Thursday, December 30, 2010


I want to do something I haven't done in seven years: ski.

I've skied less than a handful of times, usually without incident. Well, besides the time I skied into a rope and earned a tremendous burn on my neck that lasted for months. And the time I was knocked down by the lift. Those occurred in my first two excursions. Beginning bumps, if you will. Now I'm wise and capable and more than ready to snow plow my way to safety. Besides, I've learned the best way to maintain control: When in doubt, fall over.

We drive through small towns that I've never heard of. That I'm willing to wager most people have never heard of. A post office, a Chinese restaurant, the Family Dollar, one pub, a church, Christmas lights. Snowy farms racing up and over hills. Look fast or you'll miss the sign. We pull a quick right.

The mountain is small, manageable, and navigating up the practice slope a difficult task. My wedges are sharp. I am ready.

They don't like to mark trails here, apparently. Green turns to blue without warning, if there's any sign at all. Ski trail turns to snowboard railings.

"Where are the green trails?" we ask two employees after our first run.

They shrug. "There's a map somewhere."

The top is all right. It's the middle to the bottom that becomes complicated. Wide trails narrow between tree-lined path. Plateaus drop drown, steeper, icier.

I learn to carve. My knee whines but it keeps moving. Darkness comes and snow softly rains down. A light in the hills across from us, the hills where someone lives and turns on the lamp against the fog. Trail lights snap on, casting illuminations and shadows over the snow, and between the small children shrieking by without ski poles, the snowboarders spinning and slicing and never losing balance, the light makes this place almost sacred.

Gate 23, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mini Commuter Plane

1) Set your alarm for 7:05 (not 7:00; that's too early). Fall asleep late the night before so you wake up dazed, haphazardly throwing items into your bag. Three pairs of socks make the cut. This ends up a wise move.

2) While on the highway at 8:45, look around at the cars that have drifted into the snow-covered median. Be glad you're not them.

3) Arrive at the train station to learn that the 9:10 train is canceled, and that there's been an accident down the line. Read magazine mastheads at the newsstand until a worker gestures to the sign that says, "Please buy before you read." I want to explain why I'm reading mastheads, but decide to loiter elsewhere. Plan to arrive on the platform at 10:10. When everyone makes a run for it at 9:45, join them. Nobody wants to be left standing on the train, after all.

4) Enjoy the cold, the slush, the crazy women next to you, and the smell of cigarette smoke until the train rolls in at 10:25. By this time you're concerned for your toes. They could have lost all feeling if you stood out there long enough. You bounce back and forth, do curls, a few toe raises. This is NY so nobody looks at you strangely. Nobody looks at you at all. You score the final seat in the car next to the girl who texts in German. You read over her shoulder until she starts to catch on. You chug water just before your stop. Surely, airport security isn't far away.

5) You make moves for the air train, but learn that the air train is not running due to snow. "There are buses downstairs," a worker says. You join the line that extends down the block, people in winter coats clutching luggage and generally looking displeased. But you're okay. You can wait the fifteen minutes until your end of the line meets the bus doors. It's only 11:45, and your flight's been bumped to 2:30. This is just a way to pass the time.

6) As you bump along on said bus, holding the rails and viewing the scenic area on the way to the airport, like the strip club, you overhear someone say, "You'll have to get off of this bus and take another bus to your terminal." Good to know. That should take but a moment. At 12:00, you walk off the bus. All these modes of transportation. Humorous, really.

7) You join the ring of people waiting for the bus to the terminals. And waiting. When that bus arrives, you're reduced to elbowing and shoving.

During every disaster, there's always an adage about how the human spirit triumphs, how kind people can be when pushed to extremes. Those people are somewhere else today, shoveling driveways for little old ladies, and the crowd here is yelling, standing in the road, blocking the way, pushing onto the buses into a wave before those who are on can step off.

If you want any chance of making it onto the bus, you have to stand in the slushy rim beyond the sidewalk that creeps into the drive. You have to be standing in just the right spot. And unless you have a small child, you better be ready to book it.

I think to myself, "What would Katniss do?" Katniss would trample them all if she had to. I am not so bold. I make the best moves I can.

Twice I reach the bus stairs to be told, or rather shouted at, "NO MORE!" It's past 1:00 pm. Deep within my snow boots, my toes are soggy and the smaller ones lose feeling. There's nothing to break the wind. I call my mom and my jaw moves oddly, slowly, when I talk. The girl behind me, who looks to be my age, is crying. The guy next to me holds a guitar case and wears thin sneakers. "When are the trains back?" I say. "I can't get on the bus. It's mayhem."

She looks online. "There are no schedules posted."

So I can stand here in the slush for a bus that won't come, or go back to the train station and wait for a train that might not come.

Around 1:25, my luck changes. I'm right near the steps when the bus pulls up. The driver looks out and says, "I need to go on a break. I've been working since --" People surge onto the bus anyway. I join them, since even if we're not going anywhere, I'd like to be dry.

8) As soon as the bus moves, I realize, "We're probably ten feet from the terminal and I could have walked there." I don't know how far away we are, but I do feel every stop-and-go tug of the brakes and gas. We're within airport roads and taxis and cars dart in and out. Traffic barely moves. I watch the clock on the wall and try to wiggle my toes. They feel no warmer. 1:45. 1:50.

9) Trot into the terminal, run around the corner, smack into the standstill security line. There is one man checking boarding passes. There are two lines, mine being the longer one. 2:00. 2:05. We haven't moved.

A worker walks by, calling, "2:45 departure? 3:00 departure?"

"2:30," I say.

Her eyes widen. "2:30? Come over here."

I duck under the rope and walk to where she points. A new line. The boarding pass man shakes his head. "I can't do three lines. I'm only one person."

They argue. I watch the folks from the other two lines pass through. 2:10. I'm not going to make it out of here.

So I tear up. Just a little. He waves me up next.

Run through the metal detector. Grab shoes, bags, jackets, run to the monitor in socks and T-shirt. 2:13, I'm saved, I'll get to the gate!

10) You have time to exchange your wet socks for dry socks. In fact, you have time for many things. The monitor says the flight's been delayed to 3:00. Then 3:45. 4:10. 4:30. 5:00. 5:30. The other two flights to the same city have already been called off.

At first, 19/23 flights on the board are canceled. Then it updates to show that 14/15 are canceled. The terminal's packed: people trying to figure out where to go next, people who have been here all day, people who have been here for days. The sun sets over the runway.

A woman on her phone nearby says, "All of the rental cars are booked. There's a flight to Albany tomorrow and maybe from there we can get to..." People have driven here from other cities for the same strategy: Maybe this time, we'll get out of here. We'll take the three-city, extended layover, roundabout way if you'll get us into the air. But 1/15 aren't the odds you want.

11) Something miraculous happens: Our flight boards. We walk outside, check our carry-on luggage (by "check," I mean we toss it into a large pile next to the plane and receive pink tickets for pick-up). We sit on the plane. The lights shut off. From outside, someone official yells, "WE HAVE NO POWER!" I'm pretty sure this information was not meant for the passengers to hear.

12) As we slowly rumble to the runway, I read while the usual doomsday scenarios play out in my mind: mid-air explosions, terrorist threats, water evacuations. I do this every time I fly. I have flown many times.

This is when my heart rate usually accelerates, when I have to extend my breaths and try to tell myself, If it's going to happen, well, there's nothing I can do.

Except now there's another scenario. Say the flight was called off. Then I'd stand outside, catch the bus, stand in the slush, fight people for the next bus, wait another hour, finally climb on, arrive at the train station, wait on the platform for a train whose schedule nobody seems to know.

At 6:00, when the plane accelerates down the runway, I decide that powerless plane or not, I'll take my chances.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Late but halfway there--

Snow day and nowhere to go. Sit down with the tremendous blue pen (thanks, Dom!), a piece of yellow construction paper, lean on the old laptop, start.

I teach the personal essay, and I don't miss the irony of how my mind kicks and screams when I go to write it now. It's empathy, I decide. The usual platitudes: just write something, anything, start somewhere and change it later, change it all.

I go.

No particular program in mind, a few gaps to be filled in, but after ten minutes, it's all there. The stories, the logical progression, the final lines. Deadlines come fast as blowing snow. Will I make them? Maybe, I'm not sure, but I've started, and that's a step forward for any year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Scottish restaurants


Right up there with "scrubbing the bathtub" on my major accomplishments of the day.

