And so, of course, I decided to move the furniture around.
Well, you know, the AC was on in the house. It was a tad chilly. Chilly. That’s how spoiled I am.
I thought the curtains might look nice inside of the window frames instead of above them.
I thought the orange curtains might look nice in the bay (bow?) window, rather than behind the piano in the LR (dining room?).
I thought… I thought….
Here is my problem: I have a pole, a beam, a column, whatever you want to call it. My house was created with a two-room first floor, half kitchen, half… other.
In the version I happened to buy there is 1 bay window (some have 2, others none) and, sadly, no fireplace. Because they assume that everyone wants a dining room, my house has these non-exposed beams that sort of square-off half of the “other” room, so, two walls (outside, non-bay window wall, and the kitchen wall), and two beams. And, where the beams meet, a column. Which means that they have essentially divided the front room into two rooms without a wall between them.
I don’t want, need, or use dining rooms.
The kitchen is ginormous.
What to do?
The LR area of the front room is 100% windowed-walls, making it tough to place a TV.
So, we have been using the DR area as the LR and the LR area has been a largely empty and unused spot with a cat tree in it (well, you gotta respect the cat tree. Cat’s need entire rooms to themselves.
And so, instead of finishing my damn novel, I moved furniture, and my husband moved furniture.
At some point over the last year I decided it was time to become a student again myself. Like a for-real, back-to-college student. And so I did.
Because I am a mom, and a spouse, and an adjunct, and I run a writing group and a publishing company, I decided to go to school through a low-residency program. And I’d decided to become a psychologist/therapist/counselor, whatever you prefer to call it.
From January through May 1st, in addition to teaching about 13 classes at 4 different colleges, I also took 3 classes online through the one community college where I teach, to get my undergrad psychology requirements. And then I signed up for a low-res MA psych program, and then I spent about 12 days at the low-res program in the middle of March.
And now I have quit school and decided not to be a student.
Well, before I sound like a complete idiot… I had my reasons.
You might not realize it, but to be an adjunct professor, traveling from school to school, can be very very exhausting. Add to that the fact that I always get stuck teaching essay writing, which requires a load of unpaid time spent grading essays, and I end up pretty worn out by the end of the semester. So, thought I, why not switch careers? It would only be my 4th or so time doing it; no big deal, and I am good at school.
However, I realized, after I spent 2 weeks in Vermont at school, and many weeks taking psych courses and buying and reading psych texts, that I just don’t want to do that.
What I want to do, is to be a writer, and a publisher.
I don’t know what is so difficult about this “being a writer” thing that I keep trying to dodge it.
I do know that I want to believe in myself, and work hard, for myself, and run a great publishing company that really help’s older writers find an audience.
And so, I am going to keep being an adjunct for now, and I am going to force myself to be the writer/author I want to be, to finish my damn novel, and to run my damn company, Devil’s Party Press.
What do you do to avoid pursuing your dream? Why do you do it?
A wonderful piece from my very first poetry teacher, Chris Buckley:
Feeling nostalgic. I had a wonderful time working with Chris. He taught me to like other’s poetry, in addition to writing my own. And I believe I had, at the time, a terrible horrendous perm, so he was extra nice to work with me.
Ahhh…. the past.
It’s been a busy spring for me. I’ve been shaking up the place a bit.
January zipped by, as it always does, school starting again for Sophie and me. All my new students to meet, all those new papers to grade! Oy vey!
But let’s start off with my temporary teenage daughter.
I don’t know if I mentioned, but my family has been hosting an exchange student from China through an organization called PAX. It has been just wonderful. We love our loaner teenage daughter like a second daughter, and wish we had a second daughter! LOL. My husband is trying to think of an international incident that he can cause so that China will not allow her to return home, and too bad for her poor parents, for whom it is difficult for us to have sympathy, because we want their daughter!
OMG, we love her to bits, and Sophie, our daughter, sees her as a sister. And loaner teenage daughter has been a sweet big sister. So willing to play dolls, or make crafts, or play board games, or even babysit for us once in awhile.
I could not have imagined, when we picked loaner teenage daughter up at the PHL airport in August, that I would love her so much, that she would fit right in as if our lives had just been waiting for her, that the year would fly.
As happens every time I add a living thing to my home, whether it be spouse, pet, or child, I had the thoughts “Oh my god, she/he/it is always going to be here! That is going to be annoying and feel like forever!” And, as happens whenever the new creature/human comes to live with me, I end up, instead, thinking, “How did I live without him/her/it? Will I ever be happy without him/her/it again?” And the answer is, no.
