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Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs

14 Jun

AKA “Verbs in Transit”
Verbs in Transit

Disaster, fear, and doing what I can

21 Apr

Catastrophic, life-mangling change didn’t become real to me until my foster family was broken apart by a false accusation.

Six years later, I feel the aftershocks of the helplessness I felt then. It’s been triggered in the past couple of months with local uncertainties and tragedies: deaths, cancer diagnoses, and looking for new employment. Uncertainty and powerlessness are thick as the pollen in the air.

I can either be despondent – retreat from the world – or I can be motivated to do what I can.

Today, on the blog of a friend who is going through a very difficult year, I started to write how my 4 year old daughter looked at me, her mouth open, cheeks dripping from tears, when I had to explain that she wouldn’t live with me anymore.

I was supposed to be the big strong mommy who could do anything. I let her down.

When the state showed up in a big state van to take her and her siblings away, I met with the social worker, and gave them the information I collected together to make sure their next parents got the best start they could.

My face hurt from not crying, and my chest burned where I refused it sobbing.

Her brother and sisters were already on the van, and she loitered to be the last one I hugged. She spread her hands, open and empty, and said she had nothing to give me, and she cried. She squatted down next to the driveway where we put the garbage cans once a week, and picked up a rock.

It was a present for me, she said, and she put it in my hand. A present so I wouldn’t forget her.

That little stone – black, with spraypaint on one side – reminds me not only of her, but of her continued helplessness inside the foster care system. As of this writing, she should be 10 years old.

So what do I have power over? What can I help?

When I am afraid, I can write in my blog about using fear as motivation – motivation to take control over the healthiest things I do.

I can also write stories. When I write garbage, I can edit. When I am rejected, I can resubmit.

When I’m tired of writing, these days I can knit, sculpt, search for a new job, make dinner, and go to bed.

Sometimes, every once in a while, I even bake cake.

Translation Tips for Writers (AKA: How not to be a jerk online.)

14 Apr
If you want to say: Instead, say:
F*ck you. Thank you.
What kind of idiot are you? Nobody could get that out of what I wrote. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
I can’t believe you wrote that on the INTERNET, where everybody can read it! Take it down right now, or I’ll sue! I’m glad you shared your perspective with me.
Just because YOU had a difficult childhood doesn’t mean MY character did – you’re reading into it. I appreciate your insight.
You don’t deserve to read my stories. I’m grateful you took the time and energy to share your opinion.
F*ck you and all of your agent and editor friends. You’re all in it together – a closed club. I hope I can resubmit/come to you for feedback again.
I have never read something so MEAN as what you said about my work! Your candor is refreshing.
I can’t even figure out what you meant in your comments. Learn to write! I will consider carefully what you said.
You’re so f*cking nit-picky. The specifics you pointed out are helpful.

Time-management vs. Me-management

19 Mar

It is easy for me to get swept away in lining up the tasks and projects – the work, writing, craft projects, helping friends with their needs, the continual maintenance of the household and improvement of the house, the parenting. When there is time between the tasks, I fill the gaps with worry, distractions, entertainment, idleness.

But sometimes it is far more important to step back and remember why I’m doing all these things. I have to remember: Nobody wins if I am not myself.

If I go too long without making a thing or making a difference, I feel dull and dismal, sick, sullen, and gray. And then it’s harder to do anything: I don’t want to make anything when I have no light to breathe into it. I don’t want to help anybody when I feel mean and revolting.

Best compliment my writing has ever gotten.

11 Feb

“I like the way this paints a vivid picture of an entire world that’s just barely sketched in around the edges of this moment.” — @Domestinatrix (Twitter) about my story Automatic Selection on DailyScienceFiction.com.

I’ve never been a big fan of setting. I don’t like reading it, I don’t like writing more than the bare minimum of it.

At just over 750 words, this story didn’t have room for much – and what is in there was mostly added in editing.

Looks like I got it right.
::happy dance::

Finding a Writing Haunt

22 Jan

I’ve been making a practice of Saturday morning writing. It’s a time when the family doesn’t need me – it’s the beginning of the weekend, so there will be time for the chores and events, and they’d rather be asleep, anyhow.

The problem continues to be the lack of a regular writing haunt. There is nowhere that I’m likely to run into friends – and other writers – without planning and coordinating. Nowhere that I’ve gotten to know the owner and baristas to the extent that they are invited to my home.

Why not write at home? I can, have, and will. But for uninterrupted time writing, get me away from my family and my procrastinabilities. The libraries have random hours – and the three closest to me aren’t open at my writing-available times.

