Archive | November, 2012

Reading My Life at Vox Poetica

26 Nov



Winter birds.

The birds that stay.

I’m ready to find myself
in a city I don’t know, amongst people who
don’t speak
or won’t speak my language.

Things I like to talk about in poems.

I’ve got a poem entitled Reading My Life over at Vox Poetica. It’s sort of appropriate since I’ve been feeling sort of anxious and angst-y lately. Like I’m ready for a do-over.

All the same many thanks to Vox Poetica for accepting it.

Do Something Incredible with Your Life

21 Nov

On my search for stationary this past weekend, I passed the guy who has been traveling the country playing his piano.

Wait, let me back up. First off, I’m searching for stationary. I have a letter to send. Not a card. Not an email. Not a text.

A letter.

A letter that I need to write and mail to someone, on stationary, with a stamp. And I’ve been all over this city searching for stationary, in stores that call themselves STATIONARY stores and all I find are printable invites and fancy cards with little heart-shaped pieces of lace embossed on them and packages of thank you notes and Christmas cards and ornaments (yes, ornaments) but no stationary. And when I ask the clerk they get a funny little look – the mouth screws up, the eyebrows nearly dance off the face in quizzical delight as the brain tries, often in vain, to process this strange request.

Stationary? Whatever for? they think. Who writes letters?

And that’s just it isn’t it? We don’t write letters. We’ve moved beyond letters. Because letters take time and thought and we don’t have either of those left in this world. Letters mean that you sat down one day, with no distractions and in the neatest penmanship you could muster you told someone something so important, so dear, so magical that it couldn’t be contained by an email or shoved into the limited parameters of a card. It was something that could only be expressed by pressing ink to paper and leaving an indelible stain.

Do they even teach cursive anymore? To be fair, mine is pretty horrid, but still, I can do it.

Maybe it’s because I’m a journal-er that I find this such an affront to basic humanity. I’ve kept a journal pretty consistently since I was 8.

Here’s a few on the shelves over my desk.

journals, journals, everywhere but not a drop to drink.

Most are packed away in boxes.

All the same, I do not fear the hand cramp. And neither should you, gentle reader.

We’ve killed letter-writing and it’s a terrible terrible thing. Now, that said, a friend of mine just pointed out a shop I missed in Union Square and I’m thrilled because I do believe that there I will find what I’m looking for.  (Got that U2 song in your head didn’t I? Snicker, snicker.)

So as I was saying, on my hunt for stationary I passed the man who has been playing his piano all across America. His name is Dotan Negrin. Here he is at his piano.

That’s from his website. Please don’t sue me, Dotan, because I think what you are doing is fantastic and important and truly artistic. I would have snapped a picture myself but I don’t have one of those newfangled smart phones all the kids are talking ’bout.

You can read more about Dotan and what’s doing here: Piano Across America

It’s a truly great story and on the back of Dotan’s piano he has  a map of the US tracing his route across it, much like the one I have in my bedroom from my cross-country trip in 2007.

I think everyone and I mean everyone (not even just Americans) should travel from one coast to the other. It will undoubtedly change your opinions about what this land is really like, who we are as a nation, and who we could be. It will possible also change your entire perspective if not your life. For all the traveling I’ve done, it’s by far my most treasured journey. If I close my eyes I can still tell you exactly what the Mississippi reeds  smell like in New Orleans (high and light grainy like grass but muddy and earthen and magical too) and the exact shade of blue  that paints the utterly touchable Wyoming sky (a blend of ultramarine and egyptian with a hint of blueberry.)

That said, Dotan has a sign on his piano that says, “Do something incredible with your life.”

And that makes me smile. I’m trying, Dotan. I’m trying.

Happy Thanksgiving, kids. Eat, drink, be merry. And this coming year, Do Something Incredible with Your Life.

Something has to be Sacrificed

20 Nov

So the lovely Ms. Morgan was nice enough to invite me over to her blog Writer’s Block to talk about….well….the horror that is writer’s block.

Merriam-Webster defines writer’s block as a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece. Though I’m sure quite a few writer’s would use different terms to describe it. Terms that maybe we don’t use in polite company.

Me? I don’t believe in writer’s block.

“Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t have trouble. I have entire months where it’s like pulling teeth and every word – every LETTER of every word – is painful. And I have months where I write and write and write and then wake up and realize that back on page 50 I made a horrible decision and now my whole plot is a tangled hopeless mess. Or that the great story idea I had in my head turned to utter rubbish once it was put down on paper. Or my revision is useless because I can’t see past the forest of text I’ve already put down. Or I have no good ideas to begin with.
Every single one of those things has happened to me and I still don’t believe in writer’s block.”
Yup. I’m a non-believer when it comes to writer’s block. I’m just that stubborn. Click here, to find out why.
And as always, here are my favorite candy offered as Starburst of Thanks for Megan who rocks.

