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Writing Resolutions

2014 December 16

no one else

 

Last night, my writing group and I gathered for our monthly meeting at our usual spot–a seafood chain restaurant in a hotel. It’s a strange meeting place, but since alcohol specials like Happy Hour are illegal in Boston, Bostonians have to settle for specials on appetizers and bar food instead, and this chain restaurant happens to have some pretty decent food deals and a quiet bar in which there are always tables available. In honor of the holiday season, and in recognition of the fact that most of us wouldn’t have a lot of time to write during the holidays, we decided to give ourselves a break and a treat–rather than critiquing one another’s writing while eating cheap appetizers, we’d relax and chat and order from the real menu.

It was a disaster. Our drinks took forever, we had to practically beg the bar to bring us water, they ran out of several menu items, and the steaks my friends ordered were all either over cooked or under cooked–by a lot. I spoke to the manager and we got the questionable meals taken off the bill, but we might need a new writing group meeting spot. We still managed to have a great time, though.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is that we all shared our writing goals for the upcoming year. And all of them shared a similar theme–just to write more often. We’re all busy women and it’s tough to find the energy and time required to write. One friend made a very good point in that when she was younger, she wrote as a form of escape. Writing was fun. Now that she’s a “real” writer, publishing stories and books and working on a novel, she says she feels like writing has become another obligation in the long list of other adult obligations. All of us agreed–writing has become just another chore on the to-do list.

I love writing. It helps me sort my feelings and practice creativity. I’ve never been an artist or a musician or a crafter–writing is my only creative outlet. I consider writing an essential part of my identity, though I still hesitate to call myself a “writer.” So why is it so hard to just sit down and write?

I don’t make writing a priority in my life. I rationalize that I’m too busy with other things–work, maintaining relationships, the gym, being an adult who pays her bills and does her laundry and buys groceries. But the truth is, watching tv and playing on the Internet and staring into space also takes up a good portion of my time. And if that stuff takes up time, then I have time to spare. It’s that simple.

So my first, more broad, writing resolution for 2015 is to make writing a priority. It’s not going to take a backseat to things that are less important to me anymore, just because those things are easier or more convenient or more fun.

Here are my other writing resolutions for the year ahead–all lining up to help me make writing a real priority in my life.

  • Blog more. I love this space and I’ve been neglecting it for no real reason this year. Count on seeing more frequent updates–my goal is to have at least 3 new posts a week. Hold me accountable for this one! You’re allowed to send me threatening emails, tweets, and Facebook comments if I don’t stick to this. (Nice, encouraging notes will also be accepted).
  • Finish the essay I’m currently working on and send it to at least ten magazines. I often have a problem with finishing what I start to a form that’s acceptable to me, and even once I “finish” something, I’m terrified of putting it out into the world. I have GOT to get in the habit of putting myself out there in terms of submissions. Ten is my goal, but I realize it may take more.
  • Write in some form every day–this doesn’t mean sitting down at my desk and starting a novel (necessarily), but writing in my journal, doing a quick writing exercise, or blogging. Long emails to friends count too.
  • I’d love to try NaNoWriMo again in 2015. Unfortunately, though I successfully completed the challenge in 2013, I have some pretty painful associations with it, so I was unable to muster the wherewithal to take it on this year, but I’m hoping that in 2015, I’ll be better equipped to take it on again.
  • Take another Grub Street writing class. The Master Fiction class I took last spring was really, really good for my writing, and I also took a one-night Personal Essay class that was really informative.
  • Inspired by my good friend Rebekah, I’d love to take my own writing retreat sometime this year–just me, my laptop, and a room somewhere pretty for the weekend.

So that’s it. Nothing grand, like writing for two hours every morning, or writing a novel, or getting published. Really, it all boils down to trying harder, and taking writing more seriously. Because if I can’t take my writing seriously, who else will?

 

Thanks for reading, and for sticking with me during my periods of silence.

