Sunday, April 19, 2015

Just Another Writerly Weekend

What a weekend I had planned. Two full days to write, just write. And I was a good, disciplined writer, too. Honest I was.  Butt in chair. Fingers on keyboard. No Facebook (mostly). Clickety clack clickety clack. Go, Jimmy, go! Get those words down. Sucky sentence? You can fix it later. Crappy paragraph? That's okay, just get it down, one after the other. Let it flow, man. Clickety clack clickety clack. It got tougher as the weekend went on. Words and paragraphs and sentences came slowly. Eventually, trying to describe a simple action was like trying to swim in molasses. But I kept going. I know how this works. Persistence, man. Courage. And the outcome? A huge, heaping and steaming pile of horseshit. Clickety clack. Mama told me there'd be days like this. Actually, she didn't. She died when I was sixteen, way before she ever had the chance to warn me away from this craziness. Is it too late for a career change? Any companies hiring sixty-year-old interns? I could commute to Wall Street. I'm pretty sure I could pick stocks just as badly as everyone else there. Or I could sell shirts at Brooks Brothers on Madison. It wouldn't take me long to become a crew chief at McDonald's. I'm told I have a pleasant voice, so maybe I could work in a call center and put you on hold forever.  
So. How was your weekend?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Annie Sez It

This week's Facebook Find, from Anne Lamott's page:

Amen, sister.
"Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and sometimes nearly-evil men I have known were all writers who'd had bestsellers. Yet, it is also a miracle to get your work published. Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesey holes. It won't, it can't. But writing can. So can singing."

Monday, April 6, 2015

Just Asking...

Corporate America's insatiable need to morph verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs has struck again. I was in a meeting recently when the executive in charge asked, "What's the ask?" The reply was something along the lines of, "The ask is that we reduce our exposure in less optimal market segments while increasing our visibility in... blah blah blah."

I appeared to be paying attention--after three decades of business meetings, I've gotten pretty good at this. But my thoughts were focused on The Ask. It seems to be on everyone's corporate lips these days: 
Do we have a clear understanding of The Ask?
Does the strategy address The Ask?
We must clearly define The Ask before moving forward.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Airless Conference Room, point of order, if you please:  "Ask" is a verb. "The Ask" is... well, beats me. So my "ask" is that we please get back to "What's the objective?" or "What is the task at hand?" or or even "What in the hell are we supposed to do?"

"What's the ask?" just sounds askinine.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

This One's for Tara

That's Tara, seated on my right.
Last month, I was honored to be the featured author at the Fitchburg (MA) Library's Author Night. The moderator was a fine young woman named Tara Dugan, who, as it turns out, is a distant cousin... although I'm still not sure how. Despite any genetic connection she may have with me, she did a great job.

After the talk, she mentioned that she enjoyed reading my blog posts. I thought she was just being nice, since it had been nearly a year since my last post. I had decided to let the blog sink into even deeper oblivion. But when she started talking about specific topics I'd written on... well, she inspired me. So thank you, Tara. This first "return" post is for you.

Since it's National Poetry Month, I thought I'd post a one-sentence poem I wrote a few years ago. I invite anyone who happens to see this entry to post one of your own originals in the comment section, or to share a poem that has special meaning for you. Here's mine (and I hope Blogger doesn't screw up the enjambments):


While I was revising a poem that sucked, my long-dead
mother and not-as-long-dead father visited to remind me
that writing was the fast road to starvation and to ask
what I was doing
in the Express Lane

by writing poetry; after all, being Irish was not a divine right
to sing the blues, especially since I was given Middle America,
hours of humid afternoons to float like an astronaut 12 feet
above the drain
of Lakewood Park

pool, red-and-yellow autumns, and scratchy sittings on Santa’s lap
at Higbee’s, where afterwards we’d have a cool chocolate frosty
in the basement and watch the ladies browse blankets and punch
pillows and why
did I feel it necessary

to use words like suck anyway but back to the main point, which was this:
I was not going to find what I was looking for in words, no one ever does,
especially those with real responsibilities but never mind, it didn’t much matter
since I never did
much listen anyway

which is okay, they said, we’ll stay here—in the dress you’ll remember
from the picture, the suit you’ll recall from the smell—silent, quiet as mice,
while we lie with our hands softly at our sides as we ever so patiently,
ever so eagerly,
wait for you. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Writing Gods Are Messing With Me

After the sting, the antidote. Case in point: Shortly after I got a bit of bad literary news (okay, fine--a rejection), I received this new, five-star review of my book by a British reader:

"It is so refreshing to see the issues raised in this book - Alzheimer's - dysfunctional families, etc not done in a syrupy American way. Well done. The characters did not go out of their way to be liked which gave it a more realistic quality."

Did this reviewer just insult the syrupy state of American Letters? I don't bloody well care. The man has impeccable taste and insight.

Point is: Sometimes when you most need it, you're reminded of why you write. Thanks, British Reader. Cheers!