Thursday, September 30, 2010

Birthday Greetings!

Today is the anniversary of my birth.

As luck would have it, it is also the anniversary of Carolyn's birth!

Carolyn is my identical twin sister, and she also has a blog. Her blog is all about the struggles of being a young marriage and family therapist.

She is a poet, just like me, and she often posts her beautiful, funny, and thought provoking poetry on her blog. Check out La Therapista.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Break-Up- a Poem

104. The Break-Up 9/29/10

Poetry and I haven’t been on speaking terms for a while now.

Some ugly things were said, feelings were hurt, and

She stopped returning my calls a few months ago.

First, I tried to pretend I didn’t care.

I told myself she would call me back when we were both ready.

Then, I started to panic, and tried to call more often.

She answered the phone a few times, but I could tell her heart wasn’t really in it,

And all our conversations were glum, uninspired, nothing like they were before.

I spoke to a few people who know her,

And they all said she was fine, that she’d been returning their calls.

It’s very uncomfortable to need a friend who doesn’t need you.

Why should poetry speak to me when she has so many other, better friends?

I knew all I could do was wait.

I waited by the electric glow of the computer,

The threateningly blank page,

And I waited on walks,

talking to myself in the hopes that she might chime in.

After many months of wondering when I would talk with her again,

I had almost given up hope.

I was walking in another city, reading another writer’s conversation with her,

When suddenly- she was with me!

I tore off the back of a brown paper bag,

And, trying not to look too eager,

(I didn’t want to scare her away this time,)

We finally began to talk again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What will I be when I grow up...

I am currently enrolled in a class at my church called "Financial Peace University" by Dave Ramsey. In one of the sessions, he challenged us with the question, "What would you do or what would you become if I didn’t have to work for money. If you could have any job in the world, regardless of money or education, what would it be?"

I thought about this, and I wondered if perhaps I should say, “I would be a writer.” But I didn’t feel like that was really true. It took me a few days to realize that this was because I already am a writer. Sure, I don’t make much money at it and my books have yet to appear in any bookstores, but I am a writer, simply because I write.

My other job as a high school English teacher is extremely rewarding. I wouldn’t change it. In fact, writing and teacher compliment each other well. I really enjoy my kids at school, and although they don’t always enjoy me- they have a grudging respect for me. It gives me a chance to get into someone else’s brain and they are great for brainstorming with. They’re my babies. I feel protective of them, and I desperately want them to succeed.

I’ll be sad to leave my job when it’s time for me to stay home with some babies of my own. But I’ll come back to it someday, richer, stronger, and with more to give. Somebody once said that the definition of happiness is finding what you are best at and doing that thing excellently. I think that somebody was right.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Harper Lee for President!

On the advice of my mother, I just finished re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I had read it in high school of course, and I remembered enjoying it then, but at the time I wasn't really sure what all the hype was about.

Anyway- It is an incredible book, an important book. It was written by a woman, but yet there is no hidden feminist agenda, proving that women can write books without constantly referring to the bitterness of our gender. It's a commentary on society, a love story, a coming of age story- so many things all rolled into one. I enjoyed it greatly. I laughed, I cried- I could hardly put it down. I definitely understand why we consider this book to be a great example of American Literature.

It got me to thinking- in forty years, which books will we be forcing our high schoolers to read from this era? I am well-read when it comes to the classics, but I am practically illiterate when it comes to anything written in the past ten years (except for Harry Potter of course- who didn't read those?) A teacher friend of mine had me read Lovely Bones, but I found it depressing and unredeeming. I once picked up a copy of Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. I only got about a third of the way through- but it made me want to vomit, it was so disgusting and horrifying. Some of today's fantasy is good- but too much of it seems to rely on sexy woodnymphs, or sexy elves, or sexy vampires.

So what truly great novels are being written right now? Novels that don't have to rely on sex or shocking violence to sell books- Novels that deal with the difficult concepts in today's society without losing their hope and vibrance.

I really don't know- do you?

Monday, September 13, 2010

80 rejections and counting

I was just perusing my duotrope submissions tracker. About two years ago I started really seriously sending out my books, poems and short stories for publication.

Since that time, I've had my fair share of rejections and no responses. In the past two years, I've had my poems rejected or not responded to at least 40 times, my short stories have been rejected or not responded to about 20 times, and The Cavey Journey has been rejected or not responded to at least 20 times.

I feel like I should win an award or something. Of course, there are probably writers out there who've been rejected much more than I have.

In all that time, I have had some successes, which keeps the bitterness of defeat away.

My work has appeared in The Kern Valley Sun, Concise Delight, Midnight Screaming, and the Blinking Cursor. In addition, one of my poems won first place in a valley-wide poetry competition.

4 out of 80...not the highest ratio in the world, but it's a really good start. Now if I could just get off my duff and write something new, maybe I could make some real progress!

Today I will share with you a monologue I wrote for my Drama 2 class. It's only loosely based on reality.

