Half the Whole of It

skitzy writer (1)

I posted a new food debacle on my other site, icantbelieveididthis, in which I confessed to the latest kitchen horror involving meatloaf. Maybe the suspense was too much about how I salvaged this hot mess:

meatloaf 3

Or, perhaps, the blizzard conditions outside kept people inside bored crazy and reduced to scrolling through the internet for anything at all amusing. Whatever, I received a ton more likes from this than most of the Scraps postings concerning all my hand-wringing over writing and the story I’m working on now. Not only is the subject matter on I Can’t Believe This  different but the voice and style is, as well. If I’m honest with myself, these are factors in why my food writing found an audience while my straight writing remains obscure.

What can I say…both writings and blogs are equal halves of the whole of me. Every time I face the blank screen/page it’s like putting me in a paper bag, shaking me up, and be surprised at what tumbles out.

Moral of this story: Lighten up. Enjoy everything I do. Find humor after a day of slogging in the trenches. Not everything I write has to be serious.

I have a new blog on cooking!

boiling-over

Years ago, somewhere in a post down below, I said something about being tired of food writing–which I was, sort of.  In any case, I wasn’t coming up with any good ideas the way I used to. I felt I said everything I wanted to say about food and the kind of food writing and cooking books being published didn’t fit me. Besides, let’s face it, I’m lousy at selling magazine articles or keeping abreast of anything on social media to keep my food brand (that’s what they call it) in circulation. To be perfectly honest, I just wasn’t interested anymore.

Plus, I began to write my Clare stories and couldn’t think of anything else.

Then last month, I was emailing my most wonderful friend, Chris Welch who is an incredible book designer. Someone sent her one of those “how to entertain” books full of stylish illustrations, but the writing came off as stuck-up in a know-it-all way, the kind that leaves the reader (well, me) despondent and feeling like a real smuck in the cooking and hostess department.  Chris said I could do better and, because I was sort of in a holiday manic phase after giving a large (imperfect behind-the-scenes) party of my own, I started riffing on the idea that, instead of writing about splendid parties and accomplished cuisine, why not tell the truth and shout about all the dumb, stupid, hilarious, lame things that happen to all of us in the kitchen or with people about?

So I started a new blog called I Can’t Believe I Did This that’s going to admit to all the mistakes and disasters I’ve ever made in the realm of cooking and entertaining.  I’ll explain the solutions and excuses that sort of rallied me through most mishaps,  in a spirited way that  just may assure the reader it’s not the end of the world.  I hope to hear from others, too, maybe get a discussion going about how we’re all sick of those cooking shows and blogs and magazines that make us hopelessly anxious. Isn’t it about time we admit there are other things more important in the world than the lopsided cake that plopped out for your kid’s class birthday celebration or how you wish you could throw off your high heel shoes at your own party?  Cooking is too much fun, being with friends (sometimes even relatives) too important, to ruin it all by worrying about little mayhem.

I bet that, together, we can find ways to make something wonderful out of a pig’s ear. (Actually, you can–it’s not good for you but it tastes great!)

 

snapper

Now, here’s the first of two posts: And you thought this would be healthy

Procrastination or Bad Excuses I Use to Justify Not Writing

gypsy-rose-lee-1941-women-at-typewriter

  1. The day-job/annoying boss (don’t get me started)
  2. Financial concerns that tamp down the fantasy of quitting #1
  3. Exhaustion(see #1 above and #4 below)
  4. Deep family concerns (just because children are grown and out of the house doesn’t mean they are not a source of worry, trouble, pain–and joy which means you love to hang out with them and celebrate whatever makes up the joy, mainly that they’re out of the house and we’re away from one another)
  5. The fun/ease of doing anything at all other than staring at a blank computer screen and/or figuring out what the hell I’m really writing about
  6. WHO the hell are these characters bothering me every waking and sleeping hour
  7. The sorry/hard state of the book publishing world, at least in getting any kind of advance and recognition, especially since you’re not very versatile at, say, magazine and essay writing, nor building a HUGE community on social media
  8. Self-aggravation, leading to……
  9. Bouts of deep depression
  10. Obsessive Google searches

