Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We Begin the Final Countdown to Turkey Fest 2009

Hope your preparations, if you are doing any, are progressing well. We did the final pre-prep checklist last night, and I think we're good to go with ingredients and accessories. We reiterated menus, we ascertained cooking times and temperatures, we set up a schedule of food-preparation. So tonight is the first round of cooking and baking, plus the house prep. Then tomorrow, we launch Mr. Turkey on his voyage to, we hope, carnivorous splendor.

Fingers crossed that it all comes off well, but if anything does fail, we have at least twenty bottles of wine, some beer, some champagne, and port to carry us through. (Yes, my wine rack has actually been pressed into use and been allowed to accumulate.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

When I Am Rich and Famous, I Will Never Forget You Little People. Yes, You. You Made It All Possible.

So I'm furiously revising my stories for MFA applications, and they're coming along pretty well. I don't want to speak too precipitously, but I believe I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've completed the actual application for one school, am gearing up for the other two (one started), and am following all that up with a flurry of transcript ordering and mailings to departments.

I was perusing through some old drafts of one of them on Saturday, looking for things I had cut in past versions, and I was surprised at just how much revision I had done on the piece in question. I think of myself as noodling around the edges and making superficial changes, but it's been a long evolution on this story. It's heartening, really. One of my references, a former teacher, showed me a draft of his letter of recommendation, and he noted that I grasped the importance of revision. It reinforces a view of myself as hardworking, looking to improve, and taking in constructive criticism. I like that view a lot.

The part about this whole endeavor that really runs contrary to my makeup, though, is the schizophrenic melding of the solitary artist with the self-promotion machine. You can write the most beautiful pieces in the world, but unless you send them out in the world and work toward getting published, you might as well leave them in a dusty drawer.

So, it behooves writers to network, promote, send things out, withstand rejection. I had a couple of offputting classmates in previous classes who pelted everyone with their myspace pages and facebook fan sites, all promoting their work. It's uncomfortable to get blatantly networked for someone else's career aspirations. I'm supportive of other people's work and am happy to spread the word if I think it's worthwhile, but at the same time, there's a line between cultivating relationships that enhance your ability to spread news about your writing and treating people like their sole purpose is to help you.

Which brings me to friend X, whom I met about fifteen years ago. We both loved books, talked about writing, and followed a similar trajectory from our unsatisfying technical jobs to editing and academia. After I moved away, she kept me posted for a while on stories she was getting published (which I would diligently and mostly unsuccessfully try to look up), but we lost touch a couple of years ago, at the time her first novel came out. At her exhortation, I bought the novel, told all my friends, mindful that sales figures would determine the fate of the book itself and her eventual career. After that, I sent her emails, to which I never got replies. I figured she had changed email addresses. From other sources, I learned that her press was good, and she's launched what appears to be a great career, for which I'm very happy. I know she worked really hard for it and is very talented.

Recently, she friended me on facebook, which was awesome--I was excited to see how she was and tell her what was new in my life, on the cusp, as I am, of new frontiers. I sent her a quick email commenting on her kids (one more than last I spoke to her), effusing over her successful and good work. And I heard nothing back. And what was initially a personal page when she friended me has morphed into a professional promotion page, pictures and personal details gone.

So I kind of feel like I've been used to up the facebook promotion footprint, and that she really doesn't give a shit what's going on in my life anymore. Which is, to say the least, depressing.

Ergo, I vow to not be one of those power-hungry, fame-hungry people who will only trade personal banalities with you if you promise to sell ten copies of my Great American Novel. (The one that I'm writing right this very second. Um. Yeah.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

And Today I Am Somewhat Charged and Creatively Energized

I got some boosting feedback from one of my old writing teachers, who is writing a letter of recommendation for me. Not that it's helpful to have only praise singing (he did offer concrete fixes to the stories I sent him), but damn, it helps buck you up for the ego-slamming of applications and writing in general. Plus, seeing yourself as hard-working as reflected by others helps to affirm that, yes! I'm working, improving, and hopefully going to produce better and better things. It's also helpful that he harangues me to send things out, for that is the bane. I wish I could outsource that dreary research and administrative work to someone else.

But, as a result of the confidence infusion, I rode in the train this morning jotting notes to myself on the various pieces I'm working on.

It's tough to stay on track. That picture up there is my work desk and provides an uncanny depiction of my schizophrenic life at present: I'm celebrating! Happy! Great things! contrasted with "Oh, my god, don't make me push this thing again, it's just going to come back down and squash me."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cranky R Us

You know the feeling, when you want to gnaw carrot sticks, not because you're hungry, but because the sound and the crushing of your teeth on the tender carrot fiber is so satisfyingly forceful.

I swear that I've not spoken to a human being all day, apart from the guy at the DMV, who was not amused at my jokes about spending years of your life stuck with a bad driver's license photo. Possibly this was because as I was working my feeble attempts at mood-lightening, he was looking at my new photo, in which I look like a hypnotized soccer mom. Which is not to say that soccer moms are bad, it's just that when you've been carrying a ten-year-old photo around, it's a bit jarring to see yourself looking like you should be in a mini-van commercial.

Also, this day may never end. Notwithstanding that a paycheck is important these days especially, it's irritating sometimes to spend the bulk of your day-to-day running in useless little hamster-wheel circles.