Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Picked Up

It's officially here. Two more rehearsals, and we'll be performing "No Place Like Home" for real live people. Lauren Sharpe's the head writer/director/theme song singer, and she's worked really hard. For folks unfamiliar with the content of Picked Up, it's based around the longing to sell out -- six head writers write six sitcom pilots, one to be performed each week.

Lauren will get chained to a wall, strapped to a wheelchair, put under heat lamps, and interrogated about her pilot, and at the end the audience gets to vote whether or not it gets Picked Up, so come out and be judgmental -- I mean, gentle, be gentle. Here's the trailer the head writers put together . . .

For some reason the first thing YouTube offered to show me after I watched this was a video called, "Language is a virus from outer space." For some reason they think the Neo-futurists are out there. What's that about?

Monday, April 28, 2008


Rachel is sleepy. She wants blogging to be as easy as updating her Facebook status. So that's all you get.

Seriously. I had a show Saturday morning (call at 9:30 am), 13 total hours of rehearsal this weekend, and a friend in town Saturday night. I'm sleepy. Writing stalled out this morning after two, ridiculously slow paragraphs. I'm going to give into the sleepiness -- read and take a nap. This afternoon, I will force myself to get some work done in a cafe before TWG.

That's Weird, Grandma is up and running again. Tonight's our first week back after a three week hiatus -- lots of new stuff, so come and see! Who knows how many more chances you have to see Donnell Williams (right) as Jelly? Or me with blue hair for that matter?

Currently reading: Snail Mail No More by Paula Danziger & Ann M. Martin.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Decisions, decisions

This is one of those moments. Some people in my class have said about writing, "You have to want it more than sleep." But what about wanting it more than going to the dog park, or starting the weekend early, or getting that set of double-pointed #2 knitting needles that keeps eluding me?

I did 395 this morning plus some revision before I had to go to a meeting. Then I had a phone conference with my advisor, so that should count for something. I've got a frighteningly full weekend ahead with the Wilmette show (only two more chances), put-ins for That's Weird, Grandma, and tech for Picked Up.

I think I'm going to call it a day, get Parker some exercise, get myself a good dinner, and get those needles. If I feel like writing between that and Picked Up, I will. It's been a productive week given how much I've got going on. All work and no play and blah, blah, blah. Plus, Parker deserves the exercise. In LA, she got to hike Runyon Canyon every other day. It isn't her fault the dog park isn't as much fun for me as hiking a canyon.

The Barrel of Monkeys website has a new blog, new story archive, and new company member pages. Check out mine!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Office Prison Break

Are you as excited as I am? You should be.

1496 today, about half new and half revised, and a whole new character. She feels like she belongs. She feels useful. So that's fun.

I'm having fun reminding myself how to draw. It's making me want to take an art class, and buy Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop, and become a graphic designer . . . One step at a time, Rachel. But, oh, to be like the folks at Illustration Friday. They make such pretty things.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Miss Hawaii

Taught at Chalmers again today. I'll be blogging about that soon enough for the new Barrel of Monkeys blog, so I'll hold off here, but it was grand. In between that and a Picked Up rehearsal, I finished Getting Near to Baby, did a bit of work on an idea for a picture book (writing AND drawing), although I'm way out of practice at the latter, and, oh right, BOUGHT A UKULELE.

I have officially joined the Quirky Girls Club, and every quirky girl needs a ukulele. Clowns and Monkeys, Kristie, Lauren, Sarah, and Halena have them. New Monkey Whitney has an awesome fluke one. Neofuturist Chloe has a nifty, Medieval-looking one -- or is that a mandolin? Supercool children's author Laura McGee Kvasnosky has one that she plays on school visits.

And now I have one too. It is red . . .

And I look just like Miss Hawaii 2006 when I play it.

Currently reading: Behind You by Jacqueline Woodson

To clarify

There was no dead body. Not that I know of. I wasn't going to touch the blanket, because, hey, there could have been a body in there, but no, most likely no dead body.

Lacy left me a message expressing some confusion on that point, so I thought I'd clear it up.

I need to work on my comic tone. In my last effort at blogging (with my ex), I posted about how he and I had started doing Equine Assisted Therapy in LA, because the agent I worked for got a flier advertising this service to rich Beverly Hills-ians. I quoted all the ridiculous (I thought), new age language, but a disturbing number of our friends thought it might be for real.

