Friday, August 26, 2011

Costumes and a Karaoke Man

This past week has been more than a little crazy, and this weekend I'm a bridesmaid for a friend's wedding.  Consequently, not much time for blogging, particularly since my newly rekindled self-discipline requires me to spend my spare time on the novel first, before the blog.  Yesterday, as I had a couple of free hours, this self-discipline led me to pack up my laptop and walk down to the park.  This method has worked very well for me lately.  I give myself a designated amount of time, I get to be outdoors in the sun, barefoot in the grass, and free from distractions.  Sans laundry, sans sewing, sans bills, sans internet access.

Yesterday, however, I realized I had unwittingly picked the one day of the entire summer when KaraokeMan sets up on the park stage.  I don't know his name, or why he does it, or anything else about him except that one day every summer he sets up a karaoke machine and belts out a motley collection of songs in the Chewelah city park.

I went around to the side of the park behind the stage, on the other side of the creek, where the music was not quite so loud, and settled down to write.  Wrote through a selection of ABBA tunes with slowly ebbing enthusiasm, which slowed to a drip as he started in on Whistle While You Work.  Then he started yodeling, and I gave up in despair, shut off my computer, and set out for home again just as he was settling in with Who Wears Short Shorts.

I just realized that I promised more costuming photos some time ago.  Here is one with three of my solo costumes.  Costumes for solos are the most fun, because you don't have to worry about being able to duplicate anything.  I'm in the center, with Lexie and Megan on either side.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Le Corsaire' Pas de Deux

Okay, yes, it's another ballet video. Le Corsaire is one of my favorite ballets. How could it not be, when you get amazing dancing, pirates, evil slave traders, beautiful slave girls, betrayal, abductions, daring rescues... The storyteller in me delights in the wonderful mishmash of plot. On top of that, you get these two dancers. Daniil Simkin is the up-and-coming talent of American Ballet Theatre. I discovered him several years ago and he's splendid in this. Maria Kochetkova is a young principal dancer for San Francisco Ballet. I'm not as familiar with her at this point but she's lovely. They performed this two years ago at a festival in Tokyo. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Returned Sense of Purpose

Returning to real life after the PNWA Conference is always a bit squiffy for me. (Yes, I am aware that "squiffy" is not a word.  But it should be.)  Four days of concentrated writing, the society of other writers, writing workshops, featured speakers on's lovely.  Writers are their own kind of weird, and I think that's the thing that helps me the most every year.  It's a companionable weirdness, a solidarity, and it encourages me that I'm not alone in this obsession with words and stories.  Writers may be famously introverted and depressed, but those things considered they are very encouraging people.  I never feel any sense of competition.  Everybody wants everybody else to succeed, because if they succeed it means you can too.  Also, it's one of very few places where you can mention having arguments with your characters or reading the dictionary for fun without being branded a psycho.

So once again I've returned to the real world, but I hope I've carried a piece of that atmosphere back with me, and through contact with writer friends met there I will keep hold of it throughout the year to come.  The biggest thing I came away with this year was a new sense of determination and discipline in my writing.  This is what I've wanted since I was a little girl.  Only I can make it happen.  Also, in going through old manuscripts the other day I realized that I am currently working on my sixth novel.  What matter that the first four I wouldn't dream of showing to anyone?  Those were practice, and I never have to write that terrible "first novel" again.  Hurrah!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Alice and Humpty Dumpty

As I was packing for the conference this morning, the following segment from Alice Through the Looking Glass popped into my head.  It's always been one of my favorite passages.


