Recently in My Writing Category

Story, Wikipedia, Story


Eight or nine years ago I submitted an essay to Sunstone that began "One day my companion Sister Knight and I met a 'weird funky lady,' as I described her in my journal, who tried to explain to me her adoration of some reincarnated Buddhist monk." It did not begin "One day when I was a Mormon missionary, my assigned working partner or companion (to use the term we employed for said assigned working partners) Sister Knight and I met a 'weird funky lady,' as I described her in my journal (which I kept because doing so was a religious commandment I was obligated to obey because angels might some day quote from my journal if I said something inspiring), who tried to explain to me her adoration of some reincarnated Buddhist monk, a conversations many Mormon missionaries wouldn't have had because they generally talked to rather than listened to other people about religion."

It's a good thing the essay didn't begin with the second sentence I offer above, because that sentence sucks. But if I had submitted that particularly essay to a mainstream secular journal whose readers weren't necessarily familiar with Mormonism, I would have felt obligated to provide lots of background and context--maybe not in the first sentence, but certainly SOMEWHERE in the essay. Whereas I knew that as soon as a Mormon audience was informed that I had a companion named Sister Knight, readers would assume, correctly, that I was a woman somewhere in my 20s who had elected to serve a mission.

Despite or perhaps because of their self-proclaimed and cherished status as a peculiar people, Mormons hate to be misunderstood. As a result, when they talk about their religion, they explain A LOT. Sometimes--perhaps usually--they explain TO EXCESS.

Two groups especially prone to excessive explanations are missionaries and Mormon writers.

One More Avoidance Technique


Sorry I've been incommunicado lately.... It's not for lack of interest in blogging, or good intentions. A bunch of things have happened and I've written notes on my to-do list, instructing myself to "blog about items A, B, C & D." And then I just don't.

I haven't even been all that busy. Instead, I've been unfocused, undisciplined, and worried. I'm done envisioning worst-case scenarios for the outcome of the election, and done being exhausted by what actually did happen. I am all freaked out about the economy and so forth, but who isn't?

So I've got my portion of collective concern about the future to nurse, but I've also being dealing with another bout of whatever afflicted me last January (is the January bit important?) when I found it really difficult to make myself start and finish a writing project I actually wanted to write. I recently started a new project and I like it, I have high hopes for it, but I just don't want to write it.

Earlier this week I cleared a day so I could work on this project, and then I wrote in my journal, "I wish I had a bunch of errands to run right now so I'd be justified in NOT working on this project." I didn't have errands, but I did discover that if I perused the friends of my friends on Facebook, I could find a couple dozen people to send friend requests to. That killed a few hours nicely, let me tell you.

The reason I'm writing this blog entry, finally, is that it's a way to not work on that OTHER project, which I ABSOLUTELY MUST DO TODAY. But writing this puts it off for a few minutes more, and I'll take any legitimate delay I can get.

OK. Time to make a pot of coffee, and then I've got to do you-know-what.

Please Congratulate Me Now


So, there have been several reasons I haven't blogged all that much lately, or have posted really short entries when I do blog. One is that I'm as obsessed as anyone else about the election, and I've been doing things I don't normally do, like watching debates and volunteering at a political campaign. (I refuse to go door-to-door, even for Obama, having already done that for the Mormons, so they've mostly stuck me with data entry. Fun. Not. But it's for a good cause.) Another is that I moved 2,000 miles across the country. (One of these days, I'll write about that.)

And another is that I've been working on a book.

And guess what: I just finished it--or at least, I finished a respectable draft, just now. It's 1:48 right now; I wrote the last sentence at 1:43.

Now I get to go back and revise and polish it, all 278 pages, which I don't mind because revising is my favorite part of writing, believe it or not. And my agent has to sell it, which could be tough--I'm sure the general financial crisis has hurt publishing as well. But it feels really cool that I had a goal and I accomplished it, and I also like this book. I hope an editor at some big publishing house will like it too. Who knows? Maybe it will sell well enough that someone might be willing to publish the two that are languishing in folders on my computer, folders I haven't touched in months.

The book, by the way, is the story of my relationships with gay men--in particular, it's the story of how I ended up being the witness at the gay wedding of my ex-fiance.

I hope you'll be hearing a lot more about this in the future.

Arguably Giants

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Earlier this month I wrote about my interest in trying voice-recognition software. I decided I might as well go ahead and buy the program--it wasn’t that expensive, and I thought it might be helpful. It arrived last week, and having spent some time using it, I’ve decided, typing is better.

I admit I had some fallacious ideas about what using voice recognition software would be like: I thought I could roam around my house and speak my random thoughts aloud and the words I’d spoken would appear, almost like magic, on my computer screen. No such luck! I have to sit down at my computer and wear this annoying little head-set microphone thing that’s jacked into my computer, and then I have to speak VERY SLOWLY AND E-NUN-CI-ATE VER-Y CARE-FUL-LY or the program mishears half of what I say.

I’m a really fast typist--in the neighborhood of 80 or 90 words a minute--and I also like to type. I like how it feels and I like seeing words appear on a page and I like the way it helps me think as I compose. So this program is beyond useless in helping me compose or draft new material--it actually slows me down. However, it is useful if I have to transcribe a long passage of text I can read aloud, provided I am willing, once again, to speak SLOWLY AND CLEARLY--that is about as fast and easier on my wrists than propping the book open and trying to get everything right without once glancing at my screen. Still, the program makes mistakes. Here’s a passage I had to transcribed today, from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen:

Because I Had Nothing Else to Do

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Late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, I finally completed a draft of a writing project I’d been avoiding/ preparing for for weeks. I agreed in November to have this project done by the end of January, but I just couldn’t make myself start, really start. Oh, I did things like research Chinese characters, and try out different beginnings in my head, but I just couldn’t sit down in front of the computer and write it write it. I don’t know why not, because it was a project I’d wanted to write for years, and I was glad to have a reason to do it. I don’t know why not, because it wasn’t beyond my capacities or outside of my creative focus. I don’t know why not, because I certainly managed to write other things--blog entries and emails and journal entries and so forth--instead of the one thing I had promised to write.

