Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why do you write?

I write to make sense of things that I don't understand.

Some human behaviors are confusing to me. I don't understand why people do the things that they do, and I figure it out by creating characters who realistically would do these things.

I don't understand cheaters, gamblers, drug abusers.


I don't get why people would join a cult or drink the poison punch.

I don't get the teenage kid who threw a frozen turkey off a bridge and into the windshield of a car. The driver had to have major surgeries for months to reconstruct basic facial features and bodily functions, and I don't get how the victim can forgive that teenager. Especially knowing the teen purchased the turkey on a stolen credit card. I don't get it. I'm incensed for the driver.

But my characters would figure it out.
They get it. They live it.

Why do you write? 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WIFYR: I need a brown paper bag, but not for booze. For hyperventilating.

You know that episode of Grey's Anatomy when the writer eats his manuscript? He worked on it for TEN years and decided it was crap. The only place he felt that it belonged was a in a big pile of poo. Literally. So he ate it.

The manuscript never, er, passed. It got stuck inside of him and even after the doctors surgically removed the baseball-sized mass, the paper gave him mercury poisoning.

I think I know how that guy feels.

Today at WIFYR, I had my manuscript critiqued in front 15 peer writers. The group is made up of varying levels of advanced, but not yet highly successful writers (I cannot even begin to guess where I am on the awesome writer scale, but I suspect...very low.) + our VERY SUCCESSFUL teacher.  As a whole, they are extremely cool and knowledgeable. They gave me a lot to think about, excellent feedback, and a clear direction to go at this point. I am hopeful that I will be able to make these changes and graduate into a class of writer that I aspire to.

However, after looking at all of their comments and listening to their suggestions, I am overwhelmed. There is so much to do. 

Revise the diction.
Tighten the VP.
Cut the prologue.
Add more characterization.
Make it more suspenseful.
Cut the adjectives.
Cut the adverbs.
Change the taglines.

Don't get me wrong, the advice is STELLAR. I plan on using it all. I know it will better my manuscript, but...will I ever be able to do it all? Will it be enough?

I guess I'm pretty insecure about my words when it comes down to it, and that makes me wanna get a chiropractic alignment, lay down, and binge eat custard-filled donuts until I'm diabetic.

But like our teacher, Carol Lynch Williams, says, "if you never submit, you'll never get published". And so here I am, pushing forward when my future is as hopeful and terrifying as a blank page.

But the thing is, even though I came home feeling stressed about all the work, I found myself at my computer a few hours later...

...writing.



[Stay tuned for what I learned about first lines and how Matt Kirby and I are BFFs now.]


Monday, June 4, 2012

"I wanna be sedated": a memoir of Cole's first steriod injection

You know how you take your husband to this ritzy place in the Riverwoods and he comes out high and calls all of his friends to tell them that Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are "killing people because of the diabetes"?

I do.

This morning I took Cole to the Spinal Intervention clinic (which despite what you may think is not a place where the family, extended family, friends and Chuck, the Hollywood video store manager--who has been out of a job for a while but who Cole would consider family--gather together to read heart-felt letters to Cole about his abuse of his spine. How if I had to find him sneaking Chiropractic visits in the middle of the night one more time, it will destroy the whole family. And he has to make a choice right now: Either your spine or your family! And all the women are sobbing and all the men are stoic, but have moisture in their eyes. And the children are like, "Can I play Angry Birds on your phone, Mom?" It's not like that kind of intervention.)

We should've expected it to be a bizarre trip from the moment we stepped on the elevator and had to hold the button down just to get it to move up two floors. (I did say "ritzy" earlier. You don't have to double-check.) Then, when we realized that the procedural room was one floor down, Cole was ready to take the stairs even though the reason we were there in the first place is b/c he has two herniated discs in his lower back. The pain is so intense it sometimes makes his legs give out from under him, but he wanted to limp down the stairs one floor to his fraking spinal treatment appointment because of that shady elevator. Since he was already anxious about being lanced in the back with an epidural-sized needle, I refrained from making any references to the scary haunted elevator from The Shining.

When we came into the right office, Cole's anxiety had already begun to interfere with the "Appropriate Human Interactions" part of his brain, so when the receptionist, an exotic brunette with fake lashes, handed him a stack of paperwork, he had no qualms about pointing out that he already filled out paperwork on line. And by "pointing out" I mean scowling and baring his teeth at her. This was additional paperwork, she assured him, and he Oscar-the-Grouched all the way back to his chair.

I plopped down on the couch next to an old man in a Bass Pro cap, who snored not-very-softly, and read The Bloggess's book, though I was slightly distracted by Rachel Ray make Greek turkey rub. (She wasn't actually in the doctor's office. TV, peeps.)

So then a nurse brings out this sweet old lady with I-kid-you-not Dorthy's ruby red slippers. She had dark brown hair too, though a surprising lack of flying monkeys. She comes out with the male nurse, he's propping her up and asking if she needs help to the car, and she's all, "No. I'll just hang on to his good arm." And they both laugh hardily. But I don't have enough context clues to follow the joke, until I look over at Sleeping Dude, who has just opened his eyes and gets up to help his little wife. That's when I notice he only has ONE ARM. The woman is clearly high from the sedation, and continues to make jokes about how her husband has a nice purse, because he was holding it for her while she was getting jabbed in the back with a needle, and that's what awesome husbands do. He was like the Scarecrow to her Dorthy.

They leave and I look at Cole and I don't know what he was thinking, but I was thinking How the hell did I not realize I was sitting next to a one-armed man? I wrote a whole book about a one-armed kid. Then I congratulated myself on not-noticing his missing limb, because that has to be the equivalent of not-noticing someone's race, right? I'm not a limb-ist. And then I started chuckling at how stupid I am, that it started to get out of control. It was borderline faux pas, because I was sure the receptionist assumed I was laughing AT his missing limb, which was so not the case. But anymore laughing and it would've totally cancelled out my awesome oversight blind-eye to his disability.

Then Cole started laughing too, but I'm pretty sure he was just psyched to get sedated, and suddenly that Ramones song made a cameo in my train of thought. And then Spike. And Buffy.

During the procedure, I went back out to the waiting room and held his MRIs, because Cole doesn't have a purse. And about five minutes later, they called me back to help him schedule a follow-up appointment. And he's high and raving about this other male nurses' Nikes and the grape juice they gave him after.

Once he's pretty much told the first male nurse that his "dumb-ass shoes" won't get him any dates and announces to a random man in the elevator that his "ass hurts really bad", we make it out to the van. On the way home he tries to roll the window down several times, because he has some sage advice for all the pedestrians and other people in his eye-line. For one cyclist, Cole's advice was, "Hey biker. Ride your bike some more." Awesome.

At some point he decided he needed to call everyone he knew to tell them about the Reese's epidemic and how it kills people with diabetes. I let him call a few people, (You're welcome) but then I took his phone, cuz I figured this was kinda like that rule I heard about not texting or phoning people while drunk. After he "spread the word of Reese's", he insisted that "morphyism" was a word and it meant "a word that stands for something else", and that as an English teacher, I should know that, duh. It took me 6 blocks to realize he was trying to say "euphemism".

He's back at home. Reese's haven't caused the Rapture. And he's back to Oscar the Grouch.
But it sure was fun for a few hours.

And if you're really lucky, he'll post the video of himself on facebook.

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