Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!



My brain is on holiday -- has been for a while actually -- and I'm just getting over a Merry Christmas virus which has left me with lots of shopping to do on Christmas Eve!

But . . . Santa drove by on the firetruck waking me up in my childhood home. The family's all here. The dogs are playing. And I have Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth on CD, an excellent driving companion, to keep me company in traffic on Hwy 280!

Cheer, Joy, and Zombies!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fighting chaos

Today I switched my bedroom and my living room with the help of an orderly friend. He says it's a small victory in the battle against chaos. There are many small battles still raging in this apartment, and I really hope I win.

Tonight my bed is in a new place and the walls look whiter than they did when they had things in front of them and my tapestry and pictures are still centered over things that have been moved.

Change is good.

But it is bad for sleeping.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm back!

My computer is sooo healthy! I've got a new keyboard, iSight camera, display, heatpipe, a bunch of latchy things, something called an inverter, all covered by Apple Care!

My joy can only be expressed by singing children!



I think I might be the last person on the planet to discover the PS22 Chorus, but they waited for me, and I'm so glad!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pauvre bebe!

My poor computer is ill and in the shop.

Which means I don't have internet at home.

Which means I can't blog much.

My computer misses you! But maybe I will see more of some of you in real life. I've realized this week just how plugged in I really am. I'm all right with it, but a break every now and again is not a terrible thing. My house is more organized than it has been all year.

And, yes, all my stuff is backed up. The novel is backed up three or more ways. All is well.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gingerbread

I just posted to the Monkey blog about all the arts and crafts we took on for the Loyola Park show.

I'm particularly proud of my gingerbread cookie puppets for Diamond J.'s "Gingerbread Diary" story.



What's even cooler about this story is that the author is my neighbor. I ran into her and one of her brothers while taking a walk the other day. Another time she saw me outside of the park and told me "nice shoes." We were both wearing Birkenstocks.

I took the leftover gingerbread cookies to my Monkey neighbors' house for Thanksgiving dinner.

I almost can't handle so much community goodness! Love, love, love!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It was the radiator

I don't know what that's a metaphor for, but it's fixed.

While I waited for it to be done, I wandered around the library picking up anything that caught my interest, and I left with a whole stack.

I could go into why each book attracted me, but maybe a list is more fun . . . draw your own conclusions.

Bagavad Gita

Edgar Cayce's Mysteries of Reincarnation: Intimates Through Time

Bohemia: The Protoculture Then and Now

Stella Adler: The Technique of Acting

Acquainted with the Night: A Parent's Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children

Tracks in the Psychic Wilderness: An Exploration of ESP, Remote Viewing, Precognitive Dreaming and Synchronicity
It's about the government studying these things as a way to gather intelligence.

Kids in the Syndrome Mix of ADHD, LD, Asperger's, Tourette's, Bipolar, and More!

Love that exclamation point.

So after I picked up this stack of books, I decided to wander back to the mechanic's because I had no cell signal and thought I might have missed his call. When I walked in, he said, "you may have long life," because he had just turned around to call me. My precognitive powers slash good timing really freaked him out.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Metaphors

I got rid of the spoiled milk yesterday.

And the recycling.

I kept the insides of the pumpkin I carved and the seeds because I still have hope I might actually do something with them.

My car overheated, but here's hoping a dose of the proper fluids will bring it back to life.

I don't like the burn scar on the engine -- it isn't new, but after yesterday it might be worse.

There's always my bike. The seat's falling apart, but it's comfortable. Can't decide whether the bad feng shui of it crumbling or the comfort trade-off of buying a cheap new one is worse.

Sure I could save up for a nice new one, but it would probably get stolen. That's happened before.

All these things are true. And metaphors for bigger things. Funny how that works.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blood on my hands

A lot of my recent work on my novel has had to do with sorting out secondary characters and figuring out if and how their stories serve the main plot.

I did a lot of work to revise one of these characters, to try to help her fit, but it turns out she's still getting the axe. It should simplify things. I can always add her back in if I need her, but my instinct is that she's done. She always felt a little tacked on anyway, and she brings up some issues that distract from the main plotline.

I started the bloody work of extracting her from the manuscript on Tuesday, and she's been shrieking a little. It isn't pretty. But ever since I heard Rita Williams-Garcia give a lecture on revision called "There Will Be Blood," I take some pride in allowing this part of the process to be as violent and gory as it feels.

It's kind of like how even though I only eat veggies and seafood, I unleash my inner carnivore whenever I order udon noodle soup with baby squid. You have to crunch down on their whole little bodies to eat them, tough tentacles, rubbery little heads . . . It's satisfying.

So goodbye, child of my brain . . . Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

AWOL

I know. I've been doing my life, and it's been a little bit nutty.

Things have slowed down though. I'm back.

I've been doing some nifty things:

I performed in a staged reading of a musical in which I got to be an assassin/tracker/performance artist. Preparing for it included watching lots of youtube videos of deer being born. Don't ask.

I finished a residency at the Avondale School and started a new one at Kohn.

I've been rehearsing for the Avondale show, in which I'll be part of a four-person ukulele chorus.

I taught children from all over Chicago and performed for them at Hallowed Halls at the Chicago Cultural Center on Halloween.

I buried myself and did lots of other strange things for art in Fear at the Neo.

(Pic by Johnny Knight.)

(Pic by Aimee McKay)

This is also how I went out on Halloween night -- I thought of it as the ultimate anti-slutty Halloween costume.

Then I painted some giant graffitied walls back to normal during a five-hour strike.

And I had a birthday! October 30th. I took it easy, playing a spooky board game with people I love.

Ironically, I had no time to write the entire first week of NaNoWriMo. I did give myself a goal, a modest one, to work at least 6 hours a week. I have some catching up to do, but so far I've been able to work a lot this week, so no worries there.

I would love to have a new draft by the end of this month. I think it's possible.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Progress

I just wrote more than 1,100 words that I really like. They're the result of a bunch of freewriting and relationship-tinkering that I did the other day. That kind of work is frustrating because it feels like it isn't moving me forward, but of course it is. My subplots and secondary characters are starting to make sense with my main plot. I am figuring it out! Hoorah!

My classmates are talking about setting goals for NaNoWriMo. I think I'm going to try tracking progress again, but in hours spent working rather than words. What seems like a good weekly goal?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Monkey Media

Barrel of Monkeys is all over the place. We had a story in the Chicago Tribune earlier this week!

And coming soon we'll be on Chicago @ Play in a clip that features our collaboration with the Words @ Play program. I hear that's on Chicago Municipal TV, channel 49 for most cable subscribers, twice daily at 6:30 and 10:30 p.m. But also it's on youtube . . . and here!



In most of these clips, I am wearing my favorite Monkey wig in preparation to play "that unthankful Kristin" Well, nemesis to Lauren Bates in Kai M.'s Disco Girl.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wow

Painter Shakti Kroopkin married one of my favorite people on the planet, making him really happy, which makes her one of my newer favorite people on the planet.

Shakti got interviewed by SFReeper about an upcoming live painting event she's doing, and she has a lot of good things to say about process. Like this . . .

It’s in the process that we express ourselves. It’s not in the final touches, making something perfect, or making it a finished product. You have your process and you let yourself go and be free and express yourself. Then, you problem solve after that.


