Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Another Blog

I finally posted a link to Peter's blog over in the list. It took me a long time to do this. Sorry, dude. But I wasn't sure if you were still keeping it as it had been a few moons between updates. Anyway, it is now officially in my list, yo. And I really wish we could make it to your awesome-sounding James-Bond-themed New Year's Eve party.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Companionship, Weirdness, & Sisters.

It's been an eventful couple of days. Sunday I met up with a handful of friends from Mills College for brunch in Berkeley, which was moved to Le Bateau Ivre due to pouring rain. Alison, a fellow Cal alum, and I, both agreed that it was one of those restaurants we'd always passed and wanted to go to but somehow never did despite years of living in the area. So, we finally ended up there. And it was yummy. They have an array of alcoholic coffee beverages, which I was unable to take advantage of due to intestinal issues after eating some dubious Indian food the previous night. (We did not know it was dubious until the following day, or else we would have avoided it in the first place. Was it the Palak Paneer? The Tandoori Mixed Grill? We may never know, since we are not going back to that restaurant.)

Anyway, we celebrated a couple of birthdays, caught up on what we've been doing since graduating from Mills, had some eats, and discussed some truly strange knitting patterns. Here's another one. I have no words that express my reaction to this, although it did remind me of this graduate student in the Cal art department who did an exhibit in the Worth Ryder Gallery of penis cozies.

On a completely, utterly different note, I finally received a picture of my half-sister via e-mail. Strangely enough, she doesn't really look like me. My first cousins look more like they could be my sisters. She must resemble her mother. Her hair is darker than mine, but we have similar eyes and face shape. Other than that, we seem not to be very similar. I found out that I have a nephew named Declan and a niece named Elise, age 6 and 3.5 respectively. I was also reminded of the bizarre fact that it is currently summer down in Australia, and they are about to start summer vacation. We've been discussing several other cultural differences, such as their lack of Halloween or Thanksgiving. And, she has promised to try to take me to an Aussie Rules game when we visit. (That was her "when," not mine--I liked that.)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

At the Risk of Believing Everything I Read...

...I found this fascinating tidbit about Coca-Cola's labor practices at bottling plants on Rhys's blog. If it's true, I can't say I find it surprising. But Rob won't be very happy if I tell him he can't drink Coke any more.

I only have about two or three more shopping errands to run before all our Christmas shopping is done. Tomorrow's will be rather odious because it really involves at least two separate stores, plus some random street fair wandering--I'll be meeting some friends from Mills at someplace in Berkeley I've never been called Thai Temple (scroll down for listing), which should be cool. I'm sure I'll be very hungry as the shopping will precede the food.

I am looking forward--at least in theory--to buying some tiny Cal schwag for our 9-month-old nephew Miles. I am not, however, looking forward to fighting the crowds that will be thronging Cody's and the Telegraph Holiday Street Fair. Sometimes I'm amazed I used to live only two-and-a-half blocks from Telegraph, on Channing. (Of course, I had other routes to walk to and from my apartment, such as cutting through a church parking lot.) I kind of miss that apartment. It was decent-sized, for a studio, with a huge bathroom containing a bathtub with feet. One of my psychology TAs lived upstairs, which was weird, because every once in a while I'd hear people having screaming fights up there. I always kind of liked that, in front of the building, there used to be a worn-down statue of a nude maiden of some sort, made of what appeared to be poorly cast concrete.

One time I locked myself out of my place on a Sunday, when most locksmiths seemed to be closed. At that point, I only knew one person in the building, this quiet bearded man named Joel who lived across the hall, had a nice white cat named Casper, and sold strange items made of reconfigured silverware on Telegraph. He had helped me move in, and I hardly ever saw him after that. So I knocked on his door, nearly in tears, and he helped me look (fruitlessly) in the phone book and calmed me down. (His apartment, by the way, was FULL of ALL KINDS OF CRAP. I guess that's not all that unusual.)

He then said he was going to try one last thing before we continued looking for a locksmith. He went to my door and put in his own key. Lo and behold--and shudder--it actually opened my door. I shit you not. We exchanged a significant look which meant both "this should not be," and "we will pretend this never happened and never speak of it again." I thanked him profusely, and hoped that he wasn't some secret weirdo who would abuse his newly-discovered ability to enter my apartment. And apparently he wasn't, and didn't. He'd been living there forever, and seemed to be the closest thing we had to a building manager, which there wasn't in our building. The rental company seemed to bend the rules for him as a result--cf. the cat in a no-pets-allowed zone.

Later, the rental company sold the building to Reddy Realty, whose manager shortly thereafter was convicted of running an underage prostitution ring of Indian immigrant girls or some such ickiness. Plus they made a bunch of noise building a laundry room in the basement. And every time they needed to get hold of me by phone it was the most urgent thing in the world so they'd call me like twice in a day and leave me these pathetic messages like "We call you so many times, but you never call us back." Good times, good times.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A couple of shout-outs. Or should that be "shouts-out?"

I've been meaning for a couple of weeks to plug a few new sites connected with friends. Here I finally go.

Firstly, my friend Shin Yu Pai has a new website with a schedule of upcoming poetry readings, a gallery of her photography, and more. It's a really nice-looking site. Plus her poetry is excellent, so buy some if you get a chance!

This second item should be of interest to any soap opera fans out there. Jaime (aka MeiMei)--who has been toiling day and night as a script editor for One Life to Live--was given a special freelance project to write a fictional blog from the viewpoint of a character with a split personality. They measure site traffic, so go visit--the more hits the better. Go MeiMei! I now know far more about OLTL than I ever have in my life. I'm still not going to start watching, though.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Plastic Wear

I found this disturbing yet amusing item on memepool today. I personally like the boob bracelet, or maybe the one with all the eyes. Frankly, though, this artist needs to give the line a catchier name. Perhaps "Barbie-Queue," or "Plastacular."

I'd just like to say that Gmail is cool. I can now get blog RSS feeds from all you cool people right at the top of my inbox, which is good, because I'm not very good at visiting people's blogs regularly. Thank you, Gmail, for making me a better friend. Awwwwww.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Triple Threat!

I guess things do come in threes, though in my case, there had better be more than three instances of good writing luck--since I am trying to make a living and all.

Well, the first piece of good news came in the mail on Saturday. I got a very brief letter from Margaret K. McElderry Books in response to a query letter I sent a couple of months ago. The letter was so brief as to strike fear into my heart, but although it began with "Dear Author," it went on to ask me to send my manuscript. So that's good news. Another nibble for The Other Olwen.

Exciting piece of news #2 is that I'm going to, in fact, get paid for a profile article I wrote for the upcoming issue of Mills Quarterly, the Mills College alumnae (well, really, alumni since there are a few male students there) magazine. I was not expecting it to be a paying market, for whatever reason, but I was still happy to get a publication credit. So, bonus!

Number three is the most exciting of all. I might not have found out first thing this morning if Tanita hadn't called me and told me to check my dang e-mail because I obviously hadn't yet. In my e-mail inbox was a link to the announcement of the winners of the Smartwriters short story contest I entered a few months ago. This was a short story contest for children's and YA writers. There were two surprises here. One was that I got third place for the YA category for "This Is Jane." The other is my friend Jaime, aka MeiMei, got a Special Mention for her piece "Barefoot," which they mentioned in the same sentence with The New Yorker. All the winners (mid-grade and YA) get published in an anthology, so this will officially be my first fiction publication!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Procrastination Street

I have recently had some additional responsibilities fall into my lap. The brief and tactful summary of this situation is as follows: I am currently vice-president of a non-profit volunteer group that promotes Welsh language in North America. I'm also helping organize its annual conference for 2006, which will take place in Stockton, CA. The current president called me last night to tell me that his father had a stroke and he will, understandably, be unable to make the group a priority for the time being. The situation is, of course, more complicated than that, but that's the gist. Hence the additional responsibilities.

Apparently what I do when faced with additional responsibilities is a) create a very organized and prioritized to-do list, and b) procrastinate. So I hereby present A. Fortis's Top Ten Ways to Procrastinate (in no particular order):

10. Blogging. Like this. (In fact, this seems awfully familiar. Have I done this top ten list before? No, really--I can't remember, and Blogger's search function is totally unhelpful.)
9. E-mailing. I always have several unanswered e-mails to attend to, as I'm sure some of you are fully aware.
8. Reading. Since I'm a writer, I'm good at convincing myself it's research. Plus, the cat likes to sit on my lap, and then I'm too warm and cozy to move her.
7. Burning CD Mixes. Yeah, I know, that's a totally high-school way to procrastinate. But it works. I might use that one tonight.
6. Making To-Do Lists. It's like I'm being productive. Kind of.
5. Cooking/Baking. Again, I feel like I'm doing something useful and so the guilt just melts away.
4. Doing Crossword Puzzles. I don't always take advantage of this one. But I spent like an entire week earlier this month doing a Sudoku puzzle from the Sunday Datebook. (And I finished the damn thing, damn it!)
3. Exercising a Poor Attitude. This category includes all the various species of stressing out, moping, having anxiety attacks, complaining, being fatalistic, and so forth.
2. Watching Television. I watch way more TV than is justified by the sheer amount of stuff I have to get done.
1. Running Errands. Granted, this is a different form of work, but it keeps me from getting other types of work done, the type that requires me to sit for long periods of time and think or type or paint.

