STORY: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 7 March 2018

“Be a visual storyteller.” — Jen H., The Daily Post

  • Self’s seatmate on the plane from Manila to San Francisco hailed from San Pablo, Laguna. He was bringing back to the States five of a Laguna specialty: coconut pies.


  • On her most recent trip to Manila, in January, self dropped by the oldest university in the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas, founded 1611. She dropped by the Creative Writing Department, and the faculty asked her to pose with them for a group shot. YAY!


  • Christmas 2016 was a devastatingly lonely experience, one self vowed never to repeat. Christmas 2017, self was in Paris. A woman from China agreed to take her picture standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe.


Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.




AWP 2018 Tampa: Featured Speakers

Keynote Speaker:


Among the Featured Presenters are some very familiar names:

  • Rick Barot
  • Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Marie Myung-Ok Lee
  • Claire Messud
  • Aimee Nezhukumatahil
  • Sigrid Nuñez
  • Mary Ruefle
  • Karen Tei Yamashita

She has loved George Saunders ever since Civilwarland in Bad Decline. She remembers ugly crying after reading one story, the one about the wavemaker. She has not yet read Lincoln in the Bardo but it is definitely on her list. (Which, at the rate she’s been reading these days, means she probably won’t get to it until next year. At the soonest.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Next on the Reading List: The Romanovs, 1613 – 1918, by Simon Sebag-Montefiore

This book weighs like a brick and, since self always lugs her books around with her, she’s going to have a sore wrist in a few weeks, she just knows it.

It’s about the Romanovs but it might as well be about U.S. politics.

page xxi of the Introduction:

  • In this book, my aim is to follow the invisible, mysterious alchemy of power to answer the essential question of politics, laconically expressed by that maestro of powerplay, Lenin: kto kogo? — who controls whom?

Love the full-color plates. Michael, the first Romanov tsar, looks like a hunchbacked troll. Catherine I used to be a “promiscuous Lithuanian peasant girl.” Peter II “fell ill” on “the day of his planned marriage.” The Empress Anna forced her courtiers “to pretend to be chickens.” And so forth.

Since this is such a behemoth of a book, might take the rest of February and most of March.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


The A.V. Club Explains Why Americans Might Experience SOTU Feelings of Dread

SOTU Tonight, 9 p.m., ABC

You could just do like self and not watch it. Self plans to wend her way north, to Fort Bragg, to watch Maze Runner: Death Cure. Which she’s 100% sure will prove more beneficial to her mental health. Or, you could just read The AV Club article, which begins thus:

  • At this point, we expect to see an official declaration of war on this or that country by the flaxen-haired pox on humanity who’s currently in the White House, so what’s Trump saving for his first State of the Union Address — or, as he’s already referred to it, “The State of MY Union Show”?

To 45’s credit, he has set the bar very low. So low that if he ends up NOT actually making an official declaration of war, Americans will fall all over themselves to praise his decorum and tact.

(Insert laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying emoji here)

Stay tuned.

1st Month Back, Fourth Movie: MAZE RUNNER, THE DEATH CURE

Self is all for action movies. She absolutely loves them.

If she doesn’t watch an action movie, it’s at least got to have Frances McDormand.

And now, woot hoot, the Maze Runner is back. For a few years, there was some doubt about whether star Dylan O’Brien was okay. He had a horrific accident while filming Movie # 2 of the Maze Runner, and filming shut down completely, which meant the accident was bad. But he made a thriller last year, and looked no different. And this year, he starts out with a bang, with the closing movie of the YA trilogy, and critics have been saying that it’s the best installment yet.

So, #pointsDylan.

From the way self got into 12 Strong, she knows she is ready for this.

Christy Lemire over on Roger Ebert, the review site, even compares the film to Mad Max: Fury Road. Of course, it’s not as good. Nothing can be as good as Mad Max: Fury Road. But to even earn that reference — that’s cool.

Tim Robey, writing for The Telegraph, has good fun classifying the series’ main characters into the following camps: Absolutely, Hell No, and I’ll Get Back to You on That.

On Team Hell No are the heroes. These are played by Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Dexter Dardin. Let’s also throw in Rosa Salazar’s character, as self finds her so darn cute.

On Team Absolutely is a beauteous turncoat played by Kaya Scodelario.

And then Robey forgets who’s supposed to be on Team I’ll Get Back to You on That or maybe he just gets bored with his own review because he never says who.

But there are enough bits to convince self that she has to see this movie. Cinema’s just 10 miles north on 1, in Fort Bragg. And it’s not even raining.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Frances McDormand: Force of Nature

To celebrate self’s return to the United States of America (not a single question from the Immigration Officer, though he did take his time looking over each and every page of her passport), self watched a movie: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

The movie is sometimes too precious by half (despite the prolific profanity — she can’t believe she just used onomatopeia), but the performances are top-notch.

