Tag: writer

Painting, Like Most Things, Is Great For Second Chances

I’m a writer, mostly. But, I grew up with a pen in my hand, crayons in my mouth, markers holding up my pony tail. I grew up, curious, touching cheap canvas, smelling paints as my dad set out his oils, desperately trying to get pictures from my brain into reality. I draw, I paint, and I love to leave the mark of my mind on things that will outlast it.

I was painting yesterday, and this wonderful thing happened where, in the silent of the house, fingers gripped to brush, swirling colors together like an art-alchemist, my mind hit the smooth pavement of its thoughts and cruised. It felt dangerously free. It felt inclined to remind me of everything I wasn’t really wanting to think on at the moment. But, at times, it simply was. I simply was, and my fingers did the talking.

It’s great to paint with cheap acrylics because there’s almost no such thing as a permanent mistake. I drew a quick sketch with an art pen, mixed my colors and slathered on the first layer. The freedom that comes with that sloppy strokes, covering ground recklessly, is knowing that the first stroke is nothing but foundation, nothing but a primer to cling to the better stuff to come.

As I progressed, I adjusted. I saw that things weren’t quite right, and I went darker, deeper, thinner, fatter, clearer, more detailed. Sometimes my shaking fingers didn’t quite get the curve right, didn’t quite capture the precision I was going for, so I let it dry and tried again.

With painting, there’s no pressure. You experiment until it feels right. I wonder why it’s so much harder to accept this in other disciplines and in life in general. With writing, we think it must be perfect on the first draft. I’m a bad writer if I make that mistake, if I can’t quite portray what I mean to.

But writing, like painting, is made for second chances, second drafts, and second opinions. It’s made for fresh eyes and readjusting.

Don’t let the mistakes get the best of you. Just adjust and try again.

“Uploaded” Part 2

The following day, I take my day off from school to go to Paul’s house. When I knock on the door, it takes several minutes before the door creaks open. I see Paul’s mom’s red-rimmed eyes in the crevice. I begin to think I’ve made a horrible mistake by coming when she opens the door a little wider.

She looks pale and thin….gaunt, even. “Loren, it’s so good to see you. Come in.”

I follow her into the home I’ve been in and out of since I was five, and I feel like a stranger. Paul’s Dad and sisters are not home, so Lisa takes me to the kitchen and sits me down at the bar.

“Would you like something to eat?” she says, sounding like she has the urgent need to blow her nose.

“I would love something, if you have it.”

“How about some macaroni? It’s a bit old, but still good, I think.”

“That sounds amazing,” I say honestly.

She heats the macaroni in the microwave, pours me a glass of water, and sets it all down in front of me.

“How’s school?” she asks. I think to myself this is probably deliberate. She knows why I’m here, without a doubt. I play along, regardless.

“Oh, you know. We’re going through a history unit in almost every room, so that’s kind of unfortunate. But, I hear we’re going to get some technology and cyber development units in pretty soon, so we’re all pretty excited about that.”

“I can imagine!” She leans on the counter, pulling a used tissue from her pocket and sliding it under her nose.

“Lisa…” I say, putting my fork down on the counter. “Are you all right?”

I watch in anguish as the woman who has cheerfully acted as my second mother lowers her head, her lip trembling uncontrollably, fresh tears sliding down her face.

I leave my seat immediately and go around to her, hugging her. Even as she cries, I look over her shoulder at their upload unit, tucked away in the corner of the entertainment room.

She guesses where I am looking and says, “I never guessed, Loren. I never even thought to make sure he was doing it.”

“Then…it’s real. He really didn’t upload?”

She nods, her chin sliding down again, her arms hugging herself. I feel a bit like I’m sliding, sliding into a chasm of despair. Never seeing Paul again…that was…it was too much.

I sit mechanically at the counter and begin to put the cold macaroni in my mouth, not tasting or enjoying.

“Isn’t there a way we can fix this?” I ask her, feeling the morbid permanence of my friend’s absence with a sudden force.