I feel like a rock star.


Back to work on new scenes, just after I click "send" last night. So it goes. I'm getting closer.

10 of 2010

Due to yon blizzard, expect many a post today!

These are not in rank order. Besides that The Road may have well been my favorite, and I would rank The Hunger Games over Mockingjay.

Top Ten Reads of 2010
1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
2. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green & David Levithan
6. The Heights, Peter Hedges
7. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
8. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
9. Making Toast, Roger Rosenblatt
10. Dracula, the play, by Hamilton Deane & John Balderston

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bracing for the pitter-patter (or stomping)

of little feet:

Merry Christmas!!!

Also hoping that purported snowfall doesn't alter my travel plans. But should it, I'm prepared. Two feet of snow, one surfboard. That kind of prepared.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

In keeping with

appearances of the impossible, I've signed up for a ten-mile race in April.

I've never run ten miles. I may have run seven once, or perhaps it was six-and-a-half. But I think I can handle it. Two years ago, my first year of grad school, I was on. Running all the time up and down the highway. Moving smoothly, hardly thinking, settling into just the right pace. Last year, not so much. Scraped in time to run and it was never really enough, felt forced. Now, I feel like I've returned. The right amount of discipline.

We'll be out there. In Tejas shirts.

fiery baskets

I bounce back and forth more than usual this December. Screenplay, poems, short story, tweaking a nov. The Hunger Games trilogy (big thanks to the FLO for exposing me) makes me want to unearth/return to a fantasy nov I began back in high school.

When I was younger, I wrote novels all the time. I mean it. So did Lena. We each had our series and swapped books to do cover art. By sixth grade I'd banged out a 200-page "special edition." It was no big deal. Sit down every Saturday morning and write on the family laptop. Crank out stories. Plot out more in a thick blue mini notebook.

But somewhere in late middle school and high school, when any free writing time was usurped by my emotion-fueled, cryptic nonfiction pieces, I thought I'd unlearned how to write extended pieces.

As a senior in college I went to my professor and told her I was worried. I was applying to a fiction grad program and they wanted a 30-page writing sample, and I didn't think I could do it. At that time I wrote flash fiction and the occasional four-to-five page story.

"Write me a fifteen-page story," she said promptly.

Uh. Okay.

I cheated a little--started with a prose poem I'd written previously. And I wrote from there. Came back from Thanksgiving Break with a twenty-page story. Got into that fiction program, too, though I ended up not attending.

I think that's what I'm all about. Making myself do the things I don't think I can do. With a helpful nudge/shove along the way.

The girl who was on fire

I'm still hard-pressed to find "serious adult literature" that keeps me up until 4 a.m., blazing through two novels in one night, reading the third in gaps of time between cell phone calls and coaching and putting water on the stove.

Life is too short to count down dreary pages, hoping the chapter concludes soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"I feel like no one ever dies in YA novels...

...besides Alaska."

Simultaneous sad noises from Flo and me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Smooth. Unfolding. I had an idea for a poem earlier but it seems to have skitted off. No matter. I like 12-19's. I feel light.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Remember, remember, the 18th of December

So I'm...25?

Plans: a gym fiesta, a friends fiesta, manana a family fiesta. And a run. That will be amazing, the run.

I'm having my expected crisis (similar to the one I underwent at age twenty), but I tell myself, Well, each year I add means that less people believe my age.

And in honor of that, a light show. The mini trees are my fave:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's official:

My newest life goal is to participate in a flash mob.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beating back the impending 18th

Are we singing at different pitches, or are the echoes just the same?

"And does she/he angst about it during the story?"

I just had a pretty excellent time taking The Original Fiction Mary-Sue Litmus Test. Nick Galveston passed the test. Who's up next?

Monday, December 13, 2010


Last night, a longtime dream of mine came true. Thank you, Wikipedia.

I always thought it would be awesome to have an Hispanic touch in my ethnic pool. I am half-Irish, half-Italian. Split down the middle.

Until last night, when I finally Googled "black Irish" and found a Wikipedia article which lacked sufficient citations and clean-up standards. You know the drill. But I learned that by some definitions, the "black Irish" hail from the Iberian peninsula folks who traded in Mediterranean shores for the great north. Dark hair. Dark eyes. "Unusually white skin." I've got it all.

So the prehistoric Iberians may not have spoken anything that sounds like Spanish. Pero no me importa. Show me some of that Spanish dancing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

nearly 12:00 on 12-12

In two years and nine days from now, the world's supposed to end.

How do you feel about that?

I'm feeling pretty good.


I'm in the mood to wear my Spanish Inquisition T-shirt.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Someone Attempted Something

Apocalyptic war scenes, a couple walking hand-in-hand toward a backdrop of a decapitated head, ants dancing with Froot Loops -- all this and more from the young American writers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Draw card on bottom of cup."

This is precisely what I need: a sea of computers, all of them untouched but this one; the knit black hat and black nails; a poker-themed paper cup of hot chocolate. I click through the daily gymnastics news. I think of what to write next. Nobody using me as a stone upon which they cast their monologues. So much talking about one's self. Hush. So much talking. Not enough writing.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

How do you like them apples?

"Every day I come by your house and I pick you up. And we go out. We have a few drinks, and a few laughs, and it's great. But you know what the best part of my day is? For about ten seconds, from when I pull up to the curb and when I get to your door, 'cause I think, maybe I'll get up there and I'll knock on the door and you won't be there. No goodbye. No see you later. No nothing. You just left. I don't know much, but I know that."

Finally watched Good Will Hunting. If I thought it earlier, now I know: it's time to return to the screenplay!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Gym Bits

-"We have a class younger than Parent and Me now."
-"What is it called? 'I'm Pregnant'?"

Every thirty seconds, Valentina asks me to watch another part of her routine. As soon as one girl finishes, she steps in front of me before they can. "Can I do this?" She strikes a pose. "Or this?" Another. "Can you watch this?"

Finally, I ask, "Why am I watching?"

"Because," she says matter-of-factly, "I need to win first place again."

Get it, girl!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

snow caps

With the gray plaid cap in place, I feel better equipped for life.


After several hours of articles about violent deaths and cartel-controlled towns in Mexico, I think it's time for something uplifting.

Except it's one of those self-editing days of just what do you think you're doing, missy? The same sentence structures in the same tired ways. Stay or go? Where is everyone, and what are they listening to that I can't seem to hear?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Historia oficial

Mexico is now in the first person, and I love it!

Let's see what the valiant public (Tony, I'm looking at you) think.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

sunken meadows

These are my wishes:
  • For Rachel to blog about her Southern life
  • For Emeline to blog about anything

DiFloPoMo (Diana/Flo's Poetry Month) is well underway. Four poems in!

Flo, after day one: "I wrote a good haiku. I don't think I can write anything else."

You can do it, Flosef!


The coincidences don't cease. I wonder if they mean more, but I'm afraid to find out.

At the altar

I've always taken notes on writing rituals but never created any myself. Too many variables in my life, too many fluctuations in where and what and who.

But lately I begin the same way. Fill up a glass with water, preferably a glass that I've taken from a pub. I like their shapes. I like how they remind me of us laughing.

I place the glass safely from the keyboard. Do a bit of stalking around. Enter the story.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Not to get all

Bella-and-Edward-in-a-meadow on you, but I had such vivid and strange dreams last night that I just may need to set them down into a story.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Love in the Land of Rhetoric

Me to student: "You look prepared."
Student: "It's the peacoat."


I sign into my e-mail account tonight and notice an impressive number of Facebook notifications. There are people writing on the wall of some event. Apparently I'm an admin for said event. Last e-mail...ahh! Apparently this is my birthday party I've been invited to administer, thanks to the Flosef.

Here's to another festivus of nondenominational holiday hats!


It's this sort of day:

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Back to December

In the morning after open gym, I move each body part carefully before I sit up in bed. Shoulders tender. Neck tight. Not bad.

Last night as we chatted, I kneeled and sat back on my heels. I almost never sit like that. It's uncomfortable. But as I ease all the way to my heels, something pops in my right knee. The snap of scar tissue. Thought I'd cracked that all away by now.