It is so easy to get impatient with the process. Seriously, Shakti, you're painting and I'm writing, but you gave me the inspiration I needed to have fun with my process this morning, to remember that it's as, if not more, important and satisfying than the finished product.

So I was already happy to be reading this interview, when this part blew my mind:

I have one son, not even two years old yet, and he has been painting quite a bit. Whenever he sees something I’ve done, he always looks at it and says ‘Wow.’ Now, whenever he wants to draw or paint, he says ‘wow.’ It’s become the word for painting and drawing.


I want to make that my new word for writing. I've got to go do more 'wow.'

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Into the Dark

I'm back in it. I reorganized more than 10,000 words at the start of my novel tonight. I have to take a breather because while reorganizing, I cut some bits that I really like, and it's about all the cutting I can take at the moment. If I work on it more right now, I'll want to put stuff back in. If I wait until tomorrow, I might be able to see whether or not I like the changes.

The word count game is done for the moment -- it worked to get me through the first third of the novel, but it's too messy to keep up. I'm working on big ideas and making changes to ittybitty sections all over the place. I still hope to be done revising in early November, but there isn't a rush.

Charts are satisfying, but writing and math are two different subjects.

Playing on Caddie's new Pandora radio:
"Stockholm Syndrome" Yo Lo Tenga
"Things We Said Today" The Beatles
"Engine Heart" Mirah
"Skeleton Song" Kate Nash
"True Affection" The Blow

And this Death Cab for Cutie, which suits the season . . .

Monday, October 5, 2009

Edit

I decided to work on a Pandora station for my book while I mess around with outlining.

Soon enough Regina Spektor's "Edit" comes up.

"You can write but you can't edit."

Thanks Regina.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Deal

I've given into the suck today. All day, I've been doing other things to avoid working on my novel. About half an hour ago, I finally made myself open the file and write a few sentences. They were necessary, helpful sentences that I didn't know I needed until I wrote them.

But there are just a few of them.

Here's the deal. I'm figuring some things out -- I'm making my character's need stronger and streamlining a bit, and I'm about a third of the way into the book where the flaws in my structure are starting to show. It's not that I have no idea how to proceed, but it is true that proceeding may mean working more slowly than 2,000 words a day.

The tunnel's getting darker. It's asking me to watch my step. I want to be brave and charge ahead, but sometimes slow is smarter.

Yesterday, I worked on about 1,400 words, writing some material that helped me understand something that had been eluding me. It was a good day. It was not a 2,000 word day, nor did it help my percentage towards completing my goal since a lot of it was new.

I like goals, but man, sometimes they can get in the way if they make you rush things. I'm not changing the system -- yet -- but I am going to try thinking of it as a marker of progress more than a daily grind. My brain won't concentrate on big changes today. I know it will be able to do it on another day.

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure

I love playing exquisite corpse. Now a bunch of children's authors and illustrators (we're talking M.T. Anderson, Katherine Paterson, Susan Cooper, no messing around) are playing it together for the Center for the Book and the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance. . . .

That means you can read The Exquisite Corpse Adventure at the Library of Congress. FANCY!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Creepstown

There's a great review of Fear in Gapers Block.

We also got some cool pre-show press in Metromix and the Red Eye with a whole gallery of creepy pictures . . . including images of a couple of the spaces I worked on.





I had a blast at this weekend's previews and opening. Thursday and Friday I spent a lot of time on the loose around the theater and got a couple of good screeches out of people. Performers in the wild!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Clear cut

Revision made me feel smart today. Hence the happy guy in the sidebar.

I cut about 300 words that I like a lot, but which clearly don't need to be in this novel. My character's freaked out by change, but not so much by growing up, and these words were all to do with that. The scariness of growing up is something I like to write about -- psychoanalyze me all you like -- but it muddies the waters of this story.

I also took a mini-scene and enfolded it into a larger one because it clearly wanted to be there.

I love when things are clear.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fear Art

I've been making some art -- art that has more to do with space than words. Here's a little sliver of it.



You'll have to come to Fear at the Neo-Futurist Theater to see the rest.



I'm on the "Ambiance Committee" aka The Madelines. I can't tell you what I've done for the show so far because it's secret. I can't tell you what I'll be doing during the show, A) because it is secret, B) because it will change often, C) because I don't know yet, and D) all of the above.

I can tell you that based on the stumble-through I attended last night with about 40 people who are working on the show, I am super-excited for people to come and see what this massive and diverse group of people has made!

After the stumble-through of Fear I started the new season of ANTM. Both were disturbing in their own ways. Together, they gave me one wacky nightmare. As a daughter of privilege, I was going to be forced to walk in a runway show while terrorists threw plague-juice on me. To make me catch plague. It was terrifying.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Numbers

Hey, look what happened. I lost 500 words from my total, but I gained a whole percentage point!



How did I do that? By changing my target to the actual word count of the manuscript as I'm revising. I decided I should get some credit for cutting. This is the first day of this system where I haven't met the target I set for myself, but man, I put in the time. I cut some, read a lot, added some, and made a big change that required a lot of thought but a very few words.

I feel all right about having a day like this as long as I can keep moving tomorrow.

So, I'm a little less than 13% through with my time, and a little more than 13% through with the draft. Did I also mention I'm a big nerd?

Babysitter Moment of the Week

Two-year-old child and I are outside blowing bubbles.

Me: Do you think President Obama blows bubbles with his daughters?*

Child: I think he does not.

Me: Oh no? Why?

Child: I think he gets people presents.

Me: Yeah? You think he gets people presents? What kind of presents?

Child: Because his name is Presents Obama.

Me: Fair enough.

* Yes, that was my best shot at getting a two-year-old to talk politics with me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Envision Revision

I need a hard deadline for my revision. Otherwise I'll obsess over little changes and never take the plunge of entering the marketplace. So I found a neat little visual at Writertopia which will be taking up residence on my blog.



This shows that I'm 4,183 words into a 90,000 word revision. 90,000 is a little arbitrary. My previous draft is 85,397. I expect my new draft to be about the same because I want to add some scenes and cut down others but I wanted to leave some room for exploring directions that might not pan out. Given my current obsession with numbers, my little guy's mood is "logical and calm."

My goal is to "deal with" 2,000 words a day for 50 days. When I say "deal with" I think I want to count the words at the end of the day -- revised version, not the old version. I'm curious how other people track progress though and would love to hear about it in comments!

Counting the couple of days I've already logged and leaving one day a week for breaks and catch-up plus a few extras that makes my deadline November 9th.

Do you think I can do it?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Just what I needed

Thanks, Gwenda for linking to Dawn Metcalf's post "The Generous Nothing," in which she talks about the angst of revision as ILLUMINATED by The Neverending Story. Falkor can always make me feel better -- even if he wants me to cut a lot of words.

I'm revising. I'm just starting from the beginning because after muddling around with notes and trying to write new scenes, I've realized I really just need to re-enter the story and see what that lets me see.

I delayed and delayed getting to work tonight, but now that the bandaid's been ripped off, I feel less antsy.

Happy first day of school!

Signs like this are strewn all over Chicago.



Just go! Just go, already.

To school. We meant to school, in case that wasn't clear. Okay? Please? Just go?