The woman smiles sweetly at me as she tosses another crumpled tissue into the trash bin. “If only there were. Thanks for coming, Loren. I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you.”

I shake my head and get up from my chair, forgetting the macaroni. “Let me know if you need anything, Lisa.”

She kisses me on the forehead and lets me out of the front door. I see Red’s car pull in with the girls in the backseat, but with my earbuds tucked in, I ignore them and move on. I don’t have room for anyone else’s sorrow. I am brewing a plan fit to put all of this grief behind us. I will only face them when it is accomplished.

I make a visit to the only morgue in town. Presumably Paul would still be present before they passed his body into the hands of the morticians. When I enter, the woman at the counter looks at me with bland, bored eyes.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m here to see Paul Brennan.”

“What for?” She didn’t remove her eyes from his face, nor did she change her expression. “He’s dead, you know.”

I try to stifle the rage, and, shaking, I close my eyes to take a breath. “Can I see him or not?”

“I guess. Wouldn’t do any harm.” She pushes a clipboard toward me which I sign before passing through the double doors marked “Authorized Entry Only.”

The only autopsy technician in town is a renowned AI called “Frank.” The thought was probably that such a hilariously commonplace name would make people feel easier about a robot programmed to do such a gruesome job, but of course, it only made things more uncomfortable for the humans whose loved ones went under the robot’s knife.

As I enter, I can see that Frank is busy sterilizing his tools at the sink.

“Excuse me?” I approach carefully, seeing that many of the things in his grip are quite sharp. “I was hoping I’d be able to see Paul Brennan?” I say it as a question, trying to seem as harmless as possible to the calculating brain of the AI.

He turns to look at me, the laser red pupil of his eye wiggling as it searches me from head to toe. “Why do you come to see a dead man?”

“I wanted to see for myself…that he’s’ really dead,” I say with some honesty. After some staring and bobbing in space, Frank turns and leads me into the room with the refrigerated slabs. I feel a rush of uneasiness as I follow the robot into the filing cabinet for corpses. I’ve heard stories of Frank, and I’ve imagined what the inside of a morgue looks like, but the experience itself is altogether more unnatural than I’d imagined.

Frank hovers to the slab marked 3B and pulls it open. Chill, rotting air pushes out of the tomb and into my nose, and I gag twice.

“He was a handsome boy,” Frank says as observation.

I nod, and approach the body, relieved that, aside from the paleness, the blue lips, the zig zag scars on his chest, he looks very much the same as he did in life. He did not look as broken as I imagined him to be.

As if sensing what I might be thinking, Frank says, “The trolley did not damage his body overmuch. It was the brain that suffered the mortal blow.”

“His brain?” I feel a rock plunge into my stomach, more nausea clinging to me as I contemplate what this means. “What? I mean, is it even salvageable?”

The AI ran his spinning pupil over me, calculating, reading, analyzing. “His occipital lobe was like hammered meat, but the rest was intact. Some bruising on the frontal lobe from the rebound into the front of the skull.”

“God,” I feel the bile in my throat.

“We were able to collect several preserved slides for AI personality integration research. This is common procedure for human deaths.”

“Yeah,” I close my eyes and steady myself on the handle of another slab. “I know. You gotta get your quirky personalities from somewhere.”

Frank, for a moment, does not look at me, at Paul, or anywhere really. He clicks his dexterous fingers on the metal of the slab while seeming to descend into his strange, coded thoughts. After several moments, during which I am beginning to notice the careful stitch-work around Paul’s scalp that sealed up the brainless skull, Frank speaks again.

“I, fortunately, am not a mind reader. I am very good at sensing human motivation, however, and I can see that you have some cause for coming here and talking of the boy’s scrambled brains.”

I ignore the probe for information as a thought strikes me. “You…did you do a neuronal-electro-activity scan?”

If it is possible for a robot to show surprise, I think Frank does it as he tilts his strange head at me in confusion.

“Come on, Frank. School is making a genius of all of us, these days. Now, did you?”

Frank nodded slowly.

“What were the results?”