'You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,' said Alice. 'Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called "Jabberwocky"?'
'Let's hear it,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'I can explain all the poems that ever were invented — and a good many that haven't been invented just yet.'
This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:
''Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
   And the mome raths outgrabe.
'That's enough to begin with,' Humpty Dumpty interrupted: 'there are plenty of hard words there. "Brillig" means four o'clock in the afternoon — the time when you begin broiling things for dinner.'
'That'll do very well,' said Alice: 'and "slithy"?'
'Well, "slithy" means "lithe and slimy". "Lithe" is the same as "active". You see it's like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.'
'I see it now,' Alice remarked thoughtfully: 'and what are "toves"?'
'Well, "toves" are something like badgers — they're something like lizards — and they're something like corkscrews.'
'They must be very curious-looking creatures.'
'They are that,' said Humpty Dumpty; 'also they make their nests under sun-dials — also they live on cheese.'
'And what's to "gyre" and to "gimble"?'
'To "gyre" is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To "gimble" is to make holes like a gimlet.'
'And "the wabe" is the grass-plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?' said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.
'Of course it is. It's called "wabe" you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it —'
'And a long way beyond it on each side,' Alice added.
'Exactly so. Well then, "mimsy" is "flimsy and miserable" (there's another portmanteau for you). And a "borogove" is a thin shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round — something like a live mop.'
'And then "mome raths"?' said Alice. 'I'm afraid I'm giving you a great deal of trouble.'
'Well, a "rath" is a sort of green pig: but "mome" I'm not certain about. I think it's short for "from home" — meaning that they'd lost their way, you know.'
'And what does "outgrabe" mean?'
'Well, "outgribing" is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you'll hear it done, maybe — down in the wood yonder — and, when you've once heard it, you'll be quite content."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Release, Richard, Rants, and a Feral Ballerina

The album release party was a success.  Everyone enjoyed the music, and we sold a number of cds, perhaps not so many as we hoped, but not so few as we feared either.

As a follow-up to a recent post, I must say that Richard III was quite good, the setting in the 1930s done very well, and Ian McKellen simply perfection as Richard, slimy and charming, wily and paranoid, all at once.  So the woman at the junk store was once again proved wrong, not that I ever listened to her recommendations much anyway.

I leave Thursday morning for my annual writers' conference, and find myself in a state of mingled excitement and worry, as usual.  Excitement because of the cathartic experience of spending four days in the company of fellow writers, concentrating on writing, writing as life rather than an accessory to life.  Worry, because of meeting editors and agents and exposing my writing (and through it, myself) to the scrutiny of others.  These things will always be harrowing experiences I think, no matter how my writing eventually fares, or how much confidence I gain.

The four days of the conference serve another useful (at this point indispensable) purpose as well.  They shall offer me a brief respite from work.  In general it hasn't been too bad.  I've met some lovely people, found an endless new supply of character ideas, and the tips aren't so bad either.  The last two days, however, have worn me down into a fine paste.  There are always days like that, there always will be, at any job.  At the coffeehouse there was the man who invited me out to his "ranch", the one who always asked you to stir his coffee with your little finger "to sweeten it up", the woman who went on a tirade when you ran out of her favorite salad dressing.  At the golf course there is the man who offered to be my sugar daddy, or the one who mocked me as I split up his tab, or the woman who insisted I stop and take her party's order as I was on my way to the kitchen with three water glasses in each hand, menus under one arm, and the ketchup and mustard carousel dangling from my little finger.  Not that my days are made up entirely of these occurrences.  Hardly.  There are generally plenty of good things to balance out the bad.  I don't mind cleaning up after people, really, and I actually quite like waiting on tables.  What I don't like, what makes me see red, is the air of entitlement which so often comes with the aforementioned actions, the attitude that the fact that you are waiting tables and they are not gives them the right to treat you in any way they see fit, to mock, harangue, or hit on you without compunction.  Meanwhile, they expect speed, efficiency, serenity, and grace from you.  Generally I can manage the speed and serenity, if not always the other two.  The last two days I've been slipping.  Four days of rejuvenating literary immersion should be just what I need.

Rant over.  By next Monday morning I will love customer service again, or at least see the amusing side again and dislike it a little less fiercely.

I must conclude this post with a photo of my alter-ego, the Feral Ballerina, from Stephen Pastis' comic strip Pearls Before Swine.