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The Phone Call I’m Not Returning

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But first: The phone calls I am making…and you?

Regular readers (and by regular I mean your habitual viewing of this blog, and not your digestive frequencies) know I’ve been avoiding posting many political blurbs for the past several months, a situation that is likely to continue.

However, I will gird my online loins re the latest outrage by the (soon-to-be ex-) #45: the firing of the FBI Director. You know where this is leading. The Cheetos Hitler fires people who look too closely at his dealings.

Folks, the next step is to call [1] your representatives and demand the appointment of an independent special prosecutor if you’re concerned about a thorough and accurate investigation (then keep those numbers on speed dial; you’re gonna need ’em). Easiest way to get your rep’s phone numbers: Text your zip code to 520-200-2223.

It took all of 30 seconds for me to either leave a message, on my Rep’s answering machine or with the Very Nice Staff Person ®, that went something like this:

Good morning; my name is _____ ; I’m a constituent of ______(rep’s name), and I’m calling to demand the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to do a thorough and accurate investigation of the firing of the FBI Director and the #45 administration’s ties to Russia. Thank you for your time. Is there any other information you need from me?”   [2]

Next step: Text the word RESIST to 504-09. When prompted, demand a congressional joint select committee to investigate Trump/Russia NOW. If we don’t demand this now, it may not happen. This action takes less than one minute. Our complacency/inaction may have a lifetime of repercussions.

 

 

 

putin

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

About that other phone call….

 

Hello; I’m calling for Robyn Parnell. My name is….

The name was garbled on the answering machine message. The message went on to identify Mr. Garbled Name as a reporter for a local community newspaper.  [3]  Mr. Garbled Name  wanted to interview me because, he said, I am a published writer who lives in the community, and “I know there are a lot of people in the community who are interested in your books.”  Mr. Garbled said he wanted to do a feature story on me, and could I call him back before five?

I received the message in the early afternoon. Later that day when I told MH about the message, I indulged in a moment of self-righteous huffiness about the call-before-five request, which reminded me of one of those As Seen On TV ads (Wait – there’s more! You get the entire set of Ginzu steak knives AND the weed whacker, but only if you contact our operators before 9 pm!!)

MH came to Mr. Garbled’s defense by pointing out the obvious: the reporter was on deadline.  True, I conceded, but other people also have schedules/deadlines…oh wait a sec, what am I thinking? Writers are supposed to grovel in swamp water/skip their grandmother’s funeral jump at any opportunity for publicity.

Thirty years doing this, and I still suck at self-promotion. It’s like I didn’t get the memo.

For a moment I considered looking up the newspaper’s website, trying to figure out who the reporter might be. Just for a moment, I considered sending him an email. The email I did not send might have read something like the following:

(there would be an opening line or two, thanking him for his interest and respectfully declining his request).

I know about these feature stories on local ______ artists; writer).  I’ve read them; I’ve been the subject of them. I’ve gritted my teeth while being interviewed (by perfectly nice reporters) for them, feeling like a fraud because I know what I’m supposed to say [4] to make the story a pleasant and safe read suitable for a community audience. And I don’t want to play that dull/safe game that anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know what you and your editors (think you) need: a Shiny Happy People, 500 – 700 word, feel-good story, wherein at some point the writer encourages other would-be writers, especially children, to follow their dream. [5]  That’s the story you want me to tell so that it can be the story you write. And in the nicest of ways and using just the right amount of flattery, you dangle the promise of publicity.  [6]

Thank you for your interest, but I must let you know that you will not make this particular deadline if the feature is dependent on me being the focus.  I have no doubt that you will find another local writer who will be thrilled to be the subject of your feature story – that’s a no brainer. But, trust me, you don’t want my story.

My story is not for a feel-good feature in a community newspaper. It’s not necessarily a mo-better story (nor a mo-bitter story), but it is quite different from what you seek. It is the story of a writer, who wanted to write fiction and did, despite having no rose-colored delusions about the realities of getting published. It is the story about a writer who knew the statistics, did the work anyway, and got published in “real” established/legitimate markets by “real” publishers.  [7]

It is the story about a published writer who came to despise the business end of writing – a writer who had not anticipated the extent of self-promotion and fame-seeking which would, increasingly be demanded by those same “real” publishers but who herself had zero interest in that kind of life. It is a story about a published author who, at her own and other authors’ book release parties/book readings/book signings/book fairs and other literary events, had seen other authors who were comfortable with being in the spotlight – to the point of actively seeking and obviously reveling in it. And she didn’t like what she saw and what she felt when she observed those other authors.  [8]

 

It is a story at once simple and complicated; it’s about a writer who wanted to write, and who didn’t give two shakes of a spasmodic kangaroo rat’s ass about “being a writer” other than by actually writing – a writer who abhorred the dangled carrot of the limelight, who preferred anonymity amongst strangers, even in this Look at Me/Everyone Can Be A Celebrity/Selfie-obsessed society.

In other words, this is the story of a literary misfit (read; lunatic).

 

To do it justice, this story (or the many ones like it which could be written) could not even begin to be outlined in a community newspaper feature article. [9]  Ideally, this story would be the journalistic equivalent of a mini-series, with a narrative tone reminiscent of an investigative documentary. The tale would be a tapestry: threads of the reasons why one particular fiction writer lost the love for and motivation to do the work skillfully interwoven with those strands spun from the dreary state of publishing fiction today,  [10] the latter of which includes the theoretical expanding of “markets and opportunities” (e.g. online book sales, e- publishing, e-mags) leading to the virtual expanding of theft/e-piracy/copyright violations/rights grabs by publishers  [11]  …in a nutshell, more “opportunities” for writers to work without getting paid.  [12]

Given the right narrative structure, it is a tale I might be interested in reading…someday. But it won’t be this week, and it won’t be about me.

 

 

 

 

 

With all that has been going on in my life, this – the phone message re the interview – is the first time in several months where I have been “confronted’ with the reality of my sabbatical. I’ve no reason to assume the reporter was anything other than a Nice Guy ® who was just doing his job. Still, I was (almost) surprised by my complete lack of interest in doing the interview, as well as in the effort it took for moiself to summon up even a twinge of regret for not calling him back.

Okay. Getting into Way Too Serious Territory ©. There must be a way to segue into a literary fart joke.

 

 

 

humerusjpg

*   *   *

 

Department Of Silver Linings

The previously-mentioned Phone Call I Did Not Return © did end up providing me with my best belly laugh of the week.

 

 

 

martha

 

 

 

When I first played back the message and couldn’t understand the person’s name, I didn’t listen to the entire message – I hit the replay button and turned up the volume, hoping to get the name. Volume, schmolume – I still couldn’t make out his name, but heard loud and clear his assertion that he knew there are a lot of people in the community who are interested in your books, which caused me to guffaw, “Not according to my royalty statements.”

 

 

 

piggy

*   *   *

 

 

Department Of Things That Frost My Butt
Installment 621 in a series

(Pre-rant background information: I volunteer for a feline-specific animal adoption organization, at one of their offsite locations. The majority of the cats and kittens are housed at the mother ship, aka the main shelter in south Washington County city. Kittys are also housed at several offsite adoption centers – generally, pet supplies stores which have special cat kennel section which they lease to the shelter.)

