Monday, December 21, 2009

The Fenceposts of My Life

I might suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic school disorder), defined (by me) as how a student feels after entering writing intensive courses blindly, and surviving to tell about it. This past semester goes down as one of the most brutal. Many times I wanted to walk away from it all and take an "incomplete." But I hung in there, counting the days until the end while telling myself that I'd skip next semester.

Today I met with my U.S. History professor in order to learn my grade. Earlier this morning, I opened up my documents file and read part of a stagnant WIP, which was a regular "What the f**k was I thinking?" moment.

A few moments ago I registered for next semester.

Did I mention what my professor said? He said, "Your work was exemplary. A+, but really just an A because the college doesn't allow A+'s."

Hello, PTSD! (P.S. YAY ME!)

Many of you saw me fall off my writing edge only a few weeks ago. In my last blog post, Natasha Foundren commented that my "quitting moments" come near semester's end. I weighed her comment with other possible reasons for my "quitting moments" in order to gain some perspective. Admittedly, the year alone sucked for me. Bought a new house, didn't sell the old one, and losing my best friend, Daisy, all took a toll. We moved into our new house, and that same week I began the Fall semester.

But it wasn't until a few weeks ago that it all came to a head. My psyche took a nose dive, and well, you all know the rest. The thing is, you who "all know the rest" are the ones who have remained steadfast throughout my tumultuous times. And it recently dawned on me that those who understand me most are writers. Whenever I sit on the wire wondering, my writing friends always run to the rescue.

Through writing I've learned about me, and maybe that's because I see so much of myself in others. And that epiphany is rooted in one common denominator: Writers. It amazes me how much we all "get" each other. The people who understand the creative beast and have survived to talk about it have the uncanny and unconscious ability to accept what the rest of the world can't.

I'll admit, looking at one of my WIP's paralyzed my writing muscle a bit (or maybe it was the inner critic's guffaw). But, I'm not saying that I'm walking away from writing. It's hard to pull the creative beast's jaws from my hide. What I am saying is that perhaps I'll never cough up something that will catch an agent or editor's eye, but now I realize that writing isn't about the end, it's about the means. It's reality lined with fantasy - something mere mortals will never understand. And now that I "get it," have seen myself through others, I have the renewed strength to move forward.

And now I'm enrolled for another rousing semester. What's four more anxiety ridden months? The better part of valor is in the learning of ones self.

How/what have you seen in yourself through the eyes of others lately?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I know, I know. Am I gone or just plain crazy? I like to think of myself as anything but "plain," so suffice it to say I'm this:

You know, I have my moments, but basically it's the reason I write, which keeps me from falling over the edge.

Here's to my return. By fingernails I cling to reality, for if I grasp it life just gets too messy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Consider me gone

Wit's end has approached. Call it a mark in the "win" column for inner critic, or me realizing that just thinking about writing nauseates me. Today I've reached my breaking point and it tells me to call it quits.

My ability to cope: gone. This writing life is a struggle, but when it gets to the point where ideas stop coming, perhaps it's the Universe saying "not the life for you." I'm good with that.

I suppose I could say that certain people have pushed me over the edge, but they don't know what their actions have caused, so it's sort of a moot point.

Instead I'll sit on the sidelines and cheer for my lovely friends; feel sorrow for the brilliant ones who can't make it in the bigs because their reality is misunderstood.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Personal Apocalypse

Four weeks left in the semester, and you'd think I'd be eager for the time off before the next one rolls around. I've griped about research papers, reading chapters and simply attending classes. All said, I should run screaming from the campus come December 22.

But, I'm not feeling the excitement, at least not as I had been. I had grandiose plans on how to spend the six weeks of free time, which included organizing my office (it presently looks like the bookshelves and file draws barfed), read some books that have sat collecting dust, and last but not least, begin writing in either a new work, or in one already started.

Simply put, I'll most likely organize my office and read one book, for the inner critic has already began chewing on the latter of the three. For weeks I've looked forward to writing again. I even found a kick-ass writing group to join, which involved rejoining RWA, but this new group felt right, so I jumped on board. No regrets there.

Regret comes with my shiny new idea, which had evolved over the past few weeks, and then yesterday kicked up a notch with, what I thought, a stellar revelation. It took on that "love at first sight" feeling. I felt all warm and fuzzy and actually felt its promise and strength.

And then I shared the idea with another. That's where self-doubt reared its ugly-assed head. Other person brought up some thoughts on my idea, such as, where's the conflict, what about this character, what if this one did this, that, etc., etc.,?

My answer: I don't know. Not one answer sprang to mind and suddenly I felt my lofty feeling nose dive into the jaws of ugly inner critic. All my wonderful ideas lost momentum. Worse yet, I was reminded of the fact that eventually I'd have to share my story with others. Do I want to go through all that again? All those "constructive" criticisms were all but forgotten. My thick skin somehow shed a few layers while working on my degree. Am I ready to hear things such as, "What's your character's GMC?" I'm still having trouble figuring an answer to that question for the last six manuscripts I've written, of which only three completed. Perhaps the last three are left unfinished because I don't have answers to questions such as "What's your character's GMC?"

Humbling experience, this writing path. It takes you from the stratosphere to ground zero in one fell swoop. Do I need the aggravation? Is there enough Xanax in the world to assist in my endeavor to cough up yet another unfinished manuscript? My ducks in a row have fallen to the sniper's buck-shot. Woe is me...

Sometimes I think being away from writing is a lot like quitting an exercise routine (which I have since school began). Gravity has defeated muscle. In order to get back in the groove, I'll have to start off slowly; small jogs and thirty ab-crunches in order to wake up the body. But what will it take to wake up my muse, or at least to get her out of the cave she skittered off to when my shiny new story idea first went into question.

Putting the writing wheels back in motion is more daunting, I believe, than keeping up my GPA. How to recapture my euphoria, that's the question of the day.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Reality Bites

"Is it real, or did you just make that up?" This phrase marches through my head when I write a scene. My deeper subconscious houses the ever present Ugly Inner Critic. At times he's silent, but his snickers aren't lost on me whenever I wonder if the scene I've just written will end up at the end of someones finger point.

The finger point, just my metaphor for whenever someone else reads my work and says things such as, "A guy wouldn't say something that," or, "Not a very sexy name for a hero," and my personal favorite, "A horse would never act like that." Hasn't anyone seen Mr. Ed? Just kidding, but still...

Let's get something straight, shall we? I write fiction, my loose interpretation of make-believe. In the worlds I create, yeah, a guy would "say something like that," heroes won't have "sexy" names, and horses get to act any way that I want them to. I'm writing to entertain, as well as provide an escape from reality.