Probably it helps people. Probably it's swell. But getting it in the mail was so surreal -- this cheesy ad, clearly directed towards rich industry types with substance-abuse problems -- it made me laugh a lot. I just have to deal with the fact that half my friends think I am A) in need of Equine-Assisted Therapy, and B) enough of a hippie to be swayed by such a cheesy ad . . . she writes, wearing her "Eat More Kale" T-shirt.

So it's been a while since I've written, but things have been really busy here. Pilot season and agency life . . . can get stressful. But I'm happy to report, Roger and I have found a wonderful, organic way of dealing with the tension. It's a program unique to Beverly Hills, and it's called All Ways Recovery, or Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. That's right. Roger and I are answering life's hard questions while frolicking with our new horsey friends.

We're really taking the All Ways cardinal rule to heart--that is: "Never have an agenda when you do EAP." Easier than it sounds.

Here are just a few quotations from the All Ways advertisement that inspired us on our journey towards wholeness with horses:

"The communication is not so much between human and horse, as it is between an individual's heart and head. "

"As her dream was grazing near by, unattended, just waiting to be caught, she realized all she had to do was walk over and put a halter on it."

"When we reached the corral I immediately took the bridle off. When asked why I did that, I didn't know exactly. I still don't, but it felt right at the time. This was the tone of the day - it turned out to be all about feelings."

"The door wasn't locked. It was just closed. It took a horse to gently nudge it open."

If you're wondering just who it is we've been giving most of my salary to . . . here are just a few of their credentials:

"We're here to help individuals who've drifted a bit get back on the road. With training and experience in Europe and America, we're not only international in our outlook, but cross-cultural in our influences. We use a variety of proven recovery techniques, including acupuncture, homeopathy, guided meditations, group therapy, and one on one sessions, among others."

I just wish more of our friends could be here, sharing in the stunning, slightly buzzing, California sun.

Know that we're happy and well--never mind what you might hear to the contrary.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Messages (or why Rachel needs a digital camera)

If I had a digital camera, I would post a picture of the chalk drawing that's been dressing up a nearby sidewalk for the last week or so -- it's a misshapen animal, my best guess is a dog, with a kind of crazy look on its face and giant udders. Maybe the family has new puppies; maybe it's a terrible drawing of a cow, but I just love to speculate about what kind of subconscious issues the artist is working out there. Like maybe the kid just got weaned at an awkwardly late age, and he resents his parents and so has turned to the family dog for solace as a substitute caregiver. Probably not, but it's fun to think about.

While walking today, I passed an apartment building with a giant message in childish scrawl on the front walk: "Enter and Fall into a Deep Slumber." It honestly creeped me out a bit to walk over the words, but I did because just beyond it was a hopscotch grid -- its goal at the top of the number boxes read: "Green Sky." I'm dying to know what Green Sky means, and why one would want to go there -- hop there. Is Green Sky just bait luring me towards deep slumber?

Also, for the second time in two days, I've seen squirrels carrying tiny candy -- the first time, it was a pink aluminum-foil-wrapped chocolate Easter egg, and today a mini-Twix bar. Where are the squirrels getting all this candy, and why aren't they giving any to me? Something's up with the squirrels. I don't know what it means yet, but I will keep my eyes open.

I realize my posts in the last couple days have taken a sharp turn towards crazy -- I promise I'm not crazy, at least not in a bad way. The last couple days have been slow and solitary, and the writing's been a bit like pulling teeth -- I did about 1500 new words yesterday and today combined -- a good time to look outward for inspiration. I don't think I'm in a terrible spot, just need to get some momentum going and some confidence about where to spend my energy -- whether to try to shape the novel or write new scenes without worrying how they fit in.

Currently reading: Getting Near to Baby by Audrey Couloumbis

Monday, April 21, 2008

To keep things interesting

I saw a dead body in the lake today. I took Parker for a walk by the beach, and she chased a couple of ducks into the water. She followed them as deep as she dared and then ran back and forth as fast as I'd let her, pausing only to snap at the water when it surprised her by splashing her in the face.

I stopped short when I saw a bundled blanket, or maybe a carpet, barely sticking out of the water. It had red stains at the edges. Blood. And the form of a body tucked into the fetal position. Parker wanted to smell it, but I pulled her away.

