Friday, June 30, 2006

Evidence that I don't suck as bad as I think I do

Remember a couple of days ago I wrote a story for Clarity of Night's "Midnight Road" fiction contest? Well, the results are in and.......I didn't win. But I did get an honorable mention, which is cool since there were so many awesome stories entered in the contest and I don't know squat about writing flash fiction. To find out who did win, click here and while you're there, check out some of the stories. And also, a big congratulations to Flood, whose story, "The Marker", was one of three stories to receive a Reader's Choice award.


Julie Carter (Carter's Little Pill) is making her new book of poems pseudophakia available on I've already bought my copy and you can get yours here.


For more ugly dogs, click here.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reader poll

You know, sometimes I wonder about really stupid things. Lately, I've been wondering why there are no reality shows for writers. Think about it. There could be "America's Next Top Poet" or "Who Wants to Marry a Middling Novelist", "Battle of the Chicklit Stars." People think "Survivor" is cutthroat but have they ever been to a writer's workshop? This could be some seriously good TV.

So why no writing-related shows? Are books not lowbrow enough for the reality TV crowd? Is reading passe? Then it hit me. People don't think writers are sexy. The reality TV audience is only interested in one thing: hot, sexy, young people parading around half-naked, wrestling in mud, and eating slugs. (I'm talking to you, Fear Factor.) No one wants to see Stephen King in a thong or Joyce Carol Oates strutting down the runway in a sequined bra and stilettos. (Unless that sort of thing is your bag, which is a whole other issue.)

What I want to know is, why don't people think writers can be sexy? I for one have serious writer crushes on Steve Almond and Chuck Palahniuk. (No comments on my taste, please.) Is this weird? Am I crazy for thinking that writers are hot? I can't be the only one.

So tell me, who are your writer crushes? What about them or their writing do you like? Are they established writers or up-and-comers or complete unknowns? Do you crush on other bloggers, or would that just be weird? Who is your favorite guilty pleasure writer? Who are you afraid to admit you read?
Comment anonymously if you have to but somebody back me up on this one. In the meantime, I'll be watching Fear Factor reruns, trying not to picture Stephen King in a thong.

Poetry Thursday

This week for Poetry Thursday, I'm doing something a little different. Since I got so many great suggestions from the Poets Wanted post, my reading list is now longer than the Great Wall of China. So, I decided that instead of just posting a poem for Poetry Thursday, I'd also do a review of whatever book of poetry I happened to be reading. I figure this way, we can all get to know new poets together and maybe you'll go out and read something you normally wouldn't have.

This week's featured poet was suggested by wandering-woman, whose blog you should definitely check out. I'm always taking suggestions for new poets so if you haven't offered yours yet, meet me in the comments section.

Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros

Cisneros is probably most well-known for her story collection, The House on Mango Street and her novel, Caramelo. Loose Woman, Cisneros' third volume of poetry, is a collection of love poems, divided into three sections, each of them addressed to the heart.

To understand the meaning behind some of these poems, you have to know a little about the poet's background. Cisneros was born and raised in the Midwest, to a Mexican father and a Mexican-American mother. The only daughter of seven children, she and her family lived alternately in Chicago and Mexico City, in poor neighborhoods where American culture became interspersed with her family's Mexican heritage. She grew up speaking both Spanish and English, and this is clearly reflected in her poems. There are bits of Spanish phrasing peppered throughout and one poem, "Amorcito Corazon," is written entirely in Spanish.

The poems are primarily love poems; there are former lovers, would-be lovers, dead lovers. Women figure in a very minor way, usually as rivals or relatives, although there are several poems written to girlfriends, such as this poem, "Black Lace Bra Kind of Woman".

Wachale! She's a black lace bra
kind of woman, the kind who serves
up suicide with every kamikaze
poured in the neon blue of evening.
A tease and a twirl. I've seen that
two-step girl in action. I've gambled bad
odds and sat shotgun when she rambled
her '59 Pontiac between the blurred
lines dividing sense from senselessness.

Ruin your clothes, she will.
Get you home way after hours.
Drive her '59 seventy-five on 35
like there is no tomorrow.
Woman zydeco-ing into her own decade.
Thirty years pleated behind her like
the wail of a San Antonio accordion.
And now the good times are coming. Girl,
I tell you, the good times are here.

The language she uses to describe love, sex, and the body are very frank; some of the images seem intended to shock. There is a crude quality to some of the poems but in reality, Cisneros is describing the smallest truths of life. Certain words, images tend to be repeated. Some of the poems move at a frenetic pace; others move more slowly, languidly, like a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon. Some of the images are fragmented; there is odd punctuation, a jolting, jangling sort of rhythm. There are references to classic works of art and pop culture in the space of a few lines and the poems take you from Mexico City to Laredo, Texas to Sarajevo to the south of France. These are poems written in the dead of night, when the mind is free to roam unchecked. They read like a mood swing, shifting from passionate to melancholic to wistful to angry. They reflect the passion of the poet, the way the mind moves from one thought to the next.

The title poem, "Loose Woman," is the last poem of the collection. The poem is at once a self-portrait and a statement of defiance. In it, Cisneros acknowledges how others see her and simultaneously rejects and accepts those assumptions. The world has mistaken her as bitch, a beast, a macha, while she views herself as a fiercely independent and strong woman. This poem is her way of saying, watch out world, you don't want to get in my way.

Overall, I enjoyed this collection immensely and would definitely recommend it. If you're anything like me, you'll feel compelled to sit and read them all in one sitting like I did. If you want to read about love and passion in all its forms, Loose Woman is a good place to start.

For more on Sandra Cisneros, click here.
For an interivew and to hear her read her poem, "You Bring Out the Mexican in Me", click here.
To buy her books, click here.