To the Guy (and it’s always a guy) who walks his dog (it can be any breed, from the 5 lb yippies to the 80 lb Dobermans) up and down the aisles of the PetOpia store:  Dude, you hold your dog up to the glass wall of an animal’s kennel/habitat and encourage your canine to bark/growl/otherwise harass the animal (usually a cat, but I’ve seen it happen to rabbits, gerbils and other rodents, reptiles, birds, other/smaller dogs) housed on the other side of the glass.  Anyway, you know who you are…

On second thought, you probably don’t. Your actions indicate that there is nary an introspective bone in your body, only a thick mass of bone-like tissue where your brain should be housed.

Every time it happens, a part of me is surprised as well as disgusted. Apparently, because you have an animal with you and you are in a pet supplies store, I hold the (obviously mistaken) assumption that you are fond of animals. And yet you engage in this behavior as if it were playful, and persist in encouraging your dog to bark at the other animal despite  [13] seeing obvious signs of distress in that animal.

And I, a volunteer for an organization which depends upon the goodwill of the pet supplies store in order to have that adoption space at the store, have been explicitly instructed that I am forbidden from confronting you. I can only “redirect” your behavior and attempt to educate you; I can’t kick your sorry sadistic ass to the curb.

If only for a taser gun with a heat-seeking, genital-specific probe….

 

 

 

stupidpeople

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you never be One Of Those People other people want to kick to the curb;
May your story be one that can fit into a 500 word feature (…or…not);
May you continue La Résistance and contact your elected officials;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Second choice: fax (last choice: email). According to Congressional representatives’ staff, fax & phone calls are the most effective ways to get attention.

[2] They have your phone number once you call; they may want your zip code & address.

[3] Yes, they still exist.

[4] And I know, even if I don’t say what I’m supposed to say, you will spin my quotes in such a way as to make me say what I’m supposed to say.

[5] Except that dream where you show up naked for the SAT test.

[6] Aka an audience; a platform; exposure….

[7] Read; no self-publishing, vanity or subsidy or hybrid publishing.

[8]  As per my professional writer personality, ® I have the limelight-averse temperament of a Harper Lee or J.D. Salinger without having written their bestsellers. Not exactly a publisher’s dream.  😉

[9] Yep, accusations of elitism are likely to be flung at this assertion.

[10] The Author’s Guild  is America’s oldest and largest professional and advocacy organization for writers; if interested search for their and others’ lawsuits, such as AG v. Google, independent publishers v. Amazon,  even universities sued for engaging in unauthorized digitization of copyrighted works… and I do love that you can google lawsuits against Google.

[11] The AG article The Wages of Writing summarized the results of the most comprehensive author survey since 2009: authors’ income is down significantly across all categories (full-time and part-time authors, and that full-time authors with 15+ years experience saw the most declines); authors spend more time on marketing and (thus) less on writing ….. Click here for more detailed and depressing survey results.

[12] Including…ahem…blogs!

[13] Or because of…bullies apparently do not limit their torments to their own species.

The Lab Specimens I’m Not Sniffing

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Department of Big Surprises

Son K is enjoying his job as a research assistant for a medical diagnostics company, and I love to hear his stories about his tasks. Recently he was preparing lab specimens used to cultivate proteins. Specifically, he was working with  e. coil bacteria. Dare you guess how descriptive K was when trying to convey to MH and I what the lab samples smelled like?

 

bad smell

 

*   *   *

And now, a related breaking (sorry) news story, which I shall classify under

Department of Tempting Fate

From The Looks Of Things © , I am probably the youngest student in my Tai Chi-Qigong class.  And from the sounds of things, I am also the only student who has not (yet) inadvertently let one slip – if you know what I mean and I think you do – during one of  the class’s twisting routines.

 

qifart

*   *   *

By Grabthar’s Hammer…

…this is one actor I am really going to miss.

Alan Rickman played an amazing range of characters over the years. Praised for his performances across the board in the theatre and television, he was most widely known for his movie roles. He was perfectly cast to play the complexly nuanced, ostensible-villain-turned-heart-rending-hero, Severus Snape, [1] and probably most widely known for turning what could have been just another wise-cracking action film (Die Hard) into Something Truly Memorable, with his performance as arguably the greatest bad guy of all time, German terrorist Hans Gruber.

My favorites of Rickman’s many movie roles included the reticent, infatuated, honorable Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility) and Alexander Dane, the hilariously frustrated classically trained actor fallen on hard times who finds himself stuck repeating a catchphrase from his role in a sci-fi Television franchise he despises (Galaxy Quest).  And I managed to forgive Rickman for so convincingly playing the conflicted husband who broke wife Emma’ Thompson’s heart in Love, Actually. For a real cinematic treat, revel in his “gloriously nasty” portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham, by which Rickman steals Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves right out from under Kevin Costner’s spasmodic British accent.

When I read the news of Rickman’s passing I noted he was the same age as David Bowie. The world lost two truly Great Brits, esteemed and beloved in their respective fields. Thanks and RIP – you guys rock (ed).

Now, if you believe the old husband’s tale that “these things [2] come in threes,” who’d you put $$ on to be the next to go? I hear O.J. Simpson is turning 69 this year….

 

 

*   *   *

Yet Another Reason To Hate/Quit Writing Go On Living

I belong to several professional writers associations. The Authors Guild is the largest, oldest and most influential of the lot, and the one I most admire. As per its mission to “…advocate for authors on issues of copyright, fair contracts…protect authors’ copyrights…establish fair royalty rates for both e-books and print books…” the AG has its work cut out for it, especially in these days of the digital and electronic piracy and royalty grabs changes in publishing.

 

book

 

The AG are the good guys; they fight the right fights. There are so many fronts, so many battles, for authors these days, I truly wish I could – as per the suggestion on the AG’s membership renewal form – add a donation in addition to my dues to further their work.

Except for one pesky detail: I have no spare writing income with which to do so.

The AG has a tiered membership dues structure, based on author members’ annual income from book and magazine writing.  There are four levels: I ($0 – 24,999; II ($25 – $49,999); III ($ 50,000 – 100,000): IV ($ over $100,000), with dues rates increasing with each level.

I am (surprise!) at the lowest level. My writing income-loss sheet [3] has remained the same as last year, and the AG’s Level I dues have jumped 38%, from $90 to $125.

 

sob

*   *   *

Department of Apparently It’s a Thing ® Now

…to leave up your Christmas or solstice tree year round, and decorate it according [4] to whatever season’s or month’s commemorations strike your fancy. For example, you might hang paper flags from the branches during July (to celebrate Independence Day);  Bunny and Easter egg ornaments in March (Spring); candy corn and mini pumpkins in October (Halloween); Quaaludes and still photos from The Bill Cosby Show in April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month)….

Well. I’ve left our tree up, but I’m not sure you can call it decorated (I did leave two of my favorite ornaments on it). I just like having it around. I don’t know why, but I derive much sinple contentment from looking at the little blinking lights.

 

tree

*   *   *

May your enjoy whatever constitutes your own blinking lights of contentment,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] I don’t need to reference the Harry Potter series of books and films, do I? I do not require readers to be fans of either; I do assume a certain amount of cultural literacy.

[2] In this case, famous and/or infamous peoples’ deaths.

