Writing: Short Story a Day

prod240087_H12I’m on holiday, and I’m too poor and lazy to travel at the moment, so I’m having a “Staycation”. (What a stupid word) I promised myself I would be productive and not simply watch The Great British Bake off for five days in a row. I guess I can still do that, but in between episodes I have to write! It dawned on me that I can write an entire novel (50,000+ words!) in one month when I put my mind to it, but the rest of the year I am an excuse factory. Something which I cannot abide. If you can make an excuse, you can fix it.

The solution is: For the next four or five days, I’m using the game STORYMATIC. It was a Christmas gift from my fella, and it’s pretty cool. (And it is also available for Tiny People, we sell them at my work) It’s a card system for building stories either audibly, or in writing. It’s for groups or for a single, solitary person to use as writing prompts over their “Staycation” in Seattle when it is pouring rain. Every. Single. Day.

It’s an easy game. You choose two GOLD cards first. These are your character cards. Next pick two BRONZE cards. These are your story cards, or elements you need to work into your story. I like having challenges, so I’ll post the stories here, along with the pictures of the prompts.

Please keep in mind that I’m writing these as stream of consciousness, so you are getting the first and only draft. 

Books: The Best Books For Writers

Emerald City Trapeze

Emerald City Trapeze

Hello Dear Reader, if you are in fact still out there. I know I’ve been off the map, but I tend to do that from time to time. And that’s okay. I am a vagabond. Sometimes you just need to go out and live life. And that’s what I’ve been doing. I took a class where I learned how to fly… well I learned how to climb “silks” and swing from them like Pink! does. I also learned doing that is really, really hard, and I am a total badass because I fucking did it. So there was that.

I’ve also been reading like crazy which is good since I am “literally” trying to pen a novel in long hand. Anyway, all great writers are great readers. Stephen King, or should I say NATIONAL MEDAL OF ARTS recipient, Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Margaret Atwood says, “Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice.

41VVy56lKJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Reading is fundamental to writing. If you want to be a writer you should be reading books. And not just books about writing. While those are valuable, you have to be careful or at least thrifty about what you read. Good advice and reading about other writers will only get you so far. Hell,  add “an MFA” and “a good Twitter account” to that list. Having a Twitter account doesn’t make you a good writer. It hardly qualifies you to put a sentence together. What you really need in order to improve is:
1. WRITE. WRITE. WRITE.
2. READ. READ. READ!
Every book you read is a learning experience. Reading Joyce Carol Oates is a Master Class in story, character and prose. Du Maurier is all about tension and building mystery. Different writers have different things to tell you. Some don’t have much to say at all, (Thank you Gillian Flynn) but at least you know what you don’t want to sound like. Read writers who inspire you and scare you. Read books with unusual language or style. Read books that make you read more books. Or… try these. These are just a few of the best I can think of. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these books are on my personal short list for writers. Read these if you want to grow in the craft of writing. And they are just really good books.

