Saturday, August 30, 2014

Solitude in a crowded space

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”  —Mark Twain
The right word makes all the difference because there is always a right word, even though there may be many synonyms. I believe this to be true, and I know a lot of words (that happens to us readers), but sometimes that perfect word doesn't come readily. Sometimes lately, however, I have to go back to a piece dozens of times before that right word comes. I noticed this more in recent years, and it could be just that I am a more conscientious writer. But I can't help but wonder if this is, in fact, a result of knowing more than I used to. 
I first heard about the Internet of Things a year ago, but I didn't really care to understand it. Recently,  however, it seems to come up a lot, and now that I know what I do, I can't stop thinking about it. This concept is basically that any device can be connected to any other device, assuming both are connected to an internet source. This means the amount of connected data is so vast that its value is diluted, creating a problem for those looking to answer specific questions from unique connected devices. This is probably not the best definition. Wiki may do it better, but the basic concept is that if we have access to too much at one time, we become overwhelmed and have trouble assigning value to a thing.
I feel like much of our lives - being on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Instagram, while also streaming TV and chatting via work computer systems that have completely different rules and protocol than home systems, and playing games, even worrying about identity theft as we enter our credit card numbers into an online service while knowing that hackers are capable of pretty much watching our every move - is a balance between wanting to be heard and wanting to be left alone. It seems very few people don't want at least a little of both, and the way to accomplish that is to streamline what we do. Cut the social media to the bare bones and set time/day limits to use so as to, I don't know, live a little.
This is a topic I plan to explore more in a forthcoming blog post, possibly a blog post for Fiction Southeast, but I can't help but think about it as I pack my stuff, preparing for a move, as I realize how many physical objects are being replaced by fewer but more connected objects.
This is my prompt for the week (it's connected and a little more abstract than usual):
Write about a person who is lonely for whatever reason and reaches out online. Eventually, said person is so connected that he or she loses track of his/her individuality. But write about this person from either another character's POV or from a third-person POV. Write about this person's life as her/his identity fades and fragments, and decide if there is a solution that eventually brings solidification. Maybe this is a good thing, maybe not.   

I think this will be a particularly challenging one. I think I'll pack another box before I try it. :)

Have a beautiful weekend, all! And if you're in the states, enjoy the extra day.

xo Jen

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A few things I think I know about moving

We’re moving! Chris and I found a place that has a big backyard and just enough room for us, and we’re finally getting out of the mega-complex apartment living. No more creaky footsteps at 2 a.m., no more hearing the neighbor burp and cough and groan from the bathroom, and no more parking wars. We’ll have our own spot! Can you feel my excitement? Cause it’s there. Big time.

Though we’ll still be renting, this is a big move for us, and the quality of life factor will go from about 2 to about 8, assuming there are no angry ghosts or secret mold issues in this place that we haven’t realized. In preparation for our big move, I’ve learned a few things and I thought I’d share. Here they are:
  •  If you have a bunch of books to sell to Half-price or another such place, take them in installments. They will give you the exact same amount for two boxes (at least around here) as they will one.
  • Double-check the donation box for things you actually want to keep before handing it over. It’s really embarrassing to say, oh, actually, can I have that one dress back?
  • The unpacked boxes from the last move probably don’t need to move with you because they’ll probably remain unpacked. Unload the unneeded.
  • Try to get a lot done on the weekends and not continuously ask your boss to leave early during lay-off season.
  • Research the best set-top boxes and streaming for Internet and cable (there’s a lot of value variance).
  • If you write, still make time to write, even though you have less than half of half of the time you used to.

I’ll have more later, I’m sure. So. Much. Work. To. Do.

I have a writing prompt this week. A quick aside: I try to write to all these, too, so if you ever come up with something you'd like to share, let me know. I'd love to read it, and if you'd like, post it.

And... here it is...

A middle-aged character just moved and is shopping for the first time at the new neighborhood grocery. S/he’s loving it—just look at that organic section!—until s/he begins to feel as though s/he’s being followed. S/he imagines s/he’s being paranoid, jokes with the person offering samples of cheese, and hears someone laugh from behind. When s/he turns around, someone is there from a past the character thought s/he’d left behind.  

I wish you all a wonderful week. I have a few weeks yet till I move, but I’ll post pics soon. 

xo Jen

Monday, August 11, 2014


Life is uncertainty. That's a given. (Get it?)

I returned from Nebraska after a brief but great visit with my father and step-mom, and I feel renewed. To be completely honest, I didn't feel so great before I left. I felt numb a lot of the time, going through the motions. Not depressed, not sad. Just not much of anything. I explained this to a few folks, and they said it was likely burnout. Judging from the fact that the trip helped so much, I think they were on to something. I came back to some tough news, potentially scary news, but instead of feeling panic and instead of feeling nothing, I just felt okay. Some time to write: that's the cure.    

Below is a poem I wrote for and in honor of the Art Farm, a residency like no other. I recommend it to the hardest-core of hardcore writers (badasses only). Below that is some lit news and a short prompt. I wish you all a wonderful week.


We arrive, carry art on our backs or balance it on our heads
like books as we walk slow, sleepy circles in order to reach
the straight line time dances around, just ahead, and we

live in heat, for wind, with an ailing raccoon whose pupils
have narrowed with sunlight and the flies that clean their legs on our
swatters as they eye our compost—the mound of decay that gives life.

We work, painting walls, digging trenches, burying waste,
watching the leaking water with worried eyes and grubby
hands that, together, have raised a substantial roof; and we

wander, meeting those in town who know those
near town, who know those mothers and fathers of those
in surrounding towns, who know—all of them—Ed; therefore, us.

We live without time, find our way home, think back, send treasure maps,
reconnect and feel our roots pulling us back toward shared grounds where
Arctic winds, warmed by the reach to Nebraska, embrace and kiss corn 

as we remember walking the silky rows, beneath an expanse of blue and above
dust and clay that is thrust up by truck wheels and embedded beneath our skin as we
wave each other on by, growing smaller in reflective mirrors but no less a part of the farm. 

Here is a prompt based on my time at the Art Farm:

Write about excess. A character whose life is over-filled with stuff is forced to live without. How does s/he change? There is a lot of potential here to use humor.  

Literary news: New fiction is forthcoming in Per Contra (read the current issue for some great work!) and elsewhere. More soon... 

xo Jen 

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...