Next week: Grace Notes, by Rita Dove.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Carl's tiny brain is working overtime

Looks like I'm gonna have to buy another t-shirt.

Writing blind

Let's face it, I've been a bad blogger the last couple of days. I've given you some lovely pictures to look at it but I haven't exactly inspired scintillating conversation. (Not that I do that anyway. I just like that word "scintillating". Not "titillating" though. That just seems dirty.) I've also been neglecting my blogreading. I just spent the last hour or so visiting all of my favorite places, playing catch up. If I missed you, please forgive me. My brain is feeling like a big ball of mush at this point.

The past couple of days, I've just felt stretched to the breaking point. There's no reason for it really. My life is relatively low-key, my time is mostly my own. I know that there are other writers out there who would kill for the amount of spare time that I have, time that I've been wasting all too much of late. I'm in a creative slump and I can't seem to claw my way out of it.

The other night, I was watching "Groundhog Day" and I just kept thinking, This could be my life. In the movie, Bill Murray's character was forced to live the same day over until he worked out all the things that he'd been doing wrong. An endless cycle of instant reincarnation that only ended when he resolved all the things that were wrong in his life. In a way, that's exactly what I'm doing, only in my case, there aren't a countless number of do-overs.

So what's my problem anyway? Procrastination and indecision are first on the list. I am a self-admitted slacker, possibly the world's worst. I can think of a thousand reasons not to do something, but never that one reason why I should. Or else, I'll just worry over something, some decision, until it's too late to do anything about it anyway. I've missed more opportunities simply because of indecision and laziness than anything else.

Fear, next, fear of the unknown. Lack of confidence, hesitation, second-guessing. I want to take risks, to "dare to suck" as Scott says, but I worry too much that I'll fail, so I give up before I begin. When someone pays me a compliment, I can never take it at face value. I always assume they're lying, that they're just trying to be nice. I'm like the low self-esteem girl who went to your high school and did everyone's homework to try and fit in.

The life I'm living is nothing special but that's my own fault. What does the life I want look like? Part of the problem is, I don't really know. I see myself painting, writing, creating, laughing, loving, being happy but it's like seeing underwater. The vision is blurry, the edges are out of focus. I'm struggling, trying to fight my way to the surface and break through but the tide is pulling me under.

I need a poem. I need a story. I need a new thought, a new way of seeing. I need an idea. I need some inspiration. I need a voice. I need a sign. I need a miracle. I need a bolt from the blue. I need something unexpected. I need to find the way.

I hate to be self-indulgent and whiny but I'm a little lost right now and I want to ask you a favor: don't give up on me, okay? I'll find my way back eventually but it'll be an easier trip if I know there's someone waiting for me at the end of the road.

I just bought this

Although now I'm thinking I should have gotten one that said 'Fear the bad poet'. It seems more apropos.

SLQ FringeHead Review No. 12

For anyone who's forgotten, Fringes is continuing her review series of SmokeLong Quarterly #13. Yesterday, she was kind enough (or crazy enough) to ask me to do a guest review of one of the stories. So, to read the excellent story, click here and to read my review click here. And while you're there, check out all of the other reviews Fringes has done so far, as well as her story blog. Thanks again, Fringes, for the gig.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Flash(er) alert

I've been absolutely and utterly useless today. I promise tomorrow I will try harder. In the meantime, if you want to read something that'll make you feel better about yourself as a writer, check out my entry in the "Midnight Road" flash fiction contest at Clarity of Night. Please, keep the snickering to a minimum.

While you're there, make sure to check out some of the other entries. A lot of it is creepy, but good-creepy, know what I mean? If you don't, check out Flood's, Scott's, and Jaye's entries. Their stories gave me goosebumps.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Everything you ever wanted to know about Chuck Norris but were afraid to ask

Justin's got the answers.

Good morning

Friday, June 23, 2006

More poetry crap

Last week, I put up a post inviting other bloggers to tell me who their favorite poets were. I got a lot of different responses, some of which I thought I'd share. Several of the suggested poets I was already familiar with: Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, James Dickey, Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Ted Kooser, Rilke, Lucille Clifton, Denise Levertov, Galway Kinnell. A few were already old favorites of mine: Sharon Olds, Kim Addonizio, Billy Collins. There were also a lot of names I wasn't familiar with: Chris Abani, Anne Carson, Gary McDowell, Linda Gregg, Anne Compton, David Whyte, Evie Christie, Lisa Robertson, and many more. And oh yeah, only one person thought the picture was weird.

I was surprised that more people didn't express their opinions with regard to the poetbloggers. A couple of people mentioned Poetry Thursday but that was about it. I think some of the best new poetry out there is being written on poetry blogs and if you're not sure what I'm talking about, take a look at some of the links to the right. There are some really strong voices out there and they're creating some extraordinary poetry.

Anyway, if you read my last post, you're aware that I'm interested in, uh, improving myself as a poet. I think the only way to learn about poetry is to read everything that's out there and get a feel for how other people write. That's why I asked everyone for their opinions, to see if I could find a good starting place.

Another part of being a good poet is learning how to give and receive criticism. It's not enough to be able to read and understand poetry; I want to be able to deconstruct it, to see what works and what doesn't. Following Justin's suggestion, I've signed up for a poetry workshop to help me out with this. I also thought I might start doing some sort of regular review here, if that doesn't seem like a totally crazy idea. At least maybe it'll turn you on to some poets you might not have read otherwise.

So, if anyone has any other ideas for poets or blogs I should read, let me know. I still have plenty of room on the list. And hopefully, this will be the last poetry-related post for a couple of days at least.

