Thursday, December 31, 2009

My littlest woman writer

Maia can make most of the ABCs but she doesn't really understand, yet, how to spell things.  She knows that letters make words which make stories, though.  And she can't wait until she figures that bit out.

That hasn't stopped her, though, from being a writer.  This morning, she wrote her first book.  It's about five pages with two illustrations (one a cat, the last a dog).  She had me staple the pages of her "textbook" together for her and then explained to me what each page said.

I don't really understand her explanation, though there was something in there about taking a test and then about cooking dinner with the puppy at the end of the book.

She's very proud of herself.  She should be.  A woman writer when she's still in the under five crowd.  Virginia Woolf would be so proud.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Vacation Memories: Florida and Disney

You know it's not going to be nearly as sweet as the misleading title implies.

Disney World.  Yes.  We'll get to that.  But first, upper Florida and my mom needing to be taken to the ER.  THAT was fun.  She smoked for fifty years & has been wheezing for many years and we all knew she probably had emphysema, but refused to see a doctor.  So finally, on the drive over, I got a call from my sister that things were happening.  I got there and basically had to bully my mom into the car by threatening to call 911 if she didn't get up and go.  It took over an hour to get her loaded into the car; I told her every foot was ten bucks of non-ER ambulance fees.  When we got there, the admissions nurse raised her eyebrows at my mom's oxygen levels and wheeled her immediately back, even though the ER was full. 

Luckily, she's doing better and is fighting with the nurses in her rehab for the lung disease she indeed has.  So far so good. I took her a tiny Christmas tree with lights and we left for Orlando.

It wasn't a bad drive, but the kiddos were restless.  We got there, the hotel was nice, etc.  Disney was the next day.  The hotel's advisor said we'd probably like Disney Hollywood because it would be less crowded.  Well, yeah, but Sean hated the shows; they were too scary for him.  He started crying and we left pretty early.  We had to coax him back onto the bus that night to go to the shopping/eating area called Downtown Disney.  After a nice night, it got better again the next day.

Magic Kingdom for Christmas Eve.  It was pretty crowded as the day wore on, but it was nice.  And the actual night was, at times, pretty amazing.  They had a snow machine going on the "Streets of America" section-- little bitty flakes swirled around and melted before hitting the ground.  The fireworks & light show was very nice once we finally found a spot.  We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do. 

Maia loved the roller coasters, the rides.  Once we discovered the magic of the "Fast Pass"-- a way to skip the lines with some planning-- things were a little better.  Sean boycotted all rides that were mysterious or scary looking and we ended up on the train that circles Disney several times. 

But the crowds!  Oy!  Our friends had warned us that Christmas was a crowded time but it was way too late for us at that point to change it.  There were so many people, and sometimes parents on their last nerve.  I kept thanking the Disney folks for being there so we could enjoy it; they seemed surprised & pleased that someone actually realized they were choosing to give up their "private time" so we could have the park on a holiday.  There was one really funny girl who ran the Jungle cruise ride who was also sick that day; I couldn't help but think of how the people who work there feel about working in a place like Disney.  A lot of them seemed very sensitive to anything you said to the kids-- if it sounded at all crabby, it's like they wanted to remind you (the parent) why you came there in the first place-- for the kids-- and not to be crabby with them, even if they WERE riding your last possible nerve.  I imagine they see some pretty bad parenting examples there; I opted to not be one of them, but there were moments with a headache, in a long line, where I could see someone really snapping.  Even I, who am usually pretty darn cheerful, needed to leave in the afternoon for that naptime release.   

I kept thinking of my friend Alex, and how much he would have HATED it.  There were moments on the last day when it was absolutely pouring rain and the majority of the crowds were huddled under whatever cover they could find while we cruised the then empty pathways that I genuinely had fun.  Very few people would go out in the rain (it's not like it was cold but it did eventually get to be too much, even for us).  So in spite of getting wet (which, honestly, if it had been ten degrees warmer people would have been paying to do at a waterpark) we were fine.  My toes got a little waterlogged while Andrew & Maia did their last cool ride and Sean & I waited to go.  The Disney gift shops made a killing on rain gear.  They sold out of the adult sizes so we were all wearing kids'.  Sean refused to wear one so he ended up with my soggy flannel. 

The driving there and back again was fine, for the most part. Long. And I am so glad to be home, but not unhappy to have gone there.  I think it was a good time for us to go but it will be many years until (if) we do it again.  It's not that I am inherently opposed to the "corporate Disney" experience but it's a lot of money for something that is not all that different, in the long run, from just your basic state fair, which we had far more fun at. 

Overall, I recommend the experience but only if you do the research and find out when it's actually really not busy.  The crowds are just too much, and it's a nice theme park, but two days would have been enough for us.  I hear summertime, when it's pretty hot, is the best, least crowded time.  If you can stand the muggy Orlando heat, it would be worth not standing in so many lines. 

I'm glad we went, but next year, we're opting for something way more low key.  Maybe a beach with warm water south somewhere, and margaritas, and kids rolling in the sand.  Far, far away from crowded places and gift shops.   

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Black Holes

There are people who, when you're trying to write, are bad to be around.  They sort of suck your energy and confidence about writing into this pit of dark that makes you think you can't do it.  I realize that one gives them the energy to do so-- they can't do anything to you that you don't let them do.  But if that person is someone whose opinion you want to trust, it's very hard.

