Monday, January 19, 2009


Yesterday, I turned in my first story for workshop. Among the many items of good news arriving with this semester's workshop is that we turn in stories on Sunday then discuss them just three days later in workshop. Last semester we turned in stories then discussed them eight days later. The extra procrastination time is really appreciated. Particularly as I didn't actually mail it out to my class until 2:40 am.

This may sound so intuitive that it's not worth typing here: but I am resolved to turn in only stories I like. Stories that I have fun with. Stories that feel good to me at the end.

So much of last semester was focused on stories that didn't involve a change and I think it got to me. If nothing changes then the huh, cool emotion you get at the end has to be HUGE otherwise it's just mind numbing. So I'm writing stories where stuff happens. Where people change because of things that have happened in the story. Basically, the stuff I aspired to write when I started out writing stories. Stories with plot.

Oh, plot, you dirty little four letter word.

I don't believe in writing stories that start from plot, but from characters. This means that I'm creating characters that act on each other to make things happen in the story. Characters making plot. Opposed to starting off with actions that I inflict on my characters from things seemingly outside their control. Plot shaping characters. However, I don't think that from characters means that there shouldn't be a recognizable plot by the time the reader finishes reading.

When someone who's read my story gets asked "So what happened in the story?" I don't want them to say, "I really don't know. Just two guys in a shop, really."

Read my workshop draft -- which is is not two guys in a shop -- here.

I learned a valuable life lesson this weekend: don’t pan fry a cucumber.

I was making pasta salad and had chopped up a red pepper, orange pepper, a white onion and some cucumber. The pasta salad had to sit up over night so I was also making a shrimp stir fry for immediate consumption. I looked over at the unseasoned, already chopped into nice bite sized pieces of vegetable and thought, great! Two birds one stone! When I looked I saw the peppers and onions but the cucumber slipped my mind ... until I bit into the stir fry. Mmm ... uhoh.

Don’t pan fry a cucumber. Consider it a public service announcement.

Today is Martin Luther King day which means there's no classes at the University. Somehow I don't think a day without school was how Rev. King wanted to be remembered. The administration justifies it that this way anyone who wants can attend the events and commemorative services put on around campus without having to choose between class and event.

Despite the fact that my 8:00am teaching gig is canceled, I'm still up before dawn. Today the kittens go to the vet for declawing. I tried to not go there. But here's the deal: Ash has started scratching the walls. Not just corners -- the most prominent of which are now covered from ground level to hip height with tinfoil -- but all walls not covered by furniture. It's an awful noise, and it's taking the paint off the walls. Paint I don't own. Walls I don't own. Yet paint and walls I will have to pay to fix.

But it was when she took out her first chunk of drywall -- technically a 3" gouge -- that I called the vet for the appointment.

Animal rights activists may call it cruel, but these cats are spoiled. Spoiled from the tips of their whiskers to the fur between their toes. They are indoor only cats whose greatest struggle in life is waking me up at 6:00am to feed them.

The 6:00am feeding is done in a zombie-like state. Saturday morning was particularly comic, or at least I think it would have been if I had been awake enough to witness it. The alarm rang. Ash was already sitting by the pillow, her little internal kitty-clock telling her that it was just about time. Before she could start batting at my shoulder or attempting to clean my hair (which is an awful slurping noise to have anywhere near your ear) I clomped out of bed. My limbs heavy and half numb. Maybe they really were numb. I have a vague recollection of my left arm not responding to anything because it had been slept on. I got into the kitchen without stepping on the cats -- a feat in itself as they like to run in front of me in one directions then tack like a sailing ship the other way. I grabbed the kibble off the top of the fridge. Except I didn't grab the bag, I grabbed the tupperware-wannabe container (oops, forgetting to FIFO in my sleepiness). The container lid pops off and the kibble pours in the vicinity of the bowl. I dump too much in the first bowl and don't bother with the second. A few dozen pieces hit the side of hte bowl and scatter into the living room.

Both cats stare at me. This is not how it's done, they say. Ash recovers first and shoves her nose in the bowl before I've pivoted to head back to bed. Rosie's still watching me. Probably out of fear for her tail getting stepped on.

When I get out of bed for the second time, 10:00am, a much saner time for Saturday morning. All the stray living room kibble is gone and the bowls have been licked clean.

The best part of this early morning feeding is that the cats don't attack me. Ash doesn't wash my hair when she's been fed. She doesn't scratch the walls around my bed to get my attention (despite the fact that attention normally comes as loud claps, hey! or a pillow launched in her vicinity. Instead, when I woke up at 10:00am, Ash perched on my chest to be petted and Rosie curled up under my left arm putting her chin on my shoulder.

It was purring in surround sound.

Highly Recommended