Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Holding Hands

Let me pose a question. When you go to your doctor's office, and the nurse comes to draw some blood from your arm, how would you feel if you knew that she couldn't call her graduate school's office to figure out how to register for her own classes?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ten Truths About Work and Money

I've met a lot of people over the last three years that got into financial ruts and never worked their way out of them. I don't want that to happen to me. It gets me thinking about myself and how I've approached work and money:

  1. God won't mysteriously take your debt away three years down the road. Plan for it.
  2. Work should be left at work.
  3. If you're not getting rewarded at work, there's a chance you're not trying hard enough.
  4. Office friends are dangerous when responsibility is involved.
  5. You might never make more than $35,000 a year. Think about it.
  6. Division of labor is a good thing. Don't be a work hog.
  7. People make bad financial decisions when they drink, even if that decision is just to spend fifty dollars at the bar.
  8. Stopping at Starbucks on the way to work won't save you time or money.
  9. Taking the time to shave and iron a shirt can give people a new perspective on you.
  10. Make a list before going to the store. There's nothing more dangerous than wandering around looking for something to buy.

On Agents

I attended a talk given by a New York agent yesterday. This agent mostly represented nonfiction writers, but she had no problem fielding questions about the fiction world.

As always, I'm amazed at the type of people that attend these functions. It wasn't sponsored by the Creative Writing program here, so I was the only MFA student in attendance. Instead, it was sponsored by a local writing organization, so all types showed up.

The thing that struck me first was the fact that I was probably the youngest person there. At 25, I really feel like I should be crossing over that threshold of being the child in the room. The second thing that hit me was that I was one of a small handful of men in the room. Maybe, 1 of 5 that weren't involved in organizing the event.

The last thing that really struck me was that, of the small cluster of people I was sitting near, I was decidedly the poorest. I wasn't dressed like a pauper, but the three women in front of me were in fancy dress and all had that horrible, fried, and overstyled hair that comes from spending too many hours in an expensive salon. The gaudiness of their hair was directly proportional to the size of the rocks on their fingers. The women behind me were dressed similarly, and they all felt the need to speek while the featured guest was talking. I didn't hear everything they talked about, but I will tell you that pool men were discussed, as well as the gym, blogs, and skanks. In that order.

One girl (who may have been younger than me, I'm not sure) raised her hand during the Q&A and asked a question about what she should do about her manuscript. It was around 150 pages, and the people she showed it to, though they weren't writers, thought it should be longer. She thought it was perfect the way it was. "I've read it at least five times," she said. "It reads fine. I don't want to force it."
Sister, I thought. If you can count how many times you've read your manuscript on one hand, you're not looking at your work like a writer.

The agent did have some good advice on the numbers game as far as getting an agent. She also discussed the advances one can expect. She broke one of the mythos I've held for some time, which is that first time novelists should try to sell their own work (not sure who told me this, but she said that it wasn't true). I didn't learn too much new stuff, but it got me thinking about my novel again. I wrote three new pages the other day, but would like to get some time to make some real progress.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Calling All Nerds

This word association game is addictive and frustrating. Try your hand at it and let me know how you do. It has a convenient save feature so you can always stop, walk outside, throw your voice to the heavens, and come back to it at your leisure.

a mental disorder characterized by impairments in the perception or expression of reality and/or by significant social or occupational dysfunction

A woman came into my office yesterday. She looked to be in her mid 40s, was wearing normal clothes, and carried a medium sized purse that wasn't completely full. I was the first to make eye contact, so I asked her if she needed any help. She smiled and walked over to my desk.

"I went to the information session yesterday," she said. "I followed the signs on campus to go to the information session, but when I got to the union, nobody was there except for the multicultural affairs people and they were handing out refreshments." She gave me a knowing look, like there was something hidden in what she was saying. "So," she continued, "I went to the information desk and asked them when the information session would be. They told me 4:30." This wasn't true, the information session was at 6:00.
"That's strange that they would tell you that," I said. "I'm sorry for the confusion."
"Well, that's not why I'm here." She pulled some documents out of her purse and started to shuffle through them. "A few years ago," she began, "I was hit on the head. I'm not sure if it's amnesia, but I can't remember some things." She held out some receipts from an ATM. "I went to see [Dr. So&so] speak in [someplace] and I didn't have a lot of money, but I left with 600 dollars. As you can see here," she flipped through them, "at 7:32 I withdrew 50 dollars from the bank. That's all I would have taken out. But, if you look at this receipt from 7:34, you'll see that it says insufficient funds."

I was confused. I didn't understand why she was showing me these receipts from 8 years ago. I also didn't understand these receipts. She was right, they were confusing. The first one said she had around 600 dollars in her bank. The next one said she had insufficient funds. The third, but not the last, said she had around 2,000 dollars. They were from the same account, and she couldn't explain them. I humored her.
"Did you call the bank?" I asked.
"Yes. It was the [Star Bank] on Euclid in Cleveland."
Great
, I thought. She's from Cleveland.
"They couldn't help me. Now, I wanted to talk to you about your graduate catalog. A few years ago, you put a stalker on the cover. I want to know who is in charge of the catalog, and why they would put a horrible person on there."
Why she was looking at a graduate catalog from a few years ago, I wasn't sure.
"There's something I want you to see, too."
"What's that?"
"If you pull up the university of [Texas] website on the computer, go to the English department, and look at the faculty -"
"One second." I pull up the site and she looks at it.
"[Dr. Jones] there, that's his name, but that isn't him in the picture." She touched her chin and looked at me knowingly again. "And Mr. Roberts below him. I know him and that isn't him in the picture."
Let's skip forward about ten minutes.
She continues, "and I know some people, there are two of them walking around, but they're not the same person."
One of the benefits of working at the front desk of an office is that you get to meet all kinds of people. Nothing prepares you for a certifiable paranoid schizophrenic. It's sad, because she wasn't violent or angry like they're often portrayed in popular culture. She just seemed confused, like my great grandmother was on her 103rd birthday. She'd described to me how she couldn't keep a job because her boss was always out to get her. People were stealing money from her, she said. She didn't know who it was, but it goes back many years, and when she figured it all out, when she put the pieces together, someone was going to get into big trouble.
I was pulled out of the conversation by one of my coworkers when it was time for me to go. I walked across the campus feeling awkward. Was she going to come back the next day? Would I have to deal with this again? I felt bad for some reason, even though her mental state wasn't my fault. I just hope she has family to get her some help.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Questions About Blogging