And become . . .

Something . . . All right? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Just go.

I do hope everybody went and had a happy first day. I had a happy first day of meeting and lesson planning for the Monkey after-school program. Very nice.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stuff I did on a Sunday

Today I . . .

Clawed at a wall with my hands and nails, a wall I'd just finished painting, even though the wall was half chalk and came away with the brush. That made the clawing more fun.

Also I . . .

Went mattress hunting in the alleys and found one that didn't smell bad.

I . . .

Used the word "abject" to describe Chia Pets. Found a free TV on Craigslist. Found a DVD player in a hole in the ceiling. Played a hot action figure with blast power. Led a mean sun salutation. Watched more Season 4 of The Wire. Listened to the Best of the Left podcast, which I so love, even when it makes me angry. Prepared for tomorrow's fantasy draft -- for a friend's team.

Yes, I'm a proxy for a hobby.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I don't hate myself

Sometimes it feels good to hate yourself, as shown in this sweet play my friend Kurt made for the Neo-Futurists. (Via the Neo blog.)



I was ready to hate myself after reading my novel.

The "nap" turned into a good hour and a half of snoozing. I cleaned a couple of things that didn't need cleaning. I lit incense, made tea, walked the dog who already had sore tootsies from a looong morning walk with Larissa. Took my car by a garage, paid some library fines, thought about getting back into World of Warcraft. I basically did everything I could think of to avoid sitting down with my manuscript.

BUT I sat down for a good three hours and read half my novel. So far I don't hate myself.

If I did, it would be okay. I would get over it. It's okay to hate yourself every now and again. Right now I don't.

Back to work

I gave myself today as a deadline to get back to work on Touch. Which means I have to read it. I got a late start today because one of my favorite people on this planet came through town late last night and played with me most of the day.

No worries, I still have plenty of time for reading. As long as I just read. A couple of days ago I started reading, and I got through 24 pages and wrote 6 dense pages of notes.

This time I'm going to try to just read.

Right after I take a nap.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stay Here Forever

So, it's kind of important that you check out this video that some kids made after seeing That's Weird Grandma. It's kind of amazing.

I'm just saying.

Go watch it. Scroll past the picture of Luke and Levy buying my favorite snacks at Costco. Watch the video.

And then come to Grandma and see the story that inspired them. The story inspired us. We inspired some children. There's this whole inspirational circle of life happening here, and it never has to end.

Like the song.

Like this post.

Just watch it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Undead

Edgar Allan Poe Grave Marker (P1010664)Image by orayzio via Flickr

Last night I dreamed about the undead. In two very different dreams.

Totes appropes since I recently found out I'm going to be working on the Neo-Futurist show Fear, which is being described as "a thinking man's haunted house." It's going to be inspired by lots of Edgar Allan Poe, who is all about buried things coming back to life.

I've also been researching/writing about zombies lately, so it only makes sense. The first dream may have been inspired by this BBC article about a theoretical study projecting how quickly a zombie virus would spread.

Very quickly, is the answer. Even if we were dealing with classic slow-moving zombies, and the zombies in my dream were extra fast and preternaturally strong. They were more like a cross between vamps and zombies really -- they're undead status spread like a virus, but they had sentience, not to mention panache. Being in the dream was a bit like being in an action movie with a full, epic plot -- and it actually scared me, rare for me when dealing with a dream that's not a full-on night terror.

People were living under ground in zombie-free zones. A human could leave the zone but wouldn't be allowed to return, and going above-ground was equated with death. Of course the zombies got in, ravaged us. They could only be killed by a sequence of cuts -- three shallow cuts right, left, right, across the neck and then a stab.

Later, the zombie plague had supposedly been suppressed, but it broke out again, with a vengeance. This time I played dead, and acted like one of them. It worked. I even got a romance going with the Zombie Boss, even though he must have noticed how I avoided feeding on humans. In mutual denial, we went happily along until a jealous zombie chick started messing with my story and got a zombie gang together to hunt me down. When a group of human survivors decided to rebel and fight the zombies, I had to choose allegiances.

A classic tale, I know, but they say there are only so many stories, and this one was remarkably well-structured for a dream.

In the second dream, I visited a room in an old house very much like a house my family used to own. One room could only be accessed from a door on the roof, and in that room lay the body of my late grandmother, eerily preserved. I spoke to her ghost, which was interesting since she was incapable of speech during my childhood.

The overall feeling of this second dream was very loving, but I wish I could remember what she had to say.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Getaway

I got away last weekend.

Open space for dogs to run. Lots of trees.



Cooperative cooking. Games. Lazing around on the beach.



Now I'm back to getting things done, and after that delicious break it feels pretty good.

Among other chores, today I finally bought a planner. Staples brand. I wanted to link to it for other planner-obsessive types, but I can't even find it listed on their website. It may be a phantom planner -- perfect and unattainable. It's 8.5"x11", weekly/monthly, 18 month, horizontal writing space with no annoying appointment breakdowns, and space for notes on every facing page!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Delayed reaction

I think I'm having a delayed reaction to the downside of graduating, or rather, it's sneaking up on me a teensy bit at a time.

EXHIBIT A: My obsession with day planners, online organizing tools, and the like.

The last time I spent this much time researching planners, I was working in a crazy Hollywood job that I hated but couldn't figure out how to leave. I think my brain convinced my brain that if I could find the perfect planner, I would somehow find better, more perfect things to plan in it. Right now, I do have some idea of what needs planning, and I'm excited about a lot of those things. So no need for the stress, right? Right?

I did discover a couple of positive things. I've started tracking what I eat at The Daily Plate. And I'm going to start budgeting with Quicken. I cannot afford a life coach, so the internet will have to do.

EXHIBIT B: The library.

During my trip to the library today, I saw the children's section upon entry and felt a sharp, unanticipated pang at not needing to go over to the picture book section and grab a stack to read for my monthly bibliography. I compensated by immediately booking it to the young adult section where I checked out Naughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Phew!

EXHIBIT C: Barriers to writing.

Real or imagined, these are coming fast and furious. They range from the mundane . . .

"Clearly, I cannot write in an apartment this messy."

. . . to the absurd . . .

Writing would be much more productive, energizing, and healthier if I set up a treadmill desk for myself, like Arthur Slade's. Don't get me wrong, when I say absurd, I don't mean the desk is absurd. I WANT THE DESK! But the idea that I can't write without one is utterly absurd.

My writing process seems to be on a seesaw, dependent on whether I can trick myself into keeping my school routine going. Remember that promise I made last post to write in the afternoon -- broke it.

Yesterday was a GREAT writing day.

Today was not.

One thing I'm fighting is this sense that it's summer, school's out, I deserve a break from the constant pressure of packets. I do. But not for long, because writing makes me happy. Writing lots makes me happy. I'm going out of town for what will be a relaxing, writing-free weekend, and then I'm going to do some serious scheduling in my serious (yet-to-be-bought) planner and hold myself accountable.

Cynsations led me to the treadmill writer. She also led me to . . .

EXHIBIT D: Oh so much longing at seeing pics of the graduation celebration Austinites threw for a couple of my classmates. It's so sweet! I know and like so many of the people in those pictures! I want to be there!

I want a giant children's writing community in Chicago!

