Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Out of Town

This blog train has left the station and will be on vacation through Thursday.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

LA Times Festival of Books

My mom and I took in the festival's first day, riding up in a bus chartered by a local bookstore. On board was an author who talked about her work. She writes "self-help fiction," a genre I've never heard of nor seen mentioned in Poets & Writers. It was interesting to hear about her process (which included a focus-group to see what type of book she should write for women--women, of course, because they buy more books than men). It was also, well, revolting?

The festival's highlight (other than seeing my brother, who joined us for the afternoon) was hearing Sherman Alexie talk. He read from his new book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, which is largely autobiographical. Alexie was born with hydrocephalus, and the book deals with this and how it made him "different" in school. Once the talk was opened up to questions, a young boy said he has Turret's Syndrome, and asked Alexie what he could do to avoid bullies. It was a shocking question that changed the Q&A's previously jocular mood. Alexie gave a heartfelt answer about finding allies in both students and adults at the school, about divulging his fears to them, and about realizing that being bullied doesn't mean there's a problem with you. The problem lies with the bully.

I thought about how fiction reveals life, including the inhumanity of being mistreated. And how, if the fiction I read is going to have "lessons" or "issues," or even possibly "help me," I want them to be created organically. And go down with nary a taste of medicine.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Early this morning, I found out a TCSD member was killed by a shark at a club workout. This is the point in this blog entry where I don't know what else to say.

Feeling like I should carpe the damn diem, I did a 60 min + 35 min brick that went really well. Since I'm horribly de-trained I'd like to chalk it up to muscle memory, but I think it was a sense of life's urgency.

Feeling like I should carpe some more damn diem, my mom and I went to Starbucks. I worked on a story about the building of a clothes closet, and she read a fabulous book (Aloft by Chang-Rae Lee). Because my mom spent so much time on various word translations at Starbucks, I want to record them here:

Spanish: conejo
Italian: coniglio
(Muchas gracias pro el hombre en Starbucks para ayuda!)

Angstrom: a unit of length equal to 0.1 nanometre

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Teeth Cleaning

How is it that a dental hygienist, with her rebuke of your poor flossing habits, can make you feel like a complete failure? I have sufficient self-confidence, a wonderful husband, a loving family, a pretty adept brain, a wonderful perrito, very few cavities, and yet, it isn't enough when you hear your thirties will be filled with gloom and doom and inflamed gums if you don't start flossing in every spare moment. Rejections from journals, no problem! Admonishment from a dental professional? I go to pieces.

This evening, I negatively influenced my oral health with candy at the Tri Club meeting. My mom is a superstar for helping me, too. Renewing members and new members and movie tickets, and her help was much appreciated. She even had time to chat up the speaker before the meeting began.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mom's Arrival

At the park.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Room to Stretch Out

Bryan and I had a dream. A dream of a useable room. And today--minus baseboards--that dream was realized.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Getting to Know My Husband

Bryan and I ran with MarcFit (two Saturdays in a row!) and made it through 70 minutes. You don't realize how tough a long-distance run is when you've been spending your Saturdays at Starbucks or a science lab. We kept pace with V, and talked about the upcoming Journey Concert, about seeing the "Sex in the City" movie.

We laid the hallway floor today. I feel bad that the little time that Bryan has away from work has been spent, as of late, on work around the house. But he claims not to mind, because it's time we're spending together. I agree. During the installation, I asked him why he went into science in college--and chemistry specifically, not biology, pre-med, et cetera. He told me all about his affinity for math but thinking science was a broader field.

At an evening party, he told a story I'd never heard about his roommate sophomore year of college.

Afterwards, at home, I hit him with quick-fire questions about his youth. I learned that his mom made his lunch for him every school day, that "Charles In Charge" was one of his favorite sit-coms, that he didn't like art class because he was always worrying his work wasn't good enough, that he didn't decorate or personalize his bedroom, that his grade school was HUGE, that a trip to a physics learning institute was his favorite field trip.

