I got a Diana camera for Christmas, but every time I take a picture with it, I have an image in my mind of someone flushing dollar coins down the toilet, so I haven’t used it very much. The dollar coins are the new ones, with one of the presidents on. When’s the last time you saw a dollar coin with Sacajawea? I wouldn’t flush one of those down the toilet. I might take a picture with my Diana camera, though.
Today P and I went to Ikea. There’s only one rule of Ikea, and that is never, ever go on a weekend. That place is panic attack city and I’m always surprised they don’t have a little nurse’s office where you can go lie down in the dark for a minute and wait for someone to call your mother. No, instead you have to spend the entire trip like a salmon swimming upstream. God help you if you want to actually look at something. If you get out of the river, you might as well just climb up on one of the beds and hope your companions see you on the next swing around.
Weekday Ikea trips might have been like twelve percent of the reason we moved to a suburb northwest of the city.
Also, because I’m awesome, I just discovered this great iPhone app called Hipstamatic, which lets you take pictures that look like they were taken with lomographic (is that even a word?) camera. Like the Diana. See where I’m going here?
We make our own fun.
*Until like, five years ago I honestly thought the word segue was just short for segueway. Like, everyone shortened it! It was an acceptable substitute! So writing it now still seems weird. Don’t you judge me.
School started again last week and, oddly enough, I was really ready. As I walked up Michigan Avenue to the building where the Fiction Department is located, I felt less apprehensive than I usually feel when I start new classes. Instead, I was, dare I say, actually excited, face-melting cold notwithstanding. I feel like I’m finally getting on my feet in this program.
The irony is not lost on me that it’s my second-to-last semester.
(Seriously, it’s cold. Who thought that building a city on the banks of what I’m told is a REALLY BIG lake was a good idea? I’m not from here! I don’t know how winter works!)
I’m really looking forward to doing the steeplechase again. The steeplechase is a twelve-step exercise, performed in the Advanced Fiction workshop, that aims to stretch a story in many different directions: point-of-view, form, etc. Since I write novels that generally have a first-person or close third-person point-of-view, this exercise doesn’t give me a lot of material that I can use, flat-out, in my stories, but last semester I figured out that it’s completely excellent for building novel backstory. It’s a love it or hate it kind of exercise, but I know I’m taking the steeplechase with me after I leave the Fiction Writing program.
My elective course this time around is called Small Press Publishing and, I swear, I could not be more thrilled that I decided to take it. It’s essentially an independent project course — at the end I’ll have a book, magazine, zine, or website that I created on my own. The teacher is a guy who runs a small press himself, and I’m hoping to learn a lot about the business end of small presses.
Combine this with a sekrit project that I’m working on, and I’m feeling pretty good overall about this semester. Someone remind me of this when I’m mired in despair in about ten weeks, okay? Tell me that, for once, I felt content. Maybe this time it will stick.
for my break from school. Really, I did. I was going to write five pages a day and clean my basement and get a proper sleep schedule and and and…
I can’t help myself.
I looooove watching food/cooking shows. P and I are Top Chef devotees, and now that it’s off the air we had to fill the time somehow. Food Network and BBC America stepped, ably, into the breach. I think I watched ten episodes of Chopped this weekend. I’m also smitten with one Gordon Ramsay and his nightmarish kitchen beat-downs. Imagine my delight when I realized that I could record the British version, too! How I’m entertained when I google a restaurant after it’s been on the show and see that it’s closed. How I’m reminded to cook at home when he sticks his hand into a box of rotten tomatoes and pulls them out, speared on his fingertips like olives. I love when he sneaks outside to bounce on his heels and predict that the restaurant will fall apart if the snotty executive chef doesn’t get his act together. Then, miraculously, everything turns out awesome. A restaurant in the American hinterlands has been taught the valuable lesson: people want to eat fresh food.
I like reality TV drama, maybe especially when it’s staged.
The thing is, though, I’d never eat ninety-five percent of what the contestants cooked. I have some food, shall we say… intolerances, true, but the heart of the matter is that I’m an incredibly picky eater. It’s easier to make a list of what I will eat than what I won’t. Last night, I ate the dinner of a four-year-old: chicken nuggets, cut-up bell pepper, slices of cava cava orange. I did this while watching people make dessert out of grits.
I have grits in my kitchen. They’re to kill fire ants.
