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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Years!

As I pack I tell myself, “At home I may pull on the same soggy jeans week after month, and shlump around in my ratty sneaks, but the woman I will be on vacation probably wears outfits and srappy sandals. This floral smock lurking  in the depths of my closet will be perfect!”
Actually, I‘ve slipped this particular dress into many backpacks and suitcases over the millennium, so why are the tags still on it?

That's because ever since some ancient shopping bout of delusion, it has been lying in state awaiting either my radical personality change, or its own Resurrection to the thrift store. Well traveled, never worn. 
Why? Because when ever I get where I’m going, I invariably find my lazy, comfort loving, ratty sneaks wearing self there waiting for me. 
And yet, there's something so sweet about the packing self. The self awash with unrealistic fantasies, flush with faith in the possibility of change, willing to suspend disbelief and imagine myself as someone who holds her stomach in.
The same part of my mind that allows me to re-pack that silly dress, allows me to make New Years Resolutions, although I know I’ll unpack them next December with the tags intact.  
As a fiction writer I certainly believe we are all entitled to the full range of human emotion and delusion. So -- Come the New Year I will write EVERY DAY! Fingers on the keys, mind on the plot, eyes on the screen. Perhaps cutting off one finger or toe any day I don't write -- allowing me 20 (very bloody) days off.

I will also diet and exercise like a woman who believes she is mortal -- or die trying.

And I'll either wear that damn dress -- or fly it as a symbol of fashion liberation.
And here’s The Who performing I WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN!
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2011


I am here to report that this is a big country and not all lives are identical!  This I know to be true having recently had three (3) illuminating Out-Of-House-Adventures! 
The 1st was a school visit to a tiny town in southern Illinois which, recently went from being a poor mining town to being an even poorer ex-mining town. 
The shuttered coal mine.
I visited their cemetery and ate at 3 of their (I think) three restaurants. One being Dairy Queen. 
Most of the town consisted of small homes, grassy fields, major woodsy parts with spectacular fall colors, foolishly fearless deer, horses, cows, and a sprawling K-8 school of enthusiastic, mostly blond, white kids whose principal looked like Southern Barbie.
When the school first called to arrange my visit and ask about ordering my books, I suggested they contact their local independent bookstore. HA! HA! HA! Now I know that the closest "bookstore" was the Walmart a few towns over. 
There seemed to be more corner bars then there were corners. 
It must be fun to be a kid there though, tearing around on bikes, tipping cows, racing the train to the unfenced crossing, cooking meth or whatever. 
But what do the grown-ups do? 
My Los Angeles-ness practically broke out in boils. It made me wonder how my books read to kids whose surroundings and experiences are so different from those of my characters. Unlike the kids in my books, when these kids skip school they don't take the subway to China Town for din-sum, or sneak into office buildings and ride elevators to the fifty-eighth floors just to make their ears pop. That would be hard to do in a town with exactly zero (0) buildings over three stories high. 
I'd puzzled over this sort of thing before when my books were translated for sale to kids in foreign lands, but I'd never considered how exotic they could seem in my very own language and country. 
Stop #2 was a red brick Catholic middle school for at risk girls in urban St. Louis, Missouri. There I addressed the entire student body (72 mostly African American, uniformed, excessively polite but involved and curious girls) in one smallish room. 
These girls get to school early and stay until 6:00PM year round. They even have class one Saturday a month, unlike the girls in some of my books who are nannied about from piano to dance lessons, to pool parties at each other's houses, and spend a lot of time lolling around bored. 
I was asked (by a plain-clothes-nun, which I think is sneaky right there) why I choose to use foul language in some of my books. 
My auto-reply to this question (and you are free to use it if you are potty-mouthed) is not, “Who gives a shit?" But the smarmier: “As a writer, I love ALL words, just like I love all the characters in my books, including the mean nasty ones.” 
The 3rd phase of the Amy-Out-Of-House-athon was spent wandering a mostly deserted suburban mall with (according to their website) 215 stores & 45 restaurants. I don't know if that includes the kiosks. 
There I discovered a preponderance of sparkly things for sale, not just for little girls, but for grown woman as well. And not elegant, 1930s evening ware from the black & white movies type glitter, but hysterically screaming, super flashy, giddy, giggly, clothes, shiny bags, belts, hats, wallets, sequined hair sparklies, twinkly make-up, girly outfits for phones and steering wheels, and pink feathered princess stilettos like those once offered exclusively at Fredrick’s of Hollywood. 
What a blinding species we became while I wasn’t looking!
It occurs to me now that the greatest fun would be to mix it all up and as my pal KT says, "Blow the stink off!" 
  • Take some of those Dairy Queen country kids I met in Illinois and plunk them down in the massive food court of the Tapanga Canyon Mall. 
  • Put those St. Louis city girls on horseback and let them race through the unfenced small town cemetery. 
  • Scoop up the sparkly crap from the mall and heave it into the sea. No wait, that would hurt the fishies. Send it to outer space? No, we’ve hurled enough trash at the stars.  Ah Ha! I just so happen to know of a town with an unused coal mine!!!! 
P.S. Apropos of nothing, here's a picture of Wally Dog.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Writer's Block

