Tiny Gangstas & Frankenstein Hands

I miss my digital camera. Since it's been out for repairs, I have seen: a gorgeous, bright orange sunset over the reflective surface of a marsh surrounded by fall folliage; pink mists hovering on the horizon of a deep blue sky at dusk; a line of surfers bobbing in black wet suits, waiting for an approaching wave; the red-tinged moon eclipsed by the earth's shadow on the night the Red Sox won the World Series; a pack of very tiny poodles that looked like they either escaped the circus or were members of a gang; a truck with a large Frankenstein tied to the top, his green hands grasping at puffy clouds in a blue sky; and the dog holding a bright red leaf in her mouth by the stem.

Here are some of the places I go to get my photo fix: Quarlo (My favorite--this photographer is seriously talented); Chromasia (kind of hit or miss, but when he hits, boy, does he hit); skyshots (two photographers, both young, the pics are interesting and varied); (good for browsing and finding new photo sites). Just for fun, check out Parking Spaces, too. I am SO going to do that when I get my camera back.

A Boost to the Ego

(Not that I need it)

I was doing some research online this morning and I came across a review of my book (and other books in the A to Z mythology series, which is published by Facts on File ) in the October School Library Journal.

The reviewer, Ann G. Brouse of Steele Memorial Library in Elmira, NY, seems to focus mainly on how good the books in the series look, with lines like "Handsomely designed, full-color covers beckon readers to explore mythological worlds ... The inviting formats feature generous white space and large headings plus numerous drawings, reproductions, and sharp halftone photographs." They do look good, by the way. I had little to do with that, other than offering my opinion on some of the inside artwork.

Here's the part I like: "While each title is authored by a different person, these volumes are of consistent high quality. The clarity of wording, well-chosen bibliographic sources, and detailed indexes make these series titles excellent resources to accompany the many anthologies of myths and legends already in library collections."

So then I went to Amazon to put a link to the book in this post and guess what? Booklist has a review, too. It's by Robin Hoelle and it's in the October edition. You can read it here (scroll down). Pretty cool, huh?

The Booklist reviewer rightly notes that flipping between the entry and the general pronunciation guide at the front of the book is too difficult for young readers. Some of those Celtic names are simply impossible to pronounce without help. My first drafts of the book had pronunciations for most of the entries. They got cut, though. The entry headings already had alternate spellings, and I think the decision was that another parenthetic addition was too much. That was a lot of research down the drain, because not even the experts agree on how every name or Celtic word should be pronounced. And I had read a lot of other books on Celtic mythology, so I knew that pronunciations was one thing that was missing from most all of them.

Whatever. People think authors have all this control. It's not true, as I explained in this post about the cover art. I'm just happy that the new A to Z books got reviewed, and that they got generally positive reviews at that. It was a lot of work and a long process for me, for my editor, and, I'm sure, for the other authors in the series.

Or You Could Call Me Emily

Yesterday's post? Um, in the word's of Gilda Radner's character Emily Litella: "Never Mind." I got the job after all. Meanwhile, yesterday, the dog merely unplugged my keyboard. Today the dog ate my keyboard. Seriously. Doesn't she understand that I have to work in order to keep her in kibble?

As Roseanne Rosanna-Danna would say, "You know, Jane, it's always something. "

Just Call Me Bill

There is no post today. I am in a gloomy, rotten, awful mood. And the post I just wrote got gobbled up by an internal server error. And I'm not going to write another one. So just go away. Seriously.

I know I should be happy, what with all the history-making and the World Series-winning. But I'm not. Do you really want to know what happened? Why? It's just going to depress you.

OK, fine. Last night the dog unplugged my keyboard. It took me a while to figure out what was wrong and then it took me a while to fix it. Even after I got the keyboard plugged back in, I had to run troubleshooting and restart my computer a few times.

Meanwhile, fiddling with the computer distracted me from responding to a freelance job offer. By the time I got everything all squared away, it was late and so I decided to respond in the morning. The project was posted at the end of the day yesterday. This morning, I saw that it had already been assigned. And, obviously, not to me.

I let the ball slip through my legs. And even the reverse of a curse isn't making me feel any better.

See, I told you it was depressing.

