Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Blog

I'm now blogging consistently at


I promise I won't move again.

For a while.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


I thought about what I said, about the process being less and less enough. That isn't true. The writing process remains primary. But I don't think I'm alone as a writer, calling herself a writer because she writes, in wanting readers.

As long as I hold my essays and fictions close, I won't have many readers.

I started a new blog to share my essay pieces. I just deleted that blog. So you see where I am: wanting what I don't even try to get.

I deleted that new blog because I cannot post what I want to post. I live and work in Kuwait and do not feel as free to express my ideas because I do not post anonymously. I have a couple options for sharing then: I can create a password protected blog or start sending my work out to other online and print publications. Or both.

Or I could start a blog and share my easy and hard essays and leave it at that. I am not interested in curating my image at the expense of honesty. I think that comes out clearly in my work, especially as I wade into my faith, applied.

Let me think what to do.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I have to be okay writing one piece at a time. When I decided (for the umpteenth time) I'd like to try putting together a book, I had a couple ideas about how that might look. I'm very interested in placing two or three genres side-by-side.

But when I scroll through the pieces I have drafted or in revision: there isn't a theme. None of it hangs together.

I wrote something about this to my editor (who I hope doesn't mind I call her "my editor" when I'm such a wannabe published author - minus the extreme hassle landing any publication will be) - anyway. I wrote something about how I don't have a clear vision for a whole collection and she wrote back the encouragement that I take my writing one piece at a time.

So maybe I quit fantasizing about a collection for awhile. Maybe I just get really good at revision. Maybe I quit thinking I've got it in me to put together a work anyone would read. My words might fall flat in print. I think about that.

So why do I keep on putting pen to paper? Why do I type the shit in my head and call it a personal essay? Why do I ask what any character wants?

The process should be enough. For years, I said it was. The process is less and less enough anymore. The process is an effort I enjoy, but with an end I'm hungry for: I want a dialogue with readers.

I don't think I'll get that for a long time yet. I'll keep writing. But lately I've felt really stupid for chasing this. Really, really stupid. Words matter. But if mine don't, and at the end of my life I learn I would have been as well off watching three hours of television a day instead of showing up at the page: God help me.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

year end review

I wrote a lot!

At the start of the year, I took two online workshops and learned more about the craft of fiction and essay. I wrote more words each week than I had in years and finished the two months feeling a little lost, like what next? Hungry for more.

I tried new assignments and prompts. I'll post a couple of favorites soon.

I wrote through the summer - always a challenge with our yearly travel.

I transferred my honest journaling into honest essays. Lately I've been thinking about Oversharing versus Transparency. I want my essay pieces to be plain: this is me, this is what I think, this is what I don't know. I like writing essay pieces.


Which brings me to revision, which I've decided I love. I think through revision before going to the page. So before I open a file, I have ideas. And as mentioned in the last post, I'm learning to be vicious. Right now, I prefer revising fiction over essay. It's like it's more okay to be vicious with a character than with my own wobbly ideas.

I read a lot too. I'll post a few favorites soon. But what I've learned through years of this practice is that reading widely feeds my writing.

And this year I recommitted to writing a book. Thinking about finishing a book length collection makes me want to hide. Just saying I'll do that, especially after futzing around with writing for years and never submitting to any recognizable publication or carving out an online audience or even managing regular emails to friends and family - the Book Project seems like a reach. It is a reach.

I'll write more about humility and realistic expectations later. Just know I'm not dumb about how this might turn out.

Also know I'm having a great time meeting new characters. This year I drafted several new fiction pieces and returned to years-old stories. I love when an idea comes.

I also let a few ideas go before I got to the page, thinking: I'll remember that line. Then I didn't.

Maybe those lines will show up next year.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

vicious editor

A month ago I decided I need an editor. If I am going to play serious about completing this Book Project, I need earnest, paid help.* After reading her latest comments on pieces I sent her, one phrase stayed: her suggestion that I play the vicious editor.