You may notice that there are several potential procrastination activities missing from this list. They are not there because I am most likely not spending enough time doing them to merit them being rated procrastination activities. Now they've just become back-burner occasional items, like studying Welsh, or required-but-not-worth-mentioning items, like housecleaning. On that note, I was watching a documentary earlier this week about J.K. Rowling (see #2 above) and she revealed the secret of how she managed to write a book as a single mother raising a small child: she lived in squalor. This made me feel a whole lot better about, say, failing to fold the clean laundry until I actually need the baskets again for the dirty laundry. Next time anybody hassles me about keeping house I'm going to tell them that. And, with a great sigh, I shall hereby interrupt my procrastination with some actual productivity.

Just So You Know...

...the approximate final word count was about 35,000. Not too shabby, really. The hard part will be disciplining myself to keep going for another week at the same pace, with no tangible reward at the end of it. Of course, that's writing and art for the most part--steeling yourself to keep producing even though there's no guarantee of success or even making a living. On that ambivalent note, I'm going to go back to this self-portrait that is my final project for my mixed media painting class. My hair is currently green, something I need to rectify. (Green makes a good undercoating for portraits, and helps create a more lifelike skin tone.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Latest Count:

Latest NaNoWriMo count - 33,580. About 2,800 and counting, today alone. More comin'. I'm going to get as close to 37,000 as I can today.

Am I Gonna Make It?

Well, at 30,600 or so words, I may not even make my 37K personal goal by the deadline tomorrow evening, unless I can churn out about 6,400 more tomorrow. It could happen. I think I will also give myself an extra week and see if I can't actually produce 50,000 in a month's time--who says I have to follow the specified start and end time? I won't get the nifty graphic, but I'll still have completed a huge amount.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Confusion

How odd. I may have just lost a potential customer for my freelance business due to sounding like a goober on the phone. Or, if it wasn't my inept phone manner, it may have been my inability to take a credit card payment except through PayPal. (Or maybe they'll be calling me back later; I don't know.) But what happened was, my cell phone rang with an unfamiliar number and area code (which I later looked up and found out was near Chicago). I picked up, and a male voice asked me if I was Sarah J. Stevenson, and if I take credit card payments.

In my total surprise--never having had to field such a phone call before for my own business, which only technically became a licensed City of Modesto business last month--I intelligently answered, "For what?"

"For your business," he replied, fortunately not sounding like he thought I was insane or slow. Still caught off guard, I responded with the first thing that popped into my head, which was "No, we're not set up to take credit cards, but we do accept PayPal." To which he replied, "Okay, thank you." That was the end of the call.

What terrible salesmanship. After hanging up I realized I should have inquired more about the purpose of his call--what sort of job would he (or his boss) be wanting me to do? Is this writing- or editing-related? Art- or design-related? I could be far less mystified at this moment if I'd just thought to ask a question or two and introduce myself like a normal businessperson. And then, when I looked up the area code and found it was in Illinois, I kept thinking, how is somebody in Illinois interested in my random little freelance business? How did they find my information? Did they just randomly look me up online? And then I thought, how did they get my cell phone number? I have business cards I hand out on occasion, but they have a land line number. Even if they got my card from someone, it wouldn't have my cell number on it, unless it was somebody I know. This is another crucial question I could have asked--how did you find out about my business? So that's very strange.

This was followed only moments later by a phone call on my land line from Ceres Karate, which I've done calligraphy on certificates for about once or twice a year for the past couple of years. I asked the guy if it was him who just called me asking about credit cards--this was before I looked up the area code--and of course he said no. So, two business-related phone calls today. Unfortunately the calligraphy money will be rather piddly, as he only needs names and belt rankings filled in on 3 certificates. However, they have a history of paying me more than I charge them, which is awfully nice of them. I might push some marketing collateral (translation: a brochure) on Sanjay this time, and hope he knows some other random karate studios who might want a calligrapher or designer or something. That means I probably should make a new brochure, as my current one is sort of lame. Must...not...procrastinate...on...NaNoWriMo... But I did set a more realistic goal of 37,000 words, bearing in mind that I did not start writing until a week into the month.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

NanoFailure?

I have less than three days left to reach my 50,000 word count for NaNoWriMo, but I just reached the halfway point today--I'm at a little over 26,000 words. Chances are, unless I become seriously inspired AND put in some major marathon action, I will not make the deadline on Nov. 30 at midnight Howland Island Time (which, I believe, is 8:00 pm PST).

On the other hand, when I think about the fact that I'm twelve (brief) chapters into a completely new novel that did not exist even in my brain until about three weeks ago, that's pretty good. However, I will still be disappointed in myself if I don't finish. I like the idea of having completed such a major accomplishment in a month's time. I so often feel like my writing has no purpose whatsoever, since so few people seem interested in publishing it. But I keep on trying...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Holiday Top Ten

Signs you're having Thanksgiving dinner with a geek. Thanks to Psychotic Web Monkey Corey.

Monday, November 21, 2005

AAARGH

I hate it when I'm really busy. It's making me seriously lag on my project for National Novel Writing Month. I'm somewhere above 21,000 words now, but with Thanksgiving coming, parents soon-to-be-visiting, and lots of cleaning yet to be done, I fear for the next handful of days. And since I only have nine days left to get to 50,000, I'm seriously doubting this is going to happen. That whole starting-a-week-into-things thing was a bigger deal than I thought, since I failed to factor in Thanksgiving....Plus I spent most of yesterday doing manual household labor--washed both cars, raked and mowed the front lawn, and sawed these little wooden blocks to mount a painting on. (One of the pieces I did for my painting class is going to be in the student show. Ha!) All of this stuff left me with time to write exactly three sentences yesterday.

On the other hand, I'm nine chapters into a new piece, which isn't a bad thing.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wooo! 20%!

Today I somehow wrote 10 1/2 pages and put myself above the 20% mark for National Novel Writing Month's 50,000-word goal. Yay! I'm actually starting to think that yes, I can do this, and no, I'm perhaps not entirely insane.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Well, Shoot.

It seems that JibJab are doing my IGN For Men job with far more bells and whistles than I ever did. I recognized at least four on the front page alone, three of which I clearly remember reviewing in the good old days of Weird Wild Web.

This site I definitely would have written about if it had been around back then. Oh. My. God. Pack-rat-itis gone totally wrong, and this house is a mere hour and 40 minutes away in Folsom. Holy crap, and I do mean crap. I hope this person has managed to move out of the house by now.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Should I, or Shouldn't I?

NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines. Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community and miracles are bound to happen. Pies will be eaten at amazing rates. Alfalfa will be harvested like never before. And novels will be written in a month.

I realize it's a bit late, and Rob thinks I'm a little nuts for even considering it, but I'm still allowed to sign up for National Novel Writing Month, which is November. As it has now turned into National Novel Writing Three-Weeks, I don't exactly have the same amount of time to churn out a 50,000-word novel as those who were on the ball about it. But it crossed my mind because last night I wrote the first chapter of a new YA book--an idea that popped into my head as I made the six-hour drive from SoCal to NorCal Friday evening. That's lots of thinkin' time, if you know what I mean.

So yesterday I actually sat down and blurted out a five-page chapter. It came along at a good time, because I'm currently feeling a bit blah about the novel I'm in the middle of writing. I heard something about agents (well, one agent) being less interested in fantasy or supernatural stories because there's a glut of them on the market. Since my finished novel AND my half-finished one both have a supernatural angle, this made me feel grumbly. Then I thought maybe I should write something realistic, and then go back to my half-finished piece when I'm in a better writing mood.

And now, even as I sit here, I'm having various interesting ideas about the new book. 50,000 words in three weeks? BAH! My freelance stuff is in a lull right now. My finished novel is something like 120,000 words. If I have 21 days left, assuming about 250 words per page...that means I would have to write about 10 pages per day to finish and get the neat little graphic for my web page. Now, I have until the 25th to sign up. But I guess I have to verify that I started during the actual time period, right? Well, I did, so...why not? The worst that can happen is I don't finish and...yeah. Nothing to lose.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pumpkins 05


Pumpkins 05
Originally uploaded by Aquafortis.
Apparently I moved the camera a little, but you get the idea.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

GeekFest '05

Guess what we did today? We celebrated Worldwide D&D Game Day--not at a game store or other authorized participating schwag seller, but at our friends' house, by holding a GameFest. This entailed inviting a handful of other interested parties, mainly other MJC employees, and dividing into a few small gaming groups in different areas of the house. We had one session in the late morning, then a big barbecue (manned by Rob, the God of Fire and Charcoal), then we mixed up the groups a bit and held another session in the late afternoon/evening.

It was not originally intended that we would celebrate Worldwide Game Day in such an extravangant manner. Our geek quotient is not quite that extensive. We had actually planned our GameFest and THEN discovered that our proposed date happened to coincide with the Worldwide event, so then, of course, we had to do it that day. It was mandatory. So we did, and there was much battling and dungeon crawling. And it was fun.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Hauntings

Some people claim to be haunted by dead relatives, or former residents of their creepy old houses, or other human revenants. Rob and I are being haunted by something much less tangible.

