Tuesday, March 30, 2010


My play is calling to me.

Well, its characters are, and that means I need to devote the afternoon to writing (once my classes are over and I've eaten a little lunch). You see, my characters had been talking and interacting all night while I slept, and they gave me a rather interesting dream.

I dreamed last night that I was with a film star... though now the identity of the star escapes me. It's not the first time I've dreamed of film stars. I always pick the weird ones, too, the ones I'm not at all attracted to, like Rutger Hauer, Bobcat Goldthwait, etc. I once dreamed Desi Arnaz had asked my mom to marry me, and she was trying to urge me into it, even though he was really, really old (he died less than a week after I'd had the dream).

Anyway, I had separated from my husband and hadn't seen my two kids, and this star was trying to woo me into becoming his significant other, furnishing his fabulous apartment with stuff he thought I'd want, etc. I was holding back, cautious, wanting to visit my kids and husband, but when I went to our house (a brownstone in Chicago, a place and kind of house I would never live in, mind you), I discovered that my husband had left for Europe (probably in anger that I'd left) and the kids were living with my mother-in-law.

The frightening part of this is that everything was unemotional, as if I was afraid to feel anything about my husband, or this actor guy, or my own kids. I was numb, rather like the female character of my play is feeling. I kept wondering, while dreaming, what was going to happen to wake me up, and I realized that the only thing which could break me out of the misty funk I was in was my husband--his physical presence, his touch, a word of caring or recognition.

I woke up, and suddenly I knew what to do with my characters. They fell into place beautifully, and I knew that my main character had to know, in some real, certain way, that her husband wouldn't abandon her, that he'd be glued to her no matter how broken she was. Only then could she heal. If she thought he could get up and leave, she'd leave him first, just so that she wasn't the one left behind. And he needed the same assurance, that she wouldn't leave him like she'd left her own father, left so many other boyfriends before she'd met him, left so many jobs, left places and friends, anything that wore on her too much. His greatest fear was that she would take off, and he'd never see her again.

Heavy stuff for a morning, I know, but I appreciate my characters working through this for me, so that I could have the answers when I woke.

Now if I could just figure out who that film star was.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

If I were...

Writer Lady found a meme that seemed more fun than most... and you can check hers out from the link above. Here's mine, and if you want to do this exercise, too, feel free!

If I were . . .

If I were a month I’d be March.

If I were a day I’d be Monday.

If I were a time of day I’d be 6:30 a.m.

If I were a font I’d be Edwardian Script.

If I were a sea animal I’d be a narwhale.

If I were a direction I’d be northwest

If I were a piece of furniture I’d be an antique piano missing a few ivories.

If I were a liquid I’d be a warm chai latte.

If I were a gemstone I’d be a diamond.

If I were a tree I’d be a quaking aspen.

If I were a tool I’d be a pocket knife will all the trimmings.

If I were a flower I’d be a lily of the valley.

If I were an element of weather I’d be a thunderstorm.

If I were a musical instrument I’d be a piano (amazing how that works for two categories.)

If I were a color I’d be pale blue.

If I were an emotion I’d be enthusiasm.

If I were a fruit I’d be a raspberry.

If I were a sound I’d be laughter.

If I were an element I’d be oxygen.

If I were a car I’d be a sporty Volkswagon Beetle.

If I were a food I’d be German Pancakes (you'll have to ask me about this one--yummy!).

If I were a place I’d be a garden.

If I were material I’d be velvet.

If I were a taste I’d be buttery.

If I were a scent I’d smell like clean clothing.

If I were a body part I’d be a hand.

If I were a song I’d be Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!

If I were a bird I’d be a nightingale.

If I were a gift I’d be a book.

If I were a city I’d be Eureka, CA.

If I were a door I’d be solid, and inset with a stained-glass window.

If I were a pair of shoes I’d be running shoes with gel insoles.

If I were a poem I’d be a sonnet.