What the Bridge Says at Misfit’s Miscellany

19 Nov

My old walk to work used to take me over a bridge. Actually bridge isn’t even right because it wasn’t anything like the Brooklyn Bridge or the Gowanus Canal even. It wasn’t over some small brook or stream. It was over a highway full of exhaust fumes and noise. Still, each morning I would look at the things left on the bridge, the forgotten, the misbegotten, the lost, the garbage, the toys, the love notes, the shoes, books, broken things. I used to think about the parts of myself that were left, the things that we all slough off -cheap tokens to prove that we were once real. That we did live here in this moment in time after all.

So I wrote this poem entitled What the Bridge Says and the kind folks at Misfit Miscellany decided to publish it here.

Maybe they left something on the bridge too.

Also I stole the title from this Frida Kahlo painting, entitled What I Saw in the Water or What the Water Gave Me.

Writing about Writing about Laini Taylor

16 Nov

My Daughter of Smoke and Bone mask

I’m a big fan of Laini Taylor, a writer whose work I absolutely admire. Actually that’s an understatment. Her sentences make my heart go aflutter, her characters make me woozy, her storytelling is gather-round-the-campfire perfection. If she would let me I would love to buy her a chocolate sundae or barring that we could run away together. Either or. And it’s not the hot pink hair. Or at least not just the hot pink hair.

 I’m an avid reader of her blog and she recently had an article in Figment about her writing notebook and how she starts her ideas. She keeps these little notebooks, which she decorates and jots things in. Nothing major. Just little things like:

  • masks with bird beaks
  • collector of wishes
  • the bakery window, before dawn

And then she let’s it grow, organically from there. She explains it well here:

I just really like the word “wishbone,” and so I was unsurprised when it made an appearance on my first day of writing what would become Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I’ve told this story a lot, how I was deeply demoralized by a different book I was trying to write, one which just refused to ignite, and how I gave myself the gift of one day to write anything at all, just to remember that writing can be FUN. What appeared on the page, immediately and so very vividly, was an argument between a blue-haired teenaged girl and her … father? … who turned out not to be human? And from his first appearance, before I knew anything else about him, Brimstone had a wishbone around his neck that Karou was not allowed to touch.

If I didn’t make these lists and jottings, would that have happened? Maybe, but I bet not, and where would this story have been without it? The question: What’s with that wishbone? And: Why can’t she touch it? were among the handful that arose on the day of writing which had succeeded wildly in the FUN department. It was the best writing day of my entire life. I think my muse had just returned from a long gypsy caravan trip across Eastern Europe and was feeling bad for having left me to my own devices for so long, so she gave me a heavy dose of her rarest potion, Creative Glee.

Today I started the follow-up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone which is called Days of Blood and Starlight. Very dramatic titles huh? I squealed with nerdy fangirl glee when I saw that my hold was ready at the library and promptly went to get it. I realized from the first paragraph that all the other books I’m reading (I’m looking at you biography on George Mallory and the Game of Thrones series) are going to fall by the wayside.


Funny you should ask. Because of lines like this on page 30:

In one of his darker moments, the irony started him laughing and he couldn’t stop, and the sounds that came from, before finally tapering into sobs, were so far from mirth they might have been the forced inversion of laughter – like a soul pulled inside out to reveal its rawest meat.

AAAAAHHHHHHHH! Do you not love it??? Soul…pulled….rawest…meat!! These are the kinds of sentences that I writhe in joyous jealousy over when I read her books. They are edible. You can eat this sentence – though maybe with the rawest meat you don’t want to. But you know what I mean.

So that brings me to….well…me. Whatever, it’s my blog.

I have a friend of mine reading over one of my manuscripts. I’ve written about it here before – I call it the Chess Book cause I was never able to decide on an actual name.

This book has caused me equal parts heartache and joy. I’ve worked harder on the actual craft of writing with this book. I got caught up in the lives and fates of these characters more than any other piece of fiction I’ve written. I care about this book deeply. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book, more than any other writing I have done hits a nerve for me. It’s about more than just magic and adventure. It’s about pain and loneliness and those moments in your life when you realize that so much is out of your control. And it’s also about falling in love and learning how to trust someone. It’s about truth and family and realizing that your good intentions had unintended bad consequences.

So what does this have to do with Laini Taylor or anything else for that matter? Well, for one thing she makes me want to be a better writer. She makes me try harder. And she reminded me that sometimes you have to separate the work from the outcome.

I was emailing with my friend who is reading the Chess Book today and he warned me that while he really likes the book and really thinks I have something here, to not get my hopes up because, well, you never know. This is my answer and it is without a doubt probably the truest thing I have ever said about writing:

I don’t have any expectations. I learned what having expectations does to you – it crushes your soul and cripples any desire to do anything creative again. While Lizzy was on sub with every major publishing house in america I sat down and wrote the chess book instead of the second Lizzy book because I couldn’t stand to think about wasting time and energy on something that might go nowhere. That book, that I sent you – the one you are reading – has some of the best writing I’ve ever done.