One Can Only Hope

Fox 25’s new morning anchor Kim Carrigan slipped this morning: “Well, by this time next week, hopefully, we’ll have a new president.” (awkward pause, blank stare) "Or, of course, a president, period.”

Nice recovery, Kim. Nice recovery.

You know, it took me forever to write this little post because I wanted to make sure I got Carrigan's name right and there's scant current, reliable information about her on the web. Carrigan is not new to the Boston market, but she did just recently move to Fox 25 news from WBZ4 news, replacing Jodi Applegate. As I write this, Fox 25 still has a picture of Applegate on their morning news page, although they did take her off the News Team page, leaving poor Gene Lavanchy as the only "co-host" listed there. Meanwhile, still lists Carrigan as the 7 news anchor and Lavanchy as the sports editor at 7. You want an idea how old that picture is? Just look at his honkin' big glasses.

Sorry Kids, There's No More Candy ...

But I have plenty of fruit!

That's it. From now on, I only buy Halloween candy on October 31.

New Alice Munro Collection

Yesterday's New York Times Magazine has an interview with Alice Munro by Daphne Merkin, as well as the title selection from Munro's new collection of short stories, Runaway.

Burning Down the House

I've been re-reading Ray Bradbury's wonderful Zen in the Art of Writing in preparation for National Novel Writing Month. What took me 2,000 words to say, Bradbury sums up thusly:

"The history of each story, then, should read almost like a weather report: Hot today, cool tomorrow. This afternoon, burn down the house. Tomorrow, pour cold critical water upon the simmering coals. Time enough to think and cut and rewrite tomorrow. But today--explode--fly apart--disintegrate! The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, reading your story, will catch fire, too?"

And yeah, I said thusly. Wanna make something of it?

Sully School: The Barstool Method

Or, Plowing, Backfilling, and Steamrolling

I’m getting ready to participate in November’s National Novel Writing Month and this story keeps running through my head. It’s long, but my goal is to write 2,000 words a day next month, and I wanted get a feel for what that entails. This story is just about on the mark.

In which a 23 year-old me learns a lesson on writing that a soon-to-be 37 year-old me will use to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

My first job out of college was at a group of suburban weeklies in Massachusetts called The TAB newspapers. There were, I think, about a dozen TABs in all, mostly up and down Route 9 in what was once only jokingly referred to as the MetroWest region of Massachusetts. Each TAB had one reporter. The best beats were Boston, Cambridge, Newton and Brookline. They were also the most labor-intensive, of course, because something was always happening in those cities. When I worked at the TAB, John Salvi shot up a Brookline abortion clinic, killing two people and wounding seven. I didn’t cover it, but I was in the newsroom when it happened, and it was the first really serious breaking news story I ever witnessed from that vantage point. Since then, I’ve covered lots of breaking news stories, including at least one that made international headlines, but that first experience of being in a newsroom when something big is happening is singular.

There were other towns, too, that were respectable places to be a TAB reporter. Wellesley, for example, because of its size and healthy political scene, its powerful residents, its excellent schools and a police chief who wasn’t openly hostile to reporters. Plus, there was always town-gown news. Ashland was another good beat, in part because the town has a superfund site, but mostly because the politics there are a blood sport and the participants at the time liked to see their names in the paper. They were smart: they encouraged a rivalry between the TAB reporter and the reporter from the local daily—what was then called the Middlesex News, but is now called the MetroWest Daily News. In that way, they made sure both reporters were always paying attention to them, fighting for their affections, even. (A bit of trivia: It was a reporter, who first worked for the TAB and later for the Middlesex News, which later became the MestroWest Daily News, that coined the phrase “MetroWest” to describe the region west of Boston.) Then there were the small, well-heeled towns, like Wayland and Sudbury. Enough hard news to keep a reporter busy covering the Selectmen and School Committee and Town Meeting. Throw in a nice feature, three police blotter items and your week’s work would be done.