Well, in truth I will still be happy after loaner teenage daughter leaves, because I have other wonderful people and pets in my house and life and all that jazz, but I will never have the same kind of happiness I had with her here. And I hope that her parents feel we did a good job. I don’t know how they didn’t cry forever without such a great kid, and I am so grateful they loaned her to me. A school year, in some respects so long, in other respects, so fleeting, it has not been enough for me. I mean, I am glad to be almost done teaching for this semester. Spring Break makes the spring semester unbearably long. However, I am not done sharing my life with loaner teenage daughter. *sigh*
In any case, after January was in my rear view mirror, we had February, which, around here, is always a bit busy, and this year was even busier:
Feb 1st: Mom-Mom’s birthday and loaner teenage daughter’s birthday.
February, second week, Chinese New Year and a Valentines party at a friend’s.
February end-of-the-month, Sophie’s birthday, which we have not yet been able to have without having a party because, well, I mean, she’s really adorable. How could we not? This year we did a “Nancy Drew” theme that we put together last minute, because that is my whole MO in general. C’mon people, I’m no “Mommy Blogger” here; I’m a creative person, the undisciplined kind. So, we sent children and parents out with a map to go all around our development on a scavenger “clue” hunt to find the prize box full of the take-home goodies. It was fun. 🙂 I cannot remember what kind of cake I made, but I remember it was good, and Sophie chose it, and then she wouldn’t eat any because it was made by scratch instead of with that oily store-bought crap. Typical Sophie and me. 😉
For loaner teenage daughter’s birthday, she and I made one of those cakes where you take thin chocolate wafers and cover them in whipped cream and wait…. It’s heavenly. I want some now. We also sent her to “high tea” with her friends, and took her out for sushi with us.
All-in-all it was a great start to my “spring semester.” I am incapable of thinking of the year in any way other than college semesters and summer session. Yeah. I’ve been teaching a long time. But wait! There’s more! That’s right, and unlike usual, I promise a new post soon, because, wait! There’s more!
2018 is here, and I noticed, as I reviewed my blog thus far, that I have a post called “How to Start a Workshop and Keep It Going.” I am having no trouble with that, but I need one from someone else on how to start a blog and keep it going! The truth is I would love to write something here everyday, but I so seldom have the time. Do you suffer from the same lack of time? Should blogging be my NY resolution? Does anyone keep NY resolutions?
For me, I need a bit of privacy and quiet to write. I need some time to sit in my seat and noodle around on the web, and then, get ready to write. I also need not to be tired. I was, once, a night owl, but now I am more of a morning person, simply because I often get up before 5, so by the time my daughter is asleep, I am usually ready for bed too! During the day, when I have some day hours to myself, I often get interrupted by my pets or family in one way or another, or a pop-in from a friend, or even a package being delivered can be enough to set my mind all wonky so that I wander away from what I was doing.
A member of my workshop recently said that writers don’t choose to write; they have to. Ugh! then I am definitely not a writer!
It’s Michelle Obama’s birthday today, and I just read that she was twice discouraged from applying to the colleges she attended. Who or what discourages you? Aside from my workshop group, I typically do not ask for feedback on my writing because feedback is very subjective, even from the greatest writer ever, and because I do not want to invite myself to be discouraged. Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone With the Wind, which I have read many times!) is said to have written many books, but burned all of them but GWW. Well’p, if that’s true, then she only has one book. The ones you burn don’t count. And so I do not open myself up too much to criticism, because writing is hard, and finishing is harder! Don’t burn your work, or ever allow someone else to burn it.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the day Carol Channing first starred in Hello Dolly on Broadway.
After over 2500 performances by Carol, Hollywood gave the movie role to Barbara Streisand. Oh Carol! Babs probably had bigger name recognition. But who can do Dolly like Carol? No one. Even the very successful can lose their rightful recognition due to subjective concerns. When people don’t recognize your gift(s), and you know, with no narcissism involved, that they should, simply “… raise your little hand and whisper ‘So long Dearie; Dearie should have said so long so long ago.'” BTW, I saw Carol as Dolly at the Valley Forge Music Fair, in the round! She was fantastic, and too big for the place.
And so, let’s make 2018 the year that I think I am good enough, and you think you are good enough. I will try to blog more regularly, and I will respect me for what blogging I do accomplish. How will you love yourself this year?
I want to share with you today, as I do my 9-5 job, one of my favorite poems ever, “Hay for the Horses,” by Gary Snyder.
Hay for the Horses
by Gary Snyder
He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at eight a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the
sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
—The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds—
“I’m sixty-eight” he said,
“I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that’s just what
I’ve gone and done.”
Time to write!
Because I am a teacher, I often get assigned by my college to read a book. This year I have been asked to read, When the Emperor Was Divine, by Julie Otsuka. It’s a great, quiet, atmospheric, and brief historical novel about the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. You should read it!
I came across an interesting interview with Otsuka where she talks about her writing process. It’s always interesting to hear how a successful book came to be:
Okay, who am I to give advice on this? I started my own workshop, and we are going on our 3rd year, and we meet at least 2x each month, every month. So, I feel a bit successful at this workshop thing.
