Only a Matter of Time

Self is teaching an on-line class for UCLA Extension’s Writers Program, and it’s nonfiction. Now that the holidays are near, and the writing prompts get more complicated, she worries that her students will fall apart. Self is like a mother hen, clucking over her chicks, constantly admonishing, Don’t let the thought of carving the bird deter you from your writing tasks!

She begins each course with instructions on doing daily writing, emphasizing the importance of dailiness to honing the writing “muscle.”

Now, in the fourth week of the class, a student turns in an assignment about “a better version of you,” a version that carries a notebook around town (Los Angeles), “the notebook is like a travelogue of sorts: city skylines of home and away fill the pages, each thoughtful stroke of her pen drawing a connection to the past. She is always inspired and she is, above all, hopeful.”

Way to go, oh resourceful UCLA Extension writing student. Way to go.


State of Self’s Novel-in-Progress

Self spent most of this year working on a novel about an 18th century priest who gets sent to a Philippine island to fight demons. It’s at 185 pages and she was extremely discouraged yesterday, thinking she probably had twice that many pages to write before she really knew what it was she wanted to say.

Then she went into one of her bookmarked food blogs, Kahakai Kitchen. And there is a review there of a novel called Water on the Moon, which is 244 pages. Hmmm, self thought: 244 pages seems do-able, at least it does to self. It would mean she only has to get 60 more pages in, and then she can review what her manuscript feels like.

Here’s the synopsis of Water on the Moon (Publisher: She Writes Press):

When her husband comes out as gay and an airplane crash inexplicably destroys her home, the mother of teenage twin daughters must rethink everything she knows.

In her debut novel, Water on the Moon, Jean P. Moore introduces readers to Lidia Raven, whose life begins taking seemingly endless wrong turns. Lidia and her girls miraculously survive the plane crash that destroys their home and are taken in by Lidia’s friend Polly, a neighbor with a robust collection of first-edition books who lives alone on a sprawling estate.

Struggling to cope with each of these life-changing events, Lidia discovers a connection between herself and Tina Calderara, the pilot who crashed into their home. In the months that follow, Lidia plunges into a mystery that upends every aspect of her life.

Dun Dun Dun! Sounds pretty interesting!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self’s Fan Fiction: So “Meta”

As self got to Chapter 44 of her Hunger Games Everlark Fan Fiction, which she’d begun last year, in Chicago, she realized she’d written herself (or, rather, her characters) into a corner.

Peeta, the main, was last seen running flat out down a Capitol Avenue, completely naked, while two men in black suits (who self can’t help calling — if only in her head — Tweedledum and Tweedledee) give chase.

In order to close the scene properly, she had to show what happened to Peeta.

But other than teleportation, she didn’t know how to solve the problem. And teleportation is such a cop-out (though, in this case, it would be really effective, since it would get Peeta back to 12, where Katniss sits waiting. Oh, BTW, Katniss is married to Gale — the AWFULNESS of it all! — and Gale is still alive. Only he’s in jail. Framed for the murder of Peeta’s father. Because Cray, who arrested him, has the hots for Katniss. And enjoys making Katniss go to his office so he can keep extending the most lascivious and stomach-churning invitations to her.)

So since the start of this year Peeta has been languishing, naked, in the Capitol, with no hope of rescue.

But, self being the wiliest fan fiction writer on the planet, she devised a couple of different endings, and posted them all.

But — copout, much?

One reader inquired: “Umm, is this the end? No little anything between the other train station in a bathrobe and the Post-Epilogue? EEEEEEEK !!!”

And well may that reader say “EEEEEEK !!!”  Self is so EEEEEEK herself, she can’t even.

Stay tuned.

Careful 2: The Habits of a Writer

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is CAREFUL.

Careful, according to The Daily Post prompt, can refer to many things: a photograph taken with care, a person being careful, or a task or detail requiring care.

The way this week has gone — dinner with Drew in Koreatown; a reception for Chamber Music Artists; Asian American Writers Workshop double book launch of Luis Francia and Midori Yamamura; and Penny Jackson’s play “Louise in Charlottesville” — and the pouring rain yesterday, self had absolutely not a spare moment. GRRRR.