But as a brand-new college graduate, I didn’t get any of those beats. Dover and Sherborn are two tiny, tony towns that happen to be the furthest distance from the TAB offices, which were in Newton in those days. Dover and Sherborn are forever linked to each other because they share a high school, are about the same size, and because more dogs are registered at Town Hall than Democrats. (I know, because I wrote a story about it. It was headlined “More Dogs Than Democrats.”) But these two towns are quite different. Dover is rich in a glitzy, McMansiony, diamond-ring-the-size-of-a-grape kind of way. Sherborn has a lot of horses and falling-down barns and a little old money tucked under the mattress. Sherborn is decidedly rural. Dover is more of an exurb. (Wrote a story about that, too.) Because Dover and Sherborn residents do not like to be compared to or confused with one another, and because the demographics of the two towns very much pleased the advertisers, each town had its own TAB newspaper. But because these towns are so small, and so very far away from the TAB offices, they only got one reporter. It was what we affectionately call in the newspaper business the shit beat.

I got the shit beat.

The reporters at the big and medium TABs had so many stories, they would never find time to write them all. They had a lot of work, yes. But they also got to pick and choose the stories they found most interesting. Their work was exciting and satisfying. The reporters at the small TABs had just enough stories to fill their pages each week. Their jobs were steady and predictable. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING ever happened in Dover or Sherborn. Even when the police would hand over the police blotter, which they often refused to do, there would rarely be anything of interest on it. The selectmen shared polite small talk at meetings and then went home and telephoned each other to get the real town business done. The big gossip at the local coffee shop was always about how the peacocks at old So-and-So’s farm got out into the road again. And yet, because the towns so staunchly opposed being lumped together into one newspaper, the Dover/Sherborn reporter had to fill two issues each week. Sometimes inside stories could run in both issues. But the cover stories—the paper was tabloid in format, and the cover usually had one long story that jumped to the inside—had to be different for each.

And here’s the best part. The town already had a weekly newspaper. Published by a local. Whom they loved. And they hated, hated, hated the Dover and Sherborn TABs. And they hated me, or at least what I represented: the fact that the TAB newspapers didn’t care enough about them to send a real reporter to cover their town’s news. My job was desperate and depressing.

To say that I was woefully underprepared for even this shitty beat would be a massive understatement.

The deadline for the cover stories was Thursday at 6 p.m. And one particular Thursday, about two months into my stint, I found myself staring at a blank computer screen, fighting back tears.

It was 9 p.m.

Now, this was a weekly, mind you, so all around me my office-mates were still working on their cover stories, too. Some of them had even gone out for dinner and a few beers and come back to the office to work. It wasn’t that I had missed the deadline. It was that I had no story. And I don’t mean I hadn’t written the story yet. I mean I had no story notes, no story ideas, and no story on the horizon for either edition.

My editor at that time was a big, loud lout of a guy name Brian Sullivan. Those of us who survived his tutelage call ourselves graduates of Sully School. Someday I am going to write a book about Sully School, so long as he doesn’t beat me to it. He was that good. On this day, however, I wanted to kill him. Here I was, sitting at my messy desk, quietly sniveling, wallowing in despair, and seriously considering just walking out the door and never coming back. Sully came over to check on me and when I told him I had nothing, that there was nothing happening in either town, that I did not have a cover story for either the Dover or the Sherborn TAB, this is what he said to me (actually, he sang it):

“You’ve got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues and you know it won’t come easy.”

And then he walked away.

OK, he didn’t actually walk away. The singing part is true, and it seemed cruel at the time, but he did stay, and he did help me think of a story that would work for both the Sherborn and the Dover editions with some minor tweaking. It involved calling people at home after 9 p.m., which was embarrassing as shit, but I sucked it up and I made the calls to the sleepy residents and officials of Dover and Sherborn. I had my story and I had my interview notes and I had a little background, thanks to file cabinets filled with archived stories arranged alphabetically by subject. Now I just needed to write the thing. At this point it was about 10 p.m. I was scared, I was tired, and I was feeling immensely inadequate. Not exactly the best state of mind for a quasi-creative endeavor. I stared at the computer screen for a while and my eyes started to well up again. It was pathetic.

My boozy pod-mates finally took pity on me and coached me through the daunting task. After all, every single one of them had been in this exact position. A deadline not just looming on the horizon but quickly headed toward the vanishing point. A very disorganized pile of notes. A very messy desk. And only a little talent to fall back on. But by 11 p.m. I was sitting in the bar with them, knocking back drinks to dull the pain and trying not to think about next week.

