Monthly Archives: August 2012

Broken Rides

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Hello Friends!

Since we last spoke I’ve been struggling to overcome my passive-aggressive mentor-relationship (as I like to call it). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-read her comments on my last annotation packet looking for something, anything to change my pattern of thinking about her. The funny thing I realized is although I’ve changed mentors, and although we haven’t exactly bonded, it may be more of me adapting to change. It is easy when someone nurtures you to want to cling to that person, but in the writing world you have to cut the apron strings and sometimes go to a less nurturing person, or else find a way to nurture your own damn self for change if that is what you need. We all like to have our egos stroked and it feels good to be told you are making progress or are doing something right. The real challenge lies in how you react when the rules change.

I’ve always said I’m good with change, and in some ways I may be, but I’ve always also been very opinionated, and hate to be misinterpreted. Add all this together and I’ve made my own private little storm. Doesn’t it sound silly to be fighting against oneself? It doesn’t make sense to me either. I wasn’t really fond of Business Calculus, but I found a way to come to terms with it so that I could get a good grade. Same principle here. It’s not like I’m going to marry my mentor – we just have to work together. Who knows, maybe down the line we might actually click instead of the immense void I feel right now. The fact is that I have to be open to allow that to happen, and well – I’m working on it.

I’ve been working on the short story my latest mentor requested, because she said my characters in Straitjacket (she also changed my spelling, but I digress) seem to be lacking emotional depth. How odd I thought. I’m so emotional!  I sent her something from a story I’d been working on called In Pieces for feedback. In her defense she said she wasn’t a creative nonfiction expert, and after reading it suggested I draw from some personal experiences (since I obviously have an abundance of them) and transform them into art. Wonderful advice I thought, but I didn’t want to write about what she suggested I pull from. Do you ever get sick of re-living an experience? Instead, as I mentioned previously I’m writing something darker and revamping Three Day’s Grace about a woman contemplating suicide. Hopefully, this time when I’m finished people won’t think it’s all about me and accuse me of planning to off myself. Talk about awkward! I’ve made quite a bit of progress with the story, but my challenge here will be to keep it short and tight, yet still manage emotionally empty the character. I feel like I don’t know her yet, and until I do I can’t feel her pain. Only when I truly know her pain will she come alive. My packet is due for mail-out in the next three days so hopefully I can dig deep between now and then. It doesn’t help that I have to work when I need to be writing.

Those of you who have been along with me on this journey know I’m new to Tennessee, but I may or may not have filled you in on my latest job endeavor.

Have you ever been standing in line at an amusement park, waiting to ride the most popular ride, when all of a sudden the gate closes because the ride is full? Then you have to watch while others enjoy the ride, until your turn comes. It seems like the longest wait in history doesn’t it? There are even times while waiting, that the ride actually breaks down.

That’s what my journey from college graduate to cashierdom feels like. The picture you see above is my dog patiently waiting for me to come home from a long night of cashierdom. Like me, she is weary from standing in line for so long.

I miss the days when we got to spend the entire day together on the patio. She’d stare at the different kind of birds and smell the air, while I attempted to write or revise another chapter. Both of us were living in dreamland then, wishing on stars and living on our hopes. Don’t get me wrong – those were all really cool things, but since neither of us had a trust fund, and my writing wasn’t going to pay the bills, one of us had to get a job – meaning ME.

The road to cashierdom was paved with grandiose (although unrealistic) desires of success and financial stability. One can’t singlehandedly or reasonably hold down a full-time job and pursue a graduate degree in creative writing – at least I can’t.  To those who can – I take my hat off to you!

Don’t get me wrong, cashierdom isn’t what I’d call easy. In fact, it requires a particular state of mind, and an almost otherworldly perspective of one’s situation. In cashierdom one must be cheerful, smile and greet customers (3 out of 5 who are rude) while simultaneously pretending not to attempt to sell them a product or service they didn’t ask for, and disguising the fact that 1) your feet hurt 2) your back hurts 3) it is entirely too damn hot in the store and no, that wasn’t sweat that just dripped from your forehead onto the counter, and 4) the only thing that keeps you sane is you’ve been reciting, “There’s no place like home” “There’s no place like home” between customers.

Cashierdom is a special place, where special people are being held captive, because the economic roller coaster broke down once they paid their fare, and received their college degrees. So the next time you’re in line remember to say things like “please” and “thank you” to the person standing before you. After all – it could be you one day taking his or her place in line.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Home

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I’ve heard it said many times that “Home Is Where The Heart Is”. If that is the case then what tells your heart that it has found the place to call home? Is it familiarity? Friends? A sense of comfort? Possibly it is none of these. I’m asking, because although Tennessee has been nice, I’m not sure it’s home. Lately my heart has been longing for the familiar sights of Texas which is truly all I’ve ever really known.

I must say for a girl who (up until 2010) never set foot out of the state, I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in the past two years. First I drove to Baltimore (for a job interview) and crossed through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, touched Georgia, Tennessee (Knoxville), Virgina, and finally Maryland. The entire trip took five days.

