|Posted on October 3, 2019 at 2:30 PM||comments (0)|
Over six years ago, I left a job I thought would be a perfect fit. I turned down an opportunity to work in a grueling catering position—one that could further my burgeoning career—to work in publishing. A great deal less taxing physically, working as an assistant editor sounded ideal. A marriage between food and books, where I could sit on my duff at a desk instead of massaging my sore knees every night? Sign me up.
After a few years there, my situation went from blandly tolerable to appalling, and my motivation tanked. Pulling into that parking lot, dragging myself up four steps and wending my way through cubicle town felt like a heavier burden every day.
For more than a year, I was assigned next to nothing. Co-workers refused to look in my direction when I passed, and ignored me when I said hello. I was in such terrible standing with my team leaders, yet, they refused to let me go. My reviews were nearly perfect every year. A more confusing, defeating situation I could not imagine.
The worst part is the shame and regret that remains to this day. Quitting jump-started my motivation to write again. But it took six years to write the MS I'm querying now, squeezing in words during lunch breaks and on weekends. When I think of how I could have had a completed manuscript had I not squandered that time, zipping around the internet waiting for an opportunity that would never come, I still feel a little sick.
Driving back from a research gig a few weekends ago, I noticed a fence around the old building. The company moved to a neighboring 'burb a few years ago and the property had been vacant since. Nothing fancy, it could have been transformed into any number of businesses. Instead, it was in tatters.
Slamming on the brakes, my heart rate picked up speed, giddy with excitement. I whipped into a side street and tried to enter the parking lot through the secret staircase in the alley, but that too was destroyed. It didn't stop me from ducking between and under the fences to get a better look. My breath halting as if I stood in cold water.
The canopy over the front door hung in rags. Part of the roof had caved in. Pipes jutted out of the remaining walls, and twisted wires dangled motionless despite the breeze. The few remaining windows were reduced to jagged shards.
I peeked into what used to be a rather spectacular vestibule. The tropical fish tank was long gone. A pile of rubble filled the waiting area, a pristine porcelain sink upended like a hat. And hanging above it all, the crystal chandelier, perfectly intact.
I haven't met a ghost and don't intend to seek them out, but I felt a presence here. The fences were tall enough to keep noise out and me from being seen from the street, yet I had the sense of being watched. A single plastic blind hung in an empty frame and snapped against the metal. From the surrounding condos, I wondered if anyone noticed me from their second-story windows. Or was I as invisible as I was six years ago?
I felt a strong urge to find my department again. Touch the column that separated my file cabinets. Witness my space stripped down to a bare floor. Breathe in the absence.
I wanted to smash the remaining windows until the parking lot glittered like diamonds.
Asbestos remediation warnings kept me from venturing closer, as did the uncertain stability of the roof. The last thing I needed was a rusty nail jamming into my sole or a shard of metal slicing my calf.
Though the outer walls were depleted, I could see where the art design room used to be. My "office" was on the other side and one cube row north; I could still walk it in my memory.
The side door was propped open by bricks for some reason; I wanted to reach up and gently close it. The building might be half down, but it would be me who shut the door for the last time. But I settled for hovering around the site, leaving no proof I was ever there.
The company lives on elsewhere, which is good; I still have a friend there. Knowing my old workplace was on its last legs, bones poking through the mangled flesh, was enough. I haven't driven by since; that's the way I want to remember it.
Soon it will be like The Purple Hotel a half mile north, shuttered after so many scandals, nothing more than a foundation and a handful of stories.
|Posted on September 22, 2019 at 5:50 PM||comments (0)|
Friday I went to a lecture on publishing at TechNexus, a nifty collaborative space within the Civic Opera House. As usual, I was running late. I hustled east down Randolph as GoogleMaps instructed, only to find myself at a corner devoid of street signs, the massive buildings broadcasting no addresses. (This is typical, unfortunately.)
In my defense, Wacker is the most infuriating street on earth. It must have gotten its undergrad at Peachtree College in Atlanta and received a masters from Screw U. in Boston, because it not only extends in all four directions, but has an upper and lower level.
I asked a pedestrian for help; turns out I was headed in the exact opposite direction. She must have smelt the stank of frustration and tardiness on me, because she slooooowed her words and spoke...very...pointedly...as though she were dealing with a directionally challenged moron.
Don't you hate when people are right?
(I made it in plenty of time though, thanks to her.)