  1. Steering the Craft, by Ursula LeGuin
    This is a revised edition of the same titled book she wrote in the 90’s. In the Introduction she states this “is not a book for beginners.” It’s for people who have already worked hard on their writing. That hooked me. A lot of writers today have the expectation of fame and fortune, of being published and Tweeted about, of possibly being the next big thing. But they don’t do the work. They’ve never read Twain or Dickens. They have heard of Shelley but don’t see the point in reading something so old or out of touch. Ms. LeGuin’s book is full of reasons why to read these books and what you can learn from them. It is also full of exercises for The Lone Writer or a Mutinous Crew (her term for a writing group) It’s a delightful and lovely book that just so happens to be about writing.
  2. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy I know. The last book you want to read as inspiration is “The Best Book Ever Written”. But it worked for me! I was not only inspired by Tolstoy and the story he was able to tell, but how economical he was with both word and emotion – considering how long that book is. And I guess I should add he was not so economical with his words when it came to hay. A good lesson to learn: Just because you find “hay” fascinating, doesn’t mean it deserves center stage. It’s a beautiful book about love and hate and marriage, gender roles, having kids, and being human.
  3. Don’t Look Now, Daphne Du Maurier and The Collected Stories, Grace Paley
    Two collections of short stories which I find to be the best. The first is fear, tension, sex and mystery. And also a sense of humor. You’ll read the short story called “The Birds” which Alfred Hitchcock changed from a terrifying tale of animals rising up against a small seaside fishing village to an odd romance where Tippi Hedren and Suzanne Pleshette eat more scenery than the birds do. Every story in this collection is fun and a lesson in how to write short fiction. And all writers should be readers in short stories. Grace Paley is the American Master of them. Haven’t heard of her? Run. Go now to the library or local independent bookstore and get her. If Raymond Carver is all you know, you don’t know much.
  4. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
    He is pretty much literary perfection. I’m not the first or last to say it. But read Lolita and not be transfixed and transplanted by his absolute dominance of the english language. And this from a non-native speaker! Of course, Nabokov wrote in english and Russian, but Lolita was his first novel written in english. Read it and think about that until you feel a little dumb. Then shake it off and get to work. Nabokov didn’t learn english overnight, he worked at it.
  5. The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
    Oddly enough, this incredible true story of magic, murder and mayhem during the 1893 World’s Fair is the best example of a perfect narrative I can give you. All of his books are. This book is full of facts and true history, but you’d never know it. He takes old boring documents and turns them into a unputdownable narrative which keeps you on the edge of your seat. Not bad for non-fiction, eh? Any writer who says they “don’t read” non-fiction isn’t a writer I would read.
  6. On Writing, by Stephen King
    41cqe00ZzsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Stephen King understands what it takes to write books. He’s written like, sixty books, not including his non fiction and short stories. Anyway, if you want an expert on the craft of writing, look no further. His book reads as part awesome writing coach and part memoir of America’s most prolific and beloved writers. If you are too snobby for Stephen King, read this and tell me he’s not good. The man knows how to tell a story and… he can scare the shit out of you USING ONLY WORDS. Anyway, here are a few tidbits of wisdom from the master.
    “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
    “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
    And finally, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
  7. Joyce Carol Oates, anything you can get your hands on
    I am the only bookseller at my current bookstore who has read, and who currently reads, Joyce Carol Oates. This is a sad little travesty. Not only has she been producing work since 1962, that work is all really, really good. Okay, I haven’t read all of her work…. but I’m working on it! Now think of the volume of work she produces and now add to that she works IN LONG HAND. Yep she WRITES her really long and intricate stories. That is rad. She writes from 8am til 1pm and then again, two more hours, at night. And she still has time for The Wire. If Joyce Carol Oates can put out a memoir and three novels a year, I think you can finish that short story you’ve been working on.

Need more? Susan Sontag, Frank Stanford, Mark Twain, Margaret Atwood, Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte, Shelley, Keats, Emerson, Murakami, Mary Gaitskill, Patricia Highsmith, James M. Caine, Jane Smiley…

What I Miss?

bill_cosby_1978025Sorry folks, a lot of life happened to me in November, but I’m back! And after a succesful NaNoWriMo to boot! That’s right, I won for the third time! (out of ten times trying.) NaNoWriMo takes up a lot of time and energy, plus I had my job to worry about, so I just couldn’t blog. But I came out of November with a whole novel! So I can’t complain. I did it! Thanksgiving, a broken tooth, a sprained hand, and some sort of stomach virus are not going to stop me. 

But so much has happened! If these stories had surfaced at any other time, I would have had a lot to say. But as it was, my words were otherwise engaged. So I thought I’d give my two cents on the big stories I missed in the last thirty days. I’m a little rusty,so be kind. It feels good to be back.

  1. Bill Cosby – Ever since women began coming forward accusing The Cos of sexual assault and rape, I have been wondering where his supporters are. Usually when there is some sort of scandal involving a beloved celebrity (Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods) that celebrity has his famous friends coming out of the woodwork to support them. Not so much with Bill Cosby. Raven-Symone has said to please “leave her out of it.” Whoopie Goldberg said on the view she found some of the stories “questionable”, and singer Jill Scott defended him on Twitter. Most stars have tried to dodge the story by saying things like, “How sad if this is true”. Sad? More like infuriating. These women deserve to at least be heard. If these allegations are true, and dollars to donuts they are, then it is infuriating that this man preyed on women for over thirty years and nobody did anything to stop him. He drugged women and then had sex with them, or touched them. Power and privilege can sometimes make a man into a monster. He shouldn’t get special treatment just because he was a great TV dad and comedian. He is an awful person and should be put away. It’s called serial rape. But famous men often get away with brutality and we end up blaming the victim. I think a full investigation should be made, and if Bill Cosby wants to remain relevant and free, then he should start talking. But his silence is so loud that the only option is to believe the 20+ women and their claims of abuse. Sometimes you have to kill your heroes.
  2. Philae’s Wild Comet Landing – Yep, scientists managed to put a lander on a comet. A comet! The thing used harpoons and everything! I half expected to see Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck emerging from it to help save the earth. Okay, so the mission wasn’t to save the earth, but it was pretty freaking dramatic. It touched down thrice and drifted for nearly two hours before resting on the comet. Now the thing is recharging its batteries and hibernating until it gets closer to the sun. I don’t know what it all means, but I do know that it is wicked cool.