[3]  I’ve not done the figuring for 2015, but already know it will rival last year in pathetic-osity.

[4] Simply not enough footnotes in the New Year.

The Debates I’m Not Moderating

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Department of Let’s Get this Out Of The Way:
Tuesday’s Democratic Debate

Although I didn’t have a stopwatch handy, it seemed to me that Hillary Clinton was given more time than the other candidates for answers and rebuttals. That, combined with her center position on stage and being able to speak last for both the opening and closing remarks, gave her a front runner glow. Was that all just happenstance, or was CNN’s subliminal bias betrayed by those logistics?

Upfront: I am a Bernie Sanders supporter (changed my party registration – I am typically listed as Independent – so I can vote for him in the primary). I thought all of the candidates comported themselves well, including the three no chance in hell lesser-knowns…although not for one moment did I find Clinton’s I-changed-my-mind-due-to-facts-not-polls-I-didn’t-flip-flop Pacific Rim trade pact switcherroo defense convincing.

As for the post-event question everyone seems to pose – Who, in your opinion, won the debate? I’d say, moderator Anderson Cooper.

Really. Cooper was cool, confident, and in control of a situation where all of the participants are looking for any opening to skew things their way.

* He opened by (essentially) challenging each candidate to defend or rebut what is seen as their biggest weak spot;
* He was incredibly well-prepared re the candidate’s backgrounds and political positions;
* He paid attention to the answers and asked relevant follow-up questions;
* He asked no softball or flippant questions;
* He pointed out when candidates dodged questions or answered with non-answers.

Future moderators, take note. All debates should be refereed thusly. Come to think of it, why can’t Cooper do all the debates?  Hell, I’d even watch the next Republican Clown Cavalcade if he’d moderate it.

 

Oh, stop it. I bet you say that to all the boys.

Oh, stop it. I bet you say that to all the boys.

 

I was somewhat bemused with the lesser-known candidate my brain labeled Goofy Smiling Guy, aka former RI Governor Lincoln Chafee. This was because Chafee…do I really need to say it?…had this perpetual, goofy smile, as if he couldn’t quite believe he was standing on an actual presidential debate stage, podium and everything, wheee!

Also, in both his opening and closing remarks, Chafee stressed what he apparently thought was a two-for-one bonus (i.e, both a plus for him and a jab at Clinton): that he was the rare political bird with “no scandals” – nope, not one [1] – in his many years of public service.

 

 

No scandal here...except for that lame necktie..

No scandal here…except for that lame necktie..

Well, okay. However, related to Cooper’s final question – “Which enemy are you most proud of?” – having acquired “no scandals” in a long political career isn’t necessarily something to brag about, IMHO. Instead of being indicative of your unimpeachable ethical standards, being scandal-free could simply signify that you never took a political risk, or that no one whose positions you opposed found you powerful, effective or threatening enough to try to bribe you, set you up or otherwise tarnish your reputation.

*   *   *

Department of Just Because

Lady Marmalade break. Gitchi gitchi ya ya da da, y'all.

Lady Marmalade break.                      Gitchi gitchi ya ya da da, y’all.

 

*   *   *

The Book I’m Not Reviewing

“People write on Huffington Post, they write for Goodreads…valuable sites owned by big tech companies that make a lot of money for those companies. Writers choose to write there for nothing and to provide content for nothing. That’s another issue…something that writers are doing deliberately.”
(Roxanna Robinson, President of the Authors Guild, in her article for The Bookseller, “Authors Guild Warns Authors Over Contributing Online Articles For Free.”

 

I use Goodreads, mostly as a reading log for moiself. That’s about as far as it goes (ahem, along with this blog) for me providing free content. In rating something like 437 books I think I have twice made a one or two sentence comment. I give books a star rating, even as I cringe while doing so at the oversimplification of such a system. [2].  I do not write actual reviews, FAVOR [3], including my refusal to participate in yet-another-way-writers-do-work-without-getting-paid.

However (you didn’t see that coming, right?)….

Here is something resembling a review, for a recent book I rated.

It was a book I wanted to like, because it revolved around stories of certain ruminant of which I am fond.

 

Coulda had a three star rating, but not enough goat screaming.

Coulda had a three star rating, but not enough goat screaming.

 

I liked the brief excerpt the book’s author read during one of those local/community arts “literary events” in which I overdosed on Valium and forced myself to attend was invited to participate.

For those of you unfamiliar with such events, they are sometimes called Book readings or Literary fairs, are oftentimes sponsored by a local independent bookstore, and are almost at all times attended by only the local authors themselves, a smattering of the author’s friends and family, plus a few wannabe authors who wannabe picking the brains of Actual Published Authors ®  for free advice as to how they can go from wannabe to Actual Published Authors ® .

(Translation: few or no books are actually sold. [4] )

The wannabes hang around afterward to tell you how much they enjoyed your reading, and gosh golly they really want to get a copy of your book (which is usually right in front of them, or twenty steps away, at the booksellers’ table), and will try to find a used copy online or check out a copy at the library. They say this as they flash their wide-eyed, isn’t that great? grin, ostensibly expecting you to be overjoyed at their “interest” in your work, despite the fact that none of the book acquiring venues they mention provide any remuneration to either the book’s author or the event’s sponsor. [5]

My favorite comments from book fair attendee/writer wannabees – comments I have heard too-much-more-than-once – come from those who’ve wonder in awe to me about how I managed to have more than one book published by “real publishers” –

I think I should start by self-publishing. It’s easier, right?

yeahright

 

About my few or no books are actually sold observation: sometimes the event authors buy each other’s books…which in my book doesn’t count…and which is how I came to obtain a copy about the Book That Shall Be Reviewed But Not Named.

Once again, I digress – this time, in getting on with my non-review.

Due to hearing the afore-mentioned enjoyable excerpt, I violated my oft-mentioned, principle-from-experience (which is: in general, I do not buy self-published books).  I bought the book, which has been in my enough-to-read-until-the-nuclear-holocaust pile for almost a year. I hadn’t gotten to cracking the covers, but as per the Sad Events mentioned in an earlier post, I was looking for “light” bedtime reading. But, by light I was referring to emotional impact, not basic, compositional competency.

Yep, the book was self-published, but not exactly in the Literary Lone Wolf manner. Many euphemisms have arisen to disguise self-publishing ventures. This book, as per a blurb in the book’s back pages, was the product of a “too tiny to be considered a micro-press.”

Micro press. In my petty imagination – aided by anecdotes participants in such ventures have shared – I picture the micro press members gathering coffee-klatch style to trade woe-is-me-bitches stories about the nasty mainstream publishers who reject their work [6]….

 

nymphpng

 

I’m trying not to be mean. Really. But no matter now micro or macro your press may be, please oh please, if you have a book in print, make it print-worthy.

Of course, with CreateSpace and Kobo and the ever-increasing number of self-publishing platforms (the term, before the e-book debacle revolution, was subsidy or Vanity Press), everyone from the pontificating drunk at the corner bar to my late Aunt Erva’s Rottadoodle can now have a book in print. [7]

So: you no longer have to go down to the copy shop to construct your spiral bound “book” for friends and family – you can have something that looks like a real book. And maybe you don’t care to be taken seriously as an Actual Published Author.  But whether you consider yourself a “real writer” or hobby publisher, for FFS, structure, plotting, grammar and punctuation matter.

