Sunday, March 30, 2008

Punches, Then Flowers

Lacy just posted this excellent news, and I want to help spread the word. Her friend Jason just started a new blog to collect performing artists' tales of shame and misery. You can read and contribute stories at Punches, Then Flowers.

I've noticed I've been posting a lot about theater and online stuff and not a lot about writing. Balance, balance.

In a display of balance, I just bought a video game I've been wanting for oh, the last two years, but I haven't played it yet. See, I'm highly motivated by rewards. Gold stars have always worked on me. Cookies too. Sometimes I get so into what I'm writing that I forget about the reward. That's why I never get very far in video games. So before I can play I'm going to work on a poem. And then I'm going to send Jason one of my favorite horror stories. And then . . . Well, then I'll play the game, but not for long because I have to get up early and write.

Really. I have a ton of work to do. Good work.


In case you're wondering, the game is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Game of the Year Edition. Yes, I am really that dorky.

And if any writers, or creative artists of other stripes, are actually reading this blog, I'd love to hear in comments if you treat yourself to exciting rewards when you get the job done . . .

Compared to other people . . .

I just commented on this interesting post on The Writing Journey about how web writers are often thought of as less than "real writers," and how "real writers" sometimes look down on writing even blogs online. I do know a lot of writers with blogs. Web content gets more "legit" every day, and it's going to become increasingly important for print writers to keep a presence online. Just look at the number of YA and kids' authors who have blogs, interactive websites, and social networking pages. Young readers are used to finding everything, including print authors, online.

All my friends use Facebook, even though it wasn't a thing when I was in college, and I've been thinking about what it would be like to grow up with it. I can only imagine that it would mean endless drama, but then maybe kids who've grown up with it are desensitized. Maybe a kid who wants drama will find it with or without Facebook's help.

On Facebook, I just added the Compare People application. This application would completely freak me out if I thought anyone I knew took it seriously. Here are my distinctions: among my friends, I have the highest rank as someone you wouldn't mind being handcuffed to, and I'm the #2 best potential mother. The first one's a great compliment -- it suggests I'm not annoying. I might not be the best friend or the most loyal, but you could deal with my presence for an extended period of time without going crazy.

And the second . . . baffles me. And makes me a little proud. It means my friends don't think I'm crazy among other things. I like to think I'd make a good mother, but I really don't know. In my heart of hearts, I think I'm selfish. And then I think, well that's good, because I'd make an interesting role model, a mom who's pursuing her own dreams.

Yipes. But then I think about how last night at 11pm, I realized I hadn't yet fed my dog. Parker, Parker funny dog! How could I do that to you? Well, because we have a laissez-faire routine where I keep her dish mostly full and she eats only part of what I give her and saves the rest for later, and she'd probably eaten earlier in the day and she wasn't that hungry so she didn't remind me . . . so, okay, I think Parker forgives me, if she noticed at all. Her sleep schedule is as bad as mine. She's super healthy, but she doesn't know routine. That doesn't work with a baby. Yipes.

Not that I'm thinking about having one. At all. Anytime soon.

And the really funny part is that all these "rankings" that say so much about me are based on votes by about five people, and probably half of those folks don't really know me. So they don't really mean anything.

Still, it's really important for everyone to know that on my friend Kristie's page, I rank among the "most desirable."

Currently reading: Cut by Patricia McCormick

Friday, March 28, 2008

Why do I feel like it's Monday?

Because all my thoughts have to do with setting goals and finishing what I've started, and those are sunny fresh-start Monday thoughts. So maybe because it's the weekend, I can act on some of those ideas with enthusiasm rather than guilt. It's a weird motivational conundrum. I'm suspicious of guilt as a motivator. If I feel guilted (even by myself) into doing something, I'm more likely to blow it off, resist it, do it halfway. On the other hand, if I commit to something by choice, I'll happily wreck myself trying to live up to the promises I've made.

I honor the weekend even though I don't work a Monday to Friday job. Something in me's programmed to feel guilty for goofing off on a Monday and to expect to have exciting plans for a Friday night. Because I tell myself I don't HAVE to work on the weekend, I enjoy it when I choose to.

