When All You Want To Do Is Edit…Wait, That’s Not A Thing?

I’m sure that somewhere away from the page, away from my keyboard, the weather is really just as hot as they claim.

I’m sure that ice cream still tastes fantastic, especially chocolate chip mint and caramel swirl (but maybe not together).

Undoubtedly vacation will come and I will be pulled from the editing zone by my husband holding plane tickets in one hand and my suitcase in the other. (So maybe at some point before the end of summer I should pack unless I want him doing it for me. I don’t. I really don’t.)

Until then, my head is deep into editing. In fact, I resent anything right now that is not me, pen in hand, paper, or putting those notes into my latest draft.

old computer pics 009

And, egomaniac that I apparently am, I’m kinda crushing on my own writing at the moment.

Don’t worry — I’ll get over it. Self doubt and agony “But am I any good?” will return to paralyze me. I had one of those mornings earlier this week. Um, it might have been yesterday. Until then, I’m enjoying myself.

Are you wondering where I found the time to pound out this lil’ missive?

The next pages up to edit are printing right now is how. (Pardon me while I shake my print cartridge to get the maximum number of pages before changing it. What, you don’t do that? You should give it a try.)

Oh great. Now my printer’s not working. Time to bang on it and curse. Wait, I’ll try shutting it down and restarting it.

Where’s my personal assistant? What, I don’t have one?

Note to self: start vetting discreet, efficient personal assistants with great techie skills who also like to clean house.

You’ll notice I started off by saying all I want to do is edit? Well, I sense a shift in mood coming on. Where’s that blasted ice cream? I could have it eaten in the amount of time it is taking this printer to shut down and come back on. For the love!

I suspect I now have black ink from the cartridge on my face and possibly on my new blouse. Merde.

Rescued blouse, did a visual check of face: all clear.

Unplugged printer, started alignment because printer demanded it.

Now it is spitting out pieces of blank paper.

I have no idea what this printer is doing now.  It claims to be aligning after getting jammed and wasting four pieces of paper.

And WHERE IS MY ASSISTANT? Oh, that’s right.

I do have someone who has offered to work for me when I’m ready; all I need do is say the word. Word. No, wait, not yet.

The printer says the alignment has failed.

My mom calls and says she has found a (redacted) that (redacted) wrote before (redacted). Now trying not to cry.

But the printer is printing again, even though it is telling me that the ink cartridge is low. I know; I shook it so I could squeeze thirty more pages out, remember, printer? Because I’m thrifty that way. Looks like I’m only going to maybe get 20 this time. Better than nothing.

Bemoaning that I want ice cream that I did not buy. No! Stop thinking about…

I am about 60 pages shy of printing the rest of my novel. This is on purpose. My process is this: edit a hard copy, maybe 50 pages or, ideally, a chapter or two. Then I put the edits into my computer file. Because otherwise I get really cranky trying to make all of those corrections at once. I like editing, but not looking between paper and screen. I prefer all paper or all computer, with my true preference leaning towards the hard copy.

Today, though, it was nice, editing. Though even after I transferred the changes I was left with a hastily scribbled note to myself that there was a character who had walked offstage, never to be heard from again. Historically speaking that’s true, but I wanted my MC to be guilted into thinking about her. So I was able to add that with a few strokes. Yay for notes.

After having struggled with my printer (I will not change the cartridge, not yet, even though the pages are getting lighter) because if I do I will print the remainder of my book and I will try to rush through the edits not because I want to be finished but because I get single minded.

But the interruptions have been sufficient to return me to this world for the evening, I think, anyway. I may just put my newly printed pages into my backpack for tomorrow and take my evening walk.

Wait, didn’t I hear something about it being warm out?

My Podcast Crush of the Week: Nom Nom Paleo

I’ve admitted before how I love my podcasts. They’re great company when I’m running, walking, or cooking. They’re free and new ones arrive regularly. They’re like little gifts every week, or, as many as I subscribe to, every day. My favorite of the moment is Nom Nom Paleo.

Nota bene: I am not paleo. I am a longtime low carb disciple (when I’m eating in the way that I know makes me feel my best) , trending towards keto. But the three are kissing cousins, so I listen to paleo podcasts too for useful tips and recipes.