Sigh. I guess this means I will have to make an effort to stay active on the VCFA forum, get to know Chicago's SCBWI, form a writers' group, etc., etc., all those pesky community things that I haven't exactly lost by graduating, but which I now have to work harder to keep going.

And, you know, maybe I should throw myself a party.

Monday, August 10, 2009

More. Better. Now.

I've got to do better, people. It's 11:30 AM. I've written less than 500 words -- and not even story words, exploratory words.

Right now I'm off to babysit. The baby and I are going to have a serious talk about life goals and stick-to-itiveness. Then I'll have a window of time to write before That's Weird, Grandma.

I promise to spend at least an hour of that time writing and NOT thinking about my latest money-making scheme. I've been thinking a lot lately (yes, this morning, while I should have been writing) about artists and money and day jobs. Makes sense. I just finished grad school with its built-in excuse to not work full-time. And I can't let being out of school and the pressure to earn more money take priority away from the writing. If I figure anything out I will let you know.

My "day job" of choice post-college has been work as a teaching artist. I just took a survey for the Teaching Artists Research Project for a study at the University of Chicago. If you're a teaching artist, you should take it too! Tell them how hard it is to get health insurance among other things. I'll be keeping an eye on this study, and I'm really curious to see what kind of stats they get.

Enough. The baby awaits. Come see me play a Disco Girl in Grandma tonight if you're around! It's a sweet line-up right now.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Want to hear me sing about a dead eel?

Now you can.

"Sammy the Eel" Barrel of Monkeys podcast. "He was a friend and a good person."

The End.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Scarf

Rockabilly rocked it. The people dressed up right. They danced fast to thirteen bands.

Also, a giant man who sang hilariously dirty things came up to me and said, "You ain't looking nothing but cute in that scarf." If the Big "C" Jamboree channels the fifties, he was channeling the juking party at the roadhouse where the bad kids hang.

The scarf was my grandmother's, all flowery silk and girly, given to me by my mom when I was home after graduation. I like to think my grandmother was smiling down on me, going, "yeah, that's right. Go, girl."

Probably she was not. Probably if she was looking down she was horrified. But that's okay too. It's cute when the ghosts get mad.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Knowing is Half the Battle

I'm going out to see rockabilly tonight at the Big "C" Jamboree, and I cannot wait.

It's my first week back in Chicago post-grad, and the party has yet to stop. I got in town just in time to see my rockstar friends play with The Jenn Rhoads Project. Sooo good. Then I spent all weekend rehearsing That's Weird, Grandma! and did a very fun, very sweaty show on Monday night. The last two nights I met up with friends I hadn't seen in a month or more. And all this week I've been sitting on a new baby, an adorable little goober with a giant smile who is not yet seven months old.

Some writing is taking place -- we're not back up to packet levels, but people, the writing is happening. Right now I'm working on something new-ish while I let the novel formerly known as Touch rest. I haven't decided how much to give away in the title, so for now, I'll call the new baby Greta. It's somewhat fantastical, set in Chicago, and seems to be aiming towards upper middle grade or young YA.

It's interesting to me that while Greta is a very interesting character, she is not the point of view character. This tells me something. Not that I need to make her the point of view character, but that my point of view character isn't as strong as Greta. This is mostly because I still need to figure out what my point of view character wants. I have more of an outline for this book than I had starting out with Touch, but I've managed to outline a plot that doesn't make it clear what the main character wants. Have I learned nothing?

Not to worry, because sometimes the hardest thing to learn is what you don't know. And I know I don't know. I'm aware that at some point I need to figure out what Damian wants. It took me forever to get that through my head with Touch. Even after I logically knew it, I still didn't get it, so it's nice that I now take it as a given. We'll get there.



Also, how did abandoned fridges get to be so evil in the 80's? It just goes to show if you neglect something and fail to show it love, even a fridge, it will turn on you!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thinking of you who think of me

[FAIR WARNING: This post includes open letters of thanks, a Pollyanna-ish positive thinking manifesto, and more sincerity than I can usually handle one-on-one and in person.]

Oh, the days. It really was an odd sensation watching the first semester students at graduation and knowing they have two whole years of VCFA ahead of them. I'm not jealous . . . exactly. I got my time. I'm ready to be done with being a student for a while.

Which means I have to start working on being an author.

That is scary, but it's a lot less scary than it would have been two years ago. That's to do with my education, yes, but it's also to do with declaring myself as a writer -- and having the people I love respond with support and not with cackles.

No, but for reals, thank you for believing in me. Thank you, family. Thank you, advisors. Thank you, Super Secret Society of Quirk and Quill.



Thanks for the kind bloggy words from Cesar and Varian and Gwenda. Thank you, Rockstar, for the mixed tape. Thank you, [insert long list of friends which is sure to leave some important someone off and hurt said person's feelings] for being nice to me when I was stressed and for asking how this crazy distance learning thing was going and especially for ever even thinking of asking to hear my lecture. If you asked to hear my lecture, you are amazing!

If you asked? To read my novel? Amazing!

For the most part, I'm not ready for that. People like my family, friends who are like my family, I want you to read it when it's ready for the world, not half-cooked. It needs one more round of revisions before I'll feel good about sending it out. If I learned anything in grad school, it's that revision, rewriting from scratch even, is at the heart of writing. I'm giving myself a month for the novel to rest, then a month or so of revision, then it's out.

And I don't know what will happen, but I'm choosing to be all right with that. I talked with a writer friend lately about the weird double-bind of wanting to feel confident and secretly believing that confidence goes hand in hand with self-delusion. Evil double-think, I cast you out. I'm choosing to listen to the good things.

Please know that even when I self-deprecate, even when I demur, your support, your kindnesses, overwhelm me with waves of giddy, awkward awe. Every single person who has ever said one nice thing to me about my writing, I eat it up! I roll it around on my tongue and think about the taste of it for days. It embarrasses me. It makes me cringey-crazy, but it makes a difference. It's the only thing, I think, that lets a writer ever get the guts to finish anything, to send anything out into the world at all.

For my honorable sister . . .

My sister says things like, "I wish I was either shorter or taller."

She said that tonight. After our celebratory dinner at Daniel George. (Which was by the by fantastic. Fig tartlets were shared.) Celebratory because today she graduated from a dental assisting program at UAB.

She graduated with honors, and I'm really proud of her. It's been a long year of clinical rotations and scrubs, and now she tosses around words like "perio" and "oral maxillofacial surgery" that make me go, "wait, what?"

And for the record, she's the perfect height.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It happened

I got my MFA. As proof, here's a pic of Marion Dane Bauer hooding me at the ceremony.



Reading on the last night truly felt like a rite of passage. I know I perform all the time, but there's something different about reading your own words. It was both scarier and much more fun than I anticipated. I picked something flirty since by the end of the last night of residency everyone is braindead.

I could have happily slept for 20 hours after my reading, but my class had an open house at the Martin house where a lot of the grads were staying, and I had to represent. Graduation day we still have to go to lectures and workshop, and the ceremony itself was a blur of bagpipes, slideshow, and a fantastic speech by Sarah Ellis.

Faculty member Julie Larios did a much better job of posting about residency than I did. There's a pic of me knitting in there somewhere.