An open letter to poetry

Look poetry, we've always gotten along fairly well, right? I mean, yes there have been times when we've both kept our distance but we always find our way back to one another in the end, don't we? We're like really good friends who only seem to get together in the middle of the night for whispered conversations in the dark.

I remember the first time I saw you. English class, tenth grade. I opened up my book and there you were, with your neat little stanzas and perfectly rhymed meter. I'll admit, I thought you were one stuck-up bitch. But then I got to know you a little and I saw you that there was more to you than sonnets and villanelles. I found out you could be wild when you wanted, that you could and would say just about anything. You were the bad girl I always wanted to be. I can tell you now, I had a little crush on you back then.

Then I went away to college. I started seeing you less and less, running into you at random moments and never stopping to chat. I was changing, you were changing. It was like we were speaking two different languages, I just couldn't understand you. I was too afraid to try.

Three years passed, and it never occurred to me to look you up. I had moved on with my life, I wasn't thinking about you anymore. I'd convinced myself I didn't need you. Then one day, I turned around and there you were. It was like you'd been there that whole time, waiting for me to notice you. We started spending every day together, taking clumsy steps toward one another. You were patient with me, though, you let me make mistakes. Slowly, I began to love you again.

Things were good for awhile. It seemed like this time, we were really going to make a go of it. But lately, you just haven't been there for me. You seem distant, moody. I never knew you could be so temperamental. The time we've been spending together, it's been good but it's not enough. I just need more from you. I don't think it's asking too much.

I've been thinking about you a lot lately, about how to fix what went wrong. I've made a decision and I'm sticking to it. I'm not going to play nice anymore. I'm not going to sit around, waiting for you to call. I've had enough of this little cat-and-mouse game we play. It's time to take control of the situation.

Poetry, I've decided to make you my bitch.

It doesn't have to be this way. Believe me, this is not how I wanted this to go. I just wanted us to be friends, to be happy. But you've left me with no choice. You've gotten a little out of control and somebody needs to rein you in. Poetry, this is for your own good. If I didn't care I'd just let you get away from me again. Try to remember that I'm doing this because I love you.

And if you feel a slap on your ass every now and again, that's just me, reminding you who's your daddy.

~ Rebecca

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Poetry Thursday, Part II

Or as I like to call it, "Geez, it took you long enough."

So, finally, with less than two hours left of Poetry Thursday I'm finally getting my own poem up. Remember? Poetry Thursday? A poem using words you love or hate? See, it's all coming back to you now.

So, here it is. Feel free to mock it in whatever way seems best to you. It's not like I ever claimed to be any good. As Justin put it "If the Muse is going to treat me like a red-headed stepchild, then I am going to treat it like the 1897 Coney Island Dollar Whore of the Year."


I am losing words.

It begins with a cramp
set deep in the belly,
not unlike the first
cramp of desire that signals
a sexual awakening.
You feel the pull
deep down, gravity
taking hold of your
insides, setting them
to the unavoidable task.
I can feel them now,
the words, a writhing
tangle of snakes,
striving to work
themselves free.

I am bleeding language—
hemorrhaging syllables,
words, whole sentences.
In my wake, I leave
ink-black splotches,
thick, dense clots
marking the path of
my body’s dissent.
They’re leaving me,
in twos and threes,
unraveling my history,
letter by letter.

Gone now is my father’s
choleric temper, his
voice as sharp as
a switchblade. Gone
is my mother’s
terra-cotta skin,
her distorted view
of love. Gone is the
girl with hollow eyes
and milkweed hair, the
opalescent moon, the
brilliance of the sun.
Gone now is every memory,
choked in the rush
of the unchecked tide.

This bloodletting has
rendered me mute.

Sifting through the
wreckage, there is
little to salvage.
There is no remedy
for such an ailment,
no feasible cure.
There is nothing
to do now but
cast out the tongue,
lay it aside,
as dead and useless
as the womb.

Poetry Thursday

This week's prompt for Poetry Thursday was to write or post a poem using words you love or hate. Mine is still a work in progress so this week, I have a poem by Kim Addonizio to give you instead. See if you can figure out which word is my favorite.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A love letter for the first day of summer

The summers I was little meant getting up early and staying outside until it was too dark to see. It mean eating watermelon on the front porch and spitting the seeds out into the dirt, the juice dripping down my chin. It meant my cousins, who were the closest thing I had to friends, coming over and staying for days at a time. We didn't have toys other than our own imagination and everyday, we made up a new game to play. We knotted daisy chains into our hair and climbed trees and ate sour grapes that always gave us a bellyache.

On the weekends, there were cookouts, twenty or so of us in lawn chairs, watching the smoke drift up from the grill. We'd watch the sun set, the sky fading from blue to pink to gold. When it got dark, we'd hunt fireflies, chasing after their tiny lights while the cicadas hummed in the tall grass. When we got tired, we'd lie on our backs and watch the moon come up, trying to keep track of the stars.

Everything seemed to happen on our front porch in the summer. This was where my grandpa used to sit and tell me stories about the war. My granny would pick string beans and we'd sit on the porch, a bucket between us, snapping them in half. She taught me how to shell peas, breaking off the end and then running my thumb down the middle to force them out. She showed me how to shuck corn, how to peel back each layer and bring away all the cornsilk.

Sometimes, my mother would take me with her to work. She cleaned houses during the day in a well-to-do suburb a couple of miles away. She didn't have a car so we used to walk, careful to mind the blind spots. A fast car on a country road is a dangerous thing. Sometimes we'd stop on the way and pick blackberries growing wild. I remember their softness, the way they burst open in my mouth, sweet and sour at the same time, always a surprise.