“Nothing substantial. We did see imprints of his last emotions, predominantly fear, and there is evidence of frequently-traveled neural networks so that we could draw up a personality profile for our research.”

“Do you have the data for that? Can I have a copy of it?”

Frank, then, does something I don’t expect. Renewed horror creeps down my spine as his mouth turns up in a wicked smile.

“Uploaded” Part 1

Picture by Larisa Koshkina




I leave the house as I always do, eyes skirting the floor, headphones plugged deep into both ears, a faint nod to my mother on the way out.

My neighbors think me a bit odd for not taking the tram to school, but it’s such a short walk, and the weather is so temperate. I walk in with a light, humid sweat on my face and several of the more traditional-minded students whisper about me to their friends.

My friends are at the lunch table in the far right corner, as they are every afternoon. It seems we’re eating vitamin preserves for the fourth day in a row.

“Ugh,” I say as I join them. “At least tell me they’re not raspberry flavored again.”

Harv slaps his spoon onto the gelatinous substance and we both watch it jiggle. “Nope, I think it’s raspberry. But, my mom’s making hamburgers tonight, so I can swing this.”

“Lucky,” I say, eyeing everyone else’s portions bitterly. “I think I’ll just skip it today.”

“Careful,” he says, barely slipping a bite in between his teeth. “You only get two skips a month, and you’ve already used one, remember?”

I snap my plastic spoon and hang my head, “Now I do.”

“Just muscle through, Loren. It wouldn’t be worth a detention.”

I do as he suggests and begin to spill the vitamin supplements into my mouth in an attempt not to taste it or dwell on the texture. I look down the table and notice that Paul’s seat is empty. It’s extremely rare for students to miss school, so I feel a tickle of worry crawl up my spine.

“Have you heard from Paul, Harv?”

“No, I haven’t. Actually, come to think of it, I messaged him this weekend about seeing a movie and never heard back.”

“Huh…” I dump my lunch container in the trash incinerator and stew in my thoughts for the rest of the lunch hour.

As the bell rings, we make our way to the classrooms. I split ways with Harvey and arrive in room B107, the Biography room. I sit, along with twelve other students, in an arm chair which cradles my back, and feel the upload helmet slip over my head and morph to my face.

I hate the smell of the upload helmet, but if the lesson is interesting enough, I usually forget about it.

Today I only get to choose between early 20th century war heroes and Renaissance painters of the 14th century. I weigh my options carefully before selecting the painters lesson and let it stream into my brain. Though uploads only take a few minutes, it feels like hours as your brain slows down to process all the information. I would drift off, but the system automatically caffeinates you every time you feel the urge to yawn, so I’m wired and jittery by the time the lesson is over.

I switch rooms three times and churn through whatever uninteresting material they have to sponge into us before they let us out for the day. As with most days, I avoid going home until my mother absolutely expects me back.

It’s 5:59 as I finally broach the porch to my house, and I can smell dinner filtering out through an open window. It smells smokey and burned. I take a resigned step indoors and flick my earbuds out of my ears to say hello to my mother. I am faintly exhausted after three upload lessons and several hours at the arcade in VR.

“Hey, mom.” I swing my backpack off and avoid looking at her. I can sense without looking in her direction that she’s already a mess for tonight.

“Hey, honey!” she calls from the kitchen, suddenly making a lot of noise with pans. “I tried to make spaghetti for dinner, but I lost track of time and burned it up pretty good.” She rounded the corner from the kitchen and looked at me guiltily. “Do you hate me?”

I roll my eyes. “Why would I hate you, mom? Let’s just order some Chinese.”

“I’ve got them on speed-dial one if you want to use my phone.”

I do as she says and order our usual. Even with the general chaos of clanging pans and smoke alarms blaring every few minutes, I can sense that something else is wrong with her. She’s hiding some kind of stress.

“What’s up, mom?” I ask from near the open window, so I can breath properly.

“Well, honey. I’ve got some bad news for you.” She abandons her mountain of charred pots in the sink and turns to me. “Come and sit with me on the couch a moment.”

