Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish you a happy holiday, full of warmth, food and family. I'm not going to dissect the meaning behind this holiday, nor will I dwell on the fact that I couldn't make it to my friend's house in Dallas as planned because the spirit of this holiday is what counts. And I am thankful for so much.

I don't have much else to say this week, but I've been wanting to collect images from my dog walks, so I thought I'd share them here. These skies (this sky? (philosophical question there)) are my Zen, and I'm thankful for them. Have a beautiful week. I'll have some writing news soon.




Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fall writing news so you know I haven't been sleeping on the job, I thought I'd take this week to share my literary updates. I had three pieces published this week, two new and a reprint, along with an interview. Time is a flash fiction work up not at apt. Also, at Curly Red Stories, I am the fall featured author (how about that?!). Here I have an interview, a reprint, and a new story in honor of an old friend.

I'd love for you to read one or two of the above because I have another few pieces coming out, then I'll have a sort of dry spell as I work on longer projects.

Off to a weekend of dog walking, grading, movie watching, more grading, more dog walking, and maybe even some Christmas decorating (I know, but I can't help it) and some writing. If I'm lucky.

I wish you a fantastic week, filled with luck and good weather. -Jen

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Meditating, a year later

I used to think it ironic that meditate has the word edit in it. In a way, it seems as though editing is the antithesis of peace and peace is the goal meditation. But, I'm finding the act of meditation is not a direct path to peace but one of self examination which, much like in creative writing, can lead to new realizations.

Dog walk shot VI, 2013
I've been meditating for about a year now, and the process of my practice has changed. Recently, I realized that the sitting still, breathing and repeating a simple mantra distances me from the more bothersome thoughts a little quicker than it used to. I usually have just enough time to sit for about 15 minutes a day. When I began, I thought 40 minutes a day was necessary given my levels of stress, but I'm a little more realistic now. I think this 15 minutes a day is perfect because I don't see it as another thing I need to work into my schedule (another form of stress) or as a means to an end. I simply see it as part of my life, and if I miss a day it's no big deal.

One thing I've noticed changing is that as I observe my thoughts now, and I see them in shapes. For instance, when I'm really nervous about something it seems the source of that nervousness is replayed in my head on rapid-cycle whereas when I'm upset, I can visualize the thought itself, the source, in solid but jagged lines as though in an angular and bold font. Either way, the study of thoughts become abstract and less immediate. This awareness is distance from reactive cycles, and distance is perspective, which is peaceful.

I've been extremely busy and stressed lately, and these moments of peace have been like coming home. And sometimes, in the midst of a stressful or overextended feeling, I remember that home. So a year in: I think meditation is truly valuable in my world. Thought I'd share in case you read my Every since I started meditating post on how I thought meditation may have been putting me in a bad mood. I still think it was. Maybe a person needs to get closer to the less pleasant thoughts before she can stand back again and really look at them. Stressed, yes, and busy, yes: I still am. But, with a little more perspective, I realize that I can let it all go when I need to.

Writing is another form of meditation I have a longer history with, and I haven't posted much writing news lately. I will soon. I have a new interview on my writing process at Awkword Paper Cut (my husband did the image that accompanies my answer), and I received two acceptances recently, one from A-Minor and one from apt. I have quite a few short works coming out, and I look forward to sharing them.

Have a beautiful, peaceful week. -Jen

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dog park observations

My puppy is 21 weeks old now. I managed to potty train her in two weeks, thanks to some advice from friends. This was a big win because I tried a few things I saw online and bought puppy pads (which she tore to shreds), but the only thing that worked was placing a bell the puppy could reach on the door knob, and every time she goes on the carpet, lift her paw to the bell and take her out ASAP. Soon, she started ringing it when she wanted to go out. Sure, she might ring it when she's bored and just wants to go out and look for frogs after a good rain as well, but hey, that's a better problem.

So, potty trained and old enough to get all the shots, the pup is ready for the dog park. As of two weeks ago, I was something of a dog park virgin because our last dog wasn't very social and would simply sit in the corner bored and slightly irritated by all the pushy dogs around him. Needless to say, we never stayed long. With the pup, however, the dog park is necessary. She's a social dog, and she's got energy to burn. This means I have been introduced properly now, to the culture of the dog park. I have to say, the dog park is an interesting place to watch human behavior as well as dog behavior. Seeing the love dog owners have for their pets is heartwarming, and some owners, it seems, even view their pets as an extension of themselves, apologizing profusely if the dog does something embarrassing or a bit rude and jumping up and down when the dog, say, catches a ball.

