Monday, July 24, 2017

No, I Don't Wanna See That! An Online Dating Story

I haven't talked much about this publicly, but I got divorced in May. It's been both good and bad, simple and complicated. Regardless, I'm dating again. I've made some incredible friends, and I'm exploring Utah's nightlife as a single woman. I've found online dating to be enjoyable and weird, exhilarating and heartbreaking. Not much has changed since the last time I was single, fifteen years ago. Well, one thing is different. [Shrugs.] I'm wittier now.


The inquiries are typically stale, and even the more inventive ones seem day-old bread-y. But I have fun.
Seriously, dude?! Worst pick up line yet.
(Let it be noted that I only cut out a couple lines between.)

Pro tip: When you hit on an English professor, know this basic rule...
You're = you are
Your = shows possession
Also,
Herd = group of animals
Heard = involves sound in ears
I wish those were the only two mistakes, but...no. SMH.


I'm NOT dating anyone who can't get at least one of these three lit references, or, at the very least, someone who hasn't mastered the art of Googling.


More to come, friends. There is some crazy stuff on my horizon, and I can't wait to share my latest publication credit. Let's just say it rhymes with the Blashington Toast.

Love your guts,

Rena


Monday, January 2, 2017

The one where pie invades my face.

Hi friends!

Here's the much anticipated pie-in-the-kisser video as a reward for reaching over 100 newsletter subscribers.



What should I do if I get 200? Lick a celebrity's arm? (I am going to the Sundance Film Festival in a few weeks.) Let my kids give me a peanut butter mohawk? Get a professional face painter to draw a picture of a kangaroo with the head of Jensen Ackles on my cheek? I'll entertain other ideas.

Much love,

Rena

Friday, November 18, 2016

How I got the reputation for being "blisteringly honest."



“Writing is like giving yourself homework, really hard homework, every day, for the rest of your life. You want glamorous? Throw glitter at the computer screen.”

--Katrina Monroe


It’s hard to imagine why  anyone would want to become a professional writer. It isn’t as if it is the best paying gig in the world. Most writers don’t make enough to buy health insurance. Nevertheless, writing is the marrow in my bones, it’s stitched into my soul.

In high school, I didn’t show an aptitude for much of anything. I liked certain classes, but I wasn’t exceptionally talented in any one area. My attentions were, sadly, too consumed with dating to bother with academia. However, in college, I was drawn to literature courses. Suddenly teachers spoke openly about the hush-hush topics that no one brought up in secondary school, and critical theory pushed the boundaries of my mind, forced me to see things differently, and challenged my beliefs. I loved every minute of it. 

As an emergent writer, I hunted for ways to shine around campus; first by contributing articles to The College Times, the college newspaper, and then publishing short stories in college magazines. Writing became a therapy and a drug. It was a creative outlet and a method for processing learning. But more than anything, it provided me with an unparalleled sense of fulfillment. Give me words or give me death. 

I published a lot in the years to follow (mostly in newspapers and blogs), and then I went on to get an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. The training in my Master's program helped shape my work and aim me in the direction of a genre I hadn't considered before. Narrative essays and memoirs became the bread to my butter. The Triskets to my cream cheese. 

This week, one of my essays was published in Pinball. "How We Die" captures the naked life of a family ravaged by depression. Yes, this is my family and our toe-to-toe, thrust-and-parry battle with depression. It's writing like this that gave me the reputation for being "blisteringly honest" by my writer mentor, Jake Lamar. Here's the link.



Much love,

Rena



Friday, October 21, 2016

The Value of a Story



Every day I read someone else's work. A lot of someones. On Facebook and Instagram, I whine about how long it takes to grade essays; yesterday, I gave meaningful feedback on seven papers in an hour. Seven down, seventy to go. And those are just the ones who turned it on time. [Sigh.] Occasionally I resent the hours it takes because it laps up my writing time (or cooking, reading, parenting, and dog-snuggling time). But, friends, these essays? The stories are incredible.

I gave my students a simple prompt: Write about something or someone that evokes feelings of love or hate.