In the summer, I could stay up late, watching movies on cable. I could hide out in my room, reading for hours if I wanted to. I could eat breakfast or not, make my bed or not. There were no bedtimes, no rules, no do this or that. If my cousins were around, there was no controlling us. Dirt-kneed barefoot savages, we ran wild and my granny figured it was better to leave us to our own devices. "Godless heathens", she'd call us and we'd laugh and run off again.

Summer was trips to the beach and horseback rides. It was wearing my swimsuit all day, chasing each other with the hose. It was water-balloon fights and baseball games and carnivals. It was ice cream and firecrackers and driving around the countryside with my granny, stopping at every fruit stand on the way. It was fun and freedom and days that never seemed to end. And most of all, it was that feeling of being young and knowing the best was still ahead of you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


When I got up this morning, I wanted to get in my car and drive until everything around me was different, until everyone and everything I knew had disappeared. I wanted to leave behind my house, my books, my clothes, my job. My mother and my father, my boyfriend, my dogs, my name. Everything about this so-called life of mine. I wanted to shed it all, like a skin I'd outgrown, and step fragile and new into another life.

It didn't matter where I went. I could have driven west, chasing the sun, until the land turned to water again. I could have gone to the desert and watched the sunset, the sky fading into purples and blues like an angry bruise. I could have gone north, into the mountains, delirious at the sight of all that blue-green beauty. I could have gone back to the town I grew up in, haunting the familiar places like a ghost.

The destination wasn't important, only the leaving. I wanted to be somewhere, anywhere but here.

Instead, I got up and took a walk around my neighborhood. I listened to the birds singing in the trees, breathed in the smell of fresh-cut grass. I felt the road under my feet, the distance from home as long or as short as I wanted to make it.

Every so often it takes hold of me, this urge to begin again. I can't explain it, this need to shake off the past and start over with a fresh history. It's a want I don't understand, a want to be something more than ordinary.

I could have gone. I could go still. I have the means, all I lack is the will. For now though, I choose to stay here, in this life. But if someday I should disappear, know that I'm out there, on the road, chasing down my destiny.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day

I wrote this yesterday. I wasn't going to post it and then I saw that postcard... I'm still not sure if it's a good idea but here goes anyway.

I want to tell you about my father. I want to tell you that he was a good man, that he loved us, took care of us. I want to tell you that he never hurt my mother, that theirs was a happy marriage. I want to tell you that he was my hero growing up, that he still is. That in my eyes, there is no other man like him.

I wish I could tell you that. I wish I could tell you that we were a happy family, that we have a strong relationship. Instead, I'll tell you that in many ways, my father and I are strangers. That most of what I know of him is condensed into a series of moments and memories that I can't let go of. That I worry over them the way you would a loose tooth.

I don't know what he was like when he was younger. I don't know what it was that made him marry my mother. Never were there two people less suited to marriage. I think it was desperation, more than anything. Both of them looking for something different, a way out.

I know that the first and only year of their marriage was turbulent, violent. I know that he drank and the she was left alone much of the time. I know that he hurt her, and that she was the one who left. I know that after they divorced, he disappeared, and I wouldn't see him again for four years.

He drifted in and out of my life, popping up at odd moments. On my sixth birthday, he showed up at my birthday party unannounced. He took me out to the car to give me my present, a puppy. He had it hidden in his coat and when he opened it up, I screamed "A puppeeee!" and ran off to show my mother. I didn't see him for two years after that.

He'd spend a day here, a week there. He took me fishing, to the movies, to the zoo. Whenever he came for a visit, I was always afraid to go with him. I had gotten it into my head that he wanted to kidnap me, that he wouldn't bring me back. This was my worst fear.

Once, he took me to visit his father, who lived alone in a trailer on the other side of town. He told me that his dad had "run away from home" when he was younger, and that he'd had to drop out of school in eighth grade to take care of his mother and the other kids. I sat in his cramped little trailer, listening to the two of them talk. Here was a man who had run out on his family, who had never supported them, never really cared for them, acting like none of it had ever happened. It didn't make sense to me how devoted my father was to him. It still doesn't.

When I was 11, he got a job installing fiber-optic cable all over the country. He used to bring me things from the places he'd been: a giant pine cone from California; a phone book from Nevada. Small things, things he thought I'd like. He'd take me shopping, buy me whatever I wanted. "Buying my love", my mother called it. He didn't pay regular child support. This was how he made up for it.

He'd tell me about the women he was dating; a waitress in Alabama, an artist in New Mexico, a masseuse in Nevada. I was curious about these women, curious what he told them about me. Several of them had kids of their own that he was more than happy to take care of. I wondered what made them so special.

Two years later, he and the waitress moved to the town I lived in. She brought her five-year-old daughter and a baby my father thought was his. An instant family. Exactly what he thought he wanted. At 14, I ended up having to go and live with them, in a house full of strangers. When my mother came over, she always stood out in the driveway. She never came inside. By now, she and my father had gotten to hate one another pretty well.

So much of the time I spent with them was unhappy. I remember him telling me that he didn't want me to use his last name anymore. He was ashamed of me, he said, he didn't want to claim me. They wanted to put me in a home for girls. They took me there once, for a tour. I still don't know why they didn't leave me there.

Over the next four years, the only thing they did was fight. She didn't want me there, she didn't like me interrupting her perfect life. The whole time I lived there, she only spoke directly to me a handful of times. He never said anything to me unless it was to yell at me for something or to hand out a punishment. I remember him raising his fist to hit me. I looked him right in the eye, to show him I wasn't afraid. I remember the look on his face, fury twisting into something else. Shock, I think, that he couldn't scare me anymore.

