Sunday, January 29, 2006

Not my best bon mots...

...or, Perfection is the Enemy of Good.

As promised in an earlier entry, here are some of the thought I was gonna blog about, when I had the time to fully hold up the thoughts to light and see some funky prisms shining down. But here it is, Sunday night, and where are those thoughts? Still waiting to be held up to the light.

I have a file I call "shrapnel," full of bits of paper with ideas and thoughts. That's where they remain: in a file called "Shrapnel." They're waiting for some elderly gent to come along with a metal detector and find them, I guess.

So rather than adding to my shrapnel file I'm gonna make haste and say, here are some sticky-note thoughts:

Joan Didion. In The Year of Magical Thinking, she writes: "Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?" And I thing, yippee, I have found someone else like me! Affirming that I am not the only person in the zoo who thinks "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?" But then, E.M. Forster said that. Good company.

The Alchemy of Personal Writing. That's what the back cover of The Sun says. "...the surprising alchemy that occurs when we write in a rigorous and intentional way; when we hide nothing, especially what we most want to hide; when we find the never to go back into the fire again and again and again." Ok, so what're you trying to hide? Hey, what am I trying to hide? What aren't we talking about?

When I talk to myself. When I talk to myself, I know I'm writing. You will think I'm silly, and slow, and perhaps there's a tad of truth in that, but it's taken me a while to learn this. When I talk to myself, I know I'm writing. So now I immediately grab a pen and get it down. For example, last night, in what I think Poe called the hypnagogic state--right before sleep--I said to myself, Currently the neighbors to the south have no known qualities except for the solar powered lights lining their sidewalk, which when lit up look like an airport runway waiting for the extra terrestrials to come in. This wasn't always the way it was. Before, there was Ruby Shue.

That's all for tonight. Thelma, if you're there, I'm with you all the way. Step on the gas.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Six degrees of blog separation

Today I move a second item into my studio. Actually, two items: a wizard and an enchantress. They each stand about three inches tall and sport glitter and magic wands. I place them on a shelf slightly above my desk, so they might bestow wonderful gifts upon my imagination. These items were a surprise gift, delivered to my office unbeknownst to me, by a friend of mine, whom I shall dub scr for the present. Somehow they seem to have more power in my personal space than at the office.

Six degrees of blog separation: scr, bearer of the above gifts, introduced me to mcfawn (please, if you haven't visited her blog, check it out! Reading her blog for me is a bit like looking at my Kachina Still-life: it's beautiful and I come away feeling like I've been in a different place).

As it turns out, mcfawn knows Chris who knows Theresa, and this morning on a blogabout, I see some connectivity taking place, and I am delighted by it and just wanted to share it.

Forgive me.

My Olympia

Dear all,

The first item I moved into my new writing studio--after the desks and art I mentioned in the previous post--was a manual typewriter. Yes, it's true: I am the proud owner of The Olympia, and of course, when I am at Olympia, I am Hercules-ette.

My Olympia is a gift from my magical and beloved friend Theresa Williams-Author. When she first mentioned the gift of the typewriter to me, I said I loved the idea. I said with a typewriter each word seemed important, and I felt I could be Faulkner, or am somehow connected to the great writers of the past who couldn't turn out a lot of folderol just because they had a computer. The great Shelby Foote never used a computer. Each word is a conscious, loving effort. Like Faulkner, I'm gonna pencil in my plots on the walls.

Now I think I won't even put the computer in my studio. This idea gives me energy. Just me and the silence. Way cool. I walked into the space this morning and had goose bumps.

Maybe it's part of.... Richard Brautigan's

Karma Repair Kit: Items 1-4

1. Get enough food to eat, and eat it.

2. Find a place to sleep where it is quiet, and sleep there.

3. Reduce intellectual and emotional noise until you arrive at the silence of yourself, and listen to it.


You get the idea ;-)

Now, I owe my first Olympia-born to Theresa. I'm working on it.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Extreme makeover: or, a room of my own

Dear Friends,

Lately I’ve been working on creating a personal space for my writing. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m using a vacated kid-space to do this.

When we moved into this house, the room had a hideous orange 1970’s shag carpet. Still, it was ok with my son (and with my budget), so we kept it. I thought perhaps when he moved on, I would change it.

