Saturday, April 3, 2010

Work Well Done

I can't believe I haven't written a post since March 13th. Well, at least I've been writing.

Here's what I did: I printed out my whole book, all 300 pages in hard copy, and I did two hard edits on it. The first one I just went through and added dialogue and scenes but the second one I actually cut and pasted things in different order. I really started looking at the book as a integrated whole and physically cut - like with scissors - sections to move them around. I think it's work well done.

Now I'm ready to input this mess into the word document version of the manuscript, which is fine, except that the minute I make the first change my page numbers will be off and the only way I'll find any sections will be by searching for words or phrases. It's going to be tough but I know I'll end up with a better book.

As far as submissions, I haven't done any since those two that I mentioned on the 13th. I know I was supposed to submit the other More query and the Lilith Churches piece, but I have to say that somehow that church piece is too rough to do anything with, and I haven't gotten around to writing a proper query for the More piece.

The real problem is that my other blog takes up all my time. And not just the blog either. It's the commenting on everyone else's blogs, then commenting on my comments, then writing new posts, then finding new art. It's exhausting. I have to remember why I'm doing all this because sometimes, for the life of me, I can't remember. I believe it was connected to writing, right? Something like creating a Internet presence and an audience for my work? Eh. I don't even know if that's happening. I do know that I have what I consider to be some genuine friendships here among my fellow bloggers but that my real life marriage is suffering.

I can't afford to grow the other blog is growing it means that I have to follow and comment on more and more other blogs. There just is no time for that. As a matter of fact, I've decided that I have exactly 5 minutes each per day to devote to the blogs I read. I can't read other peoples' comments. And then I can get 20 done in an hour. Sick, scheduling that like this.

Anyway, to do list. Input all changes to manuscript into the word document for the ms. See how it reads. Does it have an arc, themes, characters, villains, heroes, a plot, a climax, dialogue and scenes? If it looks good, then we'll move onto the next step: querying agents and see what happens from there.

Is blogging working for you? Is it enhancing your life or destroying it? Can you handle becoming a popular blogger or will the responsibilities of being a good blogger buddy kill off your own work?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Living in the State of Inertia

Thank god for best friends. My best friend and I serve many purposes in each other's lives. Lately it's occurred to me that we're also each other's managers.

She got downsized out of her job last month and so, despite the fact that I haven't worked full-time for 6 years, I've been her consultant, marketer, and, hopefully, her idea person, though she's pretty darn good at it herself.

And here's what she did for me yesterday when we had lunch. She was checking up with me on the status of my various article proposals when I had to admit that I have a lot of ideas but no sent queries lately. I tend to have too much knocking around in my head all the time and then when it comes to execution I'm flying here and there and never get anything done. Should I edit my book? Should I send a query to Brain Child, More Magazine, Lilith, should I be local or national? What's the best for the writing career, for the book? And then what happens? I get so wrought up with everything I should be doing, I get the exactly opposite. A feeling of inertia comes over me and I do nothing.

Well, best friend got me pinned down. I was going to ship off a proposal to a certain magazine to be their blog editor, mainly because I've been the blog editor for Poetica for a year and it doesn't take much work and I'd like to increase my name recognition with a bigger market. So she started talking about compensation and I realized that, because of my life situation, the money's not the thing, the question is the time. Can I handle a very demanding editor job? And what exactly is going to have to give to fit that in because right now I can barely find time to breathe.

So, right now it's no on the editor query. But because of her I sent a query to Brain Child today for the Debate section, and a query to More Magazine for either an essay or the Front of Book. Also, I got my Holocaust Anthology from Poetica yesterday with my work in it and it's really lovely - gave my mom a copy with the dedication to her and she was thrilled. And Sandra Hurtes, who is hosting my work this month, has decided to have the pages with her writers be permanent so that my work will stay on there and she's going to invite agents to view the work of her friends.

Now I just have to remember what I'm supposed to do tomorrow. Um. How about this: Other More Magazine query (on 50 in longterm marriage) and Lilith Church piece? Also respond to editor at Jewish News asking for info on the special sections.

I can't believe I finally moved on something. I feel like a mountain that just had its facade crack a little. The good thing is that my inertia didn't last that long. Hopefully if I get in another immobile state, it will go by even more quickly.

Do you have a friend who can organize you and pull you together? Do you tend towards states of inertia?

