September 22, 2011

Slow Down

Dear Self,

Slow down.  This isn't a school assignment.  You don't get credit for finishing early.   And, try as you might, you won't write a novel in a day. Spend time getting to know the characters.  Day dream.  Rethink the plot.  Revisit the setting until you can taste the salt in the sea.  Learn to show rather than tell.  Re-write the dialogue so that the characters own their own voice.  For all the talk of writing being a marathon, that's not it at all.  It's much more like making love.  Take your time, be a little less selfish and you'll find that the climax will be as powerful as the journey itself.


September 16, 2011

Quinn's Picture

I can still see her in his eyes. When we sit in those chairs, it feels like I should let him be alone. I know if I leave him alone that he will break. Relationships need caring and tending to like old mine shafts. It’s not a clean job at all, and there’s always a chance that it will collapse on you. So I decided to turn my head lamp on and go in. I continue to sit there while he silently weeps off and on, tormented by love lost. The sun is setting. Even I still hold the feelings of hurt and abandonment. Tonight, every time I think about her I cry.

We were both there when she died. He sat next to and held onto his love of 53 years as she slipped away. It was a death that I wouldn’t have wished upon any living being, especially a person that meant so much to me. When the nurse came in and confirmed that she was gone, he kissed her one last time and said goodbye.

These two chairs have been here since the day I was born. They represent relationships. It was the conversational spot for all of us grandchildren. She would grab some oranges off the tree by the house and sit with us in the same spot to talk and watch the sun set. She always had a way of inserting wisdom in a non threatening way. I had no problem sharing my deepest secrets with her while cars drove by and the wind gently blew our hair.

It was there that I told her about the first boy I decided to date. It was there I learned about Jesus. It was there we often laughed for hours about nothing. It was there, that she was no longer.

He still weeps. I place my head on his shoulder, and together, we watch the sun set. He places his old cracked fingers on my hand and squeezes tightly. When a person can’t express something in words, especially love, they squeeze hands. I knew exactly what he meant.

September 15, 2011

Quinn's picture!!!

Remember the old high top chairs out back, our chairs? The ones we took out of my grandpa’s old shed? We put them by the river bend and talked our adolescence away. It’s hard to think that was five years ago, maybe if I had known then what we both know now it could have been different? 

You were my best friend you know? I liked the way all the other girls at school would snicker as I walked past them. I was standing next to you and you wanted me there. You chose me. Of course it wasn’t the same for them as it was for me. I was never in love with you. Had I know then that you felt the opposite…well…well maybe I wouldn’t have let it get to where it went. 

It was after that spring shower, remember? The water had risen in the river; everyone cried it was going to be a one hundred year flood, the worst of its kind. But we didn’t care. All we cared about was that the water was finally high enough that we could dive in without hitting our heads. 

I miss those endless hours of watching your skin glisten as you would call me to jump in after you. I can almost hear it, “Nina, come in! Come on!” We were still innocent then, you know? Like we had everything and wanted nothing. Well not until that night when you wanted to know more. Remember what you asked me?
“Do you wonder if?” you asked your head down avoiding my eyes as your voice began to trail off. We were sitting on the cold ground. Your hands rustled with the weeds while your mind wrestled with your thoughts.
“Do I ever wonder if what?” I replied as I spit the sun flower seeds out of my mouth. The sun was setting and there was a slight breeze that sent a chill through my wet body and caused goose bumps. I had no idea what you were talking about. 

I was a sixteen year old country girl who had been raised by her daddy and brothers.  Men were nothing but best friends and allies to me.  So you can imagine my confusion when you leaned in and kissed me there. On that sacred land, our land, our spot, next to our chairs.
I didn’t pull away. But I didn’t return either. I guess I was old enough to wonder what it all felt like. But looking back I think should have stopped you when you pulled me closer. When your hand began to push against the small of my back and found its way under my shirt. It didn’t even register when you began to lean me back so softly and your grip so strong I didn’t feel the ground moving closer to me.

“I’ve always wanted this with you,” you said. “You whispered it so low and soft that my head felt hazy as a soft sensation shot up my spine. 

I suppose in that moment I wanted it too. 

I can’t remember when or how my clothes came off. But I do remember the softness of your touch, the gentleness in your voice, and love in your actions.  It was the first for us both. 

Standing here now, I see the decaying chairs untouched since that sunset five years ago. I feel the loss in my heart for my friend who will no longer speak to me. Afterwords you were so happy, jubilant even. And me? Well it’s funny how one moment of your life; one choice can throw you into a whirlwind of uncertainty. After that moment I no longer knew who I was. I no longer knew why I felt the way I felt. I know longer knew you.

 I guess all I wanted to do in coming here today was to say, “I’m sorry.”

September 14, 2011

the window and the mirror.

