Archive for Writing

All in all, a very good year.

What I didn’t do in 2008: write enough, travel outside the country, make a lot of money.

What I did:

March 11

March 11

March 14

March 14

May 4, 2008

May 4

June 22

June 22

September 13

September 13

November 4

November 4

November 26

November 26

(Yes, I’ve taken more recent photos. No, I haven’t uploaded them yet.)

A resolution: I will birth more stories in the coming year than I did babies in the last.

What do you want for 2009? Share your new year’s resolutions in the comments!

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Just Desserts – Chapter 2

Maltose and Dextrose, the brave explorer and the easily-bribed sidekick, flew far, far from home. They flew all through the day, watching the patchwork quilt of the land fade away into the rippled, glassy sea. When night fell, they huddled in the bottom of their Vessel and gazed at the pinprick stars in silence until they fell asleep.

“Land! Land!” Maltose raised her head at Dextrose’s cries. She tipped her pith helmet back and looked where he pointed, and saw cliffs, stark against the breaking dawn.

ARRIVAL

“Not just land.” Maltose squinted. “Buildings. Peeple.”

“Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” Dextrose bounced up and down in his excitement.

“Sounds good to me!” Maltose steered the Vessel toward the strip of grass at the top of the cliff. As they drew near, she saw the villagers gather in small groups outside their houses, watching them approach. The Vessel bumped to a halt at the outskirts of the village, but the only peep to approach was a small child, who stood staring at the Vessel in awed silence. The other villagers remained huddled around their huts, whispering amongst themselves.

“They must not be used to outsiders,” Maltose mused quietly aloud. “Imagine the many thousands of years that their small culture has been here, isolated on this clifftop, needing nothing more than grass huts and coconut palms to survive. No doubt we seem miraculous to them – perhaps even godlike. That means,” she told her companion solemnly, “that we have a duty to these primitive people. We must speak slowly and carefully, and try not to shock them with concepts too complex for their savage intellect.”

But Dextrose was not listening. “Shopping!” he cried, and scrambled out of the Vessel.

THE VILLAGE

Maltose followed, and stood by Dextrose’s side, looking up at the sign. “Oh. Yes,” she said. “Well.”

ENTERING ANTIQUE SHOP

“Can we go in, Maltose? Can we, please?” And without waiting, Dextrose ducked through the low door.

ANTIQUE SHOP

Inside, the shop was dusty and dimly lit. Small statues, jars, and carvings lay scattered about, and cracked paintings hung from the dark walls. In the gloom, they could see the shopkeeper behind the counter, nodding in half-sleep.

“There’s something strange about him,” Dextrose murmured.

“Don’t be prejudiced,” Maltose scolded. “He’s just like the other villagers – they’re all pink and have large ears. You can’t expect peeple everywhere to be just like they are at home.”

“But that’s just it,” Dextrose said slowly. “He looks . . . familiar, somehow.”

The shopkeeper snorted and awoke fully. “Tourists!” he cried cheerfully, and waddled out from behind the counter. “Welcome, welcome to our little village, where everything is just as it should be and nothing is as it shouldn’t! Can I interest you in some artifacts or native painting? All one hundred-percent authentic!”

He herded them over to one side of the room. “See this stone tablet? Five thousand years old if it’s a day. And yours for such a low price! What do you think, Madam?” He asked as he held it out for Maltose’s inspection.

THE CURIOS

“I don’t – I think – I mean, we’re just looking,” Maltose stammered. The shopkeeper looked at her face sharply as she spoke, then his eyes widened and he dropped the tablet. It broke into three pieces when it hit the floor.

“Oh, no!” Dextrose wailed, “It’s broken!”

The shopkeeper waved distractedly at him. “Never mind, young Sir. It’s worth more in three pieces than in one anyway. Might I ask, respected customers, from whence you hail?”