One student wrote a narrative about his two favorite uncles; one who taught him out to work hard and manage a farm and the other who taught him how to woo the ladies. Then, one morning my student found the former uncle dead in the barn. The uncle's skin was cold when he felt for a pulse.

Another student wrote about how during a basketball tournament in St. George, their team was snowed in and forced to stay the night at the bus driver's dilapidated cabin. She tried to sleep in a bunk bed, but bugs crawled all over the wood. Instead, she camped out on the floor of the common room. When she woke in the morning, the bus driver stood nearby, watching her. She pretended to sleep until he left the room.

One young woman wrote about leaving home for a summer to participate in a competitive veterinarian-internship two states away. She worried about being on her own and wondered if she'd get along with her mentor. Then, she met her. The mid-forties vet gave her a big hug, showed her to her quarters, and said, "Wanna come with me to check on a goat?"

In another narrative, a student's mother worried her daughter's boyfriend was too controlling. Convinced, the young woman broke up with him in the parking lot of a church. When she tried to walk away from his truck, he threw her to ground and stood over her, cursing.

One kid's father, who was a teacher, cheated on his mother with one of his students and ended up in prison. The young man's story was about having to live in his grandma's basement and saying goodbye to his dad.

I'd read these stories if I caught their blurbs in a Barnes and Noble. I'd buy 'em and read 'em on the treadmill, in the bath, or listen to the audiobook on my commute. I know I'm only one voice of encouragement, and some pupils probably think I have to say nice things about their work, because...teacher. But do they know the value of a story? That people read for the chance to connect with the author, the characters? To learn when to be compassionate and when to be cautious? To escape their anxieties, traumas, or crummy childhoods (or adulthoods)? Do they know that stories like theirs change the world? That stories shape policies, raise awareness, incite action, save lives?

And if they don't know, how do I teach that?


Thursday, October 6, 2016

My So-called Professor Life

Now that my MFA is complete, the paperwork all filed, the degree shipped my home address and framed in my office, I have this nice neat title. It's pretty and shiny and useful; it helped me get a job teaching college. I teach part time at UVU while continuing to teach part time at a local high school. Work load combined, it's exactly like having a full-time job. 

And I'm a parent. I have to help the kids get ready for school almost every day. When they get home, I make sure they have snacks. I make dinner, I help with homework and wash the dishes. I listen to them whine about their chores--feeding the dog or wiping down counters--and then I hold a dance party in the kitchen before we all lose our minds. 

This is my life. Teaching, grading, working out, sleeping, dancing, cleaning, bathing (on occasion), and more grading. Did you notice the missing piece? (Hint: You wouldn't have noticed if you're not a writer.) I HAVEN'T BEEN WRITING. There's been the sparse scribble in church. A frenzied typing before a scout meeting. Lunch break chicken scratches on a napkin. This is nothing. I went from about eighteen hours a week of WIP time to having a handful of minutes to type an essay. A short one. 

A writer who doesn't write feels lost. Distracted. Fogged by a feeling that something is missing. The memory goes wonky. Appointments are missed. Our office chairs forget the shape of our butts. Our hearts flicker out and fall like the ash of a cigarette. 

But I know the remedy. And so I type. 

BICHOK. Butt in chair. Hands on Keyboard. 


Love your guts, 

Rena

(P.S. An essay of mine will be published in Pinball this month. More to come.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

May the road rise up to meet you [in Dublin].

I'm in Dublin, ya'll! I'm studying creative writing at Trinity College (where Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde, too, stayed for a time.)

Dublin Castle is a few blocks from Trinity College.


My schedule is hectic, and I don't have time blog all the wonderful things I've learned in lectures and on tours (and fun idioms I've picked up on the train to Holyhead Port). To sustain you, here are a few pics from my trip.

Feeding the birds in St. Stephen's Green. 



Hurling game. Galway lost. =(

Temple Bar and some street musicians. 



More to come later. I can't wait to tell you all about it. 

Love your guts, 

Rena


Saturday, June 4, 2016

I'm a revolutionary! Your annuals will never be the same!