Last week author Erica Hayes made a guest appearance at Magical Musings. Here's something she said that resonated with me, "The more like real life, the more boring the book." I screamed at the monitor, "Amen, sister!" because she validated what I always felt, but through the opinions of others, I began to suppress.

And here's something else. The things perceived as un-real by the "finger-pointers" I've experienced in real life. What can I say? My past is filled with weirdness. And I take license to embellish on reality as a fiction writer, because I CAN.

As writers, shouldn't we pay attention to the unreal things that happen in real time? I do. The unexpected things people have said or done stay with me, almost like they're tattooed to my brain. Yet, comments from the "finger-pointers" stay with me while I write, as if they know my characters better than me.

And that's the point. No one knows my characters or my story better. The situations I come up with, crazy as they are, come from weird experiences in my life. My past is sprinkled with exceptions to the rules, which have fed my imagination. I refuse to "get real."

So the next time I sit down with the Epic (my metaphor/pet name for WIP, not to be confused with War and Peace), I'm going to picture Erica Hayes pointing her finger at me and saying, "The more like real life, the more boring the book." And at least, for me, the writing experience will be absent Ugly Inner Critic.

Anyone else utilize weird and unexpected experiences from their past in their present writings?

Disclaimer: This blog piece isn't a disclaimer on my writing, or an attempt at self-righteousness. ;)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Celebrate the First Amendment!

How many know their First Amendment rights? As a reader and writer, I was served a reminder of its importance by following this link: Banned Books Week September 26 - October 3, 2009.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just a Phase?

Note: I posted this piece yesterday, and today I woke up with an entirely new perspective on the beast, which proves that publicly sharing angst divides problems to the point where they're no problem at all. Thanks, Universe, for so many wonderful, helpful and compassionate friends. (You all know who you are...)

hen to decide it's really over? Lately, through the musings of other authors, different components revealed the dark under-belly of writing: Publishing. Some publishers dropped print lines without informing its authors; agents not performing to full capacity; the chronic debate of what publishers want/expect. It's as if the publishing industry is a ruthless lot of cutthroats - the Debbie Downers of entertainment. And then there's validity. Some published writers objecting to the non-published writers' thoughts and opinions. "Hah!" some will say. "I'm published, you're not. Take your opinion and shove it!"

Well, okay then. Maybe I will.

I long for those naive days when I penned the first Epic. Day and night I wrote, so in love with my story. It was like a ridiculous crush on the cute boy who finally realizes you exist. I could not get enough of it or the two following Epics. For sure, I felt, I'd see publication. My Epics were masterpieces (in my mind).

Now I'm not feeling that love - not for the writing and clearly not for the publication road. For me it's a case of "too much knowledge is a bad thing" scenario. How happier I was in not knowing the forensics of writing and publication. My personal La-La Land. Just me and my pen.

Did I mention that the joy of reading has dissipated, too? Used to be I could swallow a book in its entirety within a day or two. Now I find myself in the thralls of guilt if I do that, thinking that I should be writing, not reading. Not to mention, reading is now an unconscious editing if I know that much about writing. Hah!

Where does it all lead? Is it a matter of joy vs. getting-the-job-done? My present feeling for writing and the lack thereof reminds me of my reasons for self-retirement. I left the job market because getting up in the morning was more painful than a slow bikini wax. Necessary, yet excruciating. My profession lacked self-fulfillment. I did not quit the normal work force in order to be a full-time writer, however. Writing did not come into play until almost a year later. Just something I decided to undertake, the voices in my head wanting a more tangible venue, thus, the Epics to follow.

That's not fun anymore. Learned too much. When thinking of writing for publication my thoughts waver to a more hermit way of life. The "Big Dance" is far out of reach, its preparation daunting. My heart aches for the times of blissful writing that entertains me.

Lately, the other writers don't seem as if they're having fun either. Was it always like that, back before I focused on publication road?

Perhaps it's my age getting in the way. I feel life shortening. That said, I want to enjoy more, angst less. Writing for publication just ain't doing it for me in that regard.

Is this blog my swan song? I'm not sure. Certainty comes in small bites these days. I drown in waves of doubt while longing for simple joy. "Take time off," some will say, but when I return the same dark underbelly awaits. "She's a quitter!" others might think. "Not a real writer in the first place." And there's the rub. Define what a real writer is, and maybe I can see things differently.

For now I sit on this fence, pondering which side appears greener.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Confessions of a Slacker

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been over eight (count 'em - EIGHT) weeks since I've last written...

But I'm not going down on my knees for forgiveness. I've got my reasons for being absent from the scriptorium, and even if that's a loser's excuse, so be it. I'm only human. Life happens. Guilt is for the insanely uptight perfectionists of the world. Let them take up room in that small, dimly lit confessional. I'm standing right out in broad daylight to say that I haven't written one stinking word in my Epic In Progress and I'm feelin' alright.

Life happens. We can't always carve out space for commitment to the pen and paper. Except for authors whose daily bread depends on their craft, the rest of us need to view it as a lesson in priorities. Or, maybe it's just the Universe telling us, "Hey, take a break and suck up some life, will ya?" because for this writer, life is story fodder. Where else to get cool ideas if not out there where life happens? It's sort of like dating; you're not going to meet Mr./Ms. Right by staring at the four walls of your house. You have to go where the action is. Interact with life's breath.

Yet, I'm a bit bothered, personally, that when this slacker cycle of mine ceases, I'll stare at my Epic and say, "Who in the hell are you?" Better yet, I'll probably say, "Who wrote this shit?" And there rests the slacker-dom rub. While life pulled me away from the pages in five thousand other directions, ugly-assed inner critic (U-AIC) did not take a break. This is where fear rears its ugly head as I pick up where last keystroke landed, the breaking moment that could push me back into slacker-dom.

Will it be like riding a bike after falling off, a wheel or two missing? That could make getting back on track extremely difficult. How do I kill ugly-assed critic before taking up pen again? That is my question. I'm giving this serious consideration because next week I plan to embark on a writing blitz (between unpacking boxes and returning to school). What sort of discipline will stop U-AIC from whispering those famous words, "Hey, you suck?"

Answer: The way I'll view my Epic. Not with eyes meant to discredit every word written, but with the eyes of an encouraging editor, one who would say, "It's a little wonky here, but damn, this part here is brilliant!" I feel I have a choice on procedure. Either I embrace the beauty with unconditional love, or I set out on the path of self defeat. It's all about knowing who I really am and not give in to U-AIC's belittling needles of contempt. It's a matter of realizing that the Epic is only going to get better because I'm ready to hit the pavement running. That's my choice.