For my first residency to Murray I left Texas, touched Lousiana, drove through Arkansas and Tennessee to get to Kentucky. The trip took three days. On the way back home we drove through Jackson. That’s when I finally saw the apartment I’m now living in.

When I relocated to Jackson it took two days to drive through the upper part of Texas, then through Arkansas to get to Tennessee.

Since 2010 I’ve stayed in at least fifteen different hotels and can honestly say I’m tired of packing, unpacking, and re-packing. Nevertheless, my travels aren’t over and won’t be for quite a while. I have a trip home (Texas) planned for sometime in December, another residency (Kentucky) in January, most likely a conference (Chicago) in March, and fourth residency (Kentucky) probably in July.

I tried to recall how I felt when returning from each of these places in hopes of finding the place I call “home”. Each time I returned to Texas (even though the drive through it was lengthy) I felt a surge of pride seeing those flags, the star and sign. I have relatives in Louisiana that we used to visit as a child, and I can’t say I ever thought twice about any of these things upon returning home.

The return to Tennessee after this past residency was more of a relief to be back in semi-familiar surroundings, because we hadn’t yet had a chance to bond. After all, I’d only been in Tennessee a month and had finally gotten settled before having to leave for residency. Also, the hotel I stayed in during this residency was a complete nightmare, so I couldn’t wait to get back. Since it’s only been four months, Tennessee and I may need more time to bond – or maybe it is something else.

What I’m learning from this traveling experience is that it is not really the place that makes people happy. Sure it is nice to see something beautiful and enjoy the weather, but those things are cosmetic, and only a band-aid placed on an open wound.

When I lived in Texas I longed to travel, to live in colder weather, and to see something new. For some reason I thought if only I got out of Texas, life would be different – somehow better, as if Texas was holding me hostage. I know now it wasn’t, and realize I took what it did have to offer for granted.

Don’t get me wrong, Tennessee is absolutely beautiful. I only wish I had time to take my camera and capture more of it so that I could share.

Still something is missing, but it would be missing if I were in Hawaii, California, Scotland, Europe, Australia, Texas, or any other place on the map.

Home is where we’re at peace, and peace is found within. No matter how many places you visit or how many hotels you stay in will ever change that fact. Once you find peace within – you’ll find your heart, and then you’ll truly be at home. That’s my epiphany.

Are you at home? My challenge to you is to do some soul searching and find out. I’d love to hear what you come up with.

Until we talk again, have a beautiful weekend (no matter where you are), and remember to keep writing!

 

What Doesn’t Kill You

My daughter’s biggest fear upon learning that I’d been accepted into an MFA creative writing program was that I would lose my creativity in the midst of format and rules. I promised her that I would never let that happen, and vowed to be true to myself. My first mentor and I really seemed to click. I recall her saying that she actually “got what I was trying to do” with my story. Those words meant a lot to me, because without having to crawl inside my head she understood what I was trying to convey.

I think that is one of the hardest things about writing, telling the story without actually “telling” the story. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the workshop portion of my first residency, but once I returned home and had a chance to regroup I took what I wanted from the feedback and chucked the rest in an effort to remain true to myself. I realized that not every person will “get” what I write, because people have different likes and tastes. What is hilarious to me may not sit so well with you, and I’m okay with that. I felt I worked hard during my first residency and was pleased when grades came in to find out I earned an “A” for my efforts.

This second time around my grade was not so pleasing. Grades came in and this time I got a “B” for my effort with a different mentor. My first thought was what on earth did I do wrong? Then I began to re-evaluate my presence at the second residency. I was probably more stressed, because of course I had just moved, but otherwise I was the same as last time. The difference was this time I was required to do a lot more reading than last time, and there were also more in-class projects. My grade suffered, because I wasn’t prepared for the change. Next time – I’ll know to prepare for the worst case scenario to be safe.

Also, I don’t feel the bond this time around that I felt with my first mentor. You know how you meet someone and get this feeling that you just don’t click? I feel like my new mentor and I can see each other, but only from a distance.  It seems as if we are miles apart in understanding where the other is coming from. After reviewing her comments from my first annotation packet I know this is true. She doesn’t seem to “get me” which means it’s going to be a rough semester. I’m the kind of person who doesnt’ want to fit into a pretty little box. I’d rather have points and edges sticking out in wild colors. So if I’m a triangle, and my mentor’s a circle now what?

It means I keep writing, and find a way to form an entirely new design from both our shapes (at least for this semester or until I get a new mentor and it changes all over again). By the time I graduate and finish this novel I’ll be an excellent motivational speaker, because I’ve lived “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” a hundred times. It has been said when you face a challenge to remain persistent and keep knocking at the door. That would truly be the polite thing to do in such a case, but sometimes I’d rather just kick the hell out of it until the frame breaks, and go on about my business.

I’m supposed to be working on a short story assignment from a creative nonfiction piece I started.  I warn you now it will be an extremely dark piece (which actually sounds like fun). I will probably post a tidbit of it when I get it back. It’s due at the end of the month. I’d love to hear your feedback on it or anything else I’ve discussed.

Until next time, keep kicking those doors in!