Friday, April 28, 2006

You make me want to be a better blogger

The other day, someone left a comment saying how much they liked my blog and asking if I could give them any advice on how to improve theirs. My initial response was, is this person in the right place? Were they possibly looking for this and ended up here? Have they sustained a head injury? Was she sent by the evil Blogger minions to destroy me?

Turns out, actually, no.

When it comes to blogging, I'm far from an expert. I'm still an amateur, compared with some of the people I consider great bloggers and writers out there. (Yeah, I'm talking about you guys over there on the right.) Who am I to offer advice? Then I thought, who gives advice? Why, Voix of course!

When I first found Michele's fabulous blog I read through her "best of" list and I remember reading a post titled "How to Blog" which was based on a similar post she'd read at another site. She offered some great advice on how to be a better blogger as well as a better writer.

So, for R. Gemini, who posted that lovely comment, here is the link to Michele's "How to Blog" post. This is the link to the original post on which hers was based, also very good. Check out the links and then go read everything Michele has ever written because she's awesome.

As for me, I just kind of fly by the seat of my pants over here, writing whatever comes into my head. Some days it's good, some days it's bad. I don't pretend to be a great writer or a great blogger. I just like to write, and sometimes I like to bring it here and share it, pretty simple. To those of you who continue to read, many, many thanks.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

And......we're back

At least we seem to be. Who knows, the evil Blogger minions could be lurking at my door this very moment, ready to take me down with a poison-tipped arrow.

So unless you've been under a rock the past couple of days, I'm sure you've heard about the whole Kaavya Viswanathan thing. (If you don't know what I'm talking about go see Galleycat, their coverage has been excellent.) It appears that nothing is sacred these days, including young adult novels and chick lit.

A couple of days ago, Brian put up an excellent post on his blog addressing the Viswanathan controversy, as well as the issue of plagiarism in general. He raised the question of whether or not it's acceptable to "borrow" ideas or themes from other writers, which set off an interesting debate in the comments section.

Brian was concerned because he had an idea for a story that was generated by something another writer had presented in workshop. He felt that it would be wrong for him to go and write his own version of the story, despite how different it might have turned out. For my part, I offered up Michael Cunningham and Helen Fielding as examples of writers who had borrowed from another writer's story with huge success.

I posed this question over there and now I'm posing it here: where do you draw the line between stealing another writer's work and simply being inspired by someone else's ideas? As I told Brian, I'm still fairly naive about the rules of writing. I'm not in an MFA program, I've only been published a handful of times. I look for inspiration in everything around me, including what I read. Am I treading dangerous ground here? I'd really like to know what other people think.

(By the way, this whole thing has me so freaked out that I'm worried Brian's going to come over here and kick my ass and say I ripped off his blog post. See why I need help?)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why is Blogger eating all my posts?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Reasons why not

My mind is a house full of rooms and in every room, there is someone who is waiting to have their story told. They're all there, waiting quietly, expectantly, for me to let them out but I can't seem to find the proper key.

It's easy to blame it on time, or lack thereof. It's easy to say I'm tired or I can do it tomorrow. It's easy to watch TV or read a book or blogsurf. It's easy to ignore that small voice saying write, write, the one that won't let me have any peace. The one that only gets quiet when I'm doing what it wants me to do. I know I shouldn't fight it, can't fight it.

The truth is, I'm afraid. Afraid to get into it, afraid to turn over the stone and see what's crawling around in the dirt beneath. Afraid that I won't like what I find or worse, that I'll find nothing at all. I can see the words, twisting around in the dark places, looking for a way out. Waiting for me to set them free. The flood is coming, I can feel it. The well is full, the dam is straining at the seams. All I can do now is move out of the way and wait for the wave to hit.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Rejected again, this time by Del Sol Review. Excuse me while I go stand in my yard and angrily shake my fists at the publishing gods.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Oprah goes slumming

Okay, so I flipped over to Oprah today, don't ask me why, and she's doing a show on class in America. She starts the show by asking people on the street what their definitions of upper and lower class are.

Upper class =
nice cars
living in a nice neighborhood
nice clothes/jewelry/accessories
snobby manners

Lower class =
big hoop earrings
glitter/loud makeup
being obese
cursing/bad manners
bad teeth/dirty fingernails
bad grammar

(Interestingly enough, the rich woman who denounced big earrings and glitter makeup had terrible teeth.)