Now, however, he has moved on, but the orange seems just right, a fiery, passionate shade with yellows and reds. It fits well with my internal fire. Now I’m moving all kinds of things into the room that seem to go together in a serendipitous kind of way, ya know what I mean? There is the Kachina Still-Life signed poster by Michael Kabotie with royal blue and shades of orange, and the Mexico beach bag and blanket with pink and blue and red. There is my Matisse poster of a woman at a desk, and the Paul Klee rug of “The Village,” which I’ve had for eons. Lots of orange.

It is a giant genie’s lamp, and I am the genie inside of it, making my wishes and dreams come true.

Perhaps you have three wishes you’d like to share?

I am loving this space.


1. When I traveled on my vision quest this past summer – perhaps you may remember the unfinished serial blog – I visited an art gallery that had inspirational quotes written in crayon on the wall. I’m going to do this too, and want to share with you the quotes I’ve collected and I’m gonna put on my walls.

2. On my table is an 8 ½ by 11 paper that is covered with yellow sticky notes (you know the ones) that have my handwritten notes to self: “brilliant” blog thoughts. Well, forget that. I’m just going to share these without worrying about developing them or being “Brilliant!” I seem to write best when I write fast.

Beth aka woman who talks to herself

Friday, January 20, 2006

Back to Kindergarten

Dear Friends,

Today I posted the sidebar information under the link "View my complete profile." I think it's too long for the sidebar, but I'm having a heckuva time getting it to wrap and connect to the lnk.

Also, I've been visiting some of your blogs, and trying to figure out how to make an easy link to them on my blog. I'm still working on it. The cut and paste thing didn't seem to work for me. They're sending me back to kindergarten.

By the way, I'm also a woman who talks to herself, but I can't put that in the profile. I mean, I wouldn't want to advertise that I'm slightly bizarre, would I? But then, it's nice to know someone is listening :-)

Commitment: I have been working on creating my own writing space in a now-deserted kid's room. I'll be back to talk about the writing space and also the little post it notes I have all over, things I'm gonna blog about in my next life.

Until we meet again--

Beth aka woman who talks to herself

Saturday, January 14, 2006

What's fact got to do with it?

Dear Friends,

Have you ever made frosting for a cake or for cookies? We're looking into the mixing bowl, and the creamed butter and sugar and vanilla, and it's just that: vanilla frosting. What we need is pink, and just a drop of red food coloring will do the trick. We reach into our baking supplies cupboard, take out the small vial of red, unscrew the tiny yellow cap, and watch one drop of red bing into the frosting.

We turn on the mixer, and lo and behold, the entire mixture first becomes swirled like a candy cane, and then, aha, it's pink. All of it. No way to change it.

Fact and fiction is like that: one drop of fiction into the facts and ***poof*** it's all fiction. Too bad for the memoir. Great for us fiction writers.

I wanted to share the NYTimes op-ed column by Tim Carvell, a writer with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Please! No laughing.

Op-Ed Contributor
A Million Little Corrections


Published: January 11, 2006

IT is with great sorrow, and no small amount of embarrassment, that I must confess to some inadvertent errors, omissions and elisions in my best-selling memoir, "A Brief History of Tim." In the wake of the recent revelations about the work of J T Leroy and James Frey, it seems inevitable that some of my small mistakes will come to light, and so I feel duty-bound to be upfront and honest with you. Plus, I hear that reporters have been sniffing around.
I feel that none of the slight liberties I took in writing my memoir really affect the overall work, but nonetheless, you should know a few things: I am not, in fact, black.

Nor am I, to the best of my knowledge, a woman. Anything in my book that suggests otherwise is the result of a typographical error. That this error was compounded by my decision to pose for my author photo and bookstore appearances in drag and blackface is, I will acknowledge, unfortunate.

The portions of my book dealing with Depression-era Ireland are, I have been reliably informed, copied verbatim from Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes." I can only conclude that I accidentally confused my manuscript with my notes for my memoir in which I copied large portions of other writers' works, just to see how they were structured. In hindsight, the fact that I was born 40 years after the Depression should have been a tip-off.

My parents are both alive; any reference to my being orphaned at age 12 was meant to be strictly metaphorical.

Furthermore, my parents and their lawyers would like it known that neither they, nor any other member of my family, ever beat and/or had sex with me. I thought it was clear that those parts of the book were meant as a joke. (That's what the emoticons were for.)