Am I alone in my chosen slacker-dom? Those willing to admit the same, please share your experience in returning to the pages and how you dealt with the evil U-AIC.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Playing Along

Michelle at Magical Musings is doing this today, and since I'm a sucker for blog links, I'm going to play, too. (In case you aren't a "sucker for blog links," become one by clicking on the "this" link, as well as "Michelle at Magical Musings.")

Here are my answers to the request at "this" link:

  • What book(s) made you a better writer? Writing True, The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction, by Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz.
  • What book(s) made you cry? Wow, that's a tough one. Gotta go with Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper and of course, Little Women (need I mention the author?).
  • What book(s) made you laugh until you were in tears? All of Christopher Moore's books. Every stinkin' one of them.
  • What book(s) made you feel like you could conquer the world? The Artists' Way by Julia Cameron.
  • What book(s) have you read three times or more? None. Twice, yes, but three times, never.
  • What book(s) kept you up all night reading? Back when I could read at night, it was Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin and (blush) Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls.
  • What book(s) do you want to read again? Nicole Galland's Fool's Tale.
  • Any other recommendations? Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Hat Trick, a/k/a, The Threesome

My life has turned into the Rule of Three, having just realized that I have begun to read three books and have three Epics In Progress. All begun, none ended. I'm left with three choices each, but I already know which Epic In Progress I intend to finish. I'll rephrase that. I know which one I'll finish first.

Still, out of the three books I've tried reading, I need to pick which one to sit down and finish. It's just that I'm not that into them.

I'm not divulging titles or authors. Suffice it to say, they're all well published authors, one a prolific writer for decades. They just haven't kept me rapt, and I have to wonder what these authors would think if they knew their books didn't pull me into finishing them. Isn't an important element of novel writing to create a story that rivets me to their pages?

So often we hear the phrase, "Must have a great opening hook." Well, that's all well and good. I don't disagree, but, there better be something after the hook to keep me on the line, and I think that's the problem with all three books. Brilliant openings, but not enough to keep me attached, or anxious to get back to the book. And then I wonder, is it me or is it the dress? Maybe I'm just too preoccupied with other things and just haven't taken the time to assert myself into their pages.

But still...isn't it every writers' goal to create a world that pulls in the reader to the point they never want to leave it? Or maybe it's that after several published books these particular authors just didn't care. Is it possible I'm reading their "dog" editions? I've heard that many authors put out a "dog" every so often. Could it be I wandered into the dog pound without realizing it?

I digress...

Here I sit with three unfinished books, a parallel to my three unfinished Epics. The difference: My Epics will keep the reader right where I want them (she says with an evil cackle). And my Epics are unfinished because, well, just because, that's all. No disclaimers. They just aren't finished yet, and I'm not dead yet, so, they'll get done before then. I do plan on being a published author before I meet my friend, Reaper. And when I'm on that publishing roll I intend on keeping away from the dog pound. You know what they say, when you lay down with dogs, you wake up with a bitch.

But it is a bit odd that I have this threesome going...

Anyone else out there feeling the eerie parallels lately?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reinvention: The Other Side of Me

Tennessee Williams' name was formerly Thomas Lanier Williams; he dropped the first and middle names, adopting the name of a state where he didn't live (he originated in Mississippi, which would have sounded weird). Thereafter his art soared to a new level, or as Gore Vidal stated in a new introduction of The Judgment of Paris, "An entirely new and splendid writer had spun his way out of what had originally been a moth's chrysalis."

Vidal himself did the coccoon mambo, further stating in the introduction, "My first novels were written in what I called 'the national manner'; as flat literal naturalistic style. Then I came to write this book (The Judgement of Paris)."

In shedding his old style, his career spanned decades, still writing to this day.

As I read the intro to Judgment I saw myself there, my style a blend of what I thought worked and what I'd learned from others. My days of direction and focus slowly diluted to ones of aimless meanderings.

Recently by choice I quit writing, knowing that I was going around in circles, which always leads to the same conclusion. My gut said it was time to quit; my heart said, "But you'll be back." After letting life have its way with me the past month and a half, which included suffering the loss of my dog, dealing with a new home and the stress of selling the old one, I felt the cocoon fold around me.

While in chrysalis I found a new direction - grew new wings. But rather than leap into the air blindly, I'll slowly unfold and let the breeze take me through what's to be. And although I'm a few weeks out from sitting down and actually diving back into my Epic In Progress, I'll do so with a clean slate and strong wings - no crumbs for the hungry inner critic to savor.

I have my support systems in place; they know who they are and never left my side throughout (special thanks to Edie, Erica O, LaDonna, Marcia & Nancy) - wonderful writers who've supported me through my journey to limbo and back. I'm fortunate to know this special group of talent.

No regrets - that's my life and there's nothing I'd change.


Saturday, July 18, 2009


Could be forever, but I'm taking some necessary time-out from cyberspace. No more blogs or Facebook. For those who have it, contact me via email if you care to say hello.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

With a Little Help From My...

I've been in a writing jam lately. The Epic In Progress (The E.I.P, not to be confused with E.I.N), has nagged me, even though I intentionally put the entire mess on the closet shelf. That's right. All notes, printed pages and other roughness is right there in a big red accordion file. Now that the Spring semester is in full swing, I knew I wouldn't look at the E.I.P for a bit. But, still, there it is, nag, nag, nag.

The problem started with my decision to re-write the prologue in another p.o.v. I mentioned my block in the previous blog. Two of my friends, Stevie P. and Erica O. (that sounds so diva-ish), suggested it's not me, it's the E.I.P. Erica suggested brainstorming with a friend.

Saturday, while searching for her phone number, my girlfriend Marcia Colette called me. Yes, it was a Twilight Zone moment. Oh what a relief! After we bantered about this and that, I changed conversation-gears, and said, "I know why I can't move forward with my Epic," and I proceeded to unload the reasons. Never missing a beat (she rarely misses anything) Marcia said, "You have got to put that all behind you and get on with it."

If that conversation took place face to face, her face would have been in mine. Finger jabbing my chest - I felt it over the microwave. Damn, she's one powerful babe! And as if we were face to face, we brainstormed; I laid out my thoughts for the new prologue to her; she said something like, "Yes! That'll work!" and that afternoon, I sat down and wrote it. Just like that. But...

there was a prelude to Saturday. Is it possible the Universe can read emails? I know if I speak out loud, I get results, but an email request? This past Friday I said in an email to Erica O., "Now if only I could wrap my brain around the actual writing of it... It'll come. I have faith. It'll come."

The next day, Bam! Phone call with Marcia; me sitting down and writing.

I'm a huge believer that when there's something you need, say it out loud. And now I'm thinking that writing the wish had the same impact. I told Erica, albeit in an e-mail, that I had faith. I believed it would come. It did, with a little help from Marcia.

See how the Universe is? Always there, whether you believe in it or not.

