Tuesday, June 30, 2009

(Write it!)

Here I am. Trying to do what it is that I like to do.

But I'm stuck. STUCK like glue with nothing to bounce off of!

Typically when I start a short story I have some clue as to WHERE I am going. I even wrote the last scene first for a story last Fall. Now I am six pages (about 1,760 words) into one and it is starting to get away from me.

Normally I've hit my stride and everything is flowing like wine (maybe I need a bottle).

I'm rounding second and thinking about third--not with this story. And I actually started this story in May. It may be more complex than anything I've written--with imagined sections and dialogue between mother and child.

For Reference:
flash fiction = 1000 words or less
short-short story = 1001 to 2500 words
traditional short story = 2501 to 7500 words
novelette = 7501 to 17,500 words
a novella = 17,501 to 40,000 words
a novel = 40,001 words +

My work typically runs on average anywhere from 3,200-4,500 words. I have a couple 1,000 and below pieces as well. I guess it is a bit scary and exciting to be branching out.

But being stuck? Not a good feeling.

If I start typing the same line over and over and over and over and over and over and....hide all the axes before hiding in the bathroom.

"...It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster."

(Elizabeth Bishop)


Everybody Poops:

Oh yes.

Yes yes yes yes.

I have introduced the best topic ever in the history of blogdom.

Most (both) of you know that I have worked in a pharmacy for...over 14 years now. Wow!

One topic that seems to come up on a daily basis is "bowel movements"--and it really runs the gamut from lack thereof to over-production and everything in between.

You probably think I'm joking.
Look at this face.
I am not joking.

Yes, I know, just like the book says: Everybody Poops! I am a rational adult, but goodness gracious! And if you're judging me for saying it--you're probably one of the people coming in and telling me ALL about it.

"Hello, how may I help you?"
"Yes, it's been 12-hours since my last bowel movement..."
"This is the conversation I have been waiting for!"

BUT (ha ha, no pun intended) --you have no idea how many seemingly civilized people have come up to me over the years needing to talk about their shit.

Everybody wants to talk about it. In graphic detail they want to talk about it.

They want to tell me the last time they “went”…their husband “went”...their mother “went” or their child “went”…

They want to know where the Colon Cleanser is.
They want to know where the Imodium is.
They want to know where the suppositories are.

Color. Size. Heft. I've heard it all. I guess if you know my name, that means you feel comfortable enough to tell me ALL ABOUT IT. Give me a minute and I could probably Dr. Seuss it for you...
So it was green,
Or it was red--
It was bigger than your head?

I thought about it tonight, after another person came in absolutely obsessed with the fact they hadn't "gone" in some length of time.

What were they going to do? Fiber products were taking too long. Milk of Magnesium? Miralax?

I didn't know working in the pharmacy was equivalent to being a Gastoenterologist.

Have some decency--I am a young lady, after all. At least use your inside voice when telling me about the awful smell now wafting from your nether regions.

Give me a moment to run and hide behind the pharmacist.

I'll gladly SHOW you where *random name here* is, but don't tell me about specifics. I really don't wanna know. No, really. I do NOT want to have a 15-minute conversation about it. I promise. I swear. I'm good.

Would you? Could you? Promise please!
Would you? Could you? Promise me?


Monday, June 29, 2009

Midnight in the Garden...

John Cusack
(photo credit to whoever was lucky enough to take it)

He’s my Hugh Jackman (nod to Laura Zigman).

She adores him like I adore John.

Of course, I haven’t met John (like Laura has met Hugh) nor have I published novels (again, like Laura has published novels)—so that’s where the comparison to LZ must end.

Laura! I just noticed the JACK/ZIG (man) coincidence! I hereby label it the JackZig connection (definition forthcoming)!

I watched SAY ANYTHING again over the weekend — and there is a moment where John looks like Elvis. Elvis cira 1956.

And if you know how I feel about Elvis circa 1956, you know what a compliment that is (notice the coffee-table size Elvis 1956 book I have, which can be used as evidence).

(Which reminds me of an embarrassing poem written where I merge the two, may it never see the light of day.)

Upon reading more about John, I see that in 2008 (according to wiki) a woman pleaded no contest to stalking him—and received five years probation and mandatory psychiatric counseling.

Don’t point at me! That’s NOT me! (I don’t know where he lives!) But I guess that's a bit more evidence to show how--crazy he makes people.

My favorite John Cusack moments (movies):
Better Off Dead (only for John)
Say Anything
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
High Fidelity
Grosse Pointe Blank
American Sweethearts
Must Love Dogs

So enjoy the eye-candy above and the general genius of the man, the myth, the legend.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

All Over the Place:

Moving turtle-pace through The Great Gatsby (because I am underlining passages, which take my breath away—I may as well underline the entire book)...has gotten me quite a few comments at work.

