Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cookie Glut

This has been an especially heavy Christmas for cookies; it's a Cookie Glut, really. There's a tradition to pass out collections of homemade (or not) cookies to those you're happy/obligated to give to but not willing to spend much braintime figuring out something more personal. Like your landlord or your co-workers down the hall or distant relatives. Distant in the sense of not close as in, can barely stand being in the same state together. And face it, most adults we know seriously lack for nothing. Except cash, home equity and maybe a job or two in 2009, none of which I can grant. But I digress.

This year we received no less than five containers (large Tupperwares) of homemade cookies, all of them delicious and all of them welcome, but it's a bit much. I mean, I can't turn them down, I love them (esp. those Russian Teacakes, honey, you know those are gone) but the two of us can only eat so much, even if we needed to rack up another ten pounds in the next two weeks. But with no teens in the house now (they are both young adults and in home-spaces of their own), we don't have those extra appetites (or the extra friends with appetites) lurking around, ready and eager to perform cookie-sweeps at the drop of a hat. Lordy, lordy what I really need are five teen boys who can wolf down a very large platter of cookies over the course of a short afternoon. And then ask what's for dinner. You laugh. I have it on tape.

Usually, I'd send the extra goodies off with the Spouse to share at work but it seems they all are suffering from Cookie Gluts of their own. And when hardwood floor installers have trouble sucking up a bag or two of cookies, you know they are getting plenty on the side. In fact, one platter of cookies came from one of those fellas (or more accurately, his wife). I guess it's bad taste (ha, ha) to send them back to the source. Drats and dagnabit. Looks like the squirrels will get lucky this year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Six Sentences

You've heard of, if not written, one of those Six Word Novels, right? Like Ernest Hemingway's : "For sale: baby shoes, never used." Or Augusten Burroughs': "Oh, that? It's nothing. Not contagious." (Here's some more at Perpetual Folly... an older post but worth the visit. The blog, too.)

But what about a story in six sentences? More words -- should be easier, n'est-ce pas? You'd think. What I can tell you is that it's absolute fun. And once you've written a keeper, you can submit it to Six Sentences, which just so coincidentally publishes only six-sentence stories.

This is such a cool idea and the site (set up as a blog) is easy to read. The submitting is easy, too, just an email. Really, there's no darn excuse. Quality ranges in the submissions from freakin' fabulous to hmmm but they're all stories in six sentences, every one.

But wait, wait, there's more. If you can whip up a six-sentencer in the next 48 hours, you can make the deadline (Dec 31st, midnight) for their second print volume of Six Sentence Stories. Volume One is due out in March. More info here.

So get a move on, get your pencil flying, your keyboard clacking. Write them fast, write 'em slow. Skewer your ex-boyfriend, honor your dog. Include just enough description to keep us located. Find the sweet spot of tension. Then submit.

... and when yours is published, send us the link! Yeehaaah!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yet Another Writing Blog

Skipping around from blog to blog (a fabulous writing avoidance technique) has its own damn rewards. And this is one of them: Words in Place. It's written by Gay Degani who has some cogent thoughts about the process of writing, mainly that it's all about the seat-time. She refers to Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers and his contention that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to succeed in any venture. She also refers to Ron Carlson's book Ron Carlson Writes a Story, one of my absolute-can't-get-much-better writing bibles. Carlson has a version of the 10,000 hours concept; for him it's getting to your tenth short story. Not that you'll be an expert at that point, but you'll have wrestled with most of the elements of fiction. And aren't so nervous about the whole process. There are other neat things and links on the blog; check it out.

But now I gotta get Outliers. Thanks the goddess of indie bookstores for the two Gift Certificates the merry little elves left under my pillow for me. Yeah, they were a little confused this year. Could have been the punch and rum balls we left out instead of the milk and cookies.

Secret Santa Literary Style - unpacking the present

My Literary Secret Santa gift arrived in inventive & inspiring packaging wrapped around a book equally so. Or so it seems from the few times I've been able to dip into it. The full-on roar of the family events has begun to subside, so now I'll get to all the reading that came my way. Not to mention some of the books that I gave to various family members that I intend to read before they take them back to their house!

Anyway, many thanks, Secret Santa, this is a cool surprise! btw, the packaging in on the left and the book itself is on the right. Isn't the photo on the package too cool?

Monday, December 22, 2008

There are times when Christmas is laid right out at your feet.