Not only did I write other things, I got other tasks out of the way as well as I geared up to do this piece. The reason I finally watched that documentary on the Mormons was that it was a way of avoiding this writing project. In fact, in the ten days before I finally sat down and wrote this thing, I was super-duper productive. I worked hard on all sorts of projects--I even plan to post photos of a few of them tomorrow. It got to the point where, by early Tuesday evening, I really didn’t have anything else to do but this writing project.

My Shower Curtain's Right


Here's what I'm told every single morning, via my shower curtain:


I admit, I don't always believe it. I admit, sometimes I want to believe it but know better. And sometimes I find, to my flat-out amazement, that some things really are all about me.

Take, for instance, the answer to the acrostic on page 68 in the April 29, 2007 issue of the Sunday NY Times Magazine. I learned, thanks to an email from a friend, that the various answers combine to reveal a quotation from one of my essays, the title of the essay the quote comes from, and my name.

I don't subscribe, so I had to track down a copy and work it for myself. Turns out she's right.

If you get the Sunday NY Times and haven't already sent the last Sunday's off to be recycled, check it out youself. Remember: the first five words in the clues spell out


It's the strangest bit of recognition my writing has ever received. Once I got over being astonished, I've been flattered beyond belief.

My Ethos of Conferences and Other Related Topics


Well, here's the thing, here's why I keep disappearing for weeks at a time:

I've been busy.

Busy with some stuff that was clearly, from start to finish, thoroughly dreadful; busy with some stuff I thought would be good but wasn't; busy with some stuff I thought would be tedious and obligatory but was actually Tony-the-Tiger, riproaringly loud, extendedly GRRRREAT!

In the last category was the 2007 conference of the Associated Writing Programs, which I returned from yesterday. I have this thing about conferences: when I go to a conference, I go to a conference. I stay at an official conference hotel; I don't arrive late or leave early; I'm there for the whole time, and even if I ditch out on sessions to hang out with people and talk, I'm still talking to people I meet up with at the conference, often about conference-related topics. I mean, it's great that I have an opportunity to go someplace I might not otherwise visit, and see people I might not otherwise see; but I am, after all, a seasoned world traveler, and if I want to visit friends or do the tourist thing, I'll do it without the distraction or time-constraints of some conference.

Accompanied by a Drawing of a Burning Bridge


From that same journal as the last entry, this one on page 10. Dated 7 May 05. Accompanied by a drawing of a burning bridge, done by me in Crayola Crayons.

I love no spectacle so much as that of a burning bridge--OH the glowing beams, the leaping flames, all of that light reflected in the dark, rippling water--and then, when the fire burns through the structure and its timbers plunge into the water, so it bubbles and steams--

Well it's just so cool

Not that I've ever seen a burning wooden bridge, but I imagine it's quite a phenomenon

First you imagine the river. Deep, wide and rapid though it may be, you are looking for its narrowest, calmest spot. You construct a sturdy, serviceable crossing that stretches from bank to bank. Then you set it on fire.

And that's all.

Utility and Worth


Here's a strange little reflection I found on page one of a journal I started about two years ago. I avoided writing in it because it wasn't the format I generally prefer for a journal: heavy lined 8.5 by 11 loose leaf notebook paper. But for reasons I explain below, I finally started using this journal as well. I'm currently on page 13.

I have had this little book since before I graduated from high school in 1981. What the hell have I saved it for all these years? Good god, it's now 2004 and this book is still empty, unused-- not quite wasted (because it still has potential) but almost, since it is a thing that has a purpose and that purpose is going unfulfilled. And if that purpose is never fulfilled, well, then the thing is wasted.

Everything has a purpose, but we don't get to decide what those purposes are, necessarily-- only the purposes of the things we make. The purpose of a cow is not to be eaten, but to be a cow. However, the purpose of beef is to be eaten, and it would be wrong to waste beef. Once the sacrifice has been made, once a thing has been killed, then it's wrong to let it go to waste.

I'm thinking about issues of utility and worth-- I don't want to exploit things, and I also don't want to waste resources--

and that's it.

Better Than a Poke in the Eye with a Sharp Stick


In case you didn't know, a standard way to publish a book of poetry is to submit your manuscript to a contest. One of the most prestigious prizes is Yale Younger Poets (which I am now too old to enter), but no matter what the level of prestige, the system is pretty much the same: you send 50-70 pages of poetry, a check for $25.00 (or thereabouts), and a self-addressed stamped envelope. You then wait six months to a year, at which point you usually get your SASE back with a xeroxed sheet of paper telling you who won. Occasionally in the list of finalists, you'll notice your name, and wonder why they never bothered to tell you that you were a finalist.

A lot of people consider it a racket; there is even an "American poetry watchdog" website that "exposes the fraudulent ‘contest,'" and there is also a Council of Literary Magazines and Presses that has set up rigorous contest-judging guidelines so that there aren't fraudulent contests to expose. Anyway, the whole thing is costly, demoralizing and time-consuming, but it's also how the system works, so I sent my book to half a dozen contests earlier this year.

Here's an email message I got yesterday:


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