I stared at the blanket for a couple of minutes, deciding if it was what I thought it was, and whether or not I should call 311 -- even if it was a dead body, the person in question would already be dead, not quite an emergency -- and checking the area to for suspicious types who might be watching me. These suspicious types might have been killers who'd follow me home to keep me from dialing 311, or they might be busybodies who would decide I was the killer returned to the scene and enmesh me in endless mistaken identity drama.

I decided it probably wasn't a dead body, that probably some college students left behind their blanket after a party on the beach.

So I go home and realize at the gate that I don't have my keys. Strange, but not an emergency. I'd left the apartment door unlocked. I'd been tired from the Monkey school show this morning. Probably just forgot to bring them. I dry Parker off, search the apartment, and nothing.

I'm left with one conclusion: the ghost of the dead body in the lake made me drop my keys and is calling me back to the scene to prompt me to call 311.

Back at the lake, I walk slowly, retrace my steps, and find my keys -- right in front of the body. Right where I'd been running up and down the shore while my dog chased ducks. Okay, so probably it was the running that made my keys fall out and not the ghost, but why was I running? Why were those ducks swimming there, at that very moment?

I checked out the body again. This time, it looked less like a body -- not enough depth to the form. Well, maybe a baby, I thought -- would it make me a bad person to say, hopefully?


So, not hopefully, but you know, with a strong morbid interest -- and civic concern.

I couldn't even convince myself that it looked like a baby. But I was really happy I found my keys!

I know I've been quiet. I've partly been sick, partly swamped with rehearsals, partly post-packet run-down, not writing much at all, and partly -- I don't know -- doubting whether I really have anything interesting to say on a daily basis. I've been wondering if I should re-envision this blog.

I mean, you wouldn't have wanted to read about my dog chasing the ducks, would you? Or about the lost key adventure, as harrowing as it might have been? Not without the dead body bit thrown in.

Maybe the problem is my attitude -- that I'm looking for excitement, when I should be content with the day-to-day. In truth, I am content. I love my day-to-day right now. And I make that day-to-day as interesting as I care to, as evidenced by the above. I really don't need any help with that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


So, I didn't come down with meningitis -- knock on wood -- but I do have a mucus monster living in my lungs. You could shoot a cough medicine commercial in my bronchioles. The monster might look cute and cartoonish, but I would pay you to chop its head off, trick it into jumping off a cliff, or drown it in sunflowers, whatever looks good.

I got my packet in earlier today, and that spells an entirely different kind of relief. My big essay on flashbacks came out to around 12 pages, and I am well pleased.

I had one of those nightmare moments this afternoon when I thought I'd lost my final version of the paper. It seemed to have reverted to a recovered version from an earlier time when my computer shut down on me. It would have meant losing a ton of polished text. I hope I didn't actually lose it. I'd saved many times since this recovered version, so it would have been weird. I hope it was hiding somewhere tricky in my computer, but regardless, I'd emailed myself a backup copy -- not something I usually do -- which saved the day, and my sanity. I sort of like those days where every brush with unlucky gets an equally lucky answer. It makes me feel blessed and competent at the same time.

So, I beat the computer. Beat the monster. Beat TAXES. Beat the packet.
And now I'm going to bed.

Currently reading: The Big Empty by J.B. Stephens

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rock on

Acccckkkk! I got so much done yesterday, even after I posted. Super-gratifying. And when I add up what I've got so far to put in my packet, I have more than enough pages. That doesn't mean I'll stop working, and I still have a giant paper to write, but I've been working along on that, and it's nice to know that if I caught meningitis -- knock on wood -- and couldn't be creative for the next few days, I'd still be able to turn stuff in.

The first episode of Picked Up rocked it last night. The show's creators, Jay, Dean, and Ryan, are smart men -- if you go they will do a funny dance for you. All the actrons -- lots of Monkey love in this one -- they got the beat, yeah, the kids got the beat. If you're in Chicago, try to see some of these guys. I'll be in Lauren Sharpe's episode May 1, 2, & 3, but the show's designed for you to have fun seeing more than one.

Monkeys rocked Wilmette, and after that, I rocked a Merlot-flavored ice-cream cone from the place down the street. Later on this weekend, I'm going to rock some skeins of Baby Cashmere yarn I got from my favorite discount yarn store elann. They're getting turned into the Wine and Roses Mitts from Interweave Knits mag.