So here are my Monday thoughts:

I want to do yoga more regularly, swim, and bike and maybe join a gym
I want to eat better -- I cooked for myself last night and it felt divine
I want to research freelance jobby jobs
I want to read more journals, blogs, reviews within kids' lit
I want to draw and knit more

Because it's really Friday, I also want plans for tonight, but I might be okay with those plans consisting of reading and writing.

Yesterday, I spent hours playing around with outlines and rearranging text on Scrivener. I'm not sure how much I accomplished, but I feel more clear about where I need to write, and it cleaned up my files, which is the mental equivalent of clearing off my desk. I also "finished" my ghazal. I'm sure I'll play with it more, but at least it looks like a completed poem.

Currently reading: Poems from Homeroom by my brilliant former advisor Kathi Appelt

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


So, great day for teaching and rehearsing. Not such a great day for writing. Took a long nap after teaching, followed by a sit-and-stare-at-the-screen, procrastinate-by-doing-"research"-fest before writing about 140 words. I think I'm at a point where I need to sit down and do some serious outlining/organizing, but that doesn't directly result it pages or word counts, so it feels like taking time away. If I'll just do it, it'll help me move faster.

Still, I spent a chunk of time on my ghazal yesterday, and I'm going to take another stab at it now. Poetry is hard.

Teaching was sweet. We started the Chalmers residency with an absurd ratio of 6 teachers to 17 fourth graders. Among us are a past and a present education director, Kristie and Dixie, three generations of lead teachers since I learned from Kristie and led Dixie's first residency, superstar Monkey apprentice Stephen aka every child's favorite person, the irrepressible Joe, and Alex, who may be the funniest man I know. Dixie claims to be a little worried that we're going to melt their faces off with love and affirmation. They're already super-creative and not afraid to act, so it should be a fun six weeks.

When I introduced myself and said what I do when I'm not teaching, I told them, "I go to grad school for writing, so that means I got out of high school, went to college, finished that, and now I'm back for MORE school to learn how to write better." They kind of giggled at the idea of that much school, and also, I suspect, at the absurdity of my life choices.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Later that day . . .

1,474, all new. Sitting at a desk was good for me, especially since I allowed myself a walk, yoga, and reading as a break midafternoon. Hoping I can guzzle some before Grandma. I like having a shorter project to break things up -- a treat that's healthier than marked-down Easter candy.


I did it. I cleaned. Too bad my clean apartment looks like your average person's messy apartment, but it's a step in the right direction.

I've been annoyed with myself for not feeling like writing, and I've realized it's not that I don't want to write, it's that I want to write something new, and fun, that will never treat me the way my current writing project is treating me. New Writing Project will woo me with lots of fascinating research, will have a plot that falls into place, and characters that speak to me in dreams. New Writing Project would never confuse me, or send me mixed messages, or get emotionally distant.

Wait, Rachel, are we still talking about writing projects?

Yes, of course, what are you trying to suggest?

In an effort to rekindle the writing flame, I started writing a ghazal (pronounced "guzzle"), last night, because ghazals often have to do with frustrations in love, and because a poem called a "guzzle" has to be fun to write, right?

And today, I'm back to "work," sitting at my desk, Micol, and not in my bed, because yes, sometimes work should feel like work. I will let you know how it goes.

Currently reading: The Traitor King by Todd Mitchell

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Dreamed last night that I was sobbing in frustration about my novel, basically fearing that I won't ever get it done to my liking, and one of the faculty who I neither know well nor consider motherly was comforting me. In the dream, I was afraid she might decide I was too upset to continue the program and recommend I quit.

I also dreamed about living in a dystopian future in which people scavange abandoned houses for goods and pull really cool robotic skateboard moves in underground highways. I lived by the seaside with a rich but autocratic uncle, safe but with clipped wings.

And the only thing I think that any of this "means" is that I need to clean my apartment. Badly.

Friday, March 21, 2008

10th Date

This is what happens when I turn in my packet, which I did on Wednesday afternoon after a morning of last minute fix-ups. I give myself permission to be lazy for a day or two. Yesterday, however, could not be a lazy day.

Yesterday, I taught an all-day Monkey residency at Orchard Place in the suburbs. Five classes back to back with one break for lunch. We don't usually teach the lower grades, but these kids were amazing, and we got great group stories from even the youngest kids. The show should be a blast since we'll be representing all the kids rather than just one class.