But here are three pictures of what “Careful” means to self.

First, she never goes anywhere without her journal. She uses it primarily to make random observations.

Last night, on the train, a conductor seemed anal about the passengers’ “dirty feet.” Over and over, he admonished the passengers NOT. TO. PUT. DIRTY. FEET. UP. ON. THE. SEATS. Nearly drove self mad.

Upper West Side, New York City: Taking Notes in a Chocolate Shop on Broadway

Upper West Side, New York City: Taking Notes in a Chocolate Shop on Broadway

Her friend has a beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side. She is a writer, of course.

You can always tell the quality of a mind by the quality of that person's bookshelves. These belong to a friend who lives in the Upper West Side.

You can always tell the quality of a mind by the quality of that person’s bookshelves. These belong to a friend who lives in the Upper West Side.

Finally, Dog-Eared Books in Valencia. This is one of the mainstays, along with the science fiction bookstore Borderlands, that have called the Mission District of San Francisco their home for many years. With the loss of other mainstays, like Modern Times Books, self cherishes these last hold-outs before the yuppie deluge:

Dog-Eared Books, Valencia St., San Francisco: Murals on the exterior walls are painted with books.

Dog-Eared Books, Valencia St., San Francisco: Murals on the exterior walls are painted with books.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Thoughts, the Hybrid Memoir: TROPIC OF CANCER, by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer is one of the finest examples self knows of the hybrid fiction/memoir.

It was published in Paris in 1934. Labeled obscene by American standards, it was banned for the next 27 years (You can read the first half safely; it’s the second half that set the American censors off)

The version self is reading now is the one by Grove Press.

  • I have made a silent compact with myself not to change a line of what I write. I am not interested in perfecting my thoughts, nor my actions. Beside the perfection of Turgenev I put the perfection of Dostoevski. (Is there anything more perfect than The Eternal Husband?) Here, then, in one and the same medium, we have two kinds of perfection. But in Van Gogh’s letters there is perfection beyond any of these. It is the triumph of the individual over art.

Tropic of Cancer, p. 11

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

THE Conversation: June 2015, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig

The Scene: Dinner. Around the table, mostly Irish playwrights. In such a crowd, self does not know why she can always think of something to say. Such as:

Self: I’m stuck writing my novel. I think I’m bored with my main character (Honestly, the things self ends up saying when she’s relaaaaxed!)

Irish Playwright, interrupting: KILL HIM OFF.

Self: ????

Irish Playwright: If he’s boring, KILL HIM OFF.

End of story. Thanks so much for that. Stay tuned.

Connected: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge is:  CONNECTED.

Which is fabulous, as self recently had occasion to quote E. M. Forster in one of her UCLA Extension Writing classes:

Only connect.

Only connect.

Only connect.

Two simple words which mean so much.

Here to celebrate connectedness:

(1) Self met the musical composers/performers Xenia Pestova and Ed Bennett at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre this past summer. Here they are rehearsing a new piece:

Xenia Pestova and Ed Bennett rehearsing a new piece at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, this past summer

Xenia Pestova and Ed Bennett rehearsing a new piece at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, this past summer.

(2) Language connects people. Here, a snap of a page of the Oxford English Dictionary, which self found in her cottage at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig. She kept the dictionary open to the page defining “circumlocution” (a most fabulous word):

The Oxford English Dictionary in Self's Cottage at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig

The Oxford English Dictionary in Self’s Cottage at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig

(3) The Banff Writing Studio (April/May 2015) brought together 24 poets and prose writers for several weeks: This was the official portrait, self’s picture of a picture. Since she was the shortest writer in the program, she was in the front row (in pink and red). The writers were brought to Banff to work on book-length projects. When she arrived in Banff, she had 60 not-so-good pages of her novel-in-progress. When she left, she had 100 pages. Today, she got her manuscript up to 166 pages! Amazesauce!!!