There seemed to be no indicator of what makes someone middle-class but it doesn't really matter because according to Oprah's expert Richard Reich, the middle class is disappearing anyway.

On her website, there's this nifty little scale that tells you what class you fit into.

According to this, I fall into the middle-class, based on my income ( low $40's). But, according to the rest of the civilized world, I am apparently lower class because I work in a service job. And my grammar is a little off. And I curse. Fuck those people. This whole thing is making me a little hostile.

Anyway, they also profiled two Chicago families, (both white) one upper-middle class, the other lower working class. The wives of each family had grown up in the opposite class to which they now lived. The "rich" mom felt like she was being constantly judged on the basis of what her children wore/possessed, how she looked, the schools they went to, while the "poor" mom worried that she couldn't afford to send her children to Little League, much less college. Coincidentally, the "rich" mom admitted her kids had no sense of discipline and no sense of what it meant to earn something.

Then, they brought on Jamie Johnson, the heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, who has made several documentaries (Born Rich, The One Percent) on the mystique of the wealthy elite. In these documentaries, he spends most of his time questioning the shroud of secrecy that surrounds ultra-wealthy families. On-camera, he confronts his father about class and wealth, and for a moment, you actually believe that he's questioning the system, railing against economic inequality.

Then he tells Oprah: "My life would not be as good if I were cut out of the will."

Everyone, including Oprah, laughed knowingly, as if to say, "Don't be silly, being poor would be so gauche."

The whole thing was like eating a hypocrisy-filled donut. It looked good on the outside but the inside was full of horseshit. Here's Oprah, one of the wealthiest women in the world, pretending that class does not affect her, that she's a neutral party where money is concerned. When asked to comment on her own wealth, she simply said that luck had nothing to do with her success, that it was all her hard work.

Fair enough. No one is denying that Oprah grew up poor and worked her way to the top. After all, she's reminded us time and time again. The problem I have is that she doesn't know what it means to be poor now. This is not someone who eats ramen noodles for dinner every night. I admire her for giving voice to this and other important social issues but I think she should stick to things she can relate to, i.e. John Travolta and home makeovers.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

She wore a different face, depending on her mood.

(Photo courtesy of Square America. Thanks to Rebecca Loudon and her incredible blog for the link.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

100th Post

Looking back through the archives recently I realized that in 100 posts I haven't really said all that much. It made me think that perhaps this 1ooth post should contain something truly memorable, something that would touch the hearts and minds of those who read it. Something deep, something profound, something life-changing. Then I said screw it, I don't have time for all that. Instead, I have devised a list of 100 useless factoids about myself. Reading this should make you feel infinitely better about yourself. Enjoy.

