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


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.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Here Kitty, Kitty

These linkitties please my eye . . .

Storybook Fashion I and II by Blaze Danielle. Really, I like to look at everything on her blog. Via Micol.

Arcanalogue's tarot cards.

Cool 3-D Sidewalk drawings. This one's by Julian Beever.

. . . and ear . . .

I saw Jon Drake and the Shakes at Morseland on St. Patrick's night and really liked them. I'm told they remind me of Neutral Milk Hotel, which is strange because I wasn't aware of Neutral Milk Hotel before. Now I know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy spring

I'm celebrating St. Patrick's Day by cleaning and lounging.

I didn't plan to spend the day this way, but it's spring! It finally feels like spring! As I posted on FB, all I feel like doing today is sitting in the sun and eating candy and kissing people. And cleaning, I guess, which in springtime is almost like sitting in the sun and eating candy. Kissing doesn't come into it.

I don't post much about my personal life, but this is where I'm at today. Rae Rae is out and about!

Hence, the poll.

I know a lot of my readers fall into several of these categories, so feel free to vote more than once!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Theater is like a dream is like a theater is like a . . .

Brain explode.

I attended the theater last night in my sleep. A show that blows the lid off of anything I've seen in real life. Not fair to make comparisons I know, but wow! This was like Fuerza Bruta meets your favorite Shakespearean history, done by some stretch-your-idea-of-what-theater-can-be company like Lookingglass or The Wooster Group, toss in some Neo-style self-aware humor and some really hot European actors, and put the whole thing on steroids.

The audience sat in three white tents watching three variations on the same show. The actors played on torn earth, a swampy mudscape that stretched on forever.

A flood crashed through the white tents . . .

I was chosen from the audience to represent a mythic warrior princess, and two actors helped me walk on stilts across the mudscape through a storm right before the second intermission. One of them was into me. His family objected. As I revised within the dream, it turned out we had an embattled romantic past.

At one point our seats turned into a monorail that carried us over a frozen tundra, a fantastic forest, a cliff face covered in toiling humanity. The characters who lived in this world believed in fantastic creatures like unicorns and trolls, but they preferred not to seek them out, allowing them to appear spontaneously to a lucky few. The audience wept for the magic potential in the landscape.

Take that, Mary Zimmerman. Take that, Robert le Page. . . . If you want to direct my dream, and you have a budget of a bazillion dollars I am totally down.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Small groups of one

We did a podcast workshop for Barrel of Monkeys today, focused on adapting stories that we liked but that never made it into school shows, and, kind of on a whim, we decided that rather than split into small groups to adapt the stories, we would each take one and script a draft of it.


To write in a room full of people when I'm so used to working alone . . . It's a simple thing, but having other people present while working individually in a way that I love . . . bliss. And it was so fun to go around in a circle and hear how each person's quirky voice meshed with the voice of the child author they chose.

The story I adapted was a kid's account of trying to steal a piece of cake and a soda on his own birthday . . . I will let you know when it makes it to podcast form. Meanwhile, check out the current eps here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Missed me, missed me, now you gotta kiss me!

It's been over a week since I posted. It doesn't feel like it, which must mean it's been a pretty good week.

Here are a few of the things I've been doing . . .

-- Attending one my favorite theater shows ever . . . The Neo-Futurists' Strange Interlude, part of the O'Neill festival at the Goodman. It took about 7 hours to see it not including travel and post-show hanging out. For a play, that's a pretty good percentage of where the time has gone. This pic's of rockstars Merrie Greenfield and Monkey Brennan Buhl.

The show had crazy hecklers, which you can read about on Dean's blog, for two of the three performances, but a fantastic response from everyone else. People applauded on return from the third intermission on Saturday and gave a fast and unanimous standing ovation after 6.5 hours.

-- Sharing non-dates and margaritas with my good friend JJ as we work on our fictional online series, "JJ and Rae Rae Get Dates." Not that the series is fictional . . . it's completely autobiographical . . . the fictional part is that we're ever going to film anything.

In this pic from an earlier escapade, JJ blocks the door to the men's room as Rae Rae looks on. "Oh. Excuse me."

Sunday's Episode . . . if two young gay men tell JJ and Rae Rae that they don't look old, does it count as a date?