Our Old Mailing Address.

Yes, it's true. I have three instances--all recent--of the sudden and very untimely (i.e., three years late) reappearance of our former address. (Notice that all the important numbers are threes, which is also the number of digits in our old and our new street addresses. Spooky-spooky-spooky!)

Haunting #1: Rob went to the optometrist in Berkeley to get fitted for new contacts and glasses. He went to pick up the contacts, and the glasses were going to be mailed to him. Three weeks ago or so, he realized that the glasses had not arrived. When he called Dr. Sarver's office, they found that they had mailed them to our old address...DESPITE the fact that they knew perfectly well that we have a new address and that they have said address on file. So Rob had to go leave a post-it on the door of our old house and ask them to call and let us know if they got a random package from the optometrist. But they didn't. Spooooooky!

Haunting #2: On Saturday, I was preparing envelopes to send contest entries to Smartwriters, Inkwell, and Del Sol Press. Two had entry forms, but one needed a cover letter, so I printed one out. When I went to sign it, I noticed that for no good reason, the letterhead had MY OLD ADDRESS in it. Now, I know I have updated the letterhead but this freaked me out because I had used a cover letter from earlier this summer as a template. Although their having my incorrect info was moot, as I did not place in the contest, I knew this meant I had used a cover letter with the wrong mailing address. This freaked me out further, wondering how many other journals, etc. had received cover letters with my old mailing address. Fortunately, when I checked all my cover letter files the answer was none. But still: SPOOKY! And also sloppy on my part.

Haunting #3: For the past two weeks I have been expecting an envelope with some important bank-account-related paperwork for a nonprofit organization I'm vice-president of. I have seen neither hide nor hair (nor manila fiber, as the case may be) of it. Yesterday, our president realized that he had mistakenly pulled up the wrong address list and sent it to: OUR OLD ADDRESS. Where we have not lived for three years, I'd like to once again point out. Moreover, it turns out that my address in the non-profit's database is still the old address, too, which is odd. Spo-oo-oo-ooky.

I realize that this may be the most boring, mundane instance of haunting ever. But hey, it's the best I can do. Now I'm off to carve pumpkins with Pac-Man and Ghost on them.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Creeping Tentacles

My dubious influence is spreading. My blog is listed on thejimside, in some rather illustrious company including Shin Yu Pai, Juliana Spahr, Camille Roy, and Lyn Hejinian. I feel quite special now.

This, after completing the very mundane task of sweeping and de-spiderwebbing the front porch in preparation for costumed children. After all, it should not be a point of pride that, hey, all those neighbors might have their fancy store-bought fake spiderwebs, but we have the REAL THING, man.

Anyway, it'll be just me tomorrow night, because Rob teaches until 8:30 or so. I think this is the first time in several years we have not attended some sort of Halloween party. Let the decades of loser-dom begin!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

TV, Part 2

So I'm cooking and waiting for Rob to get home from work; that's the reason for all the tube action. Anyway, I'm watching BBC America, because nothing else appeals, and I find this--a little thing called Goodness Gracious Me. Awesome. And amazing that you can have a show like this in England circa 1998, yet I can't foresee anything like this in the U.S. in even ten years. Even Margaret Cho's show wasn't successful.

TV Time

I was just watching Comedy Central's new show The Colbert Report (I love Stephen Colbert--he is on my list of celebrity mini-crushes) and his interview subject was Fareed Zakaria, who had the best comeback of the show. I now also love Fareed Zakaria.

Relatively Updated

A few of you commented that my post from last week seemed almost like a soap opera, a surreal drama. No kidding. And the more the story gets filled in, the crazier it actually gets. It's getting into serious family detail so I'm not going to post it all here for the world (all five of you) to see, but here's an overview.

I did hear from my half-sister via e-mail. We both agreed how bizarre it felt, how confusing, to try to figure out what to say to somebody you're related to but who is still a complete stranger. For myself, I sort of felt like the walls of my world were no longer quite solid. Even though I've known--in the abstract--about having a sister for many years, having it gain the force of reality was something more of a shock than I was expecting it to be. I can't imagine what it must be like for her, who didn't even know she had a sister.

Anyway, we have now each written an e-mail telling the other about ourselves--the strange, seemingly random collections of details that don't seem to be adequate to describe an entire person, an entire life. I wondered if mine sounded boring; boastful; unenthusiastic; overly enthusiastic; guarded; gut-spilling. I've heard more details from my dad, from her e-mails to him, and mostly they spark even more questions. But I also don't want to seem overly eager. I find that I have strangly conflicting feelings at various times: sometimes I can't wait to write back, to find out as much as I possibly can as quickly as possible about her. Other times I feel like I want, even need, to stand back a bit, to let it sink in; like I don't want to write back right away but to let the transition from abstract-sister to concrete-existing-sister move a bit more slowly. After all, the walls of my world just blew outward to include the continent of Australia.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fun at Lit Crawl with MC A. Fortis

I posted a writeup on WritingYA of last night's reading of young adult authors at Valencia Street Books--part of the Lit Crawl. I think it was a success, but it seemed to be over so quickly! I also had a chance to meet up with a friend afterward, walk around a bit, and obtain caffeinated beverages. It was interesting to be in the Mission and have so many little random places bring back memories...A date at the Roxie to see random weird semi-pornographic Hong Kong cinema; an awesome dinner of crepes at Ti Couz.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Keep Thinking About It - It Just Gets Worse

Psychotic Web Monkey Corey sent me a link to this article, and I could not stop laughing.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

P.S.

Re: below--if you see my dad, don't tell him I told you. Only the immediate family, plus my mom, know about the existence of the sister. And now a handful of other random people. Obviously the blog is not in his sphere of awareness (which is good for many reasons I won't go into here). Anyway, no new updates yet.

Last night I went to Modesto's Monthly Poetry Slam. Yes, Modesto has a poetry slam, held at our friends Kathleen and Jack's theater, and surprisingly, there were about 75-100 people there. Who knew? People of all shapes and sizes and ages and colors. Anyway, I'm not really a poetry slam person, but it was interesting. I might attend once in a while. Maybe. I doubt I'll ever compete. I can tell you this--I should never, ever be a judge. I would be mean.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What a Trippy Morning.

Something you may or may not know (depending on whether I've mentioned it to you, obviously) is that I have a half-sister in Australia. I have known this since I was about 12, when my mom told me. Six months later, my dad also told me. The story is, my dad had a prior marriage, before meeting my mom, and had been married to an Englishwoman in London. They had a daughter. My sketchy knowledge of what happened is that her family was Australian, and she wanted to return to Australia, but my dad didn't want to move, and they did, and so that was that.

From time to time I've thought about trying to find my half-sister, and have even done a little internet research (fruitless) and posted something on an internet bulletin board at one point. But it's hard to make that a priority when you have already reached an adult life, and there hasn't ever been a sister in it (though mine was fraught--fraught, I tell you--with no less than five stepsisters, none of whom I ever lived with for a very long period of time). Plus, I told myself repeatedly, I needed to just bug my dad about it, because he never discouraged me from the idea of contacting her someday. He just never quite got around to giving me any actual concrete information, and I never quite got around to pinning him down about it. I think about it fairly often, but thought is not action.

Well, I received an e-mail this morning from the Salvation Army Family Tracing Service in Brisbane, Australia, notifying me that my sister is trying to track down my dad. Our dad. I wrote back as soon as I got it, saying that I would pass on the message and encourage him to respond, and asking the Salvation Army person to please give her my contact information. I just heard back again, and they are going to give her my information and she plans to e-mail me. I honestly have been in kind of a fog all day, thinking about all this.

Obviously this means that he hasn't been in touch with her, which I suspected, but it seems like it's been a long time. There's a thirteen-year age difference between me and my half-sister. I also wondered, why now? Not that there would ever be a particular time to do these things, but it seemed so out-of-the-blue. Until I thought about how there was just a humongous earthquake in Pakistan and India, and if she hasn't been in touch with him, she may well be worried that he might be back in Pakistan. Then it all made a bit more sense, though perhaps I'm reading into it now. She wouldn't necessarily know a thing about anything that happened to him since their family split up. (My dad can be close-mouthed about potentially awkward subjects.)

So that was my excitement for the day.

Monday, October 10, 2005

YA Lit Fest

If you're looking for something to do in San Francisco this Saturday night, why not come to the Lit Crawl? It's part of LitQuake, an annual San Francisco literary festival, and it's FREE. We like free.

Plus, if you go to the 5:00 - 6:15 reading at Valencia Street Books, Finding Neverland: Writers of Young Adult Fiction, you will get to see Yours Truly emceeing for a handful of exciting local authors. I will be far less exciting than they will be, which is as it should be. And yes, that reading is named after our WritingYA weblog--we're kind of co-hosts or co-promoters or whatever you want to call it, and this is great publicity for us. I'm very excited.