I stand a bit nervously. Test my limbs. Remind myself that maybe they're not as stable as they feel when I'm walking or running. Maybe it's a good thing that I'm finding other ways to fly.

But you'll find me here again, regardless.


To fill the void left by NaNo, I've started my own challenge: a December of poetry. Thirty-one poems in thirty-one days.

Back in March I wrote that I didn't consider myself a poet, and listed the reasons why. Well, now I take it back.

If I can write without agony, that's the same as going for a smooth run or learning a new skill successfully. Sure, there are more hard times than easy. But times of ease don't take away the title.

Declare it so: I am a poet.

NaNo? YES.

It's official, folks. Made it to the 50,000 word mark in one month (50,510, to be precise).

I threw my fist in the air at 50,000, then kept writing until I had some semblance of an ending. There are holes and trail-offs and inconsistencies. But I've told a story.

I'm sad the month is done.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shake It Like an Earthquake

This morning I shut off my alarm, doze again.

I wake later to my room shaking. The trophies rattle in place. The walls and floor vibrate. No car moves in the garage, no low-flying planes.

Earthquake? my mind mumbles. Then: Like Sweet Valley. I called this.

The clock says 10:46.

Later I wonder, Did I dream it? Everything is aligned in my room as it should.

When I check online, local news hasn't jumped on it yet. But New Hampshire has:

I am correct.

Stage Five: Maps of Amsterdam

On the morning train to Amsterdam, Lena and I wear our purple sweaters courtesy of Den Haag's Zeeman. Apparently this is some kind of discount store, since my sweater only cost 7.50 Euros. But I need to stay warm. Now I don't know how I lived without this glorious knit purple, baggy on the arms, fitting near the bum.

We talk about life plans. I mention Ph.D. dissertation ideas. "Don't you want to live life first?" she says. "Get a job, meet people, have different experiences?"

I'm still debating as we pull into Amsterdam Centraal.

This is where the tourists are. Rotterdam is modern and brisk, Den Haag charming yet practical, and Amsterdam's streets teeming with cameras and maps and Dutch souvenir shops. I step into the bike lane and almost get struck.

The architecture is lovely. I take more photos than necessary of the canals with their bridges, bikes chained to railings. We follow the map toward where we think the Anne Frank House is. I idolized Anne Frank in third grade.

"I think I've been there before. I don't really remember it," Lena says. Translation: she found it overwhelming.

No matter. I want to judge for myself.

We wind past the coffeeshops. They seem designed to draw foreigners. The souvenirs follow the same theme of "Amsterdam, wink wink nudge nudge." I'd imagine that the natives, should they wish to visit such shops, have their own off the beaten track.

Amsterdam is not a city I can imagine myself living in.

Lena and I end up lost. We pop into a venerable Bagels and Beans to jump onto the WiFi, then regroup.

Unfortunately, the line to visit Anne Frank's homestead is long and slow-moving, and we've got an afternoon shift at the arena. I don't know if it's weird or disrespectful to take photos in front of the apartment. But two dudes do. So I decide it's okay for me, too.

We find the Red Light District, which I genuinely wanted to see. No photos allowed. Girls our age, younger, older dance in the windows the way girls dance in front of a mirror, laughing, playing. But these girls mean it. They live this way. They smile and crook their fingers to the men who walk by. It's noon.

Uncomfortable, but intriguing.

"Why isn't there a Red Light District with guys?" we ask each other.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Life, a handy metaphor for football

Saturday night: load up my bag with all the Sweet Valley Senior Year books I can find. Drive to Flo's.

I'll be generous and say it's been five years since I picked up a Sweet Valley book of any permutation. As Elizabeth and Jessica entered sixth grade, eleventh grade, twelfth grade, you can bet I was right there beside them. Just a bit younger.

When you're in high school, you're far too cool to read about fictitious characters of your age who are, in fact, leading much cooler lives than you. But when you're in middle and elementary school, you need your idols.

Even at age eleven, I could sense that the Sweet Valley twins were ridiculous, implausible. Universally beloved, stunningly beautiful, seamlessly slipping in and out of trouble? Yeah, okay.

At least the junior high version made passes at educational moments. Once the twins hit high school, all they wanted to do was make out with boys who were "in a word: perfect." All the time. And occasionally help their friends who had "real problems."

But I read on anyway. I knew it would all end in a hot mess (or an earthquake--spoiler alert), but I couldn't look away.

Now I can pretend that I'm re-reading these books as research. Learning what works and doesn't work in Young Adult fiction. But let's be honest: I really want to see if they still hold that hot mess magic.

There are many lulz-tastic lines that Flo and I read out loud to each other from our respective couches ("Why can't life be like football?" "He looked through her. Into her."). But instead of tossing the books down in disgust, we're flying through. Fact-checking ("I thought Conner and Elizabeth's first kiss was in the hall after she read the poem about him." "Nope, it was in the car."). Frightening ourselves with the fact that crazy Melissa Fox is, in fact, similar to girls we know.

We judge ourselves a bit. But the magic lasts: we keep reading.

And you know it's true.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

All poems are love poems

NaNo-ing and this poem came to mind. One of my favorites.

"For Semra, With Martial Vigor"
-Raymond Carver

How much do writers make? she said

first off

she’d never met a writer


Not much I said

they have to do other things as well

Like what? she said

Like working in mills I said

sweeping floors teaching school

picking fruit


all kinds I said

In my country she said

someone who has been to college

would never sweep floors

Well that’s just when they’re starting out I said

all writers make lots of money

Write me a poem she said

a love poem

All poems are love poems I said

I don’t understand she said

It’s hard to explain I said

Write it for me now she said

All right I said

a napkin/a pencil

for Semra I wrote

Not now silly she said

nibbling my shoulder

I just wanted to see

Later ? I said

putting my hand on her thigh

Later she said

O Semra Semra

Next to Paris she said

Istanbul is the loveliest city

Have you read Omar Khayyam? she said

Yes yes I said

a loaf of bread a flask of wine

I know Omar backwards

& forwards

Kahlil Gibran? she said

Who? I said

Gibran she said

Not exactly I said

What do you think of the military? she said

have you been in the military?

No I said

I don’t think much of the military

Why not? she said

goddamn don’t you think men

should go in the military

Well of course I said

they should

I lived with a man once she said

a real man a captain

in the army

but he was killed

Well hell I said

looking around for a saber

drunk as a post

damn their eyes retreat hell

I just got here

the teapot flying across the table

I’m sorry I said

to the teapot

Semra I mean

Hell she said

I don’t know why the hell

I let you pick me up

Friday, November 26, 2010

Elasticity out of meter

The other night I read a prose poem online and had two reactions:
  1. This sounds like prose poetry I've written, and
  2. I haven't written that way in a long, long time.
I really enjoy "that way," too. Fluidity and word play, a roll of nonsense, a burst of light. Except it seems that in my fictions I favor practicality and simplicity. Stay with the story. Maintain a staccato beat.

Conclusion: it's time to play again.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Active recovery

Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

Excitement of the day:
  • Ran the five-mile (8K) race this morning with Doug at my side (for the first 1.5 miles. Then it was time to break away. Sorry, brother!). Managed to not throw up whilst placing third in my age group.
  • Made a professional page! Check it out. Be its friend. It would like that.
  • Ever wonder what life's like in Oman? Tanye West can tell you. My lovely former college housemate and her boyfriend are teaching in the United Emirates, and their adventures to nearby locations (and pictures) are quite exciting!
Somehow, I sense that I won't be quite this enthusiastic when I wake up tomorrow (see first bullet point).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Meanwhile, back at the ranch,

I've finally caught up on NaNo words!!!

38,369 words down. 11,631 to go by November 30th.

Afterwards, I'll feel awesome for a few days. Then I'll reread and eliminate half of those words and replace them with others, half of which will end up replaced, too. You know the rendezvous.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maiden Voyage

Bicyle races are coming your way.
You may recall a suspense-filled post in October when I wondered out loud if I'd purchase a bike that day.

I have one now. Check out that beaut!

The bike's appearance in my life stems from a few factors:
  1. parental pressures
  2. eagerness for a new endeavor
  3. illusions (potentially delusions) of grandeur
After four knee surgeries, my dad turned from marathon running to cycling. Now he regularly tours the state circuit, winning races and sometimes setting records. For a while now he's suggested that I take up the sport, too.

