Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dancing My Cares Away

It always amazes me how, even on the worst days, a ballet class can always clear the mind.  The world is chaotic and confusing, the house payment is due, another rejection letter arrived, you're tired, anxious, stressed... and then you go to class.  

It starts with the simplest of movements, basic bending, turning, shaping your body in time with the music, reminding your muscles where they belong, giving both the mind and body a set task to perform.  I find I am never more single-minded than when I am dancing.  Even when I write, there are distractions, thoughts that steal in to rob me of motivation, of confidence, of drive.  Dancing is different.  Thoughts come, but they only drift on the surface.  They don't matter.  They don't linger.  They are petty things.  All that matters is the next jump, the next turn.  Yes, I stumble, fall short.  There is physical pain, there is the effort of reaching for a perfection that is never attained.  But there is also the rush of feeling your body working, of achieving something which, though not perfection, is more than you attained before.  There is the exultation you feel at the height of a jump, when, for just a moment, you feel like you can fly.  And, best of all, when you perform, there is that second of silence.  The dance has ended, the music stopped, and there is just a breath of silence before the applause begins.  That is best of all.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Today, as an after-Christmas treat, I have fled Chewelah in favor of the anonymity offered by the local metropolis.  Protected by this anonymity, I can write undisturbed for several hours without being distracted either by familiar faces or by the variety of household chores which I ought to be doing.

The setting is important: the Chocolate Apothecary, a coffee shop specializing in gourmet chocolate, where you can find such gems as dark chocolate tiles with sea salt and ginger, or chocolate-covered passion-fruit caramels.  It was here that I discovered the surprisingly delicious paring of dark chocolate with wasabi.  More importantly, it is quiet, with a good variety of background music, a high table in the corner, and cappuccinos offered in real cups to go with the chocolate of your choice.  It is the perfect place to forget about real life and focus on whatever other life you are currently inventing.

I have one hour left on my parking meter.  So back to the novel I go.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

I suspect this will be my last post before Christmas, because I fully intend to be deliciously lazy this weekend.  Making dinner tonight for some of the family, then spending Christmas Eve with Aaron's family and Christmas day with mine.  It's helpful that we live right between the two -- just under half an hour either direction, even in the snow.  By the way, so happy to have a real white Christmas this year, after last year's grey drizzliness.

I have yet to wax very religious or political on this blog, and I don't really intend to start now, at least not from a persuasive point of view, because I am not arrogant enough to suppose that my beliefs and opinions should automatically be foisted off on everyone else.  I think and believe them, obviously, and care very much about them, but I hope I am respectful enough of everyone else to realize that they care very much about what they think and believe as well.  I am also of the opinion that action should come before words.  I have found too many people perfectly willing to try to convince others to become like themselves, when they were about the last people I would wish to become like.  However, in case anyone was wondering... in the instance of faith, I am a Protestant-Catholic morph-child, of both worlds and of neither.  In all honesty, I don't think God cares so much what you call yourself as long as it's really Him you're serving.  (One of my favorite quotes: "Giving God good advice and abusing the devil isn't praying.")  As far as politics are concerned, I am an independent.  Yes, I voted for Obama, knowing he was a man and not a god.  In my opinion, Sarah Palin is an insult to all intelligent women. You won't offend me by wishing me Happy Holidays, if I know you're Jewish I'll say Happy Hanukkah, and I hope you won't be offended with me if I'm uncertain of your beliefs and wish you Merry Christmas out of habit.

In any case, now that that's all been said, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and thanks to everyone who comes back to read this blog even when I go off on tangents.  Cheers!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Finally things are starting to move on the new project.  I always go through a phase after I finish one thing and before I start another, when I start thinking I will never be able to write again.  I should be used to it by now.  I guess it makes sense.  I spent three years with Anna and Perry, the Bertrams and the Beauforts, learning their stories and figuring out how to tell them.  Now I have to get to know a whole new set of characters.  I finally feel like I had a breakthrough last night though.  I was about to drift off to sleep when it came.  ALWAYS keep scraps of paper and an assortment of pens on the nightstand.

Now I think I can make some headway, and it's all thanks to Jenny.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Life as a Novel

I like to think of life as a novel.  You write it, in a way, as you would a novel.  It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It's full of wacky characters, some of whom are so unique that if you wrote them into actual fiction no one would find them believable.  You choose whether to be the protagonist of your own life, or to stand by as a supplementary character while somebody else commands the stage and directs the course of the story.  You can be the hero or the villain, or merely a sidekick or flunky.  You may create an outline, but more often than not, the plot changes as the characters grow and change.  (At least, this regularly happens to me.  I do know some people who keep strictly to their outlines, but my characters nearly always change their minds about what they want to do at the last moment without consulting me.  And they are generally right.)

As in a novel, there are things that might happen, things that perhaps should have happened, things that you regret, but the trick is to make what does happen the best, the most satisfying it can be, even if, or especially if, it pulls at the heartstrings a little.