1) I love dogs but I hate cats.
2) I have four dogs who I think of as my children. I like to have conversations with them wherein I refer to myself as "mommy".
3) I have no desire to ever have any real children. In fact, I don't really like children at all.
4) I know this makes me a horrible person but,
5) I work in a restaurant where I have to deal with said children on a regular basis. I have been puked on, hit, kicked, screamed at, and have had food thrown at me by said children.
6) I desperately hate my job but like Jack and Ennis, I can't seem to quit it.
7) Despite the fact that I have a master's degree.
8) I love to gossip, especially about the people I work with.
9) Again, I know this makes me a horrible person.
10) I love to read. Whenever someone tells me they're not a reader, I silently pity them.
11) I'm a book snob. I openly scorn people who liked The Da Vinci Code.
12) Therefore, I find it slightly ironic that my favorite book is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
13) And I secretly own a copy of The Da Vinci Code. I'm afraid to read it because I'm afraid I'll like it. Then my whole facade would crumble like a generic potato chip.
14) I hate reality TV.
15) But I'm addicted to Project Runway, Top Chef, Wife Swap, Blow Out, and pretty much any other piece of mindless fluff the television gods put out there.
16) I also like movies. Really stupids ones. Like Police Academy.
17) If I find a movie I like, I'll watch it over and over again, sometimes twice in the same day.
18) This annoys the living shit out of my boyfriend.
19) I swear. A lot. In everyday conversation. Even when I'm on the phone with my mother.
20) The f-word is my favorite adjective.
21) Please see #4 and #9.
22) I like to turn everything into a joke, even when it's not necessarily appropriate.
23) I'm very good at the snappy comeback.
24) Although I tend to go too far sometimes.
25) Which might explain why I always distance myself from other people.
26) The truth is, I just prefer my own company.
27) But I'm terrified I will die alone.
28) I am an arts-and-crafts nerd. I love making things for other people.
29) I look for inspiration in everything and use what I see in my own work.
30) Sometimes I worry that I'm incapable of having an original thought.
31) I love tragedy. My favorite poets tend to be the suicidal ones.
32) I love romance. Especially if it's mixed with a little tragedy.
33) I tend to develop crushes fairly easily. Currently, I'm crushing on a guy I work with.
34) I want to fall in love again before I die.
35) I'm not so sure this is possible.
36) I am a terrible procrastinator. I'll put things off for as long as possible, even when it's detrimental to myself.
37) I have let a lot of opportunities pass me by because of this.
38) One of my biggest fears is that I will fail as a writer.
39) But I'm getting used to rejection.
40) I can't cook. Or sew. Or bake. I hate to clean.
41) But I don't believe this makes me a failure as a woman.
42) I'm terribly clumsy and completely graceless.
43) I think this is mostly due to the fact that I have a big butt which makes maneuvering somewhat difficult.
44) When I'm alone in the car, I turn the volume all the way up and sing at the top of my lungs.
45) I love road trips but I hate driving. I get terrible road rage.
46) I'm afraid to fly.
47) I still have nightmares about 9/11 and the end of the world.
48) I think the war is wrong.
49) I think the best times are behind us.
50) Did I mention I'm a bit of a pessimist? And a cynic?
51) I know I should be working on something right now, instead of writing this silly list.
52) I didn't believe in writer's block but I'm starting to.
53) I love reading other people's blogs. I wish mine were more interesting.
54) I have no fashion sense whatsoever but I love beautiful clothes.
55) I buy most of my clothes secondhand.
56) And most of my books too. I feel guilty shopping at Barnes & Noble.
57) I like to buy useless things, like expensive notebooks that I never write in.
58) Most of my writing is done in cheap spiral notebooks bought at the dollar store.
59) I hate talking on the phone. To anyone. I order my pizza online just so I don't have to make the call.
60) But I always tip extremely well, because you never know if they're spitting on your food or not.
61) I like ridiculously girly things even though I'm pretty much still a tomboy.
62) I wish I were prettier.
63) And taller.
64) I'm not sure if I believe in God.
65) I haven't been to church in twenty years.
66) I don't know how to talk to my father.
67) My mother still doesn't have time for me in her life.
68) I know this is not her fault but it still hurts.
69) Sometimes I wish I were a completely different person.
70) I'm a hard worker but I often put my energy into the wrong things.
71) People think I'm tough. This is a lie.
72) I think this list is getting a little too serious.
73) I think SUV's are the most obnoxious invention ever.
74) When I see people driving too fast on the highway, I secretly hope they will get pulled over or wreck.
75) Again, see #4 and #9.
76) I hate the beach but I love the pool.
77) I burn very easily. My skin is so pale I'm almost transparent.
78) I think Arizona is the most beautiful place on earth.
79) Even though I've never been there.
80) I love poetry, even though I don't understand it half the time.
81) I like to write it even though I don't understand it half the time.
82) I bite my fingernails.
83) I'm still afraid of the dark.
84) I look for beauty in everything I see.
85) But I have a hard time finding it in people.
86) I don't exercise enough.
87) Spring is my favorite time of year.
88) I have a hard time making decisions.
89) I wish I spoke another language.
90) I'd love to travel the world. It makes me sad to think I will never see Paris, Rome, London.
91) I love accents. Especially English, Irish, and Scottish. I think an accent makes a man infinitely more attractive. (See: Ewan McGregor, Christian Bale, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers)
92) I loved Brokeback Mountain.
93) I support gay marriage.
94) I'm pro-choice.
95) I think we've gotten a little too serious again.
96) I'm sure I've offended someone.
97) Perhaps I've said too much. I tend to do that.
98) I wear my heart on my sleeve.
99) And I don't apologize for it.
100) I just want to be happy.