The City is near-dead after 8pm. Trying to find a restaurant still serving is a challenge. I ended up at South Branch, with a view of the river and skyline. I spent the next few hours at a table lit by skyscrapers' windows, eating overpriced seafood and an Erlenmeyer flask(!!) or two of wine.
Perhaps the Flying Spaghetti Monster was dropping a hint with my inability to connect to the internet, but it was the perfect atmosphere to write. So that's what I did. MS#2 has officially begun.
(right photo stolen from Wedding Wire)
|Posted on August 30, 2019 at 1:55 AM||comments (0)|
My second story just dropped on The Stories We Tell podcast!
My story is first (eep!) in this episode, Stories of Freedom. See first comment for link. I'm extra proud of this one; I played with rhythm and cadence more than I have been in recent years, inspired by a fellow local author. It's the closest I'll get to poetry.
Narrated by Dawn Fitzpatrick Pizzo (see second comment for her Instagram), the cusp of change brings about catastrophic results in "A Simple Adjustment."
Keep listening for more stories from Erica Stensrud, Christine Larsen, TC Grassman, Astrid Jef, AC Ward, Michele Potter, Rob Harrison, Bel Nel, Paul Sating, Kevin Porter, and Ann Burgess, and exclusive bloopers after the closing credits. Thanks always to Paul Sating for putting this together.
|Posted on August 22, 2019 at 5:00 PM||comments (0)|
I generally love Lit Hub, but I was disappointed after reading Temple's article. I'm one of the few people who didn't understand what all the fuss was about with Roupenian’s "Cat People", so when I caught wind of this, I was excited to see a similar mindset or a dissection of what I was missing. Instead, after a delicious build-up of important issues and ideas, it ends with a thud:
'The reaction to this story—a work of literary fiction, don’t forget—has been overwhelmingly “me too,” and while I haven’t seen “#metoo,” that is unmistakably the landscape in which we are operating. Is that a bad thing? Is that a good thing? Does the fact that people love this story because they relate to it mean that it is not great literature? Does it mean that it is? I suppose everyone will have to decide for herself.'
Well...great. I already have my own opinions, thanks—I was hoping for the author of this piece to delve into hers. Instead, we get a collection of commentary from around the internet (oh good, I had no idea how to find tweets otherwise) and a tossed off quip passing for an ending: 'If a single non-reader stumbles on “Cat Person” and decided they’d better go read Bad Behavior, I’m ready to call it a win.'
Yeah. I guess.
Anyway, not sure we ever discussed literary pieces here, but if you read "Cat People", what did you think? All views are welcome, I love to hear different perspectives on stories.
|Posted on August 20, 2019 at 3:00 PM||comments (0)|
I promised...many posts. They're coming, I swear. My brain is a mite disheveled.
Rather than catching you up chronologically, I figure posting equally haphazardly is just as good.
Last month I met with a few of my fellow scribes for a retreat, then spent the night in a nearby B&B to write. I do that now and then; the complete change of venue and lack of obligations clears the mind.
It was the perfect place for a writer to escape: dead quiet, coffee available 24 hours a day, perfect size/height table and chairs for typing 'til all hours, wifi, and a lovely porch that overlooked the woods, with a gazebo and picnic tables nestled within. I would have loved sitting out there late into the night, writing by the light of my laptop and a few citronella candles; in fact, that was part of the allure. I brought my traditional 4-pack of tiny chardonnay bottles and was all set to get down to business, until I saw the humidity rise to 100%. Did I mention the beauty of the room and the coffee in the lobby?
I only neglect to reveal the name of this utopia because it may be haunted. I moved a lap tray off the bed and saw this.
It appears the alleged ghosts did nothing but look over my shoulder and laugh, so I gave the B&B a good review. Any ghoulies who can respect the process are cool by me.
|Posted on March 7, 2019 at 1:55 AM||comments (0)|
Monday was definitely a Monday.
It's been awhile since I forgot my car in a tow zone, so Life decided to give me a flat. It was a result of hitting one of approximately 8 million potholes left by salt, rampant temperature variances, and snowplows. For days, my car's "low tire pressure" light nagged at me. I was certain it was just the cold causing a false indicator, until I left work and saw that it was flatter than a Keanu Reeves line reading.
Since I'm not much stronger than I was in my 20s, I called for roadside service. The dispatcher's lovely Irish accent was the best part of this experience, because as soon as the shockingly under-dressed mechanic appeared to change the tire, I discovered I had no spare. I must have gotten a flat some other time and forgotten to replace it. Better yet: thanks to staying late at work writing, it was now 15 minutes after the close of every tire store in the area.