I regaled him with a story of dumpster-diving with my grandma in search of carpet for the exterior of her ranch house (you can read more about this in a future short story--that is, if I'm worth my salt as a writer). He seemed to enjoy it, but I'm afraid he was picturing me, old, careening through back alleys in a hatchback, searching for discarded carpet of all shapes and colors.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Two Coats

The guest bedroom now has color. (Finally). Before getting it on the walls, I had to texturize the closet exterior, and protected the ceiling with a discarded story draft. I either have a really good relationship with my writing, or a really disturbing one.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pearly Whites

Louie got his teeth cleaned today. We dropped him off in the morning and picked him up this evening. He was given anesthesia, and I thought he'd be groggy afterwards. And he might be a little more mellow (he's currently sleeping next to me on the couch), but not by much. And his choppers? They absolutely sparkle.

I recently joined San Diego Writers, and attended their Brown Bag writing group (think a game show lightning round for fiction). I arrived late (darn my poor sense of direction) and was only able to write on two of the prompts. I am feeling so emboldened by my friend Jehanne's recent blog entries that I'm going to post part of this story, for a limited time only. The prompt was "I paid them."

--The beginnings of a short story have been removed from this post.--

Monday, April 14, 2008


Yes, it's corny. But aren't we, too?

Bryan and I returned to Mission Beach tonight for a picnic, the site of our wedding six months ago. It was warmer this time around. And we made good on a wedding vow (BO to me) by including ice cream in the picnic. While watching the sunset, a naval warship passed by, and Bryan remarked that you don't hear about wars being waged from sea anymore. I wondered what happened to all the cannonballs.

And that's where the night got interesting. As we dined on Vons deli takeout (I recommend the chicken Caesar pasta salad), we brainstormed a farce about the demise of the cannonball. What had caused it? Could some loony be lobbying his congressman to bring it back?

After the picnic, because our ice cream wasn't quite enough (not to knock it, but is any one form of ice cream ever enough?), we rounded out the night at Extraordinary Desserts. There, over a flour-less chocolate cake with blueberry ice cream, our cannonball story took an experimental turn, and we decided it should be epistolary, addressed to Howard Junker and inquiring why ZYZZYVA hadn't published (verification forthcoming) any stories with cannonballs. The idea came from this post on Junker's blog, but I promise nothing but upmost respect in our letter/literary submission. It will be in the mail soon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ironman Arizona

Mid-nineties heat, high winds, good times.

Right now, lots of TCSD members, including a good friend, are kicking butt at this race. Go Tri Club!

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I told myself I wouldn't read a page or write a word of fiction for one day. Last night, I even picked up O magazine to satisfy my eyes (I tried buying one of those trashy women's magazines, but just couldn't do it). So far today, I've read a Ron Carlson story aloud to Bryan ("Nightcap") and wrote a possible first line (always negotiable in such an early stage) to a new story. I thought I needed a day away, but perhaps the fact that I can't keep my distance means good things are coming.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What I've Been Reading

Lots of things. The Hallelujah Side by Rhoda Huffey. A story about a girl growing up in a devoutly Pentecostal family in Iowa. The voice can sometimes be a bit perplexing, because you aren't sure if the narrator (third person) is sympathizing with the family's wacky (no better word here) religious beliefs and practices, or mocking it. Because you feel a bit bad mocking it, but it's all so...wacky.

This year's Pushcart Prize anthology. I'm just delving in (as it's already April, I better get a move on), but early favorites are Charles D'Ambrosio's "The Dead Fish Museum" and Gerald Stern's "What For".

Tobias Wolff's new compilation, Our Story Begins. Thick, which means the flavor will last and last.

And because sometimes you're so desperate you go back to the basics, What If?

I will be taking tomorrow off from writing, though, and reading anything with a literary slant.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Louie, Louie

Bryan and I had our first perrito parental scare. Bry went to scratch Louie's head this morning and he yelped. We looked closer and realized Louie's eye was red, and the white inner eyelid was covering part of it. I made an appointment with the vet for that afternoon, and later in the morning realized Louie wasn't able to open his mouth fully to yawn. And that funny eyelid kept creeping farther up his eye. He slept all day up to his appointment.

Turns out, Lou probably got konked on the head last night at the park (he'd spent a lot of time chasing a golden retriever and her ball). His inner eyelid gradually receded, and he started yawning normally. I took a picture of his pathetic eye, but am having trouble uploading it to Bryan's computer.