There's never a Q&A where someone doesn't ask where the author gets her ideas. Most of us have some semi-snotty, semi-true pat reply like, The idea store up on Sunset, the newspaper, my dreams, whatever...
Or we answer the question with a question: How does anyone get any idea? How do you get the idea to walk across the room? Have some pie? Beat the kids? -- You just think of it. 
I used to say my books initially came like any other ideas, but those that evolved into words on a page were the ones that stuck around, buzzing relentlessly -- like mosquitoes in the night. 

Truth is, I found it a puzzling question. 
What did the asker mean? Isn’t it the nature of the brain to have ideas? Was it possible not to? What about when the askers vacuum the rugs or are forced to endure banquets or jail time or religious ceremonies? Don’t they get the What Ifs? Such as, What if that droning officious twit burst into flames? 
Perhaps the askers just didn't understand the jump between having fantasies and being driven to nail those fantasies (bam! bam! bam!) to the page in an obsessive frenzy?  
BUT (and now we’re spiraling closer to the point of today's blog) what about when those ideas which the author has been taking as her due, suddenly... stop?
Many non-afflicted writers will tell you there’s no such thing as Writer's Block
  • There is fallow time when one might need to refill the blah, blah blah... 
  • There's the reactive flinch caused by encroaching reality and the numbing touch of the outside world; Discouraging words from agents, editors, reviewers, book buyers, an ungrateful public or the bank that holds the mortgage. 
  • There is cowardice.
  • And there is laziness. 
But Writer's Block (according to those who have never felt its sting) isn't like a cramping intestinal blockage threatening peritonitis, nor a road block in Rwanda manned by jumpy, trigger-fingered teenage rebels armed to the teeth. It is simply the self-doubt any grown up feels when attempting anything new, mixed with an indulgent dose of woe-is-me.
“If I were a miner,” the pre-Writer's Blocked author might say, “would I need inspiration to go daily into the mine?” (smirk) “And does the checker at Ralph's get to tell his boss he doesn't feel the bagging today?" (derisive snort) "Or that his sweeping-up muse had forsaken him? Can a teacher shun the classroom to sulk and wallow in self pity when she doesn’t hear the call to teaching?”
Writing is work. A grown up goes to work. That is all.
Nonetheless roughly nine-zillion books have been written on overcoming this non-existent malady. Written I suspect, by people attempting to explain the unexplainable and make a couple of bucks killing time till their own blockage clears.  (see bloggers)
Their advice reels from forcing yourself to sit down and stare at the screen, to writing gibberish, to whistling past the computer as if you haven’t a care in the world, to changing your diet, schedule and surroundings, to adding vitamin supplements sold here at special discount for YOU!  
... Follow these six, nine, sixteen simple steps! Eat all you want without gaining weight! Bring the pa-zazzle back into the bedroom! Stop acid-reflux, acne, incontinence and hair-loss once and for all! And write the award winning, best seller, blockbuster you know you have inside you! Or your money back!
While in the grip of WB, ideas still waft but they don't resonate or persist or buzz. There is no chemistry, no lust, no urge to obsess. They are merely passing thoughts. Which is to say once we become Writer's Block sufferers, we gain an intimate understanding of the once baffling  question, Where do you get your ideas?
In fact -- we have no clue where they come from. None. 
Suddenly, the askers are not an alien life form devoid of imagination. They are us. A less smug us. Us minus that unknowable thing that makes writers write. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Post