I'm not sure what this even says about me, but it was so much fun to do! A nice break from thinking too much. Now it's back to writing my play!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Writing Workshop

By a lucky chance, I found a little writers workshop right here, not fifteen miles away. A small $25 takes care of registration and lunch, and though we didn't plan for it time-wise, my sweet hubby said, "Go for it," when I saw the advertisement.

The great thing about workshops like these is that they don't have to be great to be inspiring. I went to one a few years ago that was mostly geared towards fantasy/sci-fi, and yet I came away from it ready to write. I met a bunch of other writers, we all got a bit giddy, and I returned home and wrote, wrote, wrote.

I hope the same happens today. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Writing Questions

Since I want to know all of these questions from you, I'll ask them of myself first:

1. Whose writing does your own most resemble?

Answer: My writing is probably most similar to Shannon Hale's YA lit.

2. Which writer's writing and revising habits does your method most resemble?

Answer: Gustav Flaubert. He'd work and rework a sentence for a month to make it right. I tend to revise my stuff eleventy-seven times before I find myself willing to send it out to anywhere really important.

3. Of past writers, which do you wish you had been in another life?

Answer: I wouldn't wish to live their lives (none were that happy), but I wish I'd written Shakespeare's stuff (obviously!)... if not his, then Austen's, Dickens's, or Chaucer's (even the bawdy ones). I'd also love to have written Hawthorne's novels.

And now, your answers...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dressing Up

Just for once
To be something
From another time or place
Olympian god

Lying, you say
Play acting
A childish game of pretend

Perhaps it is

But children know the truth of this

The clothes, the lace, the parasol
May not be the modern you
The you projected to the world
But it reflects the something of yourself
You keep
The someone whom you hide
And shut away
The someone others
Never understand

Shut it away no more
And play
Be open to the you
You can learn from
The you you can become.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


The bay door closes
The cacophony begins
Two little ones
Tired of sitting on their mothers' laps
Begin the wail of wails.

Mothers hush to no effect
Their voices taking turns with screams and cries
Which echo through the cabin
Curling all the hairs on necks
Of those without Bose headphones
Or hearing aids (turned down).

No use for it
No getting off
We can't just land the plane
And let the babies crawl around a bit
Nor can we get them sleeping
Their ear infection keeps them raging on

Four hours whine by
Grating, setting every nerve on edge
And as we stand to trudge on down the aisle
One passenger lies, "Your baby was so good!"

I fight the urge to flick her in the head.

Dear relatives,
Who want to see your lovely nieces'/nephews'/grandbabies' faces
Who nag and nag by phone to get a visit
Next time you feel the urge to nag
Do all of us a favor
Buy yourself a ticket
Get your own maturer self onto a plane
And go to see the family babies
To spare us all the torture.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I am on vacation (have been since Thursday--yippy!), and that means I have been moving into "writing mode." (Repeat: yippy!)

I admit, after a hard semester of teaching, it may take me several days of lying around and doing nothing before I can enter such a mode. I am also visiting a friend in Kansas, and we have discovered that we have vastly different ways of writing--she at a desk, I reclined; she with the television, I in utter silence (or with very soft music playing in the background). Right now, though, she is exhausted, finally relaxing after months of utter stress, so while she snores (softly) in the background, I can get some work done.


You see, I don't write for the money. I don't dream about being a famous writer while I'm drifting off to sleep at night. I don't dream of quitting my day job once I sell something. I just love the act--the feel--of writing. I like it better than a hot shower, as much as a cool breeze. It eases headaches, relaxes my shoulders, and draws me in better than a movie in a dark theatre. Writing is simply a fantastic exercise. Rather like painting.

Playwriting is the best, too, for it includes not only this ecstasy of writing, but also promises another treat in the future: getting my writing read by actors. I'm part of the Seattle Playwrights Collective, and the play I'm swimming in now is set to get a dramatic reading in May. That means, very soon, I will hear my play's words spoken by real, talented actors. I'll hear where the elements falter, where the plot doesn't thicken fast enough, and I'll have the privilege of hearing the parts that work as well.

I feel more lucky than I can say. I may never get one of my novels published, and no play of mine might make it to Broadway, but the act of writing and honing them is the best part.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Open up the world,
Reach out to all the jellybeans.

