I care about this alot.

Clarion is around the corner, and my motto is taken from Hyperbole and a Half, because it seems appropriate. I give myself permission to love everyone, to love every second of this time, to flail around in joy, to fail big.

Update on goooooals:
Weight loss: success. Down 7 lbs. since coming back to AZ. That Lose It program has really helped, and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing or starving myself. It’s a nice feeling.
Exercise: success. Have used the gym membership 17 times since I got it.
Alcohol: fair to middling. Am still drinking, but three or so times a week, and only one drink in an evening. This is a HUGE cutback from the 3-5 drinks a night that were my norm last semester. I am less depressed, less ill, and I feel capable of focus in a way I haven’t in months.
Writing: Middling success. Two revisions I adore (one on a new story–about etiquette and terrifying three-headed angels), two chapters on the novel, and four new drafts to tinker with. And the start of a revision on the girl-Jesus story. And I sent out one of the revisions a few weeks ago and still have not heard…will update when the reply arrives.
Food: success. Have been eating MUCH healthier. That could all disappear if the Clarion cafeteria food is as terrifying as rumored, though. I’m hoping the Trader Joe’s (walking distance of campus) can get me by if the “free” food is too unhealthy.

I don’t think I could be any more prepared, all things considered. I have a daily writing habit, a daily exercise habit, a packed suitcase, and an open brain. What else am I missing?

Shiny!

After three years of trying, I finally not only got a play staged, but actually won the whole shebang.  Best Northern AZ Playwriting Competition ev-har!  I didn’t have to stage manage (whcih turns me into an OCD basketcase), got doublecast (in my other favorite play besides mine…I got to play someone’s internal monologue.  SO fun), and I totally won.  This is the play that didn’t even make the grade last year.  I believed in the concept, but I also wrote the rough draft the night before deadline, and it showed.  Moral of the story: REVISE.  Don’t whine.  Just do it.

Am unbelievably happy, though.  Between NAPS and the Dinty Moore workshop, the summer has been surprisingly productive.  Now if I can just bust out another draft of novel…

On the range.

It’s odd being in Flagstaff.  I’m here but not here.  The social scene hasn’t much changed (although it’s about to, what with Rich, Laura and Matt all taking off), and I fall right back into old patterns, some positive, some negative.  I’m drinking again but I’ve cut way back; no more weekend hangovers (not since I’ve been home, anyway).  Bits of wine here and there, the occasional whiskey with grandma, Matt’s homebrew.  The novel moves painfully slowly, which is infuriating, frustrating and predictable.  I took an excellent workshop with Dinty Moore and produced a Brevity-style 500 word nonfic, and I’m revising up a play for this year’s Playwriting Showcase, so it’s not like I’m not writing.  It’s just not what I thought I’d be writing.

In other news, editing is editing is editing.  The Comma Wars are a go-go, of course, but they’ve been less vicious than usual, which I’m grateful for.  I hope the truce continues.  And I hope I get a book soon, because I’ll get a lot more novel-ing done if my boss will let me go outhouse on the walk-in book.

I scarcely see Sacha at all, which I feel guilty about.  Matt’s moving out of his apartment in a week (to save money for Chicago), so I’ve been completely focused on making that happen, at the expense of the novel, and pretty much everyone else friend-wise.  And Laura leaves in nine days for Kansas City, so I feel an extra-bad friend on all counts.

Blogpost devolve.  But I’m happy and hunkered down, and so long as I can manage to not spend money and keep tapping away at the novel, I’ll be pleased with the summer’s fruits.

Strawberries!

Awesomesauce.

I have been meaning to post the utter happy for a week.  It’s spring break, though, so procrastination has ruled ’til now.

I won a thing!  A big department thing with money and stuffs!  But even better, way better, my brilliant colleagues (brilliant, I tell you) have given me collective warm fuzzies.  In what kind of program is the response to winning a thing not “I cut you,” but “hey, congrats!”?  I love these people more than conversation hearts, more than spring break, possibly more than alcohol.  I’ve won things before (haven’t we all or we wouldn’t be here?), but never when the field included a wall of geniuses.  My writing is unrecognizable from itself a year ago, and that is about the caliber of work I’m reading and criticizing–my colleagues’ work.  This is how a program is supposed to be, fear and loathing and a commitment to stop sucking and the joy of failure.  And then the rare success that is all the sweeter for everything that got cannibalized to get to three paragraphs that work.  Surrounded by devious minds, mine struggling to keep up…I couldn’t have conceived this life a year ago.

Girlwonders is a smiling girl.  Trying to pay close attention to what that feels like, for some future rainy Clarion day.

No good, very bad month.

March is the month when people find out awards they didn’t get, colleges they didn’t get into, workshops and jobs that gave them a pass, internships given to someone else.  Everyone’s depressed and licking their wounds, Spring Break is in sight but too far away, no one’s gotten enough sleep in weeks.

Third try, and I didn’t get in to Clarion this year. I am disappointed and terribly frustrated, despite the knowledge that it’s a crapshoot, taste of the judges, etc. I got waitlisted in ’06, with a story I wrote in undergrad, but I’ve been flat-out rejected twice now (’07, ’10). Now, I KNOW my writing has improved over the past five years. I got into a PhD program, ferfuckssakes.  But the fact that speculative is inadmissible to graduate-level workshops doesn’t help–it’s hard to improve when all I can do is a self-crit.  I want to form a speculative fiction crit group something fierce.  A project for next fall, perhaps.