It continued to amaze me. Last night I watched an interview on 60 Minutes of Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay. He said about his group, "We rely more on enthusiasm than actual skill. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically and people will like it more." Steve Kroft, CBS correspondent conducting the interview, said that the group is "confident that they are not yet as good as they are going to be."

I can't stop thinking about Chris Martin's statement. It's had an overwhelming impact on my psyche ever since, provoking thought. Enthusiasm the higher power over skill. And I'm confident that after digging into the Epic just one more time, that I'm "...not yet as good as" I'm going be.

Always strive for greatness; do so with complete enthusiasm. "People will like it more." Could that be because true writing comes with gut gusto? I think so, and feel that the root of my recent block was forgetting to just let go. Forget about the skill, whether you're sentences are the correct structure, or if the world's going to like your work. Keep focus on what matters - the passion in you. It'll breed greatness, I believe.

And when the going gets bogged down, it's always best to reach out for a lifeline. In my case, they found me - Stevie P., Erica O. and the lovely ass-kicker, Marcia.

Do you find you're sometimes forgoing enthusiasm/passion for skill? Have you had any "Cue the Twilight Zone Music" moments you'd care to share?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Ephiphany: Not A Christmas Story

Erica Orloff is the catalyst for this blog edition. Through various emails back and forth with her recently, as well as her blog this week, I've seen my path more clearly.

I'm talking about education, enlightenment, and the fact that open minds come to those humble enough to realize that it's the only way to true self. Stagnation will set in otherwise, as it does in an old house of which its window never opened to let in light and fresh air.

Here's an admission for you. For quite a while I thought there was no reason for me to go to college, thinking that at my age what's the sense. (Backstory: I didn't attend college after high school.) In fact, I came very close to bagging this semester - I was having a "so what" moment. Other things drew my attention, such as working on my current Epic In Progress (EIP).

But the EIP is going nowhere. It still simmers in my mind, but two days ago I sat down to figure out where it was going, and I came up with nothing. Days before that it nagged the back of my mind. Not the story itself, but the fact that I just couldn't budge on it. Immediately I felt like a loser/slacker. And then, of course, ugly Inner Critic rustled his wings as he jabbed a thorny nail into my gut. Snicker, snicker. That's what I heard him say. Or maybe it was more of a snort, snort.

And then yesterday in Fiction to Film class I learned something new about adaptations. We saw a short film based on a short story by Nanci Kincaid. The discussion that followed was filled with a plethora of interpretation. Beauty filled the room, except for one opinion that was so narrow-minded I wanted to...well, let's just say it was too stupid for words, yet, it didn't ruin the experience for me.

This empowerment, did it sit me down to write brilliance in my EIP? No. But my mind widened that much more, and when that happens, thoughts abound, even if not directed to the EIP.

Those thoughts bred more. I felt so strong today. I let my mind have fun. And as it skipped barefooted through puddles of new knowledge, a couple of thoughts came forth that I'm sharing here.

Thought Numero Uno: My static EIP. Either the Universe feels now's not the time to mess with it, or I'm in need of a writer's Boot Camp. Or maybe a shock camp. Something might be necessary to kick-start the thing, but for now I'm just going to remain a faithful college student, keeping my focus on learning.

Thought Numero Duo: Critiques. Let's face it. No one loves hearing what's wrong with their story. I think where some writers feel the pinchy-ness of truth, though, might be in its delivery. Praise is a wonderful thing, but it also eclipses the "other stuff." I've been guilty of this. If I didn't like "other stuff," the non-praising words, I'd shove them aside and well, that got me nowhere. And I knew the "other stuff" was probably right, but the delivery was off. But in last years Eng. Lit. class, the professor work-shopped an essay with me. His suggestions went something like this: "This is good, but I think it would improve if you tried yada yada yada..." His delivery made all the difference. It stopped the eclipse. I wanted to improve from "good" to "better," and maybe on to "GREAT!"

Those are the thoughts I wanted to share. My mini-revelations that came bathed in bright light. The Dr. Phil "Ah-ha" moment compliments of open-mindedness.

I believe that good writing begins when the writer realizes there's always room for improvement. Whether multi-published or struggling to get a foot in an agent's door, remaining open-minded is the key to accomplishment.

I know I'm reiterating some of today's Erica Orloff blog, but in doing so I'm admitting that there was a time when I thought I knew everything I needed to know about writing, as well as other things. Maybe everything. Yet within the last year and a half I've seen personal growth, and it comes from surrounding myself with people who share knowledge kindly, like Erica Orloff for instance.

Have you had bouts of know-it-all-ness? In other words, have you ever felt you've reached the highest knowledge peak, in any aspect of your life? Any revelations you want to share?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beat It, Just Beat It.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

From Introduction To Poetry by Billy Collins.

I love that particular slice from Billy Collins. The first day of Eng. Lit. Spring Semester 2008, the professor passed out the above poem, in its entirety. What surfaced as a result was Billy Collins' replacing my love affair with Sting, as well as learning there's more to stories than just entertainment.

You discuss, analyze and interpret. And above all else, I learned the true meaning of subjectivity; that what's one persons love is anothers poison. Not everyone likes the same thing, and if they do, it's not always for the same reason.

Yesterday wasn't any different. Spring Semester 2009. The class: Fiction to Film. Its outline: adaptation theory, literary terms, film terms, adaptation analysis, script writing. Same professor as last Spring Semester; different hair and beard style. I thought that maybe during Winter break he participated in Civil War re-enactments, I'm just not sure for which side.

But differing from last year, Professor Curt first issued a writing prompt. He asked each student to imagine their lives as a bio-pic, and list ten instances that would be included in said bio-pic.

After I had three listed, he told us to stop where we were, pick one and write it. And as always, stories to be shared with the masses.

It'd been a while since I wrote from prompt, and even longer since I read my writings to the masses. I'd be lying if I told you it was a "no sweat" moment. My pits went into overdrive; my knuckles turned white, and I think I experienced a slight stroke. Yet, I pushed along. This was a "Defy the inner critic" moment. Gut writing. Good old "stream of consciousness" while remembering what my hand writing looked like.

But I coughed up a page and a half in eight minutes. He timed it, task master that he is. And so began the oral portion of the show. One by one, students read, going around the room of conference tables set up like the Apaches were coming any minute.

Luckily, I staged myself at a corner end, near the door. Not that I was planning a fast escape. I just like sitting by the door, at the end. And nine times out of ten, I'm out of professorial peripheral vision.

He didn't ask anyone to go first. He's much more diplomatic. He waits for someone to volunteer. My arm never goes up first, thank God for that. Don't you hate having everyone see that dark circle under your pit?