At 17, I moved out to go to college. I went home a couple of times a year, mostly on holidays. I would call every so often, short conversations where I said very little. I remember him telling me on more than one occasion that I was ruining my life. He doesn't say this anymore but I know he's thinking it. When we talk now, our conversations are full of forced pleasantries and awkward pauses. There is so much we don't say.

How well do we ever really know our fathers? I know him, in some ways, these small things about his life. I know what sort of person he is and the ways that I'm like him. But I don't feel like I really know him and I don't think I ever will. I wish I could tell you I knew how to change this. I wish I could tell you I wanted to.

All I can say is this: fathers, be good to your daughters. And daughters, try to keep your hearts open to them, even when it seems impossible.

Me too

I found this today on PostSecret. When I read this card, all I could think was me too.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Poets wanted

If you were lured here by the title, thinking this was some sort of poet classified ad, eh, sorry about that. I'll admit, it was a little deceptive but I have to get people to come here somehow, right?

What I mean by "Poets wanted" is that I'm looking to expand my poetic horizons so to speak and I'm not exactly sure where to start. I have a handful of poets and poetbloggers who are my favorites but I'm looking to add to the list. This is where you come in. I want to know what you like when it comes to poetry. Who do you recommend? Who are your favorites? Is there a certain poet or book of poetry I should be reading? What about poetry blogs, what are your favorites? Who are the best of the poetbloggers? Who should be put on the up-and-coming list? (I already have my own opinion but I'm curious about everyone else's.)

Tell me what you think. (Unless you think I suck, you can keep that to yourself.) Tell me which poets you love, which ones leave you feeling lukewarm. Tell me about your favorite poem or book of poetry, or who you think runs the best poetry blog. Tell me that picture is weird, I don't care. I want to get as much feedback as possible, so come on, let me hear it.

And for anyone who came here looking for the "poet wanted" section of the classifieds, let me know if you find one. That's a job I'd like to have.

Friday, June 16, 2006

We wear short-shorts

For anyone who's interested in short short or "flash" fiction, Fringes is doing a series of reviews over on her blog, based on stories from the new issue of SmokeLong Quarterly. If you're new to the concept of short short fiction or just want something good to read, check out the stories and then head over to Fringes' to read her take. She's currently reviewing this story and up next is this one, which is so far my personal favorite.

Let me hear you say 'Om'

Lately, I've been trying to get more in touch with my creative side. One of the things I've been trying is creative visualization. Normally, I don't go for any of that New Age-y sort of thing but I kind of got hooked on that "Starting Over" show and this is the sort of thing they do. Basically, it's focused concentration on a specific goal combined with positive thinking, meditation, and affirmations. I'm supposed to set a goal, tell myself I can do it, and voila, I'll somehow be able to, just by using my mind. Riiight.

As you can tell, I'm a little bit of a skeptic but I'm willing to give it a shot. (Except for the meditation. Not so crazy about that yet.) One of the first things you have to do is develop a statement of purpose. It's supposed to be an expression of your biggest, best want. I thought I'd share mine here, if for no other reason than to give you a laugh. Enjoy.

I want to be a writer. I want to write poems, whole books of them. I want to write stories and paper the world with them. I want to write a novel, and then another, and then another. I want to see my name in lights, even if they're only metaphorical. I want to start a punk rock writer revolution. Justin is going to be our leader. I want to create using the simplest tools, the blank page and my imagination. I want to weave art out of thin air, to transform the intangible. I want to seduce you with my words, leading you along like a pied piper. I want to write this book. I want to finish it. I want to send it out into the world, knowing I did the best I could.

I want to do this.

I need to do this.

I can do this.

And I won't rest until I do.

Some people would call it delusions of grandeur. I call it my dream.


The power is out. Just like that, all the usual sounds are cut short. No ringing phone, no canned laughter coming from the TV, no hum of the computer. None of the normal sounds of life. And worst, no one to talk to. Just me, sitting, listening to the quiet.

What I can hear: the birds singing outside, their notes light and faraway. The voices of people walking by on the street, fragments of conversation coming in through cracks in the window. The sound of my pen scratching against the paper, awkward in the pauses. My own breath, moving in and out in steady rhythm. The chair creaking beneath me as I shift my weight, the dog rising from her nap and shaking off sleep. My own laughter, watching her track a fly across the room and later, that same fly buzzing past my ear. A high-pitched tinny ringing in my ears. The deafening rush of noise.

I've looked everywhere for the tools that will help me be a better writer. I've searched the library for books that will tell me the secret. I've read all the articles, the journals. I've been across cyberspace and back, hoping to stumble across it somewhere.

In the quiet, now, it comes to me. Everything I need is right here in this room. This pen, this paper, this mind, this will. These things are enough.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Some writing inspiration

Since I won't get to post until sometime tomorrow evening, I want to tell everyone to go over to the little puddle's blog and read the interview that's posted there. Her mom, Flood, conducted the interview and besides that, she also has a great blog about writing. This little one is renewing my faith as a writer and besides that, she's quite talented, so go read it.

Also, for anyone who reads or comments here regularly or even not so regularly, you know that I've kind of been struggling with the writing lately. For those of you who offered advice, thank you, thank you, thank you. It may not seem like much but it's meant the world to me so again, thank you.

Poetry Thursday

Poetry Thursday once again. This week, the optional assignment was to post whatever you wanted so, dear readers, (all three of you) you'll be treated to some more of my own homecooked poetry. I haven't got the recipe quite right yet but hopefully, the flavor will come through. Enjoy.

