52 Notes :: Valentine’s Quickies

52 Notes :: Valentine’s Quickies

I’m that person whose party gift lands on the table without a tag, requiring the recipient to look around sheepishly as she opens it to figure out the givee, me lifting my hand, apologizing for my lack of decorum with a grand smile, a gentle shrug. A few times, I’ve written my name on the top corner of the bag, practically having to etch the letters, the waxy paper not easily accepting of ink. I’m at least better than my husband, who once showed up to a friend’s wedding with our gift in a floppy gray plastic bag, the bold lettering of Bed, Bath & Beyond viewable from space. My bad for not picking something up early, forgetting I hadn’t purchased a gift as I helped the bride-to-be prep. A hard one but lesson learned – I no longer wanted to be that gifter. Five years ago, when the American Greetings store in the Cerritos Mall closed, I spent about fifteen bucks on 30 or so cards, a purchase meant to support my new habit of being ready to bid fond farewells, best wishes, and the happiest of birthdays to family and friends. My greeting card bonanza was to save me from my chronic lack of preparedness. At 70-90% off, I picked up cards for work birthdays, for congratulations, for condolences, for missing those who were far away (at the time, my oldest daughter  was preparing to leave for college in the fall). And I purchased a pair of Valentine’s Day cards for my husband, though we’d never really been the card-swapping type. 52 notes quickie valentine With the bulk of my collection to be used for work birthdays, I kept the bunch in my office so as to prevent burning a morning break with a trip to Ralph’s for a last minute purchase when someone asked if I’d remembered that it was so-and-so’s birthday. 52notes quickie valentine Problem was that I kept forgetting to pull out the non-work cards, leaving me with an obsolete stack of greetings, collecting dust on my bookshelf over the years, including the love cards for my husband. 52 notes february valentine And he didn’t get any of them this year either as it wasn’t until I’d spent five bucks at Target on a new card that I remembered the waning stash at work. But I did indeed send him a card – mailed it from Elm Street to Elm Street, stamp and everything, along with a Valentine’s card to my sweet parents far away in Stockton, and a birthday card for my hound loving UCLA homie, Tami. This lucky bunch can brag that they received full-priced greetings from me. Hopefully, I’ll find a use for my remaining, obscure bargain bin remains before the year is over, even the juvenile one for my youngest niece, who is now 16.

What is 52 Notes?

Groovy Words :: mammothrept

Groovy Words :: mammothrept

One of my most beloved teachers, who has had much influence on my writing – the incomparable Janet Fitch – always challenged our class to write above par. That meant exercising a few things – banning the cliche, shaping characters who evolve, and using colorful words (check out her Rules for Writers – great list!).

Words. Bending them and stretching them and applying them in ways that hadn’t been done before.

I’d always been ashamed to admit picking up a thesaurus, as if this was the action of an amateur, someone who needed help with expressions. Janet, however, empowered its use, holding it up as an invaluable and irreplaceable tool for writers. Since school, I’ve embraced the thesaurus and other sources of less oft-employed words as a means to assist me with creating prose (I did want to say “and make it pop,” but how cliche would that be?).

No shame
No shame

With time, I’ve made it a goal to learn new words and integrate them into my writing. My “Groovy Word List” in its most rudimentary form exists in a mini spiral notebook that I keep in my purse, jotting down words I find exceptional, humorous, and unexampled. It excites me when I encounter words with very specific meanings (such as defenestration: the act of throwing something or someone out of a window) or ones that feel nifty when spoken (like cymotrichous: having wavy hair) or a word that replaces a regular old description of something (glaucous means light bluish-green or greenish-blue). How lovely it is when, after compiling words, an opportunity arrives during my writing when I am able to use one of my words. This is especially helpful when editing, when while re-working text, I can replace ordinary words (run, felt, make, sad, sure) with groovy words (dart, thumbed, dragoon, cheerless, inerrant) – even if it means readers have to look them up; even if it means I have to look the words up myself months later because I’ve forgotten the meaning. And this doesn’t mean overdoing it. Swapping out humdrum words for exciting ones is sort of an art form. When using my groovy words, there’s a balance so that the groovy words don’t create a clunkiness, making the writing difficult to read; but in a way to keep the prose from getting stale, the way jewelry can perk up an otherwise dull ensemble.

Therefore, I’ll be sharing some of my more invigorating finds here. Feel free to send any groovy words you come across my way.

mammothrept: n., a child raised by its grandmother; a spoiled child

Write On :: When Life’s a Mess

Write On :: When Life’s a Mess

I’ve never been the most organized person. I’m a last minute gal. I don’t get gas until the light comes on. If you’ve invited me to a party, you’ll probably get a gift card that I’ve picked up at the Von’s around the corner from your home. I’m lucky when things happen away from home because, should the need arise, I have: funny socks, duct tape, scented lotion, light bulbs, fruit snacks, scissors, a cork screw – the list goes on – all in my car’s trunk, left from the time when I needed to bring said items to an outing and failed to take them back inside the house.

In short, I’m a mess. But there comes a time when self-intervention is necessary. Take Exhibit #1.

Time for a filing cabinet?
Time for a filing cabinet?

My desk. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even use it, needing to push aside piles just to do any work. I could probably use a lesson in sifting & tossing. (BTW, that’s my girl Ava on the screen and her film distribution company: check out the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, AKA AAFRM at http://affrm.tumblr.com/ – support more films by her by voting for her at affinity.strutta.com/entries)

And it doesn’t end there. I swear it was just last night when I did the dishes (my LEAST favorite chore in the house – even ranking below toilet cleaning).

But look! Where did all these NEW dishes come from?

