Saturday, July 27, 2013

Thinking about crickets



I have a fascination with insects. Usually I do research about insect and other animal behaviors for stories. Sometimes I model characters and stories after these behaviors; other times, I simply incorporate factoids into the work. Crickets may or may not work their way into a story, but they are what I've been reading about this week. 

They're interesting, crickets. I love the sound they make at night, when I'm drifting off to sleep. Maybe their song reminds me of camping or my grandmother's house, I'm not sure. The feeling I get when I hear them though is pure comfort.


One thing I learned is that crickets can hear with their stomachs. To take in auditory sensation and varied vibrations then absorb them at gut-level seems to me to live around what you hear, to ingest it. I think I people do this occasionally. My stomach surges, for instance, when I am asked why I don't have children; it sinks when I hear someone I love is in pain; it seems to become weightless when I hear good news; it twists at Texas politics.   


Today, I'm thankful to say, my stomach is silent. 

I'm grading finals this week while I'm not obsessing over crickets (okay, I think in this short post it has been determined that crickets will, in fact, work their way into a story), and in a week, I'll be done. I'll have time to write. It's been a great class, but I'm excited to dig back in.

Have a beautiful weekend. 


Jen 





Sunday, July 21, 2013

Swimming in stories

Source: "How Are You Folks Doing Today?"

Short post today because I read 240 pages of student stories yesterday and have a few yet to go. This is the week leading up to finals, and as the title says, I feel as though I'm swimming in stories. So far, I've read some truly amazing work. I suppose I always have a few gems in these classes, but there's something about this summer class--such hard workers in this class. I only wish these online courses weren't so jam-packed that I have to ration my time with each student.

In writing news, my Bound Off story is out! I hope it makes you laugh and cry (or come close) with this one. AN AWKWARD GRIEF is short, and Ann Rushton did it wonders with her reading. (This is an audio story, and it's free to listen. It runs just under seven minutes.)

Also, I did something I haven't done in a long time. I did an interview. It's up at DIGGING THROUGH THE FAT, blog of the remarkable Gessy Alvarez. She asks about my writing process (brace yourself) and motivation to write, among other things. It's been a good few days.

Diving back in. Have a wonderful week!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Audio and the absurd


My husband and I were matched with our "little" this week, so we'll be meeting him for the first time soon, probably in a week or two. I'm nervous but excited. The Big Brothers Big Sisters process seems to move slow at first, then all of a sudden there's a kid waiting. They said the parents chose us, so I'll be very curious to meet all of them and find out why, though I have an idea. The match specialist made sure to tell us that the kid has zero interest in reading and writing, and that this is likely due to some learning disabilities; so maybe, just maybe, I can make it seem less intimidating without being obvious about it. If everything goes well, I'll do my best to sell him on the charms of writing, despite it's seeming intimidation. Mostly though, we'll just be his friend. He's interested in firetrucks and cars, so I have some ideas in mind about some educational and interesting things to do. Eleven-year-old kids haven't really ever been on my radar, not even when I was eleven, so any suggestions as far as things to do (that don't cost a lot of money), let me know.

Aside from the good news from BBBS, this week has been ridiculous. I try not to talk about any political issues here because this blog isn't for that, but what's with all the unbelievable decisions, both in the denial of women's fundamental rights in Texas and in the tragic, soap opera like reportage then trivialization of life in the Zimmerman case? What's with it all, really? Existentialists everywhere must be saying, "See! See, we told you!"

All week, every day, I kept thinking I'd have a good workout, reduce emotional response, then come back and logically--in whatever way I can--stand up and speak out for what I believe in. Not preach or tell people what to think, but show my support of what I think is right through logical means (actual action, not empty talk).  But the ridiculousness just kept coming. I worked out a lot, but it's been overwhelming. Sometimes I miss the days when I was so self-consumed so as not to care.

Speaking of said days, my investigation of that very time in my life is surfacing again. Writing wise, this week has been all about the audio. My 2009 memoir was released on audio, which is available at Amazon through Audible (compatible with iTunes and most other programs). I couldn't bring myself to listen to the whole thing yet, but I listened to the opening and then skipped around a little. I was pleasantly and bemusedly surprised to hear the narrator tackle some of the dialogue. I was worried, but I think she did a damn good job overall.

Also in audio news is this: my story, An Awkward Grief, will be released by Bound Off this week. Bound Off is an awesome audio literary journal that's free to subscribe to, so do so if you're not already. A last plug to listen to this story: I rewrote it no less than fifty times, and it's super short, so I put my work in here. Thank you to Ann Rushton, for reading it. 

Other writing news: I had a magical realism (branching out a bit) piece accepted into A capella Zoo. And, I got an advanced copy of Skidrow Penthouse, which looks amazing. The writing in there is beyond good. The cover is attention-getting, to say the least. I'll be looking forward to the official release.


It's Sunday, and I hope you have a good week. Hopefully, we'll all get some good news.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Enough with the personal

I think I gave you enough of the personal on Thursday. Probably more than you wanted if you read it. Such is the way with blogs subtitled literary exhibitionism.

I hope the holiday went well for everyone. It was quiet for us, 80s movies and vegan bacon burgers (imagine!), and all that goes with that. Anyway, I do have some writing news, so I thought I'd share.

