aqua fortis

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Check Me Out

You may have noticed that the blog has a new look. That's what I did most of yesterday instead of, well, possibly more productive work. But I'm happy. I really wanted to make this blog more of a home for my creative burblings as well as occasional random thoughts, so now there's a nifty menu up top where you can check out some artwork posts, some creative (and not-so-creative) writing, or just browse my day-to-day blathering. My sidebar widgets are much improved, though still under construction (gotta revamp my link lists in particular) and I'm ridiculously pleased with the new graphics. I have to give props to the excellent Blogger Templates site and the template that I reconfigured to create this new look--it doesn't look much like the original, but I REALLY needed someone else to put the Blogger code together because I'm sure as hell not going to do it. Tinkering, I can do, and did.

So...enjoy. I'm planning to post a bit more creative work here, show what I'm working on on a day-to-day (or at least week-to-week) basis, and hopefully encourage myself to do more.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Ideas

Yeah, I'm still behind on my promised photo post...I scanned in a few that needed scanning (that's right--in the early 2000s I did not yet own a digital camera) so I'm almost there, I swear. In the meantime, I'm wrestling with a new idea that may or may not be either wise or a good use of my time but nevertheless, it's tugging at me. Ever since writing my first found poem as part of the New Year's Poetry Challenge (a challenge I have yet to complete...) I keep coming back to that form in my mind, especially after Tanita sent me this link. I keep wanting to write more. I'm not even sure I'm doing it "right" or creating anything particularly meaningful, but I've written one other since then and it's fun. It's intriguing, like a word puzzle. A brain puzzle. Finding some hidden meaning in somebody else's writings. I of course wish I'd thought to do what Austin Kleon is doing, but it's a bit late for that.

What I AM thinking about is creating a blog that would be a sort of found poetry experiment, using articles (as I have been) available online. I have minor concerns about legal issues that might arise, though I would hope that providing a link to the articles I use would help to prevent that.

Alternatively, I could just post them here. But this poor blog is already a cluttered mishmash of random crap, so I'm thinking a separate space would be better. Maybe some artwork to go with the poems, from time to time. Not that I have any extra time for extra stuff. It would be an occasional diversion. IF I decide to do it. I get a lot of ideas I don't really have time for...Plus the "what's the point?" monster rather quickly shows up in my head. Of course, the answer is, just for fun. For enjoyment. To see if it leads anywhere interesting. I might just make it a poetry/flash fiction blog in general, so I can keep the formal writing separate from this very casual rambling that I tend to do.

We will see. Or not, as the case may be.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Zeroes in Prose, Part II

I promised youse the rest of my noughties, and here they are in all their prosaic glory. (God, I enjoyed writing that sentence.)

My nephew Miles was born. I started sending out proposals for the novel I'd started writing as part of my graduate thesis. More of my friends started blogging, and I spent a lot of time on the internet looking for jobs on Craigslist, if my blog entries from that year are to be believed. I also started co-blogging with Tanita on what is now Finding Wonderland.

During the year, I tried to juggle temping with getting my own freelance business going. Meanwhile, Rob was awarded tenure at the end of the spring semester. I went to his summer color & design class for fun and a refresher, and also took a mixed media painting class. In the fall, Rob turned thirty. I established contact with my half-sister in Australia—or rather, she found me in the process of looking for her dad, that is, our dad. I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. I got a lot of rejection letters, but on the more encouraging side, I got third place in a short story contest. I also was elected vice-president of the Cymdeithas Madog Board.

Nice new kitchen linoleum was the latest step in our house renovation saga. I started some early forays into the heady world of being paid for my article writing, though I still had to juggle the writing with temping. I also got runner-up in another short story contest, started some (paid) freelance research work and became (unpaid) graphic designer for a local small theater.

Early in the year, I found myself in the awkward position of having to take over a bit earlier than anticipated as Board President. At the same time, I was the main local organizer for bringing a 75-person Welsh course to California in the summer. Unsurprisingly, I started getting hives again due to stress of epic proportions, which only ended after the course did.

In May, we took a trip to China with Rob's uncle and aunt. We got Tivo and celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary (not necessarily in that order). I met some Irish friends when I joined an online Flickr fiction writing group. In the fall, I joined a gym for my physical health and I started seeing Dr. Yoda (not his real name) for my mental health. I participated in the Cybils for the first time, and during National Novel Writing Month, I started writing The Latte Rebellion. I got to be on a local NPR program and talk about it, which was super cool—my first (and only, so far) radio appearance.