“Why are you reading that?”
“Haven’t you read that before?”
“That’s a short book, are you STILL reading that?”

1) Because it’s a classic
2) No, which is shameful, but I am trying to remedy that flaw.
3) Yes, the phrasing keeps hitting me like a ton o’ bricks.

Then I said something that even shocked me: "Well, one day I hope to be teaching the book--so underlining and soaking it all in, is a good thing!"

Vain? Practical? Delusional? Hopeful?
Then I went to the bookstore (danger! danger!) for "writing" and coffee one evening last week.

The writing was limited (I blame too much allergy medication and MJ), the coffee was grand (marble mocha something or other, instead of a "lite" something or other)...and the company was fantastic (of course)--UNTIL another book was suggested.

(No, pointing out books is not actually a "deal" breaker)

I grabbed a book NEXT to the aforementioned book instead. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms...of course. I took a poetic forms class (as well as a poetry writing class) and can actually name examples of villanelles, sestinas, sonnets, ballads...

GUESS what I said about purchasing the book? "This is so I can brush up on my poetry forms, so when I have to teach it..." WHAT?

I'm already teaching F. Scott as well as poetry (in my head) and there aren't any letters after my name yet--BA/MFA--I am clearly off my rocker (high-back office chair).

I end with this:

A: "For someone who writes fiction, you sure have a lot of poetry books..."
J: "I guess I do."

I just counted...practically 30. Yes, 30.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tender is the Night:

It has been practically one month to the day in which I finished my favorite book of the summer (thus far). And technically it isn't even "summer" until tomorrow--so maybe I should rethink this entire first paragraph?

(it's my favorite book, read since classes ended and summer officially began)*

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald is still indirectly influencing me--I can feel it.

Silently she admired him....
he was already possessed.

Have you read anything I've written lately? (No) Well, the themes are similar--even the "language" has been called "similar"--and that's really a compliment because I think the writing of F. Scott is absolutely beautiful.

Indirectly I've been writing parallels, and it's about to get very direct (soon enough).

Rosemary dozed for three hours and then lay awake, suspended in the moonshine. Cloaked by the erotic darkness she exhausted the future quickly, with all the eventualities that might lead up to a kiss, but with the kiss itself as blurred as a kiss in pictures.

They say the novel is semi-autobiographical, written concerning specific people and events. F. Scott started writing it almost as soon as The Great Gatsby was published (which I still haven't read--but may start tonight).

According to a great source (Wikipedia) by 1932, F. Scott had finally decided what to write his novel about—"a man of almost limitless potential who makes the fatal decision to marry a beautiful but mentally ill woman, and who ultimately sinks into despair and alcoholism when their doomed marriage fails."

I'm not quite sure what I am blabbering about now. Oh yeah, I LOVE THIS BOOK! You can actually read the entire text online: HERE!

Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

--from "Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Can I just borrow your cape?

Two entries in one day and then it all falls flat—I know, forgive me Reader (YOU, again).

I’ve been “less scholarly” today.

I went to lunch with a friend, (beer in the afternoon on a weekday? Scandalous!) and then we “ran errands” for a couple hours. The running of errands wore me out.

The heat index? 110.

She typically does this with a 22-month-old in tow (not the beer part)--I can barely lug myself in and out of the car without throwing a tantrum myself, she's Wonder Woman!

Then I realize that SIX of my 11 grad school choices are also in the South. I love the South, don't get me wrong--but the weather (%&*@!) I will NEVER get used to the weather!

Speaking of graduate school, the whole idea of sending out portfolios and writing samples makes me feel like the proverbial 13-year-old "holding up the wall" at the junior high dance, while awkwardly screaming on the inside:

"Please, one of you 11, PICK ME, PICK ME!"

Friends, co-workers, and family members tell me "don't worry, you'll get in..." But I still have a strange feeling that come March I'll be flinging my alcohol-soaked body off the Hernando de Soto Bridge (that's the "new" bridge, to us local folks):

Here's a black & white artsy photograph from the banks of the river at sunset. This is what I'll see as I crash down.

At least it will be pretty for a split second. (I took this picture!)

I kid, of course.

But I do admit that I've had some form of this conversation with a fellow writer (she's already been accepted into an MFA program--she starts in a couple months)...on several occasions already.

She says she will jump right alongside with me. Don't worry--I'll have printed out a manifesto and everything I've ever written--I'll surely get published then!

(Don't check on me, really, I'm fine!)

I will be taking a GRE practice test tomorrow though. How is THAT for scholarly? Hopefully it will go well. I know it will go well, I am invincible! I am woman--I just have to borrow a cape, give me a moment.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Book Review: everyone is beautiful

I found Katherine Center’s second book last month purely on accident.