This was also my first Monkey residency in more than two years. Before moving to LA, I would lead-teach and do several residencies each semester, so it was great, and a little intimidating, to be back.

In order to have a true lazy day, I didn't set my alarm clock last night, and maybe it was the snow, or maybe it was the exhaustion of the last couple days, but I woke up after 3pm.

I was up late to be fair, finally going to see a friend and Monkey compatriot, Mike Przygoda, play with one of his many bands, the urban country Devin and the Straights. It was a great time, and I got a reminder of how much I love live music. More of that in my life, please.

But back to the title of this post and the craziest part of this week . . . On Tuesday night, for Barrel of Monkeys' upcoming run of matinees at The Wilmette Theater, video and sound designer extraordinaire, Mike Tutaj, shot a film version of "10th Date," a story he and I adapted what must have been five years ago at least.

Here's the first movie he created for Monkeys, "Ordering Cars."

A bit of the dialogue from "10th Date," written by a fourth grader:

Frankie: I'm breaking up with you.
Ashley: (slaps him) Why?
Frankie: I'm moving to Alaska
Ashley: Oh. Well, I'm going to miss you.
Frankie: Yeah.
Ashley: Isn't this where you're supposed to say I'll miss you too?


Since I adore playing pathetic, low-status characters, Ashley makes me giddy. I love crazy too, and in order to justify Frankie's behavior in the film, I got to toss in a psychotic obsession with the number ten. James of Ventrella's Caffe (4947 N. Damen) was amazing enough to loan his space, which got filled with gigantic lighting gear. A bunch of Monkeys came out to be extras, and I'm sure none of this is exciting to anyone who's ever worked on an actual movie, but I was childishly thrilled by the entire thing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


So my work for school is due tomorrow, and tonight, I'm MAKING A MOVIE -- a little tiny one for my theater company, but more on that later. Today's all about editing and writing my letter to my advisor.

I worked on essays all weekend to have them in shape for editing today, and yesterday was all creative work. Majorly revised a big section, which is now 2583 words. I ended up combinining another scene with it, and condensing like that felt good. I also did some revision and new writing on a section that's new for this packet: 3779 total, 1000 new as of yesterday. I surprised myself when I exported my work from Scrivener to Word and had about four more pages than I thought I had.

So, wow, productive day. And it wasn't a forced march either. I was into it. I even hit on a horribly awkward funny moment that made me giddy when I thought about it before my show last night, thinking, wow, I wrote that. I can be a funny person. Nothing like a deadline.

I've noticed that I'm getting visitors from other countries, sometimes via StumbleUpon, a site I hadn't even known about, but which seems pretty cool. If you tell them you stumbled upon me and that it relates to writing or theater or whatever, then people are more likely to stumble upon my blog, which, because I am an egotist, is cool.

Currently reading: A big stack of picture books.
My favorite so far: The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau by Jon Agee.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lizzie Bennet is the best!

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Take the Quiz here!

The last procrastination of the day!

Thanks Gingersnapspice

Rich Mexican People in Heaven . . .

. . . a song based on a story by fourth graders, adapted and set to music by my ex and friend (yeah, I mean that), Roger, is back in That's Weird, Grandma! Come see the Mexicans fight Chalgo, The Man of Steel from Hell, as played by Anthony Courser in his last Grandma blast before he leaves for Seattle. It's biblical for reals y'all. We are rocking it old school.

Roger and I were together for five years, two of those in LA, and this song may well predate our relationship. That's how old I, and it, am, are. It's late.

I've been feeling bad for not posting, but I've mostly spent the weekend writing two papers -- got some revision and reading in on Friday. Currently reading: a giant stack of picture books, and, still, Gardner

Aside from that this weekend, I:

Saw my friends' now-giant baby for the first time since moving to LA two falls ago
Missed another friend's play for lack of parking
Played Apples to Apples (the DIY way) with some silly people
Found out what part I get to play in the Sharpe lady's show for Picked Up with The Neo-Futurists
Had a long and honest conversation where you get to say everything you want to say and feel like it makes at least a little bit of sense - very good

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fast Forward

1039 words, part new part revised, and a start on a paper.

