Unabridged Adventure Series, Part 9

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Thanks to yesterday’s project, I was able to continue with the Unabridged Adventure Series. (For those of you who’ve forgotten the premise, first go here.)

The book: Teach Yourself Dutch by Gerdi Quist and Dennis Strik, copyright 2003. The subtitle: All-Around Confidence.

The find: two tickets from Madison, Wisconsin to Detroit, Michigan. Date: Friday, July 6, 2012.

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Happy 100

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In honor of reaching 100 followers today, I’m going to eat 100 kernels of popcorn, read 100 words from a Dutch dictionary and engage in other raucous centennial shenanigans.

Blog- 100 Follows

How to Tell Your Friends & Family You’re a Writer

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Word on the street is that the Tethered by Letters blog is down and out temporarily for some good old fashioned re-design, so I’m republishing a piece I wrote for them here. Anyone who didn’t check it out before, now’s your chance. And you don’t even have to click on a link this time.

How to Tell Your Friends and Family You’re a Writer: In Four Not-So-Easy Steps

Your mother may be prepared for the day you become a doctor. A lawyer. A plumber. She may even understand if you decide to go into IT. Your father might have known all along that you’d be a writer. What he likely doesn’t understand is what, exactly, that entails: long hours in dumpy coffee houses, awkward scribbles on paper napkins at family picnics, small talk with strangers about philosophy. (These are all, by the way, in the official job description.)

Fortunately for me, four years ago, I married a man who understood all of this. He encouraged me to quit my job (which I, albeit reluctantly, did) to pursue my passion. To this day, he supports our family financially. He offers thoughtful edits when I ask for them, and he doesn’t when I don’t.

Despite all of this, he and I both fall into one of the most common literary traps. Last week, I overheard his phone conversation with a colleague: “Christine? Yeah, she’s doing great. No, she’s not working. She does a lot of writing on her own, though. But, no, not for a company or anything. She reports to herself.” His last line a sort of subconscious guilt-laden recovery.

Here’s one of my most recent: “Me? Actually, I’m an author. A writer. No, not books. Um, well, short fiction? Not in an office, no. From home. Right.” And with each response, my face grows more red. My voice more full of air. And then, A visit? Next week? Can I show you around Amsterdam, because, well, you’ve never been to Europe, and you really would like an in-depth week-long tour? “Of course. I make my own schedule. I’m not doing anything.”

The problem here may seem like a confidence issue. And it might be. In just one day, I received six submission rejections, a notice to pay the renewal for my website, and an email from a friend wondering why, since I was unemployed, I didn’t have more time for her. So sure, maybe I lack a little bit of confidence.

But last week, Lincoln Michel of the online non-profit Electric Literature gave me a little boost. He penned an article titled If Strangers Talked to Everybody like They Talk to Writers. It is, frankly, hilarious. And like most good humor, it’s good because it’s true. And like most things that are true, they give you that little bump. They roust out of bed that end-of-week energy and make you try a little harder. So here they are:

 

The Four Not-So-Easy Steps

Always remember it’s not about the money.

  • You might be earning a living wage. You might be making nothing. You might, occasionally, be able to buy the groceries and the pay the electrical bill.
  • Bottom line, it doesn’t matter.
  • Despite all sorts of other inappropriate questions, no one will ask you how much you make. I promise.

Be a commodity. A hot one.

  • When I moved to The Netherlands two years ago, I was worried about fitting in. My father told me not to forget that, once I moved, I’d be the exotic. I’d be the foreigner with the romantic accent, the one with stories to share, the traveler. And that advice has made most of the difference.

Know more about your career than anyone else.

  • Done. You do. You already do. You are the professional. You are the expert. Run with it (sometimes far, far away).

Tell the world. Over and over and over.

  • Smile.
  • Speak loudly.
  • Pre-empt silly questions.
  • Never apologize.
  • And never use the word actually.

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Aqui esta. (Acentos implied.)

 

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Writing Trip: Spain

My husband, my son, and I are travelling to Spain today. We’re staying for a week: eating tapas, riding a funicular up Mount Igeldo. And then they’re leaving.