I was on my way out of a bookstore when I saw the cover—noticed her name—and grabbed it off the shelf without thinking twice.

everyone is beautiful (Ballantine Books)
(who doesn't appreciate blue cupcakes?--->)

As a reader and fan of The Bright Side of Disaster (I own the hardback with the Rubber Ducky cover), I had some idea as to what I was in store for—and I was not disappointed.

Even though I chose to do my parenting vicariously (through friends and loved ones), I didn’t feel out of the loop within this Mommy-centered novel.

Our hero, Lanie Coats, is both brave and funny as she tries to figure out life in a new town with two rambunctious boys under the age four and a still-nursing baby.

We have a nicely drawn cast of characters—Khaki Pants, Amanda, the Mean Witch—who all provide hee-larious moments (outside of the realistic portrayal of children) and keep the story from becoming too baby, too childish, too I-want-to-put-the-book-down.

Adult life and themes are explored (bag o’ s-e-x toys) and there are even swoony moments (college art class) for the romantics.

Lanie finds herself and learns a great lesson (you will too); everyone is indeed beautiful!

I’ve already gotten the book back from one friend who adored it, you probably will as well.


Another Day in the Life:

*last night I accidently kissed a spider. Yes. Miss Muffett was horrified!

*I found another MFA program to apply to--the count now stands at 11

(for the literati a hint: Andalusia)

*started The American Short Story...filled with 59 short stories (1003 pgs) by American writers...(in case you were confused by the title)...

-"Rip Van Winkle" (Irving)
-"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (Irving)
-"Rappaccini's Daughter" (Hawthorne)

(just realized I need to make a
"short stories read" bar on the side)

*washing clothes; loads of clothes; don't know where they came from --but I do know where they are going...

*for those of you wondering, yes--I am on "vacation"
& yes--this is how I chose to spend it!

(today's photograph, the bottom three shelfs of my bookcase)


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

-ing along:

Lost somewhere between the tweeting, facebooking, livejournaling, BlackBerrying…

& the reading, the writing, book-hoarding, some submitting…

lies Student: Revisited and I am truly sorry, Reader (that one).

Don't be fooled by the Scrabble tile either, I haven't played many board games lately.

Books purchased at the Friends of the Library preview Sale:

Little Masterpieces of English Poetry Volume IV (printed 1905)
The Hemingway Reader (1953)
The Grapes of Wrath (1941) hardback edition
Fatal Interview: Sonnets by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1931)
The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger (1951)
The Short Novels of John Steinbeck (6 novels) First Edition 1953
The Stories of John Cheever (1978)
Doctor Zhivago by Pasternak

Aren't you glad I only decided to share the "hardbacks" with you? I have ventured into Hemingway (for a short story) and Cheever (another short story).

I'm pretty sure I forgot to mention Phil--my first plant (a gift) now has a permanent home in my office. He looks out the window at the neighbor's lovely garden, which has inspired him because he has nearly doubled in three weeks time.

(Plant life, it's like Biology I & II all over again)

This may be why I've not updated more--nothing too exciting to report as of yet.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

There She Is:

Since returning to the university, I have come in contact with a lot of amazing people: professors, fellow students, and other workers (mainly the ones at "Edgar Allan Joe's" who keep me caffeinated)...

Without a doubt, most of these souls are mini-heroes to me! I get to encompass a world filled with inspiration, learning, and magic.

One of my professors this Spring semester recently won a big award--she is also one of the ones kind enough to support my graduate-level ambitions and has signed on to be one of my "recommenders" during the graduate school application process.

She is kind, quirky, and fun! She is well-read and always had a story to tell. I throughly enjoyed our Fiction Workshop class, obviously she was a big part of that.

I had to blog about her, because even though I had nothing to do with her success--hopefully she will have something to do with mine!
From the Press Release:

Two University of Memphis professors have received First Tennessee Professorships. Cary Holladay, associate professor of English, and Dr. Deborah Lowther, professor of instruction and curriculum leadership, accepted the awards during the recent Faculty Convocation on campus.

The three-year appointment recognizes outstanding contributions to the University’s educational, research, outreach and service missions. Holladay teaches fiction writing.

Her publications include five books, the novels A Fight in the Doctor’s Office and Mercury, and the short story collections The Quick-Change Artist, The Palace of Wasted Footsteps, and The People Down South.

Holladay’s stories have appeared in such publications as New Stories from the South, Epoch and The Georgia Review. She has received numerous honors, including the Goodheart Prize, the Paul Bowles Prize for Fiction, a Tennessee Arts Commission Fellowship, and an O. Henry Prize.

In addition, Holladay has won the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and the Miami University Press Novella Competition. In 2006 she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.



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