The Nom Nom Paleo podcast is the newest project of the friendly, sweet Michelle Tam and her family including husband Henry Fong and their two children affectionately known as Big-O and Lil-O.

In case it wasn’t clear, the podcast is about, uh, living and cooking paleo. It makes me feel less lonely to know I am not the only one who uses an ungodly amount of eggs.

The weekly podcast is like having a window into the family’s doings. Helpful, fun and always charming, the podcast stars the whole family, and I love that.  I just discovered it last week and burned through the eight episodes they have. I was sad to hear this week that not only are they considering whether or not they can maintain their weekly pace with all of the projects they do, but they are taking a week off so I will be without a fresh episode for two weeks! (Should we start a petition?)

I suppose I will have to content myself in the meantime with buying her cookbook. (Ooh…if I do I’ll have to review it here!) Or maybe the cool vinyl figure of Michelle…I want an action figure of me (but of me running, not cooking !) But mine would have to come in two versions: the running, trimmer version and the not-so-much one. ;-) *Climbs onto soapbox*(Hey, while I don’t like it, I’ve accepted that my body weight will fluctuate. It’s my body and I will love it because it’s the only one I have and it’s done some amazing things for me. And because the things I value most about myself have nothing to do with my dress size! Well, not much, anyway. I do wish I could wear some of my thinner clothes right now because I miss them!) *Climbs off box*

Back to Nom Nom: The title of my blog post is appropriate because on their podcast they have the “Crush of the Week” that may or may not have anything to do with being paleo. My favorite so far was silicone wedding rings. I did not know these existed, but apparently fire fighters often wear them because they don’t get in the way and they are safer. Oh, and evidently you can buy them in bulk if you’re someone who frequently loses her jewelry…(Who? Me?)

One of the reasons I love the chirpy Michelle is it sounds as if our cooking and eating philosophies are similar: she loves food (so do I!) to the point of near obsession she admits, and I get the impression that she does a lot of trial and error stuff. Yup, that’s me. Just tonight I threw together a chicken-cauliflower casserole that was really not half bad.

The information on the podcasts is informative, certainly entertaining, and inspirational. I’m quite sure the reason I tried my quietly triumphant new recipe tonight was because I have been listening to Nom Nom.

Anyway, go to iTunes and check out the podcast, or check out their blog: nomnompaleo.com. (Unless you are my friend who does everything I do — you know who you are — you are banned from doing one more thing I do without my express permission and a Mother May I? (What, me petty?)

While I wait for the podcast to return I will continue to edit my novel and work on an essay I will be reading at a local senior citizens center on Wednesday (my Dear Husband will entertain with song; I may join him for one as well). My essay topic is “Lessons Learned at a Thrift Shop.” It’s an idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for some time. I’ll let you know if it blooms. I wrote an outline of it in church Sunday, so I should be in decent shape. (Shh!)

If you listen to podcasts, what do you subscribe to and why?

In Training: Again!

frightnight

Yes, I am publicly admitting that I am training for another half marathon. I have until September to work myself back up to being able to run 13.1 miles. Right now I could probably only do half of that. I hope to shame motivate myself by sharing my goal here.

My still-winter-weighted body kinda hates me right now, but I’m going to convince it that it will feel so much better when it lets go of the excess weight, stops the eye rolling and just runs already! Of course every pound I lose will make it easier to run. Win-win.

I need to have a goal to work towards, and so the Fort4Fitness half is perfect for me. (Don’t tell anyone but I miss my long runs. This is a great excuse to work back up to them.)

Finally my leg feels better (I injured it last fall) and my pace is slowly getting back to where it was. I look forward to the day again soon when a ten miler feels just right, even if it does leave me scrambling for new terrain to visit in our small town.

Actually, I am on week four of my training schedule, but my pride hurts because I am doing the beginner’s level still which has me walking one day, running the next. At least I can run again!

Tomorrow I am set to do a paltry two miles. I don’t know if I can keep to that. Maybe I can sneak in an extra mile or two? I’ll keep you posted.