The other sister

I used to imagine there were two of us
in my mother’s womb, fitted into one
another, mirrored halves of the same

shell, a chambered nautilus floating in
the inky dark. Curled twin tadpoles, we
swam in the waves of our mother’s warmth,

joined skin to skin. She, a small dark
replica of my mother, myself in reverse,
the two of us connected down to the nerve,

the membrane, synaptic firings offering
the same shared sense of memory. One
came forth in a rush of blood and terror

and movement, sent out into the world
alone, while the other stayed behind, a
ghost in the womb. My mother says not

to be silly, to stop imagining things, but
I’ve already shouldered the weight of her,
the other sister, the other half of myself.

This is by no means finished and in reality, it most likely sucks, but damnit, I had to put up something.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Note to self

When you don't think it's any good, when you think you have no talent, when you think no one is listening, when the words won't come or only the wrong ones do, when you want to do anything else, when you start to lose your nerve, when it all seems like a waste of time, when you don't know what to say, when what you have to say is the wrong thing, when fear is closing in on you, when you think you'll never write anything good again, when all you want to do is give up

Keep going, keep going, keep going

Happy Birthday

Dear Mom,

Hopefully by now you'll have gotten the flowers I sent. I like to imagine you get them first thing in the morning, so that you'll have them to look at the rest of the day. This year, I chose roses, two dozen and different kinds, in a green porcelain vase with a card that simply said 'Happy Birthday'. Last year, it was gerbera daisies and the year before that, wildflowers in an antique jar. It occurs to me just now that I've never thought to ask you what your favorite flower is. This seems like something I should know.

Today is your 47th birthday. It's been two years since I've seen you and I wonder how much you've aged since then. The last time I saw you, there were new lines around your eyes and a few strands of silver in your hair. It was your birthday then too, and I wanted to take you out to dinner. You called me into the bedroom, asked me to help you find something to wear. When you took off your shirt, I was shocked to see how much your body had changed, how much older you seemed. It was unexpected, this discovery that you weren't as young as I'd remembered. I'm almost afraid to see you now, afraid that the truth of your getting older will be more than I can take.

Forty-seven. Not far from fifty, but you claim not to feel it. You work three jobs and only sleep two or three hours a night, and you tell me this doesn't bother you, that you can handle it. You're no stranger to hard work but it's taken its toll on you. There's the scar on your right hand where the doctors had to reattach your finger after it was accidentally severed. The hard knot of scar tissue in your left arm, where a horse broke loose and tried to crush you. The crisscross pattern of thin blue and purple veins snaking their way down your legs, brought on by years of standing on your feet. I think of these wounds and I wonder how much more your body can stand.

Will you tell people it's your birthday or will you pretend it's just another day? You always say that birthdays don't matter but I know this is a lie. I wonder if you'll have a cake, if someone will do something special for you. I imagine you, your eyes closed, face lit up by the glow of candles, making your wish. Maybe you'll wish to win the lottery or find a better job. Maybe you'll just wish for something different, something better. My wish for you is always the same: that you'll finally get whatever it is you want from this life.

The last time we spoke, you told me how you felt like you'd failed me as a mother, how you'd made so many mistakes. You said it over and over, choking on tears. I could have stopped you. I could have said no, you're wrong, you were a good mother. But I didn't. I didn't because it would have been a lie, one that we would have both had to own. You're afraid that I hate you; this weighs on you, I know. It would be easy to do but I don't. I'd rather do the hard thing and love you anyway, despite how much it hurts sometimes.

When I call you later, we won't talk about what we said last time. I'll tell you Happy Birthday, ask you if you got the flowers, if you like them. You'll ask me about work, about Jason and the dogs, and I'll repeat the same answers as always. We'll hang up and I'll regret all the things I didn't say, all the ways I can't make things better for you. Maybe one day I'll let you read this and you'll understand. For now though,

Happy Birthday

I love you

~ R.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The view from here

This is
what it
looks like

What's it like where you are?

Friday, June 09, 2006

A little something for the teachers

Seems like traffic's been a little slow around here the past few days. (Geez, do I suck that bad?) So, I'm taking the weekend off from blogging in the hopes that when I come back, I'll have something to write about that won't put you all to sleep.

In the meantime, here's a little something for the teachers or anyone else who wants a laugh. (Who knew muppets could rock so hard?)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

@#$!&*$%#@@$ Blogger!

Poetry Thursday

This week's assignment for Poetry Thursday was about eavesdropping. Listening to the voices in the world around you, picking up the rhythm and flow of language, and then using it to create your own poem. Well, so far this week, I've only left the house twice so I haven't really heard too much conversation, besides the TV. So, this week, I invite you to visit some other poetbloggers and eavesdrop on their words instead.

J Malcolm

January (Poet Mom)

The lovely Rebecca

The equally lovely Lynn

The dazzling Christine

The astoundingly prolific Julie

Okay, I'm running out of descriptives here. Just go read them okay? And go read everybody else in the sidebar while you're at it. Hopefully, you'll find them as inspiring as I do.

A book meme

In response to my post about bookstores, Jeff has tagged me with a Favorite Books Meme, so here goes:

Total number of books I own:

Officially, the ones I was able to count totaled 700. This doesn't include the boxes in the attic, the boxes of books I left at my parents' house, or all the books I've loaned out to people that I haven't gotten back yet. As for how many of these books I've actually read? Waaayyy less than that. (See, I kind of have a library addiction too, so I tend to read those books first.)

Last book(s) you purchased:

Yesterday, I bought three Chuck Palahniuk books: Invisible Monsters, Survivor, and Fight Club. Now the only book of his I don't have is Haunted, which I have read and definitely recommend. ( If it's not totally obvious, I have a little bit of a thing for Chuck Palahniuk.)

