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


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!