I refrain from rolling my eyes again. She’s done this bit more than once, and it doesn’t ever get easier to sit through. She sits next to me on the sofa and reaches for my hand. “Honey,” she says, and I lose track of time staring at the bags under her eyes.

I think, “Man, has she always looked this old? Is it because of the Divorce? I wonder if the Chinese place has any job openings…only two manned positions per restaurant after the AI Inclusion Ordinance. It’d be nice to waste some time in the evenings being productive…and I’d probably get free food…”

“…are you going to be okay?” she asks after a while.

“Hmm?” I rip my stare away from her wrinkled eyelids.

“Are you going to be okay? I mean…nothing like this has ever happened to you before.”

I start a tumultuous war in my head trying to decide if I should ask her to repeat what she said or just pass it off.

“Did you hear what I said? Paul…Paul is dead.”

This time, I’m alert. I look at her, but don’t see her. I feel my tongue tracking dryly across the roof of my mouth, and I try to swallow. “W-What? Paul died?”

“Yes, dear.” And then she does something uncommonly motherly by stroking my hair. “He got hit by a tram last Friday. His family has been keeping it quiet.”

“But—But I saw him Friday afternoon at school!” My mother looks at me with pity, and I suddenly feel so much anger at her that I want to hit her. She senses my frustration, it seems, because she leaps off the couch and puts some distance between us.

“Honey…that’s not all.”

“No, I think I’m done with this conversation.” I close my eyes and rub my temples, trying to maintain control. “When the delivery guy gets here, don’t forget to tip. I’ll be out in a few hours.”

“But—dear, you should know—“

“Shut. Up. Shut up.” I see her wrinkled eye bags quiver as a fat tear begins to form in the corners of her eyes.

I leave her like this, refusing to feel guilty. If she’s correct and Paul really is dead, then there’s any easy solution to this.

I slip into my room and strip my clothes, attaching cables to my temples, heart, fingers, knees, and feet. I then sit carefully back in my chair and call out, “Initiate transfer.”

When I open my eyes again, I’m on my bed in my room and Bacon is there. He jumps on my bed, purring loudly and rubbing his fluffy tail against my face.

“Hey buddy,” I pick him up and scratch his ears and chin and plant kisses all over his fuzzy whisker face. “Got some errands to take care of. You’re welcome to come with me.”

I leave my room, then, with Bacon at my heels and cross to the room to the right of mine. I do not knock before entering. The fire is going and grandma’s rocking chair is tilting rhythmically as she reads. When she hears me come in, she shoves her book underneath the afghan on her lap.

“Hey, Gramma. How’s your day?” I crouch next to her chair and grab her proffered hand.

“Oh, just about like any other day,” she smiles and chuckles.

“Reading Dean Koontz again, are we?”

Gramma blushes and hangs her head. “Now, don’t give me any grief about it, Loren. This one’s juicy, but your mom already blacked out all the good stuff.”

I smile at her and kiss her cheek. “Remind me to get you a copy you can hide from mom.”

She looks at me with a glint of hope and treason in her eyes, “You would do that for me?”

“Come on, Gramma, you’ve got to have something to look forward to for the rest of eternity!”

“Damn straight!” Gramma says and winks at me.

“I’m going to go check on some others, okay. I’ll be back tonight after dinner.”

“Chinese food again?”

“How’d you know?”

There were several other rooms in the quadrant with inhabitants that needed visiting. When I had made my rounds, Bacon stealing pats and tickles from every room, I shiver and brace up to what I’m about to have to do. It’s never fun the first time.

I approach the download screen and search “Paul Brennan” on the monitor. The search is slow as several other faces with the name “Paul” assigned filter through and disappear. When his profile comes up, I scroll to the bottom for the download link.

Paul Brennan, born 27 January, 2290. DOD 10 April, 2309.

I feel a heavy sigh escape me. I scroll further. The last thing written at the bottom of his profile strikes me cold and hollow.

No Downloads Available.

“That can’t be right.”

I erase the search history and type in “Paul Brennan download link.”