This is also cool because it's the second (or third, if you count last year's Lit Crawl) time in my life I've gotten to be peripherally involved in a Lawrence Ferlinghetti-related project. The first time, Rob was the printer for a series of etchings by artist Stephanie Peek, published as a limited-edition artist's book with poetry from Ferlinghetti's Endless Life. This meant that we got to meet and have dinner with him at the artist's house, during which he told some very interesting stories about his life. So I definitely admire him and am glad to be involved in LitQuake, even if it's in a small way.

Maybe one day I'll actually get to be involved as a reader. Man, would that be cool. Of course, I have to publish something first, and if the pile of rejections I'm accumulating is any indication, I'm on the fast track to obscurity on that score. I can hardly manage to talk about the latest developments, but I might as well get it off my chest. That story I talked about submitting a while ago? The one that got the non-rejection? (I'm going to tactfully not mention names at the moment in case there are prying eyes, though it's not as though it would make much difference at this point, as you will see, as I have nothing to lose.)

Well, that story was sent hopefully back to the literary magazine in question, after no less than FOUR separate rounds of revisions done with a hasty intensity I henceforth hope to reserve only for ACTUAL publication possibilities, or defeating some kind of video-game super-boss. Anyway, I was contacted a few weeks later by the magazine's editorial board, who "liked my revisions" but had even MORE suggestions for revision. These suggestions, in addition to kind of missing the point of the story, would furthermore result in a completely different piece than the one I wrote. Now, I'm not opposed to the occasional blanket revision, but I was actually already pleased with this story after the last round of revisions. I do believe in being flexible if a) suggestions are reasonable and b) it has a good chance of resulting in respect and publication.

But I don't want to change the entire nature of my writing just to get published. I might as well just put "by Editor X" as the byline. Also, I should point out that some of the comments by the editorial staff were obviously forwarded to me in totally unadulterated form, and I found myself put off, hurt, even outraged by some of them--not exactly the right strategy for getting me enthused about more revisions. Not to mention that there's no reason for me to assume that even if I did alter my story into unrecognizability, they would then publish it. It's beyond the realm of nuts-and-bolts suggestions, so I've decided to sit on it for a while. I'll think about it. I may even see if someplace else is interested in it. Or I may just decide to totally scrap it and shove it in a drawer because I'm sick as hell of it.

Anti-Columbus

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day (though apparently I missed the actual celebration--oops.)

Friday, September 30, 2005

Dreams of Not-So-Grandeur

I had this really bizarre dream last night. It definitely seems to reflect my literary stress. In the dream, I was at a party at my friend Cindy's family's house. All her relatives were there, and at one point I remember I was warming her grandmother's cold hands between my own. I had brought a casserole dish with some sort of ham and potatoes au gratin in it, which I seem to remember calling a "ham-n-cheesy bake." At the bottom of the casserole (yes, in the dish) was the latest letter I had gotten from an agent to whom I'd submitted my YA novel proposal. It was opened and lay flat underneath the food, but I hadn't read it yet for some reason.

Then, before I really realized it, people had started cutting into and eating the casserole, including the papers underneath. So I said something like, "Hey, wait, I didn't read that letter yet." A few people tried to look at the pieces they held in their hands, but then I said, "It doesn't matter because it's probably another rejection anyway." It was a brief letter.

Later in the dream I was sitting at a dining-room table, perhaps at a different party. I had just received a packet, presumably a rejection, from an agent. Tanita (aka TadMack) had gotten accepted by an agent, Steven Chudney, whom I had just been rejected by. He happened to be at the party, and she got in conversation with him and a woman who worked in his office. Meanwhile, I looked at the letter I got, which was impersonal (Dear Author) but so long and convoluted that at first I couldn't tell if it was a rejection or not. It turned out that, despite the impersonal salutation, it was a sort-of acceptance. The two reviewers who looked at it had, at the opening of the letter, each written their names and one word, chosen from a short list, that best described how they felt about my submission. Their two words were "jealousy" and "choice." I noticed that one of the other words on the list they were choosing from was "denial," which I assumed would have meant a no.

I went on to scan through the letter and saw at the end that they had requested me to bring a whole array of "supporting documents" to their office, which was in Boston. I thought, I can't afford to just fly to Boston, unless they pay for me to go there. The bullet-point list of supporting materials included various photos/slides of Welsh landscape and history (this makes sense in light of my novel). They asked for the photos to be put in sleeves and bound with a binder ring. But I was still excited about it. I thought, I'll have to tell them about the two lettters I sent to publishers just last week (true).

Then Tanita and the lady from Steven Chudney's office came over to say that Tanita had been telling them about me and they were interested in talking to me. I said, "How can they be interested in me? They just rejected me last week." They were both taken aback/embarrassed/confused. I said, "Anyway, it's okay; I just got this...um....non-rejection from another agent." The letterhead said they were an agency "of color."

And then I woke up.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Oh, the Injustice.

I can't submit an unsolicited manuscript of quality literature (or at least, what I hope is quality literature), but I can submit an unsolicited Star Trek novel. What is up with that?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Arr, This Be Revision, Mateys.


Revision
Originally uploaded by Aquafortis.

Yes, there is a reason why I said that like a pirate.

Anyway, here is the long-promised photo of the drastic revisions I did on my story a couple of weeks ago.


On a totally separate and bummer note, have you ever noticed how, if you spend your day doing something utterly pointless--even if it's for money--everything else you do also seems utterly pointless? Maybe that's just me. Or it could be the brand-new novel rejection talking. At least this one was personalized (Insert best Arnold impersonation here--"Rejection: This time it's personal.").


Monday, September 12, 2005

Funny Flashbacks

God damn, did I used to write some humorous humor columns. (Be sure to click both of those links. Apparently I was on a roll that day.)

Unfortunately, very little of what I wrote is in good enough taste to serve as a writing sample for something aimed at 12- and 13-year-old boys. Well, really, it was aimed at those boys, and the ten-year age span above that, but I'm not sure it's a very professional example of my writing. What an enjoyable waste of two years of writing daily.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Very Bad Television

Sometimes I watch craptacular TV shows while, say, washing the dishes. I usually only ever watch each program once or twice, in total desperation for something to entertain me while I engage in mindless drudgery. Tonight's crapfest was MTV's Date My Mom, a show in which one guy goes on dates with three moms and then decides, sight-unseen, which mom's daughter he wants to go out with.

Of course the show was bad. It was too heavily edited and scripted to even be morbidly fascinating. It's too lame to even merit a category on Television Without Pity, though it did spawn a forum. But when I was done watching, it got me thinking that the opposite show could never, ever happen. You would never see Date My Dad. A young 20-something girl going on dates with three dads? Come on. Date My Mom--some might think that was kind of cute. Date My Dad? Some might think it was kind of creepy. What a bizarre double standard, when you really think about it. Why is it less creepy for a middle-aged woman to attempt to win a twenty-something man for her daughter by dating him herself?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Somebody Is My Hero.


Somebody Is My Hero.
Originally uploaded by Aquafortis.
I saw this sign for "Square Dance Lessens" a couple of days ago while driving around town. I noticed the egregious error and commented to Rob how I'd just love to get a big black marker and correct that errant "e." Then, of course, I promptly forgot all about it.

But today when we drove past the sign again, this is what I saw. I kind of want to call whoever did it and tell them how much they rock. It brightened my day, I tell you.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Where the Bloody Marys Are Bad and the Karaoke is Badder

Last night we met a friend for drinks at this place on our side of town that's basically a bar masquerading as a Japanese restaurant. (We have a couple of those in town.) The food--even the sushi--is passable, but chiefly people seem to go there to a) get drunk and b) sing karaoke. Because yes, like many of the otherwise unassuming restaurants in town, Torii has a teeny little stage set up for your craptastic listening pleasure.

And craptastic it was. But let me back up a bit. A few weeks ago, Sam, a colleague of mine from my Welsh language group, was in town for a night. I picked him up from the train station on a Monday evening and conversation eventually rambled to the fact that not a hell of a lot of places are open in Modesto on a weekday night. "But," I said half-jokingly, "I can take you to the steak house with the cowboy karaoke." "Cowboy karaoke?" was his incredulous answer. For he found it difficult to believe that not only did "legitimate" restaurants such as Lyons offer karaoke, but that a large amount of the karaoke done in this town was to country music.

I should have told him that he'd lived in Menlo Park too long. Because, yes--as I'd found on a previous visit to Torii--people like to sing karaoke country songs. But they also like to sing bad 80s music and non-melodic aggro rock, too, the more off-key the better. Which brings me to our latest jaunt into the Modesto karaoke scene.

We'd met Nick there because it was conveniently located on our side of town and also had Japanese food. However, we forgot how likely it would be that we would be unable to hear ourselves think, let alone talk, over the deafeningly bad tunes being belted by the same three people who apparently suffered under the illusion that people wanted to hear them take the stage again and again and again. Oh. My. God. Some people just should not be allowed in front of a microphone. I almost thought about going up there just to clear the air, so to speak, with something sung on-tune for once. But instead, these two young, surely-not-drinking-age inebriated ladies took the stage and screeched out some terrible aggro song with heavy-handed lyrics about death and maiming. They capped it off with an immaturely overenthusiastic flinging of the microphone onto the ground, which earned them a public chastisement by the bartender. Then they left in a huff. A male friend illegally took an open beer bottle outside with him, which was angrily flung to the pavement after the restaurant owner told him he couldn't leave the premises with it.