The stories commenced. Some wrote from their gut and it was great. Some wrote proving purple prose is an art lost on the non-creative over-achiever. Some wrote with the point of proving how clever they mastered the thesaurus.

And then there were the gifted ones whose blood flowed dark ink, snapping my ears to their direction, misting my eyes. It renewed my love for pure, natural talent. The future of literature did not die with Updike. It transcends, and did so right there in the class room.

And then there was my story. I don't know where it fit in with the genius around me, but I gave myself credit for recalling that snippet from my past. It was real. I didn't fabricate. It wasn't sad or dark. I share it here as transcribed from my scrawl - semi-edited:

Fifth grade. The tender years today known as the tweens. Not yet a teen, yet still playing with Barbies when no one is looking.

I was enrolled in Catholic school from K to present - fifth grade. The previous grade JFK was assassinated; my teacher was an oddity - she wasn't a nun, and I loved her.

Each year it was the luck of the draw. You didn't know who you'd get stuck with for a teacher. All fifth grades prayed they'd get the cute little Sally Field nun - and not...

Sister Stephen King. The woman stood five feet tall - she'd call roll the first day and tell each kid that she'd taught your older brother and your mother.

And when the first snowfall came, she'd remind everyone not to throw snowballs, and then told of the time one of her students got into a snowball fight - took one in the eye, and came to class with it dangling down his cheek. "It dripped with blood," she said while running a finger down her own face.

Duly noted; thanks for the mental picture, sis.

I think I dodged snowflakes after hearing that one and slept with a light on for weeks - the nightmares - students stuffed in snowsuits - eyeballs dangling down their cheeks.

I often wondered why nuns weren't brought up on charges. Was it fair to exclude them just because they weren't priests?

The last line got a laugh. One student asked if I made the story up. "Hell no," I said. "Those nuns were Torquemada reincarnate." That didn't get a laugh. "Torque who?" I'm sure seared those post pubescent brain cells. "Torque who?"

So, yeah. I'm the oldest in the class, but no one can call me James Frey, simply because I don't write fictional memoirs, and another student already has that distinction, at least, in my secret joke box, he does. The kid read his story and I knew it was total bullshit only because of an impossible "fact" he wrote. Does the kid not know who I am? I'm savilicious! Yeah, that's right. Savvy by default. I could be most of the students' grandmother, and if any of them dares call me that, well, let's just hope they don't, that's all.

After all was said and done, what I took away from the first class was this: That youth is wasted on the young; that many have experienced too much darkness for such tender ages; and that through it all, I still see a hopeful future for all.

And I'm that much closer to my degree.

Stay tuned. Next up: My first day in "Stress Relief Through Exercise."

Monday, January 26, 2009

My Pet's Name is Peeve

I have a name and it's not "Honey." But there's a waitress in a local restaurant I went to this past weekend who thought so. In fact, everyone at the table had the same name. This wasn't a dive diner. The place was semi-tastefully decorated. Upon entering, a bar stretched along one side, its surface polished, candles placed at intervals reflecting the shine. The dining room was dimly lit; linen table clothes with starched napkins sitting in the center of plates like mini-pyramids.

The waitress handed out menus while rattling off specials, and then took our drink orders. "Honey, what do you want?" she said to my brother-in-law. I felt my gut twist and waited for him to make a remark once she split, but he didn't.

As the evening wore on, so did the waitress on my nerves. "What do you want on your salad, honey? Can I get you anything else, honey?"

"Yes, you can," I wanted to say. "Get me a sharp knife. I feel a homicide coming on." But still, I bit my tongue, so much that by the end of dinner my speech sounded like I'd had one too many wines, honey.

Don't call me "honey." I hate it even when my husband calls me that. I just do. He knows my name, but still, he'll call me "honey" and I've given up telling him that I hate it.

That aside, finally when the check came, my sister said, "If she called me 'honey' one more time, I was going to smack her one."

Thank you, sis! I thought it was just me. I no longer felt my usual anal self. And then my husband chimed in, agreeing that it was enough, already. (At that point my tongue bled.)

As with most things in life, less is more. In the case of the waitress, once was enough. I'm willing to give a pass if it's just a minor slip, but the entire night? The only things missing were a southern drawl, pink uniforms and a bald man doing the cooking.

Same goes for words overused in writing.

For instance, I just finished reading the third in the Jeff Lindsay's "Dexter" series. Brief review: not bad, but not great compared to his first two. On to my peeve. The author over-used certain phrases/words, ones that would have stood out if used once or twice. They were creative, yes, which made them stand out and all the more annoying through repetition. "He goggled me," he wrote, the verb "goggled" defined as "to stare with wide and bulging eyes."

So maybe the character doing the "goggling" had big, bulging eyes. I get that. But, seeing it over and over just made my eyes bulge. I don't want to pick on the author. After all, he's published and I'm not. But even multi-pubbed authors have habits they need to monitor, in my opinion.

Did "goggling" jerk me out of the story? Nope. It just annoyed me while I read the story. Sort of like shoppers who I think are talking to me, only to realize they have a hands-free cell phone piece stuck in their ear. Annoying? Yes. Does it keep me from shopping? Hell no. Only an earthquake does that.

Another on my pet peeve list when it comes to writing is dialog tags. Not the usual "he said, she said." I'm talking about writers who find fifty different ways of saying "said," and then using them over and over.

And then there are all those discussions over dialog tag use. Who hasn't read about, taken a class in, or gotten confused by, them? There's always conflicting opinions, too. Example: "Go to your room!" she spat. Nope, can't use spat according to some. Apparently, you can't "spit" words.

Who cares? I don't, but many do, so I say, why not just keep it simple? Use "said." And if you're using it too much, or feel the need to dig up newer and fancy "saids" then maybe you've got too much dialog. Just my opinion. Dialog falls into my "Less is more" category, too.

But again, I'm not published, so maybe I need to shut up already. I just know what I like, and I don't like an entire scene that's nothing but dialog. If I want dialog, I'll read a Shakespeare play. It takes a special person, I believe, to read a play of any kind. All those soliloquies make my eyes glaze over. As if Shakespeare's use of them isn't torture enough, how about having to memorize them? I had to memorize "The Quality of Mercy" speech from "Merchant of Venice", my English teacher Torquemada reincarnated.

Perhaps that's why long paragraphs of dialog make me push the book aside. I'm blaming my Freshman English teacher for my present day pet peeve. I despise long dialog. And I'm not referring to those broken up with some action. I'm talking about the ones that stretch for close to ten sentences. It creates the mental picture of the character turning blue while speaking. If that's the writer's intention, well, fine. It makes me stop reading, so there. It's my pet peeve.

I think it's lazy writing.

But then again, I'm not a published writer. Yet. And don't call me "honey" in your comments, or I'll come to your blog and tag you. Oh yes. You will feel my wrath as I bestow upon you another one of my pet peeves.

