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The Writing Life

It’s been an astonishing day for writing. I’d given it up for a bit, seeped myself in photographs, paid some bills, and now find myself longing for words, a desire that has built into an urgency.

I can thank Colette for her early morning inspiration in the form of her short story The Hollow Nut. It reminded me how beautiful language must be, always, and not to sacrifice detail for pacing.

Then came along the next phase of the interview for 34th Parallel, a lit mag that will be running one of my short stories in July. Martin’s questions and my answers have followed the traditional route for good journalism–start with what’s easy and lead up to in-depth. As we’ve traded emails, I’ve reminded myself why I write, and what, and how. It’s made me focus again.

And nestled among my mail was a forgotten contest entry for the miscarriage novel Baby Dust, which I have currently abandoned. The first round judge gave me 49.9 points out of 50, stating he couldn’t wait to read the whole thing after its certain publication. What was the .1? He preferred the word “synchronized” to my abbreviated and grammatically altered “synced.”

Tonight I rewrote an old story, one of my best, and made it better. I was able to really close in on it, excise the excess, and add the ringing details that illuminate the message.

It’s been a good day.

Something Really Old

Ha, the dress didn’t *really* fit. I was, after all, 22 when I wore it! But it was pretty darn close–good enough to model for a practice shoot for my photography group.
Such talented people I know! These were shot by Suzanne Jenkins.

Bluebonnet Mania

I am always eager for the bluebonnets to arrive. Fields of flowers make any drive better, and since I am often on Loop 360, I get an eyeful every time I go anywhere.

Last night, though, after spending hours working on bluebonnet portraits shot during my special, I dreamed of lying in a field of them and they loomed, menacing, flying into my face.

I guess too much of any good thing can be traumatizing.

 

Horror Movie Marathon

Ohhh, did we have fun at the movie fest I hosted last weekend.

I didn’t really expect to get so fired up about it (Sam and Lisa definitely helped get the spirit going.)

We watched movies from 2 p.m. until 12:30! We had an enormous collection to choose from, but our final list included:

  • The Audition (Japanese torture horror)
  • Poltergeist (They’re Here!)
  • The Devil’s Backbone (Suspense/ghosts/war-torn Spain)
  • Gingersnaps 2 (Angsty teen girl werewolves)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (Genetic mutants preying on travelers)

We had an all-red food buffet. Favorites were Sam and Lisa’s cut apples dyed red even on the inside, the “scab” cookies with white chocolate “bones” and the blood-red twinkies brought by Emily. I’m still not sure about that red ranch dip, though.

I never thought I’d make it through ten hours of horror movies, but I was ready for more! I’m ready for more marathons, for sure! The projector worked out very well, and I love parties!

Flashbacks

Today, having sent Baby Dust to be copied for a few readers to take a look at, I decided to focus on the rest of my to-do list and get my 2006 receipts entered for taxes.

On top was a pile of medical things. I went to the file cabinet to see what folders already existed. Under medical, I found a packet rather unusually titled “old stuff.”

So I pulled out this folder to see what might be inside.

A medical bill. No surprise. Several, in fact. I scanned the list to see what they were for.

  • Prenatal 1-3
  • Antepartum Care
  • Mycoplasma Culture
  • Prolactin
  • TSH

Right about here I realized what I was looking at but read on, much as someone might rubber-neck a car accident.

  • Lupus Anticoagulant
  • Prothrombine time
  • Thromboplastin

I knew the date I would see. May 1998. These were the tests they ran to try and figure out why my baby had died. They didn’t figure it out then; I’d be pregnant with Emily before we understood the reason. If there should ever be a reason for something like that.

Strange I would come across this bill the same day I set Baby Dust aside, the first draft done, a whole trove of stories just like mine contained within its pages. Maybe Casey needed me to remember that they were little people, not just graphic incidents, or maybe he wanted to remind me why I was qualified to write it at all. Or maybe he just wanted to drop in, to show me he knew it was a big day, and to sprinkle me with luck as I start to send it out to agents.

Doesn’t matter. I can make it anything I want to be. And I choose to get dusted with hope.

I finished another one

I’m saying it here first, before I tell another living soul.

Baby Dust is done. I wrote the last sentence two minutes ago.

I’ll update you all more on what is going to happen next later, but I’m sitting here bawling my eyes out and the ending worked out better than I thought it could, as if someone or something else told me exactly what to say, and how to say it.

Now, I’m going to go to bed and sleep.

Snow Day!

Today we got snow! This is only the second time in Emily’s life she’s seen it, and Elizabeth was only a baby then.
We’ll go out again later in the day as it accumulates. Elizabeth wore her “snowman” clothes in anticipation of building the big guy. Let’s hope if we manage to get there, she doesn’t think it will sing and dance and say “Happy Birthday!”
I may be snow-bound another day or two even. Sigh.

I hope everyone else is having fun in the wintry weather.

Christmas Highlights

So, the last post hit the low points, here’s a happier post about my favorite moments this holiday.

Trail of Lights.

Always a fun tradition, we had a cool but not cold night to run around and see the sights in Zilker park and spin under the tree.

Santa Visit.