But let's take it back to age seven on our street, as Dad yelled at me to stop using my training wheels and I sulked. My bike bumped over the rough pavement, the kind that they smoothed after I was past my rollerblading phase (for that, I skated in the garage to "Heal the World" and "Eternal Flame"). The bumpy road made my teeth chatter. It did not make me want to leave my training wheels behind.

Dad was not impressed. Similar arguments would erupt in the learning-to-drive-a-car days, but right now this was the greatest block of my age: I could not ride a bike.

But beneath my fear lay sass. One afternoon, I stood on the driveway of my friend Stephanie's house as she and her sister rode in happy circles. And I decided: I'm going to ride my bike, too.

That evening, my dad drove around the corner to see me cycling around the cul de sac, training wheel-free. He never really acknowledged my victory. I used to think it was because he felt he failed in teaching me, but maybe he was just relieved I'd gotten over it on my own. We could move on now.

In recent years, he's tried various methods to motivate me to cycle. "Lots of young guys," he would say. "Not many girls. If you started training now, you could make the Empire State Games team."

Let's not forget the time Dad and I biked together in Monterey on a family vacation, four years since the last time I'd sat on a bike. We pushed away from the bike rental shop. Dad cruised into the road. I rode directly into a metal pole.

Regardless, enter the illusions/delusions. I like winning. I miss competing. I run races but do the sport mainly for fun. And I can't resist the thought: I could be good at this.

Friday, November 19, 2010

For the young (or older) gymnast in your life,

some fine works of gym fiction.

Your reputation precedes you

Thought it was a good idea to read Dracula, the play version, before bed. I couldn't help but love the final monologue:

VAN HELSING [To Audience]
...A word of reassurance: When you go home tonight
and the lights have been turned out
and you are afraid to look behind the curtains
and you dread to see a face appear at the window...
why, just pull yourself together
and remember after all
 there are such things.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

we all have a sickness

After November, I may need a break from fiction. Perhaps I'll turn to poetry instead or maybe that old screenplay.

Oh, whatever. I already know that's a lie. Keep it coming, figments of my mind.


Beth, re: her immune system: "One of the girls broke her arm and returned to the gym yesterday, fully healed. That's how long I've been sick for."

I live for these sorts of questions

Text from my boss: "Any good song ideas for the website montage?"



My sleeping habits sigh, but they accept my ways.

Monday, November 15, 2010


When in doubt, put your character in danger.

How do I get you alone?

This is how it happens. I leave behind the e-mails I should send and the stories I should submit. Trade it for a run between lakes, organic salads and inorganic fries. I wouldn't know the difference. I eat three pieces of bread between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. My little ones disappoint me today but when they fill every step of the podium, including the first, none of them much over four feet, I can't stop clapping.

I dehydrate. I storm around Borders and buy the same book I bought two years ago for the same person. I pace back and forth in front of one particular display until, with a rare burst of spontaneity, I pick up Glee: The Music, Volume One. I judge myself. I crank it all the way up on the drive home.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I stayed in tonight and NaNo-ed away. No chapter numbers. Just scenes that are mostly consecutive, hopefully building. The going was slow today, but it's gone now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Issued forth another 2000+ words for NaNo, just edited a chapter of Mexico (more than halfway there), participated in Interview Round Two and the writing test. Ran four miles, outpaced the sunset. Last night enjoyed pumpkin raviolis. My knees creak to say that I've done too much, to stop knocking them into desks and falling asleep at odd angles.

So what makes me restless tonight?

Monday, November 08, 2010

2721 words

is how much I busted out today for NaNoWriMo. But it didn't feel like busting. It felt like fun.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Too tired for "We did this and then this" travel post. But awake enough to run six miles around Montauk. The end and back. Deep blue clouds and slate water, lighthouse shading and oyster pursuits. It's huntin' time.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Stage Four: Streelights, People

It was only a week ago and I'm already starting to forget. What was the proper order of things? When and where? I remember how and who, though. And so I go forward.

I continue the early morning jive because if ever I'm going to carpe diem, it will be in these breaks before our shift. Catch the train, the tram, the metro to the cities I have to see. Bite back against the cold. Ready the camera.

Our first journey is to Den Haag, the Hague, Lena's former stomping grounds. We step off the train into the sub-10 a.m. sunlight and a cold wind strikes us. Really cold. Enough to decide that I'm willing to buy a winter coat regardless of the euros.

But we march on. "Here's an old church," Lena says.

"When was it built?"

"I don't know."

I like the honesty. I take pictures anyway.

Spurts of rain. Umbrellas snap open. Nobody seems to mind.

We purchase cheap sweaters in matching shades of purple, and that improves our moods considerably. As well as the weather. We see the UN buildings, the Peace Palace, the uninviting gates of the American Embassy, so many flags, so many bikes.

There is a dignity here. Quiet and classy. Classical and modern. I can see myself on these streets, a passing glance at the rain.

We have light.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stage Three: PHO, MIX, TRI

There is method to WK Turnen's madness.

TRI finds volunteers on the press tribune, a prime seating area where journalists watch the competition and type away. We're there to "help the journalists." In reality, I sneak photos during the women's team final and refrain from clapping. Dutch Reuters man next to me is very disgruntled when I do so.

But from here I get to see Alicia Sacramone's amazing save on beam. Mattie Larson's unfortunate collapse on floor. The Chinese and Romanian coaches verbally guiding their gymnasts through the routines from the side. The Romanian coach talks constantly. The Chinese coaches walk away when their athlete falls.

MIX is frightening. The center, roped-off ring is for the media. The surrounding ropes (and backdrops of Rotterdam) are for the athletes and coaches. They can move through in a (supposedly) fluid curve to chat with the press. This is all well and good, except the mixed zone happens to be sandwiched between two hallways. Just as the zone is at its fullest, everyone who's not an athlete nor a coach needs to get from one hallway to the other, and they need to get through now. Working the mixed zone is an easy way to get people to dislike you.

The Japanese and Chinese media are quiet. So are the athletes, who stand with perfect posture to answer the questions of their countrymen. The German men, by contrast, are loud and exuberant, and so are the journalists. But don't get me wrong -- the victorious Chinese and Japanese are just as happy. Just more reserved.

PHO means you're on the border of the field of play. You hide your accreditation because the glare will disturb the TV cameras. You stand on the side and make sure the photographers don't pass the rope. You make sure everyone behaves. But really you watch the competition, closer than ever. I'm just by the scoreboard as the women vault. I'm not far away when He Kexin misses her bar routine and Beth Tweddle walks away with the title. In fact I feel like I'm part of it, this whole energy, standing quietly and orangely.

Maybe not so quietly.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stage Two: Rotterdam Centraal

Though we're on the constant look-out for people with three arms, the train has red velvet seats and small tables. It's classy. It's also crowded. Lena looks exhausted and so am I, although we slept for twelve hours.

I'd like to say that Rotterdam greets us with open arms, but the station is under construction. Tape and machines every. It's cold. Makeshift corridors point us to the metro, the tram, the other tracks. Where are we going?

Our two-hour metro card fails to work after half an hour. The machine won't let us buy new ones. The only people down here are two sketchy men who catcall at the girls. Luckily, Santa appears. Literally. A long white beard and a jolly spirit. He issues us new cards.

By the time we roll our luggage into Ahoy, the place looks like it's been abandoned for the night. We find the press center, somehow. We are told to run to the bus to the hostel, or otherwise we'll be stuck there for a long time.

We board the bus packed with orange pants and orange-and-white jackets. Dutch fills the air. The girl and guy in front of us talk in English about articles in Spanish versus articles in German. Later that week I see them holding hands. Linguistics is love.

The hostel is new and quite clean.

It is also filled with eighteen-year-old volunteers boozing up and running around at night. Shades of Southampton? Or any college? They run, they hit walls, they laugh.
I fall asleep at midnight and wake up at 2:30 am. I am wide awake. I write by the light of my phone. I do that whole tense-and-relax-each-muscle thing that has, in fact, never worked for me. By the time 6:30 am arrives, I'm awake to greet it.

Our first day at the arena is slightly disorganized but straightforward. Danielle gives us a tour just as a Frenchman tears his Achilles on floor. Lena goes to "work."