That stainless steel bowl in her hands is starting to bother me. She is stirring something that looks like batter, so I’m sure she’s baking for friends or new neighbors. She presses her ear into the phone and when she laughs, stirs faster. I watch her through the window from my spot outside of the house. This chair under the trees is my sanctuary, away from the world, away from her. I read, hang with the neighbors, be silent, and sit with my dog. Yet, I’m not away really from her at all. I continue to haunt her. She talks on the phone and looks vacantly right at me, but doesn’t acknowledge me. As usual, she is preoccupied by something else – gossip, dishes, a joke, baking, anything really. There was a time where she would wave or smile at me, now it’s the landscape around me she digests. She looks through me, and does not see me.

I stare hard enough to see the flour on her purple apron. She walks away from the window. These small rejections are starting to mount for me, so I try to focus on something else. This land is my retreat. My Dad built this farmhouse for my mom 50 years ago and as the only son, it became mine by default. I didn’t earn it and don’t really know how to take care of it, but it eases my mind in moments like this. The dog pops his head up as a truck slowly approaches. It’s old Cam. He sputters by and holds up a steady calloused hand. I wave back with my pathetic soft hand. The truck gets going as slow as it stopped, but surely it makes its way down the road until it’s a pea on the horizon. I look back at the window and she’s gone. The chair cracks as I stretch out and lean back into the sun. Things sound different out here. I like it. Every noise is dampened, yet magnified by the silence. The dog jumps up at the sound of a faint whistle and darts around the side of the house for a meal. She never forgets to feed him. Or forgets anything really. The chores on this land are enough to keep two people occupied for a lifetime. It overwhelms me every day, but it doesn’t seem to bother her. Suddenly she reappears in the window. On the phone again. My mind begins to sink into darkness, then it strikes me.

I need the window. It’s not a mirror looking back at myself that grows me. It’s a window. It’s separateness that I need. A woman with a force on the earth that I can’t control or manipulate. She is her own beating heart with ambitions and loves different from my own. She needs to bake. The best thing she has to offer me is her strange and complete uniqueness. The tearing and meshing at which we meet in the middle is only a bonus to how extraordinary she is. I sit stunned.

In the midst of cleaning up the kitchen she stops directly in front of the window and looks out. I’m not sure if she is looking at me. I smile and wave to her. She smiles back, disappears momentarily, then reappears in the window with a large smile holding up the cake she just baked. It has my name written on it.

September 13, 2011


I wrote this a while ago, but I think I might keep going with it.

The beast awakens from her slumber.

Deep breathing, and icy cold eyes peeking from the dark, warm cave.
She can hear the other animals frolicking around like it's summer time, but it's not summer time.
They are different breeds, so they naturally don't understand her sleep patterns, but it's ok because she doesn't understand theirs.
She's not looking for change, just acceptance.
Ready to be in quiet. Ready for complete peace, dreaming of the meal she had slaughtered the night before.

But her readiness can not compete with the lively pace at which the earth is spinning today.
At which the excited dogs are singing to each other in their hunger.
She can not escape. She can not communicate. Because they are oblivious.

They remind her continually, "it's day time, it's day time, it's day time."

She knows.

And she's waiting for the sun to go back down. She likes to roam, and to quietly take in the world when the leaves are settled and conflict in the busy lives of the local frogs and rodents has decided to go to bed.
Survival of the fittest at it's prime.
The moon at night is brighter, and her shadow darker.
The anticipation of finding something beautiful in the night never ends, and she always finds something beautiful.
Nature tells her that she's safe, she doesn't have to worry or doubt. She doesn't have to be happy or sad. She doesn't have to be wrong or right. Nervous or confident. In love, or out of love.
Just be.
Just listen.

She returns to her cave in the dawn of her adventures.
There, she lay.
There, she is but a figment of every Morning's imagination.

Quinn's Picture

"You still keep the chairs out there?" she asks me with a tinge of hope.

"It's a memorial."

"I see," she says. But she doesn't. She doesn't see it at all.

"People use the term 'lost' to describe it. He was my closest friend. It was a slow and painful death. I mourned. Lost is a word for car keys and smart phones. I didn't lose anything."

"But I thought you said it wasn't real?"

 "Reality is perception," I hide behind Wittgenstein. Now there's a man who hasn't let me down.

"The relationship seemed so real at one time."

"Tell me about the ritual again," she says. I can tell she wants to save me. Not to earn Jesus points or to feel better about herself. To her, this is all real. She can't fathom the finality of death. She hasn't held onto her son, watching the morphine drip, listening to the beeps and buzzes and machines telling you "he's still alive" when he's already slipping into the oblivion.

"I used to sit at the chair and imagine God was sitting with me. Not behind me or far from me or above me or whatever. Just there. Sitting in that chair. I couldn't pray with my eyes closed. I'd think of the Cubs or my to-do list or snippets of porn. I couldn't keep a prayer journal, either. But I'd sit there in that pre-twilight phase, where the whole world seems magical and the rays of light would fall through the trees and my God, it all seemed so real at that moment. Always. I'd point it out to him, 'Hey Jesus, check out that view,' and I'd imagine him saying, 'Me, too.' And that would be it. I could never sing praise songs. Homoerotic love songs before a really bad PowerPoint slide and untuned clashing guitars. But here it felt real. Always. And then, it just disappeared. Lost. Yeah, maybe that's the right term after all. Lost."