To which, the monitor replies: No Results Found.

“No. That…That can’t be right. He wouldn’t do this. Who would do this?”

I feel Bacon rub his sides against my ankles. He always had a sense of when I was upset. I pick him up and cuddle him to my face.

“I won’t panic, yet. This isn’t absolute.” I leave the visitation room with the resolve to visit Paul’s parents tomorrow.

Gunmen and Reality More Cruel than Fiction

The tossing hum of the laundromat and its faint, mechanic heat lulled me as I waited for my clothes to wash. In and out, people carried their tubs of clothes, their tired faces and the mid-afternoon breeze pulling through the open door made me feel like a contented spot on the floor. An unnoticed piece observing the greater workings of human life.

I like to sit on the outside and observe. I like to empty my brain and feel like a spot on the tile, an ornament. But, as I enjoyed my anonymity, my recession into my thoughts, the droning of the television caught my attention. Headlines of massacre pulled me up and sat me firmly on my feet. “Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. History,” the television read.

A man, peeking through a hotel window with a heavily powered gun watched concert goers through his scope and waited until the time was ripe.

I am breathless as I stand, several others near me as riveted to the screen as I. I wonder, I stumble, I wheeze in consternation. Only moments before, I was anonymous, but as I singled my vision on the number of dead, all of the sudden, I felt like I was standing on the edge of the world, watching as the people next to me, one who was holding my hand, another who I had shared coffee with were leaping off into the chasm.

Some like to think that the world is a more dangerous place now than it has ever been. I’m not an expert, but of course, I don’t think that’s true. Humans have been annihilating each other since they could find sharp enough sticks or rocks to accomplish the task. Ambition, greed, jealousy, power…instinct? These deep seated, easily overlooked pieces of the character of mankind rear their ugly heads and take down the innocent in droves.

When I first started studying Psychology, I was introduce to something called The Stanford Prison Experiment. I won’t attempt to go into it here, if my reader is unfamiliar, but I will say that it sent me into such a disgusted depression, that I accomplished nothing but writing an angst-filled song at the end of the night. Are we animals? Are human beings incapable of controlling their violent temperaments? Are we going to keep murdering each other senselessly for the rest of time?

Am I going to have to cling so tightly to my loved ones that they can’t attend concerts, can’t board planes, can’t take the trains, can’t leave the gosh darned living room? For Pete’s sake, will I have to wear a bullet proof vest to leave the house?

Of course, the idealist in me screams at the injustice. We all wonder why in times like these. We wonder why the man shot all those people, and newscasters were ignorant as to his motive at the time of the broadcast. They saw no motive, no connection, nothing but the unstable mind of the murderer, son of a man on the most wanted list. Well, I thought about it. I puzzled and puzzled, as I often do when things go horribly wrong in the harmony of life, and I began to think that I had some semblance of an answer. It’s an answer I’ve had for many things in the past years, but I will nonetheless apply it here, too.

Why do people kill? How can someone turn a gun at a crowd of innocent people, none of which he has ever met before?

The answer? Humans have trouble seeing other people as human, too. I mean, really human, not by definition, not by association, not by comparison. Really, really human. They have trouble looking past a face that looks like their own, a title, a name that they go by, a package carrying a personality with its own perceptions and desires.

We label, we categorize, we disassociate. We lump.

Personally, I have a difficult time leaping out of my own head and seeing people. My husband is probably the first person that I truly saw. And by golly, I sure loved what I saw.

I don’t have a solution to accompany this answer, necessarily. I’m no less troubled, no less heartbroken at the existence of evil, murder, self-consumption. However, I can hope upon hope that humanity will one day learn to stop lumping and start talking, reading, and seeing.

We’ve All Got to Anchor Somewhere

Sometimes, I feel like a bobbing buoy, detached from its lifeline, flailing about in the waves of a grumpy storm. I’m not drowning, but I’m definitely unhappy out here.