I, Curmudgeoness Koss, am glad we got all that thankfulness out of our systems, as there is no math more cloying than the counting of blessings. It is not that I don’t see how amazingly lucky we are. I do. 
  • We’re lucky to be ALIVE and healthy and more or less conscious and intact and housebroken. 
  • We’re lucky to be alive NOW after the good folks before us took care of the messier aspects of inventing pie, and e-mail and deodorant and elevators. 
  • We’re lucky to be alive HERE where we are free to believe, write about, wear, eat, and say pretty much whatever asinine thing pops into our addled little minds, as evidenced by this blog.
  • All that is a great start, but it always seems like underneath all this warm fuzzy thankfulosity is an under-tone of bargaining; The assumption that if we act really grateful it’ll stall worse crap from descending. See Fate? How fun it is to do good things for us? See how grateful we are? (and worthy) 
  • But the real issue about all this thanks-giving is its implication that the job is done, mission accomplished with no room for improvement. 
  • Call it greedy, but I want more. Just because I’ve got a house doesn’t mean the world can check housing off its list of problems. Just because I have medical coverage doesn’t mean the nation is cool on health care. And just because I can eat like a pig doesn’t mean we don’t have a ways to go before hunger is no longer an issue. 
Let's just hope more of us have more to be thankful for by next Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Unpaid Gig

We know that society has decreed that we writers are our most authentically deep when kept poor and garroted. And that love of our craft, plus the joy of working loose hours in the ratty bathrobe are a fair trade for our poverty and lack of dental benefits.  
But guess what? Not unlike other humans the writer does like to be treated well from time to time. And, more specifically, for the purposes of this rant, we like to be treated well by the people or organizations for whom we are doing a favor.
As a fellow chump mentioned the other day, 2011 has been the year of the free gig. The economy is trash, our business in particular is circling the drain, and we feel extra sorry in a panicky way for schools and libraries and anyone else out there with an historic sympathy for the written word. So, when they call and say “Please,” we cave and say, “Sure.” 

And for that we are often (although not always) punished. 

I am not talking about the gigs that put their money in play to have authors hold forth from a podium, or lead their fellows in writing workshops, or hand out awards and eat the book club / school /  library lunch and gab amiably with banquet-esqe cheer. But the ones who ask the author to don hard shoes and show up for free. 

We're often willing to show for charities & good causes, believing that this is how community is built, or karma is balanced, or otherwise un-reached kids are reached, or in hopes that unpaid gigs lead to paid gigs, and perhaps circuitously, to increased book sales. 
Some freebie events go nicely, but a horrifying number of them do not. 
Nicely equals your arrival is anticipated and prepared for, appreciated and even sometimes celebrated. 
The not nice are the ones where you are not greeted or introduced and must gamely ignore the toilet paper stuck to your shoe, show your Happy-Harmless-Kid’s-Book Smile and introduce yourself -- feeling like you’re burping Tupperware to the leery or opening your grimy trench coat to reveal your collection of stolen watches going cheap.
Sometimes the guests did not know you were coming or why you are there... and they see your presence in their midst as an affront -- the pushy book peddler, fingers in the greasy til.
And you endure until allowed to scuddle away, feeling raw and sheepish at the end wondering how much lower you could possibly sink without going subterranean.  
And so, I learn again (and again and again) that too often, we are valued by how much we cost. Sadly, the moral of the story seems to be -- If you give it away for free, it must be worthless. 
Please remind me next time. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Agent / Author Matchmaker!