On a different note, Spring semester begins this week. Every Wednesday and Friday for the next four months I'll be getting closer to my degree. That said, and just because some want to re-live college, I'm going to devote this blog to my life as a 54 year old college student.

Stay tuned. Maybe we'll all learn something new.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It Takes a Village to Write a Book

I'll admit it. I never understood the reason to have a crit-partner, thinking that a story only needs one author. Right? Wrong. Call me St. Paul, but I have seen the light. I've felt the conversion from "know-it-all" to "don't-know-all-but-learning."

In theory, I'm a great writer, theory meaning it's what I tell myself in order to keep the inner critic's mouth shut. Besides, if I don't believe in myself, who will? But, the fact remains that without the helpful eyes of others, my work goes untested. It's just so-so, and other than friends and relatives telling me they "love" my writing, they're friends and relatives. Either they haven't written anything, or they want to say what they think I want to hear.

I don't want to hear accolades. I want the truth. And the only way I'll get the truth is from someone who knows what it takes to make my work better. Thus, an extra set of eyes necessary, keen ones that tell it like it is, even if it makes me cry.

I didn't cry. In fact, I wanted to book a flight to Raleigh just so I could hug and hug her. After sending her a chapter from my Epic In Progress, Marcia Colette said, "Oh honey, there's nothing happening in this chapter," or something like that.

Exactly what I needed to hear. Not only did she slap me up the side of my head, but she then beat me down to a pulp pointing out other errors of my ways.

That's what friends do. They care enough to let you have it, fearless of the outcome. And I'm finding that it takes more than moi to write a great book. Mind you, others have read my work. There was all those contest entries where I received good/bad/use-what-you-can-can-what-you-can't feedback. And let's not forget the agent rejection via a phone call, praising my voice, hating the main character. Those all helped me develop a thick-skin, however, Marcia backed up her claims with specific advice, ideas and details.

She pointed out why the main character wasn't cutting it and advice on how to improve him, that the back-story dumping should be removed but saved somewhere in order to use bits of it later, and finally, to make the prologue the first chapter (I wanted to dump it - but she convinced me otherwise).

Epiphany is a great thing. I still believe in myself, but I now realize that it takes more than that to arrive at greatness. I find that it's essential to put aside all the stubbornness, ego, and other rot that doesn't get the story into the hands of a savvy agent. It's time to wake up and accept the fact that in order to survive in this business, you gotta have friends who aren't afraid to be honest - friends caring enough to set you on the right path to success.

Maybe in my pre-epiphany phase I feared hearing the truth. Perhaps somewhere deep down I believed I could do this all by myself. Wrong again, and I've never been happier to admit that. Marcia knows me well and maybe that's key. And it's not that we're "crit-partners," it's that we've developed a bond over the years that breathes instinctual, no-holds-barred trust.

I believe all writers like to see others succeed. Maybe that's naive on my part, but in the circle of friends I've made since embarking on the road to publication, we all have each others backs. For instance, take my friend Edie Ramer, who once again has made it through to another round of The Romantic Times' American Title V contest. A few years back I needed help with a great agent hook. No one hooks like Edie. I sent her what I had; she sent back her suggestions, and I'll be damned, it was so brilliant that those I tested it on said, "Now that's a story I want to hear more about," or something like that. Suffice it to say, it kicked some serious buttocks, and that hook's going into my query, once I get that particular manuscript ready for the ride.

See? Writers want other writers to succeed. I want Edie to succeed like I'm the one in the American Title V contest. Since I'm not, myself and all my alter-egos have voted for Edie at You can read her entry here, and then cast your vote, putting "DEAD PEOPLE" in the subject line of your email.

Returning from that segue, I'll conclude with this thought: That the greatest writers didn't get to where they are today on ego. I believe it was with a little help from their friends that got them there. It has to be the case, otherwise there wouldn't be all those lengthy acknowledgments at the end of most books, right? Perhaps the day will come that I won't need the extra help, but I can't imagine not wanting it.

So what say you, my fellow writing aficionados? Crit-groups, crit-partners, beta-readers, or go it all by your lonesome?

Don't forget to vote for my friend Edie.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Real Time With Kath a/k/a The Babblings of an Inaugural Play by Play Wannabe

I was replying to emails while watching the inauguration today, from 10:00 a.m. and still going strong (watching, that is). Not realizing it, one of my emails became a "real-time" transcription of the events leading up to, and including, the inauguration. This happened while replying to an email from Marcia Colette. It's upon her suggestion that I post it here.

I call it "Kath's Unconscious Inaugural Play-By-Play"

Maybe I should trade my kid for your rabbit. Great idea, right?

So here I am glued to the tv since after my workout. I've turned my cell phone on silent in order to limit risks of craziness. I hope you have a way of watching the inauguration ceremonies. It's very moving, as if I need another day of tears. At least these are of pride and not stress.

Wow, they've just said that Jill Biden wants to teach at a local community college in the DC area. I didn't realize she had a PhD. How cool is that?

I don't beleive I've ever watched the inauguration before. Maybe I did when JFK was sworn in. WHOA, there I go showing my age. I was in second grade and tv's were in black and white. That certainly would have been a loss for today's festivities. Michelle O is wearing a lucious gold coat suit. Stunning!

And here comes GW. Cheney is in a wheelchair. Is it any surprise that the guy who shoots people in the face puts his back out the day before the inauguration? Moron.

And heeeere's Big Joe B! Good lookin' dude, but then I have a thing for older guys with brains. The crowd explodes! I suppose you heard about the Oprah show debacle. Jill dropped the news that Joe had a choice between VP and Secretary of State. Hilarious!

Last but never least, the man of the hour approaches the doors to his future. I don't know about you, but I'll bet he'll be happy to drop the "President Elect" moniker. That's a mouthful. The suspense is killing the crowd. It's like waiting for the first pitch of the world series. Will he make it to the plate? Although, Barack is more a basketball dude than baseball. FINALLY! There he is! The crowd goes wild and looks alot like the first Woodstock, minus the LSD. The dude is a rock star in his own right. People are chanting his name! (I don't see Oprah. What's up with that?)

Now I realize that the last inauguration I watched WAS JFK's. I recall the top hats. He wore none. Did I mention I was in diapers at the time? lol

I have never seen so many people gathered in one place (other than Woodstock). No one can dispute that this is THE PARTY of the ages.

So now the woman in charge of inauguration is talking. She says, "Blah, blah, blah..." Good speech, lousy hairstyle, she has one of those flippy side-bangs going on. And now the controvercial Rick Warren, Pastor of the saddleback church (huh). They should have gotten the pope, or Jessie Jackson. lol. This Warren guy just doesn't cut it.

