Without a Hitch

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With a sky like this to start the evening, it just rolled on from there. Thanks to Structo, Mezrab, and Verso for organizing last night’s event.

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In the Floating City

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So I started brainstorming. Water bug. Water fall. Water breaks. Water boarding. Birthing tub. Or, slip-n-slide, flotsam jetsam, Floridian crocodile-laden fan boat ride. Fishing with my father.

I grew up in a town where the Milwaukee River bends west. On a private lake called Paradise.

So join me in the floating city on March 6. I’ll be reading. More information here. Facebook event here.

 

All Aboard: Readers Wanted

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For about six months now, I’ve been editing for Structo Magazine, a remarkably humble (and classy) literary magazine based in the U.K. (A recent Skype meeting with Euan Monaghan, the magazine’s founder and editor-in-chief, led to a brief discussion about humility.)

But there are days when dishes pile up and my one-year-old son seems a little clingy. To the knees of my sweatpants as I try to fix lunch. There are days when I haven’t written something new. Weeks, perhaps. Months? And so there are days when using energy on something else seems almost absurd.

Then I have another Skype session with Euan; I’m back on the boat and we’re all rowing. I’m part of a community of literary enthusiasts. (Euan is, refreshingly, not a writer but a planetary scientist.)

And all of this is to say that Structo is looking for readers who want to be part of this smart, passionate, and oft times quirky crew. Pick up an oar, and apply here.

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A Little British Magazine

Issue 10 Launch

In 2013, I was published in issue 10 of a British magazine called Structo . (I jumped at the opportunity for a not-entirely-business trip to London to help launch the issue, which, thanks to Structo, is free to read online, by the way. Check it out here if you haven’t already.) What ensued was a growing respect for the “little” magazine, and I recently–and humbly–accepted a position on their team as a web editor.

My first contribution is up, albeit small: a call for book reviewers. (So, um, cough, if you know anyone…)

Anyway, I’m excited and sniffing around like a puppy. I hope to learn much from this group in the future. They have a lot to offer.

Books: The Very Medium

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Alright, so I’ve got some books. A lot of which I’ve read: college assignments, trendy new releases, and old, wonderfully soft spots. A lot of which I’ve not really (ever?) touched. (I get free shipping if I buy four more books? Oooh, what’s this in the free used book bin? A book for Christmas? You should have!)

I’ve also got a Goodreads profile. A sorely neglected one. So here’s the project: catalogue the books I’ve got and then read them. All of them. Not quickly. Not too slowly. Very medium.*

When we moved from The States to the Netherlands, the books fit neatly in 35 boxes. (See a the partial shipment here.) I’ll set a goal of finishing them before we move back. When? you ask along with my parents. Who knows. I’ll keep you posted.

Today, I’ll continue working on a book that was a gift from my dad to my husband. (If it’s in my living room, it’s in my tally.) It’s called Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf. Nonfiction about the brain’s acquisition of language. So far so good.

 

*Bonus points to anyone who can find an old news clip. A reporter, standing at the bottom of a sledding hill, asked a young girl if she liked to go very fast or very slow. The girl paused and then said, “Um, I like to go very medium.”

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.

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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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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.

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…

Tethered by Letters

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Yesterday, I accepted an editorial internship at the literary nonprofit journal Tethered by Letters. A lot of new and exciting things happening in their online forums and print journal.

“Talented. Eccentric. Passionate. That’s what you can expect from TBL’s international group of writers, editors, and publishers. Did we mention crazy? There’s a lot of that in there too. And for every moment of insanity, there are little rays of brilliance shining through. If it sounds amazing, it’s because it is…”

So look for me there.

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Happy Friday before Mothers’ Day

Alright, so I don’t technically have a child. Yet. But, one has been growing in my uterus for the last 30 weeks; I’m going to count it. My presents this very first year include:

1. Two men’s formal-wear vests from my parents

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2. Two cans of root beer from my husband

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Click here for a story about motherhood before I knew much at all about it: http://www.versewisconsin.org/Issue112/poems/stroikStocke.html.

 

Pregnant Writer’s Advantage #1: A Thorough Cleaning of Your Belly Button

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When there are other things on your mind–things other than writing, that is–you can either clear them out or let them consume you. Do some housekeeping (metaphorically), and get rid of them. Or do some housekeeping (literally), and let it take up your whole day. I’m treating pregnancy as a great excuse to do the former, though it would be much easier now to commence a thorough cleaning of my outie. I’ll spare us all the photo.

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