In Protest

2014 November 26

highway shutdown

 

I’m not a radical. I don’t like to raise my voice. I strongly dislike crowds and loud noises. I don’t like to inconvenience anyone. So how did I end up in the middle of a crowd of 1400 protestors in Boston last night, marching to the South Bay Correctional Facility and effectively shutting down traffic downtown and on a highway connector? Because, quite simply, I felt I had to do something, and I didn’t know what else to do.

I complain all the time about the injustices of my quotidian existence: my not-so-stellar salary, my pasty skin, my inability to see anything more than five feet away when I’m not wearing my glasses. But ultimately, I am privileged. I am ridiculously privileged. I have a job, an apartment, food when I’m hungry, a supportive family, a closet full of clothes, shelves full of books, access to the Internet, healthcare, dental care, a therapist, a car that gets me where I need to go, amazing friends. I am straight. I am not fat. I am white.  I am middle class.

Lately, it feels as though everything that could go wrong in the world is going wrong. History will not remember 2014 fondly. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, CNN, the newspaper–you can’t escape the news. It’s everywhere. In just the last two weeks alone, we’ve heard nearly 20 women come forward with sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, seen a twelve-year-old boy get shot and killed because he was brandishing a toy gun, read an expose of an epidemic of gang rape at the prestigious UVA campus, and watched the nation split allegiances over the announcement that Darren Wilson would not be charged with Mike Brown’s murder, meaning he would not stand trial. And that’s just in America.

That’s a lot of unsettling news to deal with. Where do we put our feelings, our thoughts, as we’re barraged by more and more testimonies, conflicting accounts, hateful comments, grainy video footage, and click bait headlines?

I don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer faced with someone you believe to be a threat to your safety. I also don’t know what it’s like to be Black. All I know how to be is the person I am–privileged, educated, straight, white, healthy. Regardless of all of those circumstances, I feel helpless. I feel voiceless. I feel ashamed.

I know I don’t like living in this world where people die of gun violence and drug overdoses and hunger and people are unable to see humanity in others. I don’t like knowing that the vast majority of incarcerated prisoners are Black. I don’t like hearing that Daniel Handler made a racist joke at the National Book Awards directly following Jacqueline Woodson’s win for her book of poems, Brown Girl Dreaming. I don’t like knowing that women I care about have been sexually assaulted or harassed. I don’t like feeling unsafe because I’m a woman, but knowing that it’s probably a fraction of the fear and trepidation Black Americans feel every day. I don’t like not knowing what the Black experience is like, or the Asian experience, or the Indian experience, because I wish it was all just the human experience.

So when I heard about the protests being organized around the country last night, I was compelled to go. I waffled, because I wasn’t sure what a protest could accomplish. Racism in America is a HUGE problem, and it’s systemic, and it has roots. Deep roots. What would my presence at a rally in downtown Boston do to change anything? Also, let’s be honest, I was really just tempted to go home, put on sweatpants, and watch New Girl.

But I went. I went because even if my voice is small and I am only one person, I was at least able to show my support for change, my frustration at the way things are, and my hope for the way things can be someday.

We began in Dudley Square, outside the police station in Roxbury, where we observed 4 1/2 minutes of silence in memory of Mike Brown and other victims of violence, and listened to several speakers. The speakers galvanized the crowd and encouraged us to take to the streets. The leaders of the protest announced we were going to South Bay, to show solidarity to the inmates there. We walked through Roxbury, chanting “Black Lives Matter,” and “No Justice, No Peace.” We eventually gathered under the windows of South Bay, chanting and raising arms to the prisoners inside as they pounded on the bars and waved. It was surreal to me, watching these young men, most of them Black, knowing they were behind bars.

I don’t know what they did to get there. I’m not saying they’re all innocent. I’m not even saying Mike Brown was completely innocent–we’ll never know. What I do know is that there is grave injustice in this country and I would love to see real change in my lifetime. I am privileged to have been able to march on the streets and chant and watch other people in those windows. I was privileged to be able to turn around and go home when I wanted to. I was privileged to have been able to participate in a peaceful demonstration and not feel like I had to fight or rage for that right.