Monday, March 1, 2010

March is for Marching Orders

Thank goodness I wrote that To Do list on here since I didn't do it and totally forgot what the items were. Instead I guest blogged for a friend and got a bunch of new readers (on my other, more public, blog), had an excerpt from my (unpublished) book appear on another friend's website who is a New York writer with impressive freelance writing credentials, and I did withdraw my gaming piece from the Jewish news. Or let's put it this way: I wrote to the editor who's my contact person and, as usual, she didn't write back to me. So I'll just go with that and consider it withdrawn.

Then, like an idiot, I started a new, completely anonymous blog for my twelve-step eating program because I really want to do my writing online. And I mean anonymous, folks. Anonymous email address, pseudonym for a name. So, obviously, I can't link to it here. I'm just glad that I'm finally going to have a place where I can write about the amazing things that I hear in the meeting rooms and obey the traditions of the program which tell me I should remain anonymous at the level of press, radio, film and other media. Great news - a writer who can't be known for her writing. That's progress for sure.

So, to do list for March:
1) submit kids and gaming to parents or parenting or, at the very least, to RAK.
2) More Magazine: submit the 50-yr-old inhabited marriage (at the intersection of V and P)
3) Lilith Church and Jews
4) Per Betsy Lerner blog challenge, get that stupid manuscript edited by April 1st. Use notecards then reshuffle. If it requires a rewrite just do it.
5) Write three sample columns for Literary Mama to pitch column to them.

Do you set more goals than you can reasonably achieve in the hopes that you'll achieve some if not all?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How's My Writing Going?

I had a party tonight and someone asked me what's going on with my writing. I don't know how eloquent I was with her ("duh" comes to mind as my great answer) but this does give me a chance to review and reflect here.

I last had a piece in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix in January; it was my fourth piece. I've submitted two more, one which I know they're not going to use since it was about football season, and the other which the editor said she'd send on to the editor for the family supplement. Family supplement came out, no article. I think I need to move on with that essay since it's pretty good.

My essay in the winter edition is in Brain Child right now but they didn't link to it online so it has limited visibility, still it is there. Just only print.

My editor position at Poetica is goin well. Poetica's membership has grown about 50-60 people in the last 6 weeks, hopefully partially due to the blog. The guest blogger spots are booked through the end of March and the artwork is working out nicely.

I submitted a query to Brain Child about a hippie in high school raising a jock, so I'm waiting on that.

I need to get two more queries out for the month so I think they'll be More Magazine and the Lilith Church piece. Also, I have to get that gaming piece back from the Jewish News and perhaps send it to Raising Arizona Kids or a bigger venue like Parenting or Parents Magazine. I have to remember to think big.

To Do list: Email editor at Jewish News and advise that I'll be submitting gaming article elsewhere.
                 Submit article elsewhere after researching (quickly!) parents and parenting magazines.
                 Finish Church Piece since Lilith requires a hard copy query and then send out Lilith Query.
                 Send out More Magazine Query about married 50-year-olds.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Failed Writer's Resolutions

How do I keep it all straight? He needs new shoes. And a suit. She needs me to come to school for her presentation today, his is on Wednesday. Meetings in March, money due, lunch forms, making lunch, clothes wash, the day to day drabble.

Oh  yeah, I forgot to write.

I set up this godawful New Year's Resolution this year that has just been onerous. Nothing invilving my weight since that's always stable. Nothing with exercise since I always exercise. So that's the good news: it's not anything normal. They were writer's resolutions and so, not having met them makes it much worse.

I'm supposed to submit my work to publications, at least three a month. I need to edit my manuscript and get it out to agents. I'm supposed to make some progress, not spend my life doing the same thing over and over again but expecting to become a writer with a book anyway.

Instead what do I do? I worry about my other blog. I read other peoples' blogs because, truly, they're amazing and fascinating and I've come to care for this community of writers that I somehow belong to. I comment on others' blogs because they make me think, because I want to show support and because I want to build support for my blog. Then I go to my blog and I respond to the comments people have left for me.

Oh my god, is this time consuming. I am dying from all this time it's taking up. I've never had something take up so much time before and yet, here they are, the most glorious community of women I've ever been in.

And all the while, my book sits, unpublished, in my computer.

Do you have any writer's resolutions?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Children of Implacable Will

It normally starts a few days before the weekend. One of my nephews will text Bar Mitzvahzilla, the message always the same: can you sleep over on Saturday night?

And then that's the end of my life and all my peace and tranquility for the week.