  3. Charles Manson getting married – Who the fuck cares.

  4. Fergusondemonstrators-defy-curfew-fergusonUnfortunately when the news came that there would be no indictment I wasn’t the least bit shocked. I lived in LA during the OJ trial and the riots that followed. This doesn’t feel a bit different. Except that OJ was a famous sports and film figure at the time and used those things to help him legally get away with murder. In Ferguson we have a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed kid and got away with it. It should have been cut and dry. I don’t care what the legal evidence was, the police officer should be behind bars, at least for some period of time. There was no question that he did it. Only a question of self-defence. A murder, even if it was an accident or self-defence, should be punished. The fact the officer is a free man today has sparked nationwide riots. Yes, the facts matter. And no, I was not in the courtroom to hear the facts. But, I do believe some sort of punishment was necessary. And we must also take into account that this wasn’t the first time an unarmed black man has been shot for no good reason. And recently! The the powers that be don’t do something fast, a full revolution is on the horizon.

    But I don’t think taking to the streets and reeking havoc is the right answer. It doesn’t solve anything. I’m all for revolution, but looting, robbing and arson are juvenile. Nobody will take you or your cause seriously if you are damaging property. It’s hard to have sympathy for someone when they are setting fire to a pizzeria. I say, take that anger and turn it into something useful. Take action, but in a civil way. Hell, find a lawyer and sue the city of Ferguson for hate crimes. Now that would be something. If we learned anything at all from Do the Right Thing, it is that letting people get really frustrated about unfair treatment never ends well. Espically for the pizzerias in the neighborhood.

And that’s all I got for now. I promise to be a better blogger until November comes a knockin’ again next year. But until then you can always stop by and say hello. I’ll be here.

Tom Robbins in Seattle: It’s All Cosmic Theatre

Tom Robbins, Seattle 2014

Tom Robbins, Seattle 2014

Last night I was fortunate enough to hear Tom Robbins read from his new book Tibetan Peach Pie, at Town Hall here in Seattle. The event sold out months ago. I worked selling his books so that I could have a front row seat and finally meet him. I would have worked for free. Tom Robbins is one of my favorite humans. Ever. Definitely one of my favorite Toms. (Having already met Tom Waits, Robbins was the final Tom on my list.)

There were a few hundred people in attendance. The 82-year-old author read stories from his life and from his latest, and probably his last book. The hall was silent and respectful as he spoke. Heads nodded in agreement and understanding, and faces were plastered with smiles. These were my people. We all came out to sit in the glow of the man who had written our collective favorite books. Robbins wore exactly what you would expect – standard dark sunglasses, jacket, green sneakers and blue jeans. Nothing about his presence said, “I’m 82 years old!”. He was funny, charming, flirtatious and cool. Just like you’d expect.

He spoke at length about Seattle and its past. Smart guy. Seattleites love to talk about Seattle. One woman asked, Do you think Seattle has lost its soul? She had to repeat the question a few times. Robbins paused before saying he didn’t think Seattle was ever a very soulful city. It has a lot of heart, but soul? Not so much. If anyone else had said that?They would have been drawn and quartered. But it was Tom Robbins. Little Tommy Rotten. He gets to say what he wants.

Tom Robbins - June 26, 2014

Tom Robbins – June 26, 2014

He talked a little bit about his process. He doesn’t do multiple drafts. Just one. (That’s what do! I rarely tell folks that because it isn’t normal. But nothing about being a writer is normal. Normal people don’t lock themselves away with blank pages and agonize over them for hours on end.) Robbins says he tries to write about two pages a day, correcting and changing as he writes. ‘When it’s done, it’s done.” He said. Amen.

