Tag Archives: creative writing

did she (part II)

a pink sun rises and her heart

beats in rhythm with the coffee that is

drip, drip, dripping in the kitchen.

 

she is warm, she is unknowing

still for minutes more, one foot

dangling casually from bed to floor.

 

someone puts the bacon on,

fat cracking fireworks from the stove

while news drones on from the television.

 

did she notice the birds

in their perfect V formation

ripping across a November sky?

 

slip the back door open just

a bit more, the dog, burly as she is

squeezes through and runs, runs, runs.

 

I’d guess they don’t look down,

from way up there it’s all just

noise anyway, it’s all the same

 

all the same.

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Motions

 

She was born a hundred years old on the edge of a cliff in a rainstorm. Her idea of happiness is walking under ladders and counting how many breaths she can muster before her last one. You’d argue she isn’t living but for her there is no more beautiful way to remember she’s alive than to paint notches on the bottoms of her feet: one for every lump in her throat, two for every laugh – the massive, guttural ones that make your eyes leak and your belly seize up – because they’re the ones you feel even after they’ve gone. She spends Shavasana dreaming up war and comes away with awareness. She practices a religion of cautious writhing, she wants to know the world with the consequences of knowledge. Shred up every vital part of her and watch her pour over every piece like some hellish puzzle. She’ll never remember where everything goes but she’ll be better for it. If you want to love her, tread with a full heart, but be sure to leave some room for her to hide. She is the most passionate tragedy you’ll ever know. Don’t try and chase her, she isn’t leaving. Even in the dark, even when she’s praying, she’ll be begging you to turn a light on.

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Lily Eyes

i’ve been packed in some

u n g o d l y   earth

like all of the dead i know

we are molding daisies

with our hands

 

her chest is

two perfect rosebuds

.         i close my lily eyes

perfume

leaves and cold rain

 

if i reach my branches

.                              a little
to the left

there are earth worms

digging their way up.

 

i try to dance with them

.         we twist freely in the dark

falling in rhythm with the forest

suddenly

i’m blooming like my grandmother’s garden

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A Crossroads

cabin

We are all, at some point in our lives, handed an envelope of sorts. In that envelope – sometimes crisp, sometimes worn and wrinkled, depending – are two decisions. One from your bones, one from your brainwashed head. If you lack passion, go for the head. But I say go for the bones.

Always go for the bones.

I met my first crossroads when I was eighteen. The day after graduation I was behind the wheel of my father’s pickup, winding my back way from a friend’s, when I spotted her: sweat pants, loose tee, the curve of one shoulder on point in the sinking sunlight. An old handbag clapped against her side as she weaved through trash and high grass on the side of a back road. Before the stop sign I’d already noticed her thumbing it like clockwork. I still don’t know what pressed my foot to the break pedal instead of the gas.

A jumble of words filled the air and she was in the leather cab, the handbag on the seat between us. I cleared my throat, she shifted and rested an elbow on the windowsill. The window was up and she turned her head towards blurred houses. Her fogged breath sprayed in circles on the glass. I focused on green lights until there was a red one and I asked her name as the truck idled.

“Nancy,” she said. She had some kind of accent, something nasally. I though of the city, what she was doing here. I nodded and twisted my grip on the steering wheel. “Take me to the nearest motel,” she’d asked. I managed to avoid passing any in town, and headed far out with methodical turns. She stayed relaxed. My mind raced.

“Here” I said, parking. A tan, rectangular building and a neon sign, that was all. The highest curve of the sun was peaking from behind it. I smiled. “Let me pay, it’s the least I can do.” As if the ride hadn’t been enough, she didn’t object.

I slipped the credit card back into my wallet, we headed through the parking lot to 32B, I opened the door. She had nothing but the handbag, nothing I could offer to carry. “Thanks,” she mumbled, holding the knob. Suddenly her face was a landside of realization. I stared at the navy carpet from the doorway. Her grip loosened like the waving of a white flag. Her whole, complicated life, had it all come to this? Maybe it was nothing new.

