The Round House / a story out in October / Chet Faker

Right now, I’m reading a few books, but most notably I’m trying to finish one. The Round House, by Louise Erdrich, has been a great, although slow, read so far. I’d say I’m about 80% through it. A novel, it’s about a 13-year-old Native American boy whose father is a tribal judge and whose mother had a very violent crime committed against her. One of the questions has to do with how to try the accused, given that the mother doesn’t recall if the crime happened on tribal land. There’s another mysterious element in it, which took its sweet time to reveal itself. I have been reading this for weeks, and though I like Erdrich and I like the story and I think the main character, Joe, is compelling, I can’t seem to get through the damned thing. Luckily it’s a library book, so I have a deadline to get it read.

I cannot believe I did not realize that Louise Erdrich lives here in Minneapolis, nor did I know that she owns and runs Birchbark Books. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know that!

Oo, also: I’m in my “I get to read scary books because it’s almost Halloween” piece of the year. I have It waiting for me at the library.

My own writing news is that I’ve had a story accepted for publication at Flash Fiction Magazine. It will be out on October 27.

As far as new-to-me music goes, I’m really liking Chet Faker (or as he’s known now, Nick Murphy). Just sayin.

Sandra / Poets & Writers / Ed Harcourt

Of the 50 GB of podcast episodes I currently have in my library, one of my favorites is the first season of Sandra. This podcast is scripted sci-fi. I loved it.

The synopsis:

“A world where artificial intelligence isn’t so artificial.
Helen thought her new job would help her forget her dreary hometown, but working behind the curtain on everyone’s favorite A.I. isn’t quite the escape she expected.”

The three big actors in the series are Alia Shawkat (who I know only from “Arrested Development,” but she’s done a lot lately), Kristen Wiig, and Ethan Hawke. There are only seven episodes in the first season, and each of the episodes is about a half hour long. It’s so good — the story is interesting and creepy, but I think the most satisfying component of the whole thing is that we’re hearing Wiig and Shawkat and Hawke without seeing their awesome faces.

Right now, I have 1,876 unread e-mails in my inbox. (I have a system for catching the important ones.) The newsletter I’m trying to catch up on this week is Poets & Writers. What I like about this newsletter is that in most editions, there is a poetry prompt, a fiction prompt, and a creative non-fiction prompt. It also features a book about the writing practice. All of this is useful, I just never get around to using its usefulness…

As far as music goes, I haven’t gotten into this week’s album yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I heard Ed Harcourt’s song, “There’s a Light Below,” and got his album “Furnaces” as a result. I’ll get to it this week.

Any good music out there?

I write: Flash fiction and what it’s doing for me

I am writing. I am in a quasi-habit of writing on a somewhat regular basis. I’m in a writers’ group of four fiction writers, and I’m loving that. The feedback is always great, but mostly I’m happy to have a deadline and to have other people expecting something from me.

I’m nearly ready to submit a flash fiction story. I will try to have that out by next week. I’m going to send it to three places, and see what happens from there.

Flash fiction is so much more accessible and attainable for me right now. I would love to have the stamina and organizational skills to attempt to write a novel (and frankly, I’d love even more to have the time and space), but I’m lucky right now to get a few minutes in the fringes. I love flash fiction, though — writing it is fun because I know I can finish the thing, and reading it doesn’t take more than a few minutes.

I have had a lot of trouble getting a routine down, so I’ve decided to screw the routine and write whenever and however I can. I’m getting used to writing on my phone. I’m happy to write in the car while my kids sleep.

So. I’m writing. I’m happy for that.

Here is a story of mine that was published:

The Dog in the Moonlight

Any good writing podcasts out there?

I read: Brain Rules for Baby and The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice podcast

Hey.