I'm in Birmingham. Still tired. Very happy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Residency

I've been at my final residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts . . . or as new faculty chair Margaret Bechard calls it, Brigadoon.

I miss you.

Yes, you.

I'll write more later -- you know, when I've had more than 5 hours of sleep in a night for a couple of days in a row -- but for now I'll just say the lecture went great, the reading went swell, and last night the rising 4th semesters threw a Hawaiian theme party for us and fulfilled my dream of being a fifties pin-up girl.



Tomorrow I'm done. I won't be leaving this community for good, no, no. You have not seen the last of me, VCFA.

I leave you with a word from Brigadoon, which applies just as well to VCFA:

"It's the hardest thing in the world to give everything. Though it's usually the only way to get everything."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Moonwalks and mermaids

This week I . . .

I made rich people happy by dressing like an astronaut. Yes, I'll do just about any weird thing for money. While helping people find the bathroom and roof access at the planetarium, I said things like, "all systems go," and "careful coming in for landing" to spice up otherwise mundane activities like walking up and down stairs.



I experienced the 70's time warp that is the Bunny Hutch. Do yourself a favor, go to this website and listen to the theme song. Batting cages, giant ice cream, children behind the counter, serious mini-golf . . .



. . . and an arcade with a claw machine full of equal parts candy and ants. The computerized sex tester tells me I am an "angel." Not as good as "hot pants," but way better than "motherly."



The special, special times at the Bunny Hutch were balanced by days of intensive lecture revising and power point design. When I bragged on FB about how awesome I am at Power Point now, a friend pointed me to the Power Point art of David Byrne. How does one man contain so much weird awesome?

The Neofuturists gave me much joy with their staged reading of Cruising at the film fest, as did my TWG friends on Monday night.

On the fourth of July I celebrated the birth of my favorite baby, who I am proud to call my fake niece. I also celebrated good friends, tabouleh, chocolate pie, a crazy Roger's Park apocalyptic warzone fireworks show by the lake, and Lacy's cat Bowie getting along with Parker.

An old friend came to visit me, and because one Bunny Hutch mermaid was not enough . . .



. . . we tore the Northwestern campus apart and found further proof that mermaids do exist. This one likes lemondrops.



Lest you think my life is full of only good things, yesterday it rained waste water in my apartment, and now my bathroom ceiling looks like this.



Uh-huh. But it cannot get me down, because Thursday I drive to Birmingham, and Friday I fly to Montpelier, and on the 15th I give a lecture and on the 19th I give a reading, and on July 20th, I am going to freaking graduate!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Things I'm reading when I should be revising my lecture . . .

E. Lockhart's visit on Random Buzz, both as herself and as Ruby Oliver!!! Thanks for the heads up, Jess!

Susan Beth Pfeffer's blog about This World We Live In. She gives so much insight into her process. It's really generous.

Obits for Pina Bausch. Such a gorgeous and influential lady in dance and theater! Here's a very Pina moment from a show I did with Sprung Theatre several years ago.

Before and After

What is more satisfying than before and after pictures? Nothing, I tell you. Nada.



I made these curtains out of kitchen towels, stitching them right onto a suspension rod with some aqua ribbon. The ribbon was the most expensive part of the whole deal -- total cost negligible.



My apartment has a single closet in the bedroom. These exposed bathroom shelves have been bugging me since I moved in -- because I am not the neatest person, and because I don't know how to throw products I don't use away, and because if I'm interested in getting to know you better, I don't want you to be having the following thoughts while you pee . . .

Can one person really take all those vitamins? (Yes, according to my mother. I have yet to try.)

Why does she have so many free samples and promotional materials from Revive? (Monkey benefit meets laziness.) Is her face falling off? (Not yet. So far, so good. But I do moisturize with a passion.)

Who are those cheery people crammed in a tiny bathroom holding toilet paper?



(I used to live in a vegan co-op. That explains lots of things, doesn't it?)

I know, I know, the curtain doesn't cover up the crazy hippies. Love me, love my tofu.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oh, Michael

This is a memory rather than a eulogy.

As for eulogies, I really like Bilal Dardai's.

At my elementary school, we held a school-wide fundraiser, or was it a fun run? Maybe both. There were thermometers on paper with red markers tracking how much progress we had made, and lots of hype about the prize.

Those of us who succeeded in meeting our targets, the lucky few, would gain entry to a special performance at the Spring Fling. At the base of a hill beside the gymnasium, right next to the gravel path that led up to the tennis courts, that's where Michael Jackson would perform.

Michael Jackson! My friend Ashley was afraid of him -- whenever "Thriller" came on MTV, she ran screaming from the room. Katie, who was older, explained about "Billie Jean" to me, and we imagined living in a world where girls got preggers by accident, because that could never, ever happen in Birmingham, Alabama, not to people we knew! No, never!

We liked his single, silver glove. We tried to moonwalk.

I went to a tiny private school. The idea that Michael Jackson would come to perform -- just for us -- as a prize for the fun run! It was too good to be true. Probably it wasn't true. But then, how evil if it wasn't. It must be.

We gathered on the hill to await his arrival, lips and fingers sticky-red with popsicle goo, sweaty hair glued to the backs of our necks. The cheap cotton of our Spring Fling t-shirts prickled, but we were too proud to take them off. We had earned them. Them and Michael.

A huge camper van, the kind with a spare tire covered in tarp and big thinning stripes down the side, pulled up to the base of the hill, and we screamed. It was not like the Beatles, girls fainting and pulling their hair out, but close.

Somebody's mother got on a microphone and introduced him, Michael Jackson! Here to perform!

The music started, and the man himself climbed out of the camper van's roof. He stood on the top of the van. All sweet grass and sunstroke, we squinted.

He moonwalked. Sort of. The glove was right, but the hair was all wrong. It looked more like Elvis -- and that baseball cap tamping it down, it didn't quite work. Michael was a skinny guy, small, okay, but this Michael looked hippy. This Michael had on a big jacket to make up for narrow shoulders -- and boobs?

Michael was a mom. Somebody's mom wearing leather -- and blackface.

We squinted harder. We tried to believe. We still cheered. But the magic was gone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Barbie, Ken, and Santa

Back in May, I served as a bridesmaid in my friend Ashley's wedding. Her photographer just posted these gorgeous pictures on their blog.

And here are my own amateur pics of the adorable ring-bearer getting friendly with my Daddy. Pointing to my Dad's beard, he asked, "Why do you have that?" Then he climbed right into my Dad's lap and starting petting him. Deciding my father was Santa he said, "I'm gonna get you when you come down the chimney!"









My father, it seems, is just as popular with strange children as I am. Maybe I get it from him.

Healthy for now

Along with my program, my student health insurance plan will soon end. It wasn't such a great plan, but it was something. This year, I've received more pleas than normal to help out artists who either don't have insurance or have crappy insurance.

OBAMA! I made phone calls for you. Please, please, let's get something going!

In the meantime, I've renewed my lapsed SCBWI membership and applied for insurance through TEIGIT, The Entertainment Industry Group Insurance Trust. The guaranteed plan they offer in my area is prohibitively expensive, over $1,600 monthly for an HMO. Please! And of course, in many areas, they don't offer anything at all.

I'm checking their individual plans to see if they offer anything better. Fingers crossed.