I stepped inside.

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revel in your own heart

Scream of Pop by ludicrouslouisa  (DeviantArt)

Scream of Pop by ludicrouslouisa (DeviantArt)

 

 

there is no quiet in

constant, guttural

thrashing

these possessive,

intricate spinnings

leave tire tracks

on young skin

 

learn to relearn

the innocence of

knowing

 

smell of cold leather

the breath the first

rush of cold air takes

warm feet on

winter’s wood floor

whiskey on his lips

lingering perfume

her hair on your pillowcase

fingers hunched over journal

morning, any morning

rain or snow or ripe sun

 

a black tongue

is for the weak

revel in your own heart,

the cherry of your being.

 

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The Versions of Me

Girl with the Pearl Earring.

Girl with the Pearl Earring.

there’s a silent art

to the versions of me

that pass like sunlight,

like seasons ,

like cigarette ashes

 

in the same speckled mirror,

in the same dim hallway,

in the smallest pane of glass

I am Picasso

a hurricane of eyes and mouth

 

in the night I am a fixture of Dali

draped over my surroundings

like cheap linen,

an examination of angles

and a questionable experience

 

on Sunday afternoons I am Van Gogh,

all honest emotion

and rough imagination,

blurred lines on canvas

beaming with coffee rings

 

but sometimes, oh sometimes

I am Vermeer’s girl;

that pearl swings from my

ear like the Queen of England

and suddenly I am romance in moonlight

 

I keep all of my selves

upon the wall with rusted nails

like antiques in a backwoods shop,

where I am beautiful in hiding

between wool hats and brass knobs

 

sift delicately through the versions of me,

be careful of rough edges,

think deeply of history and life,

long for the meaning,

sit me above the fireplace.

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Don’t mess with my stuff.

Just a quick excerpt from the novel-in-progress. A flashback from the day Angel and Sarah’s father left home for good; no explanation, no goodbye. It was Angel’s birthday. He’d never given her a birthday card before, but there it was, hung up in a bright red envelope on the refrigerator. What would she want with it? Especially now? Angel threw it in the trash and went about her day. But sister Sarah couldn’t mind her own business.

[I know this is pulling right from the middle, so I’m not giving a clear idea of what has happened leading up to this; any feedback on the language itself and how the scene pans out is much appreciated. Thank you for reading. :)]

********

We didn’t discuss it. Once I had thrown the unopened card in with stained paper towels and coffee grinds, Sarah knew it was her cue to leave me alone. Hours later I padded to the kitchen for a drink, my eyes catching on the trashcan and pulling me to examine its contents. I leaned over top, at first only a spotted banana peel and a paper filter from the morning the only obvious pieces of trash; but then the red piece of envelope jumped out at me like a taunting piece of confetti and I immediately reached my hand inside, the dampness and darkness suddenly making no difference. My fingers sifted through odds and ends until more remnants of red revealed themselves. I opened my other palm and collected each piece I found. Several minutes had passed when I noticed how large the pile had become, a dozen tiny rips. I put my pile on the tiled counter and looked around; I knew Sarah must have done something similar with the envelope’s contents. They weren’t mixed with the pieces of envelope. A tinge of annoyance wrinkled my forehead. It was my birthday card and my decision to avoid it. Once something has been buried I never was one to dig it back up.

A quick scan let me know the rest of the kitchen had nothing else to offer. I scooped up the pieces and headed down the hall to Sarah’s room, my annoyance growing with each step. I stopped just outside of the door, one hand raised ready to knock when a piece fell from my hand and tapered down to the top of one foot. I shook it off, grabbed the handle and turned.

Sarah didn’t flinch as the door flew open, sending a gust of wind through one of her curls. She looked up from her bed, legs crossed, already dressed for the night in the red and white pinstriped pajamas I hated. I took a step forward and threw my confetti, each prize spinning downward to their landing place on individual parts of the sheet.