And if perchance you want to be taken seriously as an author, don’t have your spouse (or any member of your family, or someone who owes you money) write your author bio/intro. Also, have your copy professionally edited, and by professionally I mean someone who knows what they’re doing, not your best buddy in your sewing circle/Tupperware party/retired fisherman’s club  micro-mini-press group. Find a truth teller, not a cheerleader/ego massager. Find someone outside your circle, someone who isn’t afraid of hurting your feelings, someone whom you will reimburse for their work. Isn’t the point to improve, to learn to be a better writer?

Here’s a bit of advice, for which I am once again violating my High Professional Standards ® (i.e., giving it away for free): a clever descriptive phrase used once is…well…clever. Used repeatedly, it becomes annoying and embarrassing – the literary equivalent of a sitcom character’s catchphrase (Dy-no-mite, anyone?).

 

grits

Instead of writing we couldn’t afford a certain purchase the author used something ala my bank account groaned.  Yep, that’s a nice variant, and a chuckle-worthy image comes to mind. Now, be honest with yourself: that phrase isn’t destined to become a classic, no matter how many times you repeat it. Don’t use it a second time (and certainly not a third) in the same chapter.  As per my earlier advice, a good editor would have fixed that.

*   *   *

It’s Good to Dream

Earlier this week, during one of my morning walks, I was thinking about how I’d like to hear musical genre variants of classic TV show theme songs. [8] Disclosure:  you could inscribe the sum total of my musical talent on the tip of my index finger and still have room for the Declaration of independence; thus, this is not a project I moiself can undertake.  But for all you musical geniuses who follow this blog [9], I would be eternally grateful if you could come up with the following:

 

* a mariachi version of the Star Trek (original series, or Next Gen) theme
* The Ramones telling me how to get to Sesame Street
* A hard rock version – I’m thinking AC/DC – of the theme to The Love Boat
* a polka-flavored rendition of  that bad-ass, eight note riff from Mission: Impossible
* The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme as interpreted by Run DMC
* Weird Al Yankovic’s take on the ticking stopwatch intro to Sixty Minutes
* an all-tuba performance of the theme to Bonanza

 

And of course, Luciano Pavarotti singing the theme to The Brady Bunch. The gripping story of “the lovely lady/who was bringing up three very lovely girls” is one that lends itself to operatic treatment, Nest-ce-pas?

 

 

 

*   *   *

May your dreams be good and filled with melodic variety,
May you be proud of your enemies and patient with your literary critics,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] And if that isn’t a call for people to try to dig up some dirt on him, I don’t know what is. Anyone remember Gary Hart?

[2] Yo, Goodreads, how’s about at least a half and quarter star options?

[3] All together now, ye acronym amnesiacs:  FAVOR = For A Variety Of Reasons.

[4] Your friends and family already have your books, right?

[5] Really. They fucking say this to your fucking face.

[6] Heartless bastards who insist on basic grammatical proficiency, coherent narratives and other nit-picking shit.

[7] My late Aunt Erva – who was in fact quite punctual – never owned a Rottadoodle (a breed which to my knowledge doesn’t actually exist, but should).  But if Erva were alive today and had a dog, I’m sure her pooch would have a self-published memoir in print.

[8] Because, why not?

[9] Not to get all zen on y’all, but what is the sound of one mouth chortling?

The Money I’m Not Making

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And The Fun Continues: #562 in the Series of
Why I Think Anyone Who Can Be Discouraged From Writing Should Be

I just loooooooooooove getting what I refer to as No shit? communiqués from my various professional membership associations. The most recent (my emphases):

Dear Authors Guild Member,
Earlier this year, we conducted our first member survey since 2009….
Overall, the survey results (
click here) showed that author incomes are down, hybrid authorship is up, and authors are spending more time marketing than ever before. In short, the business of authorship is both more varied and less profitable than just six years ago.

*   *   *

Department of So, Where Are You From?

Author Taiye Selasi explores themes of multiple perspectives, cultures and identities in her writings.  Daughter of Ghanaian and Saudi Arabian parents, Selasi was born in London, raised in Boston, lives in Rome and Berlin, and has herself been described as a “study in the modern meaning of identity.”  I recently listened to a podcast of her TED talk she gave in October 2014, and was intrigued by her proposition that we change that most fundamental of identity questions.  

“The difference between ‘where are you from’ and ‘where are you a local’ isn’t the specificity of the answer, it’s the intention of the question. Replacing the language of nationality with the language of locality asks us to our shift focus to where real life occurs.”
 Taiye Selasi, Don’t Ask me Where I’m From, Ask Me Where I’m a Local

 

globalid

 

Some people think where you are from must encompass your home’s location during some emotionally crucial/formative years, a location which always defines you. Thus, my mother will always be “from” Cass Lake, MN, even though she’s lived the past 59 years in SoCal.

I derive much petty amusement from watching MH handle the where-are-you-from question. Even after all these years, MH often seems genuinely confused as to how he should answer. He usually offers a brief accounting of his life’s geographical litany: ages 1-10 in Minnesota; family relocation to central Florida ages 10-18; college years in S. California, post-college/young adulthood/newly married years in N. California; the past 24 years in Oregon….

When asked the same question, I say that I am from Oregon. Although I was a native-born Californian, [1] Oregon is where I live. It is the first place where I, as an adult, chose to be.

Although when the question is phrased, “Where did you grow up?” my honest answer is (or should be), I’m still working on that.

So. Where are you from? And where are you a local?

 

oregon

*   *   *

Sunday Texts: The Offspring Chronicles

Daughter Belle, she of the previously mentioned Frankenfinger, attends the University of Puget Sound, a college that requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. Belle lived in a dorm her first year, and this year she and five other sophomores reside in an on-campus house. Her room and board includes a campus meal plan, and while she gets most of her meals at the school’s cafeteria and other eateries, she also enjoys the benefits of house living, as per the following picture and text she sent me last Sunday.

 

belellunch

 

Belle: Grilled Brie sandwich and grilled chicken. I love having a kitchen.
Honestly like the best lunch I’ve ever had.
Moiself:  yum yum
Belle: Mom, remember when in France you ate that chocolate and then started swearing for like 5 minutes? That’s this sandwich.

*   *   *

Sunday Texts: The Journey Continues

No pictures accompany the following text exchange, but perhaps that is for the best.

Son K graduated college in May and is living at home while he researches grad school and seeks a job in his field. [2] He works in food service at the Oregon Zoo and hosts epic D & D and/or Settlers of Catan games on Sunday afternoons, when our dining room is taken over by NerdCon Hillsboro is host to a group of delightful young men and women.

Once again, I digress.  Back to last Sunday’s text exchange(s), this time with K, who was manning one of the Zoo’s food kiosks.

 

K: So this Russian guy, as I was getting his order, was asking how I liked my job, and then once (his order) was done he asked me for a pen and paper and wrote down his name and number, and said to call him and that in 2 years I’d be free.
What the fuck.
Moiself: WTF, indeed.
K: For half a sec I was like, is this a KGB recruiter?
Moiself: Aren’t you glad you got called in to work today? Otherwise, you could’ve missed your chance at freedom.
K: It’s busy, though. Espresso drinks out the butt.
Moiself:  Is that how people are ordering their drinks today?

