Thursday, March 31, 2011

consider yourself under examination

Remember the test-taking days? The state and AP exams in high school, the college finals, the other tests in between that required jamming information into your mind that you'd promptly forget once the semester or year (or, sometimes, test) was finished? I can still recall the literary terms and Spanish vocabulary, but AP Calculus? 'Tis but a fond wisp of memory.

And let us recall, too, the reactions to the study experience. There were the procrastinators, of course. I mean, I don't think you can write about tests without mentioning procrastination. There were the Emelines, who finished one test and started studying for the next one immediately after, although it was weeks away. (AND LOOK AT HER NOW, folks! A super success!) There was me, studying history and astronomy on the elliptical and memorizing the syllabus for a Spanish literature final, because where else was I going to find a complete list of all the poems we'd read? There were the study sessions of brownies and delirium and hysterical giggles when you pass maximum capacity for knowledge taken in and sleep not taken.

Then we had the test itself. I've always had a number of friends who decried multiple choice. "I'd so much rather write an essay," they'd say.

True confession: My writing self will take multiple choice any day.

  • It's faster.
  • The answer is in front of you.
  • You don't really have to demonstrate a strong grasp on the material if you can at least tell what's not correct.
  • If you know the answer, it goes even faster!
  • How can you forget the satisfaction of darkening the Scantron bubbles with your freshly sharpened number two pencil?
In contrast, the written exam: in World History, our test consisted of half definitions, half essays. By the time I finished writing the definitions, classmates were already handing in the test. They were done. And meanwhile I was still spewing everything I could remember about Iwo Jima, not even on the essay page yet. Hand cramps and sweet times.

In honor of my exam tonight (what? A test after grad school?!), here's to you, rote memorization, good guesses, and a mind that holds all it can!


#91: Chris Young, "Tomorrow"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Group 3, 6, 7

I posted about how my character's voice changed, either through her maturation or mine (or both). Well, I started to work on the last chapter, as I wasn't sure how all these arcs were going to wind up and thought I might try to figure that out. 

Although it's Chapter 15 (for now) and much has happened, as soon as I put her back in a car, that voice came out again. Funny, self-deprecating, sassy. Maybe not so much has changed.

#89: Parachute, "Something to Believe In"
#90: Rise Against, "Help Is On the Way"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hotel, motel, Hampton Hamlet

It's one of those days where you're grateful to own black pants, even if they're a little baggy and attract lint. You do what you can.


#87: REM, "Everybody Hurts" (Another song that I should know, or should have known, but didn't know I knew...if you know what I mean.)
#88: Skillet, "One Day Too Late"

There's money in the banana stand

I like to strike deals with myself. Tonight's: if I finish my ten-minute play, then I may watch the YouTube videos of the Pac-10 gymnastics championship. Win-win? I think so.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

climb on my back so we both can fly

I like this grasping of names and placing them onto myself. With each one I grow a bit taller.

#85: "Money Grabber," Fitz and the Tantrums
#86: "Happy Ending," Mika

These songs are particularly rocking.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


My girls exude the excitement that other teams reserve for, say, 9.5's.

I've zoned out a bit, staring at the uneven bars, when suddenly arms accost me and Kaylee is jumping up and down, yelling, "I GOT AN 8! I GOT AN 8!"

The judge looks baffled. Why is this girl celebrating? But we know. It's a victory indeed.

Keep On Burning

Because we're carrying the fire.

We spent classes and email exchanges and Blackboard review sessions dissecting each other's work, finding the right pieces for the literary magazine, finding the places that were right for us and our kinds of art.

Then those dreams went somewhere else.

I still hold the torch.


#83: "Folsom Prison Blues," Johnny Cash
#84: "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," Neil Diamond

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


is a rhythm I could get used to. I like to see them up there. Super proud, maybe a little embarrassed, but smiling nonetheless. Makes me feel like I'm doing something right.


#81: Dire Straits, "Sultans of Swing"
#82: Single Gun Theory, "Open Grave" (it had only 61 views, so I figured I'd help out)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

we make the hipsters fall in love

  • Making it to the station in fifteen minutes despite the Mini-Cooper situation.
  • Sprinting onto the 7:40 train at...7:40.
  • Downing the bottle of orange-pineapple juice without feeling ill.
  • Successfully following Flo across the avenues and boulevards, though she did not know the way.
  • Singing "Don't Stop Believing," "The Thong Song," "I'm On A Boat," and similarly exceptional songs.
  • Covering nine miles in one hour, via car.
  • Invading a hipster establishment that had super comfortable chairs. By "invading," I mean "trying to take a nap while people danced in the next room."
  • Researching how to rip one's music off of one's iPod, lulled by the Glee soundtrack.
  • Sleeping on the Whoasef's couch for ~4.5 hours, putting my contacts in mini Tupperware containers, driving home for the floor music CD, driving to the meet, and learning that I could have used my iPod all along.


#76: Kansas, "Dust in the Wind" (pretty sure I knew this song, but never knew the name and artist, know what I mean?)
#77: Empress Gladys & the Pips, "Midnight Train to Georgia"
#78: Rufus and Chaka Khan, "Tell Me Something Good"
#79: The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"
#80: Earth Wind and Fire, "Let's Groove"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Ides & Poetics

(Is it possible for other months to have ides? Can I declare my birthday to be such a day?)


"Midsummer, Tobago" -- Derek Walcott

Broad sun-stoned beaches.

White heat.

A green river.

A bridge,

scorched yellow palms

from the summer-sleeping house

drowsing through August.

Days I have held,

days I have lost,

days that outgrow, like daughters,

my harbouring arms.