And I got to watch the 80's movie Fast Forward where the Adventurous Eight go to NYC and make it after all.

Mature Dating

I just got a spam email offering to sell it to me. So spam thinks I'm old.

I'm certain that's the meaning of "mature" they were going for, but if someone offered to sell me the other meaning, I just might buy it.

Yesterday turned into work on the same section I hit Tuesday along with a start on a new scene -- don't have the numbers handy, but it was more thought than product. My deadline for this packet is approaching so I've got to start moving faster, although the big picture thinking has been good.

Tonight I'm going to a good old-fashioned pizza party complete with a Jem and the Holograms invitation. That makes my heart happy.

My pre-preteen heartthrob. Even when Rio strayed from Jerrica, he was being faithful. Outrageous!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


The time I had between rehearsal and show yesterday turned into sit-and-stare at the screen time. Not ideal, but not a complete waste either. Got some reading in as well.

Today, I took a 1,029 word section and interspersed it with the opening I've been working on, wrote a new 500 words, and all together, I have something that looks like a chapter. This is exciting because so far I haven't been able to think of this project in terms of chapters. If I can, I think I'll feel better about structure. Okay, good day.

Best part is, I'm still eager to work on it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I got to see my dear friend Lucas from LA last night, and it reminded me how much you've got to appreciate friends who can handle you saying anything that comes into your head. I don't seem to be able to say anything that shocks this guy. Now that I think about it, I spent this afternoon catching up with a few people like that. Maybe that's how I make friends. I just throw things at them and see who's left standing. I'm hoping the current object of my affection has good reflexes, but I haven't figured that out yet. What do you think, O of my A, do ya?

What? That's way too personal for this blog!
No, no. Did you read the title of this post?

Aside from the awesomeness of friends, this weekend's been all-Monkey all the time, lots of reading, and a start on a paper. Tomorrow, I'm back to revision-land.

Friday, March 7, 2008


I just got an update from my old friend, Sara (I've linked to her blog). Turns out she's now, among other things, a balloon twister. Even cooler, she twists balloons when she travels, as a way of connecting with locals.

She has some pictures on her site from Guatemala, which I've just been researching since I hope to go there for a wedding next winter. When I read about the crowds at the airport and the chicken buses that will take you where you want to go but not necessarily when you want to go there, I admit, I got intimidated. I don't want to make this trip by myself. But as far as I can tell, she did. She even twisted balloons for the mannequin saint in Zunil. He fell off a bus, and people worship him as a gift from God. He loves balloons!

Sara's one of those people who has an idea and makes it happen. I'm one of those people who has an idea and thinks about it for a long time. I'm cool with this, but I also know that my life gets more interesting when I surround myself with people like Sara who inspire me to take a leap every now and then.

I made a decision earlier this week that left me feeling old -- smart maybe, responsible and sane -- but old. I made a good decision. I don't regret it, but I do want to make sure that I make "good decisions" like this for the right reasons. May I never let practicality or fear keep me from adventure. And may I never see myself as too old to learn a new skill, like balloon twisting.

Met my word goal for yesterday: 1020 revision, and it was like pulling teeth. Did another 500 something on the same section today, cut about 300 more, and I'm pretty happy with it for the time being. I realized part of what made it so hard was that I'm trying this scene as the opening of the book. I wanted to make it a perfect opening, a perfect introduction to my characters and themes and all that. And since there's no such thing as perfect, that was a silly goal. The word count was a better goal, because now I have something on paper, something I can change again whenever I want.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

7th grade jokes

Daytime Monkey rehearsal's cramping my writing routine, but it's worth it. I had a moment at rehearsal this morning when I thought, "There is nothing I would rather be doing right now," and I almost said it out loud, which would have been rude since folks were showing off their adaptations.

Monkey means Barrel of Monkeys. One of our recent postcards captures it well: "Written by kids. Performed by grownups. Enjoyed by all." We teach writing workshops and then perform the students' stories for their schools, and on Mondays at the Neofuturist Theater, we do a review of favorites from the past years for an all-ages audience. Sweet.

