Thursday, December 31, 2009


Tonight, in most parts of the world, there will be a blue moon. A "blue moon" is not actually blue, but instead is the name given to the second full moon falling in any given calendar month: this typically happens only once every 2.5 years. A New Year's Eve blue moon only happens once every nineteen years, so this is pretty cool.

What else happens only very rarely? A New Year's Resolution lasting past February. But it's going to be 2010, a nice round number, and we have a nice round moon to kick off the year, so let's see if we can stick to our guns this year, shall we? I am hereby making a public commitment to the following resolutions:
  • Work out more often. Work out with greater effort. (Let's face it: listening to an audiobook for half an hour while idly pedaling on a stationary bike with low resistance doesn't really count as "working out".)
  • Eat better. My husband has agreed to help me pick out recipes on the weekend so that I actually have a game plan for grocery shopping and cooking each week.
  • Embrace my time more fully. The parents who read this will know in particular what I'm talking about: the trap of feeling guilty for ignoring your kids when you're working, then feeling frustrated when you're with your kids (because you think you should be working). Pardon my French, but that guilt loop is bullshit. I'm done with it. I'm going to revel in reading The Berenstain Bears for the 100th time while I'm doing it, and then I'll focus fully on my writing and other work when Serious Girl is otherwise occupied.
  • Participate in Operation Step it Up a Notch. Some of my mom friends and I have done this before, and I Should Be Writing listeners will recognize this as the PANTS concept: looking professional means being more professional, even if you're working out of the home. Get showered early even if you've nowhere to be. Put on pants (preferably ones that don't make you look like a slob). In my case, this also includes actually combing my hair once in a while.
  • Read more. Write more.
  • Organize our family life better: that means fixing the metadata on those photos that claim they were taken in 2006 even though they're obviously from some time in 2008, throwing out things that can't be regifted or resold in a reasonable period of time, getting the paperwork in order (ideally, in an order that can be understood by someone else, should the need arise). I used to be great at this stuff, but I've lost my touch. Time to get back in gear.
  • Making the time to pursue happiness. Writing classes, dance classes, and baking with my daughter are on the top of this list.
How about you? Post in the comments, and make yourself just a little bit more accountable for keeping these commitments going throughout the new year. And... HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One Good Thing

Sorry, I've been off my usual daily posting schedule due to the holidays -- Serious Girl is currently playing politely with Scotch tape in my lap as I write, but her patience with my "other interests" is limited.

So, quickly... please tell me something good or memorable that happened to you in 2009. In keeping with the image above, I'll give you two.

Thing One:

On Xmas Eve, we took Serious Girl to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the big Jackson Pollock. She knows the painting from her Olivia book, and it was so good to be able to bring her to see it in person. We walked into the room in the modern art wing, and when she saw it (it is WAY bigger than you think) she sort of slowed down, and whispered, that's Jackson Pollock. We looked at it for a long time.

Thing Two:

The year of querying. Yeah, it's actually been good. In 2009, I finished the final draft of the novel, started querying, started blogging, and found the coolest community of writers (and agents/editors/other interested parties who also care about writing). This year I got to write the show notes for Mur Lafferty's awesome podcast, and a year ago I didn't even know that podcasts existed.

Okay, the two-year-old is no longer willing to tolerate my multi-tasking...

What will you remember about 2009?

Before 2010: there will be a RESOLUTIONS post

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Wishes

Jody Hedlund and I are on the same page today. 'Tis the season of giving and sharing... what do you want to receive? And what do you want to give?

For writers, as Jody said,
... most of us want our words to make an impact, to hit readers in the heart and leave an imprint that changes the way they view life.
So that's a gift all around, isn't it? It would be an amazing gift to us if someone thought that reading our book was a gift to them.

I started to type that "I don't know that my first novel is life changing..." but I think perhaps I shouldn't undercut myself that way. Books don't need to be high-brow literary fiction to have an impact. They don't need to be inspirational fiction or epic in any way. There doesn't need to be a message under the story, because sometimes great escapism is enough. They don't even need to present a new idea -- some of the most moving passages I've ever read simply encapsulate and bring into sharper focus things that I already knew and believed, but hadn't fully articulated.

I believe that books change lives. I'm proud to have written one. I hope that next year I'll get a little closer to people actually reading it, and maybe deciding that they really like it.

What are you wishing for this holiday season?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Curl up with a good (writing) book

I like to think that most of us are getting at least a few days off at the end of the year. (And if not, that probably means that you're working in a medical field or are a cop or soldier... THANK YOU!) So, what are we going to do with our time off? READ, of course!

Yesterday's Pimp My Novel Guest Post by Randy Susan Meyers was a great round-up of eighteen (yes, 18) books on writing. This post inspired me to pick up my copy of Betsy Lerner's The Forest for the Trees which I bought months ago but never started, and it's exactly as awesome as Randy says it is. "Instant shrink for writers" indeed!

I would also add Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life to the list -- it's got great advice on networking and self-promotion, but also it's about self-motivation, self-encouragement, and how to write that second book. And third. And fourth. It's not a craft book; it's not about how to write, it's about how to be a writer.

I also need to finish Walter Mosley's This Year You Write Your Novel. "Let the lawn get shaggy and the paint peel from the walls..."

Is there a writing book you love that didn't make the PMN guest post list? Tell us about it! My to-read stack is only three feet high, I'm sure I can squeeze another book in there before it topples...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Traditions

This morning the writing blogosphere is abuzz with "Kissing Day." In theory I'd like to participate, but I don't have anything to share that wouldn't (1) be a spoiler and ruin part of the story, (2) lose quite a lot of its power when taken out of the novel's context, or (3) both.

So I'll segue from kissing... to mistletoe (see above!)... to holiday traditions. (ANY holiday is up for discussion, although I'm going to be focused on Xmas.)