Emily tested our mettle this year by refusing to divulge any of her requests to the Big Man in Red. Of course, she also mailed her letter to the North Pole. And we made sure Santa got it. But when we saw the head gift guy himself at Barton Creek Mall, we got that picture perfect moment every parents dreams of–perfect behavior, the right clothes, and all parties involved still whole heartedly (even if cautiously testing it) believing in Santa Claus. It’s probably our last year of innocence.

New Car.

Even though my friends mostly dissed the PT Cruiser, I bought one anyway. The kids love it–that’s their little heads poking out the sunroof–and we’ve been dashing all over town in it since last Wednesday. I’m having fun with it, especially with my new little Ipod Shuffle that plugs right into the dash!

The girls are in toy heaven and I’ve spent a couple days working on the new novel and completing little projects left neglected since the Christmas portrait season started.

Merry Christmas to all of you–and see you when I’m back just in time for the New Year!

Death and Christmas

I hate the cold. I shiver uncontrollably in misery. And normally I like the rain. It sings in my stove pipe and makes me want to curl up and read.

But cold and rain. It’s just not Christmas to me.

I’m supposed to be working on Baby Dust, but the rain just pours and the cold seeps in, and even my flannel pajamas and flannel sheets and the continued cranking of my heater to 68, 69, 70, 71, are not helping.

I found out via a Christmas card that the husband of a long-time friend of mine died this summer. How did I get that out of touch? What sort of ego-centric island have I lived on? I imagine her receiving her holiday card from me a few weeks ago, addressed to both her and her dead husband, and thinking–wow, she didn’t keep up with us at all, did she?

I remember my first pregnancy, signing up in a giddy fervor at every maternity shop for their customer lists. As my belly grew, I loved getting the diaper samples, the powders, the baby catalogs.

But then, baby died. The mail became a mine field. My husband tried to shield me from it by throwing things out before I saw them, but still, the trash was stuffed–Pampers, Enfamil, Gerber.

Were my friend’s cards like this for her? Every envelope addressed to both of them a reminder of what she lost this year, with a good kick from her so-called friends for good measure in their ignorance and lack of keeping touch?

I recall walking down the hallway of the high school where I taught that terrible year. I still felt fat–I didn’t lose a lot of weight right away just because they took the dead baby out of my body. But one day, I felt a little slimmer so I wore an old dress, slightly fitted. As I passed a boy I had taught the previous semester he looked up and said, “Ms. Roy! You’re too skinny! You better go feed that baby before he starves to death!”

I remember stumbling, falling into the wall. I did not acknowledge his comment, just kept going in my klutzy way–an acute lack of coordination is always my sign of distress.

He hadn’t known. And I tried not to hold it against him. But today, nine years later, sitting here in the cold, listening to the rain, by myself, feeling rather full of self-pity, I remember his name, his posture, the desk, his red shirt, his haircut, and the tone of his voice.

And probably, my friend, my poor friend of 20 years, knows the color of the envelope, the font of the address, the way the label landed slightly askew. And it stabbed her. I stabbed her. She’ll forgive me, but she won’t forget.

Why Buying a Car Is Like Dating

1. A car walks into a bar. You stare, snapping to attention at the curves, the angles, the glint of its exterior sheen. You want to get closer, see if this attraction might lead to something, but you hesitate. You probably can’t afford it. It’s probably high maintenance. It might not even be available. You turn back to the bartender and order another Cosmopolitan.

2. The computer screen glows lightly on your face. Sure enough, bar walker, who one of your friends actually knows, is First in Its Class and the price is just too high. So you start to surf. It must be safer to search online, going through profiles, prequalifying the options. Then you know you’re in your league. You go through item after item, reading, comparing, you narrow it down to The One. (Or Two.)

3. Test drive. You walk up at the pre-arranged meeting place. You’re holding Car and Driver in your left hand, just as you’d been told to do. You sidle up, peer in close, and still think–hmm, not like the picture but it’s okay. You settle in, start things up, and instantly you know–it’s not going to happen. All that research, the checkmarks matching you two up, mean nothing when you sit there and wish you were simply somewhere else.

4. Next try. Your second choice seems to be working. You drive around town, and all goes smoothly. You part and you feel pretty good. You meet up with your friends and tell them you’re thinking of hooking up.

5. “No way!” they say. “Not that one!” They all punch each other, laughing, unbelieving. They tell unflattering stories. The negative peer pressure is oppressive. Your optimism plummets. Suddenly you think, no, maybe it’s the wrong time. Then you rally–no! I don’t care what they think! But later, alone, you wonder. If they feel so strongly, maybe they are right.

6. Christmas approaches. You had boasted to your family that you’d be bringing something new home for them to see! You feel pressure. You remember the first option–maybe it wasn’t so bad? Should you go see it again? Maybe it will have improved somehow? You tentatively call a couple of friends–what about this one? They, understanding now how they crushed your enthusiasm before, are all support. Even the other one, they now say, would be okay.

7. Somehow you wish it could all be different. That the perfect compliment to your need would just arrive, all the right options, an easy fit. But no, you start all over, watching the world around you for new models, more educated now, spotting the ones out of your range right away, and hope that maybe, with a little self improvement, you can trade up.