Month: January 2003 Page 1 of 4

Dang it.

James Howe is not Lemony Snickett. Daniel Handler is Lemony Snickett.

Aaaaauugh. That theory blown. On the other hand, reading an interview with him, his other, adult books seem very interesting. The interview contains swearing, I note for your edification.

Daniel Handler seems like the kind of author that small-minded parents everywhere should ban from their libraries. Cool.

Hm. I could have sworn I posted something since last time. Eh.

Ray isn’t feeling well. One minute, I followed her into the kitchen to put her jammies on for an early bedtime, the next, I’m saving said jammies from a pool of vomit.

Ironically, this morning the cat had barfed all over those jammies anyway. Or karmaically, however you spell it.

Class. Every once in a while, I think up hypothetical English classes for college that I wish I’d had. My favorite has been “How not to write,” in which the class dissects great works of literature that they’ve always hated. Or Danielle Steele, I’m not sure yet. Maybe a smattering of classics and popular fiction both. –The point being that “What I hate about this book” is the real class that’s going on behind the professor’s back. Might as well use the angle to deliver the technique, I say.

Today’s hypothetical class is “Writers’ Writers.” I’d start out with Don Quixote, move to a couple of Borges short stories (the one about Don Quixote and the one about the infinite library), continue to The Name of the Rose. The Don Quixote section would be about including the reaction to one’s writing in the writing itself, as well as contextual criticism. The Library section would be about the purposes of books, the act of writing versus the work itself, that kind of thing. There’s a third section, too, but I’m not sure how to present it. I’d like to use a Foucault essay, “Preface to Transgression,” and The Illuminatus! Trilogy, but I think I might send someone to the emergency room from brain hemorage. The third section would be about the differences between descriptive, metaphorical, and programming language–does the language describe reality, does the language give ideas about reality, or does the language try to influence reality (or one’s perception of it) itself?

Probably not a freshman-level course.

Thinking about writing. I just do that.

I don’t know. Probably nobody’s going to come up with the ideas that I have. I realised yesterday that what I like most about people’s writing–including the things I consider masterpieces–is the writer’s style. Incidentally, the people who like what I write say they like the style. I went back through the stuff that Lee read, fleshed out the information he wanted, and let it have some style.

Much pleased with the result. Dunno if it’ll ever sell, but there you go.

Words back on the review. So Lee finally walked me through the first eight pages or so of the beginning of my novel. He doesn’t like it yet. The current problem in his opinion: not enough information. When you’re building a world, you can’t afford to…not build your world. Also, he said something about the characters that are going to be significant through the book need to be realized more quickly. Hm. Anyway, he liked the main character (which is a relief, since it was a major overhaul), and I got the impression that he was interested but too frustrated to enjoy reading it.

So. Finish the rest of this first section, go through the first eight pages again to include more information (and possibly develop the main character as well as a couple of the more important side characters), then beg him to read it some more.

Good review. Got my guts ripped out, but I don’t feel discouraged at all.

It must just be that time of life. Warning: Self-pity disguised as…well, pretty much just not disguised.

(Tangent: Today, the new manager of the department walked up to me and asked me how I was feeling. Thinking somehow he’d known I’ve had a gawdawful sinus cold and sounded like I was going to die yesterday with all the hacking and snorting, I said, “I feel a lot better, you know, the sinuses are no longer dripping snot down the back of my throat. Ugh.” He gave me this look and said, “De, thanks for keeping it real.” I just have to mention that he’s black, and he laid it on a little thick for a second there. All right. The guy’s not quite the stuffed shirt I’d feared. He’ll do.)

It’s too early to be menopausal, so it must just be that I’m approaching…twenty nine.

I was in the process of having a bad day and getting over it when suddenly Lee asked me, “But what do you want to do?” and I broke down. For the last couple of days, Jeff (Joe’s buddy from Iowa) had been staying with us, so on top of every other damn thing I had to pretend to be a semi-sociable person. Admittedly, Jeff’s a charmer, so it wasn’t hard–nevertheless, being in the house was equivalent to having no private time to recharge. And, since the guys stayed up all night playing Magic, having no romantical time to get down, either.

What I want doesn’t matter.

–That’s not to say that what I want doesn’t matter to the people around me. And that’s not to say that I never do what I want. What I want doesn’t matter to me.

Here I am, twenty-eight, reviewing my life subconsciously, I guess, and toting it up, I’ve accomplished miracles in areas I have no talent for. I have a good marriage to someone I love like destiny, and I have a joyful daughter that reciprocally delights me.