Husband-Hunting at the Baptist College

Not interested? Not interested? You all never said it, because I certainly would never have asked, but your body language tells me enough. You’re not interested in me. And what’s the matter with me, huh? I’m young, I’m healthy, I’m smart, I’m talented, I’m interesting, I’m a died-in-the-wool Southern Baptist girl.

I know…it’s because I can’t keep my mouth shut. When John was wrong about Abraham’s lineage in the book of Genesis, I shouldn’t have said anything. When Steven was wrong about the page numbers we were supposed to read for our “A History of Baptist Thought” class, I should have just smiled sweetly. That’s what a good future pastor’s wife is supposed to do, isn’t it? Maybe the History of Baptist Thought is that women don't get to.

Or maybe I’m not using the correct terminology. What are the Christian “buzz words,” right now? Let’s see, “Purpose Driven,” “Courtship,” “New-Testament Church.” Maybe if I work some of those words in more often. For that matter, I might as well lie when people ask me how I am, and just say, “Blessed,” regardless of how my day is really going. Do I have to act like a ditz to find a Southern Baptist husband?

It’s just too bad God made me smart. It would be much easier to find friends and boyfriends if I could just blindly accept the things these wanna-be-pastors keep spouting off about. But unfortunately, I know more about the Bible than they do, and from the things they keep saying, I think I must have considered my faith more than they have.

So, God, what am I supposed to do? I don’t respect these boys who think they know more than I do. And they are certainly not interested in a girl like me. If you don’t send me a good one soon, you know what I’ll do? I’ll marry a Methodist!

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy this article on Lark News. Yes, it's a joke.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sippy update.

The story of Sippy- the malnourished, dehydrated cat we found in our building materials- has a happy ending! I would have kept him if I had to, so that he could stay out of the shelters and off the streets, but I was concerned because I already have way too much on my plate already.

Anyway, our architect, Nancy Shebesta, dropped by this week and when we told her about the cat, she got very excited. She asked to meet him and was thrilled when we asked if she might want to take him home. Nancy is a very sweet lady with a good heart, and she loves animals deeply. She will probably be a better owner than I can be right now.

I won't say I didn't cry when Sippy left me, but I couldn't have asked for a better owner for him, and for a happier ending. Another cat rescued! Hooray!

Here is a poem I wrote way back in 2003 when I was in the middle of falling in love with my then-boyfriend, now husband, Anthony.

"Holding Hands"
As we hold hands in the crowd,
In theatres, at parks, at stores
You lead me with the twisting and tightening of your wrist.
Left, right, pause, charge.
Wait for those people to pass-
Go ahead through the gap-
There’s a car, stop now!-
With strength and purpose,
But without demanding, or rejecting,
Your warm, strong fingers
Hold mine, and direct me where to go.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Marilyn Marlin, Chapter One, Part Two

I went to a women's meeting last night that meets in our community. A few of the women there know that I am an aspiring writer, and it was fun to talk about the projects I'm working on. Unfortunately, I didn't have much to report because my writing has been such a dead end lately. Fortunately, they were very encouraging, and I'm ready to try again.

Plot development seems to be my weakness. I love character development and exposition, but I can never seem to get the plot off the ground satisfactorily. That is why I'm only halfway through Marilyn Marlin. It doesn't help that several of the people who have read it hate the main character's name and personality. Well, I like her, and I like how dismal she is, and I'd rather have people hate her than be bored by her- so she stays the way she is.

I am going to try, try again. Here is the second half of chapter one.

So instead of quitting, she simply nodded and muttered under her breath, “I will take care of her for her sake, but never for yours. And I will do my best to make sure she turns out nothing like you.”

Miss Fanny arrived at Mrs. Marlin’s house every weekday at noon with her cats. She departed at four o’clock. During the four hours of her shift, she did her best to take care of Marilyn as much as possible. For those four hours, Marilyn was fed, clothed, and loved. Even the cats enjoyed lying next to her because she was such a quiet baby. She was on her own for weekends and for the other twenty hours of the day.

Mrs. Marlin was almost always home watching television or chatting on the phone, but she managed to ignore the cries of her baby girl.

Through no fault of Mrs. Marlin, Marilyn was a very practical child. When Marilyn was two weeks old, she learned not to cry anymore. It simply did no good. By the time she was one, she had figured out how to change her own diaper, and dress herself. At the age of five, after watching a television program that talked about children going to school, she enrolled herself in the local kindergarten, learned the route, fixed her own breakfast, and walked herself to school and back every day.
Miss Fanny was usually waiting for her when she came home, and between school and the afternoon hours with the housekeeper, her life was almost happy. Miss Fanny had one beautiful feature, and that was her smile. When Miss Fanny smiled, Marilyn could almost believe that the world was a less intimidating place than she had thought. Unfortunately, Miss Fanny rarely smiled.

Marilyn Marlin was mediocre at school. She brought home C’s on her report cards, and learned the basics, but she often felt just as invisible there as she did at home. It took almost the entire school year for the other students to learn her name, and teachers never seemed to call on her.