This is what my more experienced peers taught me that horrible night and over the course of my TAB tenure. It’s a method I call plowing, backfilling, and steamrolling. The first step is to put aside your notes, open up a blank document, and start typing. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or typos. If you don’t know how to start, write INSERT BRILLIANT LEDE HERE and go on to the second graf. When it comes time for a nut graf, don’t give in to the temptation to look your research. Write INSERT NUT GRAF instead. If you come to a spot and you know you have a quote to put there, don’t stop to look it up, but write the words INSERT QUOTE HERE. If you need a transition but can’t think of one, write INSERT TRANSITION HERE. If you can’t remember a person’s name, refer to him as THE FIREFIGHTER WITH THE RED HAIR. If you completely draw a blank as to how a sentence should end, or if there’s a word on the tip of your tongue, write BLAH, BLAH, BLAH or XXXX. And keep typing. Don’t think about what you are going to write next, just empty your brain onto the paper. Tell the story as you know it and you’ll always be surprised how much you know. Pound on the keyboard, tear at your hair, weep tears of desperation if you must. But plow through that first draft as if your job, if not your career, depends on it.

Later, probably one night after work over beers, Sully put it to me another way. He called it the bar stool method. Pretend you’re sitting at the bar and someone sits down next to you. Pretend you are telling the story to that person. What would you say first? You would say, "Hey, guess what happened today?" And then you would tell him. You’d give him some details so could picture the scene. You might give him a little background so he would better understand what it all meant. You would not say, “Wait, I told you the first part wrong,” and make him listen to it again. You wouldn’t stop to ruminate over the perfect word or phrase. You would just tell him the story. The story is the most important thing.

The bar stool is the second most important thing.

OK, so you’ve pounded out the story in an hour or two. Now you have a rough draft. And, yes, it is full of typos and holes, full of XXXs and Blah, Blah, Blahs. You still have work to do. You will have to double-check your facts and plug in that quote and write your lede, nut grafs, and transitions. You still have to go over it with the big, scary copy editor who will make snarky remarks about how he should put his own byline on the story instead of yours. But you’re not crying anymore. Because you have accomplished what you thought was impossible just two hours earlier.

It’s the equivalent of writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

The holes, the spelling, the fine details—they can all be fixed or added later. That’s the backfilling part. And after that, if you haven’t been fired and you haven’t quit, you can really polish the story, flatten out all the bumps, pick the exact right word or phrase, punch up your lede. That’s the steamrolling bit.

But for my purposes, November is going to be a month of plowing. I am going to plow through those 50,000 words without worrying about spelling, without re-reading every sentence three times, without doubting my ability and without feeling so invested in the damn thing that I freeze up and do nothing for fear of getting it wrong.

It’s just a matter of sitting down on the barstool on November 1st and telling the story. Maybe I can get Sully to come over, grab a barstool, and sing to me while I write.

You Can't Blog From Boston and Not Mention This

Gee, I wonder if Jen Garrett is in a good mood today? Let's see: Ah, yes, it seems she is.

I missed the very end of the game. I was pacing between the office and the kitchen, listening and trying not to jump out of my skin. I even woke the dog up to take her for a quick walk. I didn't want to be looking directly at the television. I don't take credit for this historic Red Sox win. But if they had lost, I would have felt like it was partly my fault. They do so much better when I'm not paying attention.

There's going to be a lot of nookie in Boston tonight.

November is NaNoWriMo

OK, it's midnight. Can I publish this post now?

Remember when I said that I was going to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days? Today (OK, so it was yesterday) I signed up for National Novel Writers Month, NaNoWriMo for short. (And you thought I was pulling your leg.) Inspired in part by Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give,” I’ve decided to write my novel on the laptop. In bed. Hey, her character wrote a play in about a week that way, hysterical fits and all.

Of course I would pick the bunny.
Because any day you see a bunny ...

Meanwhile, Google has to be involved in everything, so Blogger (a Google joint) has launched a site for bloggers who are participating in NaNoWriMo, either by writing about the process of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month or by posting their novel on-line as they go. They're calling it NaNoBlogMo. Cute, huh?