Friday, April 14, 2006


The death plague which had invaded my body and abused it like a bunch of spring breakers at a Fort Lauderdale Days Inn seems to be retreating now thankfully. After spending most of the week in a Nyquil-induced coma, it's nice to be able to bring my own special brand of craptacular writing to the world again. Thanks to those who sent get-well messages, although some Tamiflu and a HazMat suit would have been much appreciated as well.

Let's see.....haven't done too much reading or writing the past week or so. It's weird, being away from it for so long. I want to jump back in but I'm a little word-shy at the moment. I can feel all these thoughts, ideas, stories bubbling around inside of me but I'm not sure how to let them out. I feel like I'm on the verge of some sort of breakthrough, I just have to find out how to unlock it.

Or I could still be drunk off the Nyquil, who knows.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'm sick. Crawl-in-a-hole-and-die sick. Please keep yourselves entertained by checking out some of the great writing via the links to the right. Hopefully, I will be crawling back out of my hole sometime soon.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

How to stay motivated

Friday, April 07, 2006

convergence is looking for poetry, fiction, and artwork for their spring issue. Read their submission guidelines here. Deadline is April 9th.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

storySouth has posted their list of the ten best stories of 2005, part of their annual Million Writers Award competition. Read the stories and vote for your favorite here.
I had to go to the airport yesterday to pick someone up. The flight ended up being delayed so I had a few hours to kill. I wrote my poem for NaPo and then I people-watched for a while. Going to the airport is like going to the movies, only better. You can sit and watch the entire range of human emotion unfold and it won’t cost you eight bucks.

I should point out that I don’t actually like to fly. I’ve been on an airplane exactly twice in my life and didn't care for it either time. If I can’t drive, I don’t go. Part of it's residual 9/11 paranoia but mostly, I just prefer driving. I’d rather ride for ten hours in a rusted-out hatchback with bad brakes and no air conditioning than fly. As long as the radio works, I’m happy.

I don’t even like to watch the planes land and take off. The planes hold no mystery for me, despite what they're capable of. It’s the people that interest me; they're the ones I’m still trying to figure out. There are all kinds of people at an airport, all between destinations in one way or another.

Take the pilots, for example, catching a bite to eat between flights. They always sit alone, away from the crowds. They seem to eat with the same calculated ease with which they fly. The thing I've noticed about pilots is that no one ever talks to them. People seem to avoid eye contact, as if it's forbidden to look.

When I see people saying goodbye, their expression is almost always the same. It's part sadness, part fear, part reluctance to let the other person go. It’s as if there is an invisible thread stretched between them that is cut the moment the airplane door closes. They watch them until they disappear, making sure until the last second that their loved one is safe.

The ones who are returning are entirely different. They walk off the plane and up the jetway and begin searching the crowd for someone they recognize. They're hopeful, anxious, excited, all at once. The moment they see a familiar face, the confusion is replaced by the sweetest emotion of all: relief. You’re here. You know me. They’re coming back to someone, to something.

I always wonder about the ones who don't have someone waiting for them, what it is they're coming back to. These are the people I want to run to, to throw my arms around and say Welcome home. They're people-watchers too, even if they don't realize it. They're always looking, always observing, trying to untangle the mystery of how not to be alone.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What Came to Me
by Jane Kenyon

I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.

Did I mention you can get free poetry in your email? This was today's poem. Sign up to get yours here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I just finished watching Brokeback Mountain. Loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I loved Annie Proulx's story and seeing the movie only brought it and the characters even more to life. Loved it. Absolutely beautiful.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Top 10

Justin, over at Untalented Writer, has posted a very funny list of his top ten favorite nonexistent National Poetry Month events. Check out the list here. I was going to suggest something for the ladies, like a Sylvia Plath Bake-Off, but I thought that might be in bad taste.

I'm off to write today's poem for NaPoWriMo. I figure I'll keep it up until it becomes too much like nails on a chalkboard so the fact that I've made it to the second day is a small miracle.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


April is National Poetry Month which means that it's also NaPoWriMo, a poetic version of NaNoWriMo. The rules are simple: write a poem a day for 30 days. While there is no official site, there is a forum for NaPoWriMoers here, as well as links to some of last year's poems here and here.

You can find links to some of this year's participants here and if you don't want to write any poems, you can read some here.