Once the invitation's been issued, Bar Mitzvahzilla goes through a complete transformation. He is single-minded, of implacable will, a heat-seeking missile with one target only: he must go to his cousins' house this weekend. This is for several reasons. There's the video game reason, there's the awesome violent movie reason, and there's the fact that in a household with no sensitive ten-year-old sister around who would be traumatized by three gigantic boys stalking her with knives clutched in their teeth, the boys can do anything they want to each other.

Husband and I look at each other wonderingly - why can't he be this driven about school work? As a matter of fact, if he wants an answer on whether he can go, we want an answer about whether he's brought up his grades. He brings us over to the computer, pulls up the school website and points proudly to math, which is a 79.3%. This is made up of an A on classwork, where he is watched like a hawk, and a D on homework, where he is on his own. The two scores average out, teetering at the edge of a B, something he's pretty proud of. Husband and I sigh but we say yes, he can go.

Then we start getting a little optimistic. After all, we're one kid down and one to go. We are almost Kid Free here. Bar Mitzvahzilla sleeping out, all we have to do is dump Daughter on one of our unwitting friends and we could - gulp - almost have a honeymoon night.

But not so fast there, fella.

Daughter is not going anywhere. She, too, has an implacable will and she's not budging an inch until she has to leave for college - and that's eight years away. She prefers her playdates at our house. There are no sleepovers, not her at her friends' houses or of them at ours - they are all perfectly matched chickens. Her best friend comes over for the evening.

So Bar Mitzvahzilla ends up across town at my sister's house. Husband and I? We go on a date with two ten-year-olds.

Do your children have implacable will? Are you getting the hints already of a will stronger than your own? Are you torn between admiring their inner tyrant and laying down the law?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Horse Power

We moved to Phoenix in 1973, when I was thirteen years old. Things were a little primitive around here. Of course, I had come from Chicago, where things were pretty urban. There were the dirt roads. There were the pick up trucks. And there were a lot of cowboys and horses, but not exactly how I had seen them in the movies. These cowboys lived in the houses around the school I went to and when it was time to go to school each day they'd ride their horses there. It was a little bit like living in a Western movie.

We also owned a scrubby acre in north Phoenix just like everyone else, with the back part given over to a bunch of tumbleweeds, the middle section holding the house and swimming pool, and the front being a vast expanse of rocks, which we called a lawn. However, since my family was filled with teenaged drivers, the empty part of our acre was also filled with something else: cars.

This area of our acre, generally crowding around the garage, looked a little like a used car lot. There was a 1969 Ford Town and Country station wagon, a 1970 Chevy Impala, an exploding gas tank Pinto station wagon, a bland, beige 1975 Chevy Nova, one sister’s orange Karmann Ghia, and our father’s 1970 Chevy Silverado Truck. All parked, all molding in the Arizona sun. My sisters would pick one each day to drive, guessing which one might work, which might take us the miles to school and then to our family produce market. It was an important decision. There were absolutely no service stations for miles.

Luckily my mother had one ace up her sleeve to rescue us from every situation: her AAA card. With it, she could get us towed off any roadway. And it was transferable to any member of her family, so during our teen years we almost ran AAA into bankruptcy with all of us breaking down all over Arizona in the various household cars, in our boyfriend’s cars, in Mom’s boyfriends’ cars, at least one a day all over town, the tow trucks’ flashing lights beating a path to wherever we were stuck.

Once towed, we never knew where to take the cars for repairs. It's not like we had any money. If only we'd had a horse. Normally they were just towed back home where they’d get deposited steaming, overheating, and clunking. Then we’d just let the cars simmer, let them lie fallow and stir in their own juices. We’d hope that maybe the cars would heal themselves. So they'd sit there dormant and stagnant, with us hoping that if we went back out there in a couple weeks, put the key in the ignition, they'd work. And the strange thing? Sometimes they did.

Before I ever knew how to drive, I knew how to open a radiator cap gingerly and put water in it to stop it from exploding or power steering fluid to stop it from groaning around corners. My first car after college graduation college was so broken that the driver's side door didn't open; when I went to job interviews I had to crawl out of the passenger's side in my suit, over the center console.

And even though it's been over twenty years since I had a really bad car, the legacy of being seen as trashy because my car was trashy has stayed with me. Each day when I go out to my car in the garage and I see it I'm filled with gratitude for what it's not. Let there be no mistaking it: I love you, Car.