What is a workshop anyway? Well’p, a workshop is a meeting, basically, for writers to get together to share, and get constructive criticism on, their writing. You’ll often hear actors talk about “the work.” I think creative people have trouble justifying the time spent in creative pursuits, and so they like to attach the word WORK somewhere, to something. It is important, when you write, to share your work, because you are so “in-your-head” when you write that you will never see what you have written clearly until you share it with someone else.
When you start a workshop, the first thing you have to do is find a place to hold it. I have a large kitchen table that my husband, Dave, made by nailing long boards to the top of an Ikea picnic table. We are both madly in love with Ikea. In any case, this makes a good place for people to sit, have a spot to write, and put a coffee cup down. You may choose to have it at a coffee shop, or a library, but wherever you have it, it has to be a safe and stable place. I live in a little development in a small town, so my house is not a scary place to come into if you don’t know me. I do, though, have pets, and when I advertised the workshop, I included that information.
The next thing you have to do is to decide on a day and time when you will be able to be at your own workshop (you are running it, so for at least 9 months you will have to attend every meeting!). Pick a day/time that is good for you. If people can’t make it that is okay, you will find folks who can. I do mine every other Sunday (barring holidays and etc.) at 1pm ’till about 5pm.The end-time depends on the group size. And, come to think of it, what size group should you have? 10, in my professional opinion, is as high as you can go and keep things chummy and manageable. More than that and it will take too long, people will not get enough attention, and crabbiness will ensue.
Then you have to find other lost souls like yourself to join. Where I live all the little towns are Facebook crazy, so I posted annoucements there, in my library, and in the coffee shops. I opened a hotmail email named for the workshop, and used that as my contact information so that I could safely screen out anybody obviously wacky without giving away my location!
You should decide on what kind of material you want. I said fiction (novel/short story), poetry, and memoir. I didn’t want non-fiction that was not memoir because I am not interested in that, nor do I feel qualified to offer commentary on it.
Once you have found other people who want to participate, it is time to hold the first meeting. Ask everyone to bring 5-8 pages of material to read, and enough copies of it for each person to have one. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you get 10 people, or a slow reader, it could be more than enough! Another good reason to keep it to 10 or less people: less photocopies to make!
For your first meeting I recommend that you have both food and drink for everyone. Not booze, but coffee, tea, water, snacks, muffins, that sort of thing. I love to cook, so I made lunch. I absolutely fed people I had never met before, in my kitchen. I really want to write, and write often, but I do not do so without a nice hard deadline waiting for me, so, in my mind, food and drink is a small price to pay to lure people into making me write! Food and drink make everyone more comfortable, and for the first time it will be awkward, so any comforts are a good thing. Make sure, if hosting at your house, that you bathroom is clean and available. Nervous people pee a lot.
During the meeting, we let each person read his work while we look at our copy. Reading the work aloud is important, as the writer gets to “perform,” and knows that someone has heard her writing. We spot our own mistakes when we read aloud too!
For your first 9-12 months of meetings, I recommend that you continue to host, and provide food or snacks. I also recommend that you encourage people to say what they like about each others’ writing. It is okay, at this stage, to have some light critique, or suggestions for improvement, but, again, your goal here is to create a group that will keep going and going, and you won’t get that by giving heavy edits. You are teaching each other that you will all be respectful and friendly. This is important. Writers need to feel safe to share because we are, by and large, introverts. Let love rule.
If you make it to a year, wow! Amazing! Celebrate! We had a party, and I made something on Cafe Press with our name on it to give to the members. I really wanted people to feel that they are important to me, and a member of something. Why? Again, because I want them to stay, because I need them to help me keep writing.
Once you make it to a year, I think you can feel safe to ask for some things from the members. I asked for people to rotate food duties. It has been really nice, because we are all fairly good cooks, or shoppers (sometimes people bring something ready-to-eat from the grocery store, and that is perfectly lovely too!). I continue to host most of the time, though we do occasionally go to someone else’s house. What you cannot do is nickel and dime your members. If you like them, and you are enjoying the group, then you have to not worry if the food and hosting duties are not equally spread. What you want is for the group to continue, and everyone may not be financially or otherwise able to contribute food or host on a regular basis. Remember, you are getting a whole writing community that comes to your house! I have 2 absolutes though. #1. if you bring your work, you must bring copies for everyone. #2. you can miss a meeting here and there, but you cannot just pop-in a few times a year as you feel like it. You do not want your group to be treated in that way, so the folks who want to be in must be willing to make copies, and commit to attending. It is a sign of respect for each other.
If I think of anything else, I will add it to this post. For now, go forth and hunt thee down a workshop!
Good luck, and enjoy!