Last book you read:

Coyote Blue, by Christopher Moore. This past month, I also read all three of Sara Gran's books, The Dog of the Marriage, by Amy Hempel, My Life in Heavy Metal, by Steve Almond, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, by George Saunders, The Difference Between Women and Men, by Bret Lott, The Secret Society of Demolition Writers, ed. by Marc Parent, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, by a 40-year-old woman posing as a teenage male prostitute (Yeah, I'm still bitter about that one), and The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. That last one is in really small print for a reason. I have a reputation to protect here, people.

Five books that are important to me:

Just five? Geez, that makes it harder.

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. One of my favorite books when I was little, along with all of Shel Silverstein's books.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy. I read this in high school and absolutely fell in love with it. This, along with Pride and Prejudice, are why I love the classics.

The Dead and the Living, by Sharon Olds. The reason why I fell in love with poetry.

Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk. For obvious reasons.

The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Don't ask me why I love this book. All I know is that for the past four years running, I've read it every summer and this summer looks to be no different.

Who I'd like to respond:

Anyone who reads this, I'm not picky. I'm always interested to see what kind of books other people read. My list is, er, varied, so I'm curious to see if anyone shares my tastes.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

So that's how you do it

Remember a few days ago, when I was asking about the secret to writing fiction? Well, it seems Bookfraud has the answer.

Scenes from a bookstore

It appears as if Blogger's finally gotten its head out of its ass, so on with the posting.

I went out today to look for a job but somehow ended up in a used bookstore on the other side of town. I tried to just drive on past but they pulled me in with their used-books tractor beam. I suppose it was God's way of telling me it was okay to blow off looking for a job because once I got in there, I found this for super-cheap. I had to refrain from doing a little dance right there in the store.

Now, I know what you're going to say. You shouldn't buy books from a used bookstore because the author doesn't make any money off them. I know, you're absolutely right, and as a writer, I should understand that better than most people. I can't help it though. See, I'm basically a bookstore junkie. Some people like heroin, I like books, the cheaper the better.

I can go to any city in America and the first thing I'll want to do is find a bookstore. I prefer secondhand or indie places to the big chains. Despite what I've read about the death of independent bookstores, they're still my first choice when it comes to buying books. Every time I walk into a Barnes & Noble, I feel like a little piece of my soul has shriveled up and died. The salespeople always seem to look at you funny, like you're not supposed to touch the books or something. And God forbid, you don't buy a mocha-choco-frappe-latte-cino or whatever the hell it is they sell.

I like used bookstores because you never know what you're going to find. My favorite bookstore is in the town I grew up in. It's actually inside an old house that someone bought and then filled up with books. Every room in the house, including the hallways and the basement, is lined with rows and rows of books. Every room has its own theme: romance, western, classics, science fiction, etc. I could spend hours in this place and never get bored. I've decided that if I ever win the lottery, I'm going to offer the man who owns it whatever he wants for it. Then I'm going to run around the store, screaming mine! mine! mine!

In addition to being a bookstore junkie, I'm also a book hoarder. I can't buy just one book, I have to buy three or five or twelve. I think the most I ever bought in one day was something like 27, from three or four different places. I've spent more money on books in the last year than I have clothes. There are books in every room of my house, on shelves, on the floor, in boxes. My reading list is so backlogged we're talking years to get through them all. I'm going to be one of those people you read about on News of the Weird, who ends up being crushed to death by a pile of falling books. They'll find me, weeks later, curled up in the fetal position, clutching a copy of Fight Club. Not a bad way to go, come to think of it.

I plan to be a bookstore junkie and book addict until they develop a twelve-step program or my eyes shrivel up and fall out, whichever comes first. In the meantime, if anyone wants to borrow a book, just let me know. You might just save a life.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What I want

  • I want hot chocolate on cold days.
  • And an endless supply of marshmallows.
  • I want to chase fireflies in the backyard like I did when I was little.
  • I want to be a better writer.
  • And a better friend.
  • I want to stop being such a TV junkie. It really does rot your brain.
  • I want the Yankees to win the World Series this year.
  • I want to learn how to use my digital camera so that I can take halfway decent pictures.
  • I want someone to think that my paintings are good.
  • I want a job that I can love and that doesn't make me feel like less of a human being.
  • And I wouldn't mind if it paid well too.
  • Really, I want to be my own boss.
  • I want everyone to laugh at my jokes.
  • I want to learn to drive a stick.
  • And a motorcycle.
  • I want a king-sized bed, with down comforters and a high thread count.
  • I want to read the classics.
  • I want to learn to play an instrument. The piano, maybe, or the violin.
  • I want to be happy in my own skin, even if that means not being a perfect size 6.
  • And I want the rest of the world to think it's okay too.
  • I want to write books. Then I want to publish them. Then I want people to read them and say "Oooh, how brilliant." Or something like that.
  • I want to get unstuck.
  • I want to be a rock star.
  • Or at least marry one.
  • I want to see the world.
  • I want to go Europe and let myself get lost.
  • I want to go to Vegas and lose a lot of money and not care.
  • I want to go to Arizona and stand in the middle of the desert and scream as loud as I can.
  • I want to go to New York City and stand in Times Square, knowing the city could swallow me up in an instant.
  • I want to find someplace where I belong.
  • I want someone to remind me what it feels like to be inexplicably, deliriously in love.
  • But I'm not holding my breath.
  • I want to buy a farm and live in the country, away from the rest of the world.
  • I want to wake up in the morning and just be glad that I'm alive.
  • I want to find some peace.
  • I want to believe in God.
  • I want to let go of my fears.
  • I want to the war to be over.
  • I want to feel safe in my own country.
  • I want someone to tell me it's going to be alright.
  • I want to believe this.
  • I want to be able to tell my mom the truth when she asks if I'm okay.
  • I want to be able to talk to my dad.
  • I want to figure out what the hell it is I'm supposed to be doing.
  • And more time to do it.
  • I want to forgive people who have hurt me.
  • And I want to be forgiven.
  • I want to tell the truth.
  • I want someone to hear me.
  • I want to stop procrastinating.
  • I want to get off my ass.
  • I want to have a better attitude.
  • I want to look on the bright side for once.
  • I want to take myself seriously.
  • And I want other people to do it too.
  • I want to give back to the world, in some small way.
  • I want to make every day count.
  • I don't want to waste any more time.
  • I want my life to matter.
  • Mostly, I just want to be happy.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Practicing poetry

I bought this book a few months ago and yesterday, I finally picked it up and started reading it. I'm about four chapters into the first section, which deals mainly with how to generate ideas for poems. I know that it probably seems amateurish to be reading a sort of "how-to" guide to poetry but give me a break, I am an amateur.