It’s Tuesday. I’m writing this in the car. Rather, I’m writing this in my office. (I am in this car more than any other place, I think.) My kids are snoring in the backseat, and I drug along my computer for this very purpose: To do something while they allowed it. And they’re allowing it now, as I am allowing them to push back their bedtime tonight…

Anyway. I have Book Club this week and haven’t even started the book. Dang it. I have a new rule: I cannot start a book until I have finished two of the books I’m already reading. So I’m trying really hard to finish a book so that I can start White Houses, by Amy Bloom. I know it’s a novel, but truthfully I’m not excited about it. But! I really wasn’t that into the book that I’m trying to finish until I gave it a chance, and now I’m loving it, so there. That one is Brain Rules for Baby, by John Medina. I haven’t read many books about parenting or baby development since I gave birth to my first new person almost five years ago. This book was recommended by an Early Childhood Family Educator, and I’m into it. It covers brain development from pregnancy through five years, and looks at how all kinds of things do and don’t affect the baby’s brain at certain stages. One of the take-aways I have is that the stress a mother feels while pregnant can be truly detrimental to an unborn child (I mean, sure, I knew that, but reading it here really brought that home). Something else in the book I liked was the reference to growth mindset parenting, in which I can applaud the effort that my kids employ as opposed to acknowledging only that they achieved something or won something or what have you. I was so proud of my two-year-old the other day when she was trying to get herself into her car seat but fell out, and instead of being really pissed and embarrassed and frustrated, she actually said, “I need to try again,” and did so. I praised her for her effort. That was awesome.

Now, I need to finish this book before I can start the book that I have to have read by Friday night.

My husband told me that my phone is holding 50 MB of podcast episodes, waiting sweetly for me to hear each and every one of them, whenever in life that might be.

The podcast I’m into this week is The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice. I love it. I’m pretty current with this one because it’s new to me (though I’ve been listening to The New Yorker: Fiction for many years). In “The Writer’s Voice,” a writer who is published in The New Yorker simply reads his or her story. I love, love, love the episode story, David Gilbert Reads “Fungus”.

It’s fantastic.

Another thing I’m really into lately: Newsletters. Is that weird? One of my very favorites is Brain Pickings, by Maria Popova. Some of the articles in the most recent edition are titled “Marcus Aurelius on How Meeting Reality on Its Own Terms Helps Us Live Through Our Difficulties,” “Amanda Palmer and the Decomposers Cover Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ in Tribute to Rachel Carson,” and “The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics Pioneer Norbert Wiener on Communication, Control, and the Morality of Our Machines.” And more, in just one newsletter. Man, it is so, so good. So good.

Oh, and finally, I just finished the album “Freetown Sound” by Blood Orange. I had heard the song “Best To You” and had decided to give the album a shot, but… it won’t make my Favorites playlist. It’s a lot of R & B with some shimmery 80’s to it. I didn’t love it. Next! (I’ll be listening to Ed Harcourt next week.)

Anything good out there?

A semi-annual re-launch of the blog (and what I’m reading)

There are so many things I want to do on a daily basis. So many things that I don’t fit them in, and then I write and re-write a list of priorities every so many weeks.

Today I woke up at 4:30 so that I can get a few things in before the rest of the household wakes. This is an experiment. I conduct so many experiments, usually starting on Mondays. A few Mondays ago, I decided it would be a good idea to drop caffeine and alcohol forever. This experiment, this forever commitment, lasted until the following Saturday.

At 4:30 this morning, I wrote for half an hour, with pencil on paper, and then transitioned to writing this damned story I want to finish for the next couple of hours. It was a frustrating morning, but maybe I’ll actually get something done some day.

I wonder how long I will be able to stay awake. I’m hoping until the kids go to sleep tonight.

Another new experiment is to blog. Post to the site. What an idea.

Last week I started Jonathan Franzen’s novel Purity. At 598 pages, I’ll be reading it for a while. According to Kindle, I’m only 22% into it.

The podcast I’ve got on my priority listening list this week is The Poetry Magazine Podcast. I don’t write poetry now, but anything and everything to do with words is always interesting and inspiring to me. The episodes run around half an hour, and there are typically two or three poems read and discussed.

That’s what I have for now.

I read: Fates and Furies and Stuff Mom Never Told You

Hi kids.

August. Both of my kids have birthdays this month. My mother-in-law turns 80 this month, and my parents have their anniversary this month, too. We have several other family birthdays. We also have lots of international family visiting, and man oh man, it’s busy.

