who the heck knows anything, anyway

Monday, May 30, 2011

More Confusion. And Also, Food.

Still scared to look the Morrigan* in the face. I can't make myself re-read it, let alone work on another edit. It's a bit unnerving, really. I imagine few professions find people fearing what they have created**. It isn't often that I get to feel like Frankenstein! Neat.

So how does one muster up the courage to tackle this sort of thing? I want to finish it. I want it to be something for which I feel some pride. Does courage build over time? Will I look at my computer one day and say Today Is The Day? Or is it the sort of thing you just force yourself to do one nondescript afternoon, even though it might make you feel forlorn and a bit like puking? Unfortunately, I already know the answers.

 It's always something like: "It's different for everyone."
Or, even better: "It's different for every story."

If Calvin's dad were here, he'd say this sort of thing builds character. --He's probably right, though admitting that makes me huffy.

--Cue the Stress Baking--

I made some delicious things this week, as a result of ignoring the stories eating away at my sanity.

itty bitty salad rolls  
(radish provided for size comparison)      

strawberry rhubarb pie

I also made a spicy dipping sauce, black bean soup, and cornbread. All of these things in one day. My kitchen was a mess on Saturday, basically. It is worth noting that of all the stress-related disorders I inherited/developed on my merry own, this one is by far the most productive. Bathroom-cleaning as a form of avoidance is also a pretty good one. I'm abouts to practice that one this evening!

In reading news, I'm enjoying (for the second time) The Vintage Book of Contemporary Irish Fiction. Very content with my choice. I've had a streak of poor luck with contemporary American short stories lately, and short stories are what I need to read if I ever want to get my own short endings right.

Oh, endings. Bane of my existence.
And on that note!


*the title of a short story I wrote about six months ago. 
**along with writers who tackle tough, personal subjects, we could probably include a few people who invent new bombs, occasional members of political parties in charge of "grooming" candidates, and the inventor who will, inevitably, accidentally get the singularity going a bit too early.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I've been bitten by the Haircut Monster

Growing up, I established my identity in my hair.

In the fourth grade, my mom let me chop my sweet, curly mess into a bowl cut. It was the 90's. I was tomboy. And I think "bowl cut" was the only short hair cut I knew about. Probably the worst fashion decision of my life--but a fourth grade hair disaster is way better than a mid-forties nip slip, so I'll count that as a lucky break.

Regardless of those horribly awkward years, I've generally kept it short. Pixies, bitch bangs, slanted bobs, haircuts my friends and I gave each other that don't have real names--I loved them all.

Like every rule, there have been exceptions. There was that time in late high school/early college, but I spent every minute of that time envying girls with hair shorter than mine (so, basically, these "long hair rebellions" never last long). It really is difficult for me to see people with shorter, sexier hair than mine. Selfish and petty, maybe, but I spent about ten years putting most of my identity into being The Girl With Short/Funky Hair (And, later, Tattoos). Might seem silly, coming from a girl raised in what is now Short Hair and Tattoo Capitol of the US, but I was the only one in my neighborhood who looked like that until just a few years ago. I was a novelty, a one-of-a-kind. Doubly so when my hair was blue. And though I now understand, and love, that my individuality runs much deeper than those ridiculous, surface things, I still love that part of me. I love being the Short Hair Girl. I love being The Girl With Tattoos. One might hear these statements and assume some kind of vanity, but you have no idea how much more time I have spent in front of a mirror since the length of my hair passed my chin. My self-image has plummeted. On good days I feel pretty solid, but on days ranging from meh to awful, I feel insanely ugly. I'm not even going to get started on body issues, but I will tell you that those have, in fact, multiplied like amoebas in a test tube. Maybe it's a bit of a leap to imply a relationship between the two--I haven't done any real studies to prove it--but my official hypothesis is that one exists.*

I've been growing my hair out since last July, when I shaved my head for the first time**. It was incredibly liberating! And also forced me to improve my posture (turns out that longer, puffy hair hides a bit of my neck slouch). 

Behold! Some photos. 

late june 2010
today, like right now
I look like two different people.

So why the sudden urge to change? I can't say for sure, but I'll temporarily attribute it to an increased ratio of bad:good days. When they are about equal (or, preferably, good>bad), it ain't no thang. My pink hair was totally bangin' for quite a while. But now the tides have turned. And the minute I let myself look at pictures of haircuts online, I know it's too late. Plus, friends, you knew this day was coming. Honestly, I'm impressed that I've stayed my hand this long.

My appointment is scheduled at my usual place in my old hometown for June 9th. I have a few ideas, but I'm always open to suggestions. Until then, I probably have to make Daniel hide the clippers. 

