Sunday, December 30, 2007


Ron Carlson led the Squaw Valley workshop the day my story was discussed. The conversation was so provoking that I thought perhaps he knew a thing or two about fiction ;), and that it might be worth my while to check out his work. I just finished Five Skies.

It's a contemporary Western about three men who build a motorcycle ramp in the scrub brush of Idaho for a movie scene. The story deals with railroad ties, ten-inch carriage bolts, and all sorts of things I have no knowledge of. Which turned out okay because the descriptions were so simple and dead-on, I was able to picture precisely what was happening. I enjoyed the story and personal stories of each of the men, but I equally enjoyed the beautiful descriptions. It was like they were there for their own sake, to very satisfying results. It reminded me of Wayne Thiebaud's luscious, extant bakery cakes.

Bryan and I are off tomorrow to spend twenty-four hours in Florida with his Grandpa. New Year's with an octogenarian is just about my speed.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post-holiday Humdrum

I realize I haven't posted much lately about what I read. But reading's as important as writing, so I'm going to make a better effort.

I finished What You Have Left. And as I'd suspected in an earlier post, didn't deal with America directly as a character. Great read, though.

On the advice of my husband, I picked up John Grisham's Playing for Pizza. It's a commercial fiction story about a humiliated NFL quarterback who goes to play for an Italian league. It's entertaining, but lacks the additional depth of character you'd probably find in a literary work. I don't want to be snobby about things, but I think it'd be interesting to know how the humiliation affected him. The first chapter finds the protagonist in a hospital following a concussion from a game he lost. The fans are ruthless, protesting outside his hospital room, and the media isn't much better. We are told these things are happening, but we don't know how the protagonist deals with it. It felt like a missed opportunity. Entertaining story, though.

It turns out my typewriters aren't terminal; Mitchell can get them all back up and running. All that's required are Q-tips; cleaner; new springs, ribbons, and knobs; one new platen; two rollers; hours of his time; and some welding. Not bad, eh?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Or Merry any other holiday that you celebrate.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Last-minute Shopping

A little after noon today, on December twenty-third, I finished my Christmas shopping. It's the longest I've ever waited, but I'll still beat my father by twenty-four hours. I have to confess, there's a little bit of a rush that comes when you're scurrying from store to store, scanning half-empty shelves and get employee head-shakes when you ask about having an item in stock. There's also a little bit of stress that could morph into full-blown discomposure if I weren't buying for someone who insists time together is all he wants.

Most people would read this and think, aw, isn't that sweet. And it is, but it means more because Bryan works seven days a week, almost sixty hours a week. After such a long week, he could want football on a big screen with his buddies, or a night at a bar. But all he wants is me.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Simple Pleasures

Bryan and I took my four typewriters to a guy named Mitchell in Kearney Mesa yesterday. He has an office supply business, but what he really loves to do is repair typewriters. Bryan knew I'd always wanted to start a typewriter collection, and these old units were his wedding gift to me.

After dropping them off, Mitchell offered to show us around his back room. He was filled with machines, from ones that type blind all the way to electric. He even had a Smith Premier No. 4, which has two QWERTY keyboards, an uppercase on top of a lower.

My little guy, a Corona 3 folding, is in pretty poor shape. So's the Remington No. 12. Hopefully Mitchell can put them back together.

Later that evening we went to Bryan's company Christmas party. Bowling!!! Unfortunately, a real ball is a little different than a Wii remote. But I still has a blast.

Manual typewriters, and manual bowling. It was such a retro day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Acceptances Do Come in the Mail

I received one today from SLAB. It's for a short-short I've been shopping around for nearly six months. Persistence pays off. This is a story I'd always liked (I'm never short on ire for my work), in spite of the dozen+ editors who rejected it. A few months ago, I received a thoughtful thumbs-down from an editor who liked where the story went, but thought the beginning was a bit standoffish. I considered his critique for over a week before deciding the narrator needed to be standoffish. So the story remained unchanged. And today, it becomes accepted.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Literary Tour of America, in All Its Manifestations

I recently read Gish Jen’s Typical American, a book about a Chinese immigrant in the mid-twentieth century. It came on the heels of Richard Russo’s The Bridge of Sighs in my reading list. Never mind the Italian reference, the book depicts the small town New England Russo has been doing so well for so long.

And then Delmore Schwatz’s poem “America, America!” And then this morning I finished David Wong Louie’s The Barbarians are Coming, another Chinese immigrant story. A workshop mate at Tomales Bay tipped me off to Louie, and I am thankful for his recommendation, and our conversations that week.

Next up is What You Have Left by Will Allison. The story is set in America, but I don't think it will deal with America as a subject. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Weekend Fun

Bryan and I received an early Christmas gift from my parents. A camcorder! I felt the urge to find a horse at the Del Mar race track and film it a la Muybridge. But, alas, we settled for footage of Louie.

Why is it when you try to write a novel, you end up with a short story? And when you begin a short story, it expands into something much longer? Poets can't possibly have such problems.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I saw this play Sunday night with friends. It's a posthumous stage adaption of Geisel's book. It must be strange for a writer to create a new piece from someone else's work, especially when the original artist isn't around to ask questions. "Ted, what were you thinking when you chose the name Cindy Lou?"

Anyhow...the play follows the book's storyline. The Grinch doesn't like Christmas, so after the "townies," the Whos, shop and decorate for Christmas, the Grinch steals it all. When one of the children befriends the Grinch, he changes his mind about the holiday. Which is all fine and good. But I kept wondering why the Grinch hated Christmas in the first place. What was the source of his anger? How did he get to such a misanthropic place? I don't want to put "the character on the couch" (to borrow a workshopping line from a past instructor), but doesn't this matter? Back story? Context? It could even be a separate story, a character study. I'll suggest it the next time I hear a writer complain of being blocked.