Friday, April 29, 2011

Short Story America

I was planning to write a lengthy post about some genius thought I was having last week (I can't for the life of me remember what it was), but I was robbed on Tuesday. I was gone an hour, came back and all electronics were gone, along with my wedding ring (which I had left off because I had been exercising... my students gave me a hard time about that one) and my grandmother's jade ring, which wouldn't earn ten bucks at a pawn shop but meant quite a bit to me.

What's right up there with the jade ring loss is the fact that I lost my computer, and any notes of genius are now in a pawn shop somewhere being stripped down and disposed of. Who knows, maybe my computer will turn up?

What's funny about life is the strange ways it balances out. Writing-wise, things are looking up. I got a confirmation that my piece in Narrative Magazine will be appearing in the fall. A short piece of fiction I wrote a while back, which appears in TO BEGIN AGAIN, "Disengaged", is being featured in an anthology by Short Story America, which is now available here.
(It's my first hardcover, and I'm pretty excited about it.)

Also, To Begin Again, my new collection of short stories, recieved a lovely review from Feathered Quill Book Reviewers:

As Chris and I robber-proof our apartment over the next week and I attempt to catch up on writing, I will also attempt to rewrite the post I began for this weekend's blog. In the meantime, if you're like me and you live in an apartment complex where yout think no one would be stupid enough to rob you, think again. Renter's insurance is cheap, and I sure wish I would've had it on Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Years

It's been two years that I've been married. For kicks, I thought I'd revisit my thoughts surrounding the first year of my marriage. 

I took my vows on 4/20/09
Posted Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Usually, I do the dishes, take out the trash, clean the bathroom, and generally straighten up the apartment. In exchange, Chris does the laundry. Lately, however, my husband has been sleeping late, which means if we want our turn in the laundry rooms during the weekends, a competitive time for apartment laundry-doers, we have to get in early. In other words, I have to start the loads.
Yesterday, I hauled four loads down to the laundry room at 5AM, and as I threw clothes into the washer, something brushed my fingertip. It was a cluster of receipt paper in a pair of Chris's jeans; I pulled it out, mildly disappointed that it wasn't money, and noticing that there was no trash can anywhere, I held on to it.
When I got back to the apartment, I went to place the paper by Chris's keys, but then I noticed the writing. I got flashbacks to men I've dated, whose pockets would likely contain a girl's phone number. Maybe two. It wasn't that I suspected Chris, but the scene itself had that bitter nostalgic taste.
As I looked at the papers closely, I was immediately jealous. Chris's first love mocked me in her foreign language. Yes, friends, Chris had furiously scrawled all over these papers--math equations. He was practicing Entropy on the backs of found receipts. At one time, I would have laughed, but now, after six years with Chris (six months married), I simply smiled. My husband is a workaholic.
I will never understand Chris's passion for Entropy, but I do appreciate it as he appreciates me, typing away with no regard for human life or existence around me, hours at a time. Right now, I think we're perfect for each other.

Friday, November 13, 2009
Chris is currently on a business trip, the second this week, and I miss him. This could be considered evidence of his workoholism, or merely evidence of his company's trust in him as a representative. Either way, it's difficult for both of us when he travels so often: it means my schedule must adjust accordingly, to take proper care of the animals and ensure travel arrangements are in order. It means he is worn out and constantly making preparations. So, does this feel like a burden to me? Well...
Again, I miss him. But not too much. You see, I don't think love should be contingent on 24/7, in-your-face contact, but rather on a consistent amount of support and UNCONDITIONAL love. Sure, the husband has a few habits I'd like broken (fantasy football, TruTV...). And sure, there are a few things he wishes I would change (The amount of time I spend on the computer, the fact I don't cook, the fact that I forget to put on my wedding ring because I'm not used to wearing jewelry...) Moreover, I still find mathematical equations scribbled on loose sheets of paper; but hey, that's love in this house (apartment).
So far so good, right? Yeah, I think we're good. We're good. 
Verdict: ___________
I'll post on this again at the one year mark. 