That said, if all it ever is, is a book that I poured my heart into, that I wrote some of my best stuff (to date), that had characters that I loved and cried over then that is enough. I mean that. It took me a long time to get here where the end result is the happiness with the book and not its place in the world.

Sometimes, I don’t believe any of what I just said and I think that if I don’t get something published by a Major Publisher I’ll die a total failure. But those days are fewer.

All I want to do is write something that I would love to read. That I believe in. That talks about the things that I love and that I fear.

I still feel that way. And I hope I’ll feel that way tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that. Like the hokey bumper stickers say, life is the journey not the destination.

Writing is creative work. The end result is a book no matter what form it takes. 

Creative Glee, folks. Creative glee. And remember all you have to do is write the book you want to read. Nothing, and I mean nothing else matters.

The Scream and an Interview

13 Nov

The pastel version of The Scream (1895), by Edvard Munch.

I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

I went to the Museum of Modern Art this weekend. It was the first time I got out of Brooklyn since Hurricane Sandy. Speaking of there are still a lot of people who need your help. The Brooklyn Public Library has some great info on their website about who needs what. Go here. So it was nice to be back in Manhattan and always nice to go to the MoMA. We went specifically to see the Scream which is visiting the MoMA until April 2013. There are four screams, the rest are all in Oslo and since the likelihood of me getting to Norway anytime soon is slim, this was a great second. That’s one of my favorite things about living in New York City. Often, things come to you.

The MoMA set up a fantastic display, the Scream front and center and his other work covering the walls of one of the gallery rooms. Including this, entitled Angst:

and this one, entitled The Sick Child of his sister as she lay dying of tuberculosis:

I’m going to preface much of what I say here with the following – I’m not an Art Historian but I have a deep love of visual art. That said, as I stood gazing at the Scream, the way the head seems like it will float away if the hands let go, the symmetry of the swirling landscape matching the sway of the body – which is all in contrast to the straight hard lines that create the bridge behind him, I was most struck by the eyes. They look just past the viewers gaze, just over your shoulder as if whatever horror he sees is just behind you. It’s a striking painting and I feel fortunate to have seen it. Again, a benefit of living in NYC.

Now that said, I couldn’t help but notice that so many other patrons at the museum that day just snapped a picture of it, and then as if the real thing weren’t right in front of them in all it’s pastel technicolor glory, they instead looked at it on their phone.

Is that the point we have reached? That the digital version is just a good as the real thing?

In other news, I have an interview over at My Pathway to Books with the lovely Tess where I talk about inspiration:

What is your inspiration?

Everything really. Books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, television shows, my obsession with Doctor Who, conversations I overheard on the subway, people I’ve known, who I used to be, who I am, who I hope I’ll be, the city I live in, the small town I grew up in, the friends I had and have, the seasons, the way a storm blows through the trees kicking up the pale green underside of the leaves, the stories I told as a child, the books I read under the covers with the flashlight, the wardrobe, my travels, the imaginary land I had when I was a kid, my cat, my husband, mythology, summer days, chess games, winter nights, history, magic….everything really.
And she also asks me which characters are based on me and which ones are based on people I know. And I answer honestly. Read it here.
And for Tess….my Starburst of Thanks!

In case you didn’t know it’s Election Day

6 Nov

So you should go vote. There, I said it.

But guess what else it means? It’s the end of the campaigning! Thank Zeus.

No more fliers in my mailbox, or slipped under my door. No more people in the subway asking me if I have five minutes to talk about their guy. No more commercials, phone calls, annoying facebook posts and tweets.

So, though I don’t usually post unpublished poems here, today is an exception. This is based on the last guy who rang my doorbell, in his jeans and grey t-shirt telling me that his guy, should be my guy because his guy knows all about what it’s like to be a woman in today’s world. Without further ado (about nothing)…..


When the buzzer rings he startles me.

Home alone, nearly 8 at night

and I’m not expecting guests.

I rise from the couch.

The cat follows me, mewing.

She’s nervous too.

He knocks.

And when I flip open the peephole

He says, “Hi.”

He’s there in jeans and a grey t-shirt.

Thin. Young. In his hand is a clipboard

and some flyers.

I determine I can take him if need be,

only a few short steps to the knife block

and I slide the dead bolt back,

open the door.

He introduces himself.

He reads my name off a piece of paper,

and doesn’t even stumble over

the long eastern european surname.

He asks if that’s me.

I nod.

He asks if he said my name right.

I nod again.

Then he launches into his campaign speech.

He tells me what his guy is going to do,

what the current guy isn’t doing. He gives me a pamphlet.

