Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gruesome but Good

What if the overworked agents of the FDA and the animal welfare organizations could watch meat processing plants over a webcam? Bear with me--I know it's horrifying to think about where your food comes from, or what it goes through to get to be a hamburger or a tasty chicken wing, but if you love animals (or even have concern for the karmic implications), this is something you should want to happen. Even a moral vegetarian might get next to this idea as better than nothing.
  1. Set up webcams in meat processing facilities.
  2. Make them federal property so that destroying or deflecting them is a crime.
  3. Stream the footage for FDA agents and registered animal rights groups.
  4. Record randomly (continuously for suspected abuse).
  5. Secure access to the content so that it can't be hijacked.
For an extraordinary person's real change to the way animals are treated, see the website of Dr. Temple Grandin.

For those out there like me, who love animals but still eat meat, I'll tell you what my practice is:
I eat less meat. When I do eat meat, I eat seafood more often. I no longer shy away from the fact that meat is the body of an animal who shares my DNA, that I probably would have thought was cute, and that I would have risked my neck to protect from cruelty. I briefly acknowledge the life that has been given for me, and I promise that I will try to protect the right of each animal to have a good life for as long as it lasts.
I am grateful. I say thank you.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ass to Chair

My niece, a budding artist and musician, said today that it has been months since she has picked up her guitar, or drawn more than a few drawings. She had some suppositions about why she wasn't accomplishing more: she only liked to learn the guitar directly from a teacher; she felt that she should be able to learn music strictly by ear; she had learned what she wanted to know about drawing the human figure, so she didn't feel challenged.
She mourned her lost interest; she wondered how to find inspiration again.
You've got to apply ass to chair.
Art, music, writing--it doesn't happen without sweeping back the mundane world, clearing off the clutter, and offering your creative side a little room.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Prompt: Christmas Eve

Imagine you are a seven year old on the eve of your culture's holiest day. However, this holy day is the 2,000th anniversary of the Apocalypse, the day your people's religion was born.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Life as Usual

While I look for work, I continue to eat, drive, watch TV and read. Money is becoming tighter; I started to look for ways to save, ways to cut back.
This is what I was doing: not buying extras, like dinners out, books or a stereo for my iPhone; buying cheaper brands that may not be organic or free range; buying fewer Christmas presents; and considering putting off my charitable giving, usually done at the end of the year, until I am safely rolling in dough again.
But then I started listening to others say what they are doing in anticipation of the possibility of not having enough money, and I read about a study that indicated that when people are prompted to think about money, they reduce their generosity.*
It occurred to me that we tend not to think about the guy we didn't buy our pizza from, or the bookseller who didn't get our business. What's going to happen to them when I don't buy?

I can't spend the same way I did when my family had two incomes, but I will consider the other guy when deciding when--and where--to spend what I do have. I'll try to keep the world going 'round. Call it work karma.

* "How Money Hardens the Heart," Nov/Dec issue, Spirituality and Health Magazine,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Prompt: Ugly Reality

My family does not talk about the ugly things. A list of subjects I have rarely heard mentioned: throwing up, popping pimples, farting, cleaning up after a sick loved one, going to the bathroom, having a pelvic exam, descriptions of cruelty. In the same way, we don't discuss the darkest of our emotions or experience. All of us have experienced pain, but when we talk about it, it is "emotion recollected in tranquility." This editing of experience informs my writing, in that I don't usually want to write about the ugly realities.

The prompt:
  1. Choose one of your own main characters or a character you identify with, like James Bond, Spock, Katherine from The Taming of the Shrew, Ula in the Producers, or Agent 99.
  2. Think of a subject that you would not discuss readily--your own taboo.
  3. Write a scene in which the wonderful character has to deal with the undesirable subject.
  4. Here's the kicker: write against type. If the taboo is a bodily function, go for drama. If the taboo is violence or death, try for comedy or romance.
Yes, I know that you wouldn't show this piece to anyone, but it's an exercise. Stretch.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Wolf I Met in Tallahassee

I was in Tallahassee a dozen years ago, and there I met a woman who was a writer like me, but also a mother. She told me two unrelated stories: one was about the man she had been living with who turned out to be violent to her and to her children. The man was still a danger to them. Another was a dream she had that was haunting her. In it, a great gray wolf came into the room where her children were sleeping. She always woke up before the nightmare could come to what she saw as its inevitable conclusion.
I told her that if it had been my dream, I would see the wolf as my totem animal, and understand that I would be able to turn into a she-wolf in order to protect my children. I said that I thought the dream showed that she had everything she needed to protect her children, that she was powerful.
She thought I was nuts. She was sure the wolf was her nemesis and not her inner power.
I wonder sometimes how the wolf is doing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Prompt: What's My Motivation?