Looking for a human dishwasher
Looking for a human dishwasher

I try. I really, really try. But there are so many other things (sewing, cleaning my belly button, being hypnotized, having the wax washed out of my ears, getting a skin test for TB) I’d rather do than clean. Is that wrong? Does that make me a cave woman?

My husband would say “Yes! – Yes, indeed.” But he’s not a writer. He’s not a dreamer. A creator. A maker. That’s what I chose to do today instead of cleaning. I MADE stuff. I cleared up the clutter in my head.

Will I clean the kitchen? Eventually. Otherwise, I’ll run out of spoons and won’t be able to eat my bowl of Special K in the morning. Will I clean my desk? Likely, no. Not until I …

No. I probably won’t. But in the meantime, I’m going to be cranking out some sublime goodness. And hopefully, whoever reads my pages won’t be too bothered if they are smeared with peanut butter or nacho cheese. Happy writing!

Poet, Didn’t Know It :: Continental Drift

Poet, Didn’t Know It :: Continental Drift

It’s a little too easy.
Soon, San Francisco will be one quick toll bridge away from Japan.
The mayor will dye the sky a proper blue.
My dog won’t require me.
We’ll find it difficult to stand, hard to find a hearty pee-in-your-pants laugh.

But still a cinch because we’ll laugh and not realize its potential.
That a laugh can both squeeze and relax things just right so that one of our buttons of control malfunctions.
There’ll be a cure for incontinence anyway. And for embarrassment and for anxiety so what does the laugh matter?

We’ll unsalt the water and find it bland.
Babies will stop crying. Maybe they’ll beep instead. Or vibrate or pulse or glow the faint brightness of day.
There’ll be no need for roller coasters.
You won’t meet your next husband waiting in line.
Every problem is solved.

So new trouble must be found:
Too high. Too golden. Not poisonous enough.
Until someone finally lets herself feel it. That itch under her skin. That skinned knee. That dead relationship. That hangover.
And submits to the living part of life.

Write On :: Finito

Write On :: Finito

The Desk of Life
The Desk of Life

I’ve done it. After nearly three years at it, I’ve found what once eluded Mick Jagger and friends in the mid-1960s: (Yes!) Satisfaction.

And the How? happens to be because I completed edits on my 116,185 word novel. Satisfaction is truly the word that best describes what I’m currently feeling. Elation and giddiness, too, have arrived. But more than those, I’m extraordinarily SATIATED and CONTENT (still have my thesaurus by my side) to have worked through this process. Though I’m done with this phase, part of me is sad that the grunt of the job has passed. This is why I know I’m a writer – not because I wanted to get to the end, but for the thrill of the course itself.

New adventures await. I spent about five bucks to ship off all 360 pages to New York to be read by the agent who shopped around my first book many, many years ago (which wasn’t awful, but could have used some tweaking – good ol’ hindsight). In the meantime, new writing will commence. Another novel, and an attempt at non-fiction. That will be tricky since I’m such a fantasy-land kind of girl. I can’t even tell you the last non-fiction book I’ve read. But again, the process is what matters. So I’m looking forward to more writing, and anything else that happens to follow.

Keep pushing, friends.

Post Script
So, perhaps it was the Laser Jet ink that had me so high last night, going on romantically about the process of writing being so beautiful, so virtuous [It’s now the next day. I was waiting for my cute little picture to upload via Photo Stream to iPhoto. Took so long that I went to bed]. Not that I’m not buying the lemonade from my own stand, but really? REALLY? Writing is insanely stressful. And lonely. Pushing out meaningful paragraphs every morning at 5:00 am for the last five months (yeah, I missed a few days here and there), trying to turn a 10-page workshop assignment into a weighty, intelligible, imaginative story? Ignoring chores, missing out on lunches with co-workers, irrationally scolding my husband or kid if interrupted? This business ain’t the easiest, particularly with a marriage, two jobs, four kids, friends who like Happy Hours, and television … TELEVISION!

But okay, okay. It was still a thrilling ride. Especially these last few months when I promised myself to complete what had been my thesis (120 large font pages submitted back in April 2011), attempting to do so without my work affecting my family and job (I have to admit, my house hasn’t been clean since November). So I stand by my Satisfied. But itching, I admit, to see something grand happen to my work. It’s not just the process. It’s also the will to reach others. To connect to others with my words. When that happens, I’ll have to pull out my thesaurus again to pick just the right way to describe my feeling then. I have no idea what that word will be, but there’s a good chance that I may find myself Satisfied once again.

Poet, Didn’t Know It :: Hot

Poet, Didn’t Know It :: Hot

In a bed
Lives a sock
Tucked deep down into the nowhere.

It had a day
When it was the most bestest thing.

And then it got hot
And it fell away
And left by itself.

And now it wonders what else it might ever be.

Poet, Didn’t Know It :: The People at My Job

Poet, Didn’t Know It :: The People at My Job

The dark shades at all times lady.
The always pregnant lady.
The trite greeting in the morning lady (“Another day, another dollar!”).
The grumbling stomach man who sits by me at meetings.
The mustache mumbler.
The holidays threw up in her cubicle lady.
The fish dinner leftovers for lunch lady.
The baller car, low wages guy.
The impeccably pedicured foul-breathed girl.
The kid.
The Google wiz.
The pleasant bigot.
The shopper.
Lady two-face.
The man with the peculiar sneeze.
The woman who won’t acknowledge anyone on the elevator.
The human calculator.
The last bagel taker.
The million words on a PowerPoint slide guy.
The staff meeting star.
The lingerer.
The trash lady who hates trash.
The exercise ball for a chair lady.
The tooth brusher.
The real boss.
The stare at your breasts while he talks of his wife dude.
The woman who shooshed me that one time.
The woman who can’t eat anything.
The break dancer.
The word swallower.