Stuffed Meatloaf for my Brother’s Birthday

Today is my only brother’s birthday, and he adores meatloaf. He makes a fab meatloaf himself, but since it is his birthday I suggested that the family surprise him with a “Meatloaf Off.” That is, we siblings would all cook meatloaves and let him choose his favorite loaf.

Meatloaf may not be elegant, but sometimes you just want a hearty meal. And birthdays are for favorites, so who cares if a dish isn’t fancy? (Take that, culinary snobs!)

Strolling along on my evening walk yesterday to the startlingly clear sounds of Jack Johnson’s All At Once as heard through the lovely earbuds my dearest bought me for Christmas, I allowed myself to not think of the recipe I wanted to create. So naturally it came right to me.

Here’s my recipe…it was not the winner of the day (except to my husband, who says he had three pieces but then again he has to live with me, so I’m not sure I totally trust his assessment as being wholly unbiased even though it was quite welcome to hear).

Everyone at the party was interested in my typically odd creation and seemed to enjoy it. So naturally I immediately spilled the recipe. (My niece won with her mini-muffin meatloaves, a justified win. The “muffins” were topped with mashed potatoes and were both cute and yummy!)

If you want to give my recipe a try sometime, have at it. And let me know how you like it. Note: it is keto and low-carb eating friendly, so it is likely to reappear in our house again soon.

Stuffed Birthday Meatloaf for Rod:

Ingredients:

Four pounds 73% fat ground beef (for extra flavor)

One pound HOT ground sausage (choose your favorite brand)

Salt and pepper to taste

A dash of garlic salt

A dash of Italian seasoning

Two eggs

One eight-ounce package of cream cheese

Twenty pepperoni slices

Combine all of the above ingredients except for the last two in a large bowl and fill two loaf pans about 3/4 of the way with the meat mixture.  I used my husband’s Depression-era Fireking glass pans. Lovely and uniform!

Then take a spoon and make a trench of sort in the meat, maybe two inches deep. Fill the first loaf with about half of the package of cream cheese, dropping the cheese by the tablespoonful into the crater.

Next cover the cream cheese with half of the pepperoni slices for each loaf.

Use the reserved ground beef mixture to cover both loaves evenly, pinching the sides together, patting the top and smoothing it away from the sides of the pan.

Put it in a 350 degree oven and bake for one hour or until an inserted thermometer reads 155 degrees.  Always check your meatloaf to be sure it doesn’t overcook. Your oven may well be different than mine.

I will add photos as soon as I am able…for some reason I cannot get them to load on this computer. Look for an updated version soon.

(And P.S. — I did not sleep well last night so I can’t swear I wrote this recipe up properly. But I tried.)

My brother was delighted with the surprise meatloaves and hesitated in choosing a winner at all. I think we siblings and family can all agree, however, that we are the winners to have such a cool guy in our lives.

My Story, “Hunger Pangs,” is Now Online at Under the Fable!

maggot cheese

I promised a link to my short story, “Hunger Pangs.  Read it here.

(My story begins on page 29.)

Hunger Pangs is the quirky story of a lonely young woman who meets a group of food enthusiasts. Claire is quickly fascinated by her education and initiation.

Let me answer a frequently asked question: To my knowledge, no such club exists. But maybe it will after people read my story. :-) Not that I would join…writing about such things means I don’t have to live them!

Part (debatably) titillating, part grotesque, the story comes from who knows where. I’m just the midwife and, just for the record, while I do have an apron, I am properly attired beneath it at all times when I cook. Okay, most times.

I can tell you where I was when inspiration struck.

My writing location of choice is a local café, a cute place with fresh, local food and friendly baristas who treat me almost like family. One day I was writing there with no assignments for once and no interest in working on my novel. I overheard some slightly naughty conversation as the baker (this was probably three years ago) brought out bread from the kitchen. The purloined tidbit was NOTHING like what’s in the story, but it made me start wondering: what if. That’s the writer’s best, most imaginative tool: what if.

My story, then, is my answer to that “what if.”

During the residency in which I had the piece workshopped I often heard people who were in the workshop discussing it with those who were not. Though technically that wasn’t allowed, I took it as a compliment.