Meanwhile, I discover the training halls. 

I'd rather stay there than watch men from unknown countries compete. But by 3:00, I don't want to do anything besides hide at the hostel and sleep.

I cry a little and manage to switch my shift with Bart, whom I haven't actually met yet. Lena and I take the shuttle back to the hostel, where we watch "The Office" on her iPhone and fall asleep at 8:30. I wake up at 5:45. I am ready. I will not cry today.

Food for thought

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stage One: En Brussels

At first it seems that we're destined to pace in the waiting area and next on the runway. There's the terrorist (a solo man on two cell phones, talking into neither), Vogue (a man reading out loud to himself from the magazine), the inexplicable delays. Soft rain on the windows glowing orange. I race through Lena's Glamour before take-off.

Next the turbulence. One hour of sleep. The grim reaper sitting across the aisle.

Then day breaks.

 By 10 a.m. (4 a.m. back home), we're driving through Brussels with Lena's uncle. Originally we thought a nap was in order. But her aunt and uncle have other plans.

At 8:30 EST, I could be driving to work. Instead I'm walking through Europe's oldest mall, her aunt leading us to Neu Haus for chocolate. The day drizzles but the architecure is still stunning, the streets clean, the air sweet with waffles. They're everywhere.

I am the only person in Europe without a winter jacket. The wind is sharp but I hold up my camera anyway. We see NATO, the European Union Commission, the International Press Center, palaces and regal buildings whose purpose I can't recall, the city center. I'm wide awake.

Every city has its twist on the Belgian waffle. The Brussels kind is egg white and lightly sweet. Lena whispers that I need to try the Liege waffle, the full-fat kind. I do the next day. It's delicious.

Back at the house we pass out for two and a half hours. Dinner is takeout Vietnamese. We watch Keanu Reeves act in Dutch subtitles. The cat curls on my legs. Do we have to leave?

The next morning we visit the military museum and stand on top of the grand archway.

We drive to Waterloo to see where Napoleon met his defeat. The sky darkens and it's time to be dropped off at Midi, catching the last train out of the city before the strike. Rotterdam is darker. We don't know what awaits us there, and we're not sure we want to find out anymore. It's easier here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dreaming in Dutch

I'm back!

And plan to write some epically long posts manana. Pictures, too. Get ready!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Neither tool nor bag

Is it wrong that I will miss Nick and Pete while I'm abroad?

I'm pretty sure I'll be strong.

Rechargeable batteries. Outlet converter. Mini alarm clock. Black suede boots. And as the best send-off, the girls nail their beam routines.

Here I come, borderlands.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Appellation mountains

Let's give it up for the progressing rescue of the Chilean miners!

Monday, October 11, 2010


is not today.

Last night I thought how cool it would be to catch 10:10 and ten seconds on 10.10.10, except when I looked at one clock it had already turned 10:11 and the other 10:12.

Without hesitation, I pressed the clock's buttons so the minutes ran up to 59 and back to zero, counted back up. At 10:10 I released. Counted to ten Mississipies. Enjoyed the alignment of the times like an equinox. Then advanced to 10:12. And so we shape our destinies.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


And so it is true: I did not purchase a bike. Primarily because my dad said, "We'll go to the store later" in a distracted way, and when "later" rolled around, he said that the store was closed.

But I still hold big plans. Maybe this week. Perhaps after Europe (the financially wise decision, to be sure). But this is the right season. The temperature clicks down with a breeze and the leaves still hold their green.

And why? I want new stories to tell. To know new ways.


I like to outpace Google's search as I type my query. Human beats the machine.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Can it be?

Will today be the day I make my father proud and purchase a bike?

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Prince Ali

One of the girls FINALLY GOT HER MILL CIRCLE TODAY. I feel like a proud mama! (I hope Em nods in approval upon reading.)


I did something I vowed I wouldn't. It was a rapid turnaround, in fact; the night before I swore one way, and the next day acted in the opposite fashion.

I bought faux-jean leggings.

In my defense they look and smell like real jeans. Only the front pockets are fake. The back ones are alive and well, the pants skinny and bunched up because they're a bit too long, like all of the pants I've ever owned. There's a real seam running from ankle (well, bottom of foot) to hip. "But they look so nice with boots," I say as you cuff me for hypocrisy. And perhaps in your compassion you'll glance down and say, "Not half bad."


Despite the terror born of a text message from a number I didn't have in my phone, it was a lovely evening with the old guard. Gotta keep swimming, you know, the sun misshapen and fluid above water.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

about suffering they were never wrong, the old masters

My instinct is to delve into the classics, the "you should read this" canon. But I've forced myself to mix it up with modernity. Books of this year or similarly recent. See what's out there now. Learn a bit of the market.


The modern pile:
  • The Ten-Year Nap = a real snooze
  • Olive Kitteridge had me going until a ridiculous, overly sentimental story midway through pulled me right out
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did keep me turning pages, but in the end, I don't think it's superior to other books I've read in the genre.
  • The Lacuna is what I'm currently on, and I'm past page 200 hoping it will get better. I read an NPR review today that echoed my feelings, and I'm pretty confident it won't improve. Back to the library!
  • The Heights is the runaway winner of this category. Unpretentious and genuine.
Keeping it classy:
  • Crime and Punishment, much funnier than I thought it'd be
  • Notes from Underground, dark and absurd
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude = love, major love
  • The Things They Carried, which I recognize is not "old," but somehow I was never assigned it in high school unlike 99% of students.  Major love. Major "I wish I wrote some of these lines."
The old school keeps my heart.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


On the road to SHS. Don't know where I'm going.

I know the general vicinity. I've been there before. But to get there from here--well, I'm just not sure. I cruise toward the traffic circle, hand against the glass.

It's not the first time this has happened. I drove to SBS to move in for RA training and it dawned on me near Riverhead that I had no idea how to get to Sunrise. (Ah, my youth!) I'd visited as a high school senior with my mom, and later over spring break senior year of college. We parked, walked around campus, gave it an approving nod, and peaced. The roadways did not imprint themselves on me.

That day I called Lena and she guided me, bless her soul. But not today.

What gives? In the age of the GPS and Google Maps (even Mapquest feels obsolete), I leave the house with neither machine nor map. No analemma, compass, crumb path, North Star. No weatherwane to point me toward the wind. Just this girl going at it solo.


I check the Sound tonight. Just to make sure. Last time the birds were tossed through the sky like swirling leaves, flying in nonsensical patterns.

The waves return tonight. No engines or creaking swings or self-important gales to drown them. The stars caught in nets of clouds. A steady breaking.

Monday, October 04, 2010

He pretends not to hear. This is a good sign.

Five pages a day is the beat I wrote to over winter break, and so I drum it out now. Sometimes the shift of "he" to "I," but more often extensive changes. Still enjoying myself.


It's a cold nostalgic wind out there and I think of Ph.D. programs. I'm just not sure. I know I want that doctoral title, but I want to enjoy it all the way through. And I think I may want life, not just hints of what I've read in theoretical papers, to inform my study.

Preposterous? I say no.

I've just begun contributing to an online gymnastics blog, which the writer is using as part of her Ph.D. dissertation about new media's representation of women's sports. I'm sure she spends days trudging through academic "historical context." But a gym blog as part of one's research? That's not the academic cloister of Ph.D.-dom. That's awesome.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

three potions and a skill

I feel rejuvenated by this latest round of revision. Three chapters in and so far, it feels right.

My favorite part of the requisite Revising and Editing course was "the lard factor," in which we deleted as many words as possible and calculated the fraction that was lost (I believe this is also called "the paramedic method").

I strive for clear language, for rhythmic lines without burden. On this round they come through cleanly, with far less "and here's the backstory you need, sigh." I find new places for expansion. It's excavation and sculpture at once, you see, a simultaneous stripping away and illuminating.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Take one down and pass it around

The girls wait in push-up position at the end of practice. "We're going to do ten circles of claps," Rob says. "Everyone's going to pass the clap around. Counterclockwise." He looks at me. We both start laughing. No one else catches on.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is this the real life? Is it just fantasy?

I search for jobs best after 1 a.m. My friends who troll the night start to drop off and it's just me, a little background noise, and a screen of "Posted Today."