There were a lot of aspiring, struggling, or otherwise stumbling writers in the audience. One young lady in a Cat T-shirt asked, When did you stop being afraid of your writing? Robbins walked away from his podium and approached Cat Shirt. I guess he didn’t hear her, or he found the question so ridiculous he had to get a good look at who was asking. Cat Shirt repeated the question, touched his green shoes, and backed away almost blushing. Tom Robbins returned to the mic and told the audience he had never been afraid of his writing. Why would someone be afraid of their own writing? Afraid? Silly.

He said he only has a vague idea when he begins a novel. He knows the effects he wants to leave the reader with, but not much more than that. He does a lot of research, educates himself, takes what he knows and sets out to write… like a canoe on open water. Let’s see where this baby takes us! He said that John Irving works the other way. Irving doesn’t begin a novel until he has every detail in place, until he knows everything that will happen down to the final line. Two great writers. Two completely different ways of writing. (I loved hearing that! John Irving wrote my other favorite novel, A Prayer For Owen Meany.) As a writer I think it is important to understand that there is no right or wrong way to write. You can read as many books about writing as you want, but it won’t teach you how to write. All you can do is read. And write. Every day.

“It’s all cosmic theatre,” he said. Tom Robbins has indeed lived an imaginative life. His life and his books have influenced my life choices. I told him that when I finally got to meet him. I’ve been waiting close to thirty years to say thank you to the man who changed the way I see the world and the way I see language. I read Still Life with Woodpecker and it changed everything. Language suddenly came alive for me and I was hungry for it. I didn’t know books like that existed. Books filled with outlaws and women who said fuck. Books with talking inanimate objects and recipes for homemade bombs.

SN858950Tom Robbins opened my eyes to a new way of living and a new way of thinking. He wrote books about people who didn’t just accept society as it was and lived life on their own terms. He wrote books about the falsity of religion and the transitory nature of love. He wrote books that spoke to me and for that I am forever grateful.

“Who knows how to make love stay?

1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.

2. Tell love you want a memento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.”

Thanks again, Tom Robbins. I love ya.

National Novel Writing Month

nanowrimo1Every November thousands of struggling writers hunker down to write with “literary abandon” for thirty days, and thirty nights. We put aside all of our chores and excuses, and just write. We shun family and friends so that we can write. We write at least 1,667 words a day for thirty days. That’s how much time you have to write your 50,000 word novel. I’ve participated in this event every year since 2004. Participated, not finished. I managed to finish in 2011 (You can see my WINNER Badge displayed on my blog home page!) and that gives me hope for the future. Or at least for this year. I’m pretty excited. I’ve got my spiral notebook full of character notes, plot devices, and doodles. The ideas are spilling out faster than I can catch them. I have coffee at hand, and for the first time, I actually have a loose outline for my novel.

There are plenty of naysayers who think, “There is no way I could write 50,000 words in one month. And if I did, who would want to read it?” Maybe you have a valid point. Maybe your novel will be horrible. Maybe you are paralyzed by fear of failure, or of people laughing at you. Maybe your mom was right all along and you will never amount to anything. Maybe you shouldn’t even try. There are already plenty of novels out there, would yours really add to the landscape?

NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing the best novel the world has ever seen – in thirty days. It’s about turning off your inner editor long enough for you to start something and finish it – on deadline. It’s about taking an idea and running with it. December is jokingly called “National Editing Your Novel Month” by NaNo Nerds such as myself in order to remind us that – it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to get done. Sit down and write. Don’t look back. Don’t edit. Just write.

It’s always easier to participate in NaNo when you have a group of friends doing it also. Here are some good great reasons to participate in NaNoWriNo this November.