Monday, April 20, 2010 A Meditation on Marriage: Year One

The first thing I learned about marriage is that it's not at all the way anyone, especially married people, told me it would be.  It's been a year, and now I wake up each morning and put on my wedding ring without thinking, just the same way I brush my teeth and put on my shoes before leaving the house.  But other than this, what's really changed?

Chris and I had spent six years living together before taking what some people refer to as the plunge, and when we both woke up on the morning of our wedding day, we agreed that we would not change; we were happy, and we entered matrimony with cautious optimism.  When I say cautious, I might mean anxious, scared as hell.  Let me be clear, I wasn't worried that I wasn't marrying the right man nor was I concerned that Chris wasn't in love with me.  What worried me were the numerous divorces I'd witnessed, including my own parents divorce, and the pathetic statistics attached to lasting marriages.  What was marriage doing to people?  The union itself seemed to have the power to consume the most passionate relationships I'd witnessed and I worried about it's destructive powers.
Truthfully, we were doing it for practical reasons, to ensure we could take care of each other and commit to each other under the imposing umbrella of society.  We were partners, and willing to do whatever to prove this to the world, but marriage was mysterious and everyone's advice: contradictory, conciliatory; as their wisdom, warnings, etc... worried us both.
OK, OK, so what's changed?  What's changed is, I suspect, the same changes that would have occurred had we not married.  We have only become closer and more connected on an emotional level.  Sure, we have arguments, usually just because one or the other of us is in a bad mood; and there are certain days we're both in bad moods and these fights turn to uneasy silences.  But here's the thing, they never last.  Wether or not we find common ground on a matter, we always discuss it, and we discuss it soon after we argue, and as a result, the subject of the argument finds it's place on the totem pole, far below our commitment, married or no.
So, communication is good.  Practically, change has occurred in the form of combined debts, combined assets, combined paperwork, and this is messy.  But, perhaps given the fact that we both earned masters degrees under the Bush regime, we owe a lot of money, and therefore don't fight over money (a thing we don't yet have).
I have to say it, the mysterious nature of marriage isn't so mysterious anymore.  It's surprisingly comforting, and it's taught me to wear jewelry regularly, but other than that, I'm proud to say, the plunge was nothing to fear after all.  Sure, some would say, we're still newlyweds, but we're still taking risks together, for the good of each other, and I doubt we'll stop.
Over the weekend, for instance, we shared the cake we'd frozen (as was suggested to us by a friend) a year ago, and, equally worried that the icing wouldn't hold up as well as we had, we toasted with bite-sized pieces of defrosted cake and took another plunge, hoping, wishing, cautiously optimistic that we wouldn't get food poisoning.  So far, so good.

The beauty of today, April 20th, 2011, is that I'm still happily married. 
The practical reasons, ironically, haven't panned out too well. Chris's insurance hasn't been very good at all, and I haven't changed my name, so sometimes we still have to explain that we're married.
Yep! We're still here, still in love, and I don't have any disgusting, old cake to eat to prove it (neither of us suffered from food poisoning, but Chris's stomach was a little achy after that cake last year). Sure, as we age our ears have grown and little lines are forming around our eyes, but ears just give a person something to pull on when nervous, and most of the lines are from smiling. I can honestly say, at the two year mark, I have no complaints. Then again, I hear the three year marker is make or break ... knowing that our marriage is not guaranteed to last is the very thing that keeps us (me) thankful to have each other (him). (Yes, I'm talking for Chris. I can do that. We're married, after all.) 

So here's to another year! To the love of my life! (It must be harder for him than me. Luckily, he doesn't write.) 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Writing & Art I

Now that I know, personally, what music I can listen to as I write (very little to none), I've decided to revisit the art of prompts, and to do so through my own personal collection of art.

The image above is by Mark R. Knox, KnoxworX Multimedia. (Yes, my dad.) And he's been generous enough to allow me to explore his images here on my blog. I'll take my time because I'm a slow writer, and I'm a self-conscious writer (I wish I could revise every single thing I've had published and I probably will).

Back to the art.

