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.