Note: I have unintentionally amassed a collection of what I call my “weird food stories.” This is the latest to be published. I also had one published last year about a young man who dumpster dives for food. Again, I have no clue where these come from, though I am obsessed with food and I feel guilty about that obsession. I’m guessing that has something to do with it.

While you’re over at Under the Fable, please don’t read just my story, though. Take a moment or two to look at the other fine poems and stories in this premier issue! I applaud any and all literary efforts and this new UK-based literary magazine is another fine one.

Maybe reading the other material over there will make you shake the image of a certain cheese in my story…after you read it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Warning: not for the faint of heart…or stomach! (If you look very closely at the above photo after reading the story, the cheese will look much different to you.)

Publication News: Under the Fable, Grief Eating, and Other Tidbits

NYC and DC April 2015 252

I’m delighted to announce that my story, “Hunger Pangs,” will be published in the premier issue of Under the Fable, a UK-based literary journal. It will come out in four days! (I’ll link to it then.)

Since I’ve been concentrating so much on my novel(s) this year, I haven’t been publishing as much fiction. I kinda forgot how good it feels. (Note: it feels great!)

I’ll talk more about the story when it comes out. Until then, some housekeeping:

— I decided to keep my blog, and to rename it. While I feel in some ways  as if I am a self-centered beastie to use my name as the blog’s name, for now it just makes sense. I don’t want to have to choose between all of my interests. And since those interests are housed in me, well, maybe my name is most fitting for the blog’s name.

— That said, I will be mixing up what I talk about. I LOVE writing, adore it, but I think I’d like to include some of my other interests as well. (Such as cooking!)

— I will be updating and overhauling my blog, too.  More on that later.

Though we are five months into this year, in some ways it feels to me as if it has just begun. The end of last year was a blur — I lost my dad and submerged myself in a months’ long grief eating fest from which I am just now beginning to emerge. Two days after we buried my dad was our first Christmas without him, followed in February by his birthday. I’m holding my breath for next month  — Father’s Day. I know he would want — does want — me to get back to all of those things I love most and to take care of myself. Part of that is getting back to my blog, back to plotting out my writing course.

Getting this story published seems a good place to start. Happy New Year to me!

Creative or Rule Follower?

My first conscious act of creating was in response to my elementary school principal’s command. She gave us a sheet of paper covered in circles and told us to come up with ONLY things that did not exist.

I was in the fifth grade. This principal was the strongest woman I knew — she was probably close to six feet tall, a large, craggy woman with a deep voice and half a dozen children if I remember correctly. She had only to look sideways at a student for that student obey. I both feared and adored her.

Now, here’s the thing: when she gave me that paper, I knew I HAD to do what she asked, because she was the principal. Because I was afraid her eyes could melt me. And because I had already incurred her ire two years before by wearing shorts and a strappy top to school, not having ever been told it was against the rules until she announced over the intercom that such attire was inappropriate. (I was not the only offender). I was mortified and spent the rest of the (very) hot day wearing my jacket, though my teacher begged me to take my jacket off. I refused, preferring to at least cover up my arms.

This principal, all eyes, glasses on a chain, and moles, now wanted me to lie, as it were. So I learned to create on command.

It turned out that I was the only one who obeyed — everyone else came up with basketballs and such, things that already existed. I had no idea that my worksheet would land me in the principal’s office for further questioning. She was taking, she told me later, a class on child development and because of that she asked me more questions based on what I had drawn. Why had I made an electric soccer ball? Why had I come up with a cheesy rat tunnel?

I have no idea if my answers satisfied her, but they did make me realize I was different, and that was invaluable. And better yet, she let me leave her office alive.

Recently I asked my husband this, though: was I creative because I did what she asked or was I more rigid than the others  because I felt compelled to follow her directions? Perhaps she scared me into creativity. Barry’s opinion is that she inadvertently helped me free my creativity. I suppose either way it doesn’t matter, but I am grateful, and I kinda miss her.  Go figure.