I started Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff, a few days ago. Though it’s not a very long novel, it’s going to take a good long time for me to read it; the language is dense and gorgeous and will take a lot to process. Typically when I pick up a novel I have no idea what it’s going to be about. I decided on this title because it was the next title reviewed in a podcast book club, so here we are. I say this because I’m only two chapters in and can’t really tell you what it’s about yet. The library needs it back in just a couple days, and I can’t renew it because there are “people in line” for it, so I actually bought the book. (I hope I finish it, now that I’ll own it. I won’t have a deadline to read it!)

The podcast I’m featuring this week (which means I listen to an episode of this before I move on to the news) is Stuff Mom Never Told You. I had it in my rotation a few years ago, but unsubscribed for some reason I can’t remember. This is a weekly podcast hosted by two women about all things and how they apply to women. The last couple of episodes have been about mental health in the black community, and work fails. The episodes run about 45 minutes. (The most memorable episode of this series was a few years ago when the hosts covered vajazzling. Do you know what that is? I hope not, Mom. Vajazzle: To adorn the pubic area of a woman with crystals, glitter, and other decoration. Yoikes.)

Have you read anything by Lauren Groff?

Vajazzle.

I read: Happier At Home and The Secret Library Podcast

Hey there.

The week goes on, doesn’t it? Today is only Tuesday.

Last week my word count was 2,956. I think I got around four hours of writing done. That’s fine with me. I will continue to do as I do and get done what I get done. I did write up a short article that I submitted to an online magazine yesterday. I do not know when I’ll hear from them, but I gather they’re looking for submissions for their winter volume.

I’m deciding on realistic submission goals. Should I aim to submit a piece or a query once a week? Once a month, as I’m just beginning here? Or is that crazy?

I want to shave my head so I can’t pull out my hair.

I’ve mentioned before that I cannot abandon a book once I’ve started it, haven’t I? (I also can’t ditch a TV series. I’m still working my way through “The West Wing.” What’s cool about that is that I’ve found an accompanying podcast, so knowing that I get a podcast episode out of every TV episode really escalates my enjoyment. 🙂 ) I started Gretchen Rubin’s Happier At Home on August 10, 2014. I know this because I track these things pretty closely, mostly on Goodreads. Here I am, almost three years later, still wondering what it’s like to be Happier At Home.

Actually, I like the book. I like Rubin’s other books and her other endeavors that you can find at her website. This book breaks down every month of the school year and offers Rubin’s attempts at enjoying herself more in her home life by way of monthly themes. The only reason I haven’t gotten through the book is because I own it. Therefore, I have no deadline to read it. If it were a library book, I’d have to have it read in three weeks.

Don’t buy me a book you want me to read.

Here’s the book. Rubin’s newest title is The Four Tendencies, if you’re curious.

I’m pretty new to the podcast I’m featuring this week: The Secret Library Podcast, but I’m excited about it. The episodes are interviews with creative people — mostly authors, but some other media as well. I was inspired by Episode #28, “Gary Wilson on Structure and Novels.” I am troubling through the feelings of writing a first draft. I was interested in what Wilson said about the way he approaches his — he writes the whole first draft without editing it or revising it at all. Wow. Man, that could be hundreds of pages of unedited story. The idea of that is both liberating and terrifying.

The episodes run about 50 minutes, on average. I like it. I’m keeping it in my rotation.

How’s your Tuesday?

I write: Building stamina

Listen. I am new to this. I have two small babes and am three days into a new schedule, complete with an out-of-town husband. I find it so easy to think big picture as opposed to what I can realistically accomplish today.

A while ago my husband and I trained for a half marathon together. (We completed the half marathon, and a full marathon the following year, though the word “complete” is loosely used here.) Anyway, I hadn’t run such a long distance before, so I really appreciated having a training schedule that accommodated that. I had to build stamina and strength and learn how to endure the boring stretches of pavement in front of me. Yes, I could’ve talked to my husband, who was running right beside me. But that would have left me more breathless and pained. One day I may share about the race that we ran together wherein he, being the nurturing, thoughtful person he is, offered me some water and I yelled an obscenity and threw the Dixie cup on the ground for hundreds of people to stomp on. Immediately following the race he proposed to me. I guess my rage must do it for him.