What about the rest of my life? I work at a bank. If that doesn’t say it all, here’s some more: most days, I don’t feel like bouncing off the walls or saying something stupid just to mess with somebody’s sense of reality.

Seriously, the only thing that keeps me from dying inside is the writing, and…it honestly doesn’t matter whether I ever finish this book. The accomplishments, the accolades, the appreciation, the respect of success and everything that goes along with it, I may never have. Even if I quit writing and try to do something else. Which I really don’t want to do, but for all my brains, I’m a housewife and quality checker for data entry at a bank.

I am so not satisfied.

And on a daily basis, it seems like a lot of my time is dedicated to making someone else happy, whether they appreciate it or not. I can trace this back to my Midwestern upbringing: I feel like I’ve been brainwashed into thinking that assertive behavior towards people I care about–or even people in polite contact–is selfish, low, and rude. My job is to take care of the house and the kids, my job is to support my spouse in whatever he does, my job is to just automatically, without comment, give up the things I want that conflict with my duties. It drove my mother crazy for many years, and it’s a burden on me now. Brains, in a woman, are of no importance. Creativity, outside of craft projects, was a glitch. The eighties didn’t help–having good grades was a stigma.

So it’s hard to have faith in the things I want to do and the things I’m good at.

Well, I’m tired of listening to myself whine, and I’m starting to trigger guilty feelings about letting it out again (because that’s selfish, you know, to express your real feelings when you’re upset. Go, Midwest!). Enough for now.


Do you remember the Bunnicula books? A friend of mine at work lent me the first three books in the new series, written by Howie (not the original dog, but a wirehaired daschund puppy). They have nothing to do with Bunnicula. Instead, they have everything to do with…writing.

Very cool. You get the story itself, interspersed with Howie’s writing journal.

The books are illustrated by the same guy (Brett Helquist) that does the Series of Unfortunate Events, and written in the same style, but for younger readers. You gotta wonder. The author’s name is James Howe…not Lemony Snickett, but there you go. I’d say they’re books for readers about five to nine, skip fifteen years, and finally you have enough of a sense of humor to enjoy them again.

Wow. I just checked out the recommended reading level at Borders. 9-12. No waaaaaaaay. Maybe I just know too many smart kids.

The third book (haven’t read yet) is supposed to be a parody of Harry Potter…Howie goes to Dogwiz academy…

Recommended reading list. I’m putting this up here mostly for my own benefit.

Ladies and Gentlemen…may I present:

The Locus Reading list.

La vache! La vache! I don’t know why, but this floats through my head:

When I took my semester of Spanish in Chamberlain, SoDak, of which I remember a great deal more than I remember my two years of German in Flandreau, I tried to make a joke about my mother’s age.

This is an important life lesson: don’t try to make jokes in Spanish. I tried to say–don’t ask my how to do it now–“My mother is twenty-nine, as she has been for the last ten years.”

I may not have said it right, because the teacher (fresh out of college) exclaimed, “She can-not have been twelve years old when she had you.” Breaking her rule of never speaking English in class, you see. I explained what I was trying to say, and she refused to translate it for me.

French, however, is a different matter. I had a friend with a similar temperament with whom I traded many witty jokes, such as, “You cow needs a lobotomy.” If I could remember how to say “need” in French, I’d translate it for you.

Plot. One of the bestest parts of taking a day off of writing in order to plot is that you can delight yourself with the details. The first time I forged through the section currently in front of me, the people at the farmhouse were mindless zombies. Now, I’ve met them, I know where they live, and I know who they remind me of. Cool. I have to throw in something about the…jeez. What do you call those things?

It’s a big refridgerator unit, full of earthworms on one side and fish on the other. Bait machine. Bait unit. Bait something.

Tangent: I went to a training class on customer service for work. Customer service is the big focus of W.F. in 2003, you know. (The focus of 2002 was positive change, i.e., surviving chaos. W.F., among other things, introduced the first new equity product in twenty years. The new revolution is a home refinance process that doesn’t suck ass. It’ll be a miracle.) Anyway. Besides listening to a woman with an English accent (Norwich) all day, I was also amused by an exercise in which we were interviewed and had to lie about one thing during our interviews. I stuck in factual but fantastic-sounding information: I went to a country school in the middle of nowhere; we had no running water. None of the Americans could believe it, but the English woman said that I certainly didn’t have two children. Boing!

And further, I’ve taken baths in my grandmother’s tin bathtub.

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