Personally, I think 50,000 words is a lot to ask blog readers to wade through. I mean, I have a hard enough time keeping my posts short as it is. So I'm not going to post the novel here, but I will write about the process and my progress. The shin-dig starts November 1st. Look for some posts on my NaNoWriMo experience starting then.

And excerpts, Graham. I promise to post excerpts.
I only started watching in the bottom of the 7th. Now it's the bottom of the 8th and I am so wound up I feel sick. I want to watch. But I'm also afraid. I think I'm going to have to listen from the kitchen. Or possibly the bathroom.

They Call it Puppy Love

Yesterday was the dog's first birthday. Of course Grammy threw a party. There was singing, a basket full of toys, a bag of yummy doggy treats, coffee and cupcakes for the humans. I think it's more than I got for my last birthday.

My camera is in the shop, so I picked out two pictures of the baby to post. This is what she looks like now (someone called her "fat" yesterday!):

And this is what she looked like when she first came home:

(Click on the pictures for a larger, clearer image.)

This picture was taken during her first trip to the beach. She looks terrified, right? She was very, very shy when she first came home from the Northeast Animal Shelter at about three months old. She always had that worried look on her face, whether she was sleeping, eating, or wagging her tail. She has definitely come out of her shell since then. And she enjoyed her birthday party very much. I could tell.

By the way, I posted these pictures with "hello" software and found an Easter Egg while doing so. Typing the word "love" causes a heart icon to tumble down the picture preview window. You want to know the truth? It scared the CRAP out of me.

Pines and Sky (digital photo)

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.)

Hands in the Sugar Cookie Jar

Today I wrote an article about childhood obesity. The story included a section on what lawmakers in Washington are doing about it. I really, really wanted to subhead that section: "When Fat is Outlawed, Only Outlaws will be Fat."

I'm sensing a trend developing, here.

By the way, did you know that there's a sugar lobby? Well, of course you knew that, even if you didn't know you knew it. But would you believe they have the cubes to be involved in re-writing the Food Guide Pyramid? There's a great article about the whole process in the September 17 Christian Science Monitor called "A capital food fight over diet guidelines."

If you can't find the article there, try Google's cache view of the page, here. This is a good way to foil sites that are vicious about archiving their stories, by the way. Don't want to pay to read an eight-day-old New York Times article? If you know the headline you don't have to. Go to Google and do a search for the headline of the article, in quotes. Look to the right of the URL line, after the description and click on the word "Cached."

If you can't find the article you need that way, your local library probably has a subscription to online newspaper archives that you can use for free from your home computer. Yeah, I love Google. But I love libraries (and librarians) more.

Ditto for "Win-Win Situation"

This sentence, from an article in the fall Suffolk University alumni magazine, made me cringe: "What happens to risk taking and creative, outside-the-box thinking?"

Seriously, could we all please agree to stop using the phrase "outside of the box" to describe creative thinking? "Outside of the box" is so inside the box that it is choking on a mouthful of packing peanuts.

You Know You're Getting Punchy When ...

I've been busy working (it's a good thing, too) and one project required me to write some examples of similes, metaphors, and personification. You don't know how badly I wanted to submit this: "The sea was angry that day, my friend. Like an old man trying to return soup at a deli."

Would-Be Working Wordsmiths

Yay! First Eleran posted a quote, then StuckHereWithNoTV posted two. Now Jen, the author of one of my favorite blogs, has posted three quotes on writing. That's right, three. I think she has thrown down the gauntlet, folks. And I know a certain unemployed wordsmith from New York who's up to the challenge.

So speaking of unemployed wordsmiths, last night I added some writing/editing job search sites to the links on the right-hand side of this page. I might add some more. But I'm only going to post the best sites. The sites I picked are easy to look at and easy to use. They have mostly paying jobs (because we love to write but we also have to eat). They are free. And they don't require a user name and password unless they are totally worth it.

I posted these links for visitors to this site who are (or want to be) working writers, of course. But I also did it for me. I've made a resolution to be more aggressive in my marketing, so I don't have to spend another summer as an underemployed freelancer. It was tough, what with all the long walks and the reading and the napping. Now I can easily check these sites daily without wading through the 32 job search sites in my favorites folder, most of which are crap, anyway.