The pink ones are the sweetest
All rosy flavored
Looking cheerily
Out into the world
Friends with everyone.

Yellow ones nip a little
At your nose
But they look you full in the face
And tell the truth
But with shoulder rub
To ease the blow.

Green ones jump
Almost too hard to catch
But spend a moment with one
And the vigorous love of life
May rub off
At least a little.

The white ones soften
The universe
With doilies and happiness
And peaceful hearts
You want to hold onto them forever.

But not all of the jellybeans are worth eating.

Purple ones look lovely
From afar
But something in their insides
Isn't right
They leave your stomach queasy
Wondering what went wrong,
Why your heart hurts.

The black ones have a taste
That may strike well at first,
But they are strong
Too strong
They bite until your tongue hurts
And you want to spit them out.

Go ahead and spit them out.
The bad ones don't matter.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


[Note: For the next few posts--or however long it takes me to come down from my manic high--I'm going to be posting all about the stuff I LOVE... and if you prefer depressing, angst-ridden posts by me, you'll need to scroll down a few days (I have plenty of them to spare, I'm afraid). I'm too happy to be sad right now.]

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

-"Trees," by Joyce Kilmer

I won't quote the rest, mainly because the poem isn't really that good (but also because this is my blog, not Joyce Kilmer's). But I share Kilmer's sentiment, for I like pretty much nothing as supremely as trees. Why do you think I moved to Seattle? For the rain? Come on!

I have lived in many relatively treeless places in the past--Las Vegas, Kansas, Oklahoma, central Illinois (cornfields for as far as the eye can see)--and it wasn't fun. In the heat, the sun beats down without a break. In the winter, all I can see is gray. My soul dries out during the winter, crackling like the deciduous trees after an ice storm.

I know a lot of people love flowers--but my nose is sensitive, and I've found over the years that I react to many flowers. Easter lilies will drive me out of a church just so that my throat doesn't close up. Even now, walking through a spring-ish, flowering world, I find that my eyes water from the heady smell.

But remember that evergreen scent from a real Christmas tree? Heavenly. A divine mixture of earth, magic, and the color green.

Can you hear the rustle of the trees when the wind blows gently through them? Even in your mind, I know you can. Close your eyes and wait, and the same wind, touched with the warm green of the trees, will reach you. Julius Lester's novel Cupid suggests that if you stop and listen, you'll hear the message the trees are telling you, for the sound is their whispering, and only the true believer can understand it.

If you can, seek out the quaking aspen, my favorite tree EVER. It's from the poplar family, but is far smaller and more delicate than its cousin the cottonwood... Its leaves look like coins, green on one side, silver on the other, and when the wind blows through them, the whole tree shimmers like magic.

Check it out: Aspen Video

So, what are your favorite trees?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All Things Austen

[Note: For the next few posts--or however long it takes me to come down from my manic high--I'm going to be posting all about the stuff I LOVE... and if you prefer depressing, angst-ridden posts by me, you'll need to scroll down a few days (I have plenty of them to spare, I'm afraid). I'm too happy to be sad right now.]

I, like many women adore Jane Austen. Unlike some, I cannot say I'm a fan of the dresses usually displayed in illustrations and films. Instead, I love the manners, the characters, the walking around fields and other stuff that seems to happen. Vacuous? I beg to differ. I am many things, but not vacuous. Besides, I adore so much related to Austen's books, and I've recently found reasons to adore them even more.

I've long kept my heart Austen-centered, for I watched the original PBS version of Pride and Prejudice when I was in my teens, read the book, and read it again (and again, and again). I read it in graduate school, and realized at that point that the PBS version didn't do the book justice at all.

But then A and E's version came out--you know the one I'm talking about, with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Dreamy, dreamy, dreamy. I taped it all, then bought the VHS set, and a few years ago my brother bought me the 3-CD Special Edition. I've watched it every few months or so ever since the movie came out originally. It is by far the best version ever made. I also adored Gwineth Paltrow as Emma, the best version of that book I've seen. The film adaptation of Mansfield Park actually improved on the book, so I've seen that one several times over, too.

