Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Word Count Wednesday and Final Experiment

What am I currently working on?
Honestly? Mostly waking up and breathing. Life sucks right now. Before I had kids, people would talk about how incredibly hard parenting was and it's not like I didn't believe them. I had plenty of naive thoughts about what kind of parent I would be or what kind of children I would have, but I never struggled with the ridiculous notion that it would be easy. Even without that delusion, I had no real way of knowing just how difficult reality would be and how much stamina is required.

The same can be said about divorce. Having borne the literal and emotional scars of my parents' destruction, I had no qualms about what divorce could cost. However, within the last year, it became increasingly apparent that I was not going to be able to outrun this particular storm. It is the last option I would ever want to chose, but here I am, walking through the remnant of the life I had planned on living. And it is hard. WAY harder than I could have imagined. It is multifaceted and layered and the loss shows up in unexpected ways like the absence of a much needed hug, sleeping alone and people who say they can no longer be your friend. So, some days (or if I'm being honest, weeks) I wake up despite the overwhelming desire not to*, and move forward simply because there is no other viable option. And those are the days that I count breathing as something that I have accomplished.

Thankfully, the past few days have been more productive that just 'not dying', which is good for many reasons, one of them being that my second narrative project is due today. It is chapter two to the story I shared several weeks ago. I had started it shortly after submitting my first work, but due to the suckage of my life, I hadn't really made any progress on it again until recently.

We also have been challenged to take on the final two creative experiments of writing a slam poem and/or writing a letter to our future (possibly 100 year old) self. I decided to combine the two since frankly, who has time to do both when breathing is already taking up so much of my to do list? I'll post my take on the end-of-life reflective slam poem at the end of this blog post.

Word Count: Somewhere around 3000, but I'm including the choose-your-own-adventure story from the previous week since I didn't post a word count then.

How do I feel about the process? 
Mixed, I guess. I'm grateful to get anything productive accomplished, but I'm not thrilled with the chapter as a whole. I feel like I should submit it with an apology, but I'm not exactly Miss Optimistic so I'll just let my housemates and professor make up their own minds and I'll be sure to slice myself an extra big piece of grace when I read their critiques.

What am I currently watching/reading?
Embarrassingly, I'm still binge-watching True Blood. It has gotten somewhat better than the disappointing first season, and it gives me things to be grateful for, like the fact that I don't have to worry about a vampire or werewolf (or werepanther for that matter!) trying to attack me at any given moment. So, there's that.

*By the way, I feel like I should write a disclaimer that this blog post is fraught with sarcasm. This isn't a cry for help. No need for mandatory reporting.

In the end

When my grandmother died, I sat under a holy steeple
Surrounded by a hundred mourning people
They dressed in devastation
With arms intertwined in desperation
And I watched from my removed location
Wondering what would be said of me

When the day comes that my body breathes its last
A long exhalation into oblivion cast
The final ending of my sentence
The reckoning of all my repentance
My sharp decline or great ascendance
Would my dead ears hear the words like she?

Her goodness, they claimed, was unexceeded
Return this stolen life, they pleaded
Their mouths spoke words of great affection
Of beauty, of kindness, unbroken connection
I wondered if she really lived such perfection
Or if death simply spit-shines reality

I don’t understand why we let the truth die
For the sake of respect, polish life into lies
Cover the blemishes, hide the decay
Take no notice of dirt, simply wipe it away
Rewrite history with the homage we pay
It seems a shame to lose life and accuracy

I don’t want flowery eulogies espousing my sainthood
Or my terrible deeds in retrospect made good
File virtue next to my promises unkept
Let bitterness intermix the tears that are wept
I don’t want my mistakes to be under-rug swept

In the end, I’d rather be known for my good, bad and ugly.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Experiment #12

The kids were on spring break from school this past week and though I swore they were not going to spend all their time being electronically stimulated, the truth is that they had more tablet/xbox/youtube time than I would care to admit. The funny thing about public school break is that they add on an extra day at the end just for kicks...and/or to possibly torture/prepare parents for the unstructured time of summer that looms just 8 short weeks ahead. By the time Monday rolled around this week, I determined to redeem the last day of the break with some constructive and engaged time with my children.

Anyway, we took a quick jaunt to the library in order to procure a few choose-your-own-adventure books. Much to my son's dismay, however, the library does not actually carry these treasures anymore. Seriously?! It felt like a one-two punch of dating me and disappointing me at the same time. I decided it might be worth the effort of trying last week's experiment on writing one of my own. Thanks to Jodie's tip to use this awesome website I was able to satisfy both my son's desire for electronic access and my desire to not feel like such a schmuck parent. My son supplied much of the idea content (which explains the seemingly unrelated introduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and the many, many links that end in your demise) and I wrote the text. It was great fun for us both and I would absolutely do it over again!

Feel free to check it out here:
Crash of the Unknown

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Weekly Word Count

What am I currently working on?
Now that my writer's block has effectively passed, I've actually done quite a bit of writing in the last week. I've been capturing ideas for chapters in my novel, practicing writing memories as short stories, and began my first attempt at a script.

