Thursday, February 09, 2006

Procrastination Station

"Conjunction Junction" was a Schoolhouse Rock song that used to get stuck in my head after watching Saturday morning cartoons. Or the song about a "hunka-hunka cheese," sung by a greenish triangle of cheddar who gleefully touted the joys of cannibalism. Procrastination Station sounds like a song that would have fit nicely into the programming - perhaps it would have a catchy couplet about why making your bed before school is better than making it twenty seconds before you go bed.

Alas, when it comes to writing, I seem to be stuck in Procrastination Station.

I can't remember not writing, in the same way I can't remember not reading. It seemed to be a permenant, inevitable part of me. How could I not want to read? How could I not enjoy writing poems or bits of stories? How could I not want people to read my poems? I think back on the poems I published in Rhubard Pie, my high school's literary journal, and I am amazed that I wrote enough to get that much material, but mostly, that I was brave enough to want people to read it.

How can it be that someone who was painfully self-aware in high school felt no worries about her writing then? That it seemed something to be enjoyed and shared without fear?

Things are different now. After college (a place that had fantastic professors but a student body more interested in cadavers than couplets), I was dry. I had written some things after my stay in Northern Ireland, because those kinds of experiences have to go somewhere, but I simply felt disconnected from that part of me. Not too mention that a degree in English Lit can make you feel somewhat violent towards the Great Works, especially, say, Henry James, and creative writing classes can leave you feeling that it's one thing to have a professor review your work, but it's another to get "workshopped" by your callow college-age peers.

Anyway, I kept writing odds and bobs, even when all my energy was drained into the Black Hole that was my time at MIT, but the idea of writing for other people to eventually read it seemed rather ludicrious. I did keep reading on my long commute, and I began to take pleasure in literature and non-fiction again.

But I stopped sharing my own writing. I wrote it, and then I hid it. It became important not to offend anyone, even unintentionally, and it was not possible to do this and maintain the truthfulness that writing, especially poetry, requires. Two summer ago, my uncle was startled to learned that I was going to Russia on a creative writing program - "You still write poetry?" - and this was completely understandable. I had folded that part of me up like a origami bird, very cleverly and oddly, so that people would not recognize it.

And now that I have a job that does not slowly consume my soul, I seem to be bombarded with ideas and people and places. I even had a Real Editor ask me for my manuscript on the strength of the one (and only!) chapter I had written.

Yes - a dream come true! But have I written it? Because if anything, you think that I would be frantically churning it out. Of course not! I've got scenes from all over the book, but it needs to be filled in and stitched together. I need to let the characters and the story be who and what they are, not try to dull them in bland inoffensiveness. I haven't finished a whole chapter after the first one. I am terrified I will end up with some kind of abomination that people will run screaming from, or worse yet, scrutinize closely because it's so awful that they can't look away.

I am sitting in Procrastination Station with a Frankenstein complex, mixing my metaphors and passing time blogging. Good heavens. I need to stop staring at the other people in the waiting room, and buy myself a ticket to the place where I won't be afraid of possibility.

And really what does it matter if my ninth-grade teacher said "If you keep reading all that fantasy, you'll turn into an engineer or a fantasy writer," or if all of Ulster is offended by my magical-realism rendering of Belfast? It does, but it doesn't. I need to write what demands to be written, not worry about what some person in Borders might think when they see a poem in a journal, or (hopefully) my book on a shelf. I should be past that. I'm not in high school anymore.

I think, though, it might be good for my writing if I pretend that I am.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Last night I went and played floor hockey in the gym of an elementary school where some of my friends teach.

And it was so much fun!

There were only 4 players per team, and you subbed in and out whenever you wanted. Since there were about 12 people there, it meant you could play or gasp on the sidelines as much as you wanted. And that was it. No one expected you to be good, or got mad if you weren't. It was co-ed, but in the nicest possible way - the guys didn't check you, but seemed to delight in being checked or chased by the girls, and there was plenty of cheering and encouragement from everyone. No one kept score. People kept switching teams. It was simply fun.

I've been reading the New York Times article about diabetes and how it's surging over us, and pretty soon we're all going to be swamped by this massive tidal wave of problems that will overwhelm us and our rickety healthcare system. And we eat too much and move too little.

And at the game last night, I was thinking, if kids did this every day at school, maybe we'd all be different. I don't mean just the exercise bit, I mean the non-competitive part too. The sense of fun, and encouragement. Running around because it's fun. Playing with a group of people because it's fun. Maybe we'd keep doing it right into adulthood, instead of thinking you can only be a super-athlete or have to trash-talk to be part of the game, or you have to have a perfect body or fancy shoes.

I wore mismatched socks and an old yellow t-shirt. My hair stuck up all over my head as soon as I got sweaty. I got really red in the face, and I keep touching the ball with my foot and losing possesion to the other team. I scored one awkward goal and got high-fived from a guy wearing goggles. When I left, the guys said thanks for coming! See you next week!