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Happy French Friday…

…from the trunk of my rental car to yours.

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The Best Part of the Best Part

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Unlike most, if I wake up tired, I have a choice. I’m in my pajamas after all, and therein squats the problem. The best part about being an author is, you guessed it, the same thing that makes it hard.

There are some writers who are able to convince themselves of anything. But if I could say to myself, You’re not tired, then I could also say things like, You believe in the Easter Bunny.

When I had a more traditional job, it was easier to see myself romantically, easier to fantasize stealing away minutes to write. It was also easier to believe that stealing away those minutes was the right thing to do.

So now we skip to the best part of the best part: being an author forces me to have a balanced life. If I wake up and I’m sick or tired or hung-over, I can’t make myself sit at the computer and write well. I just can’t. So if I want to be a writer, then I’ve got to get enough sleep. Things don’t have to be perfect. Occasionally, I row my personal best drunk. (That happened only once in my three years of collegiate crew.) But usually, that’s not how it works.

So, fine, go out and drink like Hemmingway. Early Hemmingway. Smoke a cigar. But then brush your teeth and chug some water and go to bed. After all, it’s easy enough to second guess yourself as a writer. Not working out or getting a good meal or enough sleep, makes it even easier. A good writer is a confident one.

Happy French Friday.

To a weekend of writing and wine and brie the size of your head.

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Why You’ll Never be able to Write while Pregnant, and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

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I wrote a short story during an undergraduate creative writing course. The protagonist was a pregnant writer. (She gave up using highlighters because she feared it would affect the fetus.) But I, the real writer behind the curtain, had never been pregnant. My professor suggested reading something in the African Literature tradition wherein I might find more examples of the relationship between thinking Mom and thinking, kicking, growing baby. He said I could find interesting works on how the two brains might strangely, interestingly, creatively intertwine. He suggested a few specific titles, all of which I’ve now, unfortunately, forgotten. So instead, when I became pregnant roughly a year ago to the day, I hit the internet. Hard.

First, I found gems like this one: “For many women, the ability to think is one of the first casualties of pregnancy.” (http://www.watermanwords.com/index.php/tips-writing/100-writing-while-pregnant)

And this one: And then there are those who are actually pregnant while writing a novel. We turn into a bundle of hormones and cravings, fall asleep at inopportune times and occasionally wonder if our brains have been replaced by a sack of cornmeal…How are we supposed to keep characters straight when we keep putting our clothes on inside out and walking down the street with all the seams showing?” (http://laurastanfill.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/pregnancy-and-the-writers-brain/)

The article, unfortunately, goes on: When in doubt, blame pregnancy brain–whether that’s for losing your keys again or using too many adverbs.”

I can’t (and won’t) speak to any other woman’s experience of pregnancy,—I’m now the mother of a happy 3.5-month-old—but I know that if you wake up and tell yourself you can’t write, then, pregnant or not, chances are, you won’t be able to write.

There are many things that might keep one from writing, some legitimate, some, well, not so much. A death in the family. A head cold. The laundry. Writing, because of its implied flexibility, is, unfortunately, acutely prone to the back burner.

It took me quite a while to find any article that implied something contrary to the common pregnancy-will-only-leave-you-drained wisdom. But could the small human in my uterus help me? Could he provide something extra? Give me an experience, and a perspective, I’ve never had? (Curiously, this last one is something, I think, that most writers value.)

I did, finally, come across this article (http://booksbywomen.org/creativity-in-pregnancy-by-eleanorfitzsimons/), called Creativity in Pregnancy, and written by Eleanor Fitzsimons. And, unlike the other articles I referenced earlier, it wasn’t all subjective. It cited studies, and quoted author interviews, and I was delighted.

Pregnancy will be different for every woman, every partner, every baby, for that matter. It might be a blast. It might be miserable. It’ll likely be something in between. But it doesn’t help anyone—writer, reader, plumber, firefighter—to spring from the gates and assume the worst. Pregnant or not, do what you’d do every day. Write. If you can’t, fine. Stop, relax, re-focus, repeat. Isn’t that always the process?

Tethered by Letters Summer Journal

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The Tethered by Letters Summer 2014 edition is now out in print. Purchase a copy to read my short fiction feature, “Accidental Deaths Don’t Count.”

