almost 10 tips on writing …

August 26, 2010 § 12 Comments

Is there anything new here? It depends on what you write and how long you’ve been writing. Overall, this is me talking to myself about a short piece that’s driving me crazy. Good kind of crazy, but still, my eyes are kinda glazed. And tired, pooped, longing to look at someone else’s writing.

1) Take a swipe at that editor on your shoulder, or who’s reading over your shoulder as you write. Kick him/ her out, totally and slam the door on him. Just get the words on the paper. Get ’em down and get it done. And no, it can’t be all the junk that comes into your head first.

2) Get a title. First. Use it to guide what you have to write, especially if you’re on deadline. It will help you adhere.  Sit down, spin out some good titles, turn everything off and write the darn piece.

3) It’s not always good. Yeah, you know that Anne Lamott and E Hemingway both said the first draft is s***.  So’s the second or third draft. And those who use “cut and paste” well, it’s impossible to tell how many drafts you’re doing. So finish it, let it sit. Look at it later. Let it sit, yeah, even if you’re on tight deadline. Build in some “let it breathe” time. Cuz you gotta go back and nail it, make it right. Writers have ethics. This is one of the “ethics.” 

4) If you’re writing for a news publication, you better consign yourself to the task at hand, answer the 5 w’s and get the piece written, in a forthright and honest manner. No one is paying you to win the Pulitzer for last minute assignments. They’re paying you to fill a certain space with something as compelling as you can get it, in a short time frame. It. is. your. job. Borrow someone’s protestant work ethic and get it done.

5) Check spelling. Ha – you think this is a boring piece of advice? Success is in the details, babydoll. Look things up -do not ever ever take them for granted. It’s not McCloud, it’s McLeod. It’s not “he went further into the wood” but “farther.” Is it Carl or Karl? Do not assume. Don’t miss the grace notes. Read it all again before you press “send.”

6) Don’t cheat. Just because you’re writing a short piece of 400-600 words, doesn’t mean you don’t have to study it, check it, work it, work it work it work it. In fact, writing short is more difficult, more intense than writing long. You know the old thing about Voltaire writing a 6 page letter and at the end apologizing for writing such length because he didn’t have time to write a shorter letter. Seriously.

7) Don’t “silo.” If you can get someone else to read your piece, if there’s time before you have to send it in, then do it. What are you, a one-man band? (well, maybe sometimes.) Anway, be sure the person is a good reader and will speak up if something’s amiss and not someone who will “yes” you to pieces (like they do about your hair looking good and how no, you don’t look fat in that dress.)

8) There better be personal joy in the writing, personal “push” to spark it. If it isn’t working for you, keep pushing ’till it does. I recommend moving around.  Mobility jumpstarts the thought process, works out the transitions, offers insights. Get up and move. Dance.

9) Once writing, don’t stop. Don’t allow personal anti-writing “A.D.D.” to take over – like worrying over the dust on the lampshade or a paper sticking out of the file drawer or the straightening of the shoes on the foyer mat. If all else fails, skip typing and pick up the pen. Don’t look up. Don’t worry that your hair needs coloring, your nails need painting or you have stuff in the dryer that will wrinkle if you don’t get it out.

10) There is no picture to go with this weeknight tired-as-heck lecture.
You a writer? Stop reading this and get writing.

Fair…

August 22, 2010 § 11 Comments

We went to the Washington County fair
the birds and the beasts were there…

And so was the sun, full tilt, 100 degrees (farenheit).
Pooh, said I, no hat needed.

HM had purchased our tickets online, catering to my desire for a pie-and-veggie tent at a county fair. There was in fact a long line at the ticket window. A good sign, I thought.

We watched a “washers” (kindred to horseshoes) competition.  Its organization was invisible; there were dozens of competitors and it flowed right along. It was still going when we would be leaving 3 hours later.

I wore sandals. Not good for walking through the pens where the pigs were kept.
They were large (aka “fattened”), clean and cute/trusting.
One little girl sat on a footstool next to her pig, petting him with one hand, eating pizza with the other. The pig seemed to wriggle with delight at her attention. I couldn’t tell if she was comforting him, in a farmer kind of way, or if she loved him even though he was destined for….