I've been thinking a lot about traditions lately because we have a toddler. (Is she still a toddler if she no longer toddles, but instead dances, climbs, and sprints?) We're at the very beginning of a (hopefully) long future as a family, and we want to start building traditions now. Some we'll take from our families, some are just part of the cultural zeitgeist, and some we'll invent all by ourselves.
  • We are a big Xmas tree family. If you're not worrying whether the tree will fit in the house, it's not big enough. We had to snip a couple inches off the top of our current tree after we got it home so that it wouldn't hit the ceiling.
  • Xmas food: mulled cider, both for drinking and for that amazing spicy smell. Pecans toasted with salt & butter. Ham rolls: thick slices of ham rolled up with cream cheese and scallions inside, like a little sushi roll. (That one's from my side of the family, and I have no idea where the recipe came from.)
  • Xmas baking: my daughter and I baked our first batch of cookies together yesterday. Neither of us can cook worth a damn, but the cookies are edible and the video is priceless.
  • Music: carols are permitted -- nay, encouraged! -- once my birthday has passed. I am currently loving the various holiday radio mixes at Pandora. (I'll post a video celebrating my all-time favorite carol on Friday.)
  • Yule log: my parents videotaped the WPIX Yule Log the last year that it aired, and we play it every year. This year they're bringing it back with a 4th hour of new music! Awesome.
  • Santa: we're not doing Santa this year, but almost certainly will next year.
  • Television/movies: we're going to keep it to a minimum this year because my daughter's so young, but... the original Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life (I am the only person in my family who likes this movie, dangit), Muppet Christmas Carol (Michael Caine? Robin as Tiny Tim? How can you not love it?), The Christmas Toy (not as good now as I'd remembered it being, but I'm still in love with the sweet little mouse), The Nutcracker with Baryshnikov and Kirkland, the extended animated Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and A Wish for Wings That Work, among others.
There's more, but I'm behind in my shopping, and my family needs stocking stuffers. Tell me about your holiday activities! And, to keep things ever-so-vaguely in a writerly theme... do your characters have a favorite holiday tradition? My MC and her best friends have a serious hot cocoa addiction, and I think they probably mix it up with peppermint and raspberry flavors to make the holidays more special...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Out of ideas

Meep Meep Meep Meep Meep Meep Meep Meep Meep Meep Meep Meep Meeeeeeeeeep Meep-Meep

Okay, I'm out of ideas for my blog again today. Enjoy the Muppets, and don't forget to let me know which was your favorite CKHB Blog Post of 2009...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Just in case anyone asks...

This is why I'm against the death penalty.

Library Love

What is it about libraries? They are so fabulous. As I walked to my book club meeting this evening (oh, you should see this library lit up at night!), I was just flooded with memories of all the good NYC libraries I grew up with, the particular smell and feel that all library books seem to have, and the quiet energy that pervades these buildings and their patrons.

When my daughter was born, I got a packet in the mail from the Cambridge Library that included a cotton "Born to Read" tote bag, and four brand-new children's picture books, plus a coupon to hand in at my local branch for yet another new book. Is that not the most incredible thing? I didn't even write to them -- they must get birth record information from the city. Welcome, baby, here's a pile of amazing books just for you, and there's are a bunch of buildings where you can come borrow more any time you want. It's just so cool.

The book club was delightful (more on that another time), but even better was getting a stack of new releases, plus requesting two more. This is the first time in forever that I've gotten library books for myself instead of just for my daughter... what can I say, she's sometimes a little too enthusiastic to be kept on the non-children's floors for too long. She will happily unshelve an entire section in the firm belief that I will be able to read them all to her before we leave, and if I tell her to read quietly to herself, there's a high probability that she will interpret this to mean: (1) Remove book from shelf. (2) Turn book to last page. (3) Declare, "And they all lived happily ever after." (4) Repeat until Mom stops being busy.

I only have a week to read three novels, but I'm not worried. A stack of purchased books on the bedside table can sometimes feel like a "hafta"... ugh, I spent so much money on these, I hafta read them soon... whereas library books are always in the "wanna" pile. If you don't wanna read them, heck, just give them back! No pressure at all.

My "wanna" read pile as of tonight includes a Chuck Palahniuk, a Meg Cabot, and Peter Cameron's Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (what a great title). Do you guys have any library books in your pile? What are they? Tell me something you like about YOUR local branch.

AND... I have 100 followers!!! Squee! This makes me think that I should get my blog more organized, as writer Kiersten is on an epic quest to do. Wanna help? I am hereby taking nominations for Readers' Favorites of 2009. I think it would be a nice link to have available for those future readers who will be new to the blog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So what IS minimalism/maximalism?

Did you read yesterday's More/Less post and not know which camp you fell into... if any? You are not alone.

Minimalism and maximalism are fluid and overlapping. Take the above photo as an example: is the desert a minimalist image or maximalist? It's minimalist because, well, there's nothing but sand. And it's maximalist because of the great expanses of that sand, the sheer enormity of it, and the way the wind can make that sand into waves, the constant motion of the surface...

Sometimes it's easy to figure out. Let's take a look at why instructor Tim Horvath chose Raymond Carver as the captain of "Team Minimalist" and David Foster Wallace as the captain of "Team Maximalist":

I am sitting over coffee and cigarette's at my friend Rita's and I am telling her about it.

Here is what I tell her.
-from Carver's Fat (short story)
If it's odd that Mario Incandenza's first halfway-coherent film cartridge -- a 48-minute job shot three summers back in the carfeully decorated janitor-closet of Subdorm B with his head-mount Bolex H64 and foot-treadle -- if it's odd that Mario's first finished entertainment consists of a film of a puppet show -- like a kids' puppet show -- then it probably seem ever odder that the film's proven to be way more popular with the E.T.A.'s adults and adolescents than it is with the woefully historically underinformed children it had first been made for.
-from Wallace's Infinite Jest (novel)

Most of the differences will probably leap out at you immediately, but let's compare and contrast a few points:
  • Sentence length. Duh.
  • Paragraph length. In this section, Carver's paragraphs are only a few words long. The Wallace paragraph (that's just the first sentence of it) ends up taking most of a page.
  • Descriptive language. Carver tells us "coffee and cigarettes." If Wallace wrote his own version of the first story, he would likely tell us which brand and flavor, and possibly the historical origins of the coffee and cigarettes in question.
  • Vocabulary. "I am telling her about it" vs. "...woefully historically underinformed children..." And it's not just the length of the words, it's the combinations: if Carver wrote his own version of the second story, there is no way he would put two adverbs and an adjective in front of the word "children."
  • Punctuation. You'll tend to see a lot more semi-colons; em dashes -- ellipses ... and (parentheticals) in maximalist prose.
There are pros and cons to each method:

There's sometimes an air of mystery in minimalist prose. By choosing not to describe every single thing in a story, it leaves more room for the reader to bring his own experiences to the table (I know what coffee is, but "Bolex H64" gives me no useful information at all, it's just a label). And authors can use ambiguity to their advantage to tell a story that leaves the readers thinking. Of course, if they get it wrong, the reader just ends up confused from too little information.

The language of maximalist prose has the potential for cinematic clarity and vividness. There's more flexibility to create different rhythms when you're not limited to short words and short sentences. But if the author gets it wrong, the reader may end up exhausted, or worse, bored.