Hey, at least they got some great musical acts. And who can dispute Aretha on the BIG PARTY stage? Not me. No matter how old, she still has the pipes. I think I saw her in the crowd earlier - she wore a crazy hat with a whirly looking thing on the front. Maybe that wasn't her - I got imagine the Queen of Soul wearing a hat from hell.

Other than the cold day, the sun shines in DC. How appropo. All flights in the area must have been put on hold. There's not one single jet engine, which is a good thing because you know some flock of wild geese would choose then to fly into the engie of a 747. Imagine a crash landing on the Potomoc during the high moments.

WHOA Here's Aretha. Let's see if she was....YES! She's wearing the hat from hell! This is a WTF moment. Aretha, who dressed you today? The whirly thing is actually a giant diamond studded bow. Hell, it's, it's, it's just too weird for words. But, at least she wore a hat. It's 28 there. Unfortunately, the music is piped. So much for the Woodstock feeling. Where's Jimmi H when ya need him, huh? Some National Anthem on his stratocaster would be nice right now. But still, a huge honor. No one asked you or I do sing.

Oh, here comes the Oath of Office... (gotmy Kleenex ready - maybe I'm pregnant?)

Big Joe is up first... Nice looking tan, Joe. His wife is hot.

It's official. He's now VP Big Joe.

I wonder when Yo Yo Ma will play?

Whoa, here they are. Yo Yo, Izhtak and company. I love Yo Yo. This is spectacular. I hope I can download this on ITunes. Chris Botti would have been a nice addition. I still have to send you that CD.

Geeze, my dog wants to go out! Not now LOLA! Hold it if you can. (I see a clean up in Aisle One coming...)

And now, without out further adieu, Chief Justice what's his name, give the oath of office.

Oh gosh, he's stuttering (Barack). I think he's nervous, lol. How human is that?

And the crowd goes WILD! Somewhere there's cannons firing. Could be a flock of wild geese flying over. And now the crowd acts like it's Woodstock INCLUDING the LSD. Seriously, this is HUGE and I hope you are watching it, too.

Nice speech so far. He gives a nod to GW for his work, and his words flow beautifully. Damn, he's got great orator skills.

Eighteen minutes and twenty seconds later, I feel hopeful for everything. And Lola waited to bug me for release to poopy-world. I should sit to hear the poet, but Lola seems insistent. Can I hold her off for just a small bit?

The poem's theme: Hope. Of course. And promise for better. I need to download this one.

So here you have it, the inauguration in real time from my point of view. I sit awestruck over the unity that's stayed behind barriers for too long.

Love ya until I'm invited by Obama to write his next inaugural play-by-play,

So there you have it. I never read it before hitting "send", nor have I during the "copy/paste" session. I hope no one falls asleep while reading, but if so, hope the nap was enjoyable.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Expounding on my last post about quitting, Spy Scribbler pointed out the root of my motivation. Thanks to wonderful her - I'm so happy to have her in my realm.

True, many writers begin a project only to set it aside when it stops talking to them, never to return. And then there are those writers like Liz Kreger and myself. May I call us anal? Speaking for myself, unfinished things make me nuts. Like the scarf I've been crocheting for the past two weeks. It should be done by now, but I keep unraveling it due to errors. Actually, I'm not a crochet-maven. (I'll leave that moniker to Erica Orloff.) But still, I'm going to make sure to finish it just because I'll otherwise feel defeated if I don't. And there's no ball of yarn on the planet that's going to get the best of me. No sireee-Bob!

But that's just me, and maybe Liz Kreger.

The point is, it's not about quitting the story, it's about quitting writing entirely. That's my point, and I truly believe that non-quitters are extremely hopeful, and that hope, in part, is a by-product of survival.

There. Case closed unless more comments come through.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hopefully Unstoppable

Other than the threat of jail, what stops you from reaching your goals? There could be a plethora of things you’re trying to obtain, whether it’s reaching your daily writing goal, to decisions that could have a major effect on your life.

Liz Kreger had a wonderful blog last Monday. She talks about when writers get into the meat of a story, but suddenly the story stops working for them. She poses the question of moving forward with the hope it comes together, or just chucking it in the trash.

That got me to thinking about my three EIP’s (Epics In Progress) sitting on the hard drive. From the beginning of each, they moved along with ease. Everything meshed, yet now they sit unfinished.

I have varying reasons for letting each slide. One of the stories just stopped talking to me, and then the eye interruptions kept me off the computer for a few weeks, which I did under doctor’s orders. With my current EIP mum at the time, I picked up pen and paper and started a new EIP. Worked just as well. Nothing was going to steal my writing edge. Reaching the one hundred page mark, another story grabbed my muse, and well, you know how it is. Some things you just can’t ignore – EIP number three.

And then a finished EIP came back to haunt me. Literally, one day I was doing some banal task when I swear I heard one of its character say, “You know, Calarco, you really screwed me over in that story. I deserved a better ending. You had it all wrong.” I might be paraphrasing – this happened last summer, but still, I listened, letting those three EIP’s slide some more.

Am I crazy? Those who know me can answer that one without blinking. But the question remains: Will I pick up the others where I left off?

Answer: Absolutely. Like Liz, I finish what I start, albeit I don’t right away.

But what if after finishing the one I’m on, which I promised myself that I would, the others remain silent? Do I make a decision to trash them as “bad ideas” or call them hopeless from the beginning?

Hopeless is a sad word, one that leads to the inevitable end of the road known as quitting all together. Yet, as Liz mentioned in her blog, she believes that “no book is hopeless.” I want to take her statement one step further. I think that it’s not so much that the “book is hopeless” as it’s just that Liz is an extremely hopeful person.

As writers, I think we’ve all had minor lapses where we wanted to quit. Some actually did. But what separates the ones who never pick up pen again, from those who, even if you cut off all their fingers, do?

Where there’s a will there’s a way, right? Or maybe not. Maybe it’s the fact that survival courses through their veins. Maybe those hopeful souls have survived life’s difficulties and naturally can’t quit.

A week or so before my mother died, I stood by her bedside. Holding my hand, she asked, “Am I going to die?” I nodded, lips tight and whispered, “Yes.” She replied, “Well, there’s always hope.” Shortly thereafter, ovarian cancer won, but her words never left me. “There’s always hope.”

In my life I have found that hope doesn’t fit cliché. It’s not that it “springs eternal” or “floats,” but it’s what keeps us moving forward. Hope, to me, is a by-product of survival – the positive edge that enables us to leap hurdles we’d never consider doing if previously asked.

I believe there comes a time in everyone’s life when the stopping point comes. But, it’s not quitting, it’s letting go after the good fight, when hope is our strength to letting go.