I have sworn off bacon.
I have always liked “Babe.”
 

Before the huge auction  started, festivities were held under the big tent. The 4-H clubs were introduced and honored with awards and rounds of applause. There were at least 300 of us seated in the crowd, on benches and chairs. Despite the heat, everyone was chatting or reading the program, eating, chillin’, looking around.
The County beauty queens were introduced and awarded flowers. Very regal, they waved to the crowd and were well acclaimed. We saw them later, eating ice cream and listening to their “wrangler” moms.  The beauty knot they formed was more friendly than  competitive, it seemed. They were laughing, bent over, having a good time.  Likely they grew up together and maybe when they were  around 10, one of them might have said, “Let’s tryout for beauty pageants!” and they all agreed and here they were,  on their way.

Win me!

Could it have been too hot to eat?

Yes, it was too hot to eat, especially the “deep fired Reese peanut butter cups” – see sign above. I backed down tho’ it was on my agenda to try one of those odd fried foods…

Contrasts.

There was a “car” section and had my brother been along, heat be damned, we would have looked at every booth, and inside every car there on display. But there’s always a “fun” car and this was it!

Ben, the mule, was a sweet guy.  Working animals, these are, strong and sometimes resistant. Today, Ben’s job was to “work” at the fair and put up with all of us admiting him and patting him. Of the people I observed walking by, all had to pet him. Sometimes, it’s easy to be a hero, eh, Ben?

We did finally get a little something to eat.  Roasted corn. Dipped in a bucket of butter! (what? a bucket of melted butter? I have got to do that at  my house.)  oh, yum.
We found a picnic table with a pinch of shade and sat at that end of it. We talked and ate and looked around. Men in sneakers. Women in sandals. (oh, good, I got that right.)  A fair amount of smokers.  Lots of french fries being eaten.  People walked through the sprinklers the fire dept had set up. No one avoided them. Everyone smiled as they did it.

A young mother (guessing 21?) came toward us pushing a stroller with two girls and being tagged up by a little boy. She came right for our table. “Here’s some shade,”she said and plunked the baby on the bench, the other little girl sat across from her and the little boy shimmied down to  our end. She had burgers and fries for all of them. She didn’t say  a word, just got busy spreading napkins, giving them ketchup cups, making sure they were ok.

Honestly, we haven’t shared a table with anyone since last in NYC where its common to be crammed intoseats at a table with strangers in places like the Broadway deli because it’s always a full house and empty seats are empty seats.

 The boy had his face painted. He looked at us and said “I’m a cheetah. Cheetahs are fast. They are faster than race cars.” He leaned behind his sister so his mom would here him: “Will this food mess up my face paint?”

She glanced over at him as she busied herself with the girls. “No, you’re fine.”
He looked at us again. “I have to eat carefully.” He pointed at his blue painted lips. “I don’t want to mess this up.”
I knew HM wanted to laugh but he didn’t. He nodded and smiled. We carried on our quiet little conversation, reminiscing about fair food of yore.
Then:
“I’m 7 and my sister is 5 and my other sister is 2,” announced Cheetah boy to no one in particular. “And,” he growled in a funny voice which I found hysterical but didn’t laugh,” and, I can pick her up.”
He went back to smacking on his french fries.
Pause.
He looked up at us again. “Am I messing this up?” He pointed to his lips.
“Nope,” I answered. “Looks fine.”
“Good. I gotta stay a cheetah.I want my Daddy to see me. You know cheetahs run faster than race cars, dontcha?”
“How did you know that?” I asked. (still mom was busy with the girls, not looking up, not saying anything.)
“Daddy. Daddy told me.”
His sisters were getting ketchup on their faces. The mom rushed to ameliorate the mess.
HM and I kept talking quietly but enjoying the family scene, too, not interfering, just being there.

“I clean up after myself. I know what to do,” said cheetah boy when he was done and swooped his paper dishes into a ball and walked over to the trash can.”Do I still look ok?” he asked, walking back.
HM assured him that his cheetah-ness was intact. Looked fine.

And mom looked over at cheetah boy and smiled. “You ready to go on the rides?”