Please note that these are extremes. Like our desert, certain pieces of writing can be both min. and max. And I think the ability to play with both in the same story gives a writer a lot of power. If Carver suddenly described some item in extravagant detail, you would bloody well notice. And if Wallace dropped in a sentence with only 6 words, you'd stop dead exactly where he wanted you to.

Who are your favorite min. and max. authors? Who did you hate? Can you identify where they went wrong for you, or are you still at a loss?

And, for extra credit, here's a contest entry in BoingBoing's genre mash-up competition that highlights some of these issues: David Foster Wallace does Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


A World of Opposites by *hotburrito2

Last night I took yet another fabulous seminar at Grub Street, this time taught by author Tim Horvath. This one was entitled, More AND Less: Varieties of Minimalism and Maximalism. Here is the class introduction:
... do we side with Blake, who said, "The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom," or William of Occam, who stated, "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem," translated as "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily"? What is necessary? Why do writers choose to seek out excess or simplicity as sources of wisdom? Does each of us have an innate tendency or affinity for one or the other, or can we locate our inner minimalist and maximalist? Can they get along -- can they be reconciled, divvy up the turf, work together or alternate shifts?
Tim argued, and I agree, that this is an issue at the heart of the act of writing; that all writing and editing comes down to adding or subtracting words from the story. Inhaling and exhaling.

I am a minimalist. Reading the agent blogs, I felt like the only person on earth who was struggling to add words to get to the 80-100K word count sweet spot. I love editing and dread first drafts. My all-time favorite writer is Hemingway. By contrast, the writing of David Foster Wallace makes me angry; I mean I actually physically start to feel vibrating rage. His novels are just longer versions of the kind of detailed garbage I wrote when I was in 9th grade, and hadn't done the reading for the assignment, but needed to snow the stupid teachers so I'd still get an A. It's self-indulgent, if not outright masturbatory, and I don't understand why people think it deserves acclaim. I just. don't. get it. He can take his footnotes and shove them.

Whoa. Sorry. That just came out.

Despite these obviously strong feelings on the subject of minimalism, my all-time favorite living writer is John Irving, who gets no charge whatsoever out of authors like Hemingway (yes, I realize that many people hate Ernest more than I hate DFW) and instead prefers the more luxurious Dickensian writing. I enjoy Tolkien's epic fantasies and Stephen King's 500-page oeuvres. And when I was writing my own novel, I kept wondering, "How is that that I enjoy so much reading this 'extraneous' material, the scenes that don't necessarily move the story forward but that certainly shine more light on the characters and settings... and yet when I try to write it, it feels like needless 'filler'?"

Now you know why I signed up for this seminar within minutes of reading the course description.

In class we read excerpts of work by "Team Minimalist"* and "Team Maximalist."** We talked about the elements that made each piece lean more towards one side or the other -- vocabulary, punctuation, sentence/paragraph length, use of descriptive language and imagery, even subject matter. And then we did an exercise, writing the same scene in each style.

This, my friends, was extremely cool. You need to try it.

I was amazed by how little the "voice" of each piece changed between versions. I was impressed by how each version clearly had stylistic benefits to offer.

And I think that, as an exercise, the technique has great potential for rough drafts. Write against your usual style: minimalists might be able to extract more information about the story they are trying to tell (that they may not have even realized was missing from the first version), or perhaps they will discover a single vivid and vibrant sentence that must be retained for the final draft. Maximalists may find themselves forced to focus more closely on the heart of the scene, and be able to use that knowledge to make the overall piece even more targeted and rich.

WHICH ARE YOU? Do you tend to read the same style that you write? And, if you try this "same scene, two styles" method, please report back on how it goes for you! I think this may be my new technique for getting unstuck/defeating writers' block.

* Captain: Raymond Carver; Players: Amy Hempel, Frederick Barthelme,
Mary Robison, Sandra Cisneros, Marguerite Duras, Cormac McCarthy of The Road; Hall of Famer: Samuel Beckett; Coach: Gordon Lish.

** Captain: David Foster Wallace; Players: Rick Moody, Salman Rushdie, Nicholson Baker of The Mezzanine, Annie Dillard, Normon Rush, Cormac McCarthy of Blood Meridian; Hall of Famer: James Joyce; Coach: Paul West.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tag! I'm it!

Voidwalker tagged me with 26 questions last week, which I will now answer! And at the end of this post, I'll tag two more people, RANDOMLY CHOSEN from the list of blogs I'm following. (Which, by the way, is over 300 now, so don't feel bad if I don't pick you. Keeping up with my internet social groups is just brutal.) And if I pick you, but you don't have time to answer, that's totally cool. Or, you can answer, but not pass it along. Whatever suits you.


1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

Last completed work: Birthday (flash fiction).

First thing: I dunno, go ask my parents. We keep everything. I would have been super-young. The first thing I wrote that I remember other people being impressed by was a short poem about a donkey that I wrote in elementary school, that was inspired by Juan Ramón Jiménez's book, Platero and I. (Hey, turns out it was the 1956 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature! I had no idea.)

2. Write poetry?

See #1. Not in a very long while. But yes. The last poem I wrote was probably written in the mid-to-late 1990s.

3. Angsty poetry?

"Angsty" sounds a little judgmental to me. Let's say that it ranged from the lyrical to the emotional.

4. Favorite genre of writing?

To read or to write? I apparently have written a kind of lit-fic-chick-lit hybrid for my first novel, and I read just about anything, but there's a noticeably large amount of sci fi/fantasy/horror on our shelves.

5. Most annoying character you've ever created?

I'm working on one now, and I just don't think the fictionalized version of this woman will EVER be as annoying as the real thing. Ah, well.

6. Best plot you've ever created?

Character is plot. I think Dani Kobayashi is pretty darn awesome.

7. Coolest plot twist you've ever created?

Oh, no. Forget it. No spoilers.

Wait, now people are going to expect some kind of amazing Usual Suspects /Sixth Sense thing to happen in my book. I don't write thrillers, so I don't write "plot twists" like other authors might. But some things happen that surprise my characters, and I want them to surprise the reader, too.

8. How often do you get writer's block?

Writer's block is too glamorous a title: I get stuck a lot. A LOT. I'm working on it.

9. Write fan fiction?

Nah. I've never had the urge to use other people's characters.

10. Do you type or write by hand?

Mostly type. I think I've done some of my best work by hand, but the muscles tire easily. I should probably write longhand more, to build up my strength...

11. Do you save everything you write?

Again, see #1. Yes. I don't know where it all is, but unless it was on a corrupted disk or a crashed hard drive, I still have it somewhere.

12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?

I never officially abandon ideas, I simply set them aside until they're ready. So, yes.

