choices

I seem to recall that this happens regularly: the NFL Draft and the L.A. Festival of Books are on the same weekend. This is a problem for me because I love both books and football. Yes, it’s possible. Anyway, I’m going to the book fest. I have tickets for 4 of the panels. And I’ll settle for the highlights on the NFL network

Lot of trouble with my right shoulder – a problem for a right-handed writer. Maybe it’s dehydration. I had a quart last night and a couple of glasses of water this morning and it’s easing up. That’s when you just feel foolish. Oh, water. Okay.

Better days

Received the nicest note this morning from my mentor, Gayle Brandeis. She was full of encouragement, something Dorothy Allison spoke about when she came to Antioch last winter. We writers, all artists, have to keep encouraging each other. It’s daunting to keep creating when things take a dip as they inevitably do.

Just discovered Martin Levin’s blog.  I had the pleasure of meeting him at Book Expo in DC a few years ago. He’s a wonderful and kind man and knows more about the publishing business than just about anyone.

Okay, it’s a very busy day, already finished two paragraphs and the outline of a scene by 8 am: I need to write something early on so that if I don’t get back to it, I won’t feel like the day has been a waste in terms of writing. Kind of like exercise – get it done early so excuses don’t pile up. Speaking of which, I’m going for a walk in the hills.

whoa

Had a massage this afternoon and it was like receiving a new body. Felt a little weird walking around, as in ‘welcome to planet Earth’ weird. Before that, however, I worked on the new novel and had coffee with an artist.  Also working on a new project with another writer and when we’re up and running, I’ll give the details and link, so stay tuned. These are the things that help me after a disappointment. 

disappointment

This is a hard post to write. I did not make the semifinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards with GROWING CHOCOLATE. I thought I had a solid shot, but either the piece is not strong enough or it’s not the right venue.

I just returned from a much needed break (little did I know how much I’d need it!). Onward and upward. I do have an idea for a scene in the book I’m working on now, so that’s where my focus must stay.

But oh it does sting.

Amazon problems

Sorry I’ve been so quiet. First, I’ve heard about a lot of problems when you try to post reviews of GROWING CHOCOLATE (thanks for doing so) or download the excerpt. Please contact Amazon and let them know. There’s nothing I can do and if I contact them, they just tell me to have to do it directly so there you are.

Received an email awhile ago that I was in the semi-finals of another contest, Summer Literary Seminars. First prize was a paid trip to one of their 2 week events in either Lithuania, Italy, or Kenya. Unfortunately, they dropped Italy. Anyway, even though I didn’t win, as one of the top 20%, they just offered me a fellowship to attend Lithuania. Thinking about it. (feel free to hit the tip jar!)

That’s it for now. Finishing an annotation then taking a break to go to Santa Barbara this afternoon. Enjoy your day.

sigh

Did not win the lottery after all. I’d probably be in the Caribbean if I had. No, I’d still be here trying to figure out where I’m going in the current novel. I entered the first 8K words in Narrative’s Story contest – mostly to force me to finish the thing. Did I resolve to write 3 pages a day? How foolish. No, there’s a lot of writing, deleting, writing, rewriting, adding a few words to a sentence, sometimes taking them out and general staring out the window. Right now it’s sunny and there are 2 small clouds to the left. A slight breeze ruffles the trees, well, the trees that are left. There are a lot of hacked off branches since the tree trimmers showed up a couple weeks ago. I like the light though, so no complaints. Gave up complaining for Lent anyway. Finished ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG and what a disappointment at the end. Come on, do the hard work and write a decent ending. Endings have been pissing me off lately, like the end of the profile on David Foster Wallace in the New Yorker. Really, a choice? You go right ahead perpetrate media stereotypes on depression and mental illness, New Yorker. No heavy lifting required.

Here’s a letter that was published in Salon about the poor use of language around suicide:

Suicide and ‘choice’

Discussing causality in suicide is a tricky business, both both in psychological and existential terms. Suggesting that David Foster Wallace “chose” to kill himself presumes that his choice-making faculties were intact, that he was David Foster Wallace as those who knew him had always known him. I didn’t know DFW and am only glancingly familiar with his work, but for those of us who study suicide and treat people who are tormented (and sometimes, killed) by suicidal despair, it’s clear that the emotional agony sufficient to lead to the suicidal impulse is also extreme enough to have, in the same process, undone that person’s ordinary problem-solving and choice-making processes. The person who engages in the suicidal act is not the person we have known in other contexts. They person who dies by suicide is, in over 90% of cases studied by retrospective ‘psychological autopsy’, someone suffering from a particularly virulent form of mood disorder or other suicidality-engendering mental illness. It is not “Bob (or David, or Jane) choosing to kill himself”, but rather, “Bob, unraveled by the agony of illness, blindly seeking relief from pain”. The act, perceived from outside that agony, seems without reason, or even, as some of the other letters have suggested, intentionally malignant; from inside the seemingly endless and intolerable subjective pain and hopelessness of the suicidal individual, it is, in the moment of unendurable suffering, the only exit visible. Those left behind to mourn in the wake of a suicide often struggle greatly to come to terms with what seems to be a heartless or sadistic ‘choice’. Their suffering, which can go on and on, is made just a bit lighter if our discourse can acknowledge that what looks like a ‘choice’ was, in fact, a person killed being by their illness. —

— drjonrichard

busy week

Writing took a backseat to real life, but I’m getting back on track. Worked on material for my senior lecture today, including a draft of the handout. 7 pages seems a bit long, but we’ll see.

Finished Carl Hiaasen’s LUCKY YOU. I played the lotto numbers that open the book today for laughs. Now that would be a great story if they hit. Next up is THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG by Muriel Barbery and LEFT TO TELL by Imaculee Ilibagiza about the Rwandan Holocaust.

Time to get back on track with the novel and 3 pages a day.

the tea did it

…kept me up all night, that is. But mystery solved – same reason my shoulder has been going into spasm off and on for a few months. Back on this morning. It’s the caffeine. Now the search begins for an excellent decaffeinated Darjeeling. Art of Tea makes an amazing caramelized pear tea that I have every day. Chado in Pasadena has some very nice teas and I will stop in after the chiropractor unties my shoulder.

It’s been difficult to write lately. Even my walks have been less productive than usual. After Chado, it may be time to stop in at the Norton Simon. Paintings inspire my writing more than anything else.

getting back to the blog

Enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles about a year and a half ago. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love the program which finishes up in June. I finally finished rewriting GROWING CHOCOLATE and entered it in the Amazon/Penguin contest.

I don’t know whether to be optimistic or not. I have learned that what I feel at any given moment about my work has little to do with how it’s received. Emotions give us information, but shouldn’t be an exclusive guide. Anyway, quarterfinals will be announced in March. In the meantime, I’m working on my fourth novel, WRESTLING ALLIGATORS. About halfway through. Back to it.