Here’s the current procrastination episode: The husband walks into the kitchen while I wait for the teapot to boil.  It’s the weekend, two intense writing days, given  # 1 and #3. The days are just as intense for him–he has a book contract and looming deadline. He mentions that the Authors Guild’s membership fees have skyrocketed and, since I’m no longer bringing any money into the household (#2), I should cancel my membership. True enough–since I’ve stopped writing about food I haven’t contributed any hefty advances/speaking fees. This is because, within the current food/cookbook publishing world, I not only feel I have nothing to say but that I have said everything I wanted to say (#5).  At one time I could’a been a contender; I could’a been somebody and probably could have gone repeating myself, writing the same kind of book over and over again. Instead, I decided to try growing as a writer by working on a series of stories about my teenage friendship with a girl named Clare.* Given the state of the publishing world (#7), the chance of these stories ever being published rests on their acceptance by small literary magazines (I’ve begun to send them out–no response yet).

In any case, I can’t believe what the husband just suggests.  At the very least, Authors Guild hosts my website through which the paltry number of fans and reporters have found me over the years–it’s actually the only remnant of my professional worth (#8 and #9).  I say something to the effect of “Damn, that’s cold” and then list how important membership is to me, the only remnant that I’m a published writer (return to # 8 and #9).  He says he’s sorry–we’ll find the $125 by maybe reducing the grocery bill (#2 again). He’s a good man and rightly feels contrite.

The kettle boils, I make my tea and return to my computer where I spend an hour staring at page 15, in which I am figuring out how Clare talked me into a date with someone who we both found unsuitable (#6). After awhile I click on the internet and google Eleanor of Aquitaine (don’t ask) where I spend the next 25 minutes reading all about her adventurous life in the 13th century (# 10).  I pull myself back to the pages and write three more paragraphs. Finally, I’m in the groove, excited, the world blotched out, totally convinced I’m going to finish this incredibly wonderful story.

The front door opens. “Hey, Ma,” a son bellows from below. I keep typing, hoping he’ll go into the kitchen and stare into the refrigerator for a while.  He accomplishes this faster than I want and pounds upstairs.  If he turns right, he’s in my husband’s study and I’m safe. Instead he tuns left, as always, and collapses into the fragile chair beside my desk, commencing a heartbreaking lament: Why are women so difficult? Why would his girlfriend accuse him of not communicating?

I manage to type a few more words.

“I think she’s going to break up with me.” He puts his head in his hands  and I arrive at #4.

One more reason:

#11–writing a blog post about procrastinating.

He eventually leaves and I return to find where I left Clare and me:–Once more unto the breach: one more day on the fucking river (a private joke between himself and me I’ll explain another time).  I pick up where I left off and begin to write.

*I used to publish the Clare stories on Wattpad but I recently took them down–turns out a bunch of the better literary magazines consider stories on sites such as Wattpad and even you’re own website are already published, even if maybe 10 people have read them. #7 strikes again! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, what the hell?!

Dunce

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So…how many of my 5 readers, you happy few, caught the mistakes in the post “Dating Mr. Strunk and Mr. White” that I put up last night? First, I misspelled Mr. Strunk’s name in the first sentence (Srunk) and then went on to misspell tore (torn) in the next to the last sentence in the last paragraph?

Turns out even one of the best guides on writing does not help a dyslexic writer…nor did the proofreading/editing feature provide any assistance. Just so you know, I wasn’t intentionally careless.  I finished writing it at noon and posted it in the evening after proofing the damn thing seven times! Not just on-screen but in hard copy.

Don’t go looking for them now. I’ve corrected both, thanks to the husband who just walked away laughing, wondering why the hell I don’t let him read my stuff before going public (because he barely looks up from his own writing–which is beautiful and error free–I loathe him).