Basically, a whole lot of rocking's going on.
Currently reading: Whirligig by Paul Fleischman

Friday, April 11, 2008

Knute Rockne goodness

Last night I went out to Munster, Indiana to see the new musical Knute Rockne All-American -- yes, a football musical -- which several Monkeys worked on. Geoff Rice was fabulous as always, part of an amazing cast singing good stuff written by musical wunderkind Mike Mahler. This show's drawing theater fans, but a lot of Notre Dame fans as well, who sing along with the fight song at the end.

One old man in front of me talked a couple of times during the show to let those around him know that he knew what was going on in the story -- usually, in an audience, this really annoys me -- but something about this guy warmed my heart. He was so into it. When George Gipp's first introduced, he said, "Sign that boy up," and later, of course, "Win one for the Gipper." It was pretty sweet. The lesson: know your audience.

Wednesday and today combined, I did a lot of revision on two sections of around 3,000 words each, and I'm about to do a lot more. I'm mostly working on the opening of the novel, what will likely be the first two chapters or sections, and each time I work on it, I feel clearer.

The new stuff I've been doing has been more frustrating, or maybe scary's the right word, because I've been working close to the end of the novel, and I feel like until I get the beginning in order, it's going to continue to be foggy.

Yesterday was a great writing day though. 2,437 new. Most of this was a completely new scene that made me feel like I finally have a handle on what one secondary character is doing in my story. Highly satisfying.

Just finished reading: Tangerine by Edward Bloor. Nice one.

Tonight I'll be enjoying Picked Up at the Neofuturarium -- Episode 1: Unitards

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Roll Call

I'm a whiny girl who wants comments. One of my friends recently told me he doesn't read his friends' blogs because he feels like he's invading their privacy. Invade away! This blog is for mass consumption. Who's out there?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mermaids do Exist

Some of the promised visual aids from weekend adventuring . . . I would show more of the mermaid, but she's not clad. She's elusive, but once you get to know her, she will chat you up. We're like sisters.

She's inspired the seed of a story, which I'll write and dedicate to Nicholas. I'm writing that here so you can harass me, Nicholas, if I don't. How's that for accountability?

Today's work: Great day -- a ton of obsessive revision within two big sections. It was good work. And I woke up with more writing enthusiasm than I've had in weeks. First thing in the morning I journaled about my story, why I'm writing it now, etc. for a good 1,000 words.

I woke up thinking about something I read on a writer's blog -- wish I could remember which one -- about how you have to allow your project to become something different from what it was when you started. That didn't click with me immediately, but it clicked this morning. I realized the story I'm telling, the reason I'm telling it now, has changed a lot since I started, and I've got to embrace that. The raw material I started with could have gone in a dozen directions. That's neither here nor there. I can only write this book, this way, right now, and it will be what it will be. It felt good.

Currently reading, well, read: Good Girls by Laura Ruby

And I leave you with the cover art for the as-yet-untitled CD I'll be making with my new friends -- photos by Nicholopogus. Title suggestions are welcome in comments.

To put things in perspective

My Dad took this picture of Parker with the family dogs, Ripley and Max, when I was at my residency in Vermont. I had a funky day today, a let-down from the weekend no doubt, but look at these three just looking.

Did a bit more than 1,000 new today and some serious work on a poem. I'm not thrilled, but have to give myself credit for pushing through. I wish I could say it didn't feel that way, but today it did.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I had an amazing time with Nicholas and friends yesterday, exploring places I hadn't been in years with a friend I hadn't seen in ages and three other amazing folks who I hope to keep in my life. If Nicholas will share some of the photos he took, I'll add visual aids.

I was about to write that it's been a long time since I made new friends. Then, I realized that I've been making new friends left and right this year with finally branching out in LA, getting to know all the new Monkeys back in Chicago, and starting my graduate program. At some point I feared I'd passed the optimal time in my life for making new friends, so I feel blessed that it's been so easy to meet and get to know great people this year. Within our group of five, then six, last night, we had three or four different points of association, but it didn't feel that way. I felt like I'd known these people forever.