A buoy belongs on its tether, and sometimes it should be allowed to sway here and sway there, piddle along with one ripple or another, hop free of the water for a brief moment, taken with the momentum, but it must always return to its tethered center. It must be centered, or it is lost.

—-0—–0—–0—–0—-0—–0—-0—-\(. _ .)/—-0—-0—-0—-0—-0—-0—-0—-0——-

It’s taken me a while to know myself, and in a way, it’s beautiful that I’m still figuring out my own brain, but it’s also disorienting, sometimes painful. It was only in the last year or two that I figured out that other introverts, like me, have to have a “base.” This might be common to all people, but particularly for introverts, this base is a place that they have as their own. It is their place to defrag and sort out the mess of their consciousness.

For me, while I was in college, this place was a coffee shop near campus. I liked it best when there were a few other people there, chatting quietly to cut the quiet, no music, just car noise from the window, a slight breeze giving it a good shake. I like to find my corner, put pen to paper, and let latte lips and fingertips drive me back to sanity. I know, that probably sounds so “hipster.” But it was my place, my anchor. I became so dependent on this routine that every time I went to the coffee shop, I knew I’d be able to come back to my dorm with a poem. I knew that I’d leave with something I’d created.

I cried many times in my corner of the coffee shop, disregarding the throngs of people, in-and-out, laughing maniacally, sometimes singing and asking for a highlighter to be thrown at their face. I would go when my frazzled brain tips were wigging out inside my brain, flinging themselves like tantruming toddlers all over my thoughts. I would be on the verge of a breakdown, tears brimming, heart empty, and more than once, the barista behind the counter would fake ring-up a coffee. Their kindness and the relief of being in that place would center me, would push me over the edge so I could get that cry out and put myself back on track. I used to eat stress three meals a day, but at least I always had that.

Right now, I’m adrift. I try to always find my center, my anchoring place, though I haven’t had a true “home” since before I graduated high school. At my in-law’s house, I found a home at my father in-law’s hand-made table at the far end, surrounded by windows, my back supported by a soft cushion. I’d cross my legs and thousands of words would fly out me to find their home in my fiction. It wasn’t ideal, maybe, but it was my center. Their home wasn’t my home, but it was a good enough stand-in, a beautiful stand-in.

Here, we make our stand-in home at a hotel. There’s nowhere to sit, and sometimes I don’t see another human face for eleven hours. I find myself bereft of inspiration, energy, or determination. I feel emptied without having gone through the effort of emptying myself. I feel drained, as a matter of fact, and often, I blame the fact that I don’t have a tether. There is no place to which I can relocate to physically and mentally distance myself from whatever issues are associated with the space I live in. There is no place I can go to where people in a similar state of mind gather to work out their tangled inner coils.

I feel like I’m a flailing buoy, head upside down in the ocean, legs kicking skyward like mad.

Don’t get me wrong, there are joys here. I have three constant blessings, all of them living things that renew my spirit and hopes. But, renewing emotional strength isn’t just a matter of my loved ones being near, it is about an enriching environment, a welcoming space where welcoming minds make tremors in the world, silently, on paper, in their thoughts, in whispers by the window.

Introverts, find your centers. Humans, get your tethers together. Everyone needs a room of one’s own. We all need our anchors. Heaven help the flailing buoys.

An Update and Life Confusion

Since my last update, I’ve traveled about 1300 miles with one car, two rabbits, and my husband to Albany, New York.

Albany is gorgeous, though Google Maps seems to be confused about whether we actually live in Buffalo or Albany. The rural areas around us are far different from what I’m used to.

Where I grew up in Texas, the skies are so large, it almost detracts from the long, flat plains of yellow grasses and shrubs so sharp and dry they could probably tear your skin off with the encouragement of a slight breeze. In Arkansas, you can hardly see the sky due to the hills and the trees. Rural New York is a beautiful amalgamation of long, open spaces, hills, trees, farmlands, and clean air. I can’t tell you how many gorgeous cornfields I’ve seen like a half-rippled quilted blanket, squares of the greenest grass on either side paired with the towering stalks of corn, feathered golden head wobbling on top.