  1. You read Twilight and thought, “Man, I could write better than that.” Prove it.
  2. You are afraid you’ll fail. That’s cool. We all are. I have failed at this seven times. In a row. I failed until I didn’t. It’s not about winning, it’s about doing.
  3. You’ve always wanted to write a novel. Uh, hello? This is your chance! Set aside about two hours a day and just write. It doesn’t matter if it is good or not. Just write it. You can always edit it later. And by later, I mean in December.
  4. There is an international community of people doing the same thing. I just love how big NaNo has gotten. It seems folks from all over the globe are participating in NaNo. I had Czech friends do it, I saw people in China participating, heck, even people right next door are probably doing it.
  5. November is totally overrated. Thanksgiving? Eh, whatever. It’s just another excuse for not writing. We all work. We all have family and obligations, even in November. Make writing your 1,667 words a priority and then you can think about cooking that bird.
  6. Ninjas, pirates, and wolves – Oh My! I don’t know about you, but I love when a ninja pops out in a book. Maybe not a literal ninja, but a literary ninja. A literary ninja can spice up a boring story, or breathe new life into that stale plot you’ve been wrestling with. * Please note that the Ninja doesn’t have to be a ninja. Pirates, wolves, adorable yet deadly kittens all work just as well. 
  7. You’ll be able to answer “YES!” to the question, “Have you ever written a novel?” There are going to be plenty of assholes out there who say discouraging things to you. Don’t let them get you down. It isn’t easy to write a novel in thirty days. It’s really hard. It takes determination and follow through. But, by midnight on November 30, you’ll be able to say you have written a novel. It feels pretty great.
  8. You love to write. This should be reason enough. Now, take that love and push it to the limits for thirty days in a row. You can veg out and watch missed episodes of Homeland in December.
  9. You could be spending your time doing worse things. Watching reruns of New Girl. Playing Angry Birds. Holding up liqueur stores. Robbing banks. Drinking ’til dawn. Counting the number of stray cats in your neighborhood. Reorganizing your sock drawer. Shopping. Deciding that it’s finally time you steam cleaned that carpet. Scraping dead skin from your feet. Tie-dying.
  10. Finishing feels really, really awesome. Seriously. Getting to that 50,000 word mark makes you feel like a rock star. And it should. Like I’ve said, it isn’t easy. But completing such a huge task has huge rewards. Even if three of your chapters don’t make any sense, and your main character is annoying – it doesn’t matter. You did it! You finished writing a novel in thirty days! Have a party for yourself. Go out dancing. Open a bottle of wine and have at. You deserve it. You can start revising tomorrow.

Zen Living: 6 Ways to Live a Creative Life

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Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up”. Sometimes “being creative” sounds like a task or chore, like the dishes or laundry. Sometimes artistic expression and life itself feel like they are at odds with each other. We juggle work, life, relationships, hobbies; and often our pursuit of a creative life gets shoved aside. The trick is to make creativity part of your daily life. Like Picasso said, kids are all artists. They make art every day and they don’t judge their work. They are just naturally creative. But so are you. Here’s how to rekindle that creative side and keep the proverbial fire stoked.

  1. Find your own space. Virginia Woolf famously said that in order to create, a woman must have money and a room of one’s own. Although times have changed and women are not in the same struggle of patriarchy as Virginia was, the idea still holds water. Having personal freedom is necessary in order to live a creative life. You need a place where it feels safe to create, a place of your own. Whether you convert your basement into a studio, or use a public park or garden – make the place yours. Choose a place that is inspiring to you. Some people find nature inspiring, others find a desk in a quite place is all they need. Finding your own space can be as simple as having a notebook or sketchbook where you can safely put down your thoughts and ideas. Daily.
  2. Say NO more often. A lot of us would have plenty of time to nurture our creative side if we simply stop saying yes to every event and favor that comes our way. It isn’t your job to make sure the rest of the world is happy. It is your job to make sure YOU are happy. The rest will flow from there. Start making time for yourself by saying no to invitations and projects that don’t interest you. Say NO to feeling guilty or disappointing others. Find your way back to making time for the one person in the world who your time will truly benefit: Yourself.
  3. Create ritual or routine. I write and/or draw every day. Sometimes I do both. I also read (a book) every day. Take joy in the doing and start to focus less on the finished product. While getting mounds of adoration for a finished project might feel great, the idea is to make the process of creativity part of your daily life. Focus on the doing. Focus on the moment. How do you feel when you are painting? How does it make you feel when you start writing a new chapter? Good right? You can have that feeling every single day if you just give yourself the time and space to do it.
  4. Be bold. Living a creative life is all about taking risks and seeing what happens. New thoughts or ideas can be intimidating, but don’t run scared. Dive in head first and see what happens. The worst you will do is make a mistake. The best you will do is create something new. Your new creation might not be perfect, but it isn’t supposed to be. Chasing perfection is the opposite of being bold. Draw something that scares you. Write a poem. Taking creative risks is the key to unlocking new territory. Your creativity will mature and grow as you evolve into the artist you were meant to be.
  5. Have fun! Creating is supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, then maybe you are doing it wrong. Do only what appeals to you and don’t bother with what doesn’t. There are no rules, no right way of being creative -it should be fun – whatever it is. Don’t let your inner editor inside your creative space. There is a time and place for editing, but that place is not your safe place. Let your guard down, have fun, and create. Nobody will see it, taste it, read it – unless you invite them to do so. The only person judging you is you.
  6. Understand Balance. Our modern world encourages multiplicity rather than simplicity. Each day we are offered opportunities to do more, see more, and try new things. You must evaluate your life and and find which areas you are willing to downsize in order to focus on your creativity. It sounds a little scary, but it doesn’t have to be. I know I am not happy when I trade my creative time for other endeavors. When I go a few days without writing or drawing I begin to feel a nagging or tugging from deep inside. I know what that means. I don’t write to be read. I don’t draw or paint so that I may have my art reviewed. I do it because it keeps me sane, and it is part of my life. Creativity is as much a part of my daily life as breathing. My life is fuller and richer since I allowed myself the time and space to life a creative life.