This is part of the "Mannequin Series", 2008-____. In each of these pieces, the same mannequin is used (sometimes just a piece of her) to evoke different moods; I see this one as simulation in a natural setting. Often, only a single part of the mannequin is used for each piece--in this case, her hands. (A short aside: When my father first invested in the mannequin, she creeped me out. She was placed so that she was staring at the dinner table in his apartment; when I visited a few years ago, in fact, and I remember talking with my father and step-mother at the dinner table about some nice, mundane thing only to look up and see two marble green, inanimate eyes fixed in my direction and feel my heart pick up a bit. I remember telling my father that the mannequin was one of his stranger possessions and that I'd be grateful if she could be put away somewhere. I have learned to respect the mannequin as a valuable device for my father's art, but in person, I doubt I'll ever get used to her presence when visiting my father--that said, her head is now gone and replaced with a sculpture, which helps a little. The eyes were the worst.)  Art-wise, I like this series because it is quite diverse. I have no reason for picking this one to begin with. In fact, it's kinda dark, jeez!  

The goal here is to write a short flash piece or prose poem responding to this image in May. If this image inspires you, I'd love to read your work, and to post it. Drop me a note or share what you write below.

This is an acquired taste for me, writing to prompts, and I'd love company.


Friday, April 1, 2011

A Writing Practice Soundtrack: Part II

I wrote a new piece every other day, on average, for the second half of the month. This was the unstated portion of my odd little experiment with music and writing. I’ve been writing “shorts” flashes, poetic paragraphs if you will and the occasional poem or micro essay, while accompanied by the artists/albums in the post below this one.

Picasso's Three Musicians
Some artists didn't work with me. Goodie Mob, for instance, was distracting in that I would start to write then begin to bob my head (slight tilt to the right) and then I’d get totally distracted. I'm not kidding here. Rap music makes me want to dance, and it does not (given the limited options I tried) feed my immediate need to write. Rock, and there’s a lot of rock here: ditto, minus the dancing; add a slightly tightened gaze and more of an immediate head nod. Hard rock: enjoyable, but it really just made me drink my coffee quicker. Classical: a small gift. In fact, I’m listening to a classical station e-crafted by Pandora right now. I fancy instrumental music when I write. Blogs. Essays. When it comes to fiction, memoir, poetry: not so much.

Clumping together the genres as I am, next up was the jazz and alternative beats, which oddly had the same effect: a more poetic feel, a closer attention to cadence in the work at hand. Thanks to a friend's recommendation, I am now a devoted listener to Dexter Gordon and probably will be until I die. But Gordon inspires something in me that is less immediate than I need in the moment-to-moment past-time that is my writing practice. He and other musicians inspire something more far-reaching, I think. In other words, I now have a lot of bad poetry on my desktop. I say it is bad poetry because it is. It’s horrible poetry. But, maybe one day I can make it into good poetry. This is often the way with writing, and chances are my fiction is bad, too, but I am yet to realize it because I'm more easily romanced by my own fiction. 

When it comes down to it, I still need total and utter silence in order to indulge my favorite writing genres: fiction and essay. I can handle the sound of my coffee pot growling or the Southwestern birds chirping and screaming and carrying on as they do. When it came to this little experiment, I have to say that I would begin writing in just as clunky and awkward a manner as I always do, despite what song was playing. But, as soon as I got into the story, it didn’t matter what was playing, it distracted me. It was like my thought stream had to compete suddenly, even if it was just with a beat, even a good beat. I suppose I have to make my own beat. Or immerse myself in the beat, only to let it simmer there and come out in my writing in quieter times. 

Immediate Conclusion: I tend toward writing bad poetry with soft rhythms, a little bit better poetry with jazz and instrumental. Soft tunes indulge my blog writing—which I see as a one-sided conversation, not so much a literary work. I need complete silence for everything else.

I doubt this is of any use to you in your own practice because the ideal writing environment is a highly subjective thing, but it was an interesting experiment. Music became just another distraction when I really got immersed. Sometimes, I didn’t even notice I had shut off the music until I was done with a piece. Apparently, I crave solitude in a real way when I write. But now, I have an arsenal of music that will be playing when I’m doing just about anything else around the house, anything but writing. 

Observations: Dublin Vacation

Dublin seemed the obvious destination. We would be close to various restaurants and tourist attractions. It would be easy to call a cab or...