannies: including boxes of shells and stones and pieces of wood, a suitcase full of stationery, a pile of comic books and a pile of purses.

I'm keeping all of the purses.

I also worked a bit more on my outline, fleshed it out to two pages. I will be spending my bus reading time on my library books this week. And I drafted a letter to a professor at one of my hoped-for schools. He and I met once, and I am hoping to remind him who I am. I have no idea if that will help my cause or not, but it can't hurt it.

Did you catch that bit yesterday about how The Rumpus is going to post a piece of mine? I'm pretty damn stoked about that.

Now it's time for my Spanish leccion. Adios.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 82

I spent a few hours at the library today, then another hour or so at a bookstore. I have been selling books. I started with three bulging bags, sold two, and bought up one bag worth back in trade. It was supposed to be a reduction by half. But it's books! And I got really great books in trade. Books about writing.

There was way too much junk in this house when I moved in. Every corner cram packed with stuff. Every space filled with stacked boxes full of things. It's suffocating. What good are books if I can't reach them on the shelf because there's a pile of stuff precariously balanced in front of them? Or a pair of shoes I don't even know I have... I've been stacking up a lot of things that used to be important to me when I had a house. I had a set of dishes for just for parties and a regular place setting for eight. I had four power strips and five rooms worth of knick knacks. I had been dragging around paraphenalia from 20 years ago. It's not like I don't need stuff. I love stuff. I especially love books and small intricate things to look at, like Limoges-style boxes and Buddha statues.

Friday, November 5, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 81

My cat is miserable with me being a writer. He never learned to entertain himself, so he hates it when I sit in the dark at the computer instead of playing with him. He tears angrily at his toys, biting and scratching at them in  frustration, then just sprawls on his side on the floor, staring straight ahead, sideways. The boredom and pent up energy practically shooting out of his poor, impotent little eyes.

He needs to learn to entertain himself.


In the seventh grade, I left my cool-ass hippie school in the heart of artsy NW Portland and transferred to a suburban junior high. It was not a wealthy suburb, but except for the junior high kids who would terrorize isolated pockets of the neighborhoods once or twice a month, it was a pretty safe area.

One of the first things I did when I got there was win a writing contest. I was always entering writing or art contests. I have no idea where I heard of these things, maybe my mom found them and made me enter.

This one was on the constitution, in honor of "Law Day," I believe. I don't know what Law Day is, or even if it's just something the city council in Oregon City made up. I came in third--I never win first. A guy named Paul came in first, and this girl Christine came in second. Paul won $100, I remember. I also remember Christine being really pissed that Paul won-won, because as she said "he doesn't know about anything except how to be a good kiss ass."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 80

I squandered my writing time today by jumping on the castigatory Cooks Source bandwagon (see previous post). Otherwise, the extent of my creative writing would be a couple of #cnftweets. Luckily, I was also able to write a blog postlet about bosc pears, or the entire day would have felt like a waste.

I mentioned my read-a-thon idea on a comment thread and got exactly zero takers. I am going to keep throwing it out there until someone bites. 

Now that I won't be nycmidnighting all weekend, I will have time to research and draft some pages about bees. I think it will be a good weekend for the library and botanical gardens.

Editorial Asshatery, or a meme I can really get behind

I am sure you have all heard about what happened to Cooks Source, the plagiarizing magazine with the clueless editor. No? Well, please, read up!: Copyright Infringement is for Dummies (a great links list of the train wreck compiled by the folks at Beyond the Veil).

As a would-be author, I have already seen my blog posts co-opted by false aggregator sites. They think they do me the favor by lifting the entire post... sure my name is there, and even a link, but if the entire text is pasted, why would a visitor come to me? It's dirty pool, but what the folks at Cooks Source did was so much worse. A print magazine! And really, would we even care if it weren't for the horrible attitude of the editor, Judith Griggs. Click below for an excellent new definition, courtesy the folks at Smart Bitches...

Judith Griggs

As I posted on their Facebook page (which will be gone soon, I'm sure, so hurry!) I have done plenty of work for free, both print and online--but always with a contract. Anything less is theft, plain and simple.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 79

Some true things:
  1. I did not advance into the final round of NYCmidnight's Flash Fiction competition.
  2. That bums me out less than I thought it would, for ungraceful reasons that I'm keeping to myself.
  3. This morning, I felt compelled to write something, and I let that compulsion carry me through actually writing it down. It doesn't sound impressive, but how many times have you thought "I should write that down" but didn't? Don't do that anymore!
  4. I submitted something to another online journal/site/space.
  5. I have inappropriately intense feelings for my new big-ass Bartlett's Roget's Thesaurus. It's just so BIG and THOROUGH.
  6. Someone wrote what many considered to be a nasty opinion piece about NaNoWriMo that may have inspired me to act. The piece itself was likely little than a fluff bomb, thrown to incite hoards of trolls and thus secure it's virality (can I say "virality"?) (in which it succeeded). But a kernel of sense was in there, about there needing to be more activities for readers. Now I want to find someone to put such a thing together. Someone with web- and organizing-skillz, and fundraising moxy, maybe. Know anyone?
  7. I got another retweet from @cnfonline. Which oddly, is much more awesome than the NYCM loss is crappy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 78

I voted. Did you?

Four-score and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Whether they are a transgendered women's basketball starter, a guy stomping a woman on the head (whether we like it or not), a witch, or a president. Or something like that.

Anyway, civic duty and all, you gotta do it--or you lose all rights to bitching.

Monday, November 1, 2010

365 days of being a writer: day 77

I'm going to bed hungry and sore. It's an experiment. I'm hoping I will wake up with an urgency that I lacked today. While I did get a bit of a walk in, it was not enough to clear my head. And then instead of getting writing done when I got to work early, I got sucked into a conversation with someone. I had twenty minutes and squandered it, because otherwise everyone has to ask me if I'm OK, because I seem down. When you don't want to talk to people you are "down."

I managed to get some writing done later on a break. I was home for ten minutes before having to leave again, no time to eat or breathe. I'm not making that mistake again right at the beginning of the week. The cake topper for today was seeing that ACC sent back my transcript request because I forgot to include a photocopy of my picture ID. I can't even request a transcript apparently without fucking up a step. (A step, which seems hugely sketchy, and that no other school requires, for whatever that's worth.)

The second blog post never went up on venuszine, and no word from the editor about why. It had a Dia de los Muertos themed title--maybe they don't know that was today? It's disappointing to say the least. 

Whatever, I'm too tired to write about it. I'm too tired for anything and it's only Monday.