I feel more audacious than hopeless at this hour. I click anything: "Fellowship in Germany"; "Senior Executive"; "Advice Columnist." Two out of three of those sound reasonable, don't they? I gloss over "5-7 years of experience," mouth "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

At this hour I'm getting ahead, I think. That or playing the nightly game of bursts of text before sleep.


For a long while I struggled with the difference between "I want to be a writer" and "I am a writer." I thought the latter only came to fruition upon publication. Someone else saying, "These words work."

I had friends who were very casual gymnasts. At practice they did a few tumbling passes, nothing difficult, and spent the rest of the time planning our weekend's social events and team T-shirts. But should anyone ask, they proudly stated, "I'm a gymnast." They weren't "trying to be" or "wanting" or "well, I do gymnastics but I'm not as good as the other girls." In their eyes, they were the real thing.

In my junior year of college, I started to understand. It was the first time I felt I was in a community of writers outside of writing emo Open Diary poems with my high school friends. Our class, lunch, outside conversations began with writing and spiraled elsewhere. But we held that in common: the telling of stories, both wanting to and doing so. And I was doing so, almost every day.

"You're only a writer on the days you write," one of our teachers said--a great mantra but also one that speaks to the writer as a construction of the self rather than of an outsider's subjectivity.

I write. I've been published. On occasion, I've earned money from my writing. Yet sometimes I still want to say, "I want to be a writer." Why "wanting" and not "being"? Too many years in the habit of over-modesty. Why not declare it so?

"What do you do?" the trapeze guy asks as I roll off the net.

"I'm a writer," I say.

"What do you write?"

"Non-fiction. And I've written a novel."

"Yeah? Is it the Great American Novel?"

"You'll have to find out." I grin.

A joking cockiness--it's unfamiliar. But not quite wrong.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pieter, please

But our schemes are coming together, and I'm anxious, second-guessing, planning international exit strategies. All the signs of good change on the way.

*Near 2 a.m. edit: Just saw how close we'll be to Germany if all pans out. I want to run across the border, shout "I'm in Germany!" in German, and run back out if that's the only chance I get. That's how hardcore I am.

Monday, September 27, 2010

(This entry took longer to write than to run.)

I've removed my pants (no, this isn't that kind of story) and I'm stretching my legs in the car when I look up and Jill is looking at me.

I bound out the door to the friend I've known since I was five. "Buddy! I was going to call you, but I didn't want you to see how slow I'm going to run," I say.

"Buddy, you have no idea how slow I'm going to run," she says.

Jill is prepared. Spandex. Bandanna ("so people know I'm a girl"). iPod strapped to arm. A mileage tracker. Heart monitor.

Me: Stony Brook Southampton sweatshirt (I see a few people glancing at it, probably wondering, "Is that three places?"). Gray shorts. Old sneakers. iPod in hand with one headphone that produces static. Festive Peruvian ankle bracelet for a touch of class.

Good ol' "Coach," everyone's favorite cowboy, blows the whistle. Runners congregate -- men, women, high school girls, young boys, hats, Spandex, shorts, green T-shirts received that morning.

"Oh, God," I say to Jill, to no one in particular.

We're off.


When I run down Montauk Highway, I pretend I'm in a race. Or in the gym. Or that someone's watching me and that what I do will impress something upon them. Sometimes I tell myself stories unrelated to any of this. Sometimes I imagine myself telling stories to others that are unrelated to any of this.

Today my mind empties.

You're running to Hampton Bays, I tell myself a few times. Funny, to think of practice when in practice I think of race. But soon I stop thinking. I have a story to tell myself but I don't want to listen just yet.

Today I hear music and see hill.

"Have you been training hills?" Jill asked in a voicemail a few weeks ago. I called her back to say that although I run down the road and back, somehow I'm almost always going downhill. Or flat. Or up the most subtle of ascents.

Duchess Road has the first of the six or seven inclines we'll take today. I enact the strategy I've come up with on the spot:

Run as quickly as possible to get it over with.

South Gate rises. We'll run down here later to the finish, legs flying down the hill. It's the most imposing slope of the course. But it's only the second. And as Robert Frost noted, there are miles to go.

Families and racers who have finished the 5K and one mile clap and cheer. "You got this!"



Something starts to cramp about 25 minutes in. You got this, you're halfway there, I tell myself while Billy Joel starts singing "Uptown Girl." My goals are low: to finish somewhere in the fifty-minute range, hopefully no longer than an hour.

I breathe.

Ashley Lane rises through trees around three miles. A hill, isn't that nice? I take this one slowly, as do the older men and the fifteen-year-old-ish boy ahead of me.

Or, at least, half of it slowly. Bon Jovi's singing about being a cowboy and as soon as he sings, "Oh, and I ride!" and the instruments crash together --

There she goes.


I'm not sure where Jill is anymore. "The worst is over!" the woman at the water table calls. I smile.

More hills. Okay. Only fifteen minutes to go. I hope. "I wouldn't ask this of you," Coheed and Cambria sing. The man in front of me looks hardcore. Now next to me. He's got the Spandex. But as I pull ahead, I know that the one thing I've got is that I'm young and that today, my knees are working exceptionally well.

I take the final hill a bit too fast. My thumb hits the iPod to play "Learn to Fly," which for whatever reason always provokes this joyous emotional response and the ground is flat and I see the sign for South Gate but I start to choke - and again - Oh, God, don't throw up -

Now I hear the words I never heed: Take care of yourself, Di.

"I'm lookin' to the sky to save me..."

Oh, but I will always burn far too much.

Now my legs are sprinting I've passed the woman who seemed so far ahead Coach at the finish I think that's Danielle's sister pointing me to the line go go go go go -

This is just what I imagined.


I don't throw up.

I find Jill in the Miller Avenue Elementary School gym, which now smells like sweat from all the runners drinking water and eating cookies post-race. Girls in Cortland sweatshirts, my alma mater -- literally, they're everywhere, and I want to say something to them but feel silly -- write on the cards posted on the wall. Mine's on 81st place. I don't know the exact finish time but it was somewhere around 44, 45 minutes.

Jill and I joke. Random people walk over to me to say, "Nice finish!" We watch the marker move. I've won more than enough medals in my day -- my mom finally put them in a drawer because they were overwhelming the shelves -- and of course it doesn't matter, but I really would like to be in that top six of 22 to 29-year-old females...

Mr. Anderson's daughter holds the red marker, looks down, looks up, writes "F-4" on my card.

"Let's go get your medal," Jill says.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Declare it so!

At summer YAWP, Julie said, "Poems declare something and make it so." (If you know Julie, you can imagine her stabbing the air with her finger, short hair bobbing, a grin on her face.) I venture that we do the same in all writing.

Yes, we all have our times of quibbling and quabbling:

"it was something like a shade of blue..."

"he saw what appeared to be Antoine's shadow"

around, about, somewhat, slightly, quite, rather...

Sometimes we need these words for style, voice, tone. For intentional ambiguity.

But if not? Declare it so! It was blue, it was Antoine's freakin' shadow, and it was awesome.

The Little Blog That Could

I've had this bad boy for over six years. That's equivalent to beginning six thousand years, what with the turnover in technology (and we all know how I feel about that).

The good, the bad, the explicit, the implict, the emo, the "deep," the over and underwritten, some more emo, many song lyrics. For your eyes in anonymity, for no one's eyes, for my eyes. Around 2004/2005 I thought it was cool/edgy/more expressive to use colors and boldness/underlines/italics in my posts. To hell with the haters--it felt awesome!

I shook through the heartbreaks, drummed out stories that began as beats on here. The first pulses of life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Happens in Mexico

As part of post-grad life, I've decided to undertake the task of rewriting my thesis/novel in the first person. No big deal!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Asian camp

Slightly obsessed with the Stats tab. IT'S AMAZING!

Made stir-fry (almost) on my ownsome. Survival skills are stepping up.


-What'd you do tonight?
-Watched lightning over the Sound. The water silenced, the quietest low tide that I've never heard.
How about you?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Master of Effing Around

Me: "Would you be willing to write a recommendation if I apply to Ph.D. programs?"
Roger: "Yes, but why in the world would you do that to yourself?"

My thesis advisor proceeded to sum up his Harvard Ph.D. experience: "I met some very nice people. I read some very nice books that I didn't need a Ph.D. program to read."