Feel like I left out a good one? Leave a comment about it. You know I love comments, right?

Beach at Night (digital photo)

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.)

On Poetry and Being 19

I've been meaning to post about Eleran, who always leaves great comments, especially the time he said this picture looked like a hairball. He left a particularly excellent one on this post (scroll down to see his contribution). Eleran has a really nice poetry blog called Amid Rushes and Reeds. It is a minimalist site, one poem per page, updated two or three times a week, and so is very easy to read. His poems are filled with interesting images and evocative language. I enjoy reading them.

I also wanted to thank StuckHereWithNoTV for responding to my request for quotes on writing. Click here and scroll down to read her contributions. She and Eleran were the only ones to respond, and she made up in part for the pitifully underwhelming response by posting two really good quotes.

StuckHere's site, Bumps and Bruises of a Virgin, is an account of someone who is new to the craft of writing. Remember being 19 and falling in love with words? Remember being in j-school and having no idea if you would ever get a job at an actual newspaper? Remember freaking out because you can't get jobs without clips and you can't get clips without a job? Remember idealizing that older male journalism prof?


Well, I do. And reading this blog brings it all back. Plus, I liked the way she tweaked her "posted by" line.

One of Those Days

Yesterday was just one of those days. I went to my doctor's appointment. A day early. The dog threw up in the car. Twice. I turned on a lamp. The bulb blew out. And so on and so on and so on. Plus, there was the whole camera thing.

I even tried to cheer myself up by ordering some chicken fingers at my favorite take-out place. At first I thought things were picking up when the guy at the counter gave me a free piece of baklava. But then I looked in the bag, and saw that he was just making up for the fact that they were either running low on supplies or have reduced the portion size of their orders. Teeny-tiny pitiful little portion of chicken fingers. Grrrrr.

I'm actually a pretty positive person. But when I'm having one of those days, it's hard not to look at the world in a negative way. At a certain point I just assume whatever I encounter will break, bite, or bitch at me. I start to get curious, even, wondering what will go wrong next. Daring the universe to bring it.

Meanwhile, I completely lose touch with the fact that I'm actually a very lucky person. That things could be a lot worse than a burned-out lightbulb and some dog puke. That I can go to the doctor's two days in a row without explaining anything to anyone because I'm self-employed. That I have a manual 35 mm camera, for god's sake. And a roof over my head and food on my plate, even if the chicken fingers are on the small side.

So I was looking for a picture of baklava to add to this post but instead I found a link to a film called Baklava & the Meaning of Life. It features Helene Simon, who became a sculptor in her 50s and apparently makes a mean baklava. The short film is about the creative process and the joy that can be found in doing what you love, whether it's making art or making pastry.

You can always count on the universe to respond to an invitation. Just don't count on it to respond the way you expected.

Hello, Nikon?

It will take four to five weeks to fix the camera, sez my camera dude. Four to five weeks? What am I going to do without it for that long?

I think this blog needs a sponsor.

"Hello, Nikon? Gienna Writes, here. Product reviews? Of course I do product reviews."

A 200-Bunny Day

Yesterday I went to the Topsfield Fair with K, L, and my new friend D.

One of the first things we did once we got to the fairgrounds (after sitting in traffic for 45 minutes waiting to get into the parking lot, that is) was to go see the Flying Wallendas.

Click on any of the pictures for a larger, clearer image.

The crowd was a-titter. Sort of.

This guy was a real clown.

The men in the audience seemed to appreciate this act.

But the dogs were my favorite.

My dog could totally do that!

Unfortunately, in the middle of the act, my camera crapped out on me. It just wouldn't focus, no matter how hard I hit it. So, there are no more pictures of the fair that don't look like this:

Don't bother clicking the picture for a larger, clearer image.

So maybe it was a 199-bunny day. That's still 198 bunnies better than the average day.*

*Or, I should say, 198 bunnies better than a good day.

Any Day You See a Bunny ...