P swears if a real chef ever cooked for him, he’d eat everything on his plate, and maybe that’s true. I wouldn’t know, because I’d be at home watching America’s Test Kitchen, eating a bowl of dry cereal. I don’t drink milk, either.
Last semester, in my Censorship class, we were talking about process. We do that a lot, actually, in the Story Workshop program, but this time my teacher asked us what we could do to actively change our process.
It sounds silly, I know, but I was kind of dumbfounded. You mean, I can just… change it? I don’t have to stumble upon the one true way for me to write, which incidentally only works for me so no one can give me any advice? Beyond butt in chair, I mean, which from what I understand is the only thing we all have in common. I don’t have to flap about and angst about it anymore? I have agency?
My process and I have been getting along a lot better lately. I’ve decided on a daily page goal and I’m drafting again, which feels really good. Like Keenan, I’m (hopefully) going to be done with the Fiction Writing program soon and all of my lovely weekly deadlines will be out the window. I have to figure out now a way to be productive so that I don’t lose all this momentum.
So have you ever actively changed your process? Have you added or thrown something out? What makes you productive?
I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. My birthday is January first and I’m not keen on spending the day thinking about all the ways I’m an awful person and how to change immediately. I’d prefer my birthday to include opening presents, taking naps, and eating a lot of cake instead. That is also how I would describe Saturdays.
As I’ve mentioned here before, though, this year I’m turning thirty. Listen, I know I should stop whining about it. My older friends have done everything from tell me I’m being a jerk to threatening to squirt me with mustard if I didn’t stop squawking. The way I see it, though, I only have a few hours left. After that, I’ll be too busy being thirty to worry about it anymore.
I was going to do this decade round up thing, where I talked about how different I am since the day I turned twenty — Chicago, seriously? And married? Would not have guessed — and how I am trying to be a more proactive person rather than reactive and I think organizing my stuff might actually be fun! and blah blah boring blah. Instead, here are the things that I know, as an almost thirty-year-old.
Creativity is multiplicative. The more you work, the more you get out of it. You’re never going to run out of ideas.
Creative anxiety never goes away. The trick is learning to work around it, not giving in to it.
The internet was actually invented for the disbursement of cat pictures.
It’s never too late for a fresh start.
And finally, from my patron saint, Kurt Vonnegut: There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.
Now I’m going to spend the day with P, eating delicious Middle Eastern food (another new thing I got this decade) and listening to The Postal Service, which is my favorite record of the last ten years. Later today, I have the promise of an adventure. Tomorrow I will have my traditional birthday dinner with my family — chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, black eyed peas (for luck!) and the fried okra my mom is trying to track down.
There will be presents and cake and it isn’t even Saturday.
I am so blessed. Happy new year.
I’ve had trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year. I finished class a week ago and I’ve been more than a little melancholy about it. I’m always so relieved at the end of a semester, of course. But all of my classes, especially the workshops, turn into little ad hoc communities and it’s sad to know that I won’t work with those people, in that configuration, again. Add to that the fact that, when I came up for air, I’d done absolutely no shopping and that I was in the middle of reading that Columbine book (totally recommended but totally heartbreaking, by the way,) I was the least Christmassy person in any given room.
Oh, also, I’m turning thirty in a little over a week and while I’m actively NOT THINKING ABOUT IT, it’s always floating in the back of my mind.
But tonight’s different. The snow started in earnest just about the time P came to pick me up from work this afternoon. We were able to make a grocery run together, to pick up the ingredients for our Christmas morning dinner and for some other last minute things, dodging harried parents and other cranky shoppers in that crowded supermarket dance. I took a nap when I got home, falling asleep to the sound of ice clacking against my windows, snug and warm in my bed. Now we’re watching The Wizard of Oz, which I tivo’d a few months ago and saved for an occasion like this and which P has never seen. (I know!) I’m wrapping presents and they’ve just reached the poppy fields. My annual Chex Mix is in the oven. My yard has turned into an icy wonderland.
And I’m thinking maybe I could do this holiday spirit thing after all.
Hope you have a lovely time, whatever you celebrate.
Also, Chicago folks. If you're looking for a place to get fun handmade gifts, think about going to the Shop Columbia store. It's at 623 S Wabash and everything there is made by Columbia students. It reminded me a lot of I Like You in Minneapolis, actually. Lots of photos, handmade cards, jewelry. The hours are completely stupid -- 11-5 most days -- but if you're in the South Loop anyway, it's worth checking out. I'd never been before because of the dumb hours but I was down there early for an appointment before class Wednesday and got to take a look.