Here Maltose felt on firmer ground. Speaking slowly, using small words and grand gestures to communicate, she told him about the Strange Land Across The Big Water, and the Tribe of Yellow Peeps who lived there. She explained about the Great God known as the Adventure Bug who had told them to Journey Far Away To Foreign Lands. As she spoke, he grew pale, and stumbled back behind his counter. He drew out a piece of paper, wadded it up, and wiped it across his shining forehead. As he did so, his ears wobbled alarmingly, and he reached up to steady them.

“That’s it!” Dextrose was triumphant. “The ears! They’re not real! He’s actually a Peep like us! But Pink!”

“Hush! Hush, perceptive young Sir.” The shopkeeper looked nervously about. “I have been living among the villagers in disguise for many years, they must not discover my deception.”

“But why?” They were edging out of Maltose’s comfort zone, and she was not entirely pleased. Natives were supposed to be grateful recipients of her exotic tales – they weren’t supposed to have urgent dramas of their own.

“Because I was sent here, far from the shimmering desert of my home, twelve years ago.” He wiped his forehead with the wad of paper again. “I was sent here to wait. For you.”

Oh, well, that’s all right then, Maltose thought dazedly. As the two Peeps stared at him, beaks gaping, the shopkeeper looked down at the stained, crumpled paper in his hand. “Oh, vegetables!” he cursed, and frantically began smoothing it out on the counter. “Twelve years of waiting, and I almost ruin the map.”

Maltose and Dextrose sidled closer.

THE MAP

“But what’s it for?” Dextrose asked.

“And where does it lead?” Maltose added. “And why us?”

The shopkeeper, beginning to recover his composure, smiled enigmatically. “It is for, and leads to, a great treasure hidden deep in the perilous desert. As for why you,” he shrugged. “That I do not know. I always thought it should have been someone taller, myself.”

Dextrose grabbed the map and began hopping up and down. “A treasure hunt! A treasure hunt!” he sang. “C’mon, Maltose! Let’s go, quick! Before the other teams find it!” He raced out of the door, heading back to the Vessel.

Maltose narrowed her eyes at the grinning shopkeeper. “It isn’t that easy, is it?” she asked him.

“Define ‘easy’.”

Maltose groaned, and left the shop without further questions. Bitter experience had taught her that asking questions just got her answers she didn’t want.

She climbed back into the Vessel, where Dextrose was waiting impatiently. As they took off, she could see the small child who had been so fascinated with the Vessel running along the ground below them, waving. She waved back, then turned to her excited companion. “A treasure hunt it is, then.”

LEAVING TOWN

(Chapter 1)

Set-Designer, Fetcher-of-New-Batteries-for-Camera, and Master of the Photoshop Domain: Husband. Story-Writer and Photo-Snapper: Uccellina.

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Just Desserts – Chapter 1

Dextrose was feeling smug. That morning he had spent one hour baking cookies, another hour eating them, and then he had watched paint peel for a full forty-five minutes. Now it was afternoon, and he had just finished organizing his socks (by both color and country of origin.) He narrowed his eyes and lowered his chin as he looked in the mirror. “There,” he announced to the empty room, “stands one productive Peep.”

But it wasn’t much fun being fabulous all by himself. He turned away from the mirror and ran to find his best friend.

“Maltose!” He was a little out of breath as he skidded into the room. “You have to come see my sock drawer!”

MALTOSE GAZES OUT OF THE WINDOW

Maltose, staring out the window, only heaved a sigh so deep it seemed bottomless. “Did you ever wonder,” she asked mournfully, “when all the excitement left our lives?”

Dextrose thought about this. “Nope. Life has been nice and quiet since we got back from our journey. So, ready to come see my sock drawer?”

Maltose glanced at him over her shoulder. “You,” she informed him, “are a Philistine.”

“What’s that?”

She looked back out of the window. “I’m not sure, exactly. But I know you are one.” Outside the sky was grey, and the sea in the distance was curling white and high on the rocks. “I’m sorry. I’m just . . . just . . . restless, is all. All day I’ve been feeling like something is wrong – like there’s more to life than Crème Eggs and watching paint peel.”