We couldn’t imagine how the little trio would fare on those loopty-loop rides with stomachs full of french fries, but somehow we think it all worked out pretty well. ‘Specially once Daddy showed up.


Peter Frampton was playing that night at the Washington County Fair. We decided not to stay for it though we discussed at length how it would be to play the county fair circuit as a once-great rock n roller who sang “I’m in You” to screaming crowds and made his guitar talk. Not a bad gig, really, when all’s said and done. Go, Peter!

Once we climbed hills and walked down country lanes to get back to our car and were underway, we found an amazing bakery in the town and continuing in a rather “fair-ish” frame of mind (open to eating various things, yes, some of it delicious junk), we ate gorgeous icing-ed spice cake and tiny cherry cheesecakes on the way home.

I still have to find a fair, however, that has the huge grange full of prize-winning pies and squashes and sewing and etcetera. There’s something about all that, and the smell of the grain hall that is the formal herald of fall.

Barbie and Midge, amok in St. Louis

August 17, 2010 § 8 Comments

Sue at Typehype mentioned Ken (of the incomparable Barbie&Ken duo not totally unlike that TV pairing, “Hart to Hart”).
I mentioned Midge and seek to clarify Barbie’s young friend for Sue, who wasn’t sure she remembered her. 
Midge, a ’60s creation sans psychedalia shares the giant shiny black Barbie case in the back of my closet with my original patent-pending Barbie doll.  

Opening the case to find them was like opening  a book into my past and finding shoes, Barbie BBQ accessories, miniscule purses, Barbie’s nurse outfit, all kinds of things, brought back memories of the store in which I shopped to get Barbie clothes, saving allowances, and even once getting my parents to indulge in Barbie’s dream house. Egads.

I didn’t enjoy dolls per se as much as I did the fashion. Picking up on this, my grandmothers, mother and aunt all pitched in and knit some fabulous outfits, which I still also have.

Anyway, I promised Sue that I would picture Midge and so here are my oops-the-sun-is-setting-and-I-don’t-have-a-lot-of-light pictures snapped for old times sake.

“Creepy,” said HM. “The pictures, I mean. OK, interesting.”
No, he meant creepy.
Though I didnt’ intend them to be.
I”ll try again in the full summer light.

This is Midge in an official Barbie trademark dress, but geez, it’s awfully “Talbots”-y.

And here’s my bubblecut Barbie. You could have the ponytail or “bubblecut” Barbie back then. I didn’t care a lick for ponytails. Bubblecut was all the fashion rage. Note that Barbie’s ensemble is a simple floral sheath that smacks, somewhat, of a Holiday Inn lounge get up. There is also a matching bolero jacket (not shown), purse and matching blue shoes (high heels, bien sur.)

Paper zen…

August 10, 2010 § 24 Comments

I promised that I’d post some “pages” that I did one night nearly two weeks ago.
I call it therapy. I have no idea what I’ll do with it.
 It is about pasting paper onto paper and seeing what you get.

I saw a woman do something like this in a movie whose title I don’t remember. She glued pictures that she had saved on paper, making actual scenes out of them. Nice stuff, but not her really her work and she realized that.  However, by the end of the movie, she was doing her own paintings rather than working with snips of other people’s art. Transformation. Exercise and transformation.

Who knows what breakthrough(s) such stuff will bring to light?

Mine, too, are magazine pages and some photos and artsy bits – stuff I collect cuz I can’t stand to throw my magazines out (completely).

And for some reason, playing with paper can patch up a work-bent day and restore it.

What will I do with these? Actually, they’re intended, by their size, for a photo album. Forget that. I’ll likely write some little stories and find a way to tie it all together. Or, not.


da dum dee dee dee dum…just fooling with bits of things…


And now I’m reading Julia Cameron’s THE SOUND OF PAPER and darn if she doesn’t offer an exercise that says to take paper and pictures and stick them on a piece of paper and see what you get, naming it if you can.  Well, I’ll be darned.

Anyway, here you go, Jeanie.  This is what I came up with that night!
My next post will have the Barbie and Midge pictures I promised to T. HM says they’re “odd” but I don’t know, there’s something there to work with…stay tuned. You’ll see.