Anyway, onward and upward as they say out there. I’m going down to the kitchen and making myself a nice cold martini.

P.S.: If you find anymore in the S&W post…or any of my posts for that matter…go ahead and twitter, facebook, blog about them. Pathetic, true, but good for a laugh. I don’t mind and we could make a contest out of it!  The one who finds the most errors will be baked a really great pie–any kind at all: at least I’m a damn good pie maker. Plus, you know, you have to have a sense of humor when you’re a dyslexic-challenged writer.

Dating Mr. Strunk and Mr. White

Always learning how to be a better writer…..

Scraps

xkcd_strunk_and_white-thumb

I first met Mr. Shrunk (Jr) and Mr. Write as an obedient English major. They wore a handsome understated gray colored hardcover and, after we spent a few days together, they retreated to a side table while I wrote an ambitious first novel to earn my undergraduate degree.  I took a look at that poor manuscript a while ago and it’s clear my relationship with the gentlemen was superficial at the least.  Like a lot of the boys that passed through my life at the time, our engagement was transitory but remained impressionable. They popped up at odd times when I tried to untangle my habitual convoluted sentences.  They embarrassed me in my misuse of lay and lie, that and which. But the years passed by and I developed my own guide that pushed against what I came to think of as S&W’s old-fashion, limiting stuffiness. My transgressions with all the other boys I’ve known made good copy…

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Dating Mr. Strunk and Mr. White

xkcd_strunk_and_white-thumb

I first met Mr. Strunk (Jr) and Mr. Write as an obedient English major. They wore a handsome understated gray colored hardcover and, after we spent a few days together, they retreated to a side table while I wrote an ambitious first novel to earn my undergraduate degree.  I took a look at that poor manuscript a while ago and it’s clear my relationship with the gentlemen was superficial at the least.  Like a lot of the boys that passed through my life at the time, our engagement was transitory but remained impressionable. They popped up at odd times when I tried to untangle my habitual convoluted sentences.  They embarrassed me in my misuse of lay and lie, that and which. But the years passed by and I developed my own guide that pushed against what I came to think of as S&W’s old-fashion, limiting stuffiness. My transgressions with all the other boys I’ve known made good copy, though I can’t think of a one I’d want to see again. Recently, because of Clare, I decided to look up S&W. I should have done it years ago.

The reason Clare brought us together is because I’m rewriting most of the stories since I’ve come clean that they’re memoir, not fiction as originally conceived. At the moment, S&W is turned to Chapter V:  An Approach to Style (With a List of Reminders). I always thought I didn’t have to worry about style, especially voice. They’re the attributes readers and editors praised in me.  But the Clare stories are forcing me to reevaluate what I took for granted, not because fiction and memoir require different ways of writing (good writing never differs from genres to genres), but because I want to write them the best I can.  That’s not to say I didn’t strive for this with other works. It means I am more aware of what I am doing and what I am writing about.

In these rewrites, I am seeing how impetuous I’ve been, guided more by emotions than a deliberate plan (3. Work from a suitable design). In the five stories reworked so far, I’ve been guided by 6. Do not overwrite that required many sentences to go on a diet.  So far I’ve read 5. Revise and rewrite so much I’ve commit it to memory. I’ve revised all my life–writing is rewriting, I tell students and myself all the time. Guided by S&W, I’ve become remorseless and aggressive. I tore one story completely apart (“Moms at Rest”–it’s now “Three Houses”) to center on what the story was really about–the impact of my mom’s drinking on me, the part it played in instilling a fear of fully connecting with anyone, even Clare.  Three other stories expanded (“Barefoot Girls”, “Swans” and “The Sacred Beauty of the Unknown World”) to reveal what I didn’t fully understand about them. As S&W tells me, I’ve removed my emotions in creating them to follow the design I now know I want and have drawn out.