If there existed a matchmaker site for author/agent relationships...
Agent profile: Enjoys walks on the beach. Just as comfortable accepting the Newbery in crimson pumps, as stomping out a great contract in thigh-high-steel-toed-shit-kickers. 
Writer profile: Shoes? Who needs shoes?
Agent Seeking: Fresh voices -- edgy, unconventional stories about tics and fleas.
Writer Seeking: Someone to sell my books fast for lots of money. 
P.S. Wow! We're super simpatico! I adore F&T!  Especially en croute! In fact I was just working on a fabulously edgy but accessible, unconventional but user-friendly manuscript/app about fleas and tics!  But um, re. T&F... did you mean for or against?   
Agent (check all that apply)
  • Wants to share daily with client, synchronize menstrual flow.
  • Prefers to be spared the inane details of your petty little life. 
  • Prefers contact by phone.
  • Prefers contact through e-mail.
  • I’ll find you when I need to.
  • Wants to be involved in the editing process.
  • Doesn’t actually read manuscripts.
  • Believes in nurturing talent.
  • If you want sympathy, call your mother.
Writer (check all that apply)
  • Needs encouragement, reassurance and praise.
  • Needs tons of encouragement, reassurance and praise.
  • Will settle for moderate abuse in lieu of being entirely ignored.

P.S. FYI Have recently signed with a new agent, so this is actually retro-bitterness, but still.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Write What You Know: CANCER

When my daughter was 14 she was diagnosed with a blood cancer called Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Needless to say it was an unspeakably ghastly time, but beside a little lingering PTSD we all got through it. She’s 21 now, in college, worrying about other things. 
But when we were still in the thick of it, my friend went looking for cancer books for my daughter and her friends. What she discovered was that when kids in books, movies and TV shows get cancer, they die. 
I can’t blame writers or readers for loving a good tear-jerker, but if it’s your kid, your self, or your big sister who’s sick... well, you see my point.
And those story book sick / dying kids were invariably portrayed as saintly and angelic, more concerned with other people’s happiness than their own.  Peaceful, fearless, accepting of their fate.
This was not my impression. Mine was that snotty 14 year olds are snotty 14 year olds, sick, well, or on a Ferris wheel. The patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles were as bizarre and motley as any other huge group of kids. 
And another thing I learned and re-learned and re-re-relearned going through the whole cancer nightmare, was that people inadvertently say and do incredibly insensitive and cruel things. 
True no one knows what to do, and there is no one right thing to say besides, “OOPS! It’s all been a mistake! Your daughter is perfectly fine!”
So, once my daughter was in the clear, I set about writing a funny, teen, cancer survivor book based on her medical experience... Keeping these three things in mind,
1. Not all sick kids die. 2. Sick kids are no different than any other kids. In fact they ARE any other kids except they got sick. And 3. Sick kids, like the rest of us, are surrounded by idiots. 
The truly horrific reality (finding out you’re sick, getting chemo and the side effects of chemo, hospital stays, trying to return to normal, school, well meaning friends and strangers...) makes for a scary enough story without having to kill anyone. 
And I got to get back at all the stupid things people did by including them in the story! Pure spite and delicious revenge! 
When the manuscript was done, I showed it to my daughter. She gave it her resounding approval and off it went. 
SIDE EFFECTS was published in 2006, and the paperback followed a year or two later. The reviews were great and it still sells well... Although there have been complaints about the character's "language."  
But the best part BY FAR are the fan letters.
I like all my fan letters. Even the e-mails saying they have an author report due on me in the morning and need answers quick. 
But none compare to the letters I get from young people with cancer who thank me for writing a book that tells their story. 
So that’s why I agree, at least this once, with the old saw about Writing what you know.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Commies