2015 Banff Writing Studio Official Portrait: a picture of a picture, BLURRED!

2015 Banff Writing Studio Official Portrait: a picture of a picture, BLURRED!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

First Sentence, New Story/ And Self’s Discovery of a New Fantasy Book Series

  • Let me tell you about wind.
Self was going to take a picture for this week's WordPress Photo Challenge, instead she got distracted by bars of light . . .

Self was going to take a picture for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, instead she got distracted by bars of light . . .

It is a red-letter day. Self started a new series by Christopher Paolini. The first book of the series, Eragon.

Over the years, she has had much cause to thank various nieces, nephews, sons of friends who tell her, “Read this! You won’t regret it!” She thought it would be fun to compile a list of series she started because niece/nephew/children of friends brought them to her attention. Here goes:


  • The Hunger Games: Thank you to Niece G, who saw self reading Twilight and told her: “You should read The Hunger Games.” Self put off finishing Book 1 (the last 50 pages) because she thought Peeta was going to die. Until, one fine day, she spilled her angst to Niece G and Niece G said, “Peeta makes it.” Then self had to rush back home because she needed to finish the last 50 pages she’d put off reading. For three years. Two books later, self was a goner. How deep into this stuff is self? She even entertained the notion of meeting up in Dallas for a convening of Everlark fan fiction writers)
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief:  Thank you to son of Gayo A.
  • The Infernal Devices: Thank you to niece in Calgary, Karina Villanueva.
Karina in Calgary: So Adorbs!

Karina in Calgary: So Adorbs!

  • Eragon: Thank you to Isaac S. At first self thought she would never get over The Infernal Devices — the angst! The Victorian Steampunk! London and York! — but Isaac thought she just might like this new series, so anyhoo, she gave it a shot. Hoooooly Smoke !!!! The Prologue was — mind-blowing.

Also just began reading Kass Morgan’s The 100 (which she heard is very different from the CW TV series). The plot goes something like this: 100 juvenile delinquents get sent to Earth to re-populate it. YAY!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Juked: “First Life” (Multiple Choice)

Drinker says, Negative outcomes. (How did Big ever make it to Academy? Slow as slow)

Sunlight and glass, prisms and mirrors. My mind is floating out there, beyond the windows. Out there, where swish swish swish goes something, maybe the wind.

Drinker says, That’s the problem, right there. Hello? Dragon? Hey, Dragon?

Am so happy to have “First Life” in Juked this month (also self’s birthday month, Woot Hoot!).

Went live while self was in Ireland, hey good one.

Also love the tag: “multiple choice.”

It’s very amusing to go through all the pieces on the Juked website and try to figure out why they’re tagged the way they are. There’s a slyness involved in tagging. The best ones are brilliant.

Self got her novel-in-progress to a good 140 pages. She cut about 20 pages in the last week, so what’s left is pretty solid.

Bless for picking “First Life” as their Story of the Week and for tweeting about it:

Self loves that the post on “First Life” is tagged Uncategorizable — BWAH. HA. HA. HAAAAA — and that there’s a sentence “love the names, by the way.”

Dear blog readers have no idea — NO IDEA — how hard it was for self to come up with those names, and here self will list them for you for your elucidation:

Dragon. Her. Big. Drinker. Lizard.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Muse 5: Still Writing in Annaghmakerrig

Stayed up all night, writing. Well, mebbe self did catch two hours. But at 6 a.m. this morning, she was back at her desk:

Crushing the Writing: Thursday, 2 July

Crushing the Writing: Thursday, 2 July

Self finds tremendous solace in being able to take a walk in the afternoons and evenings:

The Gate to the Meadow

The Gate to the Meadow

So, even though she is not sleeping, she is still in calm, meditative mode.

Of course, it always helps if the surroundings are as lushly green as they are here in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland!

The Meadow by the Lake at Annaghmakerrig

The Meadow by the Lake at Annaghmakerrig

Yesterday, self saw a whole hillside populated with Jersey cows (at least, she thinks that’s what they call those black-and-white-spotted dairy cows). Self is so amused by these animals.

What if she bought her own herd of dairy cows? She loves Irish cream. It is the best cream in the whole world.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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