Separation …

July 5, 2010 § 18 Comments

We’re splitting up.  Things just aren’t working out for the two of us.
I’ve given the Public Library my best shot and the relationship is still coming up short.

True that in a relationship, there are typically “two” involved and neither party is, typically, solely to blame when things turn bad. However, I confess in my breakup with the library, it is largely my call, my decision although let it be said the Library did nothing to meet me halfway, to keep me, to try to make things right.

And so, the separation.

Allow me to explain; hear my side of the story. In an attempt to stave off any further and frequent purchases at my beloved fave bookstore, I have, over the past two months, been visiting the Library. Fortunate to have three branches in my live&work radius, I have benefitted from online book reserving, some research and, of course, borrowing, the latter being any Library’s major claim to fame.

Reportedly, you can borrow up to 99 books from the Library at any one time, as long as you aren’t taking several or many on one topic, thus sweeping the shelf clean of say, all books related to Teddy Roosevelt or fashion faux pas (two topics that indeed bedazzle this reader.)

I’d never take 99 out a time! Primarily because I couldn’t lug that many to my car nor keep track of them once home. As it is, I can end up with overdue fines sound enough to pay the Library’s electric bill. (But no, I haven’t done it in the past two months.)

However, a library card has a great resemblance to a credit card or gift card. Let’s emphasize the latter. And so over the past two months, I have been a bit unbridled in choosing books and walked out with as many as dozen at a time, with my visits being at least weekly.

Twelve books is not an unseemly number. The problem, however, lies in the two-week borrowing limit. And one or two of the 12 I might have borrowed in my “oh! look at this! Let’s see what this one’s all about!” sweep might have been 7-day loans. Because they’re new. Seven days!!!!

Yes, yes, I know you can renew books and of course it can be done on line. But the 12 books I might bring home seem to scatter: one in the living room for reading when the family is watching something in which I have no interest; one in the car, for those lunch hours where I have to leave the office and drive to the park and read on  a park bench and breathe real air; one or two by the bed, leaning against the already “sturdy” TBR stack; one or two in my upstairs office for when I’m taking a break from writing or filing; several in the den, stacked on the coffee table and oh, another one in the car that slid under the seat when I wasn’t  looking.

It’s difficult to round them all up when I’m trying to get them back to the Library on time, and here, the Library has no patience, does not offer the “give” required in any two-way relationship. Sigh.

I am grateful for the ability to renew, for the after-hours book-drop, for the selection, such as it is, for the library being open on Saturday. Still, it’s just … not… quite … enough.  Somehow.

I cannot abide, at this time,  the short loan time with no amnesty (though apparently, they offer one but just don’t publish when it will happen); nor the sometimes unsightly books offered for loan, particularly the soft covers that seem most prone to unidentified staining and wrinkling; the lack of read-and-lounge facilities including coffee and snacks (OK, that’s a silly plaint, but one I felt needed adding); and  the overall sensation of having one’s hands on a lovely book but having to give it up, ultimately, to take it back, dropping it off on the counter among dozens of others as though it had little or no meaning to me, that is, returning a beloved book.

And so I have collected up this morning the half dozen that are the result of the last library sweep where I practiced some discipline rather than “shopping” as is my wont.

I will sort through them, find something from each that I can “keep” in some way, likely my jotting lines in my journal and I will take them back and slide them into the slot and not look back.

We’ll see how this temporary serious separation goes.
And maybe in a week or two or three of absence, we can come to better terms.
Or, maybe I’ll just whittle away at my TBR stack and render it reasonable, reading, thumbing, dog-earing, annotating those that are already mine, never having been bound to a library card.

But it’s all about books, and what bookaholic chooses reasonbleness?

