Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Intercom

The intercom system was a great idea when we bought our home, but now that I am huddled in my office, frantically typing away when I should be downstairs for dinner, I wish that it would malfunction. Deadlines are always a powerful motivator, and right now my deadline depends upon how long my son and husband will tolerate me hiding from them. "Momis Writis Too Muchis," is what my son claims is my Latin name. I've already been paged over the intercom, so to speak, to come down for dinner. Right now the smell of something yummy is cooking. I can hear every sound outside my well-insulated door, and I've turned off the Internet radio so I can hear any approaching footsteps. They may have given up trying to dislodge me with intercom reminders that DINNER IS COOKING. At this moment, it appears I may actually pound out a paragraph before The Men appear at my door to demand my presence downstairs. For them (because of them?), I've learned to tolerate interruption (much to their dismay).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hospitals and Other Writing Prompts

Over the past few days, I’ve been at the hospital a few times. Said hospital, Valley Hospital here in Las Vegas, harbors a tremendous number of memories for me. I initially thought it odd that so many of my personal stories have this institutional building as a backdrop; but then I realized that how silly that was. Hospitals are teeming with stories, not just mine but a whole building full – patients, families, doctors, nurses, sorrow, sickness, joy, and birth. That’s what put me in mind for prompt #1. If you’re not feeling all Grey’s Anatomy, move stat to the next writing prompt.

Take ten minutes to write without interruption about…

--The last time I was at a hospital….
--Daisy liked to play piano….
--“You wouldn’t dare,” said Phyllis, although she wasn’t really sure that Glenda wouldn’t….
--I had stitches when I was a child because….
Photo courtesy of Daniel Wilkinson at

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Little Writing News

Unless you’ve been stranded in some media-less wilderness (please send directions if this is the case), you’ve heard about the writers strike in Hollywood. Now that people are facing their sixth week of television re-runs, they’re starting to panic. Good heavens, what will Americans do while they’re eating dinner? Might this mean – and I know it’s frightening – that people may actually talk to each other? Or perhaps (and this is an even wilder idea) read a book? Oh, the horrors.

One more reason to be glad you live in the United States:
“Burma's Military Junta Bans 19 Writers, Performers.”

I’ve often said that adults shouldn’t be frightened of grammar, but neither should they avoid proofreading. It concerns me that the people at the Department of Education don’t seem to know this: “For Want of a Proofreader, or at Least a Good One, a Reading Exam Is Lost.”

The non-profit StoryCorps has been busy collecting stories for the largest oral history project in U.S. History: “’Listening’ a page-turner packed with historic revelations.”

Friday, December 07, 2007

Kindle Lust

I’ve never been interested in e-reading devices. Just give me good old-fashioned paper, I always said. Then I saw Jeff Bezos on Charlie Rose, talking about the new Kindle. It was the same day that the device was released, and I’ve been in a state of deep gadget lust ever since.

Maybe I was hooked by Bezos’ enthusiasm for the Kindle, which he said wouldn’t have been possible five years ago. “What is more meaningful than trying to improve the book?” said Bezos, and at that moment if I could have spent $400 in good conscience, my credit card and I would have been on Amazon’s web site.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that I have budgetary constraints, because otherwise I’m afraid that the bookstores and the office supply would see a whole lot more of me. I stopped looking at the Levenger catalog because of the sheer number of irresistible and even useful bookish/writerly knick-knacks – tempting but non-essential goodies.

But how to resist a portable library that connects and downloads thousands of books, magazines, and newspapers? Amazon’s goal is to have every book on earth available for download. Kindle is getting great reviews – it’s the new iPod of books – and the thing is selling like those proverbial hot cakes.

Guess I’d better start saving my pennies.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sam's Job & Other Writing Prompts

If you watch Inside the Actors Studio, you know that one of the questions host James Lipton asks his guests at the end of the show is: What profession would you not like to do? Perhaps your answer can help you with writing prompt #1. (You can read all of Lipton's questions at Wikipedia.)

--The only job Sam could find was….
--The Christmas tradition I could do without is….
--Janet huddled in the back of the restaurant….
--“Get me a neon sign,” said Lenny, “because I want everyone to know….”
--Combine a tomato, a lizard, and a little girl in a story.
Photo information: I picked this photo because of my answer to the Lipton/Pivot question - cashier. I actually did attempt cashiering a few times, and I was terrible. Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath

When I checked the authenticity on this quote, I found over 1,000 web sites – almost every one of them aimed at writers – featuring it. How rich with both truth and sad irony; if you don’t know, Plath committed suicide.

Persistence is the most important characteristic a writer can cultivate. It leads to practice and trial and error. But to keep at your work – to keep sitting down, persistently – you have to believe in yourself. And that’s how self-doubt can puncture your creativity. If you don’t believe in what you’re writing, then who will?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Quitting Again

Over the weekend, as I contemplated yet again whether or not I should give up writing as a career - or perhaps just stop writing, period - I looked for signs that might lead me in the right direction. My brain was mired in an emotional quagmire. I tossed out the usual desperate pleas to God: please help me, how can I do this, please give some Sign, and (of course) why me.

On Saturday I cleaned my office because my over-worked brain could not support the construction of sentences. In my pile of agendas and handouts for my writing group. I found an old page of quotes from The Sun, a fabulous magazine that has an eerie way of speaking to my personal condition. I read:

“As I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time are those who have given me something to say.” –Katherine Paterson.

“Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.” – Issac Bashevis Singer.

Farther down in my pile of papers, I found a copy of a 1940 Writer article by Faith Baldwin, “Advice to the Book Lorn.” “Writing is self discipline. It means sitting down and working even when you don’t feel like it, and has nothing to do with inspiration. … There are obstacles and disappointments. You’ll find that out. Everyone does. There is no standing still. This is a highly competitive profession. Even the best writers have to revise and rewrite, have to sacrifice, meet disappointment, and even rejection. No one stays in one place.”

While I was certainly uplifted at the end of my office cleaning, I was far from over my inner crisis. All that was nice, but should I simply apply at Starbucks, where I hear they have health insurance? My mood was ugly. I felt like a rabid rattlesnake. My husband and I agreed that it was best if I was alone.

The next day, I picked up the latest copy of The Sun and turned to the last page, “Sunbeams,” their page of quotations. As I read down the page of quotes about reality, illusion, and awareness, I came to this quote from Eckhart Tolle:

“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.”

After a few equally (eerily) relevant quotes, I came to:
“Enter each day with the expectation that the happenings of the day may contain a clandestine message addressed to you personally. Expect omens, epiphanies, casual blessings, and teachers who unknowingly speak to your condition.” – Sam Keen.

I laughed out loud at that one. And while my hodge-podge collection of fortune cookie wisdom probably reflects nothing more than my longing to wring encouragement and direction out of thin air, at least it kept me writing.