  1. Think about your character's driving characteristic.
  2. What animal might represent that characteristic?
  3. Write a scene from a dream your character might have featuring that animal.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Not Playing at the Playtime Drive-in, Sixty-three Hundred, Blanding Boulevard

I listened to a story on NPR about the new owners of the Playtime Drive-in. The property had been sold to a church, and the story made a big deal about the theater's "bad old days" as a XXX movie theater. The church was having a grand film-burning of all the movies left in the theater, treating it like a festival, with children playing and throwing movies on the fire.
The story made me uncomfortable, but I wasn't sure why.
Today, I looked up a story about the theater's closing. In the story, theater-goers and projectionists talked about the 60 years the theater was open, both as X-rated and family-oriented. They talked about how kids ran around the parking lot, met their friends, fell asleep in their parents' cars, and were conceived in the backseat. I compare that to the image of children frolicking around a celluloid bonfire.
I know which image makes me want to celebrate.
Closing of the Playtime Drive-in

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fun with Careerbuilder

I am reliably informed by an email I received via Careerbuilder that I am "perfectly fit" for a position as a warehouse associate. As I have always aspired to be a warehouse associate, I read on. I was really excited because there didn't seem to be any impediment: I'm a US citizen, I am WAY over 21, and I know how to use email. Very exciting!

But then I saw it, and I can't think that I really have this ability:
Can you deposit more than 2 cubic metres indoor?

Oh, the tragedy. I don't think I am able to deposit more than 2 cubic meters. Maybe outdoor, but not indoor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Your Mother!

I feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield today. After writing a 500 word press release about a 5,000 word article on nematodes and toads, I got this nasty-gram from the journal: "Thank you very much for providing a sample release for our journal. Our choice ultimately came down to finding a candidate that could grapple with the complex scientific content in our journal. We appreciate the time you took to apply..."

Never mind that I explained the subject in language that would be likely to catch an editor's interest -- what if I didn't? Did I deserve to be told that my intellect was lacking? Whatever happened to "Thank you, but we selected another candidate"?

Good grief. Or, as Rodney might say, "I get no respect!"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

To Score, to Cut, to Tear, to Write

I was considering today what makes a writer. The dictionary definitions are broad: "A person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., esp. as an occupation or profession," or "a writer is a person who is able to write and has actually written something." (!)

The ancient roots of the word "writer" come with a much better range of meanings: to score, to cut, to tear. Now that sounds like the experience I know and love--and hate.

I am a scorer, a cutter, a tearer of words; I am a writer.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Prompt: Relate Your Character's Age to Something That Isn't Age

As I get older, I can choose to think of the years in terms of wrinkles, bigger clothes, number of pills, and my shrinking future, or I can compare myself to all the things for which bigger is better. Last year I was a .44 caliber. 23 years ago, I was merely a .22.
This year, I'm a .45. Don't f--- with me!

So, do this:
How old is your character, or in what year was he or she born? Write a description of your character as it relates to that number.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dirty Money

What am I worth? --scratch that-- What is the work I do worth?
Since I became a feral writer, (an independent contractor, as some like to say), this has become more than a philosophical question.
To get paid, I need to know.

To find out, I look at this data:
  • What do people get paid around the country for doing this specific kind of project?
  • How much do I need to maintain my desired standard of living? #cats x $catfood + #books x $/book + bare survival + (fun/recession)
I then give weight to several factors:
  • If I'm perfect for the job, and not TOO good for it, bid high.
  • If the work is interesting to me, bid in the middle and/or offer to negotiate.
  • If I really need the work, bid on the low end of my range.
Bid what the job's worth, bid what's fair, and bid what I can afford. In the end, I'm selling a product, NOT my sweet self.

P.S. A nice site on what to charge:

Monday, November 10, 2008

For Sale: 1989 Plymouth Sundance

Selling my 1989 Plymouth Sundance. Blue with gray interior, 151,000 miles. Just professionally detailed, which totally got rid of a weird smell in the trunk after my boyfriend used it for a job.
Cheap! Make offer!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Prompt: Dream Character Personals Ad

When you first wake up, try to capture one character from your dreams whom you do not know in waking life. Note what was frightening or irritating about the character.

Pretending to be the character, write a personals ad that reveals that trait without the character knowing it.

Blogging Despite My Better Judgement

I read and enjoy a few blogs (Redneck Mother comes immediately to mind), but I have resisted starting my own because I don't think I have anything to say. Three reasons I'm here anyway:
  1. I keep getting asked if I have a blog.
  2. My friend Stephanie (who IS funny and ought to have a blog) told me I can be funny, which made me briefly big-headed.
  3. Forcing myself to write like this might be good for my stories.
I'll sometimes post writing prompts to make this less excruciating for both of us (trying not to nick from Jamie at Woodstream Writers).

Cure is the Condition

I loved stories from the moment I could decipher language, but perhaps I wanted to write my own because I was afraid.

When I was little, I could never sleep. I feared cockroaches, monsters, death, fire, ridicule, parasitic infection, and hell. Even as a teenager, I could see a "wolfman" on a paperback in the afternoon and need my father to talk me down by 3 am. In the overheated Florida night, I couldn't sleep without covers for fear illicit insects would walk over me. In the winter, with no heat, the fan still oscillated so that I couldn't hear the footsteps in my pillow.

I began to tell myself stories to drown out the internal noise that I couldn't block. Shaping my imagination kept it from becoming my nightmare.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Revising in Hell

I revise my novel using a pickax, then realize that what I really needed was a shovel.
So this is hell.