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...