Why I quit Facebook

super-hero-facebook-likes1I quit Facebook yesterday. I came home from work and deleted my account. Someone posted something stupid and it made me mad. It made me mad all day. It made me mad all day until I realized I had a choice. I’d let someone who I hardly know infuriate me. I gave someone who isn’t a part of my life, power in my life. No more. I’ve been threatening to do it for a while now, but I just couldn’t commit. I had justification – My blog is connected to Facebook. Being a writer was a great excuse for “needing” a Facebook account. It is easy, free and convenient. But that is just an excuse. This blog has a few hundred followers outside of Facebook. If someone misses me, they know where to find me.

My FB lifestyle was not jiving with my personal beliefs, and who I am in “real life”. I am tired of holding my tongue and I am tired of getting upset. I shouldn’t have to delete “friends” because they use sexist language, are idiots, or I haven’t seen/spoken to them in years. What a pain in the ass. I realized that it is far easier to just remove myself from the equation all together. I am tired of being attached to Facebook and I am tired of looking at pictures of your dog, your kids, your lunch and your neighbors pet chicken. I don’t care what you are listening to. I have no need or desire to play Farmville with you, nor do I give any shits at all about where you have checked in. Your score on Bedazzled doesn’t interest anyone and thank you so much for posting the score of Jimmy’s soccer game. I was totally losing sleep over it.

Two days in and I must say, I feel lighter. I have so many better things to do with my time. I thought I would feel uneasy or nervous, but I don’t. I feel relief. And I don’t suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) so I should be alright. FOMO is the #1 reason people keep their FB accounts while posting about how much they hate Facebook. How often do you check your FB? I bet it is at least in the double digits. Every single glance at all the badass things your friends (and enemies, let’s be honest) are doing just fuels the fire. You start wondering why you aren’t doing badass stuff like climbing mountains, getting married, or getting wasted with a group of Russian tourists.

Start playing the comparison game and you’ll lose every time. That’s how the game works. It starts innocently enough… maybe just a little filter on that picture of your hamburger to make it look brighter. Then, maybe  a second filter to show each and every seed on the bun. By the time you are finished, your photo looks nothing like that thing you ate which gave you indigestion. The only way to win is not to play at all. It’s a losing game. Everybody will always be thinner than you on Facebook. They will be smarter than you. Their Angry Bird score will be better than yours. Their friends will always be hipper than your friends. Their Instagram account will have cooler shots than yours. They will get married before you. Their kids will have cooler names than yours. Their dog will be cuter than your dog. Their cat will be more popular on Youtube than your cat.

You will always lose at Facebook.