I’m a Seattle writer. We inhabit coffee shops.  

Ideally:

  • Noisy, but not loud
  • Low frequency of untended children (rampaging toddlers, etc.)
  • Tables of various sizes: seating 2-8
  • Tip jar
  • Savory food
  • Sweet food
  • Consistently good coffee
  • Big enough to find a corner away from in/out and counter-line traffic
  • Early morning (6 or 7am) and late night (to 9 or 10pm) hours

I’d love for my favorite Wayward Coffeehouse to reopen. But in the meantime – where should I go?

Personal Power

20 Jan

Yesterday I spent a full 8 hours in a workshop designed to improve personal presence – that is, the way others apprehend me when I’m walking into a room, presenting, participating in a meeting, etc.

Some of these workshops are full of fluff and feelings.

Yesterday’s was not that kind of workshop.

Were there feelings? Of course. But they were the deeper sort – the sort that usually remain safely tucked away behind the behaviors that get us through each and every day without having to twang those particular chords.

Oh, and personal power – I have plenty. I just need to stop – completely and utterly and thoroughly – worrying even a little bit whether I am seen as “being nice.” I want to be kind – but sometimes, that means not being nice. I also want to be competent – and sometimes, that definitely means not being nice.

After a lifetime of trying super hard to be seen as nice – instead of smart, since that so often translates to “threatening” – it is time to just be me.

Thank You, NaNoWriMo. Love, a Loser.

25 Nov

There’s been more hoopla this year than others, it seems, about how National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org) isn’t for *serious* writers doing *serious* writing.

This year, I think I have a better idea than ever what purpose NaNoWriMo serves in my growth as a writer, as a professional, and as a person.

First, some history: My first NaNo novel (Gathering Grace) was written in 2006 and published in 2008. My 2007 novel was flushable dreck. Two years ago, when I wrote my 2008 NaNo novel, I had a different last name, address, career, and family than I have today. To put it mildly, it’s been a busy couple of years. Work on that 2008 novel lapped my aborted 2009 attempt, and was finally completed in May of 2010. It’s still in draft, pending at least four chapters of POV rewrites, and I’ve started talking with agents.

This year, I thought I should probably spend November being serious and responsible, working on rewrites and edits of the last completed novel.

But I really wanted something new. Like a toy or jewelry or pancakes or a new Windows Phone 7 – something shiny and distracting and lovely. Work – my new career – is full of new challenges and circumstances, but those kinds of new don’t stay shiny and sparkly all the time.

So I gave myself permission to write something new, as long as I was methodical and engaged in good writing practices, and wouldn’t write something that would require so much editing this time. I came up with characters, setting, central conflicts on three levels.

This poor story was plotted to within an inch of its life. And my poor main character just wasn’t up to it. Not quite six thousand words in, and she was ready to give up. With the challenges I knew were coming up, the story was going to end very, very badly. I didn’t have the heart to read – much less to cause – that kind of distress. I let her keep her baby, keep her job, and go home.

I was still intrigued with one of my supporting characters, though. I started to write about her, and it turns out she’s got a fantastic story to tell – and a uniquely effective way to tell it. I’m thrilled I met her, and that NaNoWriMo gave me the opportunity to tell this story. But there is one problem: what with stalling out on the novel I intended, I’m unlikely to write enough words this month to meet the 50,000 goal.

What’s important? To be discouraged about not meeting 50,000, or to write the story whether or not it’s for this contest?

Heh. I know the answer to that one.

Getting ready to… write? edit? get read?

18 Oct

In fiction, a major update is long overdue: the post-apocalyptic novel has been complete since the end of May. I’ve sent chapters to a couple of agents after the PNWA conference in July, but I haven’t heard back from them. Since then, I’ve been langourously editing while remembering how to create new fiction. I know I have more editing to do – a lot more editing, I’m afraid – but nothing was really sparking it together for me until the point-of-view (POV) writer’s workshop at Foolscap Convention (www.foolscapcon.org.) After a full day of remembering and realizing Important Things, Will Shetterly and Emma Bull put it over the top – and I realized: the first chapter is in the POV of the wrong character. I need to rewrite that chapter, then I’m hoping it will all come together more … motivatingly.

At the same time, I’m looking forward to the energy of NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org). I have two stories ripening, but perhaps I’ll save those as rewarding treats – and get this rewrite done. I’m not sure what the right path is – but I do know I need to get back in the habit – and the brainspace – and the time & creative energy – of daily writerly work-outside-of-work.