Monthly Archives: January 2011

My Favorite New Four-letter Word

            For
the final blog of the month, I’m straying from the topic of writing and
focusing on the other dominating feature in my life this week: snow.  Yes, for those of us living in New
England, snow has become our favorite new four-letter word.  And it fits the category
perfectly.  First off, a creative
person ought to be able to use a good four-letter word as various parts of
speech. (My brother went through a phase in high school when he could use his
favorite four-letter word as nearly all eight parts in one utterance, much to
the dismay of my mother, hidden amusement of my father, and total envy of
me.)  Snow meets this
requirement.  For instance, you
wake up to see it is snowing (action verb)–again, spend twenty minutes putting
on layers of snow gear (adjective) so that you can shovel the snow (noun)
hoping all the while you don’t slip, which of course you do, shouting, possibly
in coordination with a few other curses, “SNOW!” (interjection).  If that wasn’t enough to land it
squarely in the four-letter word domain, the mere mention of it elicits giggles
from school children, who obviously have no understanding of make-up days in
June.  Speaking of it in the
lunchroom is frowned upon and leads to numerous dirty looks, mostly from
co-workers with long commutes and no snowblowers.  And, finally, despite the fact that no one thinks it is
really an appropriate topic to lead off the world news, the media continue to
treat it with as much drama as a politician sex scandal.

            With
that said, it’d be easy for me to gripe for another couple hundred words about
this cursed form of precipitation. 
But really, that’s been over done this week.  Instead I’m going to be one of those obnoxious people who
tries to find the silver lining in those crusty brown mountains of snow.  Put down the snowballs, you can’t hit
me through cyber-space; you’ll just short out your keyboards.  And when you think about it, this
month’s snow has gotten to be ridiculous, and with ridiculousness comes
humor.  No, it wasn’t funny when I
got stuck on a back road on my ill-fated attempt to get to a professional
development day; it was stressful as hell.  The irony and humor came later when I realized the only
reason I was so eager to get to work was that I was looking forward to my
class: Relaxation for the Stressed Educator.  Yup, I could have used some deep breathing methods when I
thought I’d be hit by the first car able to make it down the hill I couldn’t
get up.  Then there’s the fact that
I chose this winter to give up my gym membership and brave the elements of
outdoor running, only to have the sidewalks of my route buried in three feet of
snow.  At first I was annoyed that
what I saved in gym costs I’ve spent on cold weather gear.  But today, as I was marking a wall of
snow with tic marks, in order to keep track of the number of times I’d
monotonously circled my condo complex’s parking lots, I realized how amusing I
must appear to my neighbors.  I can
just picture the nosy old lady in building two, who stared at me each lap,
wondering whether the cold and snow had disoriented me so badly that I couldn’t
remember what building I lived in. 
Finally, there’s the sheer absurdity of what we wear when it snows.  Any sense of fashion I may have had
flew out the window weeks ago (and if it was smart, it flew south!).  Piling on multiple pairs of socks and
reacquainting myself with the long johns of my childhood should frustrate
me.  But, really, have you ever
looked at someone wearing long johns? 
They’re pretty amusing.  Top
off the look with a hat with baubles, and suddenly snow wear is sheer comedy.

            Then
again, my ability to find humor in snow may have less to do with my
glass-half-full outlook on life and more to do with my knowledge that three
weeks from today I’ll be posting my blog from beside the heated pool of my
parents’ condo association in warm, sunny Florida!  Okay, commence the hate mail and snowball throwing.

 