Two new publications:

Rita Forgives the World is up at Eunoia Review 
Nothing is also at Eunoia Review

A new, forthcoming publication: Girls Don't Sit in the Back in Prick of the Spindle. This piece won honorable mention in the fiction open contest, which is pretty cool. Even more cool is that I'll be sharing the publication with winner of both 1st and 2nd place in the contest, Meg Tuite, who's my bud and an amazing writer.

Have a great weekend, folks! We still have a day... make it count. 


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fireworks and works of happiness

Happy 4th of July!

I doubt I'll go downtown to see the fireworks in San Antonio this year because I'm not too keen on driving and the crowds and more, I don't want to leave my dog alone for a long time tonight in case it's loud. He's so spoiled now, I know, but spoiled he'll remain until his last breath. Plus, I was listening to an NPR story the other day that warned the 4th of July was a tough holiday for pets because, understandably, the sound of air explosions--one after another--freaks them out. Many dogs and cats run away during the fireworks because they're trying to escape. It's as though they feel under attack.

Since my dog has a heart condition, I figured I shouldn't chance leaving him alone. A few weeks ago, I came home to him coughing and moving slow and acting traumatized. I figured this was it, he was going downhill, but then when we returned from our walk I heard the warning of our fire alarm and I could see the way he cringed, put his tail between his legs and ran off. I imagined hearing that loud sound, uncontrollable and piercing no matter where you hide, and how helpless it must have made him feel. It was tough on his nerves. He was not feeling well until the next day.

He's recovered from that, but if I can hang with him tonight, I'll feel better. And this is okay because today, my husband and I decided, we will practice our art, respectively, and enjoy the day off.

Today didn't start off exactly as planned. My husband and I went for our normal day-off walk in the morning and got in an argument. We don't argue often, but this was a sort of under-the-surface issue that was due to come up. The funny thing is, I got so frustrated by our inability to communicate without irritation that I told him I needed some time and literally ran away. I don't usually run away from our arguments; hell, I don't usually run anymore because I've found a more slow-paced exercise style works best for me (walking, yoga, biking, weights), but I'll be damned if I didn't take off like a shot. Let me tell you, running is a good thing to do when you're upset. Especially if you are not a runner ordinarily. While my body said, WTF?, my mind calmed down and the issue became clearer. The point of contention was later addressed in a rational manner, and the husband and I are good again, having settled back into the comfort of our day after an hour or so of discomfort and needing time to think.

As a couple, my husband and I are generally happy because we do fight like this. We get things out of the way then accept and forgive. But individually, things aren't that simple. This brings me to a subject that has been on my mind a lot. The subject of general happiness. As far as being happy in a relationship or happy with a job, the topic is usually straightforward. You're either happy with the situation or not. But happiness on an individual level, on a general level, is tricky.

I am not unhappy. I am not giddy by any means, but I'm very content. And, I'm grateful. That said, I'm not so sure happiness and contentment are one in the same. This realization came to me as I went through a lot of my stories over the last two years and saw the theme of reaching for optimism and happiness but never quite getting a grip. Hope seems to always be the resolution, or the implied resolution. Hope is a powerful thing, but where was the joy in my fictional worlds? I wondered what this means about the way I view(ed) real life. If so, I've always been hopeful, so: Score! But happy, are any of my characters really happy? Am I?

Today, and likely this weekend, I will work on finishing and polishing my latest story. This new story stars Rattle, who was also in "Don't Tease the Elephants" (Monkeybicycle and soon to be the namesake of a chapbook) and "Nothing" (forthcoming). His story is never told from his own POV. He is a character that brings out the flaws and strengths of all the characters who interact with him. He's a messenger of sorts who seems to suffer and excel in a mythic, untouchable way. Anyway, I noticed that most of the characters in these new Rattle stories focus on happiness, if only for a moment. That's happiness despite the fact that these characters are often living a less-than-glamorous life. Rattle is a signal to these characters that they are in the midst of change, and he allows them clarity.

Real life offers these signals as well sometimes. That pic up there is a dragonfly, a little bigger than my fist, that visited me as I left work for my mad-dash lunch break to drive home and walk my dog. I am always in a hurry at lunch to try and make it back within the hour, but that guy up there landed right in front of me and flapped its wings and commanded my attention. It let me get close to take the pic and admire it for a moment. It was so big and so beautiful that it shook my world for a few seconds.

I posted the pic on Facebook and a friend, Diana, said the dragonfly "signifies illusion and a need for change", and I say right on. I feel that change. It's that ability to let happiness in a little, to let it into my life and into my fiction. In both instances, it'll be a hell of an interesting ride. I wonder if this dragonfly, jarring me from my routine if only for an instant, is a sign that my own life is mirroring these characters I'm writing. Perhaps this odd-for-San Antonio insect is a sort of symbol akin to Rattle's symbolism for my characters.

I never thought I'd look at fiction writing this way as I was actually writing it, so the realization of a character-level micro theme that spans my fiction and parallels my own life in some small way feels like a gift. It's one I won't take for granted because as in fiction and life, transitions come fast and hard, and the trick is being able to recognize the insights when they come so they don't pass you by.

I rambled a bit here, no? Ah well, I enjoyed doing it. Enjoy the fireworks, folks. Keep your pets safe. 

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