Did you ever drive a car you dreaded to get in? An absolute embarassment? Are you still traumatized by the memories like me? Did any of your classmates ride horses to school like mine did?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Heads Up

I'm wandering through a party store a couple weeks ago alone, up and down the aisles. Somewhere in the store is Daughter and her best friend. They've ditched me in a mad rush to cover more ground. I'm a slow-moving adult.

I gave them two choices of where we could go to buy a few cheap trinkets for them to play with. There was the dollar store or the party store. They chose the party store because of all the dress up stuff, and the wonderful opportunity to make fun of me - there's a gigantic 50th birthday aisle filled with geriatric devices that they pull out to humiliate me in advance of my 50th birthday in March. I especially like the bra with pulleys and springs. Little do they know I've needed that one for years.

But I'm alone when I discover the treasure trove that we end up buying. I schlep back to the front of the store to get a cart it's so perfect, so wonderful, that I need many of them. What is it? Styrofoam wig heads. Fifty cents each.

What can I do with a styrofoam head? What can't I do? The girls can paint them. I can mosaic them. Son can bring them to his friend's house and shoot them with air soft guns (though I'm only willing to sacrifice one to this waste). As a woman with, at best, half a head in working order at any time, I know I need some support. I need these heads.

But first we have to get them to the cashier and then out of the store. We put fourteen in the shopping cart. It kind of looks a little weird, I'm aware of that - bodyless, chopped off heads, all pale and staring. It's a little gory, unusual for me since I have a low scare threshold. But for art, for the dream of art, for a three-dimensional canvas? For that I'll load up a pile of heads.

I carry four heads at a time into the house, one under each arm, one in each hand. A head drops and rolls in the garage. I think of the movie Rear Window and look surreptitiously at my neighbors' houses to see if anyone's watching me. I pick up the head and get inside.

Later I'm driving Daughter and her friend to the friend's house where they'll spend the evening. They're both going to paint their heads to resemble the boys they have crushes on. Suddenly they both get really quiet. I look in the backseat and catch them kissing the styrofoam lips.

Okay, then. I guess they can be used for that too.

Do you start art projects and never finish them? Buy ten of something when you easily could buy two? Do you have visions of yourself as the next Picasso?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Love of a Mother

Twins, Mom and me, the baby, in 1960.

Dear Mom,

It's occurred to me lately that you just may not be immortal. Besides depressing the hell out of me, this has made me realize that writing a love letter to you just may be the best topic for me to write about for the Momalom Love It Up challenge.

I sat beside you on your lumpy couch this week and became concerned. Very concerned. First of all, you, who never stop talking, weren't talking. Second of all, your TV, normally blasting out old Westerns from the 50s, was on mute. One sister told me that you tried to change the TV channel with the phone. And even though we handled this little medical crisis with a quick change in medication, it brought to mind your fragile mortality; after all, you'll be eighty in June. So here's the deal: I may be turning fifty in four weeks, but I'm not ready to be an orphan.

Flash back thirty-five years ago, to March 1st, 1975, six days before my fifteen birthday. Dad dies suddenly, leaving you a forty-four-year-old widow. From then on - all the way till now - I am waiting, with paranoid anticipation, for the other shoe to drop, and you're the other shoe. One parent disappears around the horizon with no warning, no goodbyes, his clothes still hanging in the closet, his shoes just standing there, his wallet and keys on the dresser, his car in the driveway. Gone. Who's to say it can't happen to the other parent?

And, of course, it can. So I've guarded you these past thirty-five years. I've been your amateur doctor, calling you daily, living nearby, writing your story, trying my best to live this Jewish life. But I can't stop you from aging, can't stop little pieces of you disappearing one by one, and I can't stop you from eventually disappearing altogether. No matter how meticulous my care and that of my sisters, it will happen and then, when I reach for the phone each day to talk to you, ready to share my successes and my failures, I'll have to pull my hand back from the phone, remembering that you're no longer there.

I've written about you a lot on this blog. I've poked a lot of fun - at your wreck of a cactus-strewn acre in Scottsdale, at the way you pack, the way you drive, the way you talk on the phone. But when you strip it all away, the humor, the writing, the blog, there's only one fact that's left standing: I wouldn't be able to write about being a mom without having known the love of one.

Happy Valentine's Day, Mom.

From your number six daughter, Linda

Do you ever feel your parents' mortality like an oncoming train? Did you ever have a loss that made you wary, like things were suddenly very precarious? How much are you still and always a daughter (or son) and how much a parent? Or do you instantly turn back into a kid when you talk to your parent?