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Picking Scabs

            Growing
up a klutz and a tomboy, I had my share of scabby knees and elbows, and, like
anybody, I occasionally liked to pick at them.  But I never considered myself a compulsive scab-picker.  I was not one of those kids who spent
all of math class making every scab and bug bite bleed anew.  And I was more than a little leery of
anyone who actually liked picking scabs or peeling sunburns so much that they
offered to do it for other people (oh, come on, you know who you are).  So I’m a little perplexed at my inability
to leave my writing alone long enough to get the distance and perspective I
need to really revise.  It’s not
that I don’t have other things to do–I still haven’t finished grading those
stories I mentioned last week.  I
think it has more to do with the fact I’ve bonded with my work, even the crappy
parts of it.  It’s like I’ve got a
three hundred and ninety-something page baby.  Or, hopefully at this point, I’ve got a pimply teenager who
just needs a little more guidance before being ready to face the world.  I wouldn’t leave a teen to his own
devices for a month and expect him to have raised himself–though, sadly, there
are some who seem to think this is a legitimate parenting technique.  That may even be worse than the parents
who can’t cut the strings and send their child’s teachers frantic “high
importance” emails at twelve at night on a Saturday.  Don’t these people know I have better
things to do on my Saturday nights? 
Like reread and revise my draft–again.                          Oh,
crap.  I’ve become a helicopter
parent to an inanimate object. 
I’ve become the nasty scab-scratcher who uses the teacher’s tissues to
dab at his bloody shins and never manages to hit the wastebasket when he
throws them away.  Nothing good can
come from hovering or picking. 
Your child will not be brighter or more studious because you forced it
down his throat.  Your scab will
not heal because you scrape at it with your grubby fingernail.  And I will never be able to fix any
real problems my story still has by nitpicking every comma and dash.  True, I can’t totally neglect the kid,
nor can I ignore the fact that there are some definite bruises and scrapes that
need attending to, but like dealing with a lot in life, much more can be gained
by stepping back, taking a deep breath (or a large gulp of wine), and trying
again later.  In the meantime, I’ll
stop being passive-aggressive and respond to some of those parent emails–but
maybe I’ll start with the glass of wine.

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Feeling the Love

            If
procrastination were truly an art, my work would be hung in the same halls as
the masters.  Hell, I can even
procrastinate by blogging about procrastination and post my blog a day late,
because, hey, a long weekend gave me the perfect excuse to, yup, you guessed
it–procrastinate.  But that’s not
really this week’s topic, it just led to it.

            Ever
since the end of last May when I started another story that I thought I’d never
finish, I’ve had a ready-made excuse to put off correcting my students’
work.  I was writing.  Or I was revising.  Or I was reading about writing.  These were important ventures. Yes, I
was putting myself first, but I was following my passion.  Watch any good chick flick and you know
the climax comes when the woman throws caution to the wind and embraces her own
empowerment, thereby becoming the hero to herself and everyone around her.

            Newsflash
Grimley: the majority of today’s “heroes” are not the self-less
givers, but the selfish go-getters who aren’t afraid to step on a few toes to
make it to the top.  I’ve got big
feet for someone my height, but I’ve never been or wanted to be a
toe-smasher.  I also realize,
though, that the Mother Teresa’s of the world are few and far between, and I’m
far from becoming one of them. 
What I need is balance.

            I
shouldn’t feel guilty about doing what I love, but wanting to share my passion
was why I went into teaching to begin with.  I’d be full of it to tell you I became an educator to help
the needy students who can hardly string two words together.  Granted they’ve become my favorite
kiddos to work with, but they weren’t my initial inspiration.  I wanted to encourage those kids who
loved words and stories as much as I did. 
I wanted to work with the articulate ones who could wow you with their
vocabulary and the weird ones who spent half their days lost in their own
imaginations.  Because I was one of
those kids (I’ll let you guess which type in particular), and I had a few great
teachers who, along with my mom, encouraged me to write. 

            So,
though I’d much rather be drafting my own ideas right now than correcting the
same punctuation mistakes in the dialogue of sixty-two students’ stories (a
lesson I really thought I pounded into them prior to this assignment!), I
realize, with a long overly-dramatic sigh, I must.  Not for the fifty-something something students who will skip
right to the grade without looking at my marks, but for the two or three who
loved stringing together those words as much as I do.  So that some day when they have to decide between a
practical major, like education, or one a little riskier, like art, music, or
creative writing, they won’t panic, because they won’t see it as a choice
between being responsible or following their passion.  Maybe they’ll realize, earlier than I did, they can do
both–with a little balance, a little discipline, and a whole lot of love for
both their day job and their dream. 

            So
bring on the correcting.  I’m
feeling the love.

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Letting My Freak Flag Fly

            Some
of you read the title and are scratching your head right now, thinking,
“This is something new?” 
Those of you who witnessed my middle school years have actually
double-checked to make sure you are on the right site.  Yes, you are.  And, yes, I was the little girl who begged her parents for a
camouflage t-shirt to wear as a night gown, I was the teen who wore a SeaQuest
DSV keychain as a necklace all through eighth grade, and I am the woman who
decorated her entire condo for the release of the last Harry Potter book.  I’ve never had problems with sharing my
weirdness with the world.  Until recently.