13. What's your favorite thing you've ever written?

I'm pretty chuffed about having written a novel.

14. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?

You know, I never asked. Very few people get to read more than one thing, anyway; my crit partners have tended to be for one project (or one class) at a time. Ask me again in a few years.

15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

No. Well, maybe I did some angsty teen writing when I was an angsty teen, but it wouldn't have been intentional.

16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?

Places in which I have lived or traveled. I don't like to make up settings.

17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Two. No, wait, three. Yes, three.

18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?

I think I won some stuff in high school/college. Nothing noteworthy.

19. What are your five favorite words?


You can easily look up the first 3 yourselves online, but the fourth one is harder to find. It's "the feeling you have for someone you used to be in love with, but aren't anymore."

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?

All my characters are me... and none of them are me. Dani and I would hit it off, for sure.

21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?

Life. Plenty of my characters are composites of real people. The only person I've ever tried to fictionalize in her entirety is that really annoying one mentioned in #5, and it's not working, so I obviously need to mix it up a little, get some other personalities in there as well.

22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?

No. Well, maybe imagery makes it in, but not plot.

23. Do you favor [books with] happy endings?

(Yes, I changed the question to sound less pornographic.) I like a satisfying ending. "Happy" is relative.

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Yes. YES. Spelling and grammar matter. Punctuation matters. Including during the first draft. I think I may have missed my calling as a copyeditor...

25. Does music help you write?

No, I usually find it distracting.

26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.

Okay, here's the first sentence (first paragraph, as well) of that recently-finished flash fiction piece I mentioned in the answer to question #1:

The day Zoe was born, her parents forgot about her.

That's it! And, the random tagees are:

Melissa at Grosvenor Square

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two degrees from Kevin Bacon

I was in Santa Claus: The Movie with John Lithgow,
John Lithgow was in Footloose with Kevin Bacon.

'Tis the season! Santa Claus: The Movie will be on AMC this year: tonight at 10pm, Monday Dec. 14 at 10:15pm, and Tuesday Dec. 15 at 2:45am. What can I say, it's no A Christmas Story, so it's not gonna get the best time slots. I'm just glad that it's showing in December; I hate it when it gets aired during the brief window between Thanksgiving and Xmas. I mean really, who thinks about Christmas movies in November?

So, what can I tell you about my former acting career that you can't find for yourself by looking me up on IMDB or by reading that interview I did with KringleQuest?

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

My favorite scene from this movie was cut. (I got to see some early footage before the final cut was complete.) In this scene, the first time you see Santa flying the sleigh, there are these huge painted stars behind him, and you do this double-take, and think, wait, THESE are the special effects, are you kidding? And then the camera pulls back, and you see that Santa is sitting in a training sled attached to rocking horses, and the elves are blowing a wind machine and fake snow on him with a starry night backdrop behind him, teaching him how to fly the sleigh. It was SO sweet and wonderful. I think a lot of sweet and wonderful stuff got left out of this movie in order to keep the special effects, yet stay under a 90-minute run time. I would love to see a Director's Cut of this movie.

I still miss the scones I ate for breakfast every day during my four months filming in London/Pinewood Studios.

Parent Trap II (1986)

Hayley Mills is the nicest person on the planet. Period. And the writer, Stu Krieger, was a Hayley fan growing up, so the script is just littered with inside references to her other movies. My character was named Nikki Ferris, which was the name of Hayley's character in a movie called The Moon-Spinners. My character's best friend was originally named Mary Grant after the role Hayley played in a movie called In Search of the Castaways (this was eventually changed for legal reasons to Mary Grand). I forget the rest, but there were dozens.

Pippi Longstocking (1985)

No, I wasn't in the movie, I was in the two-part ABC Saturday morning special that aired after the cartoons. Who remembers Captain O.G. Readmore? Holla!

My mom and I were pretty insistent that, as a not-yet-12-year-old, I should not have my hair permanently dyed for the role of Pippi. Still, my natural strawberry-blond hue was not dramatic enough, so the powers-that-be agreed to do a temporary dye, recoloring my hair pretty much daily. However, someone, somewhere along the way, LIED. The color was in fact permanent, and ABC ended up paying for me to go to the premiere hair colorist in Manhattan for nine months after filming for hot oil treatments to gently strip the color out of my hair. This is why, a year or so later, when a hairdresser for another film approached me with scissors, thinking she'd just do a quick trim to make sure my hair was the right length for continuity with scenes filmed a few months earlier, I reacted by screaming my head off.

Saturday Night Live, Season 7, Episode 16 (1982)

This was the Larry the Lobster episode. Possibly the first show ever to have the audience call in and vote for a televised result. In the rehearsal, the cast and crew pretended that the audience voted to boil Larry, and ate the rehearsal lobster. During the live show, the audience voted to save Larry... and the second the cameras stopped rolling, they boiled and ate Larry. There. Now the ugly truth has been told.

I was in the Reaganomics sketch, which included the line, "Thanks to Reaganomics, two of our kids are dead. And we sold the other one." Backstage, there were three kids arguing over which one of us has been sold. The other two actors were boys: one was C.B. Barnes, and my mom claims the other one was Seth Green, and I would kill to confirm this, but the kids' roles were totally uncredited and I have no idea how to find out if it's true or not.

The episode took place on a particularly cold and snowy Easter eve, and one of the news jokes was that the Easter bunny had frozen to death, but had left a will donating his ears and tail to Hugh Hefner. My mom had to explain the joke to me. I was nine.

John Cougar (not yet John Mellencamp) was the musical guest. We kids hung out with his band all night. They were so awesome... I remember John Cougar as being mostly bare-chested, wearing some kind of leopard-print full-length coat and sunglasses, and surrounded by scantily-clad women, but the band hung out in a separate room in jeans and t-shirts drinking seltzer, and they seemed to genuinely like kids. My mom, for obvious reasons, also thought they were awesome.

I remember seeing Eddie Murphy in a pink tutu and thinking he was kind of scary. I therefore refused to get his autograph, despite my mom saying she was pretty sure I'd want it later.

That's it! Okay, that was kind of fun. Go ahead and ask more questions in the comments, I'll do an acting Q&A post at the end of next week. Oh, and if you tune in to AMC just to see me in the movie, wait until you're at least 45 minutes in, because my character doesn't show up for a while.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obsessive Writing

Course description: Most good writing -- whether fiction or non-fiction -- arises from a writer's obsessions. In this session, we'll discuss how to explore our obsessions on the page, without falling pray to self-absorption or sentiment. We'll start by looking at the work of Nick Hornby, Calvin Trillin, and other obsessive writers, and proceed to a broader discussion of passionate attachment.