Frances McDormand: Her facial expressions alone, that unflinching moral compass, that steely isolation. Because self is so used to Twitter, she will not finish the sentence.

Sam Rockwell made her hate and pity his character in the space of two hours #pointsSam

Peter Dinklage makes a nice, underplayed cameo. (He seems only to get more attractive with each passing year, don’t ask)

Also, more nice, understated acting from Clarke Jones.


Two pieces of amazing casting: Lucas Hedges playing Frances McDormand’s depressed son, Robbie (who actually makes you see his depression, even with just a look) and Caleb Landry Jones as Red Welby, the man who manages the billboard business. The most affecting scene in the movie, in self’s humble opinion, involved Caleb Landry Jones. Self is referring to the scene that takes place in a hospital.

That scene is actually the crux of the change in Sam Rockwell’s character, and therefore the crux of the whole movie. Anyone else but Caleb Landry Jones in that part, self thinks could not have sold it. Kudos, Caleb Landry Jones.

And of course, the face. The face of Frances McDormand. That is all.

Tomorrow, I, Tonya because self likes Margot Robbie and her ambition and determination to be everything: not just a hot Australian actress but an amazing Australian actress.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


2nd Banana Yoshimoto Sentence of the Day

If life is a process of accumulating more and more things you simply can’t bring yourself to make peace with, well, my feelings about this are vast and deep enough for an entire lifetime’s worth of hang-ups.

— p. 4, Moshi Moshi

Despite the fact that self did not make her reading goal of 30 books in 2017 (She got to 26), she signed up again for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and upped the ante: 35 books to read in 2018.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More Merry, Merry


4th Floor, near Charles de Gaulle. The first floor of this building is a store that sells harps. The window stays lighted at night, and she loves to look at the harps on display.

Self was planning to walk along the Champs Elysée. She’s had a big breakfast and is now back in her room, writing her novel-in-progress.

Last night, she walked a few blocks to the Arc de Triomphe and got off this moody night-time shot:


Christmas Eve, 2017

This morning, she went down for breakfast, and eavesdropped on the other guests: they talked of reading books, falling asleep at midnight, taking a leisurely stroll.

She will spend Christmas Day writing.

(Oops, not quite. She remembers the artists in Tyrone Guthrie telling her that things do not all close down on Christmas. She looked up the Louvre. It is open today. The hotel has been asking her to let them clean her room because she’s been inside most of the last two days. So that’s what she’ll do: she’ll take the metro to the Louvre)

Stay tuned.

nth Draft, Novel-in-Progress

Mebbe this novel will never see the light of day? Mebbe it was ever meant to be a long short story? Like, 50 pages long?

Here’s a conversation that was in the very first draft, three years ago. And survived today’s mad pruning. So, this is the kernel. The nut. The Ground Zero:

“Describe it,” the Archbishop says. “Did it descend from the heavens? Or was it walking along the street? Was its countenance clearly visible? Did it seem expressive?”

The Archbishop’s deep-set, green eyes focus intently on Matias’s face. He presses one slender forefinger against the side of his aquiline nose and waits for Matias to answer.

“It was a creature. Earthy. Very like a cow.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


So Long, NaNoWriMo2017, #stillwriting

Today self spent the whole day writing. Well, she spent all of yesterday writing as well. And the day before that. And the day before that. And . . .

Actually, the only times she hasn’t been writing in November are when she’s been on an airport or an airplane (pretty often, actually, in November, and lest she forget to mention — Aer Lingus sent her from Dublin to Cork, in a three-hour taxi ride because of a cancelled flight from Heathrow, on Nov. 2)

She did not, of course, do 50k words. But she never expected to anyway.

What she has as of today are 282 pages of a novel-in-progress, and she knows pretty much how she wants it to end.

She even thought of a cool-sounding title for her manuscript, a few days ago:

Blue Water, Distant Shores

Sooo fan-ta-ma-tas-tic. She got the idea yesterday. She likes to think she wouldn’t have gotten there if she hadn’t spent so much time working up to 282 pages. Two years ago, this idea was 60 pages which she forced up to 80 pages so she could go to Banff Writers Studio. And she’s had such problems with confidence (because it’s 18th century, and she’s never written a novel before, and she set it in Spain, which she’s only been to once in her whole life). But, slow and steady, and BIG BIG thanks to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig for giving her that space and that peace and that determination to finish her book.

And she is so happy right now. Incredible.

Stay tuned.


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