For many, the Ferguson situation has become a question of divided loyalties–are you on Darren Wilson’s and the police’s side, or are you on Mike Brown’s and the rioters and protestor’s side? For me, the question is not that at all. The situation in Ferguson is illustrative of a larger problem–the problem of rampant racism that this country has been refusing to acknowledge for hundreds of years. And we’re not going to get anywhere if we keep pretending we live in a post-racial world just because a Black man is president.

I feel like I’m in no way qualified to comment or philosophize about these issues, but staying silent doesn’t feel like a good choice either. So here are my words, because sometimes that’s all we can give.

The Affair

2014 October 22

the-affair

 

I heard about Showtime’s new drama, The Affair, like I hear about most new television shows–from buzz on the Internet. It seemed everywhere I looked there was more praise. I’ve recently gotten hooked on Masters of Sex and I loved Homeland when it first came out, so it seemed like I should at least give this new show a shot.

The premise is simple enough. Noah Solloway (played by The Wire‘s McNulty, Dominic West) is a writer living in a well-appointed Brooklyn brownstone with his wife and four children. His first novel has just been published, with middling reviews. The series opens on the morning of his family’s annual departure to Montauk, where they will spend the summer at his wife’s parents’ ginormous beachfront mansion. As the show goes on, we learn that his wife’s (Helen) father is a famous writer himself–who also happens to be a jerk.

The Solloways stop (a little inexplicably) at a local restaurant in town called The Lobster Roll before they get to their final destination, where they meet Alison, a beautiful young waitress with a haunted face and tousled hair. This, as all the previews and ads tell us, is to be Noah’s mistress in “the affair” from the title. While the family orders lunch, their youngest daughter chokes on a marble and Noah must save her, pounding frantically on her back while everyone else panics. Afterwards, he finds Alison coming out of the women’s room, crying and upset.

Later that night, after yet another attempt to have sex with his wife is foiled by one of their children, Noah wanders down to the beach, where he finds Alison, sitting by the shore in a skimpy sundress. She offers him a cigarette and asks him to walk her home, where she has something she wants to show him. He follows, feigning reluctance. Turns out, she wants to show him her outdoor shower, which he seems really excited about. This part is weird, because who doesn’t have an outdoor shower in a beach town? Anyway, it gets weirder, as Alison invites him to “try it out,” stepping brazenly out of her dress and stripping down to nothing. Flustered, Noah says he’s married, and has to leave. But before he gets too far, he hears a scuffle and goes back, only to witness an awkward scene between Alison and a man in her driveway.

Actually, this man is Alison’s husband, Cole, and he’s played by Joshua Jackson, nee Pacey Witter, of Dawson’s Creek fame.

cole

Swoon.

So, the premise is sort of generic: “happily” married family man goes on vacation, is sexually frustrated and perhaps suffering something of a mid-life crisis, becomes infatuated with a beautiful local and proceeds to cheat on his wife with her. All kinds of hi-jinks ensue.

But here’s where The Affair goes from relatively mundane to fascinating: in the middle of the first episode, the point of view shifts from Noah to Alison. Similar to True Detective (another show I love), we learn that the two main characters (Noah and Alison) are narrating their accounts of events to a police detective. They speak obliquely about a crime, but we don’t know what it is quite yet. By the end of the episode, when they flash to present-day Alison, it becomes clear that a good amount of time has passed between when the two first met and when they’re recounting these events–Alison has aged, gotten a new haircut, and refers to needing to “pick up her kid.”

