Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ever since I started meditating

...more often I've found myself in a really bad mood. Is that common? I've read about a "clearing" stage, but I've been meditating twice a day for two weeks (quite the jump from the occasional cross-legged try here and there), and I noticed it a little the first week but in the last week I've just been snappy. Perhaps it's unrelated, a coincidence, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Despite my bad mood, I have found solace in my readings. I've read some crazy-good work for PANK this week, and I'm judging Otterbein's Quiz & Quill awards this year, and I'm thrilled for these future grads. There are some names in this submission pile that I'll be looking out for. Anyway, my other reason for posting mid-week is: I think this is the coolest thing ever, and I wanted to show off. I have a QR code for my website! I tested it out on my phone, and it works. How awesome! Now I just need to covertly post this everywhere. Perhaps a future in tagging?

I'll try to write a short post this weekend, but in case I don't I'll be checking in. This is it! The big trip! At the end of the week, I will be entering the writing zone.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Housewives do not have the luxury of ecophobia

I’m reading Tenth of December, and I have to say that George Saunders deserves every bit of praise he has received for this book. What makes him special is that, well, he’s genuinely special. His style is not pretentious or restrained, it's playful and smart and funny; and, and, he’s doing what seems impossible in the literary world: he’s getting acclaim as a short story writer. No stuffy, bogged-down or forced novels needed. His characters know when their time is up, and I can say that each story left me satisfied. Saunder’s crisp, vibrant, free-feeling short stories are changing the scene, and I love him for it. More, I love his interviews. If you want a taste of the fiction, check out the collection's namesake here, published in the New Yorker.

I used to subsist on Hot Pockets. 

Good to know there are now cheaper options out there.

My late-blooming love for George Saunders aside, I came to the realization yesterday that if I was a housewife, I would likely die within a few months. This was a hurtful realization because technically being a housewife for me would just mean not working the day jobs, which would, in turn, allow me to write full-time (I'd still be a housewife, not a writer if one is labeling by the way one actually lives day-to-day ie gets the bils paid). Imagine just working part-time... Imagine how much writing I'd get done! But no, it's not going to happen for me. Not that I'd die of boredom or anything symbolic like that. Like I said, I'd write until I could parlay that into a career. But no, I mean, I worry being home too much would actually be the death of me. I'll explain further, but first, a few items to my credit: I keep a clean home (the husband helps out). I have routines. And, since my health scare and subsequent health kick, I have to admit that I’m getting pretty damn good at cooking. I make salmon, burgers (for the husband), quinoa, salads, dynamite smoothies, guacamole, beans and rice, risotto, and a few other things that aren’t microwavable; but this increased time in the kitchen has directly correlated to the increased number of at-home accidents.

According to a handy estate planning article I came across while researching accidents, an American is killed in an at-home accident every 29 minutes. I have one work-from-home day three weeks out of the month, I spend many weekend hours at home, and the occasional vacation or sick day; but overall, I’m not home much. I work two jobs most of the year, and I write in coffee shops or, if at home, I do not much move from my desk. Still, I manage to find myself post-accident at least once a month. Accordingly, I think my odds are higher than most, and if I were home more my days would be numbered. 

A few months ago, I brunt my cheek with boiling water (the water had oil in it). The mark is fading and I got a good short story idea from the incident, but it was pretty ugly for a while. I was going into the office with a large bandage on my cheek. And seeing as how the office life thrives on gossip, people found his highly intriguing which I, in turn, found highly annoying. So, while healing from that I thought back to my ironing accident after a few days home years ago. I still have a scar on my arm from that, and I thought, hm, maybe I can never be one of those domestic goddesses I admire. Then yesterday, the maybe was erased as I set a giant plastic spoon on fire while making ravioli. The flames were reaching at me, and it was frightening. I'm not exactly sure how it all happened. All I know is that I had given the ravioli a good stir then (in my unhousewifely way) set the spoon down next to the pot. I was able to put the fire out easily enough, but the melted plastic on the stove was a bitch to clean and the smell was, well, the smell of burning plastic. 

Bottom line: I decided yesterday, as I inhaled the post-plastic-melt and apologized to my dog for the scream and frantic running around that I could see was stressing him out, that I will never be a housewife. I'd made this decision when I was a little girl, too, but I just remade it. For practical reasons. My husband and I did enjoy the ravioli though, for the record, as the food itself was not affected.