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Crawdads (Austin, TX) Alicia Brooks photo

But it doesn’t matter because it’s all a lie. All of it. Take my profile for example. Just recently I posted this picture. Looks incredible, right? Well, here is what I didn’t tell you. That picture was taken at the world’s most boring party. The food you see was not seasoned – at all – until it was thrown in the bowl. Then about six different people took turns salting it. The conversation  was about as exciting as the food. The highlight of the party seemed to be when the host dared a guest to let a crawdad latch onto his nipple… for $5. I kid you not. But, I knew that I could take a very cool picture of the food and nobody needed to know the rest. Facebook is a facilitator of lies.

Everyday we are presented with an endless montage of small excitements disguised as every day activities. We judge ourselves against the carefully cultivated and created profiles that people present as truth. That is absurd behavior. Facebook is the ghost in the machine. It works on your behalf when you are not there. It actively distorts us to our friends, and worse yet to users whom we have never met. Facebook is exploitive and unnecessary. It makes us yearn for approval in the form of “likes”, the more the better. As a writer I began to see my worth in the amount of likes or views a piece got. How backwards is that?

So, I guess I quit in pursuit of happiness. Facebook was affecting my moods and my life so I am taking a sabbatical. How can I attempt to live a minimalist life with the clutter of Facebook in my… face? It might be a week, it might be a month, it might be longer. I don’t know. All I know is that when and if I decide to go back, it will be with a new outlook on the tool. And it is a tool. Just more for the folks at Facebook than for you. I’m not here preaching for you to quit social media sites. Do what you will. I’m here saying take a look at what you post, how often, and how often you are posting. Be aware and maybe take a day off and see how you feel. I feel like I just sprouted wings.

Things I’m Loving, Right Now

In order to restore balance to the blogosphere, here is the list of things I am crazy about right now. You can see the list of stuff I am SO over – here.

  1.  ICE CREAM – I must have missed good ice cream more than I realized because I can’t stop eating it. Yes they have ice cream in Prague. But truth be told, most of it is pretty shitty. America is the land of outlandish, yet delicious ice cream flavors. If Ben & Jerry still owned and operated their business, I would write them a big Thank You card. Their flavors are amazing. I have had Red Velvet Cake ice cream, Creme Brulee ice cream, Boston Cream Pie ice cream, and even ice cream with chocolate covered potato chip balls. The Texas owned and operated Blue Bell Ice Cream is pretty good as well, and I have tried a few other brands I have enjoyed, but nothing even comes close to B&J’s. I only allow myself only one pint a week (shared with my fella) so that I don’t become like one of the natives. The last thing I need is to be confused with a Texan.
  2. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami I am a member of The Cult of Murakami. I have read all of his books and I have enjoyed each and every last one of them. His latest (and longest) novel is just as badass. I can’t put it down. I read it on my lunch breaks and before going to sleep. I read on the weekend and I read during the kids nap time. This book is close to 1000 pages and I already know I am going to miss it when it ends. It’s the story of an assassin, a world with two moons, a ghost writer and of course a mysterious young girl. Fans of Murakami will love this, and folks new to him will see what all the fuss is about. He didn’t win the Pulitzer for literature this year, but he was nominated.
  3. BakingMy Dr. Pepper CupcakesEach week when Friday rolls around I begin to think about which type of treat I will make over the weekend. It has become sort of an obsession with me. So far I have baked Chocolate Dr. Pepper Cupcakes, Snikerdoodles, Peanut Butter Chocolate – Peanut Butter Chip cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Chocolate Chip Cookies. The next item to tackle will be lasagna. I’m giving my sweet tooth a break this week.
  4. SPELLTOWER – Spelltower is a word finding game. I first played it on my boyfriend’s iphone. I played it for about four consecutive hours, and then bought it for my MAC. If you like word searches, then this game is for you. You compete only against your own high score, so there is no real way to “win” or so my boyfriend keeps telling me. I feel like if I bust my high score then I win. I like winning.

5 Freaks who Inspired Me

I had a truly inspired underwear dance party last night. My mood was great, partially due to the awesome mix I had made, and partially due to the.. uh… mood enhancement I was partaking of. As I sipped my IPA, and got down with my bad self I was forced to realize that the super cool chick I had become was the direct result of being exposed to the right Freaks in my formative years. Without the Freaks, I might have ended up a boring, normal woman who thinks that creativity begins and ends with scrapbooking.

I want to give props to the brave people who paved the way for me to be the me I am. Without their total lack of concern for what society thinks about them, I might be a sheep.