Writing? What?

I know, I know. Writers don't paint houses, they don't take pictures of twee urban messages, they don't post vids of their dog wrestling yoga balls (coming up as soon as I figure how to download from my camera or give up and record a new one on the cell).

Well, maybe the do. They can. But that isn't the main thing they do. Writers write.

I've been deadlining for a while now -- to my last packet date, to the end of semester. My next deadline involves my lecture, and now that the others are out of the way I'm actually excited to work on it.

But. The lecture will not satisfy . . . the need to write.

I don't know if I've mentioned it here or not, but I was using a working title for my novel -- Touch. Before I submitted it in my thesis, I checked Amazon to see if the title was taken. It was. By Francine Prose, in a book coming out, I kid you not, the DAY AFTER I CHECKED.

If I wasn't such a fan of her Reading Like a Writer, I would have some serious jealousy-vibes swimming her way. But whatever. It just means I've got to get creative. I can do that.

So the novel formerly known as Touch is resting. It's part of my creative thesis. I'll be reading from it at my residency, which will be surreal. But I don't think it's quite, quite finished. I'm putting it aside for a month or more, writing some poetry, doing some research, and shaking up my brain with a project I started between my third and fourth semesters.

It is . . . a middle grade urban fantasy. Working title: My Dead Friend. It's really different from Touch, so that's fun, and I tried something I've never really done before -- outlining before plunging in. It's a loose outline, open to change, but so far it's making the first drafting fun because I definitely have a sense of where I'm going with it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I painted a house!!!

A whole house. With five other people, and it was a little house, but still.





While doing it I got to stare out at beautiful Lake Puckaway.



Thanks to two tornados touching down in Kenosha and a couple of wrong turns, it took us seven hours to get there, and the painting made my muscles so tired, I slept until 3pm on Monday, but it was worth it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why I'm a writer and not a photographer

I missed the shot of the couple kissing over this message.

I missed the shot of the skateboarder leaping over it in his "I have a death wish" t-shirt.

But I got the words.



"Get really close to another human being this life time." What Roger's Park has to say about life now that it finally feels like summer . . .

Friday, June 19, 2009

Done!!!! (except for the lecture)

I emailed my "degree manuscript" last night (meaning early this morning): a novel, an early reader, my critical thesis, and a cumulative bibliography, for a total of 409 pages. The last two days have been spent proofreading. Only. My eyes are technically still a part of my head, but they feel like they're rolling around out in space somewhere.

It did not help my fried brain when I woke up to hail pounding my window, a huge torrent of water pouring down from the overhang above me, and several feet worth of leaks requiring a mop bucket and three pots. There was no going back to bed.

But even apocalypse can't get me down! Except for that lecture I have to give at the July residency, I am done!

This weekend Parker and I are off to Wisconsin for some lake time and some house painting. No, the computer is not coming with me!

When I get back I promise to upload a video of my dog playing with a giant balance ball! You will like it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finishing

I mailed my end of semester materials today . . . a 25 page bibliography of everything I read during my program, a couple of evaluations, a couple of abstract/synopsis-y thingamajigs (yes, I am getting a degree that says I know how to use words), the title page of my creative thesis.

I've been putting all this off because I can't deal with my program ending, but it was time. Time to avoid express mail charges.

I answered all sorts of questions, like . . . in the title, "What Are You Laughing At?" is the word "at" being used as an adverb (meaning it gets capitalized according to MLA) or a preposition (meaning it stays low)? I think it's technically a preposition here, but it feels so important at the end there, all sharp and peppy, I couldn't bear to leave it lowercase. Maybe I won't graduate because of this, and then I won't have to worry about my program ending.

By Friday I have to email a PDF of a giant document that will be my "degree manuscript." I'm going to be doing lots of nitpicky editing over the next couple of days.

I am reading. I may stop posting what I'm reading once my program ends, but for old time's sake, I just finished Chris Crutcher's Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes and Sarah Zarr's Story of a Girl. I'm now working on Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels. And I just checked out Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. After two years of YA and kids' lit., adult nonfiction is some kind of exotic treat.

Mmm. Muckraking.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some ridiculously nice things . . .

. . . were said about me on the Monkey blog.

After Celebration of Authors, Monkeys always have a celebration of us, the company, and we give each other silly awards. This year, I won the prestigious Tom Malinowski Award for Enthusiasm and Commitment to Monkey Greatness. That means I get a sticky tag with my name on the plaque for all Monkey posterity.



Artistic Director Luke had also saved me a pretty picture that a child made for me in the first year he and I taught together and framed it. Weep, weep.

I'm real happy to be doing this with my life.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Celebration of Authors tonight!!!

I keep meaning to post about Celebration of Authors . . .



It happens tonight, and it's awesome! There are a couple of stories about mermaids, and many about dogs and cats. In my favorite role, I get to scream, "NO!" fourteen times before setting my castle on fire.

This time last year, I had a deadline on the same day as Celebration, Chicago was about twenty degrees hotter, and I was in the worst mood during the final rehearsal. This year my creative thesis is approved, there's only enough heat to make it feel like good work, and I can focus my whole attention on the awesome!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

83,778 words

That is my book. In its current form, anyway. I'll be fiddling with it until I turn it into the program office, then I'll put it away for a bit and come back for rewrites, but it's a book. It has a beginning, middle, and end. Loose ends tie up. There's an arc.

I'm completely zonked and elated.

It's been approved as my creative thesis. I will soon be, in Gwenda's words, a Mistress of the Fine Arts. YES!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

One week and counting

3,190 words today. Some recycled. Most new.

Seven days to go until I turn this puppy in for my LAST PACKET.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shh! I'm hiding!

You can't see me! I'm in . . .

Birmingham.



It's very quiet here, in the basement where I used to write all my high school papers. The old computer isn't here, but the desk is, and my laptop lives here now.

I write thousands of words in the basement, while my parents intermittently feed me tabbouleh and fresh shrimp and sour dough bread, and tonight we'll be going to my cousin's husband's restaurant, Daniel George. It's the kind of place where you can use a phrase like "amuse bouche" and not feel stuck-up. Fancy schmance!

I mean Daniel should be on Iron Chef (which I just saw for the first time the other night and am now obsessed with). He's that good!

I'm supposed to be finished with my creative thesis, aka my novel, by June 4th.

So, shhhhhhhhhh!

Currently reading: Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox. She's some sort of magician, I've decided. I'm jealous. Also, a nonfiction book about urban legends called The Vanishing Hitchhiker . . . it makes me feel academic AND spooky, all at the same time!!! If I thought I could ever get a job teaching folklore that didn't require me to live in the middle of nowhere, I'd be on that PhD in a second. Sigh.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rain is to acid as sane fabrics are to silk shantung

Sitting on the porch of my tower room by the beach. I don't have a door, but I do have windows on all four sides -- the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy.

Trying to squeeze in writing between bridesmaiding duties, which is going . . . okay. I had a revelation yesterday, but not the time to implement it.

My fingernails and toenails are prettier than they have ever been. I'm about to go get my hair did, and after that I'll be trying to figure out how to wear reverse silk shantung in the rain.