I got Adobe Creative Suite. (Yes, this was a major event.) We went to Hawaii's Big Island to visit friends there and enjoy the 70-degree "winter weather." I started cartooning again, for the writing blog this time. I turned thirty, and felt every single one of those years when I enrolled in an indoor soccer class. My second nephew, Avery, was born, and we attended our second summer Pig Roast (which we'd helped organize this time). We started getting our CSA vegetable box. I was a bridesmaid in two different weddings. We got our second cat, Zelda. I got busy with a lot more freelance work, which was gratifying, and did a lot more blogging. I continued as President of the Cymdeithas Madog Board, and then stepped down in the summer. I visited New York for the first time, and Venice, Italy. Our massive household construction project commenced.

Kicked the new year off with a Mars Volta concert in San Francisco. My dad ditched his Quizno's franchise (an ill-advised get-rich-quick-in-semi-retirement scheme), de-stressed considerably, and started coming to terms with my career choice. I took a Spanish class. I started doing a bit more painting again, and then slacked off...again. I did some more freelance work—graphic design, mostly—and got some more writing rejections, as well as a few actual article acceptances. My younger cousin graduated from college, which made me feel old.

Our local soccer team, the San Jose Earthquakes, was reinstated, and we became what my sister would call "soccer tragics." In the summer, we went on a lot of rafting float trips with the boat we'd purchased the prior year. Our college friend Beth got married, and we went to Seattle to attend the wedding. I played Rock Band for the first time, and signed up for Twitter. We drank an inhuman amount of sake in celebration of Obama's presidential victory. The quality of my blog posts improved, though their number drastically decreased. My final blog post of the year said, "I don't want to make any unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky resolutions, like resolving that 2009 is the year that I'm going to land a literary agent and/or a book contract."

I landed a book contract, no thanks to my pessimistic soul. Prior to that, though, I did a huge revision of my novel, followed by my query, tentative interest, and another huge revision. Rob started teaching figure drawing, and I went to his spring semester class so I could get some drawing practice. I also participated in a ten-artist collaborative print project, and wrote my first poem in years. I fought my way out of some major emotional doldrums (a regularly recurring battle for me). Reviewing my blog tells me that I formulated a lot of good intentions which I later forgot about.

I spent most of the summer working my butt off on the post-publisher-interest, pre-novel-acceptance revision—rekindling my confidence that perhaps I was indeed in the right line of work—and on a new freelance article writing job. Rob started his sabbatical for the 09-10 school year. We saw the King Tut exhibition, and saw our friend Jess for the first time in a couple of years. I got the novel acceptance and a contract, and waited on tenterhooks to find out what would happen next. Our transmission in the Honda busted, costing us over 4 grand before we left for Italy and Spain for a month. The Euro also kicked our asses. We came back and had a very modest holiday season, during which I wrote a few more poems.

...And then it was 2010.

Potentially embarrassing photo retrospective to come in a later post.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Interlude: Temp Jobs I Have Known

Any look at the previous decade of my life would not be complete without some small tribute to the many years I spent working as a temporary secretary. This list is by no means comprehensive. Some temp jobs I've had are too boring to relate; others are so forgettable I've, well, forgotten them. But here, in order of most recent (about a year and a half ago) to least recent (circa 1996), are a few gems.

  •   Stanislaus County Office of Education (various jobs)
  •   City of Modesto Wastewater Treatment Plant and Composting Facility (reorganized an entire file system that hadn't been touched since the 1980s)
  •   Front office support at a school for problem students
  •   Frito-Lay (didn't actually happen – I showed up and nobody knew who ordered the temp)
  •   Stuffing envelopes with fliers advertising various strains of bull sperm for artificial insemination
  •   St. Mary's College (Letters & Science Dean's Assistant – pretty posh gig)
  •   Corporate Interior Services (bookkeeping assistant for office furniture supplier)
  •   Roche Molecular Systems (severely underappreciated receptionist)
  •   John Muir Health Network (helping draft medical group contracts)
  •   Aetna U.S. Healthcare (stuffing and labeling envelopes)
  •   Licensing Office, City of Westminster, London (mostly typing letters, scribbled by a boss with abominable handwriting and a tendency to call people "wretched peasants")
  •   Phaidon Press, London (assistant to a high-strung woman, also with execrable handwriting, who was unable to keep a secretary for more than two weeks)

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Zeroes in Prose, Part I

Soon to be followed by the Zeroes in prose, part II, and the Zeroes in pictures. This was an interesting exercise--it's amazing how much you start to forget when you're constantly busy, moving on to the next thing and the next. I feel like I should do this more often, this documentation thing.

