March Challenges

One of the challenges of March, for me here in Albuquerque is the coming of Spring, which means winds–big gusty winds that unnerve me.  And, pollen ACHOO!.  (I didn’t have allergies like this in San Diego).

Anyway, another challenge THIS March is of course The Dissertation, which if you are a regular reader of my blog you know is in progress, and will be defended on Friday April 13. (yikes!)

March also brings the Writers’ March, the brainchild of my dear friend and fellow writer Samantha Tetangco.  So this month I’m blogging over there for a regular column called Fridays with Jenn.  It’s mostly about writing, but it’s about life too.

If you’re a writer, join us!  It doesn’t cost anything, you set your own goals (make sure they are attainable and sustainable) and you’ll get daily inspiration for your writing and the support of a cadre of writers all dedicated to their craft.  Check out the Current Challengers page to see what everyone else is up to.

How did it get to be 2012 already?

Anyone who has followed my blog (both of you) may have noticed that I’ve not posted anything since–gasp!– July!  The good news is that I’ve been focused on other writing endeavors, most importantly The Dissertation– the book that I am writing that will get me the M.F.A. in creative writing for which I came to New Mexico.  Now that the end is in sight–I’ll be defending this semester, late March or early April–I’m wondering (and everyone is asking),

What next?

And it scares me.


I hate that question mostly because I don’t have an answer.


When I left San Diego to attend graduate school I envisioned completing  my degree, and returning: to Southern California, to my marketing job, to my friends, to my family, to my life.  But when I lost my job in February, everything changed including my well-crafted plan to return to California and pick up where I left off.

Instead, I’m at a place where I have to figure out what’s next.

First, if I want to teach college level English, I’m at a disadvantage because (1) I don’t have any real, front-of-the-classroom teaching experience, (2) Funding cuts to institutions of higher education mean fewer jobs, or part time jobs with no health insurance benefits (3) For a tenure track position teaching creative writing I’d need a book published (or on contract).   It’s not that think these are insurmountable obstacles, but I’m a realist.  If this is what I want to do, I need to find ways around those obstacles.

I’ve thought about finding a job.  Jobs are much more plentiful in San Diego, especially if I want to go back into online media and marketing.

I’ve thought about freelancing: consulting businesses on creating and managing online presence. The benefit would be that if I can build up a good revenue stream, I could take that “job” with me wherever I go.

I’ve thought about editing, and manuscript consulting.

I’ve thought about getting my book published, about getting a grant for some of the creative / community projects I want to do. I’ve thought about my next book, and the one after that….   and writing proposals to get those paid for up front.

I’ve thought about running off to Hawaii.

I’ve thought about applying for fellowships and residencies and other opportunities for freshly minted writers with MFA degrees.

But mostly, right now, I’m thinking about finishing my MFA degree:  it’s number 1 on my list of goals for 2012.  Other goals on my list include:

Listen..  to others, and most importantly, to myself (this is more of an intention than a goal, as goals need to be measurable).

Write… 1 blog post per month and work 5 hours per day on my book (“writing” time includes planning, reading, revising, submitting and researching).

Submit…  craft 4 “chapters” of my book into stand-alone essays, send out to a minimum of 48 literary journals (that’s only four per month).

Create…  a multi-media essay of one of my short essays.

Yoga… twice a week.

Develop…  a plan for what’s next.

I know I’ll be ok.

I know I’ll land on my feet.

I just don’t know where.

Mean People Suck.


When did we forget The Golden Rule? (to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, in case you are one who has forgotten).  It’s a code of moral behavior that predates Christ (and Christianity for that matter).  Through my extensive research (glancing at the above linked Wikipedia article) I’ve found evidence of some form of The Golden Rule in nearly every religion on every continent.

And my own mother used to say “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,”  a quote that I can’t seem to attribute to any one in particular after an exhaustive search, also known as a google query.

I understand that when a person puts their work out into the public arena they expect (hope, pray) that the public will respond.  Critique and review can be a good thing.  I regularly read the L.A. Times Books section, or the NY Times Book section.  But the reviewers are never mean.  They don’t call the writers names or throw sticks at them, but rather the judge the work.

When you blog, when you put your words out there on the internets, you open yourself up to criticism as well. I know the internet is public.   But for most bloggers I know their audience is at best an extended circle of friends and family.  These are not the people that will call you a nasty name or tell you to quit whining (if they are, it’s time for new friends).