“I know what your problem is,” Dextrose said. “You’ve been bitten by the Adventure Bug.”

“Oh, Dextrose. Clichés don’t help.”

“I’m sorry,” Dextrose paused, and then said timidly, “but you have been bitten by the Adventure Bug. Look.”

ADVENTURE BUG

“Oh! Well, that explains the itchiness.” Maltose scratched her side. “Then I suppose there’s nothing to be done. We’ll have to go tell the council we’re going on another Adventure.”

“W-w-we?” Dextrose began to back out of the room. “I’ve got an awful lot to do around here, Maltose. I don’t think I can get away. I – I still have to organize my underwear drawer.”

“You don’t wear underwear, Dex. For that matter, you don’t even wear socks.”

“Well, someday I might. Better to be prepared, after all.” Dextrose was out in the hallway, ready to flee. “In fact, I should go get started right now.”

“If you come with me, you can use my camera,” Maltose cajoled.

Dextrose stopped moving. “The one Alice Gator gave you? The shiny one?”

“Yes, that one.”

And so they found themselves in front of Hexopyranose and the Peep Council, explaining about the Adventure Bug.

THE COUNCIL

“Yes, I see,” the elder Peep said slowly. “Well, I suppose if you must leave, you must. Perhaps, in your wanderings, you will find new lands, and claim them in the name of the Yellow Peeps! Perhaps you will find treasures, and bring them back to us! Perhaps you will find out how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop!”

The Council gasped as one, and Pentofuranose fainted.

“This journey could bring about all sorts of wonders. Therefore, we will send you on your way with glad hearts.” Hexopyranose went to the side of the dais, where she opened a drawer and removed something beige and oblong. She gazed reverently at the object as she carried it back.

HAT PRESENTATION

“This is the hat of a true adventurer. Also,” Hexopyranose rapped the top of the hat, “good protection from falling rocks. Small ones, anyway.” She gave the hat to Maltose, who tried it on immediately and began to preen.

Dextrose was a little sad. Not only was he being dragged away from his peeling paint and his wardrobe, but now Maltose had a wonderful hat, while his own head went yellow and bare. Hexopyranose noticed his expression, and thought fast.

“And, of course, we have a hat for you as well, Dextrose.” She motioned to Rhamnopyranose, who began to fish around underneath the dais. He produced something dusty and floppy, which he brushed off as best he could before handing it to Dextrose. It was the most beautiful hat Dextrose had ever seen – even better than Maltose’s. He placed it gently on his head and felt his fluffy heart swell with pride.

Maltose hung the camera around his neck. “Now we’re all ready to go.”

NEW HATS

The Peep Council was there early the next morning to see them off. Hexopyranose quietly pulled them aside.

GOOD WISHES

“If you do find out how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll Center of a Tootsie Pop,” she said hesitantly, “I think perhaps it’s best you keep it to yourself. Some mysteries, truly, are not meant to be known.”

The two Peeps promised solemnly.

FAREWELL CEREMONY

“Now,” Hexopyranose announced loudly. “We say Farewell to our adventurers! We say Farewell, but not Goodbye, for we will see you again! We say Farewell, but not So Long, because it will not be so long before you are back among your Peeps! We say Farewell, but not Toodle-oo, because that would just be silly!”

And with the sounds of raucous cheering ringing in the air, Maltose and Dextrose climbed aboard their vessel and took off. Their new adventure had begun.

LEAVING HOME


Chapter 2

Set-designer, Pith-helmet-and-camera-maker, and Photoshop Genius: Husband.
Story-Writer, Sombrero-maker, and Photo-taker: Uccellina.

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Oh, the crazy.

So, obviously, I have been slightly harried lately, and have had no time to write anything intelligent for this blog. All of my brain cells are otherwise occupied, and I’m trying to kill off the ones that aren’t through heavy drinking.