The Yearly “What to do with the blog” Post, Reading Woolf, and More

Dear Readers,

Yup, it’s time for my yearly wrestling of what to do with my blog NOW. This happens every time WordPress tells me it’s time to renew my domain name. I must confess to being envious of those who just blog. They seem to blog about anything that interests them. They may blog about blogging one day, and about eating pizza the next. I considered doing that, and I might someday. But.

If you have been following me, you may notice that I have taken down some earlier posts. I decided to prune my posts for privacy’s sake. I’m not being mysterious (I’m pretty open, and certainly not that interesting), but I decided that if I write something that I wouldn’t want mentioned to me by a stranger in public, I should probably take it down. (I’ve pretty much had that happen, too. Yikes!)

Am I still really into writing about art? Oh yes. I can’t see that changing any time soon. The novel I am working on novel does involve art, although to a lesser degree. But I really do write about more than art. As a matter of fact, I spent most of February revising a MG novel, although I had to abandon it temporarily. I intend to finish it this summer. Or at least I hope to. So now I need to reconsider what this space is for.

I say all of this to say that what I’d really like this to become would be a corner for those who write to talk about writing and for those who read to talk about that. I especially enjoy conversations with writers who read and chat. (Maybe that should be my new blog title: Writers Who Read!) And I hope it doesn’t sound snobbish to say so but I particularly enjoy literary fiction, although I have been known to enjoy a YA novel now and again. Just as I like physical exercise that challenges me, that’s what I expect from a novel.

I’ll get us started.

As part of the writing process I make sure to read a really great book by an inspiring author. For me that author right now is Virginia Woolf. When I read her work, I aspire to meet her excellence. I’m not saying I will or that her modernist bent is even called for today, but her To the Lighthouse is a book I could read endlessly.

I don’t want to seem sacrilegious but with Lighthouse I have the same experience that I had when I read the Bible as a young person: I always see a fresh image, something I missed, a thought-provoking passage. It’s always new.

You likely have a book you feel the same about. While I figure out what (if anything) to do with my blog, care to share? Or feel free to talk about your writing, if you write.

Thoughts?

Writing and Little Women

little women

I’m reading Little Women with an online group, and in my excitement I went to dig out my copy only to discover — gasp — that I couldn’t find it.

The novel is one of the foundational books of my childhood, of my life. That I couldn’t find a single copy in our house shocked me. Why, just a few years ago I distinctly remember buying a couple of beautiful copies at a quaint local bookstore. I know I passed one along to my mother for her birthday, but I was convinced I had kept the second, until my search turned up nothing. (I may have inadvertently left the book at my former workplace where I taught. Which is fine if it’s getting some use.)

I started first searching the bookshelves in my and Barry’s bedroom. I was sure I knew just where that book was. Nope. The more I searched, the more frantic I became.  Finally I gave up and asked Barry if he minded if I bought another copy. So I did. Unfortunately, they shipped me a different edition than I ordered. Then they apologized and said they do not have the one I wanted, but they let me keep the one they sent and refunded my money, so I was satisfied, mostly, although I had hoped that the one I ordered would have extra essays and such in it. This one does have a nice introduction, but that’s it.

I can’t say how old I was when I first read it, but I was probably eight or so. The book captivated me! I read it more than once.

While I didn’t have any Barbies as a child, somehow I did have a fashion doll of some sort with dark hair. I decided she was Jo. Because I was so worried that my father, as hers had, would be called away to war (not that a war was going on at the time that I was aware of as a child, but still) I had her sacrifice her hair just as she does in the book. Yes, I cut into a sweet bob and was quite happy with it. I also made her a gray poncho out of a scrap of fabric and had her become the last woman in the world because a nuclear war had occurred. The poor young woman was left to take care of all of the children orphaned by the war on her own, which she did admirably (in Little Men and under the pine trees where I took “her” to tend her family), although I had no Professor Bhaer to give her.

Jo was my favorite character in the book, and I sometimes made life choices based on hers. I decided to become a writer. (That desire comes from several places, actually, but she is certainly one of the reasons.) In Little Men she opens an orphanage. Even as a child I picked out a huge, neglected green house in my hometown that I thought would make the perfect orphanage. (Alas, it was eventually torn down and I subsequently modified my ambition. But my husband and I did adopt two of the twelve children I had originally planned to.)