In writing a narrative, it is sometimes necessary to compress or combine certain incidents for dramatic effect. I did much the same thing in the chapter of my book dealing with my prison term, although in reverse: in the interest of dramatic clarity, I expanded my 1993 arrest for jaywalking into a seven-year stint in Sing Sing for manslaughter.

Okay, it wasn't so much a jaywalking "arrest" as a ticket.

Fine, it was a stern warning. Happy now?

The death of my older brother, my ensuing severe depression and subsequent emotional breakthrough with the help of a caring psychotherapist did not happen to me, but rather to Timothy Hutton in the film "Ordinary People," which I saw at a very impressionable age, and which I could have sworn happened to me.

Ditto for the part about accidentally hacking into Norad and being saved from causing a global thermonuclear war, with an assist from Dabney Coleman. That was "WarGames." Really, the fact that I could remember his name only as "Dabney Coleman" should have given me pause.

And, finally, since people are getting all "fact-checky" on me, I should just confess that my life did not, in fact, shatter into a million little pieces. I just went back and recounted. It was six pieces. Consider it a rounding error.

Tim Carvell is a writer for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Deleted Scenes and Trailers

Dear Friends,

As promised, here is the scene I deleted from "What Killed Frizzy":

We say our goodbyes, and I leave work early for my shopping excursion. I take the scenic route to K Mart, through extravagant old-guard homes with expansive green lawns and red brick Georgian exteriors and porches hels up by white Corinthian columns. The neighborhood is calming. I don't have to be worried about being unwelcome, as I'm not one of the nouveau riche. I'm not even nouveau poor. I'm old money poor, one of the finest old money poor families in the state.

In my rear view mirror I see flashing red lights and then hear a siren. I pull over and a white and blue police car pulls in behind me. The officer asks for the usual, the license, registration, insurance. I'm a heavily insured, middled-aged woman in taupe four door sedan who can find those documents easily.

As he starts to tell me that the speed limit on this street is only 25 miles per hour, and perhaps I'm confused, cars speed by us, while teenagers laugh and point and give us the finger. They press their faces to the glass, mouthing with I think is f*** you and kiss me, but is more likely kiss my a**.

I liked the alienation in the scene above and the image of peering through the glass at a world going by. It echoes some of the scenes in the story. But, when I read the story, it was distracting.

It's 9:15 here, and that means I need to get some rest (I know, I know, party girl!). I'm a glutton for sleep. Good night.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Poor Woman's Maureen Dowd*

My Dear Friends,

Today I ready copies of my manuscript "What Killed Frizzy" to send out tomorrow (missed the .37 cent mailing). At long last, I finish something, put it in a bottle, and send it to sea. The thing is, I like this manuscript. It seems fresh and original. My 22 year old son sits in an easy chair and reads the whole thing today -- a high compliment, as he's not fond of reading -- and says, "it could be longer."

The story incorporates some of my new words (schmarmy and bureaucratina, the feminine of bureaucrat). The truly, truly odd thing is that I don't seem to care if anyone else likes it. I think it's good. What a momentous event. I have been overwhelmed by the simple tasks of marketing, copying, revising, addressing, and now I have gone and done it. It is truly a red letter day.

Yesterday I mentioned that I want my writing to traffic in emotional truth. I now need to work on what I mean by that. I am interested in love, death, sacrifice, and responsibility. You know, the everyday stuff of life. I love the comments you leave for me, so heartfelt and honest. These are not the themes of an 800 word column. Hence, I'm a "poor woman's Maureen Dowd."

*Thanks to SR for the title of my entry.

Tomorrow, I'll try to give you an out-take from Frizzy.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Is Sex Necessary?

Dear Friends,

I find it a difficult to write to you during the work week. Somehow, after a busy day, I don’t feel that my writing is particularly mindful, and I am drained. My entries, which I draft off-line, seem harsh and unlike me, a “let’s just get it over with and put me out of my misery” kind of writing, like I’m taking a dose of bitter medicine. I need a teaspoon of sugar. Ooops, make that an IV....