K wonders if there could be an amusing story behind the offer, and is considering calling the Russian dude (“Petrov,” who indeed left his name and number [3] ).  But, from a pay phone, or some other anonymous device.

 

American play cards right, have big future in Siberian coffeehouse.

American play cards right, have big future in Siberian coffeehouse.

 

*   *   *

Department of Reasons To Do Something

Beginning Last Friday, the day after the horrific shooting at a community college in Oregon, there were the usual, sad, frighteningly familiar [4] calls for “something to be done” in various media venues. I saw numerous postings of the following on Facebook:

I do not want to hear one more politician say that their “thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
For the love of God, do something!

Now then.

Ahem.

I know people use all kinds of expressions that have become a part of our cultural lexicon, expressions which are not meant to be taken literally. When someone smiles at me and says, How ya doing? I understand their question is in fact a form of greeting, and that they do not intend me to reply with a recitation of exactly how I am doing. When my public sneezes elicit Bless you! from bystanders I understand that to be kneejerk cultural nicety response, not a literal sanctification meant to protect me from evil spirits my body may have expelled by the sneeze. [5] 

But, For the love of god, do something!  Well, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

 

And so is this.

And so is this.

 

Attention, god lovers: [6] It seems that those who claim to love a god do consider praying to be doing something…when the reality previously addressed in this blog is that although it may provide you with the comforting illusion of having done something, prayer does Absolutely. Nothing. Of. Substance.

Do something, by all means. But not for the love of your imaginary friend – a deity whom you petition, thus implying you think said deity is capable of action, despite the fact that said god did nothing  as magazines were being loaded into guns’ chambers and as bullets were being pumped into flesh…. This god whom you think exists did nothing to prevent or ameliorate the situation about which you pray, a situation for which you now beseech others to do something for the love of this same, bystanding, worthless, impotent god, which (by definition, for an omniscient, omnipotent being) created the situation in the first place.

Do something for the love and welfare of your fellow human beings. Do something because it is the right thing to do, because you yourself are human.

*   *   *

Department of Things That Wake Me Up at 3 am To Scribble on the Notepad I Keep in the Bathroom
and Then I Have To Decipher the Scribbles in the Morning, What the Heck Am I Thinking?

This is what I was able to decipher on Wednesday morning (disjointed flow/grammar as is):

After reading singer Jewell’s memoir Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story, I was once again reminded that I do not have the combination of personal/emotional turmoil and look-at-me-express-my-innermost-feelings! desire do what, it seems, one must do to make a living in this field. [7] That is, considering what one must do as a “artist,” especially or particularly in the Sensitive/Confessional Poet/Writer/Composer ® vein, wherein one’s guts are put on display; wherein one must have the stones or audacity to think that people will or should be interested enough to pay $ to read or listen to such gut-chronicling….

The memoir (well, part memoir/part self-help book is what it reads like) reveals an odd combination of the author/singer/songwriter’s curiosity, sensitivity, self-reflection…and near debilitating gullibility. Her self-examination helped her survive what could be the dictionary definition of a turbulent childhood (and quasi cult-member young adulthood).

I get the urge to write down one’s thoughts and feelings, to catalog and record such as a process of analysis, of finding meaning – to make sense of one’s life, to one’s self.  But to share those most personal thoughts and feelings with the world (including, yep, people like moiself, reading her book)? That, I do not get. I am, simply and dispositional-ly, not ____ (naïve? arrogant? generous? self-aggrandizing? narcissistic?) enough to even entertain the desire to do so, never mind believing that anyone outside a small circle of family and friends would or should find it of significance.

Also, it helps to be young and pretty.

 

*   *   *

May you do the right things for the love of the right reasons,
May you be surprised by fine lunches and random Russian encounters,
May you remember where you are from and appreciate where you are a local,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Not all that common, in that day. CA, like much of the West, was a place of migration – everyone’s families were from somewhere else.

[2] If you know anyone who’s hiring someone with a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology, do give a shout-out in this direction.

[3] Not his real name (which was something equally Russian-identifiable). I never know what kind of agents may be reading this blog.

[4] I find it disturbing, that we (in this country) are becoming so accustomed to the ritual: mass shooting, call for action re guns and/or mental health services, Obladi Obladah life goes on until the next “incident.”

[5]  One of several ancient meanings behind the sneeze-blessing practice…nor do I assume the utterer is a Christian obeying Pope Gregory I’s edit for litanies and supplications for their god’s blessing as protection from the Black Death (sneezing was seen as the initial onset of the plague).

[6] Yeah, listen up. Like my blog is the first reading material god-people reach for in the morning, after Guideposts.

[7] Like I needed to read a book to know that – balancing my business checking account is a monthly reminder.

The Trigger I’m Not Warning

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Trigger warning: image of child abuse:

 

From NY Times article re the Gucci Spring 2016 collection.

From NY Times article re the Gucci Spring 2016 collection.

 

Could someone please alert UNICEF?

*   *   *

A Book of Oh, Barf

“It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame,
 Everybody’s so different I haven’t changed.”
(Life’s Been Good, Joe Walsh)

Trigger warning: this post contains strong opinions, vulgarities and strong language.

 

 “I have a love/hate relationship with ____________. “

That’s what I would say; that’s the standard (read: worn out) phrase I might employ, were I to describe something about which I am ambivalent. Except that when it comes to the topic of literary fame and publicity, my feelings are definitely one-sided.

My loathing for such was rekindled Monday morning, as I thumbed through The Arts section of The NY Times, looking for the crossword and KenKen puzzles. [1] A full page ad opposite the puzzles trumpeted an upcoming reception celebrating the release of a new book by what I refer to as one of those TWAB POTS (scrambled acronym for Authors Who Have Started To Believe Their Own Publicity).  Here is the ad’s description for the book of what is likely to be a slim volume, given the subject matter: [2]

“______ (TWAB POTS’ name) has inspired millions with her wisdom, courage and honesty. Now she has selected 100 of her most popular and inspirational quotes for ______ ( pretentiously terse book title), a new volume she calls a “book of yes.”

 

I keep a barf bag close at hand, because you never know.

I keep a barf bag close at hand, because you never know.

 

“A book of yes.”

REALLY

 

Really – and, dang! Yet another of my working titles stolen. So now I have to call my collection of 100 of my most obscure and disheartening quotes, A Book of, Fuck No, What The Hell Were You Thinking?!”

Yet again, I digress.

 

likethatneverhappens

 

The ad further informed me that I may “hear the NY Times best-selling author discuss the twists and trials of her remarkable life” – an offer I shall decline, given my suspicions that author’s twists and trials have been somewhat calculated so as to procure book contracts.

Okay; I could be off-base about that previous opinion. But one thing I know for sure is that it is not good for one’s sense of self to voluntarily or otherwise [3] be subject to fawning adulation – no matter what the reason and no matter what your profession.

Honestly, how truly wise and courageous is it to allow yourself to be hyped for your wisdom, courage and honesty?

Our society revels in gleefully harping on the pomposity and egomania of celebrities. I am no exception, and oft mourned in this space what I see as the celebritization of authors.  Surrounded by such public relations horse manure hyperbole, how does or can you maintain a sense of perspective and modesty re your place in the larger world?