But I did find time to pull together a couple of stories that were published on the old blog, and put them up here. So, until I get back (Soon! Maybe tomorrow! Maybe Monday!) with a New And Wonderful! Project Which You Will All Adore, please busy yourselves with these.

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I’ll be signing autographs in the lobby after the show for $5 apiece.

Remember that contest I entered? The results are in, and they are good: I have been mentioned. Honorably.

Uccellina G. (who not only offered up a brilliant revision but included, at the end, a list of all the words she’d left out. Fabulous.): “the so-called objective evidence” currently being meticulously weighed and evaluated by the media is no more “objective” or “conclusive” than the … rapidly changing … accounts of … the … accuser. … Pick your fact, any fact. Each of them … dismisses … the alleged … rape … “

Thanks, Dahlia! You’re fabulous too.

The winner of the contest rewrote the Chili’s Menu to reveal the restaurant chain’s latent liberal agenda. Who knew?

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Dahlia Lithwick Rewrite Challenge 2007

In Monday’s edition of Slate, Dahlia Lithwick penned a column in which she described how a conservative journalist had taken a piece Lithwick had written about the Duke lacrosse rape scandal and used it to set up a straw-man argument about the liberal rush to judgment. The original article, in fact, made the argument that everyone was rushing to judgment.

So, how did Allen turn this into a hysterical men-are-pigs “hanging party”? She just cut and pasted until she’d rewritten the column to say it. Where I had referred to “mounds and mounds of significant physical evidence”—listing both exculpatory and inculpatory evidence, and highlighting the ways in which they conflicted—Allen inserted her own language to have me claim there were ” ‘[m]ounds and mounds of significant physical evidence’ that a rape had occurred.”

Lithwick then invited her readers to rewrite the same column in a slightly different way:

So, I turn to you, my readers, to help me invent a new Imaginary Right-Wing Hack. And I’m asking you to start with that bilious conservative wing nut, Dahlia Lithwick, whose April 22 column on the Duke rape case was a full-bore assault on women and minorities, and a stunning piece of right-wing vitriol to boot. Make free with the cut and paste functions, and please don’t be afraid of those ellipses … Rewrite the column as Ann Coulter channeling Bill O’Reilly . . .

I took this challenge on, thinking that it would be an amusing exercise. I used entire original phrases and sentences where possible, in order to make the resulting piece convincing. Where it wasn’t possible, I swiped individual words and made my own sentences up. But each and every word is Lithwick’s, though my version bears about as much resemblance to her original column as Frankenstein’s monster bore to Abby Normal.

When I sent this in to Ms. Lithwick, I said in my cover letter, “Having finished, I am embarrassed by my own handiwork. This has been an interesting lesson in the finer points of distortion.” I will post it here because I promised to, and because I do feel it is an interesting lesson. But please know that I feel slightly dirty having written it.

Read the original column first for comparison!

Now my version: Read the rest of this entry »

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I like to win things.

If I’m quiet today, it’s because I’ve taken up Dahlia Lithwick’s challenge. I’ll post my submission here when it’s done. Probably not today.

Edited to add: Link fixed!

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A Room of One’s Own

Annika posted today about having a place to keep her crafting supplies. I was inspired today, though, not by her main point, but by the beginning of her first paragraph.

I have always felt that the whole Room Of One’s Own business was suspect and possibly nonsense. First of all, why women specifically? I’m sure it makes sense in the context of the time when Virginia Wolfe was writing — women were not respected, and the idea of a room of her own was probably the kitchen. But now? I’m not sure it’s so relevant.

First, let us be clear on the fact that I adore Annika and everything to do with Annika, and if I go more than two weeks without snuggling Annika, or her son, or both simultaneously, I begin to twitch and sweat from withdrawal. That having been said.