...For good measure, a picture of my hot pink/red hair from about two months ago (!!! wtf, hair. Why do you grow out so fast??). I really loved this one.

who is this bangin' ginger?

*note to self: could this be...experiment time?
**My hair grows about 2/3'' per month. Average is 1/2''. My hair is king of growing out! Which is actually kind of a hassle.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"The State of Being Rejected"

There is a lot of pressure on authors to mask all of their post-rejection feelings with a sense of humor. I joke about wanting to have enough rejection letters to wallpaper my bathroom because lamenting another rejection in a public forum is poor form. So we all do it. We laugh off the ache. We state, with a hint of sarcasm, that we finished a recent story in perfect time, because we can’t wait to get the next letter that tells us "thank you, but we regret...".

I know other people feel this way when they are rejected, be it from a lit mag, a job, or asking someone out on a date. The outside world expects us to keep the Game Face on, make a funny joke from behind an obviously-broken nose that getting punched in the face doesn’t hurt a bit, dust ourselves off, and pick another fight. And we do. We are resilient. We temper our egos with humility (or is it the other way around?). We fight, and lose, and fight again.

But when we finally win
--when I finally win--
it will feel so fucking good.

May hope and hard work sustain me until then. 


Friday, May 20, 2011

On the menu today...

This is going to be all over the map, probably, but I haven't updated in a while, and I feel bad about that. So this is what you get for making me feel guilty, internet. You get word vomit.

Things Running Around In My Brain:

Hair styles. I am trying my darndest to grow my hair out, but I can not guarantee I will last much longer. I just love short hair too much. In an attempt to temporarily satiate my new-'do desires, I'm going to dye my hair black tonight. The box is sitting in front of me right now. I'm pretty stoked about it. However, it's CHALLENGE TIME!: If anyone sees a super sweet hair cut they think I should rock, please send it to me. I am willing to do very crazy things to my head, so don't hesitate to suggest something outrageous. My only limit is: mullets. Those are a no-no. 

Feminism. I dig modern-day feminism. I think it takes the best parts of lady-championing and does a good job leaving out the misandry. Getting political (even socio-political) on the internet is not my favorite*, but I read this Blurb is a Verb blog post/interview with Dr Lissa Rankin, and I thought it was awesome. Titled "Don't Say 'Coochie' on the Radio", it's a very lively and thoughtful discussion on what body-related topics are deemed appropriate in news media, and the unfortunate inequality of it. Dr. Lissa has a great sense of humor, and Blurb is a Verb is a pretty fun blog for anyone interested in the life of an author (one who oft discusses the publishing world, which I find very mysterious). I highly recommend! Another suggestion for those who love the ladies: read BUST magazine.  ...** 

Writing. Le sigh. Even when I'm not doing it, it's on my mind. The good news is that I finished some flash fiction today! Probably not the most smashing piece of work ever, but I'm pretty fond of it, and I'm hoping to find a suitable publication for submission (i.e. rejection). That's a whole 'nother ball game, though--one I'm saving for tomorrow, because my brain is plum tuckered for today. Also, since I am in a suggest-y mood, I would like to point everyone in the direction of Sugar, who does a column on The Rumpus. I am in love with her. She does advice like nobody's business, from relationships between people to relationships between a girl (or gent) and her writing. If you write, this is a must read. If you don't, I still suggest you read it. Few people are as uplifting.

Raptors. Any time people mention The Rapture that's supposedly happening tomorrow, I get a little bit uncomfortable--until I auto-correct their chatter in my brain to a discussion about Raptors. Because raptors are awesome. I don't especially want little herds of them running around, but thinking about those adorable, flesh-eating dinosaurs is much more mentally rewarding than whatever scary apocalypse people are cooking up. I do not like thinking about the apocalypse, unless it pertains to my rap career.*** 

Guess that's it? Maybe? In the meantime, here is a picture I drew of a raptor and a chicken quite some time ago (2 years, man. I was a BABY back in 2009). They look alike! Hint: because chickens are dinosaurs. 

The arrows indicate that they have all the same body parts. My science is flawless.****


*I am certainly glad to discuss my opinions, I just prefer to do it in person. The internet is too anonymous, and some people have a tendency to get downright mean. I like nice people.
**And if you fancy yourself the sexually liberated type, I will add a couple 18+ blogs in this footnote that are NSFW but super awesome. Warning, though: they are not for the faint of heart! This one is a new blog by an adventuresome and well-informed young lady from my old home town, and this one is by an amazingly smart, funny woman (with a PhD in Human Sexuality Education) who always has great Q and A, interviews, and links to really interesting news. I apologize if I freak anybody out with these blog suggestions, but if I consider "knowledge is power" to be one of my Ye Olde Pillars of Truth, then I am obligated (and proud!) to present all types of knowledge I find valuable. 
***My sweet rapper alias is, in my fantasy life, Apocellipses. 
****This is a funny joke.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Relevant Topic

A surprising number of my friends are self-employed these days. More than that, we're self employed in strange, self-directed fields where the answer to "what can I actually consider to be work?" is amorphous, at best. I work on my novel for a couple of hours a day, but that can't be all that I am allowed* to think of as contributing to my authorial betterment. So I've decided that, for my own personal sanity, I should brainstorm the things I do that count as "work."