I turned 23 years old. Also, Y2K happened and nothing imploded.

We were living in El Cerrito. Rob continued his harrowing grad school experience at the San Francisco Art Institute. I'd been working in San Francisco at, mainly putting together e-mail newsletters about dudely topics like video/PC games, comics, wrestling, and so forth. This was the heyday of the internet boom; there was an IPO party, I got to attend E3, we were encouraged to play video games at work, and I produced immortal gems of quality writing such as this, while still being paid a rather unremarkable salary. It was a perfect distraction from the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life in the immediate term.

Then the internet bubble burst. In the summer, we took a trip to London, Bath, and the South of Wales. When I got back, there'd been layoffs. The company reorganized and I found myself in corporate marketing; instead of a cool nice-guy boss I suddenly had to report to Scary Bitch Woman; and the whole atmosphere changed. I wrote for the site in my spare time, but I realized I'd never be able to make it an official part of my job. But that got me thinking about writing...

An eventful year. During the early part, I hung on at my job as Rob finished grad school. I enrolled in my first fiction writing class, an online workshop at UCLA Extension. I also started writing freelance articles about Welsh language for Suite 101. By March, I couldn't stand to be at my job anymore, and quit a few months earlier than I'd planned. I went back to temping. Then Rob completed his MFA in printmaking and applied to some teaching jobs. We both agreed that if he got a full-time job with benefits, it would be a good time to tie the knot, since I was now without any health insurance. (Yeah, I know, we're incurable romantics...ha.)

One day that summer, when I was working a temp job at St. Mary's College, I got a phone call from Rob. "Will you marry me?" he said. "YOU GOT THE JOB!" I squealed. We got married (some might say "eloped") with one witness at the Marin County Civic Center, a Frank Lloyd Wright building where the movie Gattaca was filmed. Soon after, we moved to Modesto, and Rob started teaching at Modesto Junior College that fall. I did some more temping, and enrolled in another writing class and a lit theory class at Cal State Hayward with the intention of preparing for grad school in creative writing.

The morning of 9/11, we were asleep, in the rental house we'd moved into just a couple months before, until my mother-in-law called and told us to turn on the news.

We rang in the New Year in Paris—a wedding present from my mom—and witnessed the changeover to the Euro in near-frigid temperatures. Rob continued his first year of full-time teaching. I applied to the only two graduate creative writing programs within reasonable driving distance, a calculated risk, and was admitted to Mills College for the fall. I also got braces, using my new and snazzy insurance. In the late spring we went to Japan on a shoestring budget, staying with our friend Beth (who was teaching in Osaka) and visiting Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nara, Kobe, and Tokyo. In the summer, I was elected to the Board of Directors of Cymdeithas Madog. We also went house shopping, hoping to buy before the market really went sky-high. We were fortunate, and we hadn't spent thousands of dollars on a wedding. I had a small inheritance from my grandfather, who'd died in 1997, which was just enough for a down payment. We moved across town, and I started grad school. During finals week of my first semester, I started getting hives.

The full-body hives (plus occasional random facial swelling) lasted six months, cause unknown. My braces came off in May, a couple of months early because I'd been good; not long after, I took a course of steroids, my second semester of grad school ended and my hives went away. The most likely cause seemed to be stress. In the summer, I went to my 10-year high school reunion, where I was inexplicably voted one of the "Least Changed" since high school. We continued never-ending house renovations. I became Board secretary. I kept writing for Suite101 and in the fall, continued grad school. I took classes with YA author Kathryn Reiss, and a group study on crafting graphic novels. I started working on my master's thesis project. I think this was also the year my grandmother died, my mom's mom; we weren't close. The housing market started to really spin out of control.

The first half of the year I was focused on finishing grad school and writing my thesis project. In May, I had a brand-new MFA in Creative Writing and was officially a Master O Fart, as Rob likes to put it. May is also when I started up this blog in rather unspectacular fashion. That summer I joined a writing group with some other recent Mills graduates. Also that summer, Rob and I dusted off our role-playing dice and joined a game with a few other faculty from the Junior College.

There was some minor travel: I went to Ottawa, Canada; we both went to Mexico City and, from there, to Celaya, Guanajuato, for our friend David's wedding; we also drove 11 hours to Seaside, Oregon to reunite with college friends at a beach house. Rob had a solo art show at the MJC gallery. I did some mind-numbing and poorly paid temp work in environments such as the wastewater treatment facility, while stressing about finding a long-term job and trying unsuccessfully to get published. Somehow, George W. Bush got re-elected. I ran a 5K for the first time...and the second time.