In writing news, I have contributed a piece of fiction to an anthology geared toward helping the victims of Sandy, the devastating 2012 storm. This anthology is a wonderful effort to help those in New Jersey who are still struggling. You know, we hear about these things and we help immediately, but the aftermath remains. Anyway, if you're a writer or a reader interested, you can get updates on the book, here: OH SANDY! An Anthology of Humor for a Serious Purpose.

Well, if you need me, I'll be spending the weekend packing for Vermont, watching Game of Thrones, and trying to calm my restless mind. Oh, and I have set the goal for myself to write two flash stories this weekend. They can suck, I am allowing myself that right, but they must be written. I need a warm up for the next few weeks. Did I mention I fly out next weekend? I'm excited, a little nervous about not making the most of it, but mostly I'm just thrilled. Damn it, I'm going to get to write!  

Cheers! To the weekend!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Off and on

Ever had one of those days (weeks) when you just feel off? That's me. For instance, I'm chewing a piece of 5 gum right now, a gum brand I usually find satisfying, and for some reason it tastes like paint thinner. I thought I was getting sick but ended up just feeling kind of weak and achy for a few days, so I guess I fought it off. I made many small, avoidable errors at work and in life (oops, forgot my keys; oops, didn't mean to send that email yet; oops, did I just upload the wrong file again?). I was beginning to think that I was subconsciously self-destructing. But really, I think it's just one of those weeks. 

I just spit out that gum, and I kind of want another piece. But I'll throw the pack away. Okay, so talking about my ineptitude at life this past week is boring, so on to other things. I read a horrible review of some of my older work, which I know shouldn't but kind of affected me. I did not win the Black River Chapbook competition, but I am still honored to be a finalist; I look forward to reading the winner's book.

Along with my meh and out-of-it news, I have good news! Lots of it.

Writing: I got a piece I really love accepted to JMWW, which is one of my favorite journals to read online. I revised one of the strangest pieces I've ever written. I think it's ready to submit, but I have no idea where it would fit. And see the two new pubs this week.

Reading: My reading life is good because a copy of Hobart 14 arrived in the mail, so I've been devouring that. Also, I received a book from Claire Ibarra, Dreams of Duality, which I won (don't usually win stuff). I look forward to reading it next.

Personal: I went to the dentist and though he did try to sell me a toothbrush, he said I was doing good... no cavities and gums are okay. I bought not one, but two new pillows. I got a $14 haircut that ended up great, better than the $30 one I got a year ago.

And the absolutely best news imaginable: My sister, who has been looking for full-time work for almost five years, got a job! A good job with benefits! At OSU! I couldn't be happier for her. Go Bucks!!!

Two new publications this week: 

Available this week... In the meantime, check out their website by clicking on the picture. It's amazing, the art they sample that is featured in this issue. I was blown away and can't wait to see the print version.

Off to write... hope you all have an on week.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Meditate, Yeah

This week's lessons: Energy is energy is energy. It must be channeled. Also, it's far easier to meditate when you're already in a stoic mood.

Man, I've been restless. My restlessness is positive, and I think the result of the fact that I feel great. Since I got sick before the holidays, I've been really (perhaps annoyingly) healthy with a very-little-dairy, no-soy, super veggie-packed diet. My exercise is the same as before (though now with the addition of weekend walks with the husband), and I have energy to burn. Go figure!

The point here is that I need my mediation more than ever. It is important because I tend toward being a bit restless in general (i.e. high strung), which is even easier when I'm healthy and have nothing weighty to distract the mind. Here's my mediation practice, in case you're curious or restless yourself and not good with mediation either: I begin with a breathing exercise in which I take 20 seconds to inhale, 20 seconds to hold my breath, and 20 seconds to exhale (this is the hard part, and it took me a few days to work up to the full minute breath). I do this until my mind slows enough that I can concentrate on my regular breath. I usually can't just dive right into mediation, so this is what has (mostly) worked for me. Then my ten minutes or so begins. It's a mediation trick I've kept around for years, knowing I'd use it regularly one day. Right now, it's coming in handy.

What else? Well, I saw two movies (very peculiar since I rarely go to the movies): Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. I enjoyed them both. Django Unchained was a cartoon-violent, quick-witted, well-acted, difficult-to-watch, only-Quinton Terantino-could-pull-this-off type of movie. Recommendations for going to this movie: 1. Do not go to a theater that serves beer or other alcoholic beverages. Much of my co-audience was loud and stupid. 2. Do not bring your children. Really, people. 3. Go expecting a movie that treats violence and inhumanity like a piece of surreal (Western-themed) art.

Yesterday, I saw Silver Linings Playbook, which was pretty great. I loved that it was about mental illness but still well done. I found the characters of the policeman and the psychologist wholly unbelievable. I found Robert De Niro perfect, and the rest of it... yeah, pretty great. It was just the right mix of funny and sad and slow and fast. Solid pacing, solid acting.

Writing news: I got a solicitation for my short story collection, which I am preparing to submit this weekend. This is good news, but like all good news in my life, a little unnerving because now I want to re-re-review everything before submitting. I really want this next book to be exactly as it should be. I will not allow myself to hurry to publication anymore. But if you love a thing, let it go, right? We'll see what happens.

Also in writing news, I have been working on the Wallace story (Absurd Hunger) in anticipation of my residency in Vermont. I'm excited about it again and had the realization that integrating some of my favorite short story characters will serve the story well. It's coming together like a puzzle in my mind. A years-in-the-making puzzle. I wonder if this is how it's supposed to go with the long works.

Have a beautiful weekend, all. Be healthy; be well; read a book. Or these: FICTION My husband did all the black and white drawings. I'm trying to get him to do one for each of my stories, though I suppose that's keep him busy a while.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Read, Walk, Repeat

Over the weekend, I thought a lot about Vermont but did nothing to prepare. It's less than a month away, and I have quite a bit to do, but it feels years off for some reason. Or maybe it doesn't feel real. So what did I do this weekend instead? Not much, and it was wonderful. I read and I walked. 


On my list this weekend was Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You. I bought the book after listening to the "The Swim Team," a short story in this collection, online. That story remains my favorite of the collection. For me, the reading of this book was kind of like buying an entire album because you love a single. July's stories are consistently good, insightful, and oddly humorous; but, I found the novelty of her style lost on subsequent stories. That said, I think this is a book I'll return to, one story at a time. Altogether, the thing blurs. 

I also read Sherman Alexie's Blasphemy because a friend was posting about it on Facebook, and again, I have loved the few short stories I've read by Alexie, and I enjoyed Smoke Signals, but I've never read an entire book of his. I'm only a few stories in, and so far, I rather love this collection. His prose is easy to get lost in. As a reader, I forget the literature of the thing and just enjoy and appreciate; also, I'm consistently caught off-guard by the characters. Alexie has his tells--I can't think about his stories without thinking cling peaches and  tender but distanced male narrators, for instance--but his work feels new and surprises all over again each time I read him. So far, anyway. Also on my reading list this weekend were the January issue of THRUSH, a few stories at Carve, and quite a few articles. 

I read a dozen stories for PANK (I'm back at it, so blame me), and I read two friends' works. Somehow, I also managed to begin watching Game of Thrones (first season). I'm already committed to watch the rest, so I suppose that's an endorsement in of itself, but will reserve judgement until I get through Season I. 


Along with my modest workout routine, I found myself walking quite a bit. My husband resolved to get in better shape this year, and I want to be a part of it, so we are beginning slow: a walk with the occasional jog around a 2.5 mile loop near our home. And because my dog still expects his 2 mile walks on weekend mornings, and subsequent daily strolls, it all added up to a nice amount of fresh air, which is something I had no idea how much I needed. Walking time is meditation time. Well, unless we see the neighborhood skunk. 

When we began dating almost ten years ago, Chris and I would walk in the fancy-pants neighborhoods in Columbus and talk about what we wanted to do and how we had to make it possible. I've rarely but longingly thought of those walks, and now that we're back at it, I feel that old sensation of optimism and hope I had as a beginning writer and college student. As we discuss our goals nowadays, we are focusing on timing our walks and plan to shave a minute off each day. Small goals are the best goals.

So basically I was just entertained all weekend. And I took a lot of walks. How lucky was that? Now, for a full week of being back to the daily chores/obligations/routines. In the meantime, please send me some good vibes. My short story chapbook is a finalist for the Black River Chapbook Competition at Black Lawrence Press. I tend to be the literary equivalent of always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride, so I'll accept my finalist status as my own personal win. But man, I'd love to work with BLP. We'll see.  

I wish you all a wonderful week. Read and walk, if you find the time. Both are curative.  

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...