#74: Wynton Marsalis & the Boston Pops, "Carnival of Venice"
#75: Thelonious Monk, "Round About Midnight"

Monday, March 14, 2011

On the 100th day

Last June, I needed motivation to run in the muggy afternoons. So I followed the same process as I did for my thesis: When it's done, mark it down on the calendar. Write how much time. Doesn't matter if it's ten minutes or sixty. Count the days up from one.

Then the harder step: Keep going.

Sometimes a full week went by without a number. Sometimes more. Snowy times were rough. Starting-the-job times were rough, too. And sometimes I just didn't feel like running.

Today, the 100th day of running, I wore shorts and a T-shirt and wondered why everyone at the track wore sweatshirts and pants. When the wind picked up, I understood. But I was already 2:30 in.

I felt light. A unity in dirt and roots and an extra hour of sun and pink iPods. I needed that sun. I needed to find out that this was possible.


#72: Jimmy Eat World, "Coffee and Cigarettes"
#73: Blues Image, "Ride, Captain, Ride"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday nights in your twenties

-"That doesn't look like dollar pizza."
-"No, but that does look like Diana."


#71: The Nightwatchman, "The Road I Must Travel"

I hear voices all the time

(For the record, those are Chris Young's words, not mine.)

Two summers ago, I wrote the first chapter of the YA novel for the Children's Literature Conference. My protagonist's voice came through glib and sarcastic and fun. This would be easy, I thought. Sit right back and watch her sass around.

I've worked on the novel on and off since then, and more so in recent times. But she's changed. She's still sarcastic and sassy, but she's much more introspective. Wistful. Sad, at times. A maturing voice. Is she maturing through the writing? Turning inward as I dive deeper into who she is and what has brought her here?

Or am I the one maturing?


Victor, age 27, on his girlfriend: "She realizes that I'm kind of infantile."


#68: Jo Dee Messina, "Bye Bye"
#69: Miranda Lambert, "Heart Like Mine"
#70: Foo Fighters, "Rope"

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Art of Not Sounding Like a Toolbox When Writing About Yourself

("Tool" is a versatile word, and I like to combine it with "box" for maximum effect. Or, as Urban Dictionary eloquently explains, "More toolish than just a tool, but not quite as toolish as an entire toolshed.")

I'm required to write a brief professional biography of myself. Which should technically be called an "autobiography," but nobody has called it that. Maybe it's due to the whole writing-in-the-third-person style.

For inspiration, I read the biographies of other folks on similar pages.

___________ is the winner of [prestigious award] and was the director of [something that sounds important]. He/She also [don't be fooled by "also," which sounds like an aside, but this is where the real zinger comes in, where the person did something that sounds way cooler than everything mentioned thus far] in [an exotic location, or a place of low income, adding a sense of nobility].


I'm inspired by such biographies. A little jealous, too, but it certainly gets me amped: I want to be that kind of literary/teaching/life rock star.

After further reading, having cool or important experiences doesn't make one a toolbox, I've decided. It's the overlong biography that does.

Look, we get it. You're awesome. Maybe even a bestselling writer. Maybe some movie deals yielded from said bestseller(s). Everyone proffers awards in your general direction. And, to boot, you're also a humanitarian who has changed lives all over the world.

But a lesson in brevity might not hurt.

That said, I'm about to finish my three-sentence bio. I could be leading a rock star's life. I could be leading a rather, um, less rock star-ish life. But either way, I'll always be brief.

Monday, March 07, 2011

You held your breath/and the door for me

I swung bars tonight for the first time in a while. By "swung," I do mean swings. A few clear hips.

I never loved bars, but I felt strong this evening. The old rhythm of that initial glide to start the routine. The attack. The declaration: Here I am.


I'd like to take this opportunity to throw back to a couple of old songs. Two that I really enjoyed back when they frequented the airwaves and forgot about until this evening, when two separate stations played them back-to-back.

Though I was never a full-out Alanis fan, I particularly admired "Hands Clean" on this listen. It's intimate. Playful and bittersweet. There's a sincerity: you know this is real. As is "Head Over Feet."

Thanks for you patience.


As recommended by the Bahlin' one,
#67: John Garrison, "Never Far From Me"

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Aliya Mustafina and Internet Outrage

This is what I love about technology: the American Cup marches forth, and the Internet (well, the gymternet) lights up with irate fans. Fights brew over execution scores and cries of "SCAM." Lengthy comments break down the scores of each athlete and where possible deductions lurked. More cries of a scam. Shouts back of "No scam." Emeline and I text about floor music. Other friends text to say, "Hey, there's gymnastics on TV and I thought of you."

How can the rest of the world go on in ignorance?

Also, if there's something worth dissecting in a public forum, it's the moment where the camera panned to Aliya Mustafina (as it often did) after her beam routine. Our current world champ sat in a chair and surreptitiously drank diet Coke.

Move over, Gatorade, we've got aspartame.


#62: Sarah Darling, "Something to Do With Your Hands"
#63: U2, "Desire"
#64: Steve Azar, "I Don't Have to Be Me ('Til Monday)"
#65: Sara Evans, "A Little Bit Stronger"
#66: Reba McIntire, "Consider Me Gone"

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

channel surfing

I don't like to write from sadness. When I'm heavy, I'd rather the feelings burn away like morning fog instead of letting them seep through my words. I don't want to remember those moments.

Last night I decided to donate my feelings to the character and watch what she did with them. I don't want my characters to be thinly veiled imitations of myself in my various moods. But I figured there might be a universality to this feeling.

So I set the scene and she reacted in such a way that lifted the heaviness. Or rather, she shared it with me, and the heaviness evaporated quietly, knowing it was time to go.


#59: Kenny Chesney, "Somewhere With You"
#60: Katy Perry, "E.T. (Futuristic Lover)"
#61: George Thorogood, "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"