PTB asks a number of questions about blogging. I'll attempt to address them in order, but first, here they are:

  • Do you approach blogging with a similar or a different mindset than you do your other creative pursuits? I don't mean method, here. I mean mentality. And why, or why not?
  • In what ways are your methods different or similar? If you're the type of person who knows what he or she means to say when beginning a poem, does that hold true to a greater or lesser degree when beginning a post?
  • What about revision? Do you revise much in your posts or just go with them? Are you a write-it-out-and-then-touch-it-up person, or do you revise as you write? Do you revise your posts in the same manner and method as you do you creative works? (Thankfully, no one has begun workshopping blog posts. Though, I'll admit that if someone did I'd probably be the first person to sign up. Or I'd try to teach the class.)
  • To what degree do you consider blogging a creative act? I've heard talk of blogging as a form of creative non-fiction and talk ofit being merely obsessive navel gazing. Both are fine by me, but do you try to do them with a creative bent? And why?

Blogging to me is entirely different than my other creative endeavors. While I've been writing much longer than blogging, I look at blogging mostly as a means to warm up and maintain my craft while not working on stories or my novel. It also helps me organize thoughts. In regards to my blogging mentality, I find that while I take the words I publish online seriously, I don't want to be a career blogger, so they don't hold the same weight for me as my fiction does. (Sorry, folks, if that disappoints you.)

I normally have an idea when I begin a post, much like when I begin a story, though the truth in whatever I'm creating normally comes out in the writing.

Revision depends on the post. Some posts, the more creative ones (which are rare, I know), require a different level of revision than the ones that come naturally. Sometimes, if I discover a truth while drafting the post, I'll revise to make the post flow (ooh, a taboo word) better. In those respects, my blog revising process is similar to my creative writing revising process. The big difference is that I don't look for the same things to correct.

I'll be the first to admit I rarely blog with a creative bent. I do, however, believe that blogging is an art form. You can look at any of the Gawker media bloggers and see a standard of writing/posting rarely matched. As far as blogging as nonfiction is concerned, I've definitely seen excellent examples of it. Tony Pierce is the first blogger to come to mind. After a while, however, self reflective blogging, especially the successful kind, can feel manipulative.

Just My 2 Cents

Update 10/19/06:

I feel I should clarify that the self reflective blogging I was speaking of is the kind geared toward self aggrandizement wherein the author's ego comes before his/her readers.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sick Sick Sick

I've been sick for almost two weeks now. I'm definitely on the upswing to getting better, so I'm thankful for that.

Went jogging this morning to try to break up the snuffiness. It was raining and a tad on the cold side, but I fought through it. Couldn't run as far as I have been, though. I graduated from a 1 mile runner to being a 2 miler a while ago, and have been working on 3. Needless to say, I did less than 2 miles today. I'm happy I went, though, and hope the time on the trail helped break up whatever is clogging my sinuses.

It's been a bummer because getting around to exercising is becoming increasingly difficult. Throughout the week I'm busy most evenings and the day time is my only opportunity to relax. We have a rock gym here, but I haven't been able to climb because they're only open a few hours a day (in the evening) and are not open on the weekend.

Not finding time to exercise seems like a petty thing to complain about, but I've found that exercising is directly linked to my mood. When I exercise, I tend to have more energy and harbor a positive outlook on situations. Conversely, when I don't exercise, I get depressed and am frustrated more easily. It also impedes my ability to get work done because, like I said, I get frustrated.

Beki and I have started talking about what we're going to do after our time in Greensboro is done. It's strange, because when I graduated from BG I had no idea what I wanted to do. Now we're planning 1 1/2 years ahead.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Do trimmers dream of electric beards

This morning my electric beard trimmer was talking hateful to me. The scene played out like this:

INT. BATHROOM - MORNING

A light flicks on. Michael enters the room, his beard in disarray.

BEARD TRIMMER
(whispering)
Shit. Here he comes.
Mike picks up the TRIMMER.
MIKE
I love you beard trimmer. You're the best.
BEARD TRIMMER
(coughing)
Fuck.
Mike turns the trimmer on. A WHIRRING SOUND fills the room.
BEARD TRIMMER
I hate you, Mike. I hate you so much.
The trimmer flies apart. Mike looks at the pieces in his hand curiously.
MIKE
Shit.
Mike spends the next twenty minutes trying to put his trimmer back together. He gives up. Eats some food. Tries again. It works!
MIKE
(excited)
Woohoo!
Mike turns the trimmer on and starts working on his beard. The WHIRRING sound dies. The batteries are dead.
MIKE
Damn you.
Fin.
___
The worst part was that the batteries had been charged prior to using the trimmer. It actually dies that quickly. Three triple A batteries, dead in a matter of minutes. I hate my beard trimmer.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Welcome.

This will be the Indienovel home until the regular site gets back up and running.

Enjoy.

Mike