Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"A Kind of Flying" by Ron Carlson

This book assembles the best of Carlson's short stories from his three previous collections: The News of the World, Plan B for the Middle Class, and The Hotel Eden. I won't go on too much, because the amount of Carlson I've been reading lately borders on the obsessive. The latest Tin House showed up yesterday, with a Carlson story. I'll resist as long as possible.

His stories are immensely satisfying, and also instructive in terms of craft. Carlson works in multiple styles--and I don't just mean first- and third-person voice. There are wonderfully salient father/domestic stories, a story about a mom captaining the USS Fortitude, one about a man who thinks he's obtained the Turin Tablecloth (think Last Supper), baseball stories, child-rearing stories, vacation stories, some stories of sadness, and many of hope.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Moveable Feast

The Lord may have risen, but he is definitely not a Jesuit. USD lost to Western Kentucky this afternoon. The lady Terps, though, trounced Coppin State. Go Maryland!

Check this out.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Writing is Rewriting

Louie and I came along to the lab with Bryan tonight. Since neither of us knows how to use a pipette or run out a gel (him with no opposable thumbs and me with my arts degrees), Louie got comfortable on a towel at my feet and I read a friend's story. We met at the Tomales Bay workshops last fall, and he sent me a rewrite of the story he'd submitted in our workshop. In this second draft, by seeing what things stuck and what were nixed, I realized what parts of the story are important to him. And it really helped inform my comments the second time around. I may have before been preoccupied with a tertiary character, but this time I see why that character was there, and who's more important. I don't often read multiple drafts of another writer's work, and I don't often submit my own to fellow writers, either. I think doing so could be more helpful than I'd previously thought.

Louie wanted to comment on the story, too. But, alas, no opposable thumbs.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A College the Size of My High School

Bryan's alma mater, USD, pulled off the biggest upset thus far in the tournament by topping U Conn in overtime. Maryland's season is over, and I didn't fill out a bracket this year, but suddenly I've got a dog in this fight. They played today on Good Friday, and will go against Western Kentucky on Easter. I hope God is a Jesuit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Maryland over Minnesota, 68-58


Monday, March 17, 2008

Click on first photo to read blog entry

Typewriter roll call:
Corona 3 Folding

Remington 12

Corona portable

Corona Standard portable

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What I Miss

-A library book's hand-stamped due-date list
-The Oregon Trail computer game
-Nap time
-A good couch-burning after a Maryland loss
-A good couch-burning after a Maryland win
-Seeing Maryland in the NCAA tourney (NIT-boo!)
-Paying $3.25 for a movie theater ticket
-Tambourine in pop music (think The Beach Boys)
-TV news without all the crap on the screen

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Ron Carlson Writes a Story" by Ron Carlson

These pages give solid advice. Go slowly. Stay in the concrete. The specific is your friend. And whatever you do, don't get up for coffee. A writer is the person who stays in the room.

In this book, Carlson explains, paragraph by paragraph, how he wrote the short story "The Governor's Ball." Every writer has a different creative process, but I really connected with Carlson's points and ideas about stories. The book is something that can be read in a single sitting, and returned to multiple times. I'm currently applying what I've learned to my in-progress dog-wash story.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dog Wash

In the name of research, I took Louie to a dog wash today. He's fine getting bathed in our shower, but there's a dog wash in my latest story, and I needed to see one first-hand. I'd spent the morning cutting off all his hair, which didn't put him in the best of moods. But then we drove to the dog wash and once in the tub, it was like he was shell-shocked. Shaking, trying to get out, he was a mess and I felt guilty for making my dog suffer so I could write some dumb story. The barking dogs in the kennel next door didn't help, either. I'd gone to the dog wash wanting to soak up its nuances--its tear-free shampoo and crazy-delirious gold retrievers. But Louie was so terrified I got him in, bathed (with only a minor dry), and out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Disaster Not Caused by the Current US Administration

I saw the Pompei exhibit today at the Natural History Museum. A poet would write a moody, uncomfortable poem about what they'd seen--a couple embraced in death; interminably tiny tomb relics; museum-goers stepping in front of you to get the best view of devastation; and of course the trompe l'oeil frescoes (always a solid go-to for poetry). Since I write prose, the best I can manage is this blog entry, and hope to store away something--the hippies on the grass with their perfectly hippie dog?--for a story.

Also, happy birthday to my friend Erin, who got gypped by an hour.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

This Blog Has Gone Too Long Without Pictures of Louie

This evening at the park:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Lunch with Julie

Right now, the world feels like that carnival ride The Scrambler. Pretty thrilling, and awfully satisfying, but able to make you lose your lunch. It helps to know there are other people holding on, smiling, and hoping the nausea won't get the best of them, too.

Julie's dog, Zoey:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

First Draft

Doubt is my constant companion...I think. Doubt is my constant companion...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

My brother believes monkeys are nature's comedians. But if you're Anne Lamott, you might argue for flossing. As in, "Of course [Lamott's son] doesn't want to come to regular worship--it's so naked, built on the rubble of need and ruin, and our joy is deeply uncool--but he doesn't want to floss or do homework, either." There are three or four other flossing punchlines in this book.

The essays are funny, tightly-written, satisfying reflections on spirituality, learning to forgive George Bush, getting older, and a liberal northern California lifestyle.

"One Hand Clapping" is a dark but comforting essay. A member of Lamott's church is dying of cancer, and wants the children to decorate the casket her body will be cremated in. She wants to see the finished project before she dies, to get comfortable with where she'll be going and how she'll get there. The elders aren't sure it would be healthy for the children, so a compromise is reached and at Sunday school the children make drawings that will be pasted onto the box.