Most importantly, I think, you choose how the novel is written.  The same basic plot can be interpreted in so many different way.  It is because of the genius of Charles Dickens that the end of A Tale of Two Cities is a triumphant one.  Had he written it differently but kept the basic story the same, Sidney's death could have been a pointless thing, one more pointless tragedy in a particularly messy time in human history.  As it is, it is one of the most triumphant moments in literature, which actually makes it more heartbreaking.

Just a thought.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) - Philippe Rombi - I'm Dreaming of Home

A beautiful song from my favorite Christmas film, Joyeux Noel, based on the true stories of soldiers on the Western front who laid down arms on Christmas Eve, 1914. Definitely the most human film I've seen. Watch it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I just realized that I used "actually" three times in one paragraph in my last post.  I must blame this tragic redundancy on the fact that I was in a great hurry yesterday.  Beyond that I have no excuse.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reanimated Rags

 So, my latest notion is the reinvention of secondhand clothing, which is actually getting some fairly decent feedback, and I actually sold a jacket today to someone who thought I should have charged more than twenty dollars for it, which was pretty sweet.  My biggest fear was that people would look at them and think, "Old clothes, why?" but people actually seemed to like them.  I'm calling them "Reanimated Rags" because that's what they are... also because I have a thing for alliteration.  The next step will be to put some up on Etsy, or at least I think that's where I'm going with it.  I'd like to put up some of the ballet costumes I've been working on too, but we'll see.  It seems arrogant in a way, because I'm really an amateur when it comes to sewing, but I am decently creative and people seem to like what I come up with, so... why not?
The jacket that sold.  It was a great color and fabric, but kind of frumpy with shoulder pads.  I ripped out the shoulder pads and cut big gashes in it which I filled with pink satin from an atrocious pare of pajamas.
This one I actually made in its entirety, so it's not really a rag.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Another Day, Another Rejection Letter

When my sister was little, I remember my dad telling her that she couldn't call herself a real horsewoman until she had fallen off at least thirteen times.  She, therefore, began to keep a running total until one day she proudly announced that she had had her thirteenth fall and was now a real horsewoman.

I guess I've always thought of rejection letters the same way, that maybe there's some magic number, only I don't know what it is.  This attitude saved me from a great deal of distress when I started submitting my childish manuscripts to editors and agents at the age of twelve, but is a little less comforting now than it was.  Of course, a great deal depends on the style of the rejection.  Of course form rejections are the worst, but there are nice form rejections that try to say, "we don't think it's for us, but maybe someone else will like it" and  then there are the ones that just seem to say (in a polite way) "we just don't like it and you should give up now".  Luckily, the one I got today was one of the former.  Very nice without sugar-coating anything, which I also can't stand.

The worst rejection letter I ever received was in the check-box format.  There was a list of reasons why they might not like a manuscript (not right for the list, badly written, spelling mistakes, etc.) with little boxes next to them.  No signature, nothing.  At least I didn't get the "badly written" box.

So thank-you to the agent who sent today's rejection, for being kind.  Also for being fairly prompt and not leaving me on tenterhooks for months.  I really do appreciate it.  Now on to that magic number.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Inconvenienced by an All-Too-Convenient World

Okay, I'm all for modern conveniences.  Hot water from the tap is a lovely thing, obviously I use the internet, and Klondike Bars are wonderful, though I'm not too keen on microwaves, because they make the food taste, well, microwavy.  However, I find that modern conveniences get in my way.  They make things so easy that it seems foolish not to use them, and they're always there, screeching at you with their shrill little voices whenever you're trying to do something the old-fashioned way.  But do they really make things so much easier?  Wouldn't my novel progress faster if I were restricted to pen and paper without the distractions of email, ballet videos on YouTube, and, face it, this blog?  I used to write letters much more often.  I like the feel of real paper, the sound of the pen scratching away, the ink that leaves smudges on my hands (and, inevitably, my face and arms as well).  But email is so fast, so easy.  I also have really dreadful handwriting and email saves my friends the trial of trying to decipher it.  And that quickly I am talked out of writing the real letter in favor of the more convenient option.

I've always rather enjoyed power outages.  It forces one to slow down, to think, to be inventive, to read a book by candle-light.  I remember as a child helping my parents haul water from the well during power outages, or, in the winter, melting snow on the stove to drink.  I have rose-tinted memories of kerosine lamps, of cooking over the wood fire.  Perhaps it wasn't really so wonderful.  Perhaps it was. But it always made me feel empowered, independent, refreshed.  I have known people who actually chose to forego plumbing in favor of a wash-tub in the kitchen and an outhouse.  I am not in favor of such a step.  I am not planning to cast off the shackles of the modern world and retreat to a cave in the hills, at least not at this time.  But I may occasionally shake cream in a jar to make butter, just to prove that I can.  Surely the goal is not to be bound at all, not to modernity, not to the past... to be whole in oneself, with the elements of the world around you only aiding you as they might.