Sometimes she tried talking to her mother, but no matter what she said, her mother would always respond, “I’m busy, Sweetie-Pie, go see if Miss Fanny can help you.” Mrs. Marlin said this no matter what time of day it was.

Life fell into a predictable pattern for Marilyn, until one Tuesday when she was eight years old, something changed. Miss Fanny and her cats never arrived. Miss Fanny had never been late before.

Marilyn waited and waited, and worried.

That evening, she forced herself to try to talk to her mother.

“Mother,” she asked,“Do you know where Miss Fanny is?”

“I’m busy, Sweetie-Pie.”

“But, Miss Fanny never came to day,” Marilyn said hopelessly.

“Not now, Sweetie-Pie.”

“Mother, where is Miss Fanny?”

For a moment, it looked as if Mrs. Marlin would simply continue watching television and ignore Marilyn, but Marilyn was so desperate and worried, that she tried something she had never tried before. She stood in front of the television.

“Marilyn, what are you doing?!

“Where is Miss Fanny?” Marilyn asked again, looking down timidly at her undersized feet.

“Who? Oh…yes, sweetie-pie. She died. Dreadfully inconsiderate of her in the middle of the week.”

“She died?” Marilyn gasped weakly.

“Yes, but she was only a housekeeper. Close your mouth, Sweetie-pie, and move over. I’m missing my shows.”

Marilyn wandered weakly into her bedroom. She curled up in the crib that her mother had never bothered to replace with a bed and stared at the wall. She could not have known how drastically her life was about to change. She only knew that she had lost her only real mother, and the only person whose smile could make her feel that the world might not be such an intimidating place after all.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Marilyn Marlin- chapter one, part one

Last Christmas, I began a new writing project.

I kept thinking about some of the students in my classroom who are extremely undersized because of malnutrition or their mother's drug use while they were pregnant. These kids go through their days with their heads down, trying to stay out of trouble, trying not to attract attention. That is when I thought of the opening line of the book and wrote the first chapter in one sitting.

Since then, my pace has slowed down, but I am still excited about the premise. I have written 6 chapters, and the book should turn out to be about 12 chapters. I feel solid about exposition, but when it comes to plot development...I hit this horrible wall.

Anyway, here is the first half of the first chapter of Marilyn Marlin.

Chapter 1

Marilyn Marlin was unusually small for her age. She had spent the past eight years of her life trying to blend into the background, and it seemed as if she had succeeded. If she had had her way, no one would ever have taken a notice of her. With dull brown eyes, lanky brown hair, pale mottled skin and a slight frame, she sometimes felt like a chameleon. If she stood next to a wall long enough and quietly enough, no one seemed to notice her. Especially not her mother.

Mrs. Marlin was everything that Marilyn was not. Where Marilyn was unusually small, her mother was unusually large. Mrs. Marlin was very tall and round, and had to shop at the city’s only store for big women. She preferred to wear vivid floral prints and dyed her naturally brown hair a bright pink-tinted blonde. Once a week, she would tromp down to the beauty parlor and have long, claw-like nails applied in glittery shades that matched whatever holiday was coming up. She spoke in a loud voice out of the pancake of makeup applied to her face and addressed everyone around her as, “Sweetie-Pie.”

Marilyn had never met her father, and wondered sometimes if he, too, had just faded into the background and never returned. All she knew about him was that he had left behind a few books, which her mother had never had the determination to throw out.
When Marilyn was born, her mother had taken one look at her vague features and drab natural coloring and said to the nurse, “Well, that’s a pathetic little thing, isn’t it, Sweetie-Pie? You’d better take her to the nursery.” Then she mainly forgot about her.

Marilyn might never had survived if it hadn’t have been for the housekeeper, Miss Fanny, and Fanny’s two black cats, Romulus and Rema.

When Mrs. Marlin brought Marilyn back from the hospital, she promptly deposited her in a crib, left the room, and sat down to watch television. She was very put out because she had missed some of her favorite shows while she had been giving birth to Marilyn.

The housekeeper, Miss Fanny, noticed the situation and said, “Mrs. Marlin, that baby needs to be fed, clothed, and played with. You can’t just leave her in her crib.”
Mrs. Marlin sighed impatiently, smiled unpleasantly, and asked (in a question that was really a command) “Sweetie Pie, why don’t you just take care of all that, and write me a bill?”

Miss Fanny pursed her lips, nodded, and walked away. As she did so, she muttered something under her breath.

Miss Fanny was middle-aged and plain, with a stooped back. She wore black to commemorate her long-dead husband, and always wore her hair in a bun. She had ashy grayish skin and a rather off-putting nose.

She had signed on as a housekeeper, not as a babysitter, and she only worked four hours a day. She had no idea how she could take care of Marilyn during her shift. She considered telling Mrs. Marlin this and finding a better job, but then she looked at Marilyn’s tiny face. When Miss Fanny saw the baby’s face, she did not think of her as vague or drab, but rather sweet and delicate. She realized that if she did not care for the baby, no one would, especially not Mrs. Marlin.