Naturally, in order to put up with the continuously crappy crooning, I had a drink or two. For some odd reason I had a craving for a spicy bloody mary--I just can't resist that celery stick. But what I received appeared to be a glass of V8 with about a teaspoon of cayenne in it and some vodka. There were other things wrong with it as well:

  1. There was no celery. I really wanted the celery.
  2. There was, however, an olive. I hate olives. Especially the green ones. Guess which color this one was.
  3. There was also a piece of lime. LIME. In a bloody mary. Blech. You can put the lime in the coconut, but you CANNOT and SHOULD NOT put the lime in the V8.
  4. Plus the aforementioned lack of actual bloody mary mix.

So I drank about half of it before I got repulsed and switched to Corona. Now that, children, had a lime in it, and it was good.

Monday, August 29, 2005

This & That

I feel like I've been productive on a lot of mini-projects this week. One notable one is that I've practiced the piano the past four days in a row, after a hiatus of several months of non-practice. This latest hiatus was prefaced by my having the accidental misfortune of being overheard in my ungraceful plonking (that situation also being the first practice after a long hiatus) by a friend of ours who is a music professor. Such ill luck.

My fragile music ego became discouraged at the slightest, most innocent comment about how I should be practicing--I had not set out to be overheard by anyone except Rob, who kindly puts up with my endless repetition of Hanon exercises and classical music he's not particularly fond of in order to hear the piano get some use, with slim hopes that I will one day get enough practice and confidence to play something with him while he accompanies on the electric bass. Anyway, I wasn't in the mood to play anything for a few months after that, but I've been reading An Equal Music by Vikram Seth and it put me in a more musical frame of mind.

What I've found is that practicing for about half an hour in the morning--after breakfast and coffee but before attempting anything productive--is a good way for me to transition from laziness into work mode. And I definitely need to start being in hard-core work mode. This semester I will be: TA/grader for Rob's online Art Appreciation class; continuing my very part-time contract with Riverside School for the Arts; taking a mixed media painting class at the JC; continuing (and hopefully finishing) my document-editing project at the Office of Ed; and, of course, writing as much as possible.

Fortunately, I'm well on the way to finishing the short story revision I've been working on, although I feel like I'm at a sticking point with my current YA novel. In the latest chapter, people got into major arguments and I'm not sure I'm very happy with the way the arguments are written. So now I feel kind of blah about it. But in a day or so I should be capable of forcing myself to plug away at it again.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Revision-phobia

Let me just tell you, I'm a master of procrastination. I'll get to that in a minute.

Last week I got another rejection, but then I got my first non-rejection in a while. I have this story called "The Bad Girl" that I wrote during my first semester at Mills, in Amanda Davis's class, which I revised a bit last summer and was planning to work on some more. But I got impatient and sent it out anyway. I sent it to Catamaran Magazine, a publication for South Asian American writing.

So I got an e-mail last week from one of the editors of Catamaran, saying that they think the writing is good and the character is compelling, but that certain aspects of the story could be developed more. (I agree. But cf. impatience in previous paragraph.) They elaborated on that a bit, and said that if I was willing to revise it "thoroughly" (argh) they would be happy to reconsider it.

This is quite good news, possibly. But this morning, when I turned on my laptop to try to tackle some of those revisions, I became paralyzed by anxiety. Instead of just plowing into it, which is what I have to do, I:

  • watched a couple of episodes of Star Trek
  • drank two cups of coffee
  • washed some dishes
  • sent a fax, which involves lugging the fax machine out of the closet and hooking it up, as well as printing out a cover sheet
  • typed a blog entry.

And now, I'm about to exercise for 30 minutes or so, and after that, I'll take a shower, and probably run a few errands.

Damn. Gotta get out of vacation mode. I'm going to attempt to take this mixed media painting class at MJC starting next week, and my Office of Education Job-That-Won't-Die is soon going to rise from the dead for a while, too. Not to mention my freelance research job starting up again for six months. Good thing I got that novel proposal sent out again before all that stuff happens.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Oh, Man.

I wasn't going to post anything until tomorrow, but I've just been sitting here in the middle of the night laughing my ass off because of this.

Actually, I wrote about this site ages ago for IGN For Men, but hadn't visited lately. It's only gotten better with age--whereas that article I just linked to hasn't, so attention inquisitive writing bigwigs, don't take it as a definitive sample! Hell, half the time I was a humor columnist there I was writing about absolutely nothing. But hey, it was fun.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Wonder of Wonders - I Updated My Website

Okay. So my website has been updated with the saddest of single little paragraphs, but hey, I've been meaning to do it for probably over a year now.

The really sad thing is, I kind of want to re-do our whole website. The web copy is lackluster and it's about time I update to XHTML. Uh, yeah, I'll be getting right on that...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I Just Keep Tryin'...

After receiving yet another rejection the other day (for an article I've been trying to get published for over a year now) and waking up this morning to find the coffee maker teeming with ants (which was lovely), I am now in just a fabulous mood to finish the chapter I'm supposed to turn in to my writing group today.

Where do all these ants come from? You would think that the fact they are getting massacred in their thousands several times daily would discourage them from ever leaving their sanctum deep, deep inside the walls of our house. But no.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

COPS Modesto!


PICT0353
Originally uploaded by Aquafortis.

So, yesterday I heard something outside while I was working at the computer. I looked out the window and there were all these police cars outside a house at the end of our block. Naturally, I went outside to gawk.


What I saw was about 8 police cars, and about 15 officers, pulled up in front of this house which always seemed a tad scummy to me (plastic patio furniture on front porch, white boys blaring the occasional gangsta rap, guys wearing wife-beaters, etc.). Two of the cars were Probation Office vehicles and one was an undercover cop car. A few of the officers were kicking and hammering in the side fence of the house until they could get into the backyard.


About ten of the officers were standing around this guy who was cuffed and kneeling on the ground and apparently spazzing out in some way. Brandon (punk kid next door) and I speculated that drugs and/or alcohol were involved, and that the reason the cops kept hosing him off was to try to sober him up. Meeker (our neighbor from around the corner) provided a credible alternate suggestion, which is that they may have pepper-sprayed the guy and were trying to hose off the pepper spray.


Anyway, this scene went on for several minutes, with the police trying to get some sense out of the guy (or so I assumed; I could not actually hear the conversation from across the street, nor was I willing to go any closer). Then they searched his pockets and confiscated some small objects. (Again, Brandon and I figured, drugs.) At some point, an obese woman with pasty skin and long, black, permed hair pulled up in a car and walked over there and was giving the cops a piece of her mind (girlfriend? sister?). Eventually, they took him away in a police car. All the other cop cars left, and so did the angry large woman (which was a relief as her car was directly blocking our next-door-neighbor's driveway). Shortly afterward, all of us gawking neighbors also left.


But today, just minutes ago, I saw a City of Modesto truck siphoning something out of the sewer in front of that same house. Coinky-dink? Rob thinks maybe it was a meth lab--meth labs are a problem in this region. But then, he pointed out, there would probably have been HazMat trucks, too. So we don't know if the sewer truck is even related to what happened yesterday. But yesterday's action was exciting enough for me to bust out my camera and try to zoom in through my window. I did not feel comfortable bringing the camera outside where the police could observe me being a goober. So the photo quality's not great, but you can kind of see shit going down.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Back, but not Back in Black.

No AC/DC for you.

Anyway, I just got back into town from Ohio, and boy, is my brain tired. After making valiant attempts to hold coherent conversations in Welsh all week, I seem to be incapable of doing much more than sleeping and sitting on the couch. This could also be because, the last two nights of the conference, I spent just as much time drinking beer as sleeping. Of course, I was drinking really, really slowly.

Anyway, it was a fun time. Beer is very cheap in rural Ohio. (Can you believe $1.50 for bottled domestic and $2.50 for bottled imported? And Killian's counts as domestic! Yeah!) Plus, I found out what will be keeping me busy all next year. That's right; guess whose bright idea it was to try to organize a California course?

Hopefully the weather won't be anything like what it's been this week, which, judging from today, has been hot as hell. I have to say, though, 105-degree-weather and all, I'm glad to be back.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Babies on the Bookshelf

Remember that baby name project I worked on last summer? Probably not, but the book I helped do fact-checking and internet research for is now out, and it's called The Perfect Baby Name. I got my free copy this week and it's much cooler than I expected--that's always a good thing. Here are some of the resources I helped compile. And if you buy the book, look in the first paragraph of the acknowledgements, 'cuz I'll be in there, dammit.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Into the sea, you and me...

I was just watching VH1 Classic's "We Are the 80s" for about ten minutes while doing stuff in the kitchen, and I saw the Cure video for "Love Cats," thus answering the question "Was Robert Smith always that goofy?" Yes, and in fact, more so, because it was the 80s. Now I kind of wish I hadn't seen the video, because I like that song, and now every time I hear it I'll see these images of a young Robert Smith frolicking around with kittens. I also saw the video for INXS's "The One Thing"--full of truly, frighteningly godawful 80s hair. Remember that David Bowie 'do that was somewhere between a pompadour and a mullet?