And other times when it arrives by post, i.e. the Winter Fiction issue of the New Yorker. Five new stories! I feel rich!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Craftier Than We Even Thought

Radio, supermarket checkouts, furious flying emails, holiday and graduation parties: everywhere the talk has been about Obama's surprising move in choosing Rev Rick Warren for his inaugural invocation. Didn't sit well with many of his supporters. I have no love for the Reverend myself and am rather offended, to say the least, as were most of the people I came across. But. This is no casual move on Obama's part. I suspect that he's quote deliberately setting the tone of his administration from the very first moment. A tone of tolerance and acceptance rather than exclusion and demonizing. He's going to bring everyone, regardless of their position or viewpoint to the table, even if he disagrees with them, and get them to acknowledge each others right to their ideas and viewpoints. Or at the very least, be civil.

Tolerance goes both ways, I hate to say. Obama probably doesn't see eye-to-eye with Rev Warren on many issues, or even on any. But he's willing to listen to everyone, as he stated repeatedly during his campaign. Rev Warren certainly doesn't agree with Obama or his supporters. But that doesn't mean he must be shut out. That's the old way. We have to get past this all-or-nothing type of thinking. We have to be able to acknowledge that we all have our different viewpoints and opinions and come up with tolerant, inclusionary solutions for everyone rather than the current it's-my-way-or-the-highway.

Obama is way smarter than we think. I think he's capable of true Christian compassion, of being able to say: I don't agree with you, but I respect you; I think you are wrong, but to and for yourself, you are right. That's a toughie, isn't it? To fully grasp that other people have right ideas, too. And not all right ideas are the same ideas. Very post-modern. I think he's going to work hard to get us out of the dichotomies we are so stuck in and move us to higher ground and a higher discourse. This is his strength, this is how he operates. These are the true skills of a Community Organizer. And it will be a very new way of doing business.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Classes in Petaluma

So here's the deal. I'm leading two classes this coming spring through Petaluma Parks and Rec, held at the Luchessi Center on North McDowell Blvd. Both are on Tuesday nights and will run in 3 five-week sessions. "Forms of Fiction" goes from 5:30 to 7 p.m and "Writing Nature" from 7:30 to 9 p.m. In both classes we'll work on the craft of writing and write, of course. In "Forms of Fiction" we'll concentrate on different ways that fiction is shaped and try out a few formats for ourselves. In "Writing Nature" we'll develop personal essays based on our observations of the natural world around us. Freewrites will be involved in both classes, so bring paper and your favored pens or pencils.

If you're interested, this will take you to a page with links to the Activity Guide and Online Registration.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


... would you do if your creativity died? How would you resuscitate it? Whump it upside the head, perhaps? But it would just sulk for days afterward. Not a good solution, that.

However, a few people offered better solutions on the Searchlights and Signal Flares page in the latest edition of the online Tiny Lights Journal, including myself. In fact, I was invited to be the featured writer on the question, not that my solution was much better than the one at the top of this post. But check it out and see for yourself.

And while you're at it, look around and find the upcoming question (How do you get started?)and consider posting your own reply.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cool little writing blog

In the daisy-chain manner of the interwebs, I stumbled upon, no wait, that's a real site, I happened upon a CLWB (a cool little writing blog)titled The Bookshelf Muse. It's a compendium of so much writer-ore, I haven't even uncoverd the half of it. The two writers, Angela and Becca, have developed (I think they've created it: I haven't seen anything else like it, but I don't get out much) a whole slew of Thesuaruses, Thesuari? based on settings and emotions. Sounds odd, but it is soooo cool. A Setting Thesaurus is a list of everything possible thing that one might see, hear, feel, smell or taste at a given location, such a kitchen or hospital. An entry in the Feeling Thesaurus will list the many ways a feeling might be expressed in the body. Seems like a great resource, to me.

There's far more to the blog than this, so go check it out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Two Classes in Spring

Yep, it's official; I'll be teaching two classes this spring! Tuesday nights: "Forms of Fiction" from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m. and "Writing Nature" from 7:30 to 9 p.m. $50 for a 5 week session. This is through the Petaluma Parks and Recreation Center, which means it will be dependent on folks signing up. So I'm spreading the word far and wide, wide and far...around Sonoma County that is. Sooo...if you know someone who might possibly be interested, or who might possibly consider being interested, direct them here!

Folks should contact me though the Comments section until the official Petaluma Parks and Recreation Spring 2009 Activity guide is posted. Then you'll be able to enroll online and all that good stuff.