Recently, though, other Austen wonders have come out--not adaptations of the original novels, but new takes on the themes which run through them. PBS presented a delightful if impossible spin on Pride and Prejudice called Lost in Austen, taking the life of a woman fascinated with Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy character and turning it into a romp through the book, changing events in hilarious ways. (Yes, hilarious. Not just cute or quirky. Laugh out loud funny.)

And recently, I've read Shannon Hale's novel Austenland, a more realistic (sort of) exploration of a fictional "resort" for women who love Jane Austen's time period and characters. The resort goers dress in period costume, participate in pastimes of the period (lots of walks and whist), and mingle with paid actors who pretend to be "types" from the books. Several of my friends read the book as well, and we all wonder whether such a place exists. (It doesn't, at least not that I know of. Yes, I looked.)

So, there it is. And since many of my readers are men, don't think you'll be left out in future posts, for I have many other things I love to discuss. Besides, you could learn a lot from Mr. Darcy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Light is Coming

Two more items to grade for class, both due today, and I will be finished... so happy, I can hardly express it. My students will no doubt find their blood pressure lowers as soon as they have turned in the assignments. They will return home to study for Chemistry or Calculus, and I will tuck myself into the desk chair with some cheese and crackers and get to grading.

Funny to think about the end of term like this. My profession suits me, for it offers me an ending every few months, a moment of change, a chance to do things better. Classes end, and I can choose new textbooks, moved due dates, and modify how I work through an upcoming class.

New students will enter the class next term, if only because those students who do not earn a C or above will not be able to get into my courses to retake them (since mine are filled and have huge waitlists). I love meeting new students, and I love how a class changes because the student body changes. I also love seeing students again, but in a new setting, with different tasks set for them.

Change is probably one of the greatest blessings of my life. I love changing my furniture around (and have since I was very young). I love moving to new places. I love meeting new people. I love the adventure of trying new teaching methods, mixing things up, reading new books. I love the changes my children undergo on a daily basis, the growth my students manage in a single semester.

I love that I'm forty now. It's a nice change, and it seems to whisper that more change is coming.

I can't wait.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Birthday Grading

So many Facebook friends have wished me a happy birthday today. I've never been so inundated with messages (and it's kind of surprising, for I check out my Facebook page about once every three months).

Birthday wishes, alas, often do not come to fruition. I woke at four this morning, after four--yes, four--hours of sleep, so that I could continue to grade the last smaller for both of my classes. I finished one class's papers, and the bright spot in my day was being able to hand them back to students today. Then I came home to find that my son had spit in a kid's face during library time, and I had to meet with him and a school librarian to go over all of it (when kids do horrid things, that's what the schools make us parents do).

My husband won't be home for at least another 2 1/2 hours (he's at an enforced event--can't get out of it), and since my son was awful, we didn't even get to go to Taco Bell for some Gorditas. What did I have? A salad. And now I'm writing to all of you, even though I still have eleven papers to grade by tomorrow morning, and my neck hurts.

I'd really like to relax and watch something completely vacuous on television. I'd like a handsome massage therapist to come to my door and tell me "someone" hired him to give me a two-hour massage. I want to build a fire in the fireplace, cozy up to a hot chai, listen to some great music, or just go to sleep and make up for all I lost last night.

But I can't do any of that. I can't even talk on the phone with anybody right now, for I don't have the time to spare. I shouldn't be writing my blog right now. I'll just pay for it later, when I have to get up at four again to grade what I didn't get to.

I sure hope my lame birthday doesn't mean I have to be an adult now. Sure, I don't go for all the presents and stuff, or the balloons, or the decorated cake, but I almost feel like my birthday just didn't happen, like my birthday came and went and I didn't notice.

Weird. I hope to post something happier tomorrow. I'll have all the papers graded by then!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bogged Down

Sorry, everyone, but I am swamped with papers at the moment. I probably won't be able to blog until Thursday, for grading (and teaching) takes precedence...

See you soon, I hope!