I should have brought the kid a thermos of Tullamore, because as soon as this transaction was complete, I was hitting that shit like a punching bag. Sharing is caring.
Loosening the bolts was always the hardest part; the rest is pie. Once he did that, I sent him on his way. $74 (plus $20 tip for the inconvenience) to loosen some bolts. Two more fingers, neat, please!
One problem remains: getting a new tire home without paying for yet another assistance call. They only weigh about 20 pounds, but they're unwieldy.
Firestone is only 2 miles away.
The solution is clear. Wish me luck.
|Posted on March 5, 2019 at 11:10 AM||comments (0)|
Saturday I spend most of the day writing. The hubster generously gave up desktop dibs for me, when I was all set to hunker over a laptop set on a TV tray with a folding chair.
Instead, I was upgraded to first class: the big captain's chair with the mesh back and the sculpted seat that gently cups my ass.
But...well...things didn't turn out as planned. I turned away for a second and lost my chance, forcing me to spend the day on an ancient red sonofabitch with zero padding in the back.
I got my project done, so it worked out in the end. My reward was a kink or two, but art is pain.
I mean...how could I say no to this face?
|Posted on February 25, 2019 at 4:15 PM||comments (0)|
I've tried making pretty sentences with you since I was a wee bairn. I love using little words as much as the "ten-dollar" ones, short lines alongside long, winding phrases.
And then you had to go make an ass outta me.
Nearly 40 years on this Earth and today I learned that "segue" is not pronounced "seeg", but "segway". I'm positive I heard other people say it wrong too. Admit it. Your rules are illogical at best.
What gives? This spelling makes about as much sense as "queue" and "solder". Only you're not throwing pointless extra letters in, you're hiding entire syllables!
Thankfully I only said it in front of my husband and not a prominent speaker on writing craft...that's a different embarrassment for a different day (yesterday, and praise Jesus for my nearly non-existent voice. Oy).
I am mortified! I'm breaking up with you! I'm switching to ASL...I already know one very useful sign. I'm using it right now!
Bah. I need to calm myself down with some music. There's nothing a good fugway won't cure.
|Posted on February 12, 2019 at 3:05 PM||comments (0)|
The polar vortex is still huffing and puffing in our direction. The worst is over, despite the promises that we'd be buried under ice this morning.
Last night, rain hit the window in pellets, freezing solid in an icy braille. This morning, cars looked like sno-cones, and we swept the slush off in crinkling sheets.
I live in an unfortunate area lined with strip malls and traffic. And on a day like today, there was a lot of the latter. Drivers inched along for fear of slipping.
We tend to obsess about the weather here, fascinated by the abrupt changes. The roads were de-iced by the friction of hundreds of tires, leaving little to fret about.
Until I reached work, I didn't notice the beauty behind this perceived treacherousness. Overnight, the trees had turned to glass. The entire campus is an ice forest, solid-white honey locusts dangling right outside my window.
|Posted on February 6, 2019 at 5:05 PM||comments (0)|
They tell me dialogue is kinda important.
With Edge of Sundown*, I could hear my characters, see their body language, clear as day. For Yet Unnamed Manuscript #2, they're silent little shits tuned into their iPods.
HEY! I'm TALKING to you!
EoS was intended to be character-driven (it was) and YUM2** is plot-driven; this might be the reason for the issue? When I was a yute, my dialogue sucked so much, I dreaded ever having to make characters speak. I was focused on plot, and perhaps this is the disconnect.
Late last year I had a daring idea for what would amount to an erotic short, maybe a novella. With "Cellophane Sea"***, I had the feeling that the theme had never really left me once I hit 'submit'.
As I walked out the door today (misty Smarch mornings are good for thinking), I had a line for the protagonist tugging my sleeve. Then the plot of a new novel, however light on finer details, barreled into me. Told from dual POVs, I'd have the erotic novella (wife) interspersed with suspense (husband).
I bent over a storage thingy on the train platform to write all the bits down before they dissolved into brain juice. Details kept coming until I realized: this isn't a snippet for later. I'm working on two novels at once.
Perhaps between this latest character-driven attempt and the current plot-driven one, the two elements will learn to play nice.
*Who knows what the final title will be, but so far, that's what I'm calling it.
**This was not a well-thought-out acronym.
***Cellophane Sea appears in Dread Naught but Time.
~I don't know what this picture has to do with "two at once", Pexels, but I want both. Sharing is for the weak.