His guy is white and smiling.

He looks caring but also able to make those hard calls.

He looks fun but also serious.

He looks like he’s fighting for me, not anyone else.

He looks so American I can hardly stand it.

The kid at the door is telling me that I don’t get paid

the same as men.

“Did you know you only make 72 cents for every dollar a man makes?”

He opens his eyes wide and I nod.

I tell him yes, I do know that.

I tell him I’m familiar with wage disparity and the glass ceiling

a term that he just blinks at.

he doesn’t know that one and I hide my smile.

He tells me that if he were a woman he’d be furious.

He says this with sincerity.

He’d have no choice but to vote for his guy.

I wonder what he would tell me

if I were black

or Asian

or a man.

A republican.

A democrat.

A single mother

A retiree.

A starving college graduate buried up to my neck in student loans.

A war veteran.

A gun nut.

A hippy.

A drug addict.

I wonder how many speeches he’s got stored away

in that brain, this young kid

in his jeans and grey t-shirt.

He’s so eager and believes in what he’s doing.

I feel old standing near him,

so very old

so very far from the first

election I voted in

the way I had felt at that time

so hopeful

so powerful

so part of America

in my jeans and grey t-shirt.

He asks me to sign a form.

He asks for my email.

I give him the junk one that I keep for this kind of thing.

He bids me a good night.

He is pumped and there are ever so many doors in this apartment building.

I wish him luck

and realize that I mean it.

I lock the door

and cross the floor and I can

hear him ringing the bell

of the elderly Chinese woman next door.

I hope he speaks Cantonese.

I toss

his flier onto the coffee table.

I lift the glass of scotch to my lips

and smile.

The ice has melted, watering it down

And I missed the end of the

symphony on the radio.

I lost my page in the book I was reading.

But at least I still got the

Angry Young Woman speech.

If nothing else, even all these years later I can still get that

from the eager young man in his jeans and grey t-shirt.

Hurricane Relief

3 Nov

So my very awesome librarian friend, Rita Meade whose blog you should absolutely be reading put together a list of places that needs help, that offer help, where you can help, etc in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

I just took some bags of clothes, toiletries and food down to Councilman Gentile’s place and they wanted people to remember how important toiletries are too. People need toothbrushes. And deodorant. And jackets. And food.  And things that help them feel like their whole life wasn’t destroyed.

Here’s the post Rita put together.

Anyway you can help you, makes a difference.  A lot of people are really hurting. Please do the right thing.

Post-Sandy Aftermath, Belated Halloween, and a Guest Post

2 Nov

I hope everyone on the east coast is doing okay. I’m happy to say that my family and friends all seemed to have weathered the storm alright. Down in my part of Brooklyn things weren’t too bad – our power lines are underground so we didn’t lose power and thankfully we didn’t flood. I lost phone and internet for a couple of days but all things considered, that’s probably more of a blessing than anything else! Can’t say the same for much of Brooklyn – Coney Island and the Sheepshead Bay area are a mess – Queens had a massive fire in which dozens of people lost their homes. The lower half of Manhattan (below 34th street) was eerily pitch black last night. Transit is a mess and the roads are snarled with traffic making it even harder for supplies to get in. I was able to get to work because I walk but along my 5 miles route through Sunset Park nearly every gas station was closed and the ones that weren’t had lines 20 blocks long.

The images that are coming back from this storm are absolutely horrible. The Jersey Shore basically doesn’t exist, and as someone who spent many many many weekends of my high school summers there, it was sad to see. And as per the latest rumor they are still pulling bodies out of homes in Staten Island.

The Hudson Valley where I grew up got hit hard. I spoke with my mother last night and she said she won’t have power for another 10 days at the earliest.

Friend of mine posted the question on facebook if it’s really right that we’re doing the marathon this year all things considered. There were a range of answers, some less eloquent than others, but most people believed that there has to be a better way to spend already limited resources and police man power than that. I agree. No offense to the runners but things are still really bad out there. As of today, the death toll is up to 41.

After the storm we took a walk down to the pier through the garden and I was sad to see this:

Though it does sort of look like the Gelfling Ruin from Dark Crystal, doesn’t it? Minus all the carvings of course.

And Jay made a friend

That said, through it all we managed to have a nice Halloween even if we carved pumpkins the day before.

Sammy and Frank say, “Happy Halloween, kids”

And finally, I’m over at Nicki J Markus’ blog talking about how I hate sleep and how awesome it is to get up at the butt crack of dawn.

Come say hi.

It wasn’t my idea to write at five in the morning. I would never have an idea as ludicrous, as crazy, as sleep-depriving as, well I’ll say it, stupid as that. It was my husband’s idea. I just went along with it because clearly I hate myself….and sleep.

That’s all. Stay safe, kids. Be careful out there and for pete’s sake, be nice to each other. We’re all a little frazzled.

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