The Muse I’m Not Mastering

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Tonight, June 7, I’ll  be at Downtown Beaverton’s First Friday, the city’s monthly celebration of art and craft and live entertainment and food that takes place in Beaverton’s core downtown area.  Look for me (and two other local authors) at Beaverton Sub Station (12248 SW Broadway) from 5-8p, selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn, trying to be heard above the surrounding bands, or just chucking it all and joining the “improvisational, neo-tribal belly dance troupe” Mandala, who will be entertaining, educating and empowering the sisterhood of undulating torsos (and scaring the old folks barbequing at the Beaverton Masonic Lodge) from 6-7p.

No, I don’t know why we’re doing this at a sub shop, except for the inherent connection in most people’s minds between fine sandwiches and fine literature.

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Department of Your Tax Dollars At Work

Unless in the past couple of days you have been driven mad by the cellular-disrupting touch of a Kalandan  or caught between dimensions in Tholian Web, it’s likely you heard or read something about the Star Trek parody video that the IRS produced for a 2010 training conference.

I’m all over anyone producing any kind of Star Trek parody for any reason, but using taxpayer’s money?  And really, for 50k, couldn’t they at least have gotten a better Spock wig? [1]

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 I am driven by a wonderful muse called alimony.
Dick Schaap 

An e-versation[2] earlier in the week with the delightful Desiree Bussiere, Scarletta Press’s Director of Publicity, was a spark for one of my I haven’t thought of this in years memories. Further fanning the spark was one of the questions submitted to me by a reporter for the Hillsboro Tribune reporter, who is planning to do a story on The Mighty Quinn.

Whether you’re a writer who does 20 interviews per month or one Q & A every ten years, you will, always and eventually, be asked some version of, “How do you write?” or “Can you describe your inspiration and/or writing process?”

The response to that kind of question, if answered truthfully, will likely be…well…not very interesting.  Writing fiction involves little drama, no wand-waving…how many cinema-worthy images are there of someone thinking, and then moving their fingers rapidly across a keyboard?  The translation of a story from imagination to page, while often exhilarating for the writer, is a snorefest to watch.  Thus, I think, the tendency to embellish the response.

I’d like to hitch a ride on a Star Trek-worthy time warp device of some sort that would transport me back in time so that I could slap the first pretentious author who decided to like the concept of the Muse with that of literary creation.  As in, a True Author one must follow The Muse, or wait until she Muse calls or “strikes” before one can be inspired to write.

For those of you needing a Greek mythology, primer, The Muses were the daughters of Zeus [3] and Mnemosyne [4], who presided over various arts and sciences.

I was inspired to compose a list of alternative muses one day, after reading a precious interview with a precious author who complained of the agonies of being enslaved to the Muse and thus was unable to write, seeing as how Ms. Muse had not deigned to inspire him since he’d written his bestseller. [5]

Yes, a “real” author writes only “when the muse” strikes…and makes sure the Muse strikes every working day, just after breakfast.

Greek Muses

name of muse                                presides over the realm(s) of
Erato                                             love poetry & mime
Euterpe                                         lyric poetry
Calliope                                         epic poetry
Clio                                                 history
Melphomene                                 tragedy
Polyhymnia                                   sacred song
Terpsichore                                   dance
Thalia                                            comedy
Urania                                           astronomy

Robyn’s Modern Literary Muses 

name of muse                                presides over the realm(s) of
Callosene                                      hardened buttocks
Egonia                                           “no simultaneous submissions” policies
Emotia                                          romance novels
Ennuinia                                        free verse
Erratica                                         copy editors
Dyspepsia                                     the submissions process
Hyperbolene                                 writing workshops, seminars and “how to” classes
Monotonene                                  political correctness (anybody’s)
Polymorphia                                  M. F. A. programs in Fiction/Creative Writing
Twerpsichore                                writer’s support groups

Here is an icon of your muse:  a picture of your butt in front of your desk.  That’s what it takes.  Your muse is showing up and doing the work.  Park your bonbons in your chair (or better yet, stand at your ergonomic adjustable desk ) and get to it.  You are the Muse, you are the Master…hmmm. Does that make you what kind of master?

Whatever the realm over which you preside, may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] For a mere ten bucks worth of taxpayers blood, sweat and tears you can get a Spock wig with hair, not a plastic toupee, geesh.

[2] as in a conversation via email.  You knew that.

[3] El Queso Grande of the Greek Gods.

[4] The goddess of memory, a realm that must have sucked for the wife of a Greek God who loves them lady-gods – and select mortal women – every chance he got.

[5] The drinking problem he’d developed on his book tour had nothing to do with it.

The Bread I’m Not Winning

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Okay, so it’s not a gig in Beautiful Downtown Burbank.  Beautiful Downtown Beaverton’s First Friday  will have to do.

Next Friday – that’s one week from today, June 7 – two other authors and I will be participating in the monthly celebration of art and craft, live entertainment and refreshment that takes place in Beaverton’s core downtown area.  Look for me at Beaverton Sub Station (12248 SW Broadway) from 5-8p,[1] selling and signing copies of The Mighty Quinn and trying to be heard above the surrounding bands.