A cupla days a month I volunteer at the library used book store. 
One of my regulars is a short, pregnant looking retired navy guy who marches in as if on a tight schedule, looking for VHS movies for himself and the wife. 
Something invariably distracts him mid-search, a movie title, an interesting item on Fox News last night, and he stays to rant about, “The Damn Commies... The ones here. Ruining America, the country so many fought and died for.” 
He gets rather spitty during the peak which is all facts and figures and proofs about the card carrying commies in our midst. 
I nod and smile.
By Commies in our midst I assume he meant my Great Auntie Rosie and Uncle Jack. She with the line of cleavage that started at her neck. He, a ringer for Popeye but with a fierce little rodent stance. 
They used to come stay with us in Detroit for a month every summer when I was a kid. Or perhaps it just seemed like a month. The only good part about their visit was that they treated my parents like kids. 
I remember one night when my parents got home Auntie Rosie met them at the front door with her fists on her hips.
“Vere vas you so late?” she demanded, making my utterly adult parents stammer excuses and squirm.
I’d never heard anyone speak to my parents like that. It was thrilling and horrifying. It put them on semi-equal footing with my brother and I, as Rosie criticized my mom’s house work and kitchen skills and Uncle Jack, a carpenter bossed my father around and dissed his work on household projects. 
Years later Mitch and I moved to California and visited Jack and Rosie in their tiny, upstairs apartment in the Fairfax district.  Jack was already ga-ga by then.  
He told us about how he and Lenin fought side by side in the old  country.
“Bah! Jackie! You vaz seven years old!” my aunt corrected. 
He jumped to his rickety old feet, dentures clicking wildly. “Shut up Rosie! You know nothing!”
Around that time I sold a piece about spring cleaning to the LA Times. I was over-the-moon excited and called to tell them to read it. 
My Auntie called back. “You have a chance to be in news pepper and you talk about cleaning? This is vat you have to say? Mit all the problems in the vorld? This is vat’s important to you?”
It was the early eighties. And since my Aunt didn’t drive, she caught the bus on Santa Monica Boulevard, which pre-and-early-AIDS was a hopping meat market of young male hookers.
“There’s no jobs!” she said. “All da boys stand around mit no vork! You don’t write about dis? About Regan and the mess he’s making?”
I was shamed by my commie aunt. 
Sometimes I still cringe about the fluff I produce for a living. And when kooks like my library ranter damn the commies, I get nostalgic. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Of Dogs and Books

Am staring down this novel, while vacuuming up the copious schmutz with which our new puppy covers all surfaces. 
His non-allergenic poodle fur doesn’t shed, so there is less fur to sweep.

BUT his curls act like Velcro for the crispy bits of twig, bark, leaves, and parched, withered death that this drought and I have created in the name of zero-scaping. 
His extremely effective dirt-delivery system, teamed with his enthusiastic interest in pinecones, shoes and paper products has effectively replaced the dirty dishes, wet towels, sticky wrappers, and smelly laundry with which my children filled the nest until quite recently. 
So, time-wise, I’m still cleaning.  

And writing? 
By way of encouragement, I tell my writing students that there is something learned by the completion of each book that makes it easier to write the fifteenth novel than the fifth... 

BUT I’m not entirely sure I believe that.  

In fact, if there is anything I am sure of, it is that each novel writes itself differently. 

You may learn the basics on the first one: How to carry it so you don’t bash its soft spot on every door jam. 
How to diaper it.
How to attach a car seat...  