Perhaps the deepest print she left on me was her struggle to turn from writing “garbage” fiction for money versus writing from a deeper place: she wrote sensationalistic stories to send her dear, dying sister to the seashore. Who couldn’t understand that? And yet when Professor Bhaer gently redirects her, she quickly repents and vows to write only things that are worthy of her.

I’m pretty much a “live and let live” kind of person who truly believes we need to make our own choices, but I am with Professor Bhaer on this one. While perhaps his objections came from a place of moral concern for what she was writing, I do agree that we should only write those things that come from our souls. We should attempt to ignore what others expect or want us to write and create as if we never need a reader, an editor, or a publisher. There’s time to consider whether or not something needs tweaking later…craft is a different issue. But first write from your deepest depths.

Write on!

Life Hack: Of Podcasts and Procrastination — Both Can Be Your Friend

We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Procrastinated, I mean. In the past I’ve felt bad about it. When it comes to writing fiction, I don’t usually procrastinate. I have so much to say that I could pretty much write nonstop. But there are times…

Today began with a fun talk with my husband before he went off to work. Then I took an invigorating run followed by a leisurely breakfast. I was happily on the endorphin express. But.

After breakfast this morning I discovered that didn’t want to get dressed because I didn’t want to pick out clothes because I wasn’t in the mood to make choices. (I did it anyway, of course.)

Then I didn’t want to load my too heavy backpack onto my coat and lug it to the café where I am working. Once there, I didn’t want to unbundle and set up all of my things: computer, books, paper, pens, plug the computer in by crawling in the floor in front of everyone, etc. Things that I do everyday without thought have been more difficult today.

And even though I own probably 50 scarves, I forgot to bring one, which bummed me out. Thankfully I am wearing double layers. (Note to self: tuck a neutral-colored one into your backpack for the future.)

Still, once I got here I made my daily “I will do/the universe will do” lists. Okay, I only wrote the “I will do” list. I know what I want the universe to do and most of it reads like a honey-do list: Shampoo the carpets, replace the caulk in the bathroom, put up the Christmas decorations. Things that don’t have to be done today, but it would be nice if they were done before our eagerly awaited holiday visitors arrive. (I have evolved to the point that I know those things will get finished, and I also realize that they have no deadlines attached, so we are good. In fact, some of those might even prove to be fun.)

And oh yeah, Universe: make my dad well.

So here I sit, proud that I have made as much progress as I have. Except I don’t want to do anything on that list I promptly hid after writing. After tunneling into my fiction for the weekend, I am finding it difficult to make the switch to nonfiction today.

My dad is in the hospital and I’m worried about him. I’ll get to see him tonight, but I wish I could ease his suffering and there’s nothing I can do. Nothing. If you know me, you know I can’t handle feeling helpless. I suspect this is the cause of my unease.

Before you think I am just foisting my ho-hum attitude upon you, read on. Because I just discovered today that procrastination is my friend and it can be yours, too. (Minor bit of required diversionary backstory forthcoming.)

I am a podcast junkie. I listen to them when I run. I listen to them while I cook. I listen to them while I clean. Don’t ask me what kind because it depends on my current taste, which is always changing.

This morning I was listening to one while I was stretching, and I was thrilled to hear someone say that when you procrastinate, what you’re actually doing is keeping yourself from taking action before you should. That is, your mind is not in a place where it’s time to do anything, so don’t make a move until it is. I LOVED hearing that. It was just what I needed today.

Maybe I needed to think about my dad a little today after I called my mom and got the not-great prognosis. Maybe it’s okay that I didn’t jump right into my usual routine and pretend that everything is fine when it’s not.

Maybe that hesitation I feel is because the right people aren’t available to interview today anyway, and if I just wait until tomorrow they will be.

Maybe by writing this today, I am not procrastinating at all, but I am writing it for someone who needs it as much as I do.

For some reason, though, I suddenly feel ready to look at that list again. Perhaps this time I will see friendly letters looking back at me that inspire me instead of an enemy with a whip (which the list sometimes feels like, no matter how slim I make it). Here’s hoping.