Course conclusion: Embrace your crazy. People want to read it because, deep down, they are muzzling their own.

I love Steve Almond.

Here are some of his wise quotes from the evening:

"Obsession is passion plus self-destruction."

"The path to the truth runs through shame."

"Style is produced by the dogged pursuit of truth."

That last one's quite good, isn't it? If you tell the story, and if you follow your obsessions (and the characters follow theirs), the language will follow. Or how about this:

"The obsessive narrator provides bias at the cost of perspective." This, of course, is why we read, isn't it? We don't require an unreliable narrator, per se, but in a good story with strong characters, "there are in fact two stories: the one they think they are telling us, and the one they are telling. Good fiction is about this discrepancy, and about what happens at the point of collision."

What does obsession mean in fiction? It means that when your story starts, the reader is asking the questions, "Who do we care about? And what do they care about?" And it means that the author should answer those questions as quickly as possible.

We don't read to get a mere slice of life -- "if you want to give your readers a slice of life, set up a web cam" -- we read to see the slice of life where everything happens: the moment where the narrator's perspective collides with a contrary reality. If the narrator isn't obsessive, where's the tension?

Most of the written excerpts provided in class to illustrate these points are too long to reproduce here, but I can provide one short opening sentence by Calvin Trillin (mentioned in the course description!) from his book Feeding a Yen (the essay is called "The Frying Game"):

No, I do not believe it's fair to say that for the past 15 years I've thought of nothing but the fried fish I once ate on Baxters Road.

Twenty-nine words. Instantly, you know who you will care about in the story, and what he in turns cares about. You know that he's obsessed, kind of embarrassed about it, but still not willing to abandon the obsession... after all, why would he, when he can talk about the food in question with you, dear Reader?

Ah, but what if a character is too obsessive? The narrator above clearly has some self-awareness, heck, even Humbert Humbert got introspective once in a while, in his own damaged way... but some characters have so much intense focus, so little perspective, that it would exhausting for both the writer and the reader to try to sustain that voice through an entire novel.

Consider, then, the "deeply invested observer." Ahab's Ishmael. Gatsby's Nick. A narrator who sees, and understands, and maybe even identifies with the most powerful character in the story... but ultimately can provide a little balance.

One of the best compliments I've gotten about my first novel was a comment that the book was reminiscent of Moby Dick because of the way the main character exhaustively sets forth certain details of her work as a graphic artist.* She's a name nerd, and she's a font nerd. She cares passionately about typeface and the etymology of names. Could this being boring as hell if done badly? Of course. As Steve said last night, "without Ahab's obsession, Moby Dick is nothing but a treatise on rendering whale blubber." But these are the things Dani obsesses over, and so they are incorporated into how she views the world. I hope that if you care about her, you'll start caring about these things right alongside her.



And, WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE OBSESSIVE NARRATOR OR AUTHOR? We've established that I enjoy the obsessions of John Irving and Stephen King, but I'll also give a shout-out here to Scott Sigler, whose sci-fi novel The Rookie actually made me want to go watch more pro football. I don't care about football. I root for the Eagles 'cause my dad's from Philly, and that's as far as it goes. And yet, Sigler's infectious love for the sport and his story about a futuristic lethal pro football league starring both human and alien players (take a moment) made me want to learn more. He got people so fired up that one reader got a tattoo of the team logo from the novel. Seriously.

Embrace the crazy, people. It works.

Tomorrow: Santa Claus, Pippi, and other amusing childhood tales

* For anyone who hated Moby Dick and thinks this is a horrible criticism, please note that my novel is a zippy 60-70K words, not 215K like Melville's oeuvre. I promise you won't get bogged down.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On my bookshelf

Kansas City has the coolest library EVER.

You asked, I'm answering! (Questions about my former acting career will be answered on Friday, you vultures.)

Julie and Shelby asked if I had any favorite cookbooks and/or any unique, un-fashionable, non-obvious books on my shelves that I could share with you.

First, I basically don't cook. At all. I mean, I can cook to the extent that I can follow directions, but I don't like experimenting, risk-taking, or multi-tasking in the kitchen. I like baking, where I can just assemble the dish and stick it in the oven. Having lots of dishes on the stove at the same time panics me a little. So, I like Seriously Simple (hey! they have a holiday cookbook! thanks for asking the question, guys, or I would have had no idea!) and selected dishes from the Williams Sonoma cookbooks -- the older, more basic ones that have titles like PASTA and POTATOES, not the "new flavors" or "foods of the world" ones. And I love Japanese Women Don't Get Old Or Fat because on page 200, there is a recipe for the Perfect Bowl of Noodles. I don't normally link to Google reader because of all the legal issues, but I will trust you to use it wisely, and BUY the book if you like the recipe. I use udon noodles instead of soba; I use instant dashi instead of homemade (which means you don't need the bonito flakes); I skip the sake, scallions, mitsuba, and tempura; and it is hands-down the best noodle bowl I've had outside of Japan. It took me FOREVER to find this recipe.

As for some of the less predictable stuff on my shelves... well, naturally I'm going to list non-fiction first, because as a wanna-be writer, I'm of course expected to have an enormous range of novels on my shelves.

There's A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America by Marilyn Rouvelas (y'all know my husband's Greek, right?)... and there's A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters (y'all know I was born in Tokyo, right?) which provides a detailed etymology of nearly 2,000 kanji and has spectacular appendixes for looking up the characters by pronunciation or by number of brush strokes...

I highly recommend The Lawyer Who Blew Up His Desk for any attorneys in your life... and from my childhood, there is the fantastic Great Pets! which has pet-care advice for everything from dogs and rabbits to geese, ferrets, and snakes. They don't cover chinchillas, which was a bit disappointing for me when I got a chinchilla in college, but if you can't decide whether you want a skunk or a tarantula, this is the book for you.

Poetry: I am apparently still the only person on LibraryThing who owns Colmez Astre's Poésie française: anthologie critique, which is a shame, because if you read French at all, it's one of the best anthologies I've come across.

Graphic novels: Has everyone here read Transmet? For the love of all that is holy, get yourself a copy of the full series IMMEDIATELY.

Audiobooks: I'm not normally a fan of abridged works, but the audiobook of World War Z is genius. Even my mom agrees. And it's not a surprise that I like Stephen King, but I have to give a shout-out to Ron McLarty's reading of Salem's Lot, because it's just masterful.