Survivors are wired with hope, I believe. Impossible, as well as quitting, never occurs to those who’ve already survived what others think is hopeless. Liz Kreger knows this, and I believe that’s why she feels that no book is hopeless.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Work It! Work It! Pimp Until it Hurts!

My writer friend to the North, Lainey Bancroft, has a new release! "Action for Satisfaction"from Siren-Bookstrand, Inc. Here's the blurb (and it's sort of naughty):

When the name of the game is hot action for pure satisfaction, what happens when one of the players changes how they define satisfaction?

As a much in demand architect, Seth Edwards has been blessed with the funds and freedom to do what he wants, and what he wants to do is indulge in as many sexy interludes as possible with Eva Delucca.

A lifetime of watching her mother cycle through men like underwear convinced Eva being spoiled with frequent glamorous trysts by Eveready Edwards is the ultimate in satisfaction, until a bet forces her to re-evaluate her future. Except beyond his future projects—which frequently take him all over the country—the word future has never been part of Seth's vocabulary.

Can more action than he can handle convince her ramblin' man they might achieve a deeper satisfaction if they look beyond the action?

Who can resist a man nick-named Eveready? Best wishes to Lainey for a successful release.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Karma Chance! Make It Happen for the Kids...

Tragedy happens around the world on a daily basis. Israel and Palestine; Darfur; D.C. the last eight years...

The Texas Panhandle.

As many of my followers know, fellow writer, Travis Erwin, suffered a loss this past Monday - a fire that destroyed his home and all its contents. Fortunately, lives were spared.
A fund has been set up by two other authors: Erica Orloff and Stephen Parrish (bless their hearts). Here's the link where you can offer some financial support:

And if you're feeling the crunch, as we all are, there's other ways to help. You can visit Travis's blog where he has posted an update and play by play of the fire. There he lists some of the things lost. Here's the link:

As mentioned, thankfully, lives were spared, yet two small boys are without some favorite things - not a Wii, Playstation or fancy Blackberry, but BOOKS. I love these kids without ever meeting them. What I wouldn't give if every kid in the country were saddened over losing some books.

And wouldn't you know, I received a couple of Borders gift cards for Christmas. Not that I couldn't use a few more books to add to the towering Pisa known as my to-be-read pile. We're writers! Every writer receives Borders or B&N gift cards for Christmas - they're our crack! (Speaking for myself, I also enjoy a new pair of shoes - my real crack.)

Anyway, seems to me it'd be a great way to share your gifts. Now does anyone know what books boys like?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Give Bambi Some Shades!

"This conversation is over!" Actually, it never got started, but I felt the words boiling inside as I recently stood at a cocktail party filled with dead air. You know how it is. A party invitation comes actually intended for your significant other, but it's a given that you're invited, too. And there you are in a room full of people you have little to nothing in common. Conversations buzz; people chat about events that never involved you, and the only time you can add anything to the discussion is if someone mentions how great the food is. "Oh, yes, I love those fudge brownies, too. Does anyone else think there's hash in them?"

Could it have been obvious that I was the shrinking violet in the room? I felt like time shifted back forty years to my first school dance. New to the town, I sat on the sidelines while all the popular kids made fun of the usual suspects, or nibbled nails to the quick waiting for that slow song. I did neither. It was torture in any event, me being the new kid in town. Nothing says "geek" louder.

Years have passed, as well as at least 5,428 cocktail parties, and at seventy-two percent of those I was a player. I got out more, was in the work-force and possibly slightly inebriated at most cocktail parties and other various soirees. Conversation flowed like the Hoover Dam exploded; there was always something to talk about. "Hey, did you hear that Edith in shipping was spotted with Kenneth in marketing? And let me tell you, the giving and receiving had nothing to do with getting it there over-night."

As a writer I value the importance of getting myself out there in order to suck up some material, but when the conversation flowing is a vast wasteland, my mind wanders to a different zone. And then someone always notices that my eyes are glazed over, and they try dragging me back into the conversation. "Did you guys know that Kathy wrote a book?" was announced at said recent party, to which I held up three fingers, and for those who couldn't count, I said, "Three books."

Now that's an accomplishment, right? Apparently it was a tough room, because every pair of eyes in the room glazed over while an occasional "Oh, uh-huh" floated half way around the room and then fizzled. Tough room. Could it be that no one in the room thought it was possible? I really didn't want to expound on my feat, but damn, not one "Oh, you've got to be shittin' me?" was uttered, just "Uh-huh."

Well, I wasn't crushed, but I did wonder when I lost the knack for controlling a conversation. At home I can talk about anything and not care if it's ridiculous or not. My husband still listens (or acts like it). But I have to admit, I don't get out much, and really don't like getting out. Shopping, going out to dinner, or attending a party - if I could do it all on-line I'd be thrilled beyond thrilled.

But it does worry me that I'm turning into a hermit because when in a swarm of people I feel the old armpits getting damp. When someone tries pulling me into a conversation my tongue swells and my eyes bulge. Cocktail party anxiety, that's what I suffer from, and there's an easy cure being that cocktails are right there. The only problem is, I don't drink as well as I used to.

As a writer it is essential to get out with the masses, but the fact remains that I do my writing inside, on a computer or in a notepad, a place where no other humans exist except for those I create. My social circle consists of friends I've made electronically, through on-line writing groups, etc. and that's where the problem rests. I'd rather co-exist with like souls, albeit electronic, than have face-to-face with humans right here in suburbia.

My writing friends get me, and right back at them. When I suffer a set-back, they're right there talking me through it, and when I've conquered anything that gives me great joy, they celebrate with me. Yet, I'm not exactly filling the creative pond by not riding the eavesdropping highway known as information gathering.

I imagine I can still eavesdrop, but that would entail leaving the house. Can I be the only writer turning into Howard Hughes, minus the bizillions? Could this be why some of our greatest literati were alcoholics or junkies? Is that where their brilliance was really rooted? Somewhere on a coke spoon or at the bottom of a Jim Beam bottle? I often wondered about Lewis Carroll and his giant caterpillar sitting on a mushroom while smoking a water-pipe. It had to take a little acid dropping to come up with that and all those pills that made Alice shrink and grow, right? (No disrespect to Mr. Carroll intended, but I really do wonder about that guy.)

I'm too old to develop another habit just so I can remain creative in my hermit-hovel. But I do feel the pressure both while trying to write and when in the midst of a social situation. Perhaps the key is in trying to get those situations to co-exist. One can't live without the other it seems to me. Maybe returning to college at the end of January will rejuvenate my creativity, but will it cure my social ineptness?

Am I forever doomed to be Bambi in the headlights? Am I alone or have other writers felt the same angst? This hermit's mind wants to know...