The extent of my formal training with poetry is limited to what I learned in high school. We learned about forms and meter and rhyme and a lot of other things that I never really paid attention to. We learned how to write haikus and sonnets and we staged poetry readings which I always dreaded. I didn't like poetry then, I didn't understand most of it and it bored me. I never, ever thought that I would attempt to write it on my own one day.

I first started writing poetry on a whim. I had no idea what I was doing. I was one of those people who thought sites like were totally legit and that poetry always had to rhyme. The poems I wrote reflected my inexperience but I kept going, stumbling through it blindly. In the meantime, I read a lot of different poets, trying to determine what I did and didn't like. In a way, this is how I learned to write poetry, or at least write it a little better.

Last week, I put up a post for Poetry Thursday that generated an interesting discussion in the comments. Basically, the question I was asking was how do you know if you're any good at this poetry thing? The lovely Rebecca Loudon told me that there really is no way to know for sure, that you just have to keep writing and make sure you're in love with what you're doing.

It's not hard to decide what you do or don't like when it comes to someone else's work. My rule for determining whether poetry is any good is if I want to keep reading after the first few lines. I need something, some spark in those first few lines to pull me into the poem. If you've read this blog before, you know that I'm a big Sharon Olds fan. I love her poetry because so much of it is concerned with the human aspect of herself. She writes about the body, the self, the family, in raw but precise terms. I read Louise Gluck because she uses simple language to convey complex thoughts and images. Her poems read like a conversation, they flow so easily. I read Kim Addonizio because she writes with such force that it leaps out from the page. There's so much passion and energy in what she writes.

When it comes to my own work, I tend to have more of a blind spot. I write poetry because it's something I enjoy. It seems to me to be one of the purest forms of self-expression and I love to do it. I have no training for it, no one's asking me to do it. I'm sure there are probably some people who wish I would stop. I don't know if what I write is any good or if I'll ever get good at it but I plan to keep trying.

I tend to think of everything I write as practice. So the question is, how do you know when you're not just practicing anymore? Is it all just practice in the long run? Is there a point when you reach a certain level of refinement or is there always room for improvement? How do you know when you've got it?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

On being a woman

This is a something I just started working on. It's not finished yet but I thought it might be fun to see what people think.

Why it's awesome:

  • Well, for starters, the clothes are much prettier
  • And the accessories are better
  • And did I mention the shoes?
  • Because we're strong, even if we don't know it
  • And our bodies were built for the ultimate test of strength: pregnancy
  • All the best art is about us. Throughout history, women have been responsible for the inspiration and creation of some of the world's great masterpieces.
  • Probably because we look so much better naked
  • Because we can speak our minds
  • And because we can be damn funny
  • Because sometimes, we're the ones who save the day
  • Because our writing is so full of passion
  • And because we keep going, even when it's hard
  • Because statistically, I'm going to live longer
  • Because of men who make us laugh
  • And ones who make us think

Why sometimes it sucks:

  • Because even though the clothes are the prettier, they're not always comfortable
  • Same goes for the shoes
  • Because we don't always have the best role models
  • Because there's so much pressure to look like this
  • And so many of us buy into it
  • Because it's naturally assumed that we all love: cooking, cleaning, sewing, baking, etc. I can do none of these things, nor do I care to, thank you very much
  • Because we get blamed for everything
  • And even though we're free to speak our minds
  • There are always consequences
  • And sometimes we have to fight so much harder for what we believe in
  • Because of men who think they know what's best for us
  • And women who agree
  • Because our birth control is so much more expensive
  • And because we're expected to want to have children. I have nothing against children, women who have children, or women who want children. I do not so please, get off my back.
  • Because there is always someone who underestimates us

This is what I have so far. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

A public service announcement

Yesterday, I posted a continuation of this piece, unsure of the response it would get. I thought it might be a little heavy for a blog post. After reading some of the comments, I decided to take it down. Everyone has their own truth and this is mine, but maybe it's a story better told in a different venue. We now return to your regularly scheduled programming of completely nonsensical rambling. Thank you.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Not that I revel in other people's misery but this did brighten my day.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Poetry out loud

Once again, it's Poetry Thursday and once again, I'm doing this really late but better late than never right? This week's challenge was to stage a poetry reading in your own backyard. Pick a poem to read aloud and then share your experience. Now, I normally don't read poetry out loud. It always sounds too weird to me. But, since it is Poetry Thursday and since Michele has already set such a brave and wonderful example, I thought I'd give it a try. So, for you souls brave enough to click on the little linky, you'll get to hear yours truly. (I've listened to it a few times and I think I sound like a five-year-old but whatever.)

The poem is titled "What Do Women Want?" and it's by Kim Addonizio, who is one of my absolute favorites poets. She, along with Sharon Olds, Dorianne Laux, and Louise Gluck, makes me all swoony.

Enjoy, and try to keep the snickering to a minimum.

this is an audio post - click to play