Fiction: I don't know if I have any surprising fiction. I have uber-popular books like Harry Potter, "required reading" books like Moby Dick and Les Miserables, literary fiction like Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, tons of sci-fi/fantasy, plenty of YA (check out Godless)... and that's just the stuff that's in this room. We also have a storage locker filled with books that we try to rotate stuff in and out of.

Probably the most surprising thing for many would be my lack of any classic women's Brit Lit. No Jane Austen, no Bronte sisters. I can't stand any of it.

Tomorrow: lessons learned from tonight's class on "Obsessive Writing"!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thank you!

Seriously, everyone, that was just WONDERFUL. If anyone is new to this blog today, please go read yesterday's poetry post and especially all the comments, there is some truly fantastic poetry being shared there, and it was magical to have such lush and resonant language pouring in for me all day long. It was an excellent birthday present, far better than I'd hoped for. Once again I say: you guys rock. (And a special thanks to those who commented yesterday for the first time! I really appreciated it.)

As for the rest of my birthday... my daughter and I ate waffles on the kitchen floor for breakfast, there was sushi for dinner, and dessert from Finale, and life was pretty fine.

And so, with apologies, I have nothing clever for you today. On Thursday I'll discuss yet another seminar that I'll be taking tomorrow night at Grub Street -- I can't guarantee that the post will be as helpful to everyone as last week's Character is Plot post seemed to be, but I've been consistently impressed with the classes there, and I hope I'll continue to be able to pass some useful tidbits along to you. (My Ruthless Self-Promotion post also came out of a Grub Street seminar.)

So... what do you want me to talk about next? I'm open to ideas... okay, what I'm basically saying is, can you guys do my job for me while I go eat more cake for breakfast? Yep. Thanks.

Mmmm... cake...

Monday, December 7, 2009


Yes, it's December 7th. Go ahead, make a joke about "a date that will live in infamy" and get it out of your systems. I'm used to it.

Although, since I was born in Tokyo, that means that YESTERDAY would have been my birthday if you factor in the time change (my parents lived in Chicago before they moved to Japan, so that's a 15-hour difference right there), so in some ways I'm actually a December 6th birthday. My parents got to call their family in the states and tell them I'd be born "at 4:55am tomorrow". So today is both my birthday and the day after my birthday. I know, that's some Island of the Day Before freakiness right there.

We're getting off track.

Today I am hosting a POETRY PARTY, and I hope you all brought me a present! Please, post a favorite poem in the comments. Here's one of mine (depressing? perhaps, but monumentally powerful):

Twenty-first. Night. Monday.
by Anna Akhmatova

Twenty-first. Night. Monday.
Silhouette of the capitol in darkness.
Some good-for-nothing -- who knows why --
made up the tale that love exists on earth.

People believe it, maybe from laziness
or boredom, and live accordingly:
they wait eagerly for meetings, fear parting,
and when they sing, they sing about love.

But the secret reveals itself to some,
and on them silence settles down...
I found this out by accident
and now it seems I'm sick all the time.

My other favorites include Poe's The Raven (which I actually memorized for class in elementary school, and my husband and I try to keep it recital-ready at all times, because we're perverse that way), W.H. Auden's Funeral Blues and Three Short Poems (When he looked the cave in the eye, / Hercules / Had a moment of doubt.), Kahil Gibran's On Children, Stephen Crane's Should The Wide World Roll Away, Pablo Neruda's XVI (I do not love you...), William Carlos Williams' This Is Just To Say, and Billy Collins' Litany.

And if anyone is looking for a nice anthology of poetry, I cannot recommend The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart highly enough. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a book on Amazon that had 100% 5-star reviews?

Thanks for dropping by, everyone!

Oh, and I'm 36.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Deal with the Universe

Okay, Universe, I'm clearly late to the game, because every day more people are making their own humiliating offerings to you in exchange for a book deal. But I'm going to try to capture your interest here. Bear with me.

Probably the best (by which I mean worst) suggestion from my readers was Natalie's proposal that I not shave my legs for a year. But I've decided that my husband shouldn't be forced to suffer just because I get published. Still: well-played, Natalie! Remind me to never play truth or dare with you.

The most popular suggestion (in that it got two votes) was to get a tattoo. Apparently my readers did not understand my "no piercings" rule to include multiple stabs with a tattoo needle. (Cough.)

But I think I'm going to offer something related to my own baggage (read this post first for full context)... I love to dance. I am currently out of shape and not in any dance classes. If I get a book deal, I will post a video of myself, dancing. I'm not sure what style of dance to attempt yet... Irish step dancing? The hustle? Or maybe I'll attempt eleven pirouettes (I used to be able to do four) and see how far I get... the comments are once again open for suggestions.

At any rate, Universe, the beauty of this offering is that the FASTER I get a book deal, the more embarrassing and amusing this video will be for you. I'm going to start taking classes again. If you want me to look like a TOTAL dork, you will have to move fast, or else I'll be in shape again and have recovered some of my former skills.

Oh, and if I get an agent THIS YEAR, and a book deal within 6 months of that... I'll get a tattoo.

Come back on Monday to wish me a Happy Birthday!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

State of the Carrie

The birthday girl at age 2

What great comments yesterday, I am so thrilled that the "character is plot" post was useful for so many of you! Today, however, I have no time for anything, so I'm just going to do a quick update:
  • Tonight I'll be going to see Ha Jin read from his new collection of short stories, A Good Fall (and I'll be bringing my copy of Waiting for a signature as well).
  • Don't forget to pick out a poem you love and come back on Monday for my blog-birthday-poem-party!
  • Yesterday one of the agents who had the first three chapters of my manuscript wrote back to ask for the full!
I know, this is awesome. It's always nice when an agent asks to see more of one's work, but I take it extra-seriously when an agent asks to see the full after seeing the first chapter or more (whether that was a "partial" or they simply asked for chapters as part of the original query).

After all, voice is so important, and I think it's very easy for an agent to think that a query sounds good in theory -- or even that the first 1-5 pages have potential -- but then decide that the character voice just isn't what s/he was looking for. However, if someone really likes the first three chapters... well, I obviously think it only gets better from there!

There are currently 4 agents holding my "full" for consideration. Wish me luck. (Oh, and tomorrow I will announce my chosen deal with the universe...)

WHAT'S YOUR STATUS UPDATE? Working on a first draft? Revisions? Querying? All of the above?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Character is plot

Did anyone else read this week's New York Times Sunday Book Review of John Grisham's new collection of short stories? The one that said, "This illuminates a central problem with Grisham’s fiction: plot rules. His novels promiscuously reverse the writerly adage “character is plot,” to the point that plot often becomes the main character, leading the human characters around by the nose when necessary."*

Next question: am I the only one who'd never heard this "writerly adage" before?