As I mentioned in this post, I love signing yearbooks. During the last week of school when my students come to class with their shiny we're-almost-outta-here eyes and glossy-leafed yearbooks, I encourage them to lend me a page. I promise fiction, mayhem, digressions, fake histories, and a whole lot of 90s references they'll have to Google in order to comprehend.

In case you can't read it:

Oh, E. 
You are a gem. But not one of those lame ones like the opal, where you can buy 'em at a gas station in rural towns, the kind you can fill a sack with for a dollar. No. You're like an emerald. Green and solid and shiny, and I think the metaphor ends there, because it'd be weird if I said you were a twinkly type or often found in rings. But not wedding rings. See. It's weird, and the rest of this post is TOTALLY NORMAL! 
I think the red-ink-using guy doesn't understand how yearbooks work.
But clearly neither do I.
Whatever. I'm a revolutionary. A yearbook signing revolutionary! I fight the good fight against lines like "Have a good summer" and "Keep in touch." Down with stale annual scribbling! Down with false promises (unless they're creatively crafted)!

NEXT ONE SAYS...

As a Hollywood star, I have some advise for you on your rise to stardom.  
First off, don't shave your head in the spirit of Britney Spears. If you're gonna do it, go full on Sinead O'Connor, but don't rip up a pic of the Pope. The one we have now (Pope Francis) is pretty awesome. Seriously. Female deacons?! Catholicism will never be the same.  
Secondly, if you become pals with the Kardashians, stow away some brain cells for later. Just in case they...leech them all away. [Theory, Kardashians are an alien race here to vacuum up our minds and replace intellect with mediocracy [sic]. (Isn't it mediocrity? See! It's happening already!)] 
Finally, don't forget the little ppl.
Or the tall ppl.
Or the medium ppl.
Or Waldo.
Or John Stamos. 
If you don't believe the Hollywood bit, I'll have you know I was cast in that secret season of The X-Files where Mulder gets reassigned to me, Agent Fey, a forensic crytozoologist who's way better than Scully, especially at kissing.  


This one's all about my artistic talent.

B,
For you I have a drawing. And since I'm a regular Picasso, make sure to NEVER lose this! I mean, for real. And be sure to get insured for a half a mil. At least. And I give you full rights to make copies and sell them on the sly to pay for your Skittles habit. (Wait, Skittles isn't slang for some preppy, synthetic drug, right? Cuz, I just meant REGULAR Skittles. Not the kind you'd find in some guy named Blaine's Porsche. Speaking of Blaines, you know who I looooove? James Spader. He was fun in Boston Legal
What was I saying?
Oh, yeah. ART.
Here it is.
The greatest drawing of all time!
Big overture!
Cue the crescendo!
Here's the mindless robot I hope you never become. 

I studied art under Thomas Kinkade and Banksy.
And this one is about a field trip.
The best part of the year has to be the time we took that field trip to the lavender fields, and that creepy scarecrow kept moving, and it chased us into the barn. And do you remember the crow?! So many crows! It was like a bird sanctuary! And why did that farmer have so many scythes?  
Anyway, you were all upset about your haircut, but it didn't matter after we blew up the [propane] tank, and crows flew around like fireworks.  
I wonder what happened to the scarecrow. 
Good times. But I think the lavender gave me an allergy attack. 


The Bard!

Dearest L,  
How fareth thee this lovely Wednesday? Wouldn't it be the worst if I wrote this whole thing in Shakespeare jargon? The worst.
Here's an unofficial photo editorial (or something) of The Bard. 
This [collar] is much like a dog collar. But Billy needs it to keep from gnawing off his knuckles. He suffered, as I'm sure you know because it's common knowledge, from a condition called Knuckletillomania.  
[At cheeks] The Bard often blushed around curtains. Can you imagine how red-faced he was at the Globe?! Yah. Poor guy looked like a baboon's butt. 
[At chin.] Cheesy goatee. Mark McGrath stole it from the Bard. He also stole sonnets. Did you know Sugar Ray is all about the sonnets? Oh yeah. 
It's all true, I swear to Godot.
Also, is that how you spell goatee? Spell-checker says, "Yas."



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