BUT beyond that you must discover / re-invent on a per project (book / baby) basis.  
For example -- You could get Kid #1 to shut up by strapping it into that automatic swing, AKA the electric chair, and setting the timer for next Thursday.
BUT Kid #2 arches the back, goes ridged, and will have none of it. 
Novel #6 filled itself with jokes, whereas Novel #11 took itself very seriously.
And so I struggle against the encroaching squalidifying of my home, as much now with this filth-hound as I once battled the onslaught of Barbie shoes and lego.
And I wrestle the new novel as if I’d never attempted such a battle before.
Odd, ain’t it?

Monday, September 5, 2011

California Flambe’

As I sit sweltering at my desk, pretending to re-revise this pesky novel, the mind drifts like smoke back over my happy years living in a fire zone. I cast the eye about at the crispy kindling that is my zero-scaped yard and recall a couple years ago at this time, stuffing all fifty-two of my photo albums into my van in an attempt to save my past if not my future. 
We live in a narrow box canyon with only one road in, and no other way out -- that is, unless you are a fire, in which case you can reach us from all sides. 
One interesting thing about living in a canyon is that even if you live on the opposite side from the one that’s burning, you still feel very close and personally involved. I could, in fact hear the merry snap and camp-fire crackle from my kitchen. 
Everyone crept outside and drifted together in the street to watch our hillside burn. There was talk of who smelled what when, evacuation, and mild disagreement about whether deer or lizard or bobcat could out-run the flames, and whether anything could burrow to safety under them. 
The scene was bizarre not just because the neighbors were gathering, or because fire is alarming on a gut level, or because it smelled wrong, but because the scale seemed off.  Trees looked like bushes, firefighters in silhouette looked like brave little toys, helicopters circled like hawks, and when the smoke shifted, the flames were way too enormous to be credible. 

One old timer recalled our canyon ringed in fire in the 60’s when some guy, gambling on fate, made one-time-only, now-or-never offers to buy everyone’s houses. Ha! 
I called my kids and asked which two or three of their possessions they’d most like to see again. That could have made for a whole evening of interesting conversation but by then the ash was falling like snow and the air was making me dangerously nostalgic for my smoking days. We agreed on the harp and a few guitars. 
My husband came home to "help" me load van. "We" put our turtle in a soup pot, crammed the guinea pig and bunny into a small cage, and hoisted our big old dog up onto the seat. 
On the way out the door, we took a last look at the house and our stuff. I was sorry about leaving some of the art, but felt surprisingly indifferent to the rest of my earthly accumulation. 
We squeaked out just as they were blocking off the road. Any of our neighbors who came home after that had to leave their cars at the mouth of the canyon and hoof in to get pets, kids, papers, whatever. 
We spent the night at a friend’s house in Eco Park and returned in the morning to our intact home. The hillside was revealed to be shaped like an elephant's head, although no one admitted to seeing it but me. The elephant was stubbly with blackened stumps like a five day beard, he smelled like an ashtray and looked strangely raw for several months. 
This was an entirely unknown phenomena in Detroit where I grew up. Houses burned but just one at a time, mostly. Space heaters took several a year, Christmas trees, lightning, cigarettes and vandals took their share. Businesses burned as part of insurance scams, but it was rare that a Michigan arsonist got more than a few houses or apartments at a time. 
So, this seasonal occurrence of multiple miles of flame took some getting used to.   
Our modest little canyon fire burned maybe a square mile or less. A few weeks later a couple of miles north of us the Station Fire began it's two week rampage incinerating 251 square miles. That one made for fabulous on-going, high-drama viewing. Asthma or no, we’d park in the hospital lot with our fellow gawkers and sit on the roof of our cars, admiring the glorious billowing smoke patterns by day and the breathtaking flames by night. 
And just this week, we’ve kicked off this year’s fire season with the Cajun Pass Fire, standing now at 1,150 acres burnt, two homes lost. 
Wabbit season!  Duck Season!  Wabbit season!  FIRE SEASON!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sleepless in the Universe

This is the perfect opportunity, (4:24 am) to discuss one of the few topics about which I qualify as an expert, and that is INSOMNIA. 