When I first got the dress, I sneezed on it -- a tiny, tiny liquid sneeze, which made a dark, dark mark requiring dry cleaning. Pretend that rain is acid. That's the only way that this dress will survive the day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A good bachelorette must always be prepared

Me: I might not make it to the third location. My shoes are really cutting into my heels, and I don't know if I can walk much more.

Bachelorette Dina: Oh, what size are you? Because I have an extra pair of shoes in my bag.



Bachelorette Dina was ready to keep the party going even after showing up at the wrong restaurant cross-town and getting swiped by a cab.

Wedding season is officially on.

Last night I bacheloretted with the first of three friends who will be wedding or wedding-partying over the next three weekends. Tuesday I head to Florida to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of my oldest friends. I'll be packeting while not wedding-ing, but there are worse places to write than the beach.

Currently reading: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Classic.

Godspace

Last Tuesday my friend Scott and I took advantage of the MCA's free day to see the Olafur Eliasson and Buckminster Fuller exhibits.

Fantastic. Both.

Buckminster Fuller blows my mind. He's like an overgrown twelve-year-old tech geek who happens to be a genius. They've got clippings from his notebooks on 4D dwelling units and Dymaxion cars, and they look like a kid scribbling -- handblock letters, colored-in pictures of the globe covered in airships.

Here are just a few things Bucky has to say . . .

Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.

God, to me, it seems, is a verb not a noun, proper or improper.

Love is metaphysical gravity.


Olafur Eliasson does funky things with space. 'Nough said. A couple of my friends made a silly rap about him that makes me happy. It's explicit as silly rapping will be . . . fair warning. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFjbkdcMWlE

Monday, May 11, 2009

YES!

As of today, my new draft of my book is around 55,000 words.

I'm not sure how long this new draft will be, but I know I'm in the last third of the book, and I know I should be done by June 4th.

YES!

Today, I celebrate other people's writing -- specifically, the kids of the Loyola Park After-school program. The oldest group are putting on a full show adapting their own stories for performance side by side with five Monkey performers. My group (the little guys) and the middle group are each doing a short performance. Ours is an adaptation of a story they wrote as a group, "Where in Hollywood is the Royal Baby?" There will be jalepenos, and puking, a stunt baby, Icelandic royalty making handprints outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater, and a dance party.

YES!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Nineteen packets down. One to go!

Happy Saturday!

My second to last packet for my MFA program went in Thursday morning, and I got back a response that made me giddy. My lecture on fantastic ambiguity is approved. My first 200 pages of my novel are pretty much in order. I get to include my early reader, Tessa and the Frozen Tundra as part of my creative thesis, and I got to SLEEP as much as I wanted the last two nights in a row!

Beauty! I feel like my superhero from the Scientist/Monster song, minus the mental fragility!



I needed the sleep badly because in addition to packeting, I had the first two performances of Barrel of Monkeys Poetry Show on Thursday morning. I blogged about it over at the BOM site.

To celebrate on Thursday night, I checked out Sharon Greene's story at the 2nd Story Festival. She and the other storytellers (and Monkey Mike Przygoda's music) were great, and I highly recommend checking out the end of festival this weekend!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Overheard sublime

Walking Parker through the neighborhood, I heard what I took to be a little girl howling, playing at being a wolf or an unhappy dog. As we approached, I saw her leaning over the wall at the edge of her porch, making a whole range of high-pitched uncomfortable sounds. Warbling might be one word for it, but that sounds too melodic.

A woman, maybe an aunt or a grandmother sat on the porch steps helping the girl with her imaginings.

She was saying, "Oh, how beautiful! Oh! My fairy princess! How I love to hear her sing! What a beautiful voice!"

The girl kept going, "Ahhhrooooooooooooh!!!!!" never getting hung up on silly things like pitch.

Sublime.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Watch out for that ice cream truck

It's finally stopped raining, but I don't feel so different. In spite of exercising, in spite of making plans to see good people, in spite of so much coffee, I've been uber-tired lately, and I'm wondering if dating causes sleeping sickness.

Or maybe writing a creative thesis?

One or the other.

I'm still sort of tricking myself into getting the rewriting done, which is fine, as long as it keeps getting done. If you've ever gone through a phase of having very intense dreams, and it made you avoid going to bed, that might give an idea of how I feel about sitting down to write lately. It's not that I don't enjoy it, I'm not having bad dreams, but I anticipate intensity, and that gives me pause.

Same with dating now that I think about it. it might be nice to be in a relationship again. It might be the equivalent of getting run over by an ice cream truck -- that is, ironically painful.

Get over it.

In the meanwhile, one of my greatest pleasures is reading Ursula K. Le Guin's collection of essays on fantasy and science fiction The Language of the Night. I hope whatever I write next will be at least a little fantastic. Reality is getting tired.

UPDATE: My temperature is a bit below normal. Because I'm below normal? Or because I am ill? Which would explain the mopey. I will reserve judgment on dating and writing until my temperature improves.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rainy funky rain

It's the rainiest of rainy days. I'm going to see if I have some yoga in me, because otherwise I don't know how I'll manage anything more than sleep for the rest of the day. Got some writing in this morning, and I'd like to do more.

I'm at a stage in my rewrite where the whole thing feels very daunting. I've turned a corner into the middle of the story, and I need to make some big decisions about how things are going to unfold. I know I'll do it, but I'd love to be able to think about it over a long walk, and the weather's not cooperating.

Yick.

I often think I should get out and see music more often, and last night I did twice. The first charged a cover and turned out to be an all-ages show attended mostly by what seemed to be a teenage boy's birthday party and a lot of older chaperones. Everyone my age knew better than to be there I guess -- the bassist and drums weren't together, the sidekick singer was flat, and they had things cranked way too loud for the space. Then later, I saw live blues -- no cover -- that made people dance and scream. Beautiful. Live music redeemed.

Just finished reading The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer, one of those apocalyptic books I love so well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beast: 1, Rachel: 0

The Beast nearly did me in on Sunday night. Wow.

He was sitting on the carpet, looking relaxed and happy with himself, when, BLARGH, he puked all over. This dog eats raw meat, so it was special.

Then before I can even think about how I'm going to get the meaty bits out of this carpet that's really less like carpet and more like basketweave, he's had liquid poo all over the floor. Then before I can get to the kitchen and back with a paper towel, and oh, the smell, he's walking around the apartment wagging his (very messy) tail, and leaving a trail of poo along all the walls.

AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bruno felt fine and frisky after getting all that out of his system. Parker ran to a far corner of the condo to avoid the smell and cleaning duties. I still haven't fully recovered.

The last few days have been a blur of after-school program, school show rehearsals, online addiction, and one of the worst sleeping schedules I've hit on in a long time.

A few highlights:

Child raises hand and waits to be called on to say, "Excuse me, I burped in my mouth."

Got hit on by a guy who "identifies with animals" to the point of dressing up like them. No.

Learned a house song that LMack wrote for Dixon. I begins with the words, "One day Justin was meditating on a strange white block that he got for his birthday." Other strange treats from Dixon include Santa morphing into an elephant and being forced to do tricks while all the children in America disappear, teacher Tim being kept as a pet in a cage and made to see plays . . . I'm excited for this show.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Breakups and the Beast

Because I've been slow to post, I'm going to make up for it by sharing something silly. Mike Tutaj made this film, "The 10th Date" (based on a story we adapted way back in 2004 or so) for the Monkeys Wilmette show last March. My blog's too narrow to fit the widescreen, but you can watch it here.