-- Starting the spring session of the Monkeys' after-school program at Loyola Park. Improv with 7-year-olds. YES!

-- Babysitting the cutest baby on the planet. I'm convinced that rocking a baby to sleep is one of the more healthy and relaxing things a person can do.

-- Checking out my friend John Elliott's new CD, American in Love, which captures the end of a long relationship in a painful and satisfying way that I'm sad to say I can relate to. The line Geoff and I agree is cruelly brilliant: "I wasted hours with your tongue."

This vid of one of the songs from the album is directed by an old friend and current rockstar from my college acting class, Trish Hadley.

"Yesterday Some Roses"

-- Meeting up with a boy I hadn't talked to since 7th grade. Yes, I regressed to a degree that was both amusing and awkward.

-- Sending a message to my ex about a dream that I attended his wedding (to someone else). I ask, "Why can't my subconscious be nice to us?" His answer, "Tell your subconscious to calm it! :)" Good and sane advice per usual.

-- Turning in Packet 2 of my last semester.

-- Getting a great response on Packet 2 of my last semester! Phew!

Currently reading Shark Girl by VCFA alum Kelly Bingham.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Flip flops

While adding to my biblio the other day, I had one of those moments of discovery where the thing you've found is something that a lot of the people you think are cool already know about . . . so discovering it makes you feel simultaneously more cool (for the discovery) and less cool (for the slowness in discovering it). That thing was BAAA by David Macaulay.

Why had I never seen this before? It's fantastic. It's this sad, little post-apocalyptic picture book? Graphic novel? Fable? From 1985. About how after the humans wreck everything and disappear, the sheep take their place and do basically the same thing.

It has amazing, funny, punch-in-the-gut lines like, “Riots broke out and injuries were sustained. More comedies were shown on television," and, “The silence spread. Pools went unfiltered."

And of course it feels too contemporary for comfort.

But even the sheep apocalypse can't get me down tonight -- I've nearly kicked my cold, and I'm wearing flip flops for the first time since Guatemala. Hallelujah!

The cold hasn't kept me from working, but it's kept me from working well, which just can't go on as I have less than a week before my second packet's due. With all the time I spent outlining (read: obsessing) over how to make my book work, I feel like I've no time to spare.

Oh, and I still need to outline my lecture. Uh-huh.

My bibliography, at least, is done. And I've got some nice resources for my lecture: Tolkien's Tree and Leaf, Ursula Le Guin's The Language of the Night, a book on writing sci-fi and fantasy by David Gerrold. He wrote, among many other things, "The Trouble with Tribbles" episode of Star Trek, so the man knows something about something.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Online living

Barrel of Monkeys is on Twitter, and I'm the Head Twit, for starters anyway. You can follow us at BOM_Chicago.

Know what's a really simple pleasure? Discovering you're behind on a new season of a show you like -- and that you get to play catch-up while fighting your head cold. Survivor Tocantins started without me, but I'm coming to get it.

The last few days have been super productive, so today's cold-induced sloth was okay by me.

Another simple pleasure . . . cheering for rockstar friends.

Like Lacy.

And Lauren.

And Julie Berry, whose debut novel The Amaranth Enchantment released today!

Go rockstars, go!

Currently reading: Paper Towns by John Green

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Kids and books. That's what I like.

Thanks, Alex!

Monkeys Sing

A new Barrel of Monkeys podcast is up. It's "My First Girlfriend," one of my favorite Monkey songs of all time, based on a story by an awesome kid I taught, and I'm one of the backup singers on it.

Jonathan Mastro wrote this song as his last hurrah before leaving Chicago for Maine. John Dixon did the rapping right before he moved to New York. And Eric Silverberg is the voice of an angel, which now can only be heard in California. So basically, the progenitors of this song have scattered to the corners. All the more reason to take advantage of hearing it via podcast.

ALSO, the two things I spend most of my time doing are studying YA writing and working with Barrel of Monkeys. Behold! The two worlds collide!

A podcast all about Stephenie Myers' Twilight series used a Barrel of Monkeys song a little less than halfway through this episode. The song is our most popular iTunes download from our second CD, written by Mike Spatafora and performed by country artist and Monkey friend Robbie Fulks. It's actually sort of hilarious that the girls who chose the song make a disclaimer that they don't love the music, but they love us, so that's nice.