            This
summer as I was working on my first novel,
Unforeseen, I signed up for the Cape Cod Writer’s Conference
hoping to hone my skills and perhaps meet a handsome male writer along the
way.  Unfortunately, I had no such
luck with the latter.  But I did
meet many wonderful writers from whom I learned some great writing skills and
an interesting fact about myself: I don’t like talking about my writing.  Beyond introductions, the first
question a fellow writer asks another at one of these conferences was the one I
found myself dreading: “So what do you write?”  Now usually I’d describe myself as
somewhat loquacious–yes, you’re still on the right site.  Okay, so I can normally talk one of
Michael Vick’s underfed pitbulls off a load of Kobe steaks, but this question
left me stammering.  As my blush
burned my cheeks and made my neck and chest look like I ate some bad seafood,
I’d mutter, “Urban fantasy.” 
Anything ‘urban’ sounds cool, right?  No one would question this, I thought.  But they did.  “So what’s it about?” was inevitably the next
query.  This is where the veteran
writer would roll out a perfect one-line pitch that would have any agent
drooling.  This is where a rookie
writer should at least be able to spew a sloppy twelve-minute summary.  But my reaction?  Well, internally I was channeling the
chubby little girl on the playground who learned to out curse anyone she
couldn’t out run (which was just about everybody).  That old part of me wanted to turn to the wise grey-haired
inquisitor, who was undoubtedly writing a highly literary memoir about battling
a rare disease while trapped in the Amazon, and say, with my head held high,
“I’m writing about vampires, and if you got a problem with it, you can go
to hell, you darn hell.”  Yup,
I was a feisty one.  Luckily, I’ve
expanded my vocabulary as well as my repertoire of swears since third
grade.  Sadly, I’ve lost
the unabashed innocence we have at that age.  I know now that many people don’t see the fine line between
creative and crazy, between straight up genius and straitjacket.  So I’d mumble some lame summary in an
apologetic tone more suitable for the author of a graduate level textbook on
taxation.

            It
wasn’t until later I kicked myself. 
Why was I embarrassed to admit I was writing a novel in currently one of
the trendiest genres?  What’s wrong
with writing to entertain the masses? 
Nothing.  I doubt Charlaine
Harris or Stephanie Meyer blush at their bank statements.  More importantly, I doubt they allow
the literary snobs of the world to detract from their enjoyment of what they
do.  And neither do I.  Writing, whether it’s commercial
fantasy or literary fiction, is a passion and a pleasure and an escape for both
author and audience.  If it makes
me (and, hopefully someday my readers) as happy as an army green nightshirt, a
cute boy on a dorky sci-fi TV show, or a magically themed book release party,
why hide it?  There are enough flag
burning killjoys in the world; I refuse to be one of them.  Next year’s writing conference I’m
letting my freak flag fly.  Anyone
know where I can get a fang necklace
?

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Embracing My Inner-Kardashian



2011: The Year of Embracing My Inner-Kardashian 

            As someone who has seen herself as a writer ever since her mother put a fancy cloth cover on her first three-sentence book, this probably seems like a logical outlet.  But, a year ago, if you told me I’d be blogging my way into the New Year, I would have laughed–-at you, not with you.  It’s not that I was anti-blog; I love keeping up to date on the lives of my favorite authors or reading about the best butt-butter for female cyclists (yes, it exists; no, I haven’t been brave enough to try it).  Blogs are great entertainment and great resources–-that is, if the blogger is funny or has a wealth of knowledge about a particular subject.  What turned me off about blogging was the idea of a bunch of average joes rambling about their kids, their work, their spouses, in a public forum, assuming that the rest of us would care enough to want to read about them.  With all the other time-sucking activities online, it’s a miracle people can keep up with the important news of the day.  You know, news about truly influential people, like world leaders the average citizen can’t name, grossly overpaid athletes we idolize, and, of course, the Kardashians.

            I’ll gladly jump on the bandwagon of critics who disdainfully scorn the American audiences who made an obnoxious family obscenely popular for doing little, other than airing their expensive, skanky dirty laundry on national television.  But the truth of the matter is, there’s part of me that admires the Kardashians. Clearly they have an abundance of confidence to ever have thought the world would care enough about them and their lives to tune in weekly.  And though I’m relatively sure, without ever watching a full episode, that the world could do without their ‘wealth of knowledge’, a large number of people find them entertaining.  So more power to them.  And more power to the rest of us.  For all of us hoping to capture an audience, for whatever passion we want to pursue, these do-little celebrities have paved the way.  The Kardashians have just given us all a reason to status-update, tweet, and blog our hearts out.  If millions of viewers each week are eager to waste an hour on the Kardashians, who’s to say a few dozen won’t want to read the ramblings of an aspiring author.  So thank you Kim, and the rest of the crew, for giving me the guts to put myself out there this year.  Maybe next year I’ll be brave enough to try the butt-butter.


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