Several times I started writing you. For example, on Monday I drafted Today I decide to do the unexpected: following through on my one new thing each day, I become the owner of a book with a pulp-fiction jacket, a buxom woman in red, and the title, “Are Men Necessary.” Yes, it’s true. I decided to challenge my assumptions of a few days ago, dismount from my high horse, and surprise my high falutin’ self. I was flipping through the opening pages at the bookstore, and I saw a reference to Thurber’s satire, “Is Sex Necessary.” And I saw that I didn’t see it, I missed the step, I fell off the dock and was gurgling for air.

I never quite finished that letter.

But today, speaking of Maureen, I wondered if you've visited the blog Wonkette, or heard of Ana Marie Cox, or her new novel, Dog Days? Because today I read that, according to the New York Times’ reviewer Christopher Buckley, she’s more self aware than Maureen Dowd, and he likes Maureen. Per NYT’s David Carr, the Wonkette “traffics in tips and rumors about all the Senate aides quaking in their cubes.” (Also he says she’s Katherine Hepburn with a severe case of potty mouth, but that’s an aside.) What do you traffic in?

I want my writing to traffic in emotional truth. What’s it like when a friend commits suicide? What’s it like when your son is deployed to Iraq (I say hurrah to Cindy Sheehan)? Your husband says, you’ve been a wonderful wife and mother, I’m having an affair with a colleague? Your boyfriend says, oooops, slight problem, didn’t want to distract you, I’m actually married? Your friend of over 20 years says, had cramps, went to doctor, diagnosis ovarian cancer? And that's just the tip of our communal iceberg. Ghandi said my life is my message. What is my message?

Come to think of it, it would be easier to write about Bushworld, but I’ve lost the desire to read Maureen. I’m gonna send Are Men Necessary to a friend whom I think will enjoy it, and ask for a full book report. Maybe I’ll try Thurber’s Is Sex Necessary, instead. I hear it’s fun to walk around with it, title showing, of course. So it’s a full circle week: I got the book, I got rid of the book.

Tonight I have company and we’re doing quesadillas and Coronas, and tomorrow I’ll be trying a new recipe for Italian vegetable stuffed steak and pasta. I think a good merlot is in order. Come on over. I've got plenty of grub.

Until we meet again,

PS McFawn, I love your questions about time and space. Yes, it's a new definition, for me anyway. I hope to elaborate on it at some future point. Thanks for calling me on being evasive...I hate sloppy thinking, and it's so easy to do.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Duck: it's what's for dinner

Dear Friends,

Tonight I’m fixing duck with curry and honey, pine nut couscous with Gorgonzola cheese and dried cranberries, and an herb salad. You are invited. I wish you weren’t so far away. I’m feeling a little bit alone right now. I won’t go into that.

The cooking thing is something new I’m going to try this year. In fact, I am a woman who has has never used yeast. My ex-mother in law once gave me a pie crust recipe. I didn’t have the heart to say I have never, and never will, make a pie crust. Then again, she never read Tristram Shandy. But we got along ok. That, too, is another story.

At any rate I decided this year to try and become a gourmetrina. That’s a little like being a gourmet, just a teeny weeny bit, but not too much. I’m hoping that by being smaller than a gourmet I'll encourage folks to leave their expectations at the door. Oh, by the way, did I tell you I sometimes make up words?

Speaking of new things for the year, are you doing the resolution bit? I decided to take some time and look at various categories of my life, where I’m going, where I wanna go, blah blah very boring. In the best information gathering self I have, I came up with lots of stuff, but three areas came to surface, the kind of stuff that I thought, wow, what would push my envelope? I call this broad area my time and space goal, and anything that’s important spiritually and artistically has to fit that, except for the two other areas, and I’ll elaborate on those, if you ask me about them.

Meanwhile I’m back in my mode of doing one new thing per day. This means seeing something new, meeting someone new, consciously having one new thought, doing one unexpected action. Done with intention. I also collect off-beat posters of places I’ve been and things I’ve seen, and I’m happy to report that I now have a great poster of Marilyn, I wanna be loved by you.

Today, in addition to making the pine nut couscous, which is new for me (and so easy, I know what you’re thinking) I am going to a movie I’ve never seen, although I haven’t decided as yet which one it will be. Also, I’ve never gone to a movie on New Year’s Day, that I can recall. So you see, my requirements for one new thing per day aren’t too difficult to accomplish. Some might even say, cheesy.

I’m looking forward to seeing you over the duck. Here’s to pushing our envelope.