1. Edward GoreyWhen I think of my childhood, I see it in Gorey pictures. One of my favorite books as a kid was “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” – the alphabet book for the rest of us. Nothing against the good Dr. Seuss, but I was far more attracted to the macabre rhymes and drawings in Mr. Gorey’s world. In my world, A is for Amy Alicia who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil assaulted by bears… Oh,and the man loved cats, which is awesome.

2. Klaus Nomi – Without Klaus Nomi there would be no Lady Gaga, no David Byrne, Katy Perry or maybe even Madonna. Klaus Nomi took being weird and made it into a career. I have always admired his courage and strength a little more than his music, if I am going to be perfectly honest. Yeah, the man had a (literally) amazing vocal range, but some of his stuff doesn’t do it for me. But that isn’t the point of his music. If you are just listening to Nomi, then you don’t get it. He was one of those rare creatures who knew he was born to stardom, which unfortunately means he was to lead a very sad, and isolated life. But he lived it. His alien persona, his baked goods, and his beautiful arias serve as a reminder to me not to be afraid of being different. Espically if being different is being myself. 

3. Truman CapoteCapote was both one of the most hated and celebrated men of his time – while he was alive. People desperately wanted to know him, and be part of his inner circle. But once they got there, they were shocked at the pure meanness they saw in him. And that’s the irony, I guess. People KNEW what type of man he was, but still wanted to be near him. I find that fascinating. Don’t be surprised when a shark bites. But he was a talented man, a genius writer, and a walking, talking scene. Being around Capote meant you had made it. Much like Nomi, Capote was a sad man who lived and died very much alone. Sometimes fame is a lonely place, but for some it is worth the price. Capote is directly responsible for me wanting to become a writer.

4. Oingo Boingo – With obvious influences from Mr. Nomi, Oingo Boingo took new wave music and added drama and edge. I love it. If you don’t know of Boingo, you know of its founder and front man Danny Elfman – who is awesome and weird in his own right. I heard of “The Mystical Knights of the Oingo Boingo” when I saw the film “The Forbidden Zone” the awesome cult movie starring the band, and Herve Villechaize. It is weird, uncomfortable, funny and so totally different that you can’t help but enjoy yourself. I still have a crush on Danny Elfman’s voice and they are often the soundtrack to my underwear dance parties. But, I like weird. 

5. Ann Magnuson You probably don’t know who she is, and that’s ok. You might recognize her face from TV shows like “Anything But Love” or maybe from “Desperately Seeking Susan”, or possibly as the front woman for the band “Vulcan Death Grip”. Or maybe not. I have had a crush on her since I can remember. I actually got to see her do a live performance back in LA oh so many years ago. She is a cool performance artist and actress who is so smart I am kind of afraid of her. But she isn’t afraid. And that is why I admire her so much. You can have your premeditated Lady Gaga with her stylists and team of experts. I’ll take Ann Magnuson.

* SUPER PROPS to David Byrne, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Warhol, and Gonzo the Great, as well. There just isn’t enough time in the day to honour you all. 

What Next?

As all of you know, a rousing huzzah was sounded yesterday when, for the first time in 8 years I finished my NaNoWriMo novel. It felt good. Heck, it felt awesome. I wrote 50,000 words in a single month and I could have kept going. In fact, I might keep going. I have nothing better to do, and now I am feeling a sense of loss. The competition is over and I am … bored. I got into a habit of writing everyday, and now I am left with a big hole in my world.

Truth be told, I do not have a “finished” product. I validated my novel at 50,327 words and it still has no ending. But, the goal was to write at least 50,000 words, and I did that. It is a pretty big deal for me since it means I didn’t give up, I didn’t quit and I learned a valuable lesson in focus and discipline. And I actually had fun doing it. 

So, I guess I could spend December finishing my novel and editing it, but I have a feeling that no one will ever read it. It might just be a waste of my time. Maybe I should spend December at the gym, losing that ten pounds that crept up on me. I don’t know. What i do know is that if you start anything, and keep with it, stuff happens. Good stuff happens. I began last month with less than an idea and I ended with a novel. Maybe if I begin this month with a first draft, I’ll end with an awesome novel. Or, maybe if I start this month in the gym I’ll end up with a rocking body. But whatever I decide to do, I know that I can finish it. I have the pudding, and the proof is in there.