Because I'm thinking it could have saved me a decent amount of time.

The last big sticking point in revising my first novel was thinking that something else had to "happen" in Act 3. Thanks to a Novel Development class (taught by Audrey Beth Stein), I realized that the problem was in fact that I didn't know what my main character's final emotional arc was (although I knew where she had to end up). Once I got a better sense of what was going on in her head, I didn't need to contrive for anything major to "happen." Her voice guided me, and the action revealed itself.

And last night I went to a seminar called Plotting the Novel (taught by Michelle Hoover), that emphasized the philosophy that character determines plot. The classroom writing exercises included determining your protagonist's primary desire, primary strength and flaw... yep. Once again, I suspect that I've been stuck on my current work-in-progress largely because I don't have a good enough sense of what my (new) main character wants.

For someone who writes character-driven pieces, I can be quite obtuse about this.

I had previously heard the idea that every novel needs to have a "signature": a single sentence that shows the full arc of the novel. Popular examples include: madman goes hunting for a white whale (Moby Dick), poor boy tries to win heart of rich girl (The Great Gatsby), mother seeks to bring her family home for one last Christmas (The Corrections).

But, I'd read some rather weak signatures without realizing they were weak -- beautiful woman marries the wrong man (Anna Karenina) -- and as a result, I hadn't quite understood the full concept. Those first three examples reveal a driving force for a main character, whereas the last example is pretty static. It tells me what she did but not what she wants. Does she want to stay or leave? That's crucial. If you use that signature as your example, as I previously did, you can miss out on the whole point of the exercise.

But in last night's class, Michelle described the signature as the novel's river. Like the river in Huck Finn... when the characters step away from that river, the story falters. It is what leads them physically, and it is also representative of the freedom they seek... the driving force of the novel. It's not a state of being. It's in motion. It's going somewhere, and it can lead you.

And so, I think my six-word summary doesn't really cut it anymore. "Graphic designer is pregnant... now what?" It's cute and catchy, but it doesn't really tell you anything about who she is, or what she wants. The novel's river is this: young woman wants her life to go back to normal after accidental pregnancy. That's what she wants... although of course we all know that's not what she's going to get.

Now, let's go see what it is that my next character wants.


* Please note that the review also had good things to say about Grisham's talent and potential.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Winning NaNoWriMo with fewer than 50K words

Fellow WriMos! How did you all do? Did you make it to 50K words?

You did? CONGRATULATIONS! I'm very proud of you. You can now stop reading. This post ain't for you.

Everyone else... you tried but didn't get there, huh? Yeah, me too. I reached a measly 5,751 words, and pretty much stopped work on the NaNo novel before week one was out. So I clearly didn't "win" NaNoWriMo this year. But did I lose? Hell, no. And neither did you.

You are a NaNoWriMo success if ANY of the following apply to you:
  • Did you write a single page, paragraph, sentence, or word simply because it was NaNo? Then that means you wrote fiction for no good reason at all except that it made you happy to do so. You're a NaNo success.
  • Do you like anything you wrote? Then you're definitely a NaNo success. Take your good stuff, dump the bad, and celebrate! Oh, and then keep writing, to create more good-and-bad (just edit the heck out of it later).
  • Did you try anything new just for fun? Did you test out a new genre or otherwise explore a new writing style? First person vs. third person P.O.V.? Present tense or past tense? Did you try a new word processing program or a new pen? You might not have done it if not for NaNo: you are a success.
  • Did you build even a single good writing habit? Getting up earlier to write, or squeezing writing into a lunch hour, or just making sure to carry a pencil and paper everywhere to capture inspiration when it strikes? Then you are a NaNo success: keep it up.
  • Did you learn anything about yourself and your writing? Did you learn that you need to write slower so that you don't burn out, or that you can write 200 more words per day than you prevously thought you could? Did you learn that you write much better when there's country music playing in the background than rock'n'roll? Then you're a NaNo success.
If you did any of these things, then you embraced the NaNo concept of exuberant imperfection and you are a NaNo success. It's just that simple. NaNo is about making time for writing, just-because. It's about trying new things and pushing yourself. If all you did this month was think more about writing, then you are on your way to prioritizing writing in your life in the way that will make you the happiest writer you can be. If you started out well and life got in the way... well, that happens. At least you tried. And maybe, just maybe, the next time you're bored out of your mind and there's nothing good on television... you'll go type up a little something. Writing happens one word at a time. And it all adds up.

I am a NaNo success because I have 20 pages that I might not have written otherwise... or that I might have taken longer to write. I am a NaNo success because the reason I stopped writing was because I wanted to think long and hard about why I write (and how I write), and in the end I figured out a few things about what's important to me. I am a NaNo success because I thought about writing a novel every day... even if what I ended up doing was edit a short story instead. I am a NaNo success because my 5,751 words make me happy.

Congrats, everyone. Well done. For reals.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November Wrap-Up

  • Thanksgiving was good. Serious Girl played nice with the grandparents, which is pretty much the entire purpose of the holidays at this point in our lives.
  • I never posted those Halloween photos, did I? Let's fix that... I hereby present Serious Girl as the iPod Touch! (Sorry about the blurriness, but I don't want to advertise my daughter's face to the internets just yet. She's too young to consent, and I'm a wee bit conservative after we got that horror-movie-style death threat last year.)
  • I have totally and utterly failed NaNoWriMo. I will be posting tomorrow about why it's totally cool if you did, too.
  • My birthday is in one week. Get ready.
  • No, seriously. I will be hosting a poetry party here on my blog on December 7th, and I hope you will all bring your favorite poem to leave as a "gift" in the comments. Go ahead, pick out a nice one.
  • 83 followers! Thanks, everyone. You guys rock. And I've received a couple more blog awards that I have to add to the sidebar over there...

  • And that's about it.

    Now, I'm off to fill out my daughter's preschool application for next year (yes, we have to reapply every year, and if I want to get preference as a "returning student" for her, the deadline is tomorrow). Then I'm having lunch with a former writing instructor, running a few errands, and finally, trying to see if an idea I have can fit into short story form. Hmmm...

    QUESTION FOR YOU: Okay. If you travel in some of the same blog circles as me, you will see that some writers have made deals with the universe as part of their quests for publication. I'm on board with this... ah, but what to offer? That, my friends, is where you come in.