I do not think I exaggerate when I say that A Room of One’s Own is one of the most important books in the history of English Literature. In Woolf’s time, a (middle- or upper-class) woman’s “sphere” was considered to be the home, which was of course also the sphere of everyone else who lived there. So while men generally had a study, or at least the freedom to leave the house unencumbered by offspring, women had no space in which to keep things just for themselves, or space to work without interruption from children or husbands or other domestic botheration.

What better characterizes a classic than timelessness? In 1929, Woolf asserted that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” She singled out these criteria because they were precisely the two things that women of her social class could not take for granted, while men of her social class could. For a contemporary parallel, one need look no further than the New York Times. In an article called “The Opt Out Revolution,” Lisa Belkin discusses the phenomenon of well-educated, upper-middle-class women who choose to leave the workforce and stay home with their children. There are as many reasons for this choice as there are women who make it, but the common fact is that women who do not have independent income are uniquely vulnerable to whatever financial mishaps befall their partners. In cases of divorce or widowhood, they are at a distinct economic disadvantage. Woolf’s contention is that only with her own money and, indeed, a room of her own, can a woman writer be similarly equipped to her male counterpart.

Women still do the vast majority of unpaid domestic work, and are still widely expected to sacrifice any need for privacy once they have a child. For a writer, such a thing is simply impossible. A writer must have some degree of privacy in which to work. Even a coffee shop is more private than the common room of your home. In a coffee shop, it is expected that people around you will respect your solitude, will not ask you to fix them a sandwich or help them hang curtains. I, and many of my friends, are fortunate in having enlightened male partners, who take on their fair share (or, in my case, more than his fair share) of domestic responsibility. But that does not negate the need for a “room of [our] own;” it simply increases the likelihood that we will actually get one.

A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf (1929)

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Feeling wistful.

I had a lot of trouble sleeping when I was in college. Often, I would give up trying around four in the morning, throw on some clothes, and stalk across the dark, dew-damp campus to my car. My first rule for these early-morning journeys was that I had to drive West, away from the rising sun; my second rule was that I had to turn back when the sun touched my car. So West I would go on Route 44, through the thick mist over the Hudson River, past the sleeping shops of New Paltz, their blinds drawn tight against the creeping dawn, and up into the Shawangunks. When Route 55 split off, I split with it. As I wound higher and higher, past snowmelt waterfalls and indifferent deer, the pumpkin-orange rays of the rising sun would catch the rocks above and below me, but as long as they did not touch the car, I kept driving. When at last the sun cleared the horizon and soaked me through, I turned around, and drove back through the same mountains, woods and towns, so different in their waking.

West has always been the direction of possibility to me. It’s the most American part of my psyche, the ingrained dream of the frontier. West is the way to things that could be. Living in Los Angeles, the westernmost part of my country, has elicited in me a battle of the imagination. I fight to keep this town new and strange, and myself a stranger in it. It’s not comfortable to live somewhere as a stranger, but I fear the alternative; when the possible becomes pedestrian, dreams sicken and die.

Oddly, as autumn begins and this town grows gray and cool in the halfhearted, resentful way it does, I become acutely homesick for the East. I miss the turning leaves, the bite of cold air, and the smells of woodsmoke and apple cider. I miss the rain, thunder and lightning, the lacework of frost on the window, the shining tips of the morning grass. I miss all of that, but even more I miss the idea I had of the West. I miss the mystery of it, and the way I could drive until dawn and never get there.

What do you miss?

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Don’t mind me.

I’m buried under paper. For once, I actually have to do some work around here. I know, I know – I won’t make a habit of it.

In lieu of a real post today, I will ask you three questions as part of some research I’m doing for an article:

1) What fiber-related craft(s), if any, do you enjoy?

2) When and why did you begin working in this craft?

3) Why do you continue to work in it?

Edited to add: 4) Why is your craft important to the world? What is its significance?

Please answer and discuss in comments. More questions may come later. Also, I might e-mail you to follow up if I find your answer suitably fascinating.

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