Writers need feedback.  I have these ideas, but I do need to know what others think of them. Am I going in the right direction, is the story interesting, should I add this detail, that element?  It's, I guess, a corollary to something I posted on a FB status not too long ago, about how it's much easier to believe the negative things people say about you, for some reason.

I am a glass half full person, most of the time.  And I will keep writing, no matter if I encounter a bunch of vampire-y "I don't like the story this way" types.  I do want feedback, and some of what I've gotten so far has been awesome.  But I can't/won't write the story that someone else wants, that someone else would write.  It is MY story, and succeed or fail, I have to write the one I have here.  It's not someone else's way of doing it.

I feel so different here than I did when writing my dissertation.  All of that was wrestling with the theory gods, sitting down daily to be smart.  This story is here in my core, I feel it there, and right now, I even know which character wants to talk.  It's her turn, and I know, sort of, where she's going.

It's kind of weird, but I like it.   Just gotta stay away from the Black Holes of creativity in our lives, even if we want them to suddenly turn in to supportive perfect writing partners; it's obviously not going to happen, so get over it, right?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Writing and Crying

This morning, I was reading through an old book I've read many times before by Charles DeLint called Memory & Dream. It's a gorgeous bit of magical urban fantasy short story collection that takes place in Newford, a city up in Canada, and featuring a lot of really cool characters. De Lint has also written longer books about a lot of the characters who appear in the book, which is sort of a themed short story collection. While it's not a novel, all the stories have the same feeling of magic and fae beauty.

I was reading one story about a writer who plants a story tree, wrapping it in a poem first and then whispering stories to the seedling. The writer pesters friends to tell it stories and by the end of it, the acorn is a sapling ready to be planted.

I wound up in real tears afterwards. This is SO the way I want to write, this mythic magical fiction that is also somehow realism. Since I'm writing my novel, I am trying to read things that are written the way I want to write, to set the mental mood in that direction. I do that with poetry-- I am most inspired to write good poems when I'm reading Anne Sexton, for instance.

My novel thus far has one full chapter, 46 pages, and 16,905 words. I've started it out with a faux newspaper article, and I have these really cool plans for it. I've been gathering photos of San Antonio and the other important elements of my setting and I have those scrolling through my screensaver. I also made a playlist of songs that work with the mood I'm trying to create.

When I started the novel, it was about a year ago and I think, if I remember correctly, I had just read one of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire books. The beginning tone of it, thusly, was that quirky kind of funny snarky tone. I am now slowly weeding most of the more snarky bits out of the tone because that's not really where I want to go with it.

I want it to be mythic, to make you go into downtown San Antonio and see the magic there, the ghosts. There are a lot of them, in fact (or fiction, however you want to read it).

They are happy tears. I am so glad to be finally really doing this, breaking through that mental block I have had about sitting down and doing something as frivolous as writing a novel. I've put it off for so long, and there are many things I've wasted time on that I could very well have been working on this, far more frivolous things than writing. But I think it's probably a fear thing; if it's all just in your head and you can tell yourself you're too busy to write, then you don't have to risk not doing it right, doing it well.

Neck is out. Tears are happy.

I so want to be Charles De Lint when I grow up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Funny Thing

is that today, after having finally made it real to leave the Ivory Tower, at least my small place in the servant's quarters of it, I had a former student stop by to ask for some advice. He is thinking of changing his major to English from (shudders) Computer Science.

About a year ago, I would not have been able to feel very enthusiastic about counseling a smart young person to change to English as a major. It felt pretty hopeless to even contemplate getting a good job in the field that I have devoted much of my life to.

But today, I felt really happy for his thinking. I came up with a few options that might work for him, and was almost sorry that I am not going to be here next semester. That, coupled with a conversation with another bright student who wants to be a nature zoologist later in the day about food, and books, and seeing that beginning place they are at makes me happy.

Happy. I'm still anxious, for sure, but now my enthusiasms are closer to those of the ones starting their quest, instead of me feeling mired in a place where I am not going anywhere.


So I just sent off a letter to interested parties (department head types) that I am no longer adjuncting, here or anywhere. I'm still a little freaked out by it because on the one hand, it feels a bit like leaping into the void.

I've always planned to work in Academia. However, standing on the outskirts as an adjunct after working forever to get a PHD is NOT an acceptable way to do it. If I don't go Tenure Track somewhere, I'd rather not do it at all. It's too much of a ghetto, too much of a "not good enough". Even at a school where people are nice, (and there are plenty who are) I just hate not being a real part of the department. Things I tried to do to contribute were seen as weird, or "pushy" so I quit doing them. Adjuncts just don't Do that sort of thing.

So I am done. I will work for Andrew & myself on our Real Estate empire (and let me tell you, the pay is better & I am desperately needed to do the work). I will also start in January on the five or six novels that I already have written out in my head. (One at a time, of course). I will be a little house-wife-y-- keep the place a bit cleaner. No matter how few hours a week one teaches as an adjunct, it's always just enough to make it hard to do the other work in your life. With a "real job" (read, tenure track) it would be different, in part, because I'd make enough money to pay someone to do the laundry, clean the floors. But adjuncting just doesn't cut it. One of my friends figured out that when she was working the way she should, she literally made 4 cents an hour. Nope. Not gonna go there.

So I am done. I don't plan to say I am never coming back to adjuncting, perhaps at another local school, perhaps even here (if I don't piss everyone off by leaving now--which I hope I haven't done, haven't tried to do...). But for now, this bridge is crossed. I don't know what's on the other side. Maybe literary fame and fortune, maybe teaching somewhere else someday (like Paris!) but for now, it feels pretty good.