We went from Wilmette to Evanston to Rogers Park to Humboldt Park to Bucktown to Wrigleyville and home. We quested for a mermaid, learned about grey magic and Chinese medicine, had curry at Thai Sook Dee, waved at Russian horses, shared some serious sushi, and paid a late-night visit to the lake. The weather made it all the more amazing as it was the first really warm day -- I actually have a bit of sunburn -- and it felt like an invitation to adventure and celebrate. So great to get out in the city with no agenda other than to enjoy the people you're with -- I've been needing that -- and with such great people! Nicholas told me my capacity for love and joy had grown since he saw me last. I have to agree, but it felt good to hear someone else say it, and I'm happy to say the same is true of him.

The Wilmette Barrel of Monkeys show went off brilliantly. We're performing in this deep space, an old movie theater, and showing titles and videos on a screen throughout the show. It was pretty sweet to see such a deep space filled so well and to hear the reactions of an audience with a higher percentage of kids than we usually get for a public show. After the show, I met an adorable girl with blond curly hair -- four or five years old -- and when I held my hand out to her, she kissed my palm and pressed my hand to her face. I take that as a good review.

No writing yesterday what with all the adventuring, but today I did another chunk of revision with some new stuff: 1,671. I was pleased when I checked out my page count to see I'm doing better than I thought, but I need to work steadily until my next packet's due, and I have a bunch of reading before I can write the paper I want to do on using memory vs. flashbacks.

Friday, April 4, 2008

What time it is in my head

So, on my Google page, I have a theme up that changes pictures with the time of day. It honestly surprised me to see the nighttime picture instead of the afternoon one -- even though it's well after 9 pm.

Yes, the computer just told me it's nighttime. Little sleep last night (though I did get a ton of reading in) and another early rehearsal. Luckily, Wilmette opens tomorrow so I'll be able to write in the mornings again. It makes a big difference.

Speaking of which, come see the show, yeah!

1,516 revision, another 250 new. I might have gotten some clarity on a couple of points -- I've been bothered lately by "the facts" of my novel, timelines, consistency, and I made what I think are a couple of good decisions about that -- but today didn't feel good overall. And that's got to be okay.

I feel a bit like I'm trying to hold onto one of those slippery hot dog toys -- does anyone remember what those things were called? They were red-orange, a tube that rolled into itself, probably toxic, filled with liquid, and sort of repulsive to look at. Am I the only one who remembers that particular eighties make-your-own-fun toy? While I'm working on one end of the novel, the other slides out of my hands. Got to keep pushing through this junk.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Okay, so I've done around 1,000 new this evening plus some revision even though I had a sleepy day.

We had tech rehearsal for the Wilmette show at 9 AM, and I had trouble going right to bed after rehearsal last night, even though I looked tired enough that people were hugging me and telling me to go home and get some sleep. It had been a full day -- teaching followed by a few hours of non-school-related writing and editing, and then our last pre-tech rehearsal.

This weekend, an out-of-town visitor will be my motivation. I'm going to push to get tons of work done when I'm not seeing him so I'll be able to enjoy myself when I am. He's an angel from my past who always inspires me.

Nicholas opens himself, and anyone around him, to possibility, whether you're ready for it or not. He's a trickster and a witch's boy and a holy man. When I first met Nicholas, I needed to be around someone who'd allow me to believe in anything and everything, who wouldn't put boundaries on my friendship or my imagination. During the time I knew him, I was pushing myself, wrestling and changing, and he, along with a few other angels, helped make that one of the most positive times in my life. I would not be who I am today if I hadn't met him. He's key.

And I haven't seen him face to face since 2001.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


So it says there right in my tagline that I'm trying to remember the sublime in everyday life.

I submit to you two things:

First, should you ever decide to put strawberries on your cereal, instead of slicing them with a knife, try tearing them apart with your hands. Yank off the leaves, bite off the white part, then rip that sucker apart. It's a unique sensation and a satisfying one.

Second, in the past few days, I've been making good on my promise to pay more attention to writerly doings online. I decided to submit to a freelance gig, and guess who the contact person turns out to be? The woman I subletted from for a year in LA. Hilarious. This is not to say I'll get the gig, but there's something so satisfying about synchronicity. Maybe it's not a rational belief, but I choose to believe in it. I choose to believe that this weird coincidence means I'm on the right path, that I'm moving towards something good.

Using the game as a reward the other night totally worked. I got a lot done. Had a great conference with my advisor on the phone yesterday evening, and today, did a bit more than 1600 words in revision plus gathering material to submit for the gig. Tomorrow, I'll take on some new stuff.

Currently reading: Born Blue by the inimitable Southern lady, Han Nolan