Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reduction Sauce, or On the Way to Orion

From the Friends of Copeland Creek
Once upon a time, a few years back, I wrote some essays about the interaction between our suburban/rural campus and nature, which were irregularly published in the campus newsletter. One of those essays was about Copeland Creek flooding the campus; the piece had some interesting observations, irrelevant asides and a mix of imagery. It was a bit chatty and close to 1,000 words long.

A little over a year ago, I dusted the piece off, tossed away most of the irrelevancies, reworked it to be more about rivers and streams in general and submitted it for inclusion in the  Voice of the River book, edited by Patti Trimble. It came in around 600 words.

Then, about six months ago, I trimmed it down drastically to a something I could read in three minutes for the Women on Writers Conference at Skyline College. Whole paragraphs were lopped off, the rest of the asides and most of the witty remarks were slashed.  I got it down to 450 words.  It was acquiring some polish, I thought.

Okay. Last month, I took that same small piece, took out all the really unnecessary words (particularly the witty remarks), added back in the location details, tightened up the structure, smoothed out the transitions. I spent hours grinding and buffing it down  to a condensed nugget of 350 words. This I submitted online to the "The Place Where You Live" feature on the Orion Magazine website in March.

I didn't get a response, so I chalked it up to experience and moved on. But then, last week, prompted by a teaser-message in my inbox for the new issue of Orion, I went by the site, read an article or two and clicked the link to TPWYL. And and lo and behold, there it is, under the red star marked Sonoma State University.

So if you enjoy writing about place, check it out, submit something. In time, the map will be filled with a billion red stars, each linked to a snippet about a particular location, which when read,will create an ever-expanding, aggregated collage of our planet, place by place, moment by moment. Now how cool is that?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Something about Spring and Squirrels

The Rumpus is running Paul Lisicky's poem "Squirrel"  as the POTD (Poem of the Day) for National Poetry Month. It's a charming prose-poem with fable-like qualities, that engages the imagination and plays with our fascination for worlds we can never know.  Check it out!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Little Red Writing Book

elizabeth in her writing blog, Fog City Writer, passed along this excellent idea: a dedicated journal to note what writing and/or writing business you do every day. A blog post, a query letter sent, two paragraphs on a story, a chapter revised. No comments, no kvetching, just a notation. Sometimes it might be only a brief note that you started editing that article before being interrupted by a bawling baby, or that, standing in the Express Lane while some Cro-magnon unloaded from his cart a month's worth of beer, franks-in-buns and pre-sliced cheese (just three things, see?), you suddenly realized that Billy in your latest narrative needs sagging jeans and a beer gut. Or that you had two hours of writing at the cafe. Hey, sometimes it happens.

This strikes me as infinitely better than those endless scrawled lists that I keep with circles and arrows and a few items blacked out: three blog posts (behind already!); submit, submit, submit; query Heyday Press, STAT!  These lists are for the most part wishful thinking (really pure fantasy) about what I think I could and/or should do. They're also a constant set-up for failure because that list is never, ever completed - or if it is, another item pops right up on it. I even know the deal, yet I still feel like I've done squat-all as I add yet another impossible task to the list.

In the world of carrot and stick, this falls under the carrot method; that is, it functions as positive reinforcement.  Look, I've done something! it tells you, unlike a list, where the crossed-out items disappear into the background, and you are left with all the things you didn't do staring right back at you.

For most of us with dayjobs, family and the need to walk at least around the block, time to write is limited or even nonexistent on any given day. Knowing that I've done at least something could be the morale booster to carry me through the week, to keep hacking at it until some time does open up. And as Susan Bono (of Tiny Lights fame) said in our conversation last Friday at the Press Table in Volpi's, it could also serve as an encouraging nag: well, have you done anything to note in your Little Red Writing Book? 

At least today I can say yes: I wrote this post.

And posted it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Skip the Lamb, Go to Ham

Even though it was way too hot yesterday to make Bikini Lamb Stew, I did use the oven to bake. Briefly, like for 20 minutes, after 6 p.m. Et voila, the result.

In the words of He Who Ate Most of It:
Oh, tender spears of asparagus, anointed with extra-virgin olive oil, nestled in a creamy bed of melted pepperjack cheese, topped provacatively with thin strips of prosciutto on a raft of flakey puff pastry:
How yummy you are!

In Like a Grumpy Lion, Out Like a Lamb in a Bikini

Such a month.

Overnight, we've gone from the very, very long tail-end of winter with its grey skies and cold drenching days shortened by gloom and storm, to the shock of lambent, gentle air, intense sun and daylight past 7 p.m. No one knows when to eat; no one knows what to eat. Stews and casseroles no longer fit the bill, but who has watermelon and cold cuts on hand?

Today I woke to sun: bright sun, oh-my-god sun, eyeball-aching sun. Bird song was bursting out everywhere - the endless variations of a mockingbird across the street, the buzzy calls of a Bewick's wren, the twittering chatter of robins, the chorus of finches as they mob the feeders. The plants have gone on high alert, ramping up the pollen machines, pushing out buds and new leaves in double-quick time after such a rocky start to spring. Oh, allergy meds - where the hell are you? Do not forsake me now.

The shock of such brilliance after the weeks and weeks of rain and wind, threatened mudslides and downed power lines, has stunned us. We love it, we relish it, but we are unprepared - we search for sunglasses and sandals, wonder if there's still sunscreen from last summer. I finally find the shorts and tee-shirts, all tucked into the bottom corners of the drawers, out of rotation, wrinkled and looking worse for the storage.

A walk downtown to purchase something lighter for dinner rubs it in - my socks are pointless, the light jacket senseless. In my spring attire, I am woefully over-dressed. The large digital read-out at the Bank of the West unequivocally states 80 degrees Fahrenheit and it's not yet noon.

We have leap-frogged over spring and gone straight to summer.  At least for now.