The latter point underscored by a conversation two years ago with Dr. Weaver when I mentioned my interest in a Spanish M.A.: "Don't waste your time. I could have read all those books on my own."

So why do I want a Ph.D.?

In no rank:

1. Greater "employability" in academia. I want to teach. I have found jobs that accept MFA's but many look for Ph.D.'s. (<--Lots of weird punctuation going on right there.)

2. I'd like to learn more about composition pedagogy.

3. I found a cool composition program that would allow me to pursue my interest in teaching ESL (the perpetual fallback career in the back of my mind).

4. I'd feel like a bad-ass as "Dr. Gallagher."

5. I don't have anything else going on right now.

Which leads me to counter with "Opposition to Ph.D.":

2. (1. being "I could read all those books on my own") Maybe I'm just afraid to pursue life as a writer.

3. A Ph.D. is no guarantee for a job in academia.

4. I'd also be overqualified for, eh, jobs in every other walk of life.

5. It might be boring as sin.

6. I may be hiding in school to avoid life (see point 2.).

Point 2. also brings me to sophomore year of college, when I went to the gym for a visit and my coach asked what I was studying. "Why do you need to go to college to learn how to be writer?" he said.

This was a valid point, and it's also a question that can be asked of why I wanted an MFA (as opposed to an MA, or even at all). What did I gain as a Master of Effing Around?

1. My sexy boyfriend/Flo Davies.

2. More experiences, more stories.

3. Awesome friends, both writerly and non.

4. Connections (we'll work it, Flosef!).

5. Teaching experience -- I want to use the word "valuable" here but cringe at its clicheness -- I'll say instead that my experiences teaching were fantastic and that I was taught by fantastic teachers.

6. I learned that I'm on the right path.

7. The ability to ask the right questions, and to turn those same questions to my work.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"You're blogging in my apartment? I've dreamed of this."

(That comment was aimed at Tony, but I'll take it.)

In a discussion of what one should do in one's life, T-Pats talks about his lifelong love of cuttlefish. "See," Tara says, "when I was fifteen, I figured I'd be dead by twenty-five."

"I like the skinny broads." - Dom's dad

Too. Legit. To. QUIT.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

tale as old as time

I commissioned my gymnasts to write their goals but it's time to do the same, Coach/Teacher/Miss. What will you fight for? What will it take?

What do you want? What happens if you don't get it?

I know the latter already: find other ways.


Eight years on seventeens makes some kind of rhythm, a drip of leaves on wet asphalt and the tick tick tick of car signal in the night.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New life

I had a "real" post planned.

But I just changed my blog layout for the first time in two/three years, and while I loved that deep ol' lighthouse, I'm enjoying a fresh look.

And if you click the photo on the side, magic happens.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

speaking in sixteens

Today is your tenth anniversary, except that didn't really go according to plan. It's on the kitchen calendar, along with "dentist appointment" and "pain doctor." I know my mom is bothered, and in that desire-to-scream-in-a-silent-crowded-church way, I want to draw an X through it and write "LOL." But that's not the way to erase these things.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I've got a pocketful of dreams

I see people my age doing what I want to do. Big things, real things, writing and relaying and directing and living.

It's time to stop lingering. It's time to want it enough.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to the grind

Me: "How was your break?"
Mark: "I hit a pedestrian."

'til death pull down the walls

I like to keep (some of) my fiction free of autobiography. Let the imagination stretch. Really experience what it is to be that person, to live that way. Explore.

Then the days when disturbing stories come through about women living with dead babies and I have to wonder, where is this coming from?

Monday, September 13, 2010

September cognition

Eleventh night goes dark. The passage of bicycles and runners and designer glasses. A building as flag, two beams in the sky, a subway's shudder and golden crescent moon.

This is one of the coolest things I've done.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I dunno, man, it's a pretty non-emo day

In fact, despite a headache on one side of my head, it's been a pretty rockin' one. Enjoying the break from the gym and feeling good about life. Yes, good! Mark it, folks! (I know Tony is relieved to read this.)


Get writing, Flo Davies!



"Then he counseled me about how if I moved into a retirement home the others would be too rowdy for me and I don't live life to its fullest. All because I said I look forward to the season premiere of Glee."

la Frida

"Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?"

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Deep thoughts from a church sign en route to Leaf Pile Ale

"People may not believe what you say, but they will believe what you do."

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

red silo

Tonight is the perfect gray cool. I watch it on the deck.

I feast on ghost stories that frighten me but out here I'm ready to leave behind the old life. All is well. I am one of the lucky ones.

Friday, September 03, 2010

the naming of things

May have accidentally come up with the title for the YA nov. Yay for entropy!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Tropical Storm Watch

I thrived on this once. Maybe I will again.


The only thing stopping me from buying a pumpkin spice latte is that it's 95 degrees outside. And I only pause because I tend to overheat.

Soon! Soon!


I've been here all day. Through tears and kicked heads and threats. The lights shut, the phone quiet, all but one door locked.

I toss the water bottle that isn't mine. Move a book, a clipboard, a pencil that I didn't leave out. My shoes sponge into carpet and there is no echo. I move like this place is mine.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Good vibrations

Well, I thought I'd have the "it's the first day of college classes and I'm not there" blues. But today has been a pretty stellar day. Finished Maddie's "Explosive" routine, great publishing, "legit options," and SBS fights its way back!

I should call it now, but I'm going to write a touch. Gotta put in the work.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wishful Pinking

These are my concerns:

1. What to do with this potential.
(Answer: tenacity.)


2. How do I make it on my own if it comes to that?
(Answer: Still pending.)


In the midst of my anxieties, I need to celebrate. To be in IG has been a huge dream of mine since, oh, '97. And now it's happened.

I've arrived.


As of today, I've divided my life into four quadrants: professional, physical, writerly, soulful. Sure, there are crossovers (pro-writerly-soul). But my goal is to fill each one each day. Stay balanced.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Waldbaum's, 12:20 a.m.

Picked up the magazine and read this:


I need a lesson in carpe diem, put into practice by all semblances of self.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just the right shade of gray

-Put together a piece that will be in an online gymnastics magazine next week
-Received a job heads-up that I jumped on immediately
-Finished One Hundred Years of Solitude and am now onto Olive Kitteridge
-Will possibly stalk Caralyn and Jessica tonight
-Still feel motivated to run!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Literary Smackdowns

Two articles worth sharing.

The first, reposted from the NewPages Blog: The Guide: AWP's 2011 Ranking of MFA Programs. As someone who was deadset on going Ivy League/equally expensive for undergrad because that was what I *should* do, I think this piece is spot-on. The choice is all about soul.

And the second, stalked from Miss Wolff's post on K-Bahlin's wall: Confessions of a Journal Editor. Heck, PhD program websites are bombarded with jargon. How's a layman even to apply? Break down the obfuscation!


was when I crossed the line. In the rain, after five hours of sleep.

Then I almost threw up, as per usual, and my legs aren't feeling too fine right now.

Overall? It was awesome.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Somehow you'll know, you'll know even then

At the end of each day I ask myself what I've done to move myself forward, advance my career, circle closer to where I want to be. It's a bit tricky when you see yourself as all sorts of people doing everything.

But just to be safe, I'll write a page before I sleep.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Strangers Like Me (11985)

An explanation for my life and possibly yours:


I love unexpected phone calls from groups of good people. :-)


Have you ever bowled with the aid of a plastic dinosaur?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Seeking Samsung

About a month and a half after my declaration against modern cell phone technology, my phone passed away. My new phone has a touch screen and a keyboard. It's still pink. To boot, my mom just purchased the same phone (in more adult red). This is mayhem. This is 2010 at its finest. Oh, and I still refuse a data plan. The Glee app can wait.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Today I'm not so good at sticking by my decisions.

Friday, August 13, 2010

"I know him. Nick Lachey."

Dear Francesca,

Your tomatoes are adorable.


So far, I love Cien anos de soledad. I'm reading an English translation. But I've listened to more Sabor Latino! lately. It balances.

Fine literature justifies my other life choices, like certain movies.


I'm not sure I'll spring for this job, but it's good to feel wanted! Yay, MFA!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I've coined a life motto:

Make pancakes, not war.

Dance, dance like it's the last, last night of your life, life

I appreciate songs that correlate carpe diem with dance floors.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

oh em gee

A niche for the nov?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

For the man who waves his hand and asks, "What's your process?"