Total word count: 2984

How do I feel about the process?
Unfortunately, very little of what I have written has netted a completed work. I'm stressing out a bit about my second chapter narrative. I get so caught up in the details and word selection, that rather than just capturing words on a page and going back for revisions, I find myself revising as I go. It's a painstaking process, which often leaves me frustrated and defeated. Seeing as the deadline to turn something in is looming in the next couple weeks, I'm going to try to just move forward without the expectation that it be perfectly composed. We'll see if that helps.

What am I currently reading/watching?
I didn't do a lot of reading this past week but I have had the opportunity to binge watch a few things. I ended up devouring the rest of the season of Big Little Lies. I can't say enough about this show. I was so excited to see what came next, but apparently the seven episodes I watched in one night was it. There is rumor a second season might happen, but it was based on a book and the first season covered all the material. Do yourself a favor,, though and look up the soundtrack. So, so good!

On the suggestion of a friend, I've been watching True Blood. I'm not quite through the first season, but I seriously wonder how such bad writing and bad acting could be that successful. I promised I would push past the first season to where it supposedly gets good in the second, but so far I am regretting wasting the hours of my life I cannot get back from watching it.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Weekly Word Count

What am I currently working on?
I've been working on some poems and character development in hopes of returning to my narrative project.

Word Count: 571* (I'm gonna be okay with that since I tend to be long-winded in my blog postings)

How do I feel about the process?
I haven't made a ton of progress in terms of words on paper...I'm getting rather bogged down in the details to be honest. I think it would be advantageous of me to work on a concrete outline in order to give myself a real sense of direction. I have a very general idea but it's time to nail down a less vague concept to build upon.

What am I currently reading?
One of my favorite things to do is check out the books for sale at the public library. I prefer to buy rather than rent books. I can hardly be trusted to return them. I once racked up $150 worth of late fees at the Thousand Oaks Library. I bet you didn't think that was even possible, did you? Yeah, neither did I. So much for the public library as a 'free' resource.

Anyway, it's just best I pay my dues up front so no one gets hurt...or publicly chastised as an incredibly irresponsible library card holder.

There is just something about coming across a book that someone else has cared enough for to own at one time. I like to peruse the shelves, head cocked to read the vertical titles, occasionally tilting a book from it's sandwiched position to further inspect it's potentiality. I've yet to be disappointed by any of the books I've purchased this way. Some of my favorite titles have included A Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling, The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, The Unexpected Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, as well as some non-novel books like Post-Secret: Confessions on Life, Death and God by Frank Warren and FOUND: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World by Davy Rothbart. The latter two books are fascinating peepholes into the more secretive parts of society and highly entertaining. My latest find is a compilation of short stories by new writers called McSweeney's Unpublished, Unknown &/or Unbelievable. It features "twelve new stories from twelve new writers...plus twenty-nine stories written in twenty minutes each." I am enjoying getting a feel for different writing styles and ideas.

Oh! And per suggestion by Wade, I read Kate Chopin's The Storm last night and hope to start on her story The Awakening soon as well. Click on the links if you would like to read these online for free!

What am I currently watching?
I rarely have time to watch any shows of my choosing, although now that my kids are getting older, it's nice that they occasionally choose shows that are of interest to both of our age ranges. We end up watching a lot of Food Network and Nat Geo-type shows. I have, however, carved out some time to watch Lena Dunham's GIRLS (definitely an after-the-kids-are-asleep kind of show) and just discovered a new HBO show called Big Little Lies. I'm particularly interested in watching this program again because of the character development and varied story lines that are showcased. After watching the first episode, I think that I could gain a lot of insight in my own characterization by continuing to watch the show.

*P.S. Hey! What d'ya know? This blog post is nearly 600 words long...looks like I met that 1000 word goal after all. (wink-wink)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Experiment #11 (b)

I've been working on my character development for the narrative project. I had already finished chapter one but have stalled out on further work. The idea of really fleshing out my character before moving forward seems like a great idea, however, it also feels a bit daunting. Is it really that important to know the length of my character's fingers? I tried to pair down some of the list of sample questions given in class to a more manageable and pertinent query into the history and workings of my protagonist. Here is what I've done so far:

Character Bible – Narrative #1
BASIC
Full name: Olivia “Liv” Renee Fielding
Origin of nickname: parent’s called her Liv or Livy
Age: 35
DOB: August 8, 1981
Current Location: Southern California
Gender: Female
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Ethnicity: White
Health/mental health: Depression, former issues with alcoholism, eating disorders?
Religion: Christian, level of commitment TBA
Political: No real association
Personal Moral Code: starts with very rigid moral ideas but becomes more flexible as story continues