So I’m trying (again!) to take a photo every day for a year. I’ve tried twice before, but managed to miss a day a couple of months in. (Oh hai I am a perfectionist.) I have a better system this time — shiny iPhone with camera and also handy alarm that says TAKE A PICTURE at 10.30 every night as a reminder — so I feel better about my chances of finishing.
Over the last month, I’ve had time to think about precisely WHY I’m doing this project. It’s not to be a better photographer, beyond incidental improvements. I take a decent enough snapshot but I’m not interested in fiddly technical bits, though if someone wanted to give me a digital SLR I’d be willing to learn. The iPhone camera has enough quality for me, even if I do pull out my point-and-shoot once in a while.
It comes down to two things, I think. First, I want to gain some creative discipline. I know that interesting things happen when I try to create something every single day — I think it’s some vestige of the Julia Cameron fangirl in me. Plus, I want to document this year. Starting in October. No, I don’t know why. Maybe that crazy back brain of mine knows something I don’t.
The pictures I’ve posted above are the ones I like best so far. Here’s the entire set. If you’re the feed reader type, here’s the RSS feed. Or you can follow me on Twitter, where an automagic tweet appears every time I post a picture.
I still haven’t heard back from Amazon after sending them this awesome letter last week. So boo on them.
However, while waiting, I decided to do a little sleuthing. I searched for the name of the press that put out the book in the first place. After a couple of missteps (”Did you put out an edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover last year?” “This is a doctor’s office.” “So that’s a no?”) I tracked down the publisher and sent him a message. He, in turn, read my blog post and got back to me as soon as possible to let me know that any omissions from the book were accidental and that he was going to print a new, corrected edition and would send me a copy when that was done. I’m quite happy with the result.
I’m not mentioning the publisher’s name because I honestly believe that it was a mistake and I’m not interested in making a further big deal out of what happened. Which means that whoever is ignoring my letter at Amazon dodged a bullet today. A mildly snarky bullet.
Dear Amazon Customer Service,
First, just want to say, love you guys. I bought myself an Amazon Prime membership for my birthday this year and it’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever done for my wallet. I added the Amazon iPhone app and boom! It’s UPS delivery city over here. Not that I’m complaining, but I will say my husband has begun to look very concerned every time I bring another little something inside that eats up our precious bookshelf space.
Anyway, so I’m a student in the Fiction Writing department at Columbia College Chicago, and this semester I’m taking a class about censorship. (Remember this — it will be important later.) My list of required texts included Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by DH Lawrence. Makes sense, right? Lady Chatterley is a book that’s almost iconic for being censored. So I hopped online and ordered the book. Why should I bother walking all the way next door to the school bookstore when I had AMAZON PRIME? I made a pretty big order of books and waited the two long days it took for the books to arrive.
Then I waited for the day to read Lady Chatterley in class. (As part of the Fiction Writing program, we do a lot of in-class reading aloud.) Today was finally that day. Before class, my classmate and I bonded over having the same copy of the book — you can see the cover on the link here. Even our teacher pointed out that the girl on the cover looks a little young. Ha ha, we all said, that is a little creepy. Then we proceeded to read a chapter of the book.
I’m not going to lie — it was a pretty racy chapter. And at the end, there’s a little bit of an extended discourse using, well, the C word. (I’d type it out, but I don’t want to offend anyone. Turns out in a censorship class you use words like that a lot, and it doesn’t bother me to use it anymore, but I trust you know the word I’m talking about.) I didn’t quite remember that bit from when I read the book at home, but I figured that maybe I’d just forgotten, or skimmed over it. My classmate is smarter than I am, though — she looked back in her copy, identical to mine, and saw something horrible.
The discourse on the C word? Totally missing from our copies.
The book I ordered for censorship class has been, in fact, censored.
It’s really funny, in a way. It’s also unfortunate, because I have no idea what else might have been missing from my copy. I was going to be able to check Lady Chatterley off the list of Great Books I’ve read, but I can’t count it now! There might be entire subplots missing!
I checked the product page, wondering if I missed a note about it being an abridged version or something, but no. It’s just the first version of the book that comes up when searching.
So, I’d like to arrange a trade. I want a non-bowderlerized version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (for my CENSORSHIP class!) and in return you can have this one back. It’s not in perfect condition — I’ve read it, but I do take good care of my books. No writing or anything.
What can I do to make this happen?
Totally loyal customer