I say,

Some days I get myself to the page by reminding myself that I can always erase it. Just write something. Just put it down.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A weekend for the booty shorts

It's true.

They took themselves out in the evening, both in purple dress form and velvet Spandex. They ran from high tide spilling down the sand at Pike's Beach. They danced in clubs that look like houses and under helmets like cyclists. They sat in soft puddles on sailboats, looking up at stars.

There will be many days for loneliness but this weekend wasn't one.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Speaking words of wisdom

Stephanie Wade is my hero. Every time I see a dead end, she points me the other way.

Watch out, PhD admissions crews!


I've got violins in my head and that's all right. Libertango forth.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


I've cranked through the following this summer. Normally my reading speed is rapid, but this thing called the Conference threw it off. No matter.

White Oleander by Janet Finch
Paint it Black " "
Naked by David Sedaris
Crime and Punishment (finally) by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Notes from Underground " "
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead (Flo is proud)
En route: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Keep it real, rock stars.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Airplanes in the night sky

In honor of this weekend, I'd like to recount some of my finest airport moments.

Honorable mention:
This Saturday/Sunday. Saturday saw the plane delayed four times. On Sunday I wised up. Bought a slice of pizza and a brewski, found a table instead of the floor, read Sag Harbor.

The payoff? Emeline and Laurel, of course!

Third place:
Mexico, or rather, Hancock International Airport. Woke up at 3:45 am, arrived at the airport at 5 am to learn that our flight to Chicago was canceled, sat on the airport floor for seven hours until they finally realized that we were not going to Mexico that day.

The payoff? Mexico the next day. Plus a free stay at the Best Western next door. High class, kids.

Second place:
Hancock is the theme, it seems. As I drove to the airport pre-October break, tornadoes spun back home. I arrived to learn that my flight was canceled. I booked another flight, which ended up delayed three hours. I sat amongst SU students who video chatted on their Macs next to their designer luggage. Eventually JetBlue brought in pizzas because we'd waited for so long.

The payoff? Landing at JFK and sitting endlessly on the runway whilst the SU kids chatted on their cell phones. Win.

First place:
Kerry, Ireland to London, UK. Everyone lauds Ryanair for its cheap flights. They failed to mention that the aircraft are tiny, stiff, and shaky. The plane bucked between clouds. It rattled with every gust of altitude. My stomach rolled up and down. I put in my headphones and tried to sleep.

The payoff? Jude Law. Almost as good as Emeline and Laurel.

Notes from Notes from Underground

Re: a toothache: "One moans; but these are not straightforward moans, they are crafty moans, and the craftiness is the whole point."

"But what's to be done if the sole and express purpose of every intelligent man is babble--that is, a deliberate pouring from empty into void."

"Man loves creating and the making of roads, that is indisputable. But why does he so passionately love destruction and chaos as well? Can it be that he has such a love of destruction and chaos because he is instinctively afraid of achieving the goal and completing the edifice he is creating? How do you know, maybe he likes the edifice only from from far, and by no means up close; maybe he only likes creating it, and not living in it."

"...With consciousness, though the result comes out the same--that is, again there's nothing to do--at least one can occasionally whip oneself, and, after all, that lives things up a bit. It may be retrograde, but still it's better than nothing."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Suite Times

Diana: "Is it wrong that I'm amused by this Facebook status?"
Matt: "Nah. I'd print that shit out and roll around in it."

Galactic jamboree

As Sven, John, and I walk in and out of awkward actor parties, call people who don't answer, wave to the adults who sit on the stoop with wine and solo cups, it's like walking through college town to find what's alive and then settling back in the place with green chairs, pajamas, ukeleles, friends.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fire with a side of Earth

For the third time in a week, someone asked if I've lost a lot of weight lately. Indeed, I unintentionally dropped a few pounds in June. But it was just that -- a few.

My tactics? Little exercise these past couple of weeks and very hearty meals. Dig it, man.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Keep a fire burning in your eyes

Crack those knuckles and toes. Shake out the arms. Call it the canvas or the clean page. Either way, a finger touches the chalky button, pushes play. I create.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

stainless steel and bad romance

Tonight has been pretty amazing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

vegetarian considerations

I started writing stories of death and destruction in middle school, mocking them as I did, because it seemed as though all anyone wanted was the darkness. Those were the good stories. Kill your comedy and ready that same hand to wipe your eyes.

But now I know why the dead bird sings. With all this craft talk of tensions and stakes, what stakes are greater than life and death?


The slaying of bad habits requires an excess of something else to do.

On the eighth day

Flo: "Diana, you're the man and the woman and the man." ::falls into armoire:: "Whoa."

Monday, July 19, 2010

certified at 90%

I like that I'm at the Writer's Conference and have had little time to actually, you know, write.

But meeting up with old friends, listening to great readings and lectures (yes, great lectures!), and sprinting over the softball field of dreams -- yes, this is a much-welcome change from recent life.

Friday, July 16, 2010

ping and pong

For the first time, I realize the true duality of my name.

And I'm still loving Southampton!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Write on

To be back amongst the crowd with words all around--

(and in Jeremy's room)--

I feel alive again.

Monday, July 12, 2010


The World Cup final was the first game I actually watched, beyond one college game that I attended in hopes of seeing cute guys. From half-time up through minute 1:16 and the ensuing celebration, I followed the dancing, the yellow cards, the goal.

I've concluded that there are a number of positives in watching the sport:

1. No time-outs, hence no dawdling and stalling.
2. Minimal commercial breaks -- AWESOME!
3. Constant motion, as opposed to American football.
4. The clock runs regardless of whistles, etc.
5. Dramatic near-misses.
6. Overly dramatic falls in hopes of getting a yellow card.
7. Impossibly intricate footwork.
8. Team Spain is BEAUTIFUL.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday morning

Timeless sea breezes,
sea-wind of the night:
you come for no one;
if someone should wake,
he must be prepared
how to survive you.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Existential crisis got you down?

Dostoevsky and Notes from Underground will serve you well.

Monday, July 05, 2010

lime green

When I shut the door in the empty parking lot, the afternoon is desert heat. Lethal as sleepy eyes under warm blanket.

Pieces of sunlight in concert with wide-open windows and AC. Bumpers behind me. Slow down, knave. I move at just the right speed.

Fireworks from the freeway

There's nothing like deciding to trim your own bangs with a utility knife scissor. When you're twenty-four. And sober.

Happy Independence Day!


When in doubt, play "Things." I believe everyone will benefit by doing so.


So many decisions need to be made but a friend was all I needed and I thank you for that.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Aaand they're off.

I'm delighted to report that despite a late-night breakdown, stomach cramps, heat, and needing to walk for approximately six seconds, I finished third in my age group.

Burning down that highway skyline.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Not quite sure what my next move is, but I'd like this feeling to go away.

Friday, July 02, 2010

To your streetside garbage pile:

A mattress is only as good as the amount of little feet that have jumped on it.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Life's too short to not wear neon hair ties.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Imagine all the people

Has anyone ever pitched the idea of cheerleading as an Olympic sport?

Can you imagine all the furor?

Is it wrong that should such an event ever come to pass, I'd tune in?

of dpi

So close to victory!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

the beating of the drum

Having traveled past Fort Drum on several occasions, I'm especially interested in this story:

that boy is a monster

Right now my hair's in two buns akin to Princess Leia (just less formal), I'm wearing an outfit other than gym clothes, eyeshadow's on my eyelids for the first time since Class Day. I have no plans to leave the house. But you never know.

digging poetry this eve

Rilke's Letter from Rome

by Star Black

Certainly you've missed this on your reading list,

or have you? do you really agree with Rilke's dark

equality, that women should be set free to be who

they are? are you that committed to this anguished

apartness? after all, we're no longer young, hello?

The phone's ringing once again, Housman calling,

the cherry blossoms fall. Frost, hunched upon

the old farm, is gazing at white spiders. Jarrell

is gone, his love for Mary - "Change me, change me" -

is all that is left of him, his beloved semesters,

his street crossings, his crooning essays, and, yes,

each woman misses him as I miss you, immediately,

so, let the letter from Rome go. You've read it. I've

read it. It's a good letter. Not as good as you, though.