Though I’m happy to be here, grateful to my husband for working hard here, it’s not exactly ideal for my creative mind, and it is for this reason that I’m writing this post.

The hotel we are staying at is, I’m fairly sure, the only one within 40-60 miles of Parker’s work that is both affordable and allows pets. Unfortunately, we have to pay for internet nightly if we wish to utilize it. This does not bode well for posting updates on the website, uploading podcasts or any of that. Not to mention, we had no room in the car for my recording equipment or any books.

I have very little to accomplish most days, petting rabbits and writing when I feel capable being the two foremost activities, but it’s been a surprisingly difficult transition to be alone all day and attempt to find motivation to create. I’m a very introverted person, truly. I cherish alone time, but too much alone time does tend to muffle up your creative juices.

Anyway, we are about 30 minutes to an hour away from Niagara Falls, and we’ve had the best pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life since we’ve been here, and I have so very much to be thankful for and inspired by. With all that said, I’d like to promise that I’ll post updates when I can, putting off regular podcast updates for the moment, and continuing to work on the second draft of my novel. I will make good use of my time, and hopefully we can work something out with the internet. When I don’t absolutely need it, it is hard to justify the payment.

Thanks for your continuing support. Much love.

How do I know I’ve chosen the Right Career? E5

In this episode, I briefly discuss a quote that I found relevant to the field. Here is the link: https://authorreneemiller.com/2017/03/13/how-to-be-a-writer-not-a-tool/

I also do not have a book review for this episode because I SUCK. But, I’m working on reading through a book for next week’s episode, and I’ve gotten more writing done in the last couple weeks than probably in the last year combined. So, I slacked on the READING part of Read to Write and excelled at the Writing part. You win some, you lose some 🙂

Lastly, I discuss how I came to the conclusion that I made the right choice of being a writer, some insights on how to know whether you are cut out for writing professionally, and how to know when a work is publishable (which isn’t really advice, but pointing you all to a direction where you can find assistance.)

Thank you!

Humbled by Shadow

Today, I am in awe, and the teleological majesty of our Universe strikes me with wonder.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch our moon eclipse the sun in-person, but I was witness to several renderings on television that still brought tears to my eyes.

My husband, who I shook out of bed and forced to come downstairs and watch, was also in awe, but he wondered aloud what it was that got people so riled up. On camera, thousands of people at each sighting were screaming and cheering, some in absolute stunned silence. I was sitting on the couch with a coffee in my hands and was dissolving in a puddle of tears of joy and wonderment.

What is it? This thing that fills us up and compels us to scream and shout to the heavens, what substance filters through the air to our brains and makes us jump on our feet? It can’t be articulated very easily with science, I don’t think. Sure, a scientist could tell you what joy is and why we experience it, but why did thousands of people come to one place and lose themselves as the moon perfectly aligned with our star and left us in twilight?

I think, as my husband later described, something as impossibly precise and perfect and stunning as an eclipse is a big ol’ “I love you.” I have a hard time conceiving how we could live in a Universe so precise and breathtaking that manifested on its own. Imagine, the Earth is spinning at thousands of miles per hour on its own axis, its poles drawing ellipses in space as it wobbles, and the moon does its own rotation around the Earth and revolves on its own axis. Even greater than this, both us and our moon circle the sun at thousands of miles an hour, still, on a gigantic ellipse, sometimes near and sometimes far from this compact ball of heat and radiation. Better yet, if we’re really lucky, we get to witness a point in which we are so perfectly in line with the celestial entities which regulate the natural processes of our Earth that one completely covers the other and a ring of fire at thousands of degrees encircles our moon and blinks its very precise cast of shadow.

It’s beyond my imagination and ability to understand, frankly. I took an Earth science class in which, I’m not ashamed to admit, I cried in class more than once just learning about this place that sustains and amazes us. I know not everyone has the love affair with the Earth and Nature that I do, but today, hundreds of thousands of people and maybe millions of people stared at the same stretch of sky and screamed for joy at the majesty of creation.

