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Archive for November, 2010

My mother came from the Old World; by that I mean Europe, many decades ago. If you’ve read Becoming Alice you know her pretty well. One of the things I didn’t write about was her propensity for interjecting into our conversations sayings for the ordinary things that happen in life. One of her favorite was, “every pot has its own lid.” That one was used to make old maids feel better about being unmarried. It meant that there was a man out there somewhere for her that would fit her needs, just like there was a lid for every pot.

Lately, I’ve thought about another one of her favorites: “a watched pot doesn’t boil.” It has absolutely applied to my latest experiences on the internet. I have a habit of watching, and I mean almost daily, my statistics on various sites to which I am connected. I am curious to see if anyone, and how many people, might have read a blog after I’ve posted it. Often I get a few hits and then the numbers don’t go up any more. But I keep looking.

Another statistic I watch is Amazon’s Book Ranking for Becoming Alice. There, the numbers change all the time, but mostly in the wrong direction.

This last month, my normal routine has been completely disrupted. I have had to move out of my home of many, many years. I’ve had an estate (it’s a joke, it’s just used furniture) sale and arranged for a donation to charity for what’s left over. I am now having to face cleaning the whole place up. Therefore, there has been no time to check my stats anywhere.

It turned out to be a great thing, because my stats jumped considerably in positive directions on all sites, especially my Amazon site. Since I can’t figure out Amazon’s ranking system in the first place, in future I am not even going to look at it for days or weeks on end. After all, “a watched pot doesn’t boil.”

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Where You Write the Best

It is a few days before Thanksgiving and I am on a plane to the New York-Kennedy Airport. Unfortunately I have purchased an economy ticket and am sitting in the middle seat of a three seat row in the back of the plane, just one row away from the rest rooms. Sigh! I had gotten these tickets months ago for an absolute gigantic price, due to the fact that it is holiday season. But what can one do when one needs to fly on specific days for a specific length of time in order to see your family. I should have forbidden my kids to move so far away from my husband and me, but we did not have the power to do that.

Consequently I am smashed in an oversold plane, smashed between two people, feeling like a sardine in a can. Never mind, I have my clip board, a few sheets of clean paper, and a pen that still writes in my backpack. There is way too much commotion for me to pull out a paperback to read, what with my location by the rest rooms, so I am fighting back, armed with material to do a bit of writing.

I have just finished scribbling off about four pages and realized how much fun it is to write your work in your lap instead of on a keyboard on the computer. I know that my page has a lot of scratched out words and arrows telling me to insert whole paragraphs here and there, but my flow of words is coming at a break speed rate. I think perhaps it would take me longer to stop my flow of words and get back onto the backspace button and delete what I had just written. By then I may well have forgotten what I was about to say in the first place.

Perhaps I have so much fun with these pages on my lap because I started my writing obsession back when all of us writers were using a yellow lined stationary pad. By the time the plane lands, I will have a dozen pages ready to be put into my Word program. I thought I was going to write a short story, but now I have changed the genre to being a novella. I can’t wait for my return flight home, I am looking forward to finishing this last work of mind.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Perhaps some of you have noticed that I haven’t posted a blog in quite some time. There is a reason for it. I’ve been in the throws of moving out of a house I’ve lived in for thirty-six years. Thirty-six years! Can you just imagine how much junk one can collect and hord in all that time? Enough junk to make seventeen trips to the Goodwill Industries and enough junk, (or should I call it “waste”?) to fill to overflowing seven garbage containers, that needed to be picked up over a seven week period of time.

Lucky for me, quite a lot of my possessions were taken by my children. I am so happy about that. I feel like I haven’t lost them altogether; I will be able to see them when I visit their homes in the future.

And then there are all the other items which are being sold at an “estate sale” as I’m writing this blog. Now, don’t think these are priceless antiques we are talking about. These are left over beds, chairs, tables, kitchenware, lamps, couches, etc. etc. that are simply “used furniture.” I just need to get them out of the house for whatever tenants will be moving in to rent the place.

What has all this got to do with writer’s block, you may ask? Well, being the pack rat that I am, I have stored pieces in my closets and drawers from the year one. They are items that have been given to me by people whom I’ve known and liked and loved over the years. Each time I pick up a vase, or a platter, or a perfume bottle, or a picture frame, I remeber the person who gave it to me and I get that warm feeling about that person. And I know intimately the entire story about that person that makes him or her interesting. It is food for a short story or an essay. Perhaps even a novel.

I picked up a perfume bottle from my vanity. It was given to me by one of my best friends. I recall her first love, her first husband, her three chidren who were my kids best friends, her divorce, her single years, her struggle to make ends meet, and the man who became her second husband.

I picked up a porcelain Cocker Spaniel figurine made by the famous German potter, Rosenthal. It was sent to me by an early admirer in an effort to push me into a relationship in which he was far more serious than I. The ying-yang that took place between us would make for interesting reading.

There are so many more objects in my house that have a story behind them. So, my advice to anyone that is having writer’s block, is to go through their house and find those objects with remarkable stories behind them and write their stories.

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I belong to the Ventura County Writers Club (California) which has an annual short story contest. This year I have been asked to be one of the judges to read the entries that have come in. I met with some of the committe a few days ago and after we went over the format by which we are to judge the entries, we each had a cup of coffee and got to know one another a bit better. In time, our conversation drifted to sharing stories about our children.

I spoke a bit about one of my daughters. My fellow judges told me that I should write the story. It is a fascinating and interesting one, I will admit, but I’m not sure how my daughter would like for me to make public any of her history. I suppose I could fictionalize it somewhat, but I know that if she were to read it, she would know that it is she that I was writing about.

Recently I read a blog on the site She Writes in which the author spoke about how difficult it was for her to write about her twins. Mind you, the twins are three years old. I think I would have no trouble writing about toddlers. I think I would have fun writing about babies. Their antic are cute and funny.

The antics of my daughter were neither cute, nor funny. Sometimes I wonder how I survived them. Even more important, I wonder how she survived them.

The good news is that she did in fact not only survive them but ended up being the most admirable of all human beings. