Friday, March 29, 2013

Moving forward

Springtime means change and transition. Here in San Antonio, the springtime also means it will soon be hot, triple-digit hot, and that we'll start hearing about rationing water; likely, we'll notice less water pressure in the shower, and we'll walk on crunchy brown grass as we hope for rain. There is always the beautiful with the bad though. And here, that means wildflowers. Southeastern San Antonio has a few spots that are abloom right now, according to my research, so a short weekend drive is definitely in order. When you live somewhere flat (Ohio) or dry (Texas), somewhere with no water or mountains nearby, you have to find the natural beauty where you can.

My dog is stable. He's actually really active in the mornings and has been jogging a little on his walks. I'm not sure if I should discourage this, but I say he should enjoy his life, so a little jog here and there is a good thing. He's loving his new all-natural diet, and all the attention he gets being a patient (not to mention all the chicken he gets that we wrap around the 5.5 daily pills he takes for his heart).

I got off work a little early today thanks to Good Friday and a kind boss. So, after I check my Alamo email for messages from my creative writing students, I'm going to workout, then relax and spend this weekend with my family; and since last weekend was robbed from me by a serious cold, I plan to live it up. I hope you do the same. Start it off by reading "When Pretty People Disappoint" (more below).

Writing News:

  • I got a rejection yesterday, and one on Monday, but both were positive. The try-us-again sort of rejection, not just the best-of-luck-elsewhere type. So I'll take those as wins.
  • I have a new piece in JMWW (mentioned above)I hope you read it. My good friend JP Reese is in there, too (nice surprise), along with Jules Archer and Len Kuntz. Great work, all. I really love JMWW, and am thrilled.
  • I have not looked for an agent (will I ever?) but am still thinking about it
  • I have a completed a full-length short story collection, so there's that. Guess it's a good reason to revisit the above bullet.
  • I was Finalist in yet another Glimmer Train Competition. This makes four finalist status reports there since I began writing. 
  • I will soon be reading in Eastfield for the Eastfield Literary Arts Festival. More on that soon.
  • I got the paperback copy of Oh Sandy, and it's amazing. It's for a good cause, so if you buy it, know that you're helping victims of Sandy who are still suffering in New Jersey. But also know, this book will make you laugh. There's some great stuff in there.

Happy Good Friday, Happy Easter, Happy April Fool's, and Happy Spring!!!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Here and there


Oh Sandy: An Anthology of Humor for a Serious Purpose is an anthology masterminded and executed by Lynn Beighly, Peter Barlow, and AJ Fader. All proceeds from this book are going to help victims of Sandy, who are still suffering and no longer thought about by the larger world. The slant here is to bring humor to catastrophe because, well, if we can't laugh at disaster it destroys us. I've begun reading it, and it's really a great collection full of heart and diverse in voice; more, it's damn funny. I'm pretty proud of the piece I wrote for it also, "Movie Night," which prior to being included here was a finalist for Glimmer Train's Award for New Writers under the name "The Hero."

I am currently shopping two stories, both of which I really love. I've begun researching agents. And that's the extent of my writing news for this week. 


Life itself is what it is. My dog is getting a sort of second wind right now. After I posted last, we got even more dismal news about his condition, that his heart disease was pretty far along and he officially had congestive heart failure. But, we're doing what we can. Thanks to a pricey combination of water pills, Vetmedin, and Enalapril, he even jogged a little this morning.  I am thankful for these pills. (And this coming from the woman who wouldn't even take an aspirin unless I was doubled over in pain.) Thank you, pricey pills, for giving my buddy a little more time. Of course, we're taking natural measures, too. We've removed all high-sodium foods and treats from his diet and started feeding him more whole ingredients. I found a good article on making your own dog food which, given prices of the good stuff, I might start doing. Anything to give him quality of life for a while longer.

I'm ready to begin teaching a new creative writing class on Monday, so it'll be busy, busy... Hope your week is busy with the good things.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Appreciating every wind

I received my dog's diagnosis today, and I had to write about it.

Buddha was named almost immediately after my husband and I adopted him because he was so incredibly stoic. Let me just say that this dog is the best. Whose dog isn't, I know, but really... he's perfect. He doesn't bark. He's a lapdog. He's a cuddler. He's a little hesitant of other dogs, but loves people, cats, and (unfortunately) possums. Ever since I got him, I've taken him on long walks every morning and afternoon. He gets a short walk at night. During these walks, he moves slowly, and when there's a cool wind here in South Texas, he stops walking and puts his nose up to feel the fresh air hit his face. Buddha loves life, and has a habit of relaxing into it--so much so that I have had to tug him sometimes because I have to get to work.

We found out that Buddha has a heart murmur a year or so ago, and the vet told us that this was the result of the heart worms he had when we adopted him. About two weeks ago, we noticed Buddha was more laid back than usual. And when the day came that he refused his treats, we scheduled an appointment. After lots of expensive testing, we've determined that he has heart disease, and judging from the enzymes in his blood and his X-rays, it's moderate. His heart is giving out as mine breaks.
I've read a lot about this, and I am taking steps to get Buddha healthier. My husband and I switched his food to Blue Buffalo Senior, which doesn't add all the sodium that his previous food does. We have him on a diuretic to help relieve the pressure on his heart, and we've switched out his treats. More, my buddy is now getting to stop and enjoy the wind all he wants. 

While we walk now, I realize that my having to tug might have often been because Buddha just needed to catch his breath and embrace the moment. So now we walk a little slower; and with our fragile hearts, we enjoy every second. We leave earlier so that we can pause and engage every wind. 

I've read that some dogs can live a good while, outlast the odds, with the right lifestyle, and we're shooting for that. If you have any advice, please let me know. I know to listen to the vet first, but I also know to go beyond and learn as much as I can because this is how you defy the odds. And defying odds is what this guy is all about. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Try if you must

When I was eight, I started running street races, from 5K to 5 miles. I hated running when I first started. It was my father's idea, and a way to get me out of my shell. I felt it obligatory and ridiculous, but I also started getting recognition—the trophies rolled in for the 10 & under category. People were easily impressed by me because I was super small and super goofy looking with my bright red hair, odd fashion sense, and hexagon glasses (the picture below depicts a good fashion day for me), and I was finishing these races. I'm not sure the running itself brought me out of my shell, but it did teach me a lot about the difference between doing a thing because you love it and doing it because it's what you're supposed to and it brings you recognition. It also, oddly, taught me a lot about the value of kicking back. 

I bring this up because I have been thinking a lot about writing and what motivates people (both who identify themselves as writers and those who don't) to do it. I came to writing in the opposite way that I came to run competitively. I just started writing because I loved it—no one asked me to, there was no secondary goal—and I could care less if anyone else read what I wrote because the process was in of itself a reward. It seemed to offer the same sort of healthy escapism that reading did when I wrote fiction and something more transcendent when I tackled nonfiction. It became a way to let it out, whatever it was from day to day.

For some (some would argue the lucky ones, but I’d say the durable and hardworking ones), writing begins to be recognized. It wins the writer awards and becomes a sort of performance sport as solicitations come in and the writer's end goal suddenly becomes publication. I recently began thinking again about trying to find an agent and really holding back any work from being published online for a while, and I'm thinking this because I am rather tired of the submission process. I want to write for the writing's sake for a while. At least for a few months, to see how it goes, and I know I need to relax in order to do so.

Running those races was always nerve shaking to me, and though I would feel good after the race most of the time, I also became overly obsessed with collecting trophies and beating my last time. As I got older, the trophies became harder to earn. I began straining my body by pushing myself in training and I found myself worrying for nights leading up to each race. I studied techniques and cross-trained. I did it all, and still, I seemed to be losing ground. Each race was more frightening and more disappointing than the last. I was getting a little faster, but the world around me was getting much faster.

The day finally came, one race day morning, when I decided I didn't give a damn. I woke up and made the conscious decision to take it easy. My father and I arrived at the Tomato Town Trot, a five mile race that was becoming an annual tradition, and I felt no nerves because I had decided that this race didn’t count. I didn't worry about placing in the race, and I didn't think about my time. I just ran. I talked to other runners, and I enjoyed the scenery. 

I had run many races by that time, and I had never enjoyed any part except crossing the finish line. Well, that and the ceremony at the end. Running was work. It was serious business. I never accepted water from the sidelines because I knew drinking water would take precious seconds off my time. I was focused and caught up in the competition. But this race, for the first time, I took the water. Hell, during the Tomato Town Trot, I even walked for a moment to drink my water. It was like I wasn't even trying. I finished that race in well under 40 minutes. This had been my goal for over a year, I was ten, and I'd finally done it. This was the race in which I began to enjoy running.

In a way, I think it's important to find this point in a writing career, where it's not about stockpiling publications, but writing for writing's sake. At least it's important for me. Perhaps it’s a good way to look at life in general. I welcome publication, and will continue to share my work with those interested as I'd hope writers whose work I enjoy and admire will, but my goal when writing is only to write. And I think in making this decision consciously, a writer can somehow manage to both kick back and move forward.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!! 
Oh, and since I was at the Spurs game last night: Go Spurs Go!!!

I wish you all a beautiful week.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wish List

I've been reaching for a lot lately, and my goals seem to be a little steeper than I thought they were. They are not out of reach, but I need to find a damn ladder or step stool. That said, I've been daydreaming a lot this week and reading news and writing odd little stories in between these pesky migraines. And in this dreamy head space, I have been wishing for a lot. One thing I know true for myself is, wishes don't come true. Wishes must be reigned in, restructured into goals, and then steps are made toward said goals.

But there are also those longings that aren't goals and can't be, at least not for me. These longings are destined to remain wishes and longings. But, as Audre Lorde said (my favorite quote of all time here, people), "I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood." 

So, I thought, why not share my wish list?  

I wish....

people were less hypocritical

wheatgrass tasted better

smart, empathetic people had as much drive as smart, narcissistic people

sugar didn't taste so damn good

cancer would go the fuck away (I truly believe scientists are on the verge of finding the magic potion. I just wish it'd happen now.)

scars weren't attached to such sad memories

joints were less fragile

redheads could go out in the sun

vegetables didn't spoil so quickly

every person who ever called or thought of him or herself as a story writer subscribed to at least two literary journals

cellphone contracts weren't so evil

women who fight for what they believe in would no longer be called a. bitches or b. sensitive/emotional 

who you know/are related to counted less than who you are

people in my apartment complex wouldn't feed the deer (that then congregate around us and run back and forth across the major road in front of our apartments)

there was less pressure for everyone to be everything all the time

there was true quiet, every now and then

Image: Christopher J. Shanahan
retirement wasn't a luxury in the U.S.

i had more patience 

everyone read novels

everyone read poetry

everyone could read

no one was invisible

caffeine didn't seem so necessary

the common definition of beauty became authenticity instead of the opposite

i could accept things the way they are

Somehow, just by putting them to paper, I feel a little more grounded. Funny how that works. If you'd like, share your wishes with me. I'd love to hear them.

I'll post literary news next week. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mega-relax mode

I'm writing this as the dryer works. The sound is soothing, and soothing is exactly what I need today.

Yesterday was a non-event. I had a migraine that kept me from doing much of anything aside from trying to cure my migraine. I am not used to migraines, but this was definitely one. I had one in Vermont, too, and I'm wondering if it's allergies. I drank 6 of those 16 ounce bottles of spring water, took magnesium and zinc because I read those were good, and finally resigned my stubborn self to a Tylenol allergy and sinus pill about 8 p.m. because that was all I had. Maybe it was allergies or sinus stuff because it finally left me alone. Let's just say the water helped as well. But now I feel my weekend is almost up, so I'm in mega-relax mode.

Some rather big news reached me today. My first book, the one that I love/hate/love, will soon be produced in audio. I am so touched that my publisher, All Things That Matter, went to the trouble of submitting it and that it was chosen. I'm a little nervous about how the reading will turn out, but mostly, I'm just excited. Maybe Musical Chairs, my crazy story, will reach who it needs to--those young people who want out of their skin, because they are the reason I wrote it. Well, really, I wrote it for my younger self then shared it for anyone who thought like I did then. I still plan to rewrite it one day. But in the meantime, audio really does open the audience up, so I'm hoping... Anyway, it'll be on iTunes and Audible/Amazon in June. I'll post when I hear more.

So also this week, I got my issue of Thumbnail 4, which is AMAZING! I really recommend buying and reading it. The whole of it is just stunning. Also, Lost in Thought 4 came out. I haven't received my copy yet, but my story in this one is almost prose poetry, so it's another reach. I'll be very eager to read the rest of it. There are some damn fine writers in there. It's really reasonable to buy online, but I'm waiting for my print version of this one. The art is just so amazing... I have to.

Well, that's it for the week. I'm going to try and write a little. I've had a sort of dry spell the last week. But dry spells for writers are okay. I consider these times the way we recharge and take in the world. We are forever reevaluating ourselves and our place, and this is why there will never be an end to the newness of perspective in story. Now, off to prove that... Happy week, all!

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...