I did that yesterday. I opened a fiction draft set in Kuwait, reread my editor's comments, took a breath, ate some panic chocolate, ordered a mocha for delivery, checked the news, opened my email, stared at the ceiling, rolled my neck, and got to it. Cut cut cut. I cut three characters at her suggestion. I swapped a page of backstory for a few sentences. I puzzled show versus tell.

Always a puzzle for me, that sweet little writing workshop phrase.

I realized two things:

I don't trust the reader very much. That's why I want to saddle you with five paragraphs about why Jeff took a job with a contracting company in Kuwait. I need to learn that those five paragraphs about the ex-girlfriend and parents and brother and forklift job in Milwaukee - those paragraphs are for me. I need to know Jeff first. But you don't need his elementary school report card. You need me to trust you to see what I show, to build a Jeff in your reader mind without me telling you.

Second, from reading loads of short fiction: most really great short fiction pieces are tight on two or three characters. That's it. When I draft I spin a dozen characters that all seem Very Important, even in minor roles. But when I cut three characters from yesterday's draft, the piece was better. Now the reader can follow Jeff without the distraction of George and Honeybee.

Okay, a third thing:

Revision is where the risk is for me. I can wander through a short fiction piece until it's forty pages long. I want to give every character a backstory. I want the reader to know exactly how these characters are knitted together. But I don't know how to knit. What the reader gets is a mess of yarn snaking from one minor character to another to another so that halfway through a piece, the narrative is lost. When I revise, I must be willing to risk cuts that hurt a little, to keep the whole narrative.

*And paying someone to read and comment on my work makes this process seem startlingly legitimate. Like, maybe I should get classy black and white headshots for the book jacket. Maybe. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

wish me good work

This afternoon I was at a coffee shop, drinking mocha and writing filler in my notebook. I have this fantasy of filling a notebook a month and rarely hit the mark. I make the excuse that my writing is small or the pages are many or the lines are narrow. When I think I have a chance at filling a notebook in a month, the entries take a slide. I'll write short-lined poetry with loads of stanza breaks. I'll make lists. I'll make fancy thought clusters. I'll do anything but dense prose.

So I was doing that mess when a woman came in carrying grocery bags, a newspaper tucked under her arms. She was only in the shop to throw away her cup and leave the paper. I asked for the paper and she saw my notebook and asked about that and then we had a nice conversation about living abroad and kids and weather. Her daughter's friend is in an undergrad writing program, has always wanted to be a writer. She asked me what I was writing and I said a collection of short fiction.

Then she asked my name. She asked me to spell my last name. She looked up and nodded, maybe filing it away. She wanted to know if I'd publish here in Kuwait. This woman stepped into my afternoon, interrupting a notebook page full of

I can't see as far as I'd like.


God, I don't know what I'm doing.


A minor panic at the thought of this process.


I am in the middle and not ready at all.


But I will make it work - God help me.

And this woman stands at my table and asks my last name so she can remember me when she sees that mouthful of a surname on a book. Bless her. Her husband was waiting, she had to go. "I wish your luck," she said, and then, "Not luck. I don't wish luck. I wish you -" she looked at the ceiling and I said, "Work. Wish me good work."

She laughed and wished me good work.

Monday, November 18, 2013

late in the day

Only to tell you I am still writing, fiction and essay, and that both come to me unformed and begging for good endings. I take my own therapy to the page in most essays: let's work out all the residual garbage of college regret, ego and marriage/parenting issues. This means most of my essays read as pathetic and groping as I am re: said issues.

I think there is a reason so many writers just got drunk and scribbled pages half in the bag. And that would be because it hurts to look at the junk in our lives. My life isn't all junk. I just wrote an essay about contentment. But even that dredged up the times and reasons for discontent and I acknowledged the work of contentment. I pray for it.

As for fiction, I found a story set in Kuwait. About time. Kuwait is many things and I wasn't sure how to write about it without me getting in the way. Like Colombia was to me, it's beautiful ugly or ugly beautiful. Slap that on a bumper sticker for anywhere in the world. But writing fiction set in Kuwait is allowing me space to talk about the country I consider home, without getting to sappy or judge-y. Or covering either by calling it fiction.