Fortunately (and, obviously), in my case, that question has never been put to the test. Still, were I to show up at a reading of one of my books and see a larger-than-life head-shot of me [4] on a banner, accompanied by a description of how my remarkable life and writing has inspired millions, no Sharpie ®  would go uncapped in my efforts to bring the proceedings down to earth.

 

Something like this, only even less mature.

Something like this, only even less mature.

*   *   *

The Return of the Asshat

Trigger warning: this post contains opinions, language and pictures that may be offensive to people who watch reruns of Hee Haw and sigh, Now, that’s entertainment!

 

Let’s say you are a corporate CEO who employs a stable of intelligent and accomplished engineers. Do you utilize their technical experience and skills to find and/or create sources of renewable energy, or upgrade devices to remove pollutants from the air we all breathe…or maybe just design a more energy efficient window defroster?

 

VW = Veracity-Free Weasels

VW = Veracity-Free Weasels

 

Nah. You use them to cheat : Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Widens

You pay them to find a way to break the law and thus facilitate even more spewage of toxins into the atmosphere. [5]

Volkswagen, this Asshat of the Week award is for you.

 

AHat

*   *   *

Department of Non Sequitur Segue to a Smoky Wee-wee Anecdote

Trigger warning: smoky wee-wee anecdote.

 

Dateline: First Day of Fall, out for my morning walk. Passing through a certain neighborhood, I noticed the air smells like what I can only imagine a bucket of piss would smell like if you put in under the lid of one of those BBQ smoker contraptions.

Not the autumnal aroma I was hoping for.

 

BBQ lovers, pull up a seat, urine for a treat.

BBQ lovers, pull up a seat, urine for a treat.

 

*   *   *

Trigger warning: If you think phrases like “trigger warning” should be posted before strongly worded or controversial opinions, you shouldn’t be reading any blogs and definitely should not be browsing the internet.

 

Son K is (re) taking up fencing (he and his sister, Belle, took a fencing class many, many years ago). He has signed up for a couple of trial session with a local fencing academy, wherein one can drop in on ongoing classes. He returned home Tuesday night, after the first session, and said that although the class he attended is listed as for adults, at age twenty-two he seemed to be one of the elder class members.

When I asked if that bothered him, K smiled wryly and replied that it didn’t.  At  6 ‘3″+ he was one of the taller students in the class; thus, his reach far exceeded that of his kiddie opponents, most of whom were longtime students, obviously more experienced and skilled than he. K confessed to taking petty pleasure from sparring with the younger, shorter fencers, because at some point he’s just reach his blade over the top of their heads and, to use his sound effect, bop.

 

Here come de bop.

Here come de bop.

*   *   *

Trigger warning: I really like saying bop.

I wonder if Little Bunny Foo Foo can be adapted for the scenarioI have going through my head?

You’re singing it now, admit it.

 

Little bunny foo foo, fencing through the forest....

Little bunny foo foo, fencing through the forest….

 

*   *   *

Trigger warning: Giddyap, boy, head for the hills while you can – that crazy ass cowboy plans to stuff you and put you in his museum!

 

TRIGGER+DELL

*   *   *

May you enjoy more than your share of petty pleasures,
may your life be trigger-warning free,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Which the NYT oh-so-conveniently prints side-by-side on the same page, for us puzzle lovers.

[2] Insert hissing sound effects.

[3] I assume an author of her ilk has some input if not total approval of her own PR.

[4] For which you will never find me posing.

[5] Is this the fifth footnote? What a letdown.

The Monthly Novel I’m Not Writing

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November 1?  Gotta get this out of the way. National Novel Writing Month.

SOAPBOX

Reality check re this write-a-novel-in-month jive.  This is from the Authors Guild Bulletin Spring 2013, Along Publishers Row article: “Temperance Hasty-Gonzales (not the author’s real name) wrote a 50k novel in 30 days.  Five years and 15 drafts later, the novel, he The Quick and the Dead (a real novel, but not written by TH-G), was published in February.

She wrote a novel in 30 days!  Except that she didn’t. The very second sentence of the blurb reveals that she didn’t write a novel in 30 days, hello.  She had some kind of first draft that was awful/incomplete enough, by her own description, that it took her FIVE YEARS and FIFTEEN DRAFTS to get into publishable form.

National Novel Writing Month. I smite the concept as well as the acronym: NaNoWriMo.  It sounds as incomplete and shoddy, as baby-talk dribbly, as a novel “written” in a month is likely to be.  But wait, there’s more.  The author featured in the blurb goes on to say that she considered herself a perfectionist, and that NaNoWriMo forced her to ignore her incapacitating inner critic and keep going: “It forces us to lower our standards.”

Just what the literary world needs: lower standards.

Have an idea for a story?  Don’t fall for trendy/”motivational” stunts.  Take  time, make time, invest time.  Chances are you can get your final draft in two-three years rather than five.  And, yes, the world is full of crappy novels that took much, much longer than 30 days to write (Atlas Shrugged, anyone?)  Still. It doesn’t need any more. At any speed.

*   *   *

Less than one percent of the total published books released in a year get reviewed via a traditional book reviewing outlet; i.e., a reviewer hired and paid by a newspaper, journal, magazine, book review tabloid. [1]  When my publisher forwarded the reviews for The Mighty Quinn, MH asked whether they were “good.” Knowing the stats, I reminded him that TMQ was ahead of the game [2] by even getting a review in the first place.  It was gravy to me that the reviews were good – a quibble here and there, but mostly positive, and some downright glowing.  Even so I had to force myself to read them, force myself to drum up interest, which I did by thinking of my publisher (Good for them; they’ll like this one.).

It was peculiar to me, comparable to having an out-of-body experience, looking at myself looking at the reviews.  I knew what I’d written, how “good” I thought it was, and how good others whom I respect thought it was (enough to publish it, at least).  When it comes to considering my own reviews or publicity, composure and perspective, plus a dose of humility, are my mantras (keeping in mind the sage advice of Golda MeirDon’t be humble; you’re not that great.).  If a negative review won’t rock my boat then why should I let a rave review rock my world?

My ambivalence toward reviews stems from many facts, including what I know of writers and human nature. [3] Also, there’s the pesky fact that I moiself have never cared for book reviews and rarely read them. [4] I rely on choosing reading materials through my own particular triage of browsing, both in stores and online, and friend-talk.  Other than being alerted to the reviews by my publisher, I don’t check my own press.  I am also not one of those authors © who obsessively tracks her book’s sales rankings on the major online book sellers.  There’s not a strong enough antacid on the market to help me do that.  What I need to know about that stat will come with my royalty statements. [5] Gulp.

automatic_wine_drinking

And then.

I was updating a website posting and checked The Mighty Quinn’s links to the major online booksellers: Powell’s, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The Amazon page featured a new industry review, or at least one I hadn’t seen, and had put it as their lead review (one of the reasons [6]  I’m going to steer readers toward Powell’s.)  Although the reviewer had some bits of tepid praise, the same supporting characters described by other reviewers as “memorable” and “delightful” she dissed as  “too cute” and “unnecessarily highlighted” (whatever that means).  The same dialog and action she found “cumbersome” and “drab” are cited by other reviewers as “engaging” and “fast-moving.”