Anyway. Rob and I have been exceedingly occupied lately. Here's the usual Unordered List O' Crap We Been Doin':

  • Saturday: Went to Vik's Chaat House in Berkeley for lunch, followed by the Renaissance Faire in the afternoon. Chaat lunch was much better than the turkey leg we had at the faire. However, I did drink three beers, so I had a pretty good time.
  • Monday: Went to see the Beck concert in Santa Cruz. It turns out you can get to Santa Cruz from Modesto in two hours if traffic is light and you fear neither death nor speeding tickets.
  • Thursday (i.e., today): Rendered entire Color & Design class speechless with shock when Rob revealed that his wife had been in the class the entire time and was sitting right over there. I was rendered speechless by the fact that nobody guessed or was even suspicious. It just never came up.

So there you have it. Saturday evening I leave for my Welsh course for a week, leaving dry-and-excessively-hot for hot-and-excessively-humid. Perhaps I'll have a chance to post a report.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Forget the Do-Rag...

I found something even more painfully trendoid to add to your wardrobe. This guy who sits at the same table in Rob's Color & Design class had a tattoo magazine with him, because he's designing a tattoo for a friend, and inside this magazine was a most fascinating advertisement. This ad was for sunglasses which attach directly to your eyebrow piercings. (Note goofy drawings if you click on the preceding pdf.)

Of course, the ad we saw had an actual color photograph of said glasses, over which we oohed, ahed, and ugh-ed. I theorized that these would primarily be for fashion purposes. If you actually tried to, say, go jogging in these things, well...I'll just leave that to your imagination. I found the mental image both highly amusing and slightly disturbing.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sportin' a 'Do

So I'm driving to work this morning and I see a guy in a do-rag walking along the sidewalk. At first it looks like your normal do-rag in basic black, but as I cruise past and get a closer glimpse, I'm almost positive that what I'm seeing seems, in fact, to be an elastic do-rag.

An elastic do-rag. This bothers me. It reminds me of those pre-made Saran Wrap container covers with the stretch-to-fit edges. Or a shower cap. I mean, isn't the whole point of the do-rag (besides, possibly, hiding a bad hair day) to make you look cooler via your expert ability to tie a scarf-like object around your head in a particularly tight and tidy fashion? If you're not even really tying it on there, what's the point? It's like the headwear equivalent of a clip-on tie.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ARGH

Busy. All the time. No rest for Sarah. Except for tonight--some enforced rest watching The Royal Tenenbaums is forthcoming.

Now, please excuse me while I go buy an mp3 player (see below).

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Need Audio Help!

The volume control on our aging Sony Discman recently pooped out. It now plays at one volume only--slightly too loud. Therefore, we are finally thinking about jumping into this century in terms of portable audio and buying an mp3 player.

The only restriction is, we'd really like one which we can use to store digital camera photos without having to buy the pricey new iPod Photo. I've noticed that there is a component one can purchase that allows the downloading of photos from a digital camera. Does anybody have experience with such a component? Does anyone have any recommendations with respect to mp3 players which are, preferably, under $200? Any help appreciated. I'm tired of trying to wade through cNET reviews.

To Create or Not To Create...

I am, once again, guilty of failing to blog as often as I would like. Actually, I did do some blogging this weekend, but it was all on my other blogs. I often neglect my Welsh blog, so I posted something there; and both the YA blogs were calling my name. But despite the writing-related blogging, some other creativity-related issues have been nagging at me. Fearing that this line of inquiry would be too much of a downer for the writing blogs, I saved it for aquafortis, which leaves very little territory uncharted. I prefer to post more encouraging things on the writing blogs, like conference musings or book reviews. Benign, happy thoughts.

Anyway, I can't seem to help coming back to a sort of perfectionism issue that I've always struggled with to some degree, both in my visual art and in my writing. I know (firsthand, and not in a good way) how difficult it is to even make a living in a creative career, let alone enjoy more visible forms of success. I see examples of work by successful or no-doubt-soon-to-be-successful writers and artists, and I feel left in the dust. It makes me unbearably depressed about my own work. I decided to take a closer look at this, and I realized that it's because it seems very apparent that in order to succeed in a creative profession you have to be exceptionally good at what you do. The assumption in my head--the thing the evil little voices keep telling me--is that if I can't come up with exceptional work that measures up to or surpasses the successful work I see around me, then I might as well not even bother. It's not worth trying, because my work won't ever be that good. And I'm not satisfied with the idea of my work merely being passable or mediocre.

So I suppose what it comes down to is fear of, and inability to accept, mediocrity. The other thing that's hard for me to accept is that improvement takes time if you're not some kind of prodigy. (To quote Homer Simpson, "30 seconds? But I want it now!") I don't like putting huge amounts of hours into a large project that is ultimately useless because it's "practice." This is a bad thing not to like if you're a creative person. But I am truly, in my soul, appalled at the idea of, say, writing a novel and having it be a "practice novel." Who wants to write a practice novel?

Anyway, I think I'm done ranting about all that now. This was brought on because over the past few days I encountered two examples of creative work--in media I normally enjoy using--done in a far more talented and polished manner than I could ever hope to achieve in a lifetime of practice. This does not bother me when I'm in, like, a museum, or reading my latest choice of library book. But somehow when it encroaches on the everyday world, I am crushed. I contemplate quitting forever and pursuing a more practical career like my dad always told me to.

But then again, who wants to base their life around doing what their parents tell them to?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Bad Sarah! No Bloggie

Just a quick post--cool article about Miyazaki and his new movie (which I can't wait to see), Howl's Moving Castle.

Sorry, I promise I'll post more one of these days. However, I seem to manage to fill every spare second of my day with non-blogging.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Everybody's Workin' for the Weekend

Name that band! Just kidding. Every time I hear that song now, all I can think of is the SNL skit in which Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley were auditioning to be Chippendales dancers.

Yes, I'm loafing at work. Taking a break. I had a hard day yesterday, so I need frequent breaks today. Yesterday I got up at 6:50 a.m., which I dislike, went to work for 4 hours, had lunch, then went to Rob's class and spent 2 and a half hours stippling on part of my design project (only finishing about half of the stipple portion, which forms 1/4 of the actual image area--you can do the math). Then, I went to the chiropractor, where my back popped remarkably little for having been hunched over tiny ink dots all afternoon; then to the grocery store; then home, where I did a few chores before working on my freelance project for four more hours; then I spent two more hours finishing my stipple drawing before finally giving up and going to bed.

That is many, many hours of work. Too many, if you ask me. And now I'm attempting to come up with a tactful way to translate "you lucky bastard" into business-ese for a form letter. That is some serious creative writing. "We congratulate you on your good fortune....this time." Uh, no.

On the other hand, Rob ran across the Mr. Picasso Head website this morning. It's a nice break from stippling, typing, or whatever you happen to be doing.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Rejection Cont'd.

After having a few hours to mull over this latest failure to be published, I've seriously started considering alternate careers. Permanent temp? Dairy milker? I see that one frequently in our newspaper's classified ads--the main requirement being that I must speak English. I think I can do that.

Rejection Blues

Okay. I'm now down to one piece of writing whose fate I'm waiting to hear about from the publishing universe: my article about Shin Yu for Poets & Writers. This means two things: 1) yes, my novel was officially rejected today by the agent from Harvey Klinger, Inc., who said she wasn't enthusiastic enough about it; and 2) I'd better hurry up and send some more writing out again.

If I don't send things out ASAP, and I hear back in the negative from Poets & Writers, then I risk being so down in the dumps that nothing will be sent out for quite some time. And really, that's wasted time. If I'm going to sit around and mope, I might as well still be attempting to get published, since I have nothing to lose but some postage and office supplies which I can later deduct as business expenses. Also, if I'm still waiting to hear back about some piece of writing or another, then I still have a tiny spark of hope. Must...not...succumb...to...discouragement...or...laziness...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Craaaaigslist iiiiiiiiin Spaaaaaace!

I'm not sure I would do a very good job of explaining this, so I'll let you just go to the site yourself to read about job postings being beamed to your friendly neighborhood extraterrestrials. That's right, now you also have to worry about non-earth competition for that plum position.

Friday, May 20, 2005

HA!

The wonderful YA maven TadMack has posted a hilarious new rant on our group blog on young adult literature. Find out about Anne Rice's new foray into the weird and not-so-wonderful.

And, yes, I'm still procrastinating.

Not at Work! Yay!

I actually gave myself the task of researching upcoming writing contest deadlines while sitting here at the computer, but obviously I'm utilizing my skills of procrastination instead. But perhaps I might combine the two and pretend I'm not time-wasting...?

All right. So far, on my spreadsheet tab for Q2 of 2005, I have the upcoming deadlines of Tin House, which already rejected me once a couple of years ago, and the Gettysburg Review, which is currently refusing my internet connection (though that's not as bad as refusing a short story).

I could try the Bridport Prize again, but they rejected my best story last year, so I'm undecided as to whether I ought to send something I'm less confident about just so I can send them something different.