    Please suggest something I can offer up to the universe in exchange for (1) an agent and (2) a book deal. Use common sense in your suggestions: I am willing to embarrass myself, but won't sign up for anything requiring, say, public nudity or additional body piercings. (I didn't get my ears pierced until I was 23, I'm not going to add extra holes now.) Be creative... the universe gets bored easily, and probably won't pay attention unless the offer is good and unique.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009


    Yes, it's almost upon us. That one day a year when all Americans try to quit feeling sorry for themselves, and be grateful for the good things that they have. (Yes, yes, many of you are in fact better people than that, and are grateful every day. Good for you! You get extra turkey. Or tofurkey, if you don't eat meat.)

    So... what are you grateful for? Wait! Before you answer that, please know that I want you to be SPECIFIC. Yes, it's easy to say that I'm grateful for my family, but that just doesn't really cover it, does it? And, as a wanna-be writer, shouldn't I show rather than tell?

    They say that God... or the devil... is in the details. Let's see 'em.

    CKHB's list:
    1. Yesterday, Serious Girl asked me to sing to Out Here On My Own to her. Toddlers are not known for their ability to focus quietly, but held still and kept her eyes on my face for the entire song. Sometimes her face lit up, and sometimes she looked so solemn. When I was done, she said, "Thank you, mommy. That was a good song."
    2. Our rock-star nanny makes a really fabulous picadillo... our daughter would probably still not eat meat if not for this dish. She also loves our little girl. You should see the two of them playing dominoes together. (Oh, and our nanny is the one who bought the set of dominoes for our daughter, just-because.)
    3. You may need to personally know me, my husband, and our sarcastic marriage-language to appreciate this, but my husband recently sent me an email from an airport layover that said, "Why can't you be more like Jodi Picoult?" Threats and hilarity ensued.
    Show me why you're grateful for the good things in your life. And have a very Happy Thanksgiving! I'll post again on Monday.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009


    I'm going to follow up my last post by responding to two of yesterday's comments...

    Katie asked: Who cares about trying out for So You Think You Can Dance unless you truly love dancing? Do you? I'm not sure I see why the question annoyed you so much. Why would you waste time trying out for So You Think You Can Dance if you don't care about it? Or buying lottery tickets unless you are super passionate about money.

    I do, in fact, truly love dancing. There was a time in my life where I was taking 3 dance classes a day and was performing regularly, and it made me incredibly happy. Then I sprained my ankle. And got a job. And sprained my other ankle. Then the first one again. And went to law school. And now I'm squishy and my body won't/can't do anything near what it used to do, and it breaks my heart that I can't access dance the way I used to. I now avoid ballet classes because the memory of what I once had actually ruins my ability to enjoy what remains. And so, when I'm in a rotten depressed mood, this kind of question annoys me because if I was guaranteed to succeed (i.e. be able to somehow pay the bills with dance, or at least cover the childcare costs during my studio time), yes, I would absolutely devote a large part of my life to dance. But I won't succeed. And there's only so much time I have in any given day, so I have to give up something that makes me joyous in order to pursue other things that I might actually succeed in.

    From this perspective, the question isn't an inspiration or source of hope. It's a reminder of the inevitability of failure for certain aspirations. It's Lucy pulling the football away before Charlie Brown can kick it. Follow your dreams, sucker.

    And as for the lottery... well, if I won that money, THEN I COULD AFFORD TO DANCE BADLY. Or write full-time. Or whatever, but I could then be able to pursue happiness without balancing my joy against my real-life obligations. Again, when I'm in a foul mood, it appears that the question is offering a pipe dream.

    Tabitha said (excerpts): Sorry you found the quote annoying. Pretty sure it was my blog that posted it... I guess my point was that we sometimes live in boxes limited by fear of failure. And sometimes if you can remove that fear you might step outside the box for just long enough to actually embrace the things you really want in this life.

    The quote wasn't meant to manipulate or make anyone feel bad. I just posted on it cause I know how amazing it was for to to say, "wow, yeah there is something else I want to be doing and I am letting my fear stop me." Writing is not the only thing that many of us dream of doing. It isn't even the biggest thing that some of us dream of doing. But whatever the dreams, fear of failure is a massive stumbling block.

    And I think you can say that you have not failed in something if you view success as the ATTEMPT, the brave choice to chase the dream in the first place. At least you can say you tried. At least that will be one less, "What if?" question that you have to live with. I think that spells success.

    Yes, I think it was you. And I'm sorry that you felt the need to explain the spirit in which you posted the quote. I know why you posted it. Even when I am smack dab in the middle of taking the quote the wrong way, I know that this is due to my own issues, not the quote itself. And I had thought that the last sentences of my post made that clear... but apparently not. (S'okay. These things happen.)

    Here's the deal. About a year ago, I was letting fear seriously hold me back from doing some non-writing things I really wanted to do. I started to stagnate. (Post-partum issues certainly didn't help, either, but that's not really the point.) But my awesome husband kicked me in the butt and got me going again...

    And man, oh, man, I've had just failure after failure. And it's not like, Wow, this was all so much scarier in my own head, but it turns out I was worked up over nothing! Even though I'm not succeeding yet, I feel so much better knowing that I'm chasing my dream! Nope. It's more like, Hey, another kick in the head. This is way worse than I imagined. Why did I come out of my cave again? This makes me, shall we say, CRANKY.

    This is my baggage. I know this.

    And that's why I am now grabbing that quote in a positive way and applying it to one new thing. Something I haven't tried yet. Something... well, the idea of succeeding at this kinda gives me butterflies. Which, I figure, means that it's something worth reaching for. Something worth abandoning fear and distrust for, even if the football DOES get yanked out at the last minute.

    As I said yesterday, it's a process. It's not about trying just one thing, or just trying once.

    And as I also said yesterday, we're all in this together. I don't mean writing. I mean the fact that I am surely not the only qualified-yet-unemployed attorney out there. Or the only person juggling motherhood AND ______. Hell, I'm surely not the only person who chipped a tooth and had to schedule dental work last week. I am, in fact, pretty damn fortunate.

    Look, a little cynicism is okay. It provides that much-needed dose of reality (hi, WendyCinNYC!), that sense of balance (hi, Melissa!), that drive to compete (hi, Shelby!), and also often provides a much-needed laugh (yes, Falen, we will BOTH take our new-found infallibility and leap off a tall building and fly!). But right now my cynicism is coming dangerously close to ingratitude. And that sh*t has got to stop. Which is why I said it's time to woman-up.

    I mean, we'd all rather be Charlie Brown than Lucy, right? She's a jerk. And as Andrew summarized, if we don't try anything, we've already lost.

    There is a nobility in trying.

    Plus, he's got that awesome dog.

    I'll be taking Thursday and Friday off from blogging this week, but come on back tomorrow for the ever-so-timely Giving of Thanks post...