Be there or be…you know.

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Summer preview

Aka, Department of 20-20 Hindsight

 With son K home from college and Belle with less than two full weeks of school left, I have begun yet again, to contemplate my work.  As in, I’m thinking about The Lack of What Should Get Done ® that happens during mid June through August.

Summer is a strange time for me.  The freedom I thought would get with the kids growing older – they’ll be monitoring (and transporting) themselves right? – it hasn’t happened yet.  The schedules (and interruptions) remain, and are more sporadic and unpredictable than during the school year. It’s still child care, in a different form and with slightly bigger britches (theirs, not mine.  I promise).

I try to set lower professional goals for myself during the summer, both for my sanity’s sake and for the enjoy-the-time-with-the-kids-while-you-can thing.  The subject of professional goals provides a convenient segue to the department of If I’d known then what I know now:  I should have rented an office, or office space.  Or convinced MH that a condo or loft would be a good investment, and worked from there.

I didn’t need to read the recent articles on the brouhaha about working from home vs. going to the office to know the reality, for me.  In terms of professional productivity, going-to-the-office wins the mud wrestling match, no question.  Also, there is the delicate topic of respect, from both family and even working-away-from-home peers, [2] and the assumed responsibility for the lion’s share of household chores (because, after all, there you are, at home [3])…and the anecdotal but nonetheless real evidence:  the times when I have had regular opportunities (and a place) to work away from my home office, I got

So. Much. More Done.

Of course, the reality of writing literary fiction (read: pays next to nothing) does not justify the added business expense…unless you heed the adage of you’ve got to spend money to make money and with the extra time who knows how much more productive I could have been…and would that have translated into enough income to justify the investment?

Like a piece of speculative fiction written by a Gen-Y-er, this post is going nowhere.  It must be time to complain about some other aspect of The Writing Life. ©

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Things About Which I Have Strong Opinions

I’ve said this before and will likely say it again:  the dirty little secret of writing fiction is that it is much easier to make money from other writers (“aspiring” or wannabes or actual writers) than it is from writing fiction.

The various writers’ trade journals proclaim this reality with their print and classified ads and with their e-newsletters and weekly updates, all of which feature some come-on like the following, which was in a weekly e-update from one of the professional trade publications to which I subscribe: 

“PERFECT YOUR NOVEL – Writing a novel is tough, but polishing it is nearly impossible to do alone. With the Writers’ Hackathon Weekly [4]  Advanced Novel Writing course, writers don’t have to tackle the process alone!”

This is the point where any writer worth their post-it notes should slam the door shut in the face of the virtual door-to-door insurance peddler.

Polishing (your novel) is “nearly impossible to do alone” – WTF? Actually, it is quite possible.  Actually, writers do it all the time. Actually, 99.99% of novelists have somehow managed to “polish” their work themselves, without the being scammed into paying for the ripoff that is aid of writing tutorials, seminars, conferences, market trend analyses, MFA programs – all of which are relatively recent boils on the ass trends in the history of literature.

The ad goes on to tell you how the course’s instructor will work with certain chosen individuals, and concludes with this additional appeal to ego: 

“This course is not for beginners. Rather, it’s for writers who are ready to get published and want specific feedback on what’s working-or not-with their manuscripts. This is the final ascent to publication!”

The final ascent!  No wonder I feel a need to grab my oxygen mask – I’m almost to the top.  Oh, wait a minute – This course is not for beginners. Rather, it’s for writers who are ready to get published.  That sounds like a beginner’s mindset to me.  Not yet published, or not yet “ready” to be published?

My second piece of advice for writers (after the first, which is, never ask writers for advice on writing) is more warning then recommendation:  writing fiction is ultimately a solitary activity.  You do it by yourself, on your own, not with your writing tutor or your writing support group or your therapist, or your professor or your Ten Sure-Fire Steps To Success course instructor. 

“Of all the higher arts, it (writing) is the most self-taught…in the end, you have to find your own way.”   (John Updike)

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Department of Much ado About Well, Duh

Conservative blogger and Fox News “personality” [5] Erick Erickson became the latest primitive mouthbreather to be pissing in his man-panties over the recently released PEW Research Social & Demographic Trends survey, [6]  which show that  40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. [7]  Because, dude,, female breadwinners will destroy society as we know it.

(Cave) Men:  ooga chaka ooga ooga  chaka

Womans! Give us back our bread!

Someone pass the sourdough boule, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] The logical place for authors invited to your event is to give them space in a sandwich shop.

[2] “real work” involves leaving the house, and your working time is always interrupt-worthy because, after all, you work at home – you are your own boss and have flex hours and can set your own schedule, right?

[3] And if the cat comes in and barfs under your desk you have no choice but to clean it up, whereas it wouldn’t do that if your desk were somewhere else, and you could return home and like everyone else, pretend not to notice the mess until someone stepped in it.

[4] Not the publication’s real title.  Dammit.

[5] This is an identity?

[6] analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data.

[7]  “Breadwinner moms” breakdown:  37% are married mothers whose income is higher than their husbands, and 63% are single mothers, who, by definition (or so it seems to me) will have the highest income in their household if they have the only income in their household.