I worked 'till about 10 pm last night. Why? So today I could go to the fair! I'm so excited. And there's lots to be excited about. The Mrs. Essex County contest! The Mini-Wheelbarrow Display Contest! Pretty hats! Rigged midway games! Museum-quality vegetables displayed behind chicken wire! Giant pumpkins! Pumpkin people! People, dammit. People! Pumpkin people wearing what appear to be pumpkin veils! Baby chicks that are so cute you just want to squish their little heads! Sheep wearing little coats! Whatever the hell this is a picture of! Pie! Mmmmmm, pie! And, best of all, Bunnies! Because you know what I always say: Any day you see a bunny is a good day.

One Stop Blogging

Gienna Rants ... And Writes

I've decided to combine my two blogs here on Gienna Writes. I wrote about it yesterday in my other blog, Gienna Rants. Here's a link to that post. Go ahead and read it. I'll wait.

Since writing that post, I've been obsessing over which of the two blogs to keep. This blog has a better url, that blog gets more hits and more comments. This blog is pretty, that blog is cool.

And then I realized I was wasting a lot of time and that would be better spent writing. So when I got an anonymous comment (from K) that said the black background of GR hurt her eyes, I decided to stop obsessing (for once in my life) and choose. As someone I know would say: "Vanilla or chocolate?" The point being, it doesn't actually matter. Just pick a flavor.

So, what am I going to do with all my spare time now that I've stopped production on Gienna Rants and now that I am officially a one-blog household?

I'm going to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. What else?

Cut the Daisy From Your Throat

My copy of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg is well-worn, with notes in the margins and sticky notes sticking out the sides. Here's one of my favorite passages, which is marked with both:

First thoughts have tremendous energy. It is the way the mind first flashes on something. The internal censor usually squelches them, so we live in the realm of second and third thoughts, thoughts on thought, twice and three times removed from the direct connection of the first fresh flash. For instance, the phrase "I cut the daisy from my throat" shot through my mind. Now my second thought, carefully tutored in 1 + 1 = 2 logic, in politeness, fear, and embarrassment at the natural, would say, "That's ridiculous. You sound suicidal. Don't show yourself cutting your throat. Someone will think you are crazy." And instead, if we give the censor its way, we write, "My throat was a little sore, so I didn't say anything."

By the way, you people are lazy. I know you have books on writing, probably sitting within arm's reach, or at least just a short walk down the hall. And yet, no one has contributed a single quote on writing even though I asked very nicely. So this is my attempt to get the ball rolling. But I might not post again unless someone sends me a quote. I'm serious, here, people. Don't you hear the serious tone in my voice?

Yellow House 1 and 2 (digital photos)

(click on the picture for a clearer image)

(click on the picture for a clearer image)

I couldn't decide which one I liked better. So I decided to post both.

Share the Writing Love

I have posted a few of my favorite quotes on writing on this blog, including this one on revision that I keep posted on my computer monitor and this one by Annie Dillard, one of my all-time and long-time favorites, which is actually a passage from her wonderful book, The Writing Life. I plan to post more quotes on writing in the future, probably when I can't think of anything else to write about.

I would really love for people to share their own favorite quotes on writing here on Gienna Writes. Include the quote and its source. And maybe say something about why you like it. Any quote on any topic do do with writing would be great.

You can share your quotes in one of two ways. You can post a comment on this post by clicking on the link below. Or you can send me an email using the contact link on my profile page and I will post it for you. For more complete directions on leaving comments on posts, check out my rant on leaving comments on Gienna Rants.

While you're at it, help me think of a better headline for this post, will you please?

Roadside Attraction (digital photo)

Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.

Poem (writing website)

"Poem" on features a new audio and print poem each week. You can read the poem and listen to author read it. Click here to read this week's poem. Click here to browse an archive of past poems. There's some real gems in there, including a poem by one of my current favorite poets, Jeffrey Skinner. Click here to read Skinner's "The Long Marriage" and to hear him read the poem.

Skinner also has five poems in the current print issue of The Missouri Review (read my post on the online version of this literary magazine here). They are wonderful prose poems about his father. Skinner employs some images that are at once familiar and surprising. I enjoyed them so much they inspired me to write this poem. (Not nearly as good as his, but that's OK.)

Now get reading. And writing.