(to be continued…)

real life: riffing on deadlines …

June 14, 2010 § 11 Comments

Sometimes, we get wrapped up in doing things.
Some call  doing lots of thing “multi-tasking.” Others call it a non-med version of ADHD.
Some call reaching regular milestones “accomplishing goals.”
Some see finishing tasks as things getting crossed off a list.
I call it push-and-crawl, scribble-and-scream, cross-eyed, down-and-dirty, straight up meeting “deadlines.”
For the past several weeks, it has been all about writing deadlines.
And then I handed everything in.
And suddenly I’m free, popped up on the other side of the red-eyed madness, like having gone through some sci-fi worm hole.
Yup, I’m on the other side, in the limbo of no deadlines.
I do laundry. I delight in it.
I brush the dog. He wriggles in senior beagle appreciation.
I talk at the dinner table with the family. I babble.
I read. I can’t believe  I have time.
I share coffee with HM. It tastes good.
I read. I have time to read, am juggling three right now (one of them is about writing, of course!) Sheer delight.

I write things I don’t have to write. I stretch and write junk and make jokes and scrtich across the page, curling the journal pages. It’s fun.

And so, somewhat shyly, I return to blog world, like coming out of a cave after an explosion – is the world still there? Is everyone still out there? Is Jeanie finding wonderful “finds” to share? And Linda writing about the way people weave through history and the Now to open our eyes? And Bibliophile on books? and Ruth rhyming (or not) some images we all wish we might have put to paper? And Jeanine living on Africa’s southern tip sharing neighbor stories, still opening the world up to us? and Arti up north dealing us pieces of the great northwest? And Qugrainne sharing the people stories that evolve under her roof? And DS threading our consciousness, stirring our memory of great literation and always finding more? And Linda taking a shot at keeping our environment from going on tilt? And 51 Stories still taking the train around Great Britain sharing her travel stories and book insights? And Carrie with her sixth sense -design! And Nora with her 360 degree perspective on single-girl mingle-girl-what’s-it- all-about?

Time to stop rattling on about everyone and get out there and visit.

THE MEANING OF “DEADLINE”
I see them as an organizing tool, not so much the panic button that the word infers…but here’ s the scoop:
“deadline,” noun  1)the time by which something must be finished or submitted; the latest time for finishing something: a five o’clock deadline. 2. a line or limit that must not be passed. 3. (formerly) a boundary around a military prison beyond which a prisoner could not venture without risk of being shot by the guards. 4)  the time after which copy is not accepted for a particular issue of a publication

Also can be used as  a transitive verb:  I’m not going to be deadlined by her request.

The latest time or date by which something should be completed.
You can be “on deadline” or “under deadline. ”

The word’s history bears some dissonance but we can start here with alphadictionary.com who notes, like many similar sources, the following:
“Deadline, of course, is made up of dead and line and originally referred to the line around a prison beyond which a prisoner could expect to be shot. The finality associated with that deadline carried over into the metaphorical meaning that is more often used these days. The English word dead comes to us from a stem that is not found much outside the Germanic languages. It comes from Old Germanic *daudaz which also produced Germanic words like German tot, Norwegian død, and Dutch doods “dead”.”

I’m still not happy. The word “deadline” has a lot of clout not only in journalism but in daily life, metaphorical as it may be. I believe it’s the cause for stress, poor sleep, fuzzy word judgement, toploaded schedules and the desire to daydream when indeed, racing to meet a deadline.

 Here’s another bit from Word-Origins.com.
The modern figurative application of the word, to a time-limit (originally for the submission of material for a particular edition of a newspaper), dates from around 1920.

OK, we get the point. (mutter, mutter, I’m still not finding enough about the derivation of “deadline.” Oh yes, you’ll hear more about this!)

Pictured above:  Where the last few weeks went….(ok, interspersed with seeing Harry Connick Jr, and also attending Circus Flora and then there’s the whole home renovation issue which I will continue to tap dance around before spewing on paper about this renovation thing. Yikes – everything from furniture right down to bobby pins, is in disarray. Chaos. Swept into piles and corners and not in the rooms they belong in to begin with. I am tempted to have a dumpster pulled into the driveway and slowly, on the sly, in the dark of night, fill it with the things with which I have no idea what to do.)  Bless the dogs; they sleep easily through all this.

BTW, summer is in full swing here in the Gateway so if you’re not getting enough heat, rain or humidity, come for a visit!

PS sunday eve…in the midst of cleaning

May 16, 2010 § 7 Comments

Your books from last week’s giveaway are in the mail!

New giveaway coming soon.

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