“What’s that?” She’d already bent her head back down towards the book in her lap.

“Don’t act stupid,” I growled. “Where is it?”

“Where’s what?” Her words were firm, but avoiding my gaze was the only way Sarah was ever able to catch a glimpse of backbone.

I leaned toward her and snatched the book away.

“Hey! I was reading that!”

“Cut it out. What the hell did you do with my birthday card? If I didn’t want to read it, that was my choice. I threw it in the trash and you had no right to go rummaging around for it. Now hand it over.”

I tossed the book on the floor and caught a glimpse of the cover, a muscular, tanned man with a beautiful woman draped in his arms, wrapped in some sort of silk sheet that just slightly revealed one breast.

She sighed and lifted herself from the mattress, moving to the nightstand, still avoiding my narrowed eyes. I watched as she opened the top drawer and shuffled some things around. A moment later she pulled out a handful of glossy ripped paper, mirror images to the red ones I’d found in the kitchen. She held out her hand and finally looked at me, her eyes glazed, shoulders scrunched to either side of her neck, like a guilty child waiting to have their hand slapped. I rolled my own eyes and grabbed the pieces away from her.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I guess I was curious. Especially since dad has never given us any cards before. It’s not what you think, Angel.”

I placed the puzzle on her dresser and slid the parts around until they began to form a picture; the word “Condolences” slowly came into view, frayed and wrinkled, staring up at me in a silent, pathetic apology. I felt my sister’s stare from the other side of the room.

“I guess it makes sense,” I said, unwavering. “We suffered a loss, didn’t we? Probably the most clever thing he’s ever done.” I swept it all into the trash and stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind me.

 

 

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Sometimes, my novel hurts me.

“Writing a novel is like making love, but it’s also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s like making love while having a tooth pulled.”

Dean Koontz

Mr. Koontz hit the nail on the head with that one. With day 3 of NaNoWriMo breathing down my neck this morning, I put on my slippers, made myself some breakfast, and headed for the computer, feeling refreshed and ready to bang out a hefty word count. While I did get some work done (my word count has now reached 5,086!) I had to keep brushing away that feeling that crept its way up my spine and made my hands sweat: I was slowly approaching a brick wall. The anxiety managed to distract me away from the task at hand, but only for a few moments – you know, updating my Twitter status, sifting through some blogs, scanning the Facebook news feed. But I quickly shook the fear from my mind and kept on goin’. So – according to my NaNoWriMo “Stats” – I am on track to reaching 50,000 words by November 30th. This is good.

Every word that makes its way from my head to the keyboard to the virtual page is another step towards a finished first draft. This serves as my reminder, when I’m questioning why I stay in this abusive relationship. My novel may beat on me at times, but she makes me so happy! I swear! Maybe if I’d pay her more attention, she wouldn’t do these things to me.

“It’s not you, it’s me.” That’s what I tell her.

It’s only day 3, and I already owe NaNoWriMo and the thousands that are ripping their hair out along with me this month a huge “thank you” for the motivation you don’t even know you’re feeding me. Here’s hoping we each come out of the tunnel on the 30th with a first draft.

In the wise words of Dori the fish, even when times get hard:

Just keep swimming!

New vow: I will post about something other than NaNoWriMo this month. But it’s sort of hard to think about anything else during a month of “literary abandon”, is it not?

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The Rebels of NaNoWriMo 2011

I wear my badge proudly.

Last night I temporarily signed away any scrap of social life I had, and decided to join forces with thousands of other writers during NaNoWriMo 2011.

Now, I am aware that the basic idea of NaNoWriMo is that the writer begins with an outline, but does not begin actually writing the story until November 1st (the end of the challenge being the 30th), with the word count at the end of the month expected to be about 50K.