This is the original story:
Once there was a girl named Ashley and a Man named Frankie. They’re on their 10th date. Frankie breaks up with her. She gets really mad and slaps him. “Why!” she said. Frankie said “I’m moving to Alaska.” “I’m going to miss you!” “Yeah!” “Well, isn’t this when you say I’ll miss you too?”


Sorry for being slow to post. If you have a problem with it, I might have to slap you. I had the post-packet sloth, followed by dogsitting for JJ's beast, Bruno.



Since JJ has a nice place with cable on demand, it's easy to chillax and not know where the time has gone. Bruno, Parker, and I watched Twilight together, and Bruno really liked when Cedric Diggory got all mean and sparkly at the same time. Parker says she could never be afraid of a guy who glitters, but she's real alpha and not so into pushy guys.

Rae Rae just read JJ's copy of He's Just Not That into You and liked it way more than she thought she would. "10th Date" Ashley should definitely read it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In deep

I'm finishing Packet 3 of 5 for my last semester. Yesterday I wrapped up the fiction and the bibliography. Today is all about my lecture and writing my letter to my advisor.

I'm optimistic, but writing a book, even a few drafts in, is all about the deep, dark forest.

This goes in tonight or tomorrow morning, and I promise to give some attention to this bloggy blog after it's done.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I could watch this for hours



Sadly, I have to work.

Currently reading Peter Pan

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Smooches! The results are in . . .

The official results of the "Who's Reading Rae Rae?" Poll:

People who used to kiss me
3 (12%)

People who want to kiss me
5 (20%)

Friends who are thinking about other friends of theirs who might want to kiss me
10 (41%)

Friends who think I am a craze for making a poll about kissing
8 (33%)

Strangers wondering why I'm obsessed with kissing today (it's finally spring in Chicago y'all)
2 (8%)

My family - um, awkward!
1 (4%)

And what have I learned?

At least five people want to kiss me. Not bad.

I shouldn't get too excited about those five people because I know for a fact that one of them is my Mom. Seriously, my Mom! She told me on the phone yesterday.

People who want to kiss me respond much faster than people who don't -- a gazilion times faster. Obvious, right? Still, I didn't anticipate it. Here is a motivational tool that bears keeping in mind.

Based on the co-occurrence of votes, at least one or two people who "used to kiss me" still "want to kiss me." Allowing for the possibility that this, again, is the work of my Mom, this points to some degree of user satisfaction.

Most of the people who read my blog are friends, which means a) only friends read my blog, b) strangers who read my blog identify with me SO quickly that they FEEL like I'm they're friend (watch me wishful think), or c) strangers are, for the most part, not joiners-inners.

A lot of my friends claim to be thinking of people who might want to kiss me. Great. Less thinking, more kissing.

Rae Rae is currently reading: Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kids and kudzu

Great writing morning -- some revision, mostly new work resulting in about 1,800 words that I think I can actually use. Of course, give it a week, but it put me in a great mood. I clarified some backstory for myself, answered some character questions, and figured the thematic weight of kudzu.



Yes, that's right. I'm writing a book about kudzu.

Lies. I'm a liar.

Then I watched my after-school kids perform their adaptations of old Monkey classics like "He Wrestled a Bear" and "The Bear with Steel Wings Tells about Opposite Day." Kids like to write about bears.

Currently reading: Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday plot points

I spent this Sunday rehearsing the role of Kathy the Fighting Chihuahua. Buying a new heating pad for my old lady knees, which do not like pretending to be a chihuahua. Sloshing through ice-soup while wearing sneaker with holes in them, hood up to avoid ice croutons falling from the trees. Lusting after modern, simplistic furnishings that I can't afford. Purchasing healthy foods that I'd better start eating more often. Checking out books for my bibliography and my lecture. Watching two Wire eps back to back. Reading E. Lockhart's Dramarama from cover to cover, all 311 pages with barely a break. The lady can write.

Tomorrow will be my last appearance in That's Weird, Grandma for many moons. Come and hang out if you're so inclined. And while we're talking Monkeys, check the new Dog Was Dead Remix podcast.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Writing in spite of myself

These are the first words I wrote this morning -- words I needed to write in order to write any others:

There is fear. There will always be fear.
And I will let it be


It's now 5:15 pm, and I've only written about 600 words, plus a bit of revision. I'm going for 1,000. I'm so distractable today, and the words are coming so, so slowly that I feel like I'm writing in spite of myself.

But at least I am writing.

Currently reading: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor and Watchmen

Monday, March 23, 2009

Adaptation makes you shiny

Historically, I've thought of myself as someone who has a hard time with change. When I moved to a new house (less than half a mile away from my old one!) in 9th grade, it took more than a year for me to unpack all the boxes.

I hold on to sentimental keepsakes . . . a piece of bark that found its way into my shoe on the night of a first kiss, a mardigras mask from a party, a clay ear that I sculpted for a Vietnam play that was meant to have been cut from the head of a Vietnamese soldier by a sociopathic boy. Yeah, I still have that.

To some degree my novel is about the fear of change.

Last year, a friend told me he was impressed with how resilient I am. I listened. I sort of took it to heart. It made me feel good that he thought so. But, still, I thought, I'm more afraid of change than I'd like to be. I don't adapt as quickly as I should.

Then Facebook changed its layout.

Turns out that compared to most of my friends, I am highly adaptable. Weirdly, freakishly adaptable. Unflappable. Unphased. Inhuman, almost, in my lack of caring about the minutiae of how this totally awesome, FREE service looks.

I can't help but wonder what the world would be like if everyone who protested the FB layout change protested something more important, if everyone who voted thumbs up or down on the new layout sent one letter to a public official instead, if everybody who took the time to compose a whiny status update took a walk in the sun for twenty minutes first.

Come on people, I love you dearly, but man up.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Swish!

St. Patrick's Day, Donnell's birthday . . .





. . . and spring SPRING!!!! have all conspired to make the week and the weekend indistinguishable over the past seven days, which means that fun and productivity have felt interchangeable all week long. Here it is Saturday night, and I've just wrapped up my second good writing session of the day. I don't feel deprived. The night is young.

I'm afraid that my energy for this blog (for anything else really) is waning as the demands of my novel pick up . . . I've got somewhere between 60 and 90 pages of a new draft. Oh so far to go, but I'm writing a freaking novel. That's happening. I'm aiming for a passable draft that I can shop around by the end of the semester. This is the goal.

Yesterday started with some serious writing followed by a burst of home-improvement energy. I did all the laundry, dropped off dry cleaning, got groceries, shopped for new towels, and even got a sweet little cafe curtain for the kitchen.



This means that neighbors can't see into my apartment from the back stairs anymore. I've had a sheer curtain up, but it wasn't exactly private. It's amazing how cozy and satisfied I feel after making such a tiny, tiny change.

It is spring! Spring!

In between writing sessions, rehearsal, and some serious afternoon dishing at Leona's -- a ridiculous time and place for dishing, but fun nonetheless -- I also learned how to change a bike tire tonight, and I might just be heading out for a late-night ride.

Swish!