Observations and reflections from a dog park newbie:

1. My husband wore an OSU jacket. I was wearing a hoodie and jeans. It took us a few minutes to notice, and it may have been a twofold coincidence, but a good number of folks at the dog park, both times, were around couples, our age, wearing sweats or college football gear. So, apparently we're a key demographic in this area.

2. On both visits there was a guy with two out-of-control dogs, and he didn't seem willing to move an inch as he watched his dog bully another one across the way as a woman tried to break the two up herself. I thought he was a statue. I'm guessing an owner like this probably frequents all dog parks.

3. "Ooh, a puppy," was repeated a lot, and my girl got enough pets to last her a week. She loved it. Puppies are the popular dogs with other owners.

4. "Ugh, a puppy," was what I imagined the older dogs were thinking as they ran from her or played without her, or pushed her down and went on about their business. She trailed along, undeterred, and engaged whatever dog would give her a few seconds of his time.

I love the dog park, but it's an exercise in hyper-vigilance when going with a growing dog. I watched her like a hawk and worried when I saw the troublemakers get to close. An older man there told us stories about all the dog park brawls he'd seen, how one owner even flashed his service weapon as warning once. He said the one we go to has not seen gun play under his watch, so I guess we picked a good playground. So dog parks: so far, so good. Think we'll continue to take her, but we'll be those overprotective owners--never too far away but insistent she "get out there" and socialize a little, so long as we know where she is and what she'd doing.

In literary news: I haven't been writing too much because I just started teaching my Flex II course, but I am committed to NaNoWriMo this year, so I have some catching up to do. I want to write a lot and have a cool little mess to clean up later. That's my goal with it.

I got the official date for the release of Don't Tease the Elephants: March 20th, 2014. Mark your calendars. No, really, mark them! I'm putting my all into this little chap, and I think you should plan to read it.

Have a beautiful week! Cheers!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Excluding to fight exclusion?

My husband recently returned from a lengthy trip to Europe, his first trip there, and I am now the proud owner of this (right). He's been back a week, and he has great stories because his work there took him all over, from the UK to the Netherlands to Germany then Switzerland then France. Whew!

One thing his less detailed stories involved eating at a conveyor belt-served sushi place and listening to the radio. Each of these elements was interesting in their own right--the time stamps on sushi in place of time spent to order (I'd rather wait, but I get the appeal) to the nature of the radio mention.

"Oh, you'll find this interesting though," my couldn't-be-further-removed-from-the-lit-scene husband said. He went on to say that there was some announcement on the radio that a literary contest, which historically excluded US writers from entering, was now allowing American work to enter. I thought he was speaking of a short story competition, something with, say, a £50 prize. Not so much.

After conversing further, I realized he was talking about this announcement about the Man Booker prize. This announcement reached the news in September, but the fact that this prestigious competition is now planning to allow US writers has become, apparently, an ongoing discussion. Being American, I can't help but think, hey, why not let us in? There's good stuff here. Mix it up.

But I realize it's a bit more complicated. There is a theory that backs such exclusion. Regional publications are in place to strengthen community or adhere to tradition, women-only or minority-only publications say they are giving focused voice to the underrepresented gender or culture(s) in literature. Publications by any minority in the the larger scene can often be ignored, and the more people we include, the more difficult it can be sometimes for a mainstream audience to agree on what will appeal/educate/entertain/illuminate the world most for a general audience.

I see both sides, but I can't deny that everything inside me screams exclusion is counter productive, in the case of gender or culture or region. I believe, truly I believe this, that focus is good, but total exclusion is not. I feel a pang every time I read an amazing Canadian literary magazine, for instance, that I'd love to submit to, only to see I'm on the do-not-enter list.

What do you think? Will the cream rise to the top, or will voices be buried if all are included? Is the only way to fight exclusion becoming exclusionary? Or, does fighting fire with fire only make for a larger flame?


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...