There's Glimmer Train Press, but I think I've been rejected by them no fewer than three times. That tends to discourage a person.

Indiana Review, who I believe I have also unsuccessfully submitted to in the past--let me check--yes, this is true--is having a 500-words-or-less short story contest, but I only have a couple of short-short pieces and they're not what I'd call all that exciting.

There are several awards for unpublished short story collections or collection-length manuscripts, but that would entail me writing about a hundred or so pages worth of new short stories in the next month. That is unlikely.

There's also New Millenium Writings and Red Hen Press, both of which I've considered submitting work to in the past but haven't. Those seem like possibilities.

In other writing news, I haven't heard anything from the literary agent yet about my young adult novel. I'm going to send a friendly reminder letter, though. And I have had a one-sentence review of Shin Yu's poetry book Equivalence accepted to the, uh, One Sentence Review. This is a brand-new lit mag, and I don't even know yet if it's online or print, but it's one teeny-tiny bright spot amidst the rejection.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Refreshingly Snippy

How often do you hear those two words used together? Well, you might find them scootching up to one another in the back of your brain if you take a look at Mean and Catty, Inc., a new blog brought to you by Seren and MeiMei, whom I went to grad school with and who are both extremely cool, funny, and writerly-type peeps. And I don't mean marshmallow peeps. Marshmallows do not in any way come to mind when reading Mean and Catty, Inc., unless perhaps they are directly referenced in the text. No, this blog delivers what it promises, which is "cultural critique with claws." So go check it out!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Argh.

YES, I know, I'm a bad blogger. Good thing I didn't get chosen for that Ultimate Blogger contest (see below--too lazy to create a link).

It's just that I've been so busy, working the same temp job but part-time, and doing my freelance research job, and going to Rob's Color and Design class so I can get back into the habit of doing visual work, and trying to write and get stuff sent out, and getting rejected (this time by the Iowa Awards and Bread Loaf Writers' Confererence). I also applied for a freelance editing job, as if I don't have enough work already. Jeez! So yeah, that's why I haven't been blogging--mainly because of boring crap like needing money and wanting to grow my career.

Monday, May 09, 2005

B-Movie Madness

I've pretty much just been working my butt off lately, hence the lack of posting. Oh, there is some news. Our Geeks Gone Wild crew is starting a new campaign in the Eberron world setting, which will mean nothing to non-gamers and pretty much meant nothing to me until last week. I'll have more on that later. And we got to visit our baby nephew yesterday, who farted big-time while Rob was holding him.

But basically I've been working--at my temp job by day, and at my freelance research job by...well, whenever I can fit it in. Plus I've applied to a couple more random freelance gigs after gleefully finding out that there are now Craigslist websites for both Modesto and Stockton. Not that there's much listed yet, but hey, somebody must have caught my intensely irritated vibes about there being Craigslists for Sacramento, the Bay Area, and Fresno but nothing in between.

Anyway. I have a bit of amusement for you as well today. My ex-IGN.com-colleague Ben has scoured the Internet Wayback Machine and put all of his hilarious B-movie reviews on his website. He used to write a column for IGN Sci-Fi called Movies So Bad You Wouldn't Want to Watch them Sober, which frequently made me laugh my ass off. Just take this small excerpt from his review of Yor, Hunter from the Future:

Imagine if Star Wars and Jurassic Park had a child and you'd have Yor: Hunter from the Future. Wait, that's not quite accurate. Imagine if Star Wars and Jurassic Park were brother and sister, smoked lots of crack, and the resulting monstrously inbred mutant offspring resembled its parents only in the way that all three possess the fundamental properties of mass and volume. THEN you'd have Yor: Hunter from the Future.

For more hilarity, visit the main reviews page.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Oh, Time, I Just Keep Finding New Ways of Eating You Up.

My friend Jaime e-mailed me a link to this contest called The Ultimate Blogger:

The Ultimate Blogger is a 6-week competition between 12 people to be the best blogger in order to win a $500 dollar prize package. Each week consists of two challenges and two eliminations. The person or team that wins the challenge is safe, forcing the other players to vote someone out of the game. The last blogger remaining will be crowned The Ultimate Blogger and win the prize package.

I did put in an application to be one of the 12, as though I don't already have enough blogs, or things to do with my time. I'm sure I don't have a chance against some of the weird, devoted bloggers out there, anyway.

Addendum to Mos Def

I forgot to mention of the most irritating parts of the experience described in the post below. (This is what happens when you're so sick it takes you three days to type out a blog entry.) During the course of our day at Coachella, I also found out that I was allergic to the desert. So, add bazooka-sneezing to the list of things I was doing while waiting in non-moving food lines.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Mos Def Saved My Life

Well, I've been sick for the past two days and have therefore accomplished primarily just sleeping, coughing, sweating profusely, and the like. However, I have also been re-reading the Hitchhiker's Guide books in preparation for the upcoming movie, which I'm very excited about. There are, in my mind, two really good reasons why I want to see this movie, regardless of any areas in which the creators might have erred (Zaphod with only one head and two arms? Hello!).

Firstly, they have cast Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent. You may know him as Tim from the BBC version of The Office. If you enjoyed The Office at all, you'll know why this is a good casting decision.

Secondly--though at first I was surprised to see this--they have cast Mos Def as Ford Prefect. Now, I really like Mos Def and respect his music, so I'll be very interested to see him act. But most of all, I will always hold him in a special place in my heart because, indirectly, his music saved my life.

It was, um, around the year 2000 or so, maybe before. Rob and I had driven down to Southern California to stay with my parents, and then from there we drove with some friends of his deep into the desert to attend the Coachella Music Festival. After spending a long, hot day in the sun, listening to lots of music, good and bad, and becoming very intoxicated--a situation which I will not elaborate on but suffice it to say that Lucy was indeed in the sky with diamonds--we decided we really needed to eat something, and not to be listening to the painfully loud techno music which had recently begun on the main stage.

Unfortunately, there had been some poor planning on the part of the concert venue, which had apparently run out of food and was in the process of getting more delivered. Meanwhile, people were waiting in excruciatingly long food lines at all of the vendors. As we were highly intoxicated and in dire need of food, and the loud, thumping dance music was causing us physical and aural pain, and we were unhappy about waiting in line in close proximity to a bunch of disturbing people who appeared to be even more intoxicated than we were, when Mos Def came onto the side stage nearby it was like a nice, calming raft to cling to in the midst of an ocean of disturbing sensory input. His music was good--excellent, in fact--and made it possible to bear the long wait in line for our salad and garlic fries.

So Mos Def saved the day. Because of this, I am more than willing to give him a chance in portraying Ford Prefect.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Headless Chickens

Yup. I've been so busy that I've been running around like a...you know. Here is a brief list of the some of the things that I have done this week:

  • Watched Rob get awarded tenure. Yay! Tenured before he turns thirty!
  • Made 60+ phone calls (as part of my temp job at the Office of Education). Making calls is possibly my least favorite activity on this earth, as those of you whom I never call are well aware. (You know I still love you, right?)
  • Held my nephew, who did not cry this time.
  • Failed to write.
  • Failed to blog.
  • Let the teenage neighbor kid use our internet connection again. We see this as an insurance policy against getting our house vandalized.
  • Baked snickerdoodles.
  • Killed a cyberzombie. (In the gaming universe, not the real one.)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Missed Call...

Today I was listening to the messages on the answering machine, and in the process of deleting a recorded political ad, the erase button decided to register two taps instead of one. So I accidentally deleted somebody's message. If you happen to be reading this, and you called me today and left a message, and you aren't a prerecorded message machine or Tom D., then you might want to call me again.

I have this horrible fear of somebody really important having called me, like the literary agent (fat chance--it hasn't even been a week since my manuscript arrived) and me never knowing about it. Or a family member or friend who I'm supposed to keep in touch with but who has (unbeknownst to them) fallen prey to my neurotic hatred of making phone calls.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Just Workin'

Aside from a rather strange and relaxing weekend-like interlude yesterday, it seems like every waking minute has been crammed for the past several days. If it's not one thing, it's another. Even my leisure activities seem like work. For example, this past weekend was a veritable sports-stravaganza. We went to an Earthquakes soccer game on Saturday evening (Earthquakes tie...), and then on Sunday midday we drove to Sacramento for a Kings game (Kings lose...).

Then Monday I can't remember what I did. I think I may have done about a month's worth of shopping at Costco and then I went to the library for a refill of YA books. Yeah, that's it. And four loads of laundry. And some dishes. Tuesday we visited Rob's sister and baby Miles for a while and brought them some food which I spent Tuesday a.m. making, and then went out for dinner with Rob's parents and watched a basketball game with them on TV. That was the strangely weekend-like part. Got home around tennish and then watched some more TV for a while before going to bed and then getting up at 6:50 am for a new temp job which started today. Back at the Office of Education. About five days in a row at first, doing data entry and making graphs, and then intermittent minute-taking on scattered days between now and June. It's the intermittent part I'm looking forward to.

As for tonight...interviewing the artist that collaborated with my friend Shin Yu on her new, forthcoming book of poems. I'm trying to totally revamp the article so I can re-submit it to Poets & Writers. I will get an article...or short story...or something--ANYTHING--published someday, dammit; I will!