Yup. I think I'd like to be part of the game.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Year in Review and Preview

A Recap of 2005! Dire Predictions for 2006!

No letter in my Christmas card, but this is pretty much my life last year. Read on if you dare! It's very, very wordy.

In January 2005, I moved out of my parents' house and back into Boston. I enjoyed sleeping in and not spending 4 hours a day commuting. I also enjoyed living in Brookline with some cool roommates who were very warm and welcoming. We spent a lot of time shoveling endless snow and attempting to fit 50 Lean Cuisine boxes into a small freezer space. (Guys, not all food comes pre-packaged!) Alas, however, there were mice. That part was bad. But I miss the human roommates!

I also decided I simply had to be out of my job, come hell or high water, by June. The money I saved at home and an offer of super cheap housing from friends in DC made this possible! After two trips to DC, bravely networking with a lot of supportive prodding from the brother, I finally got a new job. At a museum. Doing publishing. With a great boss. HOORAY.

So - June saw me start a new job, live in Columbia Heights, then back to MA in August, pack up a truck, drive to DC (The drive was long and tough - as my mom said "Delaware - you stink!") and move into my first apartment without roommates. Props to the brother, an intern and a friend who gamely sweated it out in 100 degree heat to move a lot of boxes.

My firstt six months in DC have been good. I've lucked into new friends, get to hang out often with my brother (a very good friend!), and I am eagerly awaiting the move of a childhood friend down here sometime this spring. Job is good. Also - there has been no shoveling at all!

In my biggest news after the job, I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and went to their fall conference here in DC, where an editor from a really big publishing house expressed interest in my still mostly nascent YA novel. Although my first chapter and synopsis are now languishing somewhere on her desk, it was a huge boost to know what I wrote was interesting and entertaining to A Real Editor!

This year also included three weddings, a new cousin, a new baby for my friend, a pregnancy for another friend, and an awesome (though filled with choppy boat rides!) trip to Greece with my college friend.

So - 2006?

Keep writing! Complete novel!
Go to Paris for 30th birthday with the Beloved Brits.
Keep working on meeting new people. Do not languish in lovely apartment!
Knit more. Draw more. Learn to quilt?
Go on at least one date.
Join Sierra Club.
Save money.
Celebrate the birth of Baby P at the end of June!
Keep writing! Complete novel!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Cards and the Terrible Mince Pie Incident

I have over 25 Christmas cards sitting on my desk at work, eying me balefully. The UK cards are rubberbanded together, and they are looking particularly annoyed, as they know they won't arrive until well after the New Year. The mince pies will have been munched, the crackers cracked, and in 2006 my holiday card will saunter into your postbox/mailbox looking bashful but determined to deliver its post-holiday cheer.

Speaking of mince pies, I shall now record for posterity my horrific Christmas experience in England.

I happened to really dislike pie with fruit filling. This includes apple (yes, yes, call me a communist, whatever), peach, blueberry, rhubard, etc. Pecan pie is fine. I don't like the filling, and I don't like the crust. This extends to pastries and danishes. They just hold no appeal at all.

Meat, however, is a whole other story. I had made several trip to the new Cornish pasty (pronouce: paz-tee) shop in York and was enjoying the experince of meat wrapped in pastry. There were lots of various pasties at the shop and they included various meats, potato, and the inevitable curry flavoring. It wasn't a pastry, it was a pasty, and it was filled with meat. It was good.

In fact, I had come to enjoy many oddball British dishes (Coleslaw: The Only Fiber Belfast Eats) so I was gamely eying the array of Christmas foods at the Lord of MisRule party. I was wearing a silly outfit that smelled faintly of the last graduate student who portrayed the Sin of Sensuality, and I had no idea of the horror that awaited me.

Clive handed me a small round pie that fit nicely in my hand, and informed it was a "mince pie." I'm pretty sure I heard "mince meat" because when I bit into that pie I was fully expecting warm, savoury ground beef in gravy. Instead, it was cold. It took my brain a moment to make out what my tongue was screaming - this was not meat! This was fruit! Cold fruit bits congealed in cold gelatin!

Not only was it my worst nightmare, it was the British culinary version of my worst nightmare.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday, finally....

I'm pondering putting the URL of this blog on my Christmas cards, but it does seem a teeny bit obnoxious, like those letters that detail the family achievements of the past year. Although I love those letters. I'm nosy, and I like to know what's going on, and I love the idea of seeing what you think is important. They're sort of proto-blogs, but annual and seasonal.

Gentle reader, the electronic blog means I can bore you all year long with my achievements. Or my fear of DC drivers. Or my fear of squirrels. Or my fear of flying (only 6 days until I have to go on a plane again, meaning that I have been on a plane every month since June)

Anyway, I think I'll skip it and just email people to say "hey, I'm here."

Especially as my first post is "testing." Already, this blog is scintillating. And possibly full of misspellings.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Well - here I am.....