I see no reason to alter my long held if not entirely original philosophy re reviews, which I privately (well, up until now) I referred to as the Rectal Theory of Criticism:

Opinions are like assholes – everybody’s got one.

bad smell

As for the worth and relevance of online consumer reviews, my suspicions re their validity and potential for abuse [7] have oft been confirmed, most recently by this creepy story. A vengeful merchant, peeved at a less-than-stellar review posted on yelp  from a would-be client, googled client’s name, discovered client was a novelist, and took it from there: “When your book comes out on Amazon, I will personally make sure our entire staff reviews it in kind.”  Bad Merchant went on to threaten the novelist by getting people to post a “deluge” of “scathing reviews” for the novelist’s upcoming book.

Oy vey.

*   *   *

The Wisdom That Cometh With Age

Dateline, Monday afternoon.  I’d was in downtown Hillsboro to mail a manuscript, enjoying the opportunity/excuse [8] to do an afternoon walk on a crunchy autumn day, kicking through the leaves carpeting the sidewalks.  I rounded the street across from the Washington County Courthouse and fell in step behind two gotta-be-lawyers-to-dress-like-that-on-such-a-fine- day men walking side-by-side.  Or, I could describe them as “two men walking abreast,” but that conjurs up too many memories of fifth grade droodles.

DROODLE

My pace was faster than theirs but there was no room to pass them, so I slowed down and checked them out from the only view I had.  Both were of similar height and, from the rear view at least, attired almost identically, in tailored, expensive-looking, dark brown suits and white dress shirts and dark brown shoes.  I noticed that the one on (my) left wore bad shoes.  His shoe’s heels were very noticeably and unevenly worn down, toward the inside of the foot.  So incongruous with the rest of his lawyer suit.  Lawyer dude on the right had nice shiny shoes with no VHW (visible heel wear).

What an odd thing to notice.  Still, it bothered me.  I really, really wanted to say something to him, even as I was chiding myself for wanting to say something.  As a public service announcement, of course. Hey buddy – your over-pronation is, like, to totally ruining your Serious Lawyer Look.

At the end of the block they both moved to the curb, pausing by a brown (yes!) car that I assumed belonged to one of them.  I passed them. And said nothing

LAWYERS

*   *   *

Stand back, I’m Going to Try Science

Calling all budding evolutionary biologists:  I can’t remember the prompt, but I recently woke up with an interesting first morning thought [9] :  How is it that omnivorous species came to “know” they were omnivorous?  How did our hunter-gatherer ancestors get to the hunter part? Or bears, for that matter.   Foraging through the meadow, by the stream, chewing on leafy greens and berries///who-what had the lightbulb moment:  “Hey, I bet that leaping salmon/hopping rabbit is more caloric and nutrient-dense than these camas roots, plus, no cud-chewing aftertaste!  Win-win!”

I posted that question on my FB page, and got many many hallow snarky speculations a few thoughtful responses and suppositions (okay, I got one).  I’m still wondering.

*   *   *

“If you talked into your hair dryer and said you were communicating with something out there in the nether space, they’d put you away.
But take away the hair dryer, and you’re praying.”  –Sam Harris

DRYER

Dear Lord, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket. [10]

November.  Already.  Like a pair of K-mart undies, the holiday season is creeping up on us.  Let us note that which is to come.  Back by popular demand, my favorite ode to the joys that are to come, courtesy of The Dropkick Murphys.

May the ho-ho-ho hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Statistic from Publisher’s Weekly.

[2] Sadly, that’s what the publicity-review thing is: a game. With really scary rules.

[3] It’s way mo fun-ner to flaunt your devastating wit by writing snarky pans than heartfelt paeans.

[4] Unless it’s a particularly scathing review forwarded by friend/fellow author (and New York Review of Books reader) SCM, about an author we mutually loathe.

[5] And when people wish to inquire about such matters they often ask, “How is your book doing,” a seemingly innocuous, probably meant-to-be-supportive query, until I ask what they mean by that, and then they usually  ask about sales figures, at which point I have to refrain myself from perkily chirping, “I’ve no idea – how many copies did YOU buy?”

[6] Aside from the fact that Powell’s is the grooviest bookstore in the world. And yes, I’ve visited them all.

[8] A few years back I’d have the opportunity to do that walk every other day, but most editors and publishers take (and prefer) email queries and manuscript submissions.

[9] Other than the usual laundry list of feed the cats and get them to eat slowly so they don’t barf it all back up….

[10] Three cheers sci fi nerd noogie for those who got the Firefly reference.

The Phrase I’m Not Saving

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RESCUE 911
 We’re lost in the woods, and need an extra large with mushrooms and double cheese…and a helicopter, please.

Join our thrilling, reality-based series, during which MH and I discover our son’s true concerns should we ever end up lost or injured in the wilderness.

Dateline:  Sunday, July 7.  MH and I planned on driving up to Vancouver, WA to go hiking on a new (to us) trail. We invited son K, who declined. [1]

As I was lacing up my boots I informed K of our destination, and told him I was leaving a map of the trail on my computer.  I decided to test his hiking/outdoor recreation, “Buddy system” safety awareness [2] by asking him, “So, what would you do if we did not return by a certain time?”

“What time?” K asked.

“Absolutely, by dinner time,” I clarified. “But we should be back way before that.”

“Well…” K steepled his fingers in front of his face in a Mr. Spock-like pose of thoughtfulness.  “I haven’t been to Pizza Schmizza in a while….

chopper

                              *   *   *

As already noted on this week’s The Mighty Quinn FB page, my calendar said that July 8 was Toot Your Own Horn day.  (It also said that July 2 was Eat Nothing But Dark Chocolate For Every Meal and Your Teeth Will Be Bright and Your Breath Minty Fresh day.  Don’t you wish you had my calendar?) Thus, I excerpted one of my favorite reviews of The Mighty Quinn, which is on Goodreads, courtesy of fellow writer, SCM:

I should start by saying what THE MIGHTY QUINN is not. It’s not for every middle grade reader, nor is it a book for a bright younger kid whose parents read MG books out loud before bed. (I tried.)

THE MIGHTY QUINN is a smart book, and it’s going to appeal to brighter MG readers. It’s a clever and funny book about the Borgia-like scheming simmering below the surface of elementary school social life.

It’s about what it’s like to be raised progressively when peers are, well, not.

 It’s about what it’s like to be raised in a free-thinking and non-religious home, when peers are, well, not.

It’s about what it’s like to be a clever and funny kid when peers are, well, not.

What’s more, it’s the rare book for smart MG readers and their parents to read together. A smart MG reader is doing most reading without parents. This is, in some ways, a last hurrah for those bedtime reading rituals that parents miss more than kids—although it never seems to feel like that when you’re reading Mike Mulligan for the hundredth time.

Bonus: there’s plenty that will make parents laugh.

SCM gave the book a 5 star rating, and states that it is not for every middle grade reader [3].  I liked that. I for one am turned off by reviews which proclaim, Everyone will/must like this book! Because, that’s never the case, is it?  Also, the same, I-like-these qualities the reviewer lists about TMQ would be red flags for those people (certain adults, I think, more than certain children) who, sadly but frankly, are predisposed to not like a book that presents a sympathetic portrayal of kids who “…are raised progressively.”