I figured Lou was back to normal this evening when he insisted on carrying his tennis ball in his mouth to the park. Then he stole another dog's squeaker toy (the creme de la creme of dog toys, at least in Carmel Valley), and I knew our boy was back to normal.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Typewriters Don't Experience Hard Drive Failures

V and I saw "Juno" today. If you can get past the ultra-hip, ultra-annoying dialogue, it's a good flick. I just don't understand why the screenwriter didn't read her dialogue aloud and realize how irritating it was. Fiction writers do this, and our words aren't designed to be heard.

My computer has died. (Thanks to Bryan for the loan.) Naturally, many of my files weren't backed up. I'm hoping some kid at the Mac store with green hair and piercings--you know, a Genius--can get it back up and running (a la Frankenstein's monster, if necessary) long enough to recover my writing. One of the documents I don't have saved elsewhere is this novel-in-progress I've been in-progress on for some time. I just haven't felt drawn to work on it lately. But now, knowing it could have fallen into some silicon abyss, I really want to write its next chapter.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Carpeing the Diem

I visited a friend in the hospital today. She's seven months pregnant but the baby is toying with the idea of coming now. Although stuck in bed she was in good spirits, and when I left she instructed me to go outside, breathe the fresh air, and enjoy the day.

So I tried.

Louie and I spent the afternoon at the park. Then Bryan came home from the lab early and I skipped a Tri Club meeting. We considered hitting the bookstore, an ice cream parlor, the hot tub. We had big ideas. We ended up spending more time with Louie, then went out to dinner. Afterwards, we were both so tired that we watched a little TV and are turning in early. Maybe I can instead focus on seizing the week?

Monday, April 7, 2008

First and Second

I finished a draft of a story today. It's the second story I've written with the same protagonist, and the first time I've carried a character into more than one story. His name is Sherwin and he's a sixty-two-year-old retired sales rep. In the first story's first draft, he was ornery before gradually warming up on the page. Both stories depict a no-nonsense WASP who absolutely adores his wife.

Speaking of Sherwin, his first story received another not-your-standard-rejection rejection from this same journal. But not to despair, I'll be sending out another short story tomorrow morning, and said journal will be first on the list.

Minor victory: I fixed the leak in my bike pump.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Last night, Bryan and I saw "21", which is a movie loosely based on the MIT blackjack team. Overwritten dialogue, didactic musical score aside, and rushed ending aside, the movie was entertaining. But a few minutes in, there's a reference to Google. Which is weird, because the gambling team started in 1979. Then there's a Geico Insurance joke, and movie scenes set in present-day Vegas. I couldn't understand why this would be done, other than to make the story more "hip"? Bryan thought it was because they'd also created a complication of casinos transferring over to facial recognition software (rather than human consultants to sniff out card-counters). Could be, but I wondered if the filmmakers didn't change their story to please audiences. You have to write for yourself, and tell the story honestly. And anyway, what's so wrong with the past?

As a postscript, why does Hollywood love the non-sequitur of people on the lam running through restaurant kitchens? How often does this really happen? I challenge a Hollywood exec to find a line cook who's had anyone unexpectedly dash through their kitchen.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Larry and Michelle Build a Better Closet

Yesterday, we put in the new closet.

The corner where the closet will go

Putting up the first support

Louie supervises

Frame almost finished
(my father is in all these photos but I did make myself useful in the process)


The rest of the drywall and the doors.

Now all we need is a little spackle, some sanding, a little more spackle, et cetera. And paint on the ceiling, paint on the walls and closet, new outlets, new floor, moulding.... But not today.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

How to Dismantle a Closet

Today, my dad and I took down the closet in our guest room. Stay tuned tomorrow, when we put up another, smaller one that will give the room more space.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


This is only healthy if you go back to your desk and write something better.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bryan and Michelle's Big Fat Weekend

Bryan's company had a board meeting on Friday that went very well. To celebrate, he took both Saturday AND Sunday off from the lab. It was unprecedented but he really needed the break. Mostly, the weekend was uneventful in that serendipitous way. Sleeping in, some basketball, two relaxed workouts, a Costco lunch date, some spring cleaning, and settling up with Uncle Sam. We managed to get a lot done without feeling like it was work. A case in point of our laid-back attitude: it's Tuesday night and I'm just getting around to this weekend post.