And if you post your blog in a more public arena, clearly you are inviting more response….

All this makes me wonder about the people that opt to say mean things, or worse take a disagreement, a difference of opinion, of taste, to a personal level, calling someone a whiner, or worse (trust me, I’ve been called worse both in person and online).  How is name calling contributing at all? Is it so hard to just move on?

As far as I’m concerned, if you think you can do better, then go ahead and do it. Do better.  We could use more awesomeness in this world. Write your own article, set up your own blog, participate on Salon or HuffPo, or whatever.   Publish a novel, produce a t.v. show…

Wouldn’t there be much more satisfaction in experiencing your own success than in bringing others  down?


On Re-Visioning My Memoir

Not too long ago I wrote a section in my memoir–actually it is currently at the end–about volunteering at the Children’s Grief Center.  It feels like the end in a way, like this is the place I ended up on my emotional journey of Reconstructing My Mother.

But as I re-work my prose, much of it written in 2006 or 2007, I realize I have a different perspective on those events.  That perspective, that time of writing voice is clearly informed by my work at the Children’s Grief Center.  I knew this, but when Greg suggested that this section be the beginning I was resistant.  I love chronological order.  It makes sense to me, and anything that messes with the time space continuum really makes my brain hurt– like the Star Trek Next Gen episode where Data’s head was found amongst some 19th Century Earth artifacts… tell me your brain doesn’t start to hurt as you try and figure out how Data is both alive and dead in the albeit fictive present, but lived in the past? was killed in the 1800s?  so how can he exist n the present, or is it the future?  see what I mean….

Maybe Greg wasn’t suggesting I write something like “Time’s Arrow” but there was a part of my brain that was screaming NOOOOOOOOO  it can’t come first because it didn’t happen first.  This kind of modular design doesn’t bother me in other people’s work, so I’m not sure why I resist, but I do.  I’m trying really hard to get over it….

Greg also suggested that rather than tweak what I have that I re-type the whole thing.  Start with a blank document.  No cutting and pasting.

This  suggestion not only made my brain hurt, but made me want to hyperventilate as well.

Do you know how intimidating a blank page is to a writer??  It was like he was suggesting that I toss what I’ve done.  The 200 plus pages.  And a part of my brain (the same part that keeps all those unfinished projects in my closet) was screaming NOOOOOOO  I can’t get rid of anything!

But I’m doing what he suggested.  I mean you do know the definition of crazy, don’t you:

doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I’m glad to report that I am not crazy, and this re-typing thing may in fact be working.

I started re-typing the beginning, with the new vision of starting with the end.

In the process of re-typing, I’ve already added three new pages.

And maybe some of the prose won’t even make it into the new document.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

And maybe, just maybe I’ll find an end….



More Ink for me (or is it pixels?)

FINALLY found a home for my essay, “Goodbye Troll: a blogger’s manifesto” over at The Women’s Colony:

Make No Mistake: this kind of harassment can be as frightening and as real as being followed and watched in your neighborhood or in your home. ~Vice President Al Gore

The first comment was rather innocuous, albeit grammatically incorrect: “ACTIONS SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS” It was submitted, in all caps, to my blog anonymously at 1:56 a.m. in response to my post The Power of Words on the 40th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s death. I had embedded a YouTube video of one of Kennedy’s greatest speeches and I quoted:

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

I quoted it because some things bear repeating.

The second comment came two hours later and included an alleged quote from Buddha and some ramblings about “truth.” Signed, “Anonymous.” I approved both because though strange, they seemed harmless enough.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: those of you (all five of my loyal readers) may remember this time, and may notice some differences in my Dear Anonymous letter. I have indeed taken some liberties with my own prose in service of creating a better, more cohesive essay.

Buddah Board :: Day 2

CIMG2411So not only am I uncomfortable with the impermanence, now I find I must analyze,  interpret, find some meaning in the lines and dots and dashes and swoops.

Both manifestations have what could be considered an eye. Is this the opening up of the eye?  a reminder to see?  to look at myself.  Perhaps this is my third eye I am drawing.  I wonder if I will get to the point that I can just let it be.

Yes, I know this is only day two. Yes, I know, I am over analyzing.  It’s what I do.  What do you think?