I woke up to an email from the summer subletter I thought was a sure thing saying that she had found another place, so once again I’m staring down the prospect of paying $1500 for an apartment I’m not living in.  And this morning I had perhaps the third most awful student interaction I’ve ever had, ever.  I’m going to be spending more time than I wish figuring out what to do about it, self-criticizing, replaying the incident in my head ad nauseum.  One more thing I don’t need.

The (few) bright spots: I survived the insane quantity of work I had to plow through this weekend. Nothing got done well, but everything got done, which I need to learn to live with.  And I got into a department reading with the shorter of my two Clarion pieces, so at least that story won’t be a wholly wasted exercise.  I finished a new essay for Urrea, too, something that I may be able to turn into a memoir chapter.  I like its form, even if the content is still all over the place.  I’m not proud of it, but…yeah.  Is done.

The mantra is basic: writing is hard.  One step forward, two steps back.

How to say “fuck you” sweetly.

My program holds/attends/participates in a metric ton of literary readings, and I’ve begun to notice a trend, especially in those readings sponsored by the department.  A first-year admitted for fiction read his Langston Hughes-esque poetry riffs.  A second-year guy who got in for poetry read a prose piece, about miscarriage and parrots (although I finally got to hear him read his poetry at an off-campus lit mag reading last night, and it was awesome.  He said fuck a lot.  Also, the poem was about fucking koalas).  I just submitted my very first short piece to a department reading, a competitive match between us and the Art Institute of Chicago.  Admitted for nonfiction, and what did I submit?  A genre piece, science-fiction.  I don’t care if it gets rejected because reading it in front of my peers and professor is such a bad idea to begin with.

So, why this trend?  Is it saying “fuck you” sweetly to the wonderful people who accepted us only to pigeonhole us by doing so?  I do love that all the PhDers habitually crossgenre.  I didn’t mean to say fuck you, but I fear that’s how it will be read by my profs.  My nonfiction’s all long form, though.  Only my short fiction meets the time requirement, and my short fiction?  Is all speculative.

The kinder gentler version is that we want to read aloud our experimental work, the work we’re least comfortable with, because that’s the work that benefits from an audience reaction.  But that’s never the way it’s pitched, and that’s not how I feel about my submission.  It’s not my best work, but it’s work I’m proud of, work that pushes the boundary of what I’ve been doing toward something better.  My best work, the stuff got me in, is artfully boring to me now.  The new is shiny, even if it’s unpolished rock.

I submitted the existential crisis of robot piece.  And if it does get selected, I will read it aloud with my head held high.  Because speculative’s what I do, what I read, what I love, just as much as memoir, and I’m not going to feel badly about that fact.

A life so full of joy.

So I keep track of my people on that ancient social networking tool, the Facebook.  Was bumming around and came across the pile of pictures from my hometown theater’s faux-prom. Everyone all dressed up snappy sassy and getting wild.  I miss Patty, and Laura, and Rich, and every time I see pictures of Matt my breath catches a little because even when making terrible faces with a garter on his head, he’s still the prettiest thing ever and I miss him.  I even miss the grumpy ones, the bitter ones, the ones who didn’t like me all that much.  ‘Cause they’re my people, you know?

And I know, because it’s theater, that likely as not all those laughing people are probably harboring secret resentments and crushes and what we see in the picture is an illusion and blah and blah.  Then I have to keep from idealization in absentia.  If I were there, I’d be desperately wishing to get out.  Now I’m out and I’m pining?  WTF?  I want to tell all those people to look through those pictures and see the happiness spilling out everywhere.  Good to stop and notice joy every now and again.

I just submitted to Clarion, two brand new stories, both of which I’m actually rather proud of.  It’s been so long since I devoted my brain to fiction, it was a rusty trap, and yet once I pushed through the shitty first drafts, well…yeah.  Working titles: existential crisis of robot and gender-swap Jesus.  As I said, I’m actually pleased.  If I don’t get into Clarion this year, I’ll at least know I did my best.  Opened the docs up last night and spotted five (five!   How?!) typoes, but that’s just Murphy.

Last night I rode the bus for two hours going nowhere.  I need to learn to read maps.  Was trying to get to a steampunk meet-up, but…epic fail on my part.  That said, Chicago night bus drivers are sweetness itself.  This guy was determined to help me reach my destination, despite the fact that I’d written the directions down wrong.  He was genuinely disappointed when I gave up and got off the bus to head home.

Chicago is worlds of awesome.  I went to see Brian Dennehy in Krapp’s Last Tape, $13 nosebleed seats.  I’ve never seen theater like this.  Luis Urrea is still a love. Although I’m tragedized that I missed Neil Gaiman’s pitstop in Naperville.  Director of the Program for Writers is setting up a mini-class with me and the other trauma memoirist, to “address issues you’re having with the form.”  So that’ll be fun.  And tonight I’m going to Mexican food and then on to a giant reading/party for a literary magazine run by one of my colleagues.

When I line everything up, I know I’m happy here, happy and productive, my little brain chomping away at everything I’ve been feeding it.  Critical theory!  Memoir!  Fiction!  I can see myself getting better, which means change must be happening quickly.  I fear plateauing, boredom, and loneliness.  But it’s almost Spring Break, when I’ll get a shot in the arm of Flag love.  Almost there.