However, I already have a solid (although measly) 13,000 words of my current (and debut) novel, and would hate to toss my thin manuscript to the side and create yet another idea; I’ve become extremely attached to this one, and do not want to part with it, even temporarily. Instead I’d prefer to push through, and get as many words onto the page as I possibly can; and I figured a 30 day rush to 50K would be a great way to get a large chunk finished.

Which is why I wanted to join November’s challenge. But as I signed up, I found myself wondering: Am I breaking any NaNoWriMo “rules”? Or are there any actual “rules” to the concept at all?

A quick Google search lead me to the site’s forums, particularly one entitled “Welcome to Rebellion! You are NOT a cheater.” This forum is filled to the brim with others writers like myself, wanting to take on NaNoWriMo but as a means of finishing (or coming close to) a first draft of a novel they have already begun, some that even started their potential novels during the 2010 challenge.

The thread contained several posts from various Rebels, stickin’ it to the Man and shouting from the cyber rooftops that NaNoWriMo is for anyone! Who’s going to care if you followed the rules, if you get a great book out of it?

And so I found my place, as a first time NaNoWriMo participant, among the Rebels. I always did prefer to sit in the back of the classroom, anyway.

November 1st kicks things off, and I am pumped! I’m hoping I can meet my 50,000 word “requirement” and still maintain my sanity. I’m sure I’ll end up sacrificing one (and I don’t plan on letting it be the word count).

You know what? Maybe I’ll even shoot for 60,000. Let’s up the ante.

What have I gotten myself into?

 

 

 

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Why I Write

Joan Didion (then)

Am I a phony? A professor once told me, “When you pass up on a party or a Saturday night out with friends so you can finish a chapter, then you are a true writer”. It went something like that, anyway. Well, I write. And I enjoy writing, very much. And yes, I label myself a writer. But I still go out on Saturday nights, and I rarely pass up a party.

But should I?

The woman that spoke those words is also a published novelist. Maybe I don’t quite get it yet. Perhaps with an agent or an editor breathing down my neck, I’d be staying in on a weekend, too. But do these things matter? Should I be making more sacrifices for my writing, regardless of the notches on my belt?

I write when the sun is up. I get a few paragraphs down before going out. I weave my words and thoughts into my ongoing daily routines. Is that so wrong!? Maybe not.

But while I’m on the subject of questioning my reasons for writing – even my passion of the art – I reread an essay by author Joan Didion, entitled Why I Write.

Joan Didion (now)

Joan’s reasons lie in fact, and her mind’s inability to concentrate on anything else; she writes, because she must.

“I stole the title not only because the words sounded right but because they seemed to sum up, in a no-nonsense way, all I have to tell you. Like many writers I have only this one “subject”, this one “area”: the act of writing. I can bring you no reports from any other front. I may have other interests: I am “interested”, for example, in marine biology, but I don’t flatter myself that you would come out to hear me talk about it. I am not a scholar. I am not in the least an intellectual, which is not to say that when I hear the word “intellectual” I reach for my gun, but only to say that I do not think in abstracts. During the years when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley I tried, with a kind of hopeless late-adolescent energy, to buy some temporary visa into the world of ideas, to forge for myself a mind that could deal with the abstract.”

“In short I tried to think. I failed. My attention veered inexorably back to the specific, to the tangible, to what was generally considered, by everyone I knew then and for that matter have known since, the peripheral. I would try to contemplate the Hegelian dialectic and would find myself concentrating instead on a flowering pear tree outside my window and the particular way the petals fell on my floor. I would try to read linguistic theory and would find myself wondering instead if the lights were on in the bevatron up the hill. When I say that I was wondering if the lights were on in the bevatron you might immediately suspect, if you deal in ideas at all, that I was registering the bevatron as a political symbol, thinking in shorthand about the military-industrial complex and its role in the university community, but you would be wrong. I was only wondering if the lights were on in the bevatron, and how they looked. A physical fact.