And so it goes.

Oh, and now that I don’t have to do it every night, I do miss reading Mike Mulligan. MikeMulligan

*   *   *

This week I attended my first professional baseball game in…I truly do not remember how long it has been. [4] Growing up in So Cal, my summers were filled with trips to Chavez Ravine for Dodger games and Anaheim Stadium for Angel games (and if you climbed to the top of our backyard’s big pine tree you could see the stadium’s halo light up when an Angel hit a home run).

I forget what year it happened, but after one player/owner strike too many – when I asked myself, hmmm, which group of millionaires do I feel sorry for? – I lost interest.  I went from a high schooler who subscribed to Sports Illustrated, someone who could quote lengthy passages from Ball Four, someone who, much to MH’s befuddlement, could whip anyone’s ass in a 1970s Dodger’s baseball trivia contest, [5] to someone who just didn’t give a flying festering fartbag about professional sports.

Except, of course, when Kirk Gibson hit his gimp, game-winning home run during the 1988 World Series, which cause my younger sister (whose husband was rooting for the Oakland A’s) and I to exchange, gloating phone calls: YEEESSSS!

Once again, I digress.

So, on Monday I dragged MH, son K and his friend and moiself to Hillsboro’s new baseball stadium, home of the Hillsboro Hops, Hillsboro’s new new minor league team .  I really, really, could have done without the inane announcer’s patter and the kiddie tire races and kiddie hoop shooting contests and kiddie bunny hops and the other “amusements” between innings (Hades forbid we should be content to merely sit with our thoughts or converse with other attendees – we must be ENTERTAINED at all moments).

That irritation aside, hearing the distinctive slap of a 94 mph pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt, watching fit young men in fit uniforms [6] loping around a field on a hot summer evening, savoring a bag of peanuts roasted in the shell – the night brought back primal memories for me.  The night also provided a reminder of a most epic parental fail, when my 20 year old son made a comment which indicated he did not know how many innings are in a baseball game.

Ball Four

*   *   *

“It has never been easier to be a writer, and it has never been harder to be a professional writer.”
(Adam Gopnick, The New Yorker, as quoted in the Spring 2013 Authors Guild Bulletin)

sadwriter

Because the Authors Guild takes their mandate seriously (“…the nation’s leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts and free expression….”), their bulletin is full of the news that matters to writers; i.e., reports on how AG attorneys and advocates are fighting the good [7] fight against the erosion of authors’  income streams and copyright and royalty protection and trends in e-publishing….  Almost all of it is really, really, really depressing:

E-books are way less expensive for publishers to produce, but instead of being more generous to authors, the major publishing houses all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to (that which gives authors ) roughly half the traditional royalty on hardcover books….Five of six major publishing houses were sued by the DOJ’s anti-trust division for fixing e-book prices…numerous pirate sites (supported by advertising on Yahoo and Google) offer new and old e-books for free (and too many Americans, especially younger ones, seem to believe that if it’s on the internet it belongs to everybody – even while they pay for cable)…Amazon acquired a patent to re-sell e-books… [8]

I think when the next issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin arrives I’ll save time and, before turning the first page, assume my custom-designed, Author’s Yoga Pose ®.

YOGA

 Whattheasana
(aka Author’s Pose)

Whattheasana is a pose of realization.  It transfers tension from your neck, shoulders and back to your brain bucket, where tension belongs.

(1) Begin in a kneeling position, on the hardest surface you can find.

(2) Drop your buttocks to your heels. Exhale and stretch your torso down and forward, lengthening your tailbone from the pelvis as you rest your abdomen atop your thighs, your forehead on the floor. Inhale one long breath of futility.

(3) Exhale. Place your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up in the universal gesture of surrender. Visualize your most recent royalty statement and/or the Ten Must-Have Marketing Strategies for Writers! conference come-ons in your email inbox. Let the weight of the world rest on your shoulders, broadening your scapulae across your back and further grinding your forehead into the floor.

(4) Inhale, extend your cervical vertebrae and raise your forehead several inches above the floor. Exhale, release your forehead to gravity and chant your author’s mantra (“d-uh”) as your forehead hits the floor with a chakra-satisfying thud.  Repeat this sequence, staying in the pose for one to five minutes, or until the half-hearted urge to even consider enrolling in any Social Media Web-inar/Tutorials subsides.

*   *   *

Pacas and Toucans and Turtles, Oh My!

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

Belle returned late Tuesday evening from a nine day trip to Costa Rica.  She and 17 other Oregon Zoo Teen leaders were participating in an Ecology International Field Service Project.  The kids and their adult guides helped biologists at La Suerte [9] Biological Field Station and the Pacuare Nature Reserve gather data on sea turtles, and the Costa Rican mosquitoes helped themselves to fresh American teenage blood.

The pangs of missing my daughter didn’t hit me until July 4, when I was out running errands/having lunch with MH.  I passed the time at the local animal shelter while MH roamed the aisles of Lowe’s, and at the shelter I saw The Cutest Kitten In the World ® which, fortunately, had a sign on its kennel indicating it had already been adopted.  Belle would have adored the kitten, I thought…and it’s a good thing she’s in Costa Rica, because she just possibly would have found a way to talk MH and I out of our Crazy Cat People  Limit. [10]

After home improvement errands MH & I had lunch at Red Robin, where I was reminded of something I do not miss about my daughter, or my son, now that both of them have been housebroken for some time.  When I used the RR’s restroom I overheard the distinctive dialogue which indicated the presence of a Six Legged Monster [11] occupying the handicapped stall.

“Mommy, I did a stinker!”

“Yes, honey, you did a stinker.”

“No, YOU did a stinker!”

“Okay, I did a stinker – no, wait, don’t open the door, your sister isn’t done yet….”

sequential

Two minutes later, in the parking lot, there was yet another parent/child/potty story unfolding: a young mother was changing her infant son’s messy diaper, using the rear of her SUV as a changing table. With the car’s hatchback door up, passersby (including yours truly) had quite the view.

I’m not going to tell the story in all of its Technicolor glory.  I’d like to save the phrase poop-encrusted scrotum for 2014.

Happy Independence Day, indeed.  And the hijinks ensued.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] There were, as always, aliens to be battled in cyberspace.

[2] Always inform friends and family about your trip itinerary, ideally include a map and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return….

[3] I like her subtle nudge re how TMQ appeals to the “brighter” reader. Ahem.

[4] Remembered during the edit! It was in October ’92, at Baltimore’s beautiful Oriole Park: MH & I with my groovy friend and fellow Ball Four lover Ernie Kyger, with a special guest appearance by Baltimore Sun sportswriter (and high school friend) Peter Schmuck .

[5] Name the Dodgers infield that played together for more than eight seasons — a major league record! (Cey, Lopes, Russell & Garvey)

[6] I’m married, not dead.

[7] If ultimately futile, in my humble yet realistic opinion.

[8] These feel-good excerpts are from the From the President article by AG President Scott Turow.

[9] Idiomatic translation: good luck with the heron-sized mosquitoes.

[10] I say it’s four (naturally, we have four cats).  Belle insists you’re not truly in Crazy Cat People territory until six.

[11] A mother and her two young children.

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