"Can we maybe both sit there?" she awkwardly asks.

I nod my head.

"Sometimes when God feels like a fairy tale, I find that he's hiding inside the people around me," she continues.

"Tell him it's a pretty sick game of hide and seek," I snarl back.

 We sit alone on the chairs, sharing stories of childhood. Brother and sister again.  The light moves into the magical phase and then fades so slowly that I can't pinpoint the moment it's gone. God, I wish the light would last.

"Jess, I didn't step away from the light.  You know that, right?  I just looked up one day and it was gone."

September 10, 2011

this picture.

My uncle owns several acres in Bend, Oregon and about ten years back he built a beautiful country style two story home on the lot. There is a pond, farm animals, a garden, and random pets everywhere-It has the makings of a real country house. Last summer my mom and I decided to take a road trip down the west coast and we made an obligatory one night stop in Bend. I slept in a guest room that was appropriately decorated with quilts, etc. I don’t sleep well away from home and especially in uncomfortable beds, so I was up at dawn. For those who haven’t been to the northwest in the summer, the sun doesn’t set until 10pm every night and it rises really early. I was fortunate to wake up at dawn to get some awesome pictures. I had my old 35mm Minolta (RIP), that took random shots I couldn’t control. This was one of them. The lighting it captured is difficult to describe. To my right is a large pond, about 50 yards behind me is the house and to my left is the “main” road. I was just wandering around the land and stumbled across the two random lawn chairs tucked under some beautiful trees in a quiet part of the land. It was really cold and the sun is the only thing that warms up the northwest. Well, that’s my setup, it’s your turn to write something inspired by this picture.

September 9, 2011

I think I have a novel pent up inside me.

However, haven't had the time to quit life and write like I'd like. 

I see it as the first person narrative of a marriage, wracked (wrecked?) by an affair.  I'm interested in exploring passion and heartache and how those two things so often come hand in hand.  I'd like it to jump through time so that you're reading excerpts of the falling in love process interspersed with pain. Here's a little:

I don’t realize exactly when it happens but I start to see you everywhere.  You are in the books I read, first in the interesting thoughts and phrasings that I know your writer’s mind would connect with.  I resist the urge to email you, chat you, text you, call you constantly with quoted passages.  I buy you a book, the first that makes me think of you so overwhelmingly that I am called by some primal urge to purchase it, wrap it. 

(I put more thought than is reasonable into how to present it to you, settling on the wrapping paper supplied gratis at the bookstore so I don’t seem overwrought but then go and purchase a lovely, thick grosgrain ribbon that I hope effectively communicates both your insistence upon quality and your masculine nature, and also my designer’s mind.)  You seem pleased but you never mention it again and I feel shy and ridiculous for putting myself so far out on a limb of my own construction.  It’s a gesture I don’t repeat, even after we are intimate. 

Then, I see you in the characters that inhabit my fiction. 

Then, you recommend books to me-first you mention then, then you lend me some of your favorite tomes and I am almost unable to crack them for the weightiness I imagine they bring to me.  To us.  I hear your voice when I read them-silly fiction to entertain me, books in religion and philosophy that feel like they’re long lost friends and finally, a book of your favorite poetry.  Your friends are thinkers and writers, too, so you are mentioned here and there in what I read and the first glance of your name transmits a golden hot jolt throughout my veins.  My heart’s thudding returns to normal, but I start devouring the missives with a greater urgency hoping for another interaction with you, as seen by someone else.

September 8, 2011

Finding the Voice

So, I'm trying out four approaches on A Wall for Zombies: 

1. Telling the whole story through the perspective of the dad.

2. Switching between two characters in first person.  This has allowed me to delve deeper into the main character's mind.  However, it's been hard to find two distinct voices.

3. Third person.  This has led me to be a little more detached.  I like the ability to switch scenes more easily and build anticipation.  However, I'm not crazy about the fact that I can't offer any stylized prose and it doesn't always fit with a present tense active voice (which I think is the voice this story needs)

4. Third person with journal entries.  I like the versatility of this, but it feels very cheesy.  Really? Both the father and the son keep journals?  See, it's a bit strange.

I'd love your thoughts on this.

September 7, 2011

Let's talk!

Okay guys, tell me a little about your inspirations to write.
What makes those creative juices flow. What pushes you to put down that remote, turn off that movie, and sit down and just write it out?

For me it's a lot of things. Mostly emotions.
But things that inspire me?
Dr. Mario.

September 6, 2011

scotland 4am.

I know its not much, but this is one of my favorite photos I've taken. This is a writers blog, so forgive me, but I wanted to post this somewhere.