And through those words, Joan reminds me that I am, in fact, not a phony. The older gentleman in the produce section, balancing himself with his cane, squeezing the oranges and shopping alone? I spend my time examining him with empathy; is he happy? Is he lonely? I wonder where he lives, what gave him that limp, if he’s widowed or simply following a shopping list his wife gave him. Oh, and look at the array of colors in the produce section! So bright, so cheery, such a contrast from this man’s solemn look.

 

And as I scale the sidewalks with my groceries, how did he become homeless? I toss a dollar in some stranger’s Styrofoam coffee cup and wonder where they got the marker and the cardboard to scribble out their sign. Where were you before now, in a time when you were taught to read and write? Did your family abandon you? Are you addicted to drugs? Why are you so lost?

My mind, as Joan’s or any other writer’s, cannot focus clearly on mathematical equations or the concrete things found in textbooks; it can focus only on what it wants, which is to tell a story with all of the things collected by my senses.

“Some Fridays I took the Greyhound bus, other Fridays I caught the Southern Pacific’s City of San Francisco on the last leg of its transcontinental trip. I can no longer tell you whether Milton put the sun or the earth at the center of his universe in Paradise Lost, the central question of at least one century and a topic about which I wrote 10,000 words that summer, but I can still recall the exact rancidity of the butter in City of San Francisco’s dining car, and the way the tinted windows on the greyhound bus cast the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits into a grayed and obscurely sinister light. In short my attention was always on the periphery, on what I could see and taste and touch, on the butter, and the Greyhound bus. During those years I was traveling on what I knew to be a very shaky passport, forged papers: I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.

Which was a writer.

By which I mean not a “good” writer or a “bad” writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want to fear. Why did the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the bevatron burned in my mind for twenty years? What is going on in these pictures in my mind?

I’m horrible at Math. I’m even worse with Science. I’ve weeded out all the things I will never succeed in; and what’s left? The only thing I’ve ever received praise in, is my writing. Fact. And even in my writing, there is more to be done. But it is the one thing that, to me, is worth the struggle.

So maybe I don’t write on Saturday nights, and maybe I’ll go out dancing instead of finishing that last chapter right away. But it doesn’t lessen my love of the art, and it doesn’t mean I’m playing pretend. And for me at least, drinking a few glasses of red and letting my characters sizzle on the back-burner is a great help when I return to the keyboard, refreshed and rearing to go. So I may not move as fast as some writers, but I always slave until the ending result feels worth it.

(On a side note – if an excerpt from my novel receives any sort of praise at the conference this coming Saturday, I may have to turn things up a few notches.)

And, by the way, here is…

Why I Write

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy is creative self-doubt.”

– Sylvia Plath

I write to feed an old fascination; an eight year old girl with pink sheets and a marble notebook tucked beneath her bed, floating in between a box of broken crayons and a book about a family of mice. I hail from a family of men that work with their hands and women that give birth to children they hope will become doctors and lawyers. But I curl up in the sunlight and knit together beautiful sounds and no one understands the satisfaction of my craft, or how it keeps a hole from tearing in the pit of my stomach.

I write to water my roots; to quench my thirst, to prove a point, for self-awareness, for every single person that has convinced themselves they cannot do the same. I will lead myself down the uneven path of an unconventional dream, unable to see past hints of early Spring blooming before me. I will unquestionably rely on my small hands to carve out my future. Walt Whitman said, “I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, Nature without check with original energy” – I will run, jump, dive into pitch black, loved ones hot on my neck, driven by a whispering determination that will sometimes go silent and leave me with nothing at all.

I write because I can; it is an art of endless possibilities, a rare and precious outlet for undisputed chaos where I can scream and hold my head in my hands and disappear and reappear and shoot fire from my fingertips. In a world pregnant with mainstream, I curve my axis with a pen in my hand and the hard lump of unknowingness in my throat.

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