So, the show we're rehearsing right now is for our after school program, which includes older kids than we normally get to teach. This is how I've learned that 6th or 7th grade is when you get how to write an original joke. Younger kids write goofy characters, cool surprises, hilarious circumstances, but around middle school, the number of intentionally constructed "funnies" goes way up. Satire too, like an ad for "Farticine," the new medicine that can help you with your embarrassing problem as long as you, "Do not take with any solids or liquids."

My favorite from rehearsal today: Villainous Victoria says, "See ya at Niagara Falls! Ha! Oh I forgot - Victoria Falls. (Villainous laughter) I'm not going to destroy the GEM I'm going to keep it and Boom I will rule all the Gems and diamonds and . . . Whatever, I get the point."

I'm going to try to work, "Whatever, I get the point," into conversation at least once this week. If you do it too, we can start a revolution.

Writing goal for tomorrow (read, I got jack done today) -- At least 1,000 words revision and some good note-taking for an essay.
Currently reading: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I got my invite to Ravelry today! It's an online community for knitters and crocheters to store and share info about their projects. They're still in testing but adding people daily -- it's not exclusive, you just have to wait your turn. The neatness of it, the details you can record about your past, current, and future knitting, I can't explain how much this excites me. And yet, I'm wary because I know it's a procrastination destination.

Knitting doesn't count as procrastination for me. It's meditative and satisfying, and I usually do it while I'm doing other things. It's practically creative, but you can follow a pattern, which makes it a good complement to writing, where there are no patterns. And it's still a good metaphor for writing -- stringing little stitches together like words to make something huge.

Here's my almost bound-off Hoover blanket for my friend Jay's baby, Joseph. It's my first double-knit project, and it's based on the Hoover blanket, a recreation of a pattern by first lady Lou Hoover from Knitty.

Also, 13 Dead Husbands made me really happy. It's Jeff-Recommended, an original, modern ghost story/fairy tale. It's whimsical and playful and has cute Frenchmen playing ukulele, but it's also darker and more thoughtful than some reviewers are giving it credit for. It gets at the romance to be found post-disillusionment, which isn't your typical fairy tale message. Also, Sarah Goeden is beautiful.

Words: 2,656 revision, same section. Think I'm done with this guy for a while.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Finally, we've gotten enough warmth to make a difference, and it's doing weird things to my brain. I'm happy for the thaw, but it's a little overwhelming too. It inspires all kinds of indulgence. I had an aggressively unproductive day yesterday, but I think it was good for me. My dog was dreaming about running, yipping in her sleep, so for one thing, I took both of us on a long walk.

This morning, I felt like my brain had thawed. I did some loose outlining, just writing out my story -- a good 1072 words, and then later this afternoon, I did around 800 revision. Same section I tackled last time, going back and forth with tense and adding some tension and details that have been there in my head but not on paper.

Okay, here's a challenge -- John Green's dedication to his wife in An Abundance of Katherines is in the form of an anagrammatic poem. It inspired me to try my own full name. I'm going about this the lazy way, using Wordsmith, but I think it's warranted seeing as my full name can make over 50,000 anagrams. Mine's still more a list than a poem, but here's a go at it.

Post your own in comments if you dare . . .

"Girls wrote her almanac"

Mean gal, scholar, writer
A charisma teller grown
Sorrel warmth, angelica
Agrarian wretches' moll

Scarlatina germ howler
Sacramental whore girl
Alligators' new charmer
Amaranth's cowgirl reel

Archangel wails tremor
Stormier archangel law
Warier archangels molt
Maniacal regrets whorl

Her lost magical warren
Her magical errant owls

A macaw shelling terror
Her scalawag relit morn

Saturday, March 1, 2008

First Shark

No expectations for today. If I feel like writing after my nap, I will.

Early rehearsal and a matinee for Monkeys. Speaking of expectations, the new story's called "I Remember When I Got My First Shark" from the Seward School. I love the use of the word "first" there. A good story title makes a promise. This one promises there will be more than one shark, and it delivers, especially since all the sharks are played by Kurt Chiang.

I can already tell that a lot of this blog is going to be about how good my friends are at acting. That's just going to keep happening, so better get used to it.

Tonight I get to see the brilliant Sarah Goeden (originator of the shark role) work her way through 13 Dead Husbands. with Sanculottes Theater.

Currently Reading: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green