FAMILY/FRIENDS
Parents: Anne Watson (age 62) / Arthur “Art” Watson (age 65) divorced
Siblings: Sarah Tompkins (age 37)
Significant other: Samuel “Sam” Robert Fielding - husband (age 45)
Children: Dylan Samuel (age 8) / Rose Olivia (age 7)
Friends: Colin West, Janine Diamante
Reputation among family: positive, though feels weary of past damage done, has contentious relationship with mother, unfulfilling relationship with Sam
Reputation among friends: well-liked, outgoing, often feels like she goes above and beyond and not necessarily reciprocated

CHILDHOOD/ADOLESCENCE:
Significant events: parents’ divorce, alcohol/eating disorder history as a teen, suicide attempts, arrest and rehabilitation

EDUCATION/WORK
Literacy level: High
Education: some college, quit after meeting and marrying Sam
Job: Stay-at-home parent for majority of adulthood, recently began working at part-time job TBD
Hobbies: painter

APPEARANCE:
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 140 lbs (thin but not overly skinny, athletic-ish)
Hair color/length: Dark blonde and shoulder-length
Eye Color: Blue
Tattoos/Piercings: Lower back ‘tramp stamp’ of a yellow bird
Other: nail-biter, attractive

TEMPERAMENT:
Introspective, but likes to be around people. Sensitive, cries when angry, doesn’t cry when sad. Doesn’t like conflict/confrontation. Feels frustrated with current station in life. Conflicted about desire for attention and the belief that people would pay attention if they really cared for her. Holds onto resentments. Fears hurting people but also fears not living up to her potential. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Experiment #11

What wisdom is found in a wine cork! As I opened my current favorite wine this evening, I was delighted to discover that it feels the same way about writing as I do. In these lonely days I will take camaraderie wherever I can find it.

I wrote a lot of poetry as a teenager. It was my safe haven but it also was my undoing in a lot of ways. I recently came across a sampling of my work from those years and it is nothing if not marked by angst and tragedy. Because of this, I spent a good deal of my adulthood avoiding poetry. Rather than cathartic, I judged it to be borne out of the parts of myself I would prefer to forget. But the truth is that writing poetry is a healing work. There is something about giving voice to the parts of ourselves that are angry or hurt or selfish. Acknowledging them does not give them power over us as much as the opportunity to be heard and released. I would love to someday be in a place where my poetry does not solely take on the more melancholy parts of my psyche, but until then, I suppose my job is to allow it to move through me in whatever way it chooses.

This week's experiment was to attempt to write a poem given specific forms. I love writing poetry within the context of a predetermined structure. It brings order to the otherwise chaotic thoughts inside my brain. It is challenging and intellectual as well as intuitive. I am always excited to see the finished product because it is as much a surprise to me as anyone else.

Here is my first attempt at a terza rima (*hint* I stole my favorite line from the poem Night that I posted earlier this week. It's not plagiarism if you write it yourself, right?):

My Mind is a Dangerous Neighborhood

My mind is a dangerous neighborhood
It is best not to navigate alone
The thieves and the thugs are up to no good

The well-kept gardens are now overgrown
Choked by thistle and invaded by weeds
I cannot escape the seeds I have sown

I am found wandering where contempt breeds
Even the sweetest of sentiments sours
It is best to not find where that road leads

Safe passage is found within daylight hours
But at night nothing appears as it should
In darkness even strong men will cower

Forsake this prison if only I could
My mind is a dangerous neighborhood

I am also posting a villanelle that I wrote within the last year. I submitted it to the Moorpark Review, but it was passed over. I am extremely thankful, however, that my second submission, aptly entitled Reasons I Drink was selected for publication!

Beyond the Wall

Beyond the wall
Vine-choked in a sea of green
Brick by brick built tall

I hear my lover’s call
Ears strained though planted where I lean
Beyond the wall

Do not climb heights from whence to fall
Knowledge is a smokescreen
Brick by brick built tall

Shaded in shadows, made small
Hidden among what remains unseen
Beyond the wall

Blinded eyes refuse the downfall
Envisioning elaborate dreams
Brick by brick built tall

Laughter is an echo, only dry tears to bawl
Imprisoned in the in between
Beyond the wall

Brick by brick built tall

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Word Count Wednesday

What am I currently working on?
Well, thank the Lord, it appears I have finally been freed from the muzzle of writer's block. I haven't had a ton of time to write this week but I did get a chance to work on the poems I posted as well as my (very) short story.

Word Count: 590 (not 1000, but I'll take it!)

Unfortunately my creative writing time has been eaten into this week because I have been working on a letter to someone I care about and it is not an easy one to compose. What is it about confrontation that turns even the most eloquent of speakers into a bumbling mess? Having to write this letter has been a good refining exercise for my creative process, though. In attempting to convey my message clearly, I'm having to consider word choice, revision of drafts, and general paring down of ideas.

Word Count (so far): 1008

How do I feel about the process?
Relieved! I'm glad to be writing again even if it's not all for fun. I hope to return to some of my narrative work soon.

What am I currently reading?
My daughter and I went to the public library last week so I'm reading all sorts of Children's Stories. Some new favorites (for the children at least) have been the Walter the Farting Dog series and the Jedi Academy books. I'm also reading 20 Master Plots and Through Women's Eyes for my history class.