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Some Random Insect-Related Thoughts

Tuesday I went out running with Rob and we talked about how we used to see lots of monarch butterflies during migration season when we were kids: you'd see clouds of them in the air during spring in California. Not super-dense clouds, admittedly, but you would see several at a time fluttering along in neighborhoods and parks alike. In recent years, though, we haven't seen nearly as many. Rob noted that a few years ago there was a difficult, very cold winter that killed a lot of the butterflies, even in dedicated butterfly roosting areas like the one atNatural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz.

This spring, though, it seems they are slowly making a comeback. Since having that conversation on Tuesday (prompted by a sighting of a single butterfly), I've seen monarchs here and there--not in huge amounts, and none of them very large, but they've been noticeable. There are apparently a lot of places around the Bay Area where you can go see butterflies, but I'm just happy to notice that they're coming around again, and that I don't have to go anywhere special to see them. No doubt the butterfly conservationists are happy, too.

I've also been seeing clouds of some other mystery bug--this one not so pretty--in our backyard in recent weeks. They were swarming in the dwarf citrus tree and the crape myrtle tree, and they looked sort of like mosquitoes. But why would mosquitoes swarm in trees? I finally got a closer look and I could tell they weren't mosquitoes, and in fact, they look like some kind of bee or fly with a black/dark brown body. I couldn't really tell what they were, even after looking at many creepy pictures on BugGuide.net (yes, I was obsessing). I think they might be something called a flower fly or Syrphidae, but I'm not positive. I didn't want to get too close in case they did turn out to be bees. This meant that, instead of braving the bug-filled rosemary plant conveniently located in the backyard, I had to buy rosemary at the store. However, I also bought bug spray at the store, so...hopefully this will be a temporary bug issue.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hometown Hijinks

Here's an interesting little piece about Modesto that I found on google while looking for something else.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ups and Downs

Man, am I having a schizophrenic week. I got all those rejections (see below) but I just got an e-mail back from the literary agent I queried yesterday...and she said to send the whole novel. So I guess I'll be back in Anticipation-Land for a while. Not too bad a place to be. It's better than Rejection City, which is dismal and huffy.

Oh, how sickeningly perfect. The sun just came out from behind the clouds and is casting a bright ray across my keyboard. I'm not kidding. It was cloudy and drizzly all day before this, a tiny relapse into winter before the extended rehab program of spring. Or something.

Yahoo!

It's just one big rejection party over here. I got my third rejection letter in three days today. This time it was (finally) the Modesto Bee, which has graduated from the list of People Who Are Currently Snubbing Me to the much longer list of People Who Have Rejected Me. No Community Column for me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

If At First You Don't Succeed

Then you suck, multiple times. Or something.

Anyway, I've just e-mailed a query letter to this agency in order to defer the pain of the rejection I just got for my YA novel. I'm hoping it's a good sign that a) the agent I'm targeting shares my first name (albeit without the all-important "h"), and b) the agency is the same age as I am.

Sigh.

Well, it's been a rejection-filled couple of days. Yesterday I found out that I was not a recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at (boo! go bears!) Stanford. Gave me flashbacks about applying to Printmaking graduate schools, too--tons of applicants for 5 fiction spots and 5 poetry spots.

And just minutes ago I got my manuscript back from Bloomsbury Children's Books with a "Sorry, not quite what we're looking for" note. I know that I ought to write back and ask them for more details, if possible, but I'm feeling too dishearted to do that right now.

Amazing that, for a writer, getting a huge envelope in the mail is BAD news.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bad Movie Update

Okay, I just had to come back and post this. In the horribly sensationalistic movie I'm watching (see below), apparently--oh, horror of horrors--Northern California residents are being evacuted to Fresno.

Also, in one of the movie's fake TV reports, the graphic at the bottom of the screen blithely noted that the president declared "marshal law" (sic) in California. Freakin' fabulous. Somebody ought to go tell my friend Marshall. He'll be pretty pleased about that.

Duck and Cover

I'm taking a break from revising an article I'm planning to pitch (again) to Poets & Writers. So I'm folding laundry and half watching a truly god-awful movie called 10.5 that's being replayed on USA. It's about California suffering a series of horrendous earthquakes that destroy the coast. The movie is about five hours long, I think, and I happened to catch the part where a 9.2 quake hits San Francisco and causes the Golden Gate Bridge to crash into the Bay, proving the plucky scientist lady right and the disbelieving politico wrong.

Anyway, it reminded me of all the times I've been caught in traffic on either the Golden Gate or, more usually, the Bay Bridge, and had to resolutely NOT think about earthquakes, or even natural disasters of a less drastic nature such as slippery sleet or sudden gale-force winds. I did this on a regular basis each business day for about two years; three if you count the year I was going to SFAI. That year, though, I spent a lot of time on Bart and the bus, which present a whole new set of earthquake-related fears. Actually, one time there was a huge power outage in the Bay Area and my Bart train had just gotten into the Montgomery station--the second stop in SF--when the system came to a grinding halt. Boy was I glad I didn't stop UNDER the bay. As it was, there were no buses to be seen by the time I got out, so I hoofed it from Montgomery to the Art Institute in order to make my appointment with my Graduate Tutorial advisor. That wasn't a good day.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

A Blogless Week.

I don't really have any excuses for not blogging this week. My temp job at the Office of Education ended on Wednesday, so in theory I had all these new daylight hours with which to do things like catch up on blogging. But I've been all exhausted for no real reason. Well, we have been stressed out a bit because Rob's sister, who had her baby on Saturday, had some illness problems and then the baby had jaundice.

I probably ought to tell the baby story, huh. I promise there will be no gooshing from my end. He's pretty darn cute for a newborn, but that's probably because I get to hand him back when he starts crying. (Yeah, my maternal instincts are a bit on the low side; what can you do?) Anyway, Rob's sister had a 7lb. 3oz., 20-inch-long baby boy on March 12 at 7:20 pm, named Miles. After going home from the hospital on Sunday, she came down with a 103 fever on Monday and had to return to the hospital, sans baby. As far as we know, it was just a flu--no serious infections--but she had to stay for a couple of days until they were sure. Then the baby had a high bilirubin count--i.e., he had some jaundice--and he had to go back into the hospital for some more tests. Luckily, this was temporary and mom and baby are now home and happy.

We got to see them today for the first time since Sunday. I held Miles. He promptly peed his diaper and then cried. Then, after he was changed, Rob held him and he was a perfect angel. That figures.

Anyway, other than stressing about that, I don't have much of an excuse for not blogging. I've been tired and felt like any extra anything--especially if it could be construed as work or work-like--was just too much to ask. I have saved up a few fun links, though, so check these out:

  • Here's a web art project called Historic Waikiki that has some interesting histories, photos, and anecdotes.
  • Or, if you think you're an expert on classic video games, try the quiz on PBS's Video Game Revolution site. I am not an expert, as it turns out. When you start asking questions about Burger Time, I'm not quite as knowledgeable. However, there are also some interesting articles, if you want to brush up first.
  • Lastly, there are apparently some paranoid folks who think Gmail is too creepy. I am not one of them. Apparently, says the site, "Most writers, even if they are only writing an email message instead of a column in a major newspaper, have more respect for their words than Google does. Don't expect these writers to answer their Gmail."

And that's it for now. Oh, and in light of the whole Michael Jackson thing, we got a little paranoid ourselves and re-named the WritingYA Weblog to Finding Wonderland, instead of Neverland Revisited. Just in case, ya know?

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Kid Time

I have a nephew on the way, soon to be born in Stockton, California. More news later!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Hey! Where'd Ya Go?

I have not been a good blogger lately. I've been suffering from blog inferiority complex, for one thing. There's been a lot in the media lately about blogs and bloggers, and all it did was remind me that I am keeping this blog for no useful purpose whatsoever. Then again, I make no pretenses about being a journalist. Aquafortis is purely for entertainment purposes only. Imbibe at your own risk.

The second reason my blogging has suffered is that new blog I mentioned in the previous posting. At least in theory. Plus I'm trying to put together a sample website so that I can advertise a package web design deal for writers and artists. Man. Getting a business going is hard. It's hard, I tells ya. It's especially hard when you're working 40 hours a week.

Which brings me to the third reason I've been a bad blogger: my new temp job that I promised to tell you about. There's really not much to tell. I'm working in the HR department of the Stanislaus County Office of Education. Amongst my duties is helping with No Child Left Behind paperwork, which is sort of interesting inasmuch as lots of teachers don't meet and are never going to meet the requirements. The really funny part was that I was photocopying special ed teachers' transcripts and something like 80-90% of them went to Chapman University. To me, that seems strange. I hear that they're not so much of a degree mill any more, but I have my doubts. My main doubts here are due to a) that huge number, and b) the fact that they may not have much competition around here to force them to be better (as opposed to the campuses in, say, the Bay Area or SoCal). But anyway. Yeah. I did a lot of filing and copying, but the pay is a little better, the people are nicer, and I feel like I'm doing something socially productive and worthwhile even though I think No Child Left Behind is crap on a cracker.