 

 

Unabridged Adventure Series Part 8

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How to Tell Your Friends & Family You’re a Writer

A new blog post by me now up at Tethered by Letters. I’ve included it below.

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How to Tell Your Friends and Family You’re a Writer: In Four Not-So-Easy Steps

Your mother may be prepared for the day you become a doctor. A lawyer. A plumber. She may even understand if you decide to go into IT. Your father might have known all along that you’d be a writer. What he likely doesn’t understand is what, exactly, that entails: long hours in dumpy coffee houses, awkward scribbles on paper napkins at family picnics, small talk with strangers about philosophy. (These are all, by the way, in the official job description.)

Fortunately for me, four years ago, I married a man who understood all of this. He encouraged me to quit my job (which I, albeit reluctantly, did) to pursue my passion. To this day, he supports our family financially. He offers thoughtful edits when I ask for them, and he doesn’t when I don’t.

Despite all of this, he and I both fall into one of the most common literary traps. Last week, I overheard his phone conversation with a colleague: “Christine? Yeah, she’s doing great. No, she’s not working. She does a lot of writing on her own, though. But, no, not for a company or anything. She reports to herself.” His last line a sort of subconscious guilt-laden recovery.

Here’s one of my most recent: “Me? Actually, I’m an author. A writer. No, not books. Um, well, short fiction? Not in an office, no. From home. Right.” And with each response, my face grows more red. My voice more full of air. And then, A visit? Next week? Can I show you around Amsterdam, because, well, you’ve never been to Europe, and you really would like an in-depth week-long tour? “Of course. I make my own schedule. I’m not doing anything.” 

The problem here may seem like a confidence issue. And it might be. In just one day, I received six submission rejections, a notice to pay the renewal for my website, and an email from a friend wondering why, since I was unemployed, I didn’t have more time for her. So sure, maybe I lack a little bit of confidence.

But last week, Lincoln Michel of the online non-profit Electric Literature gave me a little boost. He penned an article titled If Strangers Talked to Everybody like They Talk to Writers. It is, frankly, hilarious. And like most good humor, it’s good because it’s true. And like most things that are true, they give you that little bump. They roust out of bed that end-of-week energy and make you try a little harder. So here they are:

The Four Not-So-Easy Steps to Telling your Friends and Family You’re a Writer

1. Remember that the title is not about the money.

 

  • You might be earning a living wage. You might be making nothing. You might, occasionally, be able to buy the groceries and the pay the electrical bill.
  • Bottom line, it doesn’t matter.
  • Despite all sorts of other inappropriate questions, no one will ask you how much you make. I promise.

2. Be a commodity. A hot one.

 

  • When I moved to The Netherlands two years ago, I was worried about fitting in. My father told me not to forget that, once I moved, I’d be the exotic. I’d be the foreigner with the romantic accent, the one with stories to share, the traveler. And that advice has made most of the difference.

3. Know more about your career than anyone else.

 

  • Done. You do. You already do. You are the professional. You are the expert. Run with it (sometimes far, far away).

4. Tell the world. Over and over and over.

 

  • Smile.
  • Speak loudly.
  • Pre-empt silly questions.
  • Never apologize.
  • And never use the word actually.

Spring is dead. Long live Spring.

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Dead tulips, and there’s something to be said for leaving them there, in their vase with no water.

I—-I can always use more bookshleves.

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I don’t own a Kindle. Not a Nook. Haven’t had a cell phone for two years. And having any of those things doesn’t make you a bad person. Unless you’re sexting in traffic, I won’t hold a single one against you. But I–I have books. Lots of them. An addiction to them. (Now anyway, as a teenager, I had an aversion.) Boxes of books I shipped, two years ago, by boat across The Atlantic. They’re in the living room, and the baby’s room, and in the bedroom and my office. And now, for our visitors’ reading pleasure, upstairs, in the guest room. The paper-page takeover continues…

Happy French Friday.

Epernay, France

Epernay, France

Pouring champagne into a plastic bathroom cup on the nightstand…this weekend’s writing, at the French Open.

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