It can’t be explained or quantified or discounted. Something so incredible and bigger than us made us feel about the size of a pin-prick in the backdrop of our Universe, and we LOVED IT.

Today for a couple of hours, all of our petty, (and sometimes not-so-petty) issues didn’t matter. Today, we were all under the same sky, subject to the same laws of Nature, and wondering at how lucky we are to be alive. Perhaps that’s part of it, too. We were one, and we felt unified again. It is rare to feel at one with the rest of humanity, but today, we were in awe together, and we felt grateful to be here.

I agree. Today was a great big “I love you,” and I felt a touch of timeless divinity. I imagine that whatever Creator put things into motion must love us because an ambivalent God wouldn’t put such care into the mechanics of our lives. If not, then my puny human brain can’t help but love It, this God, for the purity of a spirit that can put things like a first-person witness to the workings of astronomy into motion.

Dinner For Two

“Jerry, when are we going to get to meet your wife? You say such lovely things about her.” Samantha stapled papers without looking and maintained eye contact with Jerry.

“I’d love for you to meet her, but as a matter of fact, she just called me this morning to tell me that she missed her train.”

“Oh no! From where?”

“London.” Jerry fished around in his pockets for his phone and then placed his delicate wire glasses on the tip of his nose. “Yep! Seems my wife keeps hittin’ a streak of bad luck. Her ticket got stolen with her wallet. She needed me to send her more money to buy another ticket.”

Samantha stopped stapling to stare in disbelief at Jerry. “That seems a little far-fetched. How many times is this, now, that she hasn’t been able to make it back because of some sort of ‘bad luck’?”

“Oh, hush, Sammie.” Jerry put his glasses back in his front pocket. “She’s a busy lady. Now, what else do I need to sign?”

Samantha pushed some papers forward which Jerry signed, barely bending at the waste before groaning in discomfort. He finished his signature with a shaking flourish before he wished all of the office a good day.

Samantha waited until Jerry had closed the door before she said, “His wife’s got a boyfriend, there’s no doubt about it.”

The other women murmured an agreement before returning to their work.

Jerry was not deterred by thoughts of pessimism, though. He couldn’t wait to see his wife after her two year adventure in Europe and have her all to himself. He stopped by QuickMart on his short drive home and purchased some aftershave and a new razor. He also bought Martha’s favorite candy: cherry Twizzlers.

He hummed as he left the store, tipping his hat to the cashier. After one more block of walking, he arrived at his front porch.

Opening the door sent a wave of bleach smell into his nose, he sniffed appreciatively, knowing his wife would want a clean house. He hung his cane on a knob by the door and brought his treasures to the kitchen.

“Enchiladas with sour cream sauce, dear. Your favorite!” He chuckled to himself, loading the counter with ingredients, hearing the “tick, tick, tick” of the gas stove as he lit it under a pot of water. “The perfect night with my honey.”

The aroma of onions and boiled chicken soon overwhelmed the stinking cloud of bleach. It took an hour and some hobbling around the kitchen, but he managed to put a decent meal together and he couldn’t wait to enjoy it in the presence of his wife. “I’ll show that Sammie. My wife loves chicken enchiladas. She wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

As the final timer went off, he prepared a plate of enchiladas and poured himself a tall glass of ice tea. He brought it to the table in the dining room with the Twizzlers he bought and began to eat.

“Oh, dear me!” he said as he got up from the table. “How thoughtless of me!”

He approached the linen closet and threw the doors open. “I didn’t consider that you might like to see me, too!” He picked up the Twizzlers off the table and placed them on the unmoving bosom of Martha. He wiped a stray hair out of her glazed eyes and kissed her sallow cheek.

“It’s so good to have you home for dinner.”

You Don’t Need Angst to Be a Good Writer E3

EPISODE THREE: You Don’t Need Angst to Be a Writer

In this episode, I talk about suffering and creativity, I review Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader and take some lessons about writing from it, and I talk about the best way to enhance your writing. (Hint, the best way to enhance your writing is NOT to be an intrinsically sad person.)