My hope is that one day I will accept a gift without screaming and throwing a tantrum in public. Also, I hope to spend hours upon hours — maybe not consecutively — writing. But to do that, I have to teach myself how to sit and create and think like I need to do, in smaller chunks. I’m aiming to write for one hour per day. So far this week I’ve hit that mark. I’m also hoping to finish something that I’ve been trying to get done for a while now and submit it to a magazine I’ve landed on by the end of the week.

I have no idea how to do any of this. 🙂

I read: The Handmaid’s Tale and The New Yorker: Poetry podcast

Good Monday to you.

Illness after illness have kept me from doing a lot of the things I’ve wanted to do these past few weeks and months. We didn’t take the family trip that we were meaning to do last week. I have decided that 2017 has been really hard.

Of course, I am endlessly grateful for the family and the friends who surround me, and of course, I know that my life circumstances are anything but dismal. However, these time has been tough.

I remember seeing a poem framed somewhere that expressed the glory found in days unremarkable.

I hate to say “at least,” but, at least I’m not one of the handmaids or a Wife or a Martha (I still don’t know what that is) in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. As is often the case, I am behind in current titles. But, with all of the talk about the TV series, and the fact that my husband got the book for free for some reason, I decided to start it. I knew essentially what it was about, but man, is it ever depressing. What’s really striking me is that it reads like poetry. That is so curious. I wonder how intentional that is.

I’m not loving the story, but I’m interested in the construction.

Also about poetry: The podcast I’m featuring this week is The New Yorker: Poetry. I haven’t read a lot of poetry, nor have I written a lot of it, but I’ve always been challenged by it; why not study it a little more.

I hope all is well with you.

I read: The Last Days of Night and Story Grid Podcast

Hi.

This week marks the first full week that I am no longer seeing clients. I’m giving myself a grace period of three weeks to figure out the best way to switch between full-time client-facing music therapist (and full-time mother and wife and all that), to full-time freelance writer (and full-time mother and wife and all that). It feels so gross and selfish of me to even type that out. Regardless, that is where I really am transitioning. This week is filled by kids’ appointments and my appointments and things to get done before we four leave on a family trip next week. That’s my next two weeks, and then the third week of my grace period — which is the week after we get back — I will simply have to dedicate to unpacking and organizing how my new schedule will be. This is honestly a pretty big change for me, and pretty scary. I have a few goals in mind that I am planning to share at some point this week.

In any case, I’m reading a new book for one of my book clubs. I am about halfway through The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore, and even though my book club has already talked about it and is moving on to the next title, I am determined to finish it. (Just as I am determined to finish every book I start. I remember one I didn’t finish in fifth grade. I’m pretty sure I never gave the book back to my teacher. I’m assuming she doesn’t mind at this point.) The author of the book wrote the screenplay to “The Imitation Game,” a movie I have yet to see as is wont to happen with all of our baby kids.

The book’s main character is George Westinghouse’s lawyer in the copyright battle(s) between Westinghouse and Thomas Edison.
What I like about the book so far:

The main character is not Westinghouse or Edison.
The chapters are short and move me along.
There is an element of mystery: How will the lawyer navigate the lawsuits in addition to the eccentricities of all of the characters (a big one being Nikola Tesla)?

What the book lacks for me:

I find the writing to be flat. I think the content is interesting, but the language is plain and kind of boring. I’m thankful for the short chapters. The only character that is multi-dimensional, in my mind, is Tesla. Westinghouse and Edison are written to be two of the same bullheaded people. Agnes, the love interest, hasn’t really grown into anything different than she was in the first few sentences that introduced her.

This being said, I’ll still finish the book.

One of the podcasts I’m getting into this week is the Story Grid Podcast. Here is the description of the podcast on its website:

Helping you become a better writer.

Join Shawn Coyne, author of Story Grid and a top editor for 25+ years, and Tim Grahl, struggling writer, as they discuss the ins and outs of what makes a story great.

I enjoy it, but the big drawback is that the genre that Tim Grahl is writing in doesn’t appeal to me as a writer in any big way. Coyne has a name for the genre that I don’t remember, but think “The Hunger Games” and you’ll be close. However, the episodes about other topics, like “becoming pro as a writer” are informative and inspirational and the good sort of overwhelming.

Let me know your thoughts.