Insomnia Type 1.) You brush the teeth, don the nightie and crawl into the bed, get comfy with blanket, pillow, white-noise-producing fan, dog, husband, and fall gently into a sweet, deep, sleep, just like the other diurnal creatures from the prairie to the forest. 
Until... you turn over to settle the hip, to cover the foot, to switch the pillow to the cool side, while ordering self:  DO NOT THINK! DO NOT THINK! THINK NOTHING! 
But a tiny, seemingly harmless thought slips through, a gateway speck of brain activity that mutates instantaneously into the cacophony of ceaseless inner chatter. Thoughts of things left undone, unsaid, begin their taunt. Mundane niggling details repeat and repeat like acid reflux. The night is lost.
Or, Insomnia Type 2.) After dragging through your day, hallucinating with sleep deprivation, you yawn through dinner, take the hot soothing bath, drink the warm milk, lay the weary head upon the pillow, close the blood-shot eyes.  
Ah, blissful rest! (two, three, four) Pop! The eyes are open.

You play possum, hold unnaturally still. But the foot must twitch. You are too hot, too cold. There is no comfortable position for any part of your body or soul. The dog’s toenails click across the floor. The husband snores. You hate them both. You seethe. You whimper, panic. If religious, you wail at the heavens, beseech the sleep gods. Tears of exhaustion and frustration seep.  
You try the couch but cannot escape the repeating lyrics of a bank commercial from your youth. 

You remember the tricks. Massage the face. Tense and relax various body parts. Snap on the light and read till the words blur, have the shot of whiskey or the addictive, hangover-producing magic white pill.  You re-paint the kitchen. Or write a blog about insomnia.

Things that aggravate symptoms. 
A. Working.
B. Not working.
C. Needing to get up in the morning.
D. Having said or done something cringe-worthy earlier in the day, or week, or lifetime. Or having had same said or done to you.
E. The future.
F. The Past.
G. Having children, a spouse, parents, siblings, co-workers, neighbors, friends, acquaintances, relatives, or none of the above.
H. Concerns about encroaching global stupidity, catastrophic weather anomalies, dust bunnies under the armoire, and the inevitability of death. 

Possible Side Effects
A. Sleeping on the inside while driving on the outside. 
B. Inappropriate weeping while wielding a machete. 
C. Divorce. 
D. Incarceration.

Treatment Methods 
A. Lobotomy 
B. Death

P.S. This post is dedicated to my fellow sufferers. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mosaic and the Magic of Grout!

Some things that seem like they'd be the opposite of writing -- aren't. Like sleeping, or walking the dog, or sitting around with friends....

Your story can and will follow you there, tug on your sleeve, pretending it has come to buy the next round when really, it just wants to make sure you haven't forgotten it... for even a minute.

But mosaic is different. It uses a tunelessly humming, color / texture / messy / mud-play part of the brain that, at least for me, doesn't welcome words. And just as writing is pristine on the outside (human in chair, fingers tapping keys) while a rat's nest internally, tiling is all dust and sloppy glop and shattered stuff to the eye -- while the inside of the tiler is as sweet as a breeze.

And every step of the process is glorious.
1. Assemble things over time and sort them...
Satisfying already, right? Gathering objects, making little piles of buttons, stones, coins, toys, blue things, shiny things, round things, shells, tiles, bits of colored glass...
2. Smash them with a hammer (the appeal should be obvious.) 
3. Glue them to things. Tra la la. 
4. Smush muddy grout on it. *
5. Wait, but not too long.
6. Wipe away excess grout, revealing colors & shapes as you go -- like digging up buried treasure, or an archeological dig sped way way up.

* Ah Grout!  It takes disparate objects and unites them. Not in philosophy or lip-flapping theory but in reality. It embraces chips and jaggedy bits and cements them into one solid, smooth-faced, indivisible, immensely satisfying THING.
And it does so quickly, simply and without words!  If only more aspects of life could be grouted.