First and foremost, of course, is Writing. Novel writing and short story writing are the top tier, then there are various editing projects**, and I'm also going to include blog writing. Blogs are sort of silly, because I don't think I'm nearly important enough for strangers to read about the things I think about. However I love reading up on what my friends are doing/thinking about, so this is my way of returning that favor while also giving myself a platform for getting all of the funny gunk out of my brain. This is a place where I can talk about work (witness: right now), or some new thing I've discovered while researching, or how good I'm feeling because the sun is out. All are relevant to my life and, therefor, my profession. (Man, I have a cool profession.)

Then there's responding to work-related emails, which is kind of an automatic "in" because that counts as legitimate work wherever you're employed.

Other writingish things that fall somewhere between emails and the official creative process include: cover letters, author bios, and all that very important business that gives me anxiety.

The next umbrella (also a pretty big one) is Research! This one can get a little confusing, actually, but it definitely includes: looking up and subscribing to various lit mags, checkin' out NPR's book recommendations, reading Jeannine's blog (I can't rave about this woman enough), and conducting any laborious research about specific time periods or technical information pertinent to my stories. Not sure if I should count the times I get a little derailed and end up researching tangential information. Technically, it's not immediately relevant; ideally, learning anything and everything is 100% relevant.

...I vote: learning is awesome, so it counts.

Next! Brainstorming is obviously kosher.

Now here's the big question: What category does Reading fall under? After a little bit of mental argument about whether or not I should allow myself hours of reading novels on a daily basis and count those hours as work (instead of considering it an extracurricular activity), I've decided I should be for it. Ahh, the joys of being wracked by guilt. Too many years at an office job means I have to constantly remind myself that work does not have to be painful--i.e. reading can essentially count as research (should count, really) while still remaining  awesome. It's not as thought I'm going to magically hate reading because I'm counting the hours I do it on my time card.*** But I do need to count it and not feel like I'm cheating. I don't want to feel like a slouch if I work on my novel for two hours and then want to read Cloud Atlas and my new issue of Granta for four. This is why I needed to get all this down on paper (so to speak): the longer I feel like reading is excluded from my Approved Work Activities, the less time I allow myself to do it, in general. Those four hours I could have spent reading (and acknowledging/appreciating it's importance) are four hours that I instead spend dicking around on the internet and doing nothing. Absolutely nothing.**** All that waste and worry make me feel like emu puke.

I hereby decree that Reading of Literature counts in my hour tally, whether you think that's nonsense or not. Because I think it's legit.  And if you're an author who doesn't think reading is important, then you are not legit. That's something I have no trouble saying on the internet.


Phew. See? This work thing gets heavy.

I feel as though a weight has been lifted, though. Listing these things out helped me realize that I actually do a lot of work! I don't know about you, but not having a clear picture about these things can get pretty depressing. Some weeks, I will lament having completed next to nothing, and the spiral into crisis-mode is never far behind--but then Daniel reminds me that I worked on my novel four mornings out of five, and that I corrected three papers, wrote a blog post, corresponded with people interested in my work, and brainstormed a bunch of chapters for multiple projects. How could I have overlooked all of that?

Moral of the story: if you crave organization and reassurance, don't be ashamed to make lists. Lists are friends, not food.

Aaaaaaand, I apologize for this being twelve million pages (inches? reading-minutes? pixels?? Blogs! You confuse my book brain!) long.  Oops!

*Allowed by my self, of course, because The Man doesn't dictate my life no mo'! I mean, I'll be making so little money this year that I don't think I'll even be filing taxes.^
**Mostly involving correcting high school/college papers for my little brothers and a few friends, but I still think they count.
***A sweet, e-time card (I believe they call such things an "android app" in this time period) called My Work Clock that lends a nice feeling of legitimacy to my day.
****Because dishes, unfortunately, don't count as this particular kind of work, unless I want to change my title from Author to Head DishwasherAnd do I want this to be my official title in my home? Hint: No. 

^I feel a little guilty about this, because I kind of love paying taxes--in an I-love-funding-libraries-and-social-programs-and-schools-and-would-totally-fund-universal-health-care-if-that-was-an-option sort of way. I'm not an accountant.