Meanwhile, in the flashback, we learn that there’s a reason for Alison’s haunted eyes–she and Cole have lost their young son in some kind of tragedy. She cries in the shower and reads Peter Pan to her son’s grave. She is sad. In Alison’s version of events, SHE is the one who saves Noah’s little girl’s life when she is choking. In her version, she is on the beach avoiding the bonfire where her husband is having fun with friends when Noah shows up, flirty and spouting nonsense about only smoking French cigarettes. (He’s a writer from Brooklyn, so this actually pretty much checks out). When he offers to walk her home, she is the one who is reluctant. When he freaks out about her outdoor shower, she confusedly asks if he wants to try it out. In her version, she leaves her clothing on. In her version, he clumsily kisses her. When he leaves, she gets in the shower, then confronts Cole in the driveway when he gets home. She collapses in his arms, exhausted by her sadness, and he comforts her. It’s an intense scene in both versions, but the implications are radically, radically different.

The interesting part about these two sides of the same story is how much the details matter. In Noah’s story, Alison is all legs and wind-blown hair and skin. Even the skirt on her waitress uniform is indecently short. In Alison’s memories, her hair is pulled up and she’s wearing slouchy t-shirts instead of skimpy sundresses. Her uniform covers her ass. In each recollection, the role of seductor and seductee is reversed. It’s always the one with the cigarettes you can’t trust.

I’m interested to see what happens–what was the crime? Why are Alison and Noah implicated in the crime? What does their relationship have to do with the larger events of that summer? But I’m most interested in the way the story is being told–the unreliable narrators are incredibly compelling, and it’s fun to wonder just who, if either of them, is telling the truth. Or if there’s really any one truth.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens–the second episode was just as good as the first, with the same subtle differences and details in both parts of the story.

Have you seen it? Are there any other television shows that remind you of novels and stories in the way they’re told?

 

New Yorker

2014 October 7

NewYorkercover

 

Last night, I dreamed that I was on a plane, and for some reason, the plane needed to make a stop in New York. It landed in Brooklyn, inexplicably beside the backyard of a bar I once frequented, and I looked out the window and started to cry.

This weekend was a busy one. I went to First Friday at the ICA and had drinks by the waterfront. On Saturday night, I had dinner in the South End and then went to see a great production of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, starring Malcolm-Jamal Warner, at the Huntington Theater. Sunday was spent at an apple orchard, picking apples, ogling fall foliage, and eating cider donuts. It doesn’t get much better than New England in the fall. So why the subconscious attack of New York nostalgia?

I can’t even begin to guess at the kinds of things my brain goes through when I’m asleep (later in the dream, I lost a tooth, the pieces falling out of my mouth like broken shards of pottery as I tried to hide it from the people I was with), but I’d venture a guess that my subscription to The New Yorker plays at least a tiny role.

newyorker2

Joe got me a subscription for Christmas two years ago, back when I was still living in New York. The issues would arrive in the mailbox every week and I would dutifully read them from cover to cover, always beginning with poring over the Goings On About Town pages, looking for readings and openings and exhibits and concerts to go see. I would look forward to seeing which restaurant would be profiled in the Table for Two section. Then I would flip through and look at all the cartoons, choose which long-form features looked most appealing. I saved the fiction for last. As in most everything else I do, my reading of the magazine was methodical, linear.

As the months progressed, my relationship with the magazine became more fraught. It seemed that as soon as I would finish one issue, another was waiting in the mailbox. I started to be more choosy about which articles I would read and which I would skim or even skip altogether. You might be thinking, “Of course! This is normal! You can’t read EVERYTHING!” But for me, it felt like a tiny failure each time I skipped an article, and eventually, entire issues.

NewYorker-Magazine-cover

In December, I wondered if I should ask for a renewal of the subscription for Christmas.  Joe assured me that his gift had been a gift “for life,” or something to that effect. Fast forward to January when I figured out that what he actually meant was the money was scheduled to auto-deduct from our joint checking account which was by that time just my checking account. Another broken promise. ANYWAY.

When I moved to Boston in February, I updated the mailing address and began receiving The New Yorker here. I know many people all over the country read the magazine and it’s a common sight on the T, but it still felt out of place in my new Boston home. I would reflexively begin with the Goings On About Town and then realize I couldn’t attend any of the events listed there. The feeling was oddly crushing, so now I open the magazine wide, right to Talk of the Town. Even then, some of the blurbs are so specific to New York that I cringe a little. I used to get the jokes, the references, feel that tiny twinge of satisfaction knowing that I was some kind of insider. I know it’s kind of smug garbage, but it’s the truth. And it’s different now.

new yorker goodbye

 

Now, when the magazine comes, I put it on my nightstand. Not the one on “my side” of the bed, but the other side, where there’s a stack of New Yorkers. The stack on the table by “my side” of the bed is comprised of whatever books I tell myself I’m going to read before bed–usually short story or essay collections. So there’s my “bedtime reading” and then my “primary” book, which is what I carry with me in my purse and read on my commute and during lunch breaks if I have time. Lately, I’ve been feeling so neglectful of my stack of New Yorkers that I’ve reserved Fridays to take one with me and read that on my commute instead, and usually try to finish it up over the weekend. Usually, I just end up with a pile of crumpled, half-read magazines folded down the middle, but at least I’m trying. Sure, I can also read the magazine on my phone and on my computer, but I prefer to read it in the printed form–I’m old fashioned that way. It somehow feels like I haven’t really read it if I read it online.

The holidays are creeping up on us and I’m starting to get notices in the mail about my subscription running out. I’m torn. I do enjoy getting the magazine–there are some seriously great articles and stories, and it’s always nice to get something besides junk mail. It also feels like a link to New York, in some ways, as sad and nostalgic as it sometimes makes me. But it also induces a great deal of guilt and anxiety in me–will I have time to read it this week? What if I miss an article I would have really loved?

It sounds silly, but it really does cause me stress, and I know I’m not the only one to suffer from this condition. There should be some kind of support group.

So, I have to make a decision–do I want to spend the money to renew my subscription, or should I just read the free content online and use my money elsewhere (like a gym membership)? The more I think about it, the more I think I’m going to need to cancel the subscription…

Spotted

2014 September 11

thank you

Thank you all so much for reading, and for your support, and your kindness, and your patience over these last few months. I haven’t been updating here as much as I should or as much as I want to, and lately, I’ve been using this space as a kind of catharsis/venting/writing space more than a literary style blog, and that might be confusing. It’s also confusing when I decide to post about once every three weeks. My apologies for all of that, and my gratitude for sticking with me. I can’t promise any huge changes, but I still love this blog and I want it to continue and I’d like to make it more of a priority.

That said, let’s talk about shoes!

About a year ago, I started to realize my leopard flats were more uncomfortable each time I wore them. One day, I happened to actually look at them (of course, this was in the middle of the day, after I’d been wearing them for hours, and was at work), and noticed there were holes worn straight through the soles. Whoops! I’d paid $70 for them the year before, but they weren’t very high quality, and I lived in New York City, so I guess I couldn’t have expected them to last very long.

Ever since, I’ve had my eye out for replacements, but I haven’t found any yet. It seems like a few years ago, leopard flats were EVERYWHERE. And now that I need a new pair, they’ve disappeared! There are leopard heels, and leopard loafers, and leopard sneakers–but the leopard flats have been hiding (at least the affordable ones have). I don’t normally buy shoes online because I’m afraid they won’t be comfortable, and I haven’t seen any cute leopard flats in a physical store every time I’ve looked.

But there are some cute options out there, if I’m willing to pull the trigger and take the chance on online shoe buying. Here are some of my favorite options:

nine west leopard

Nine West Snooze Smoking Slippers $79

steve madden leopard

Steve Madden Elusion D’Orsay Flats $79.95

lands end leopard

Land’s End Bianca Ballet Flats $79.95

sam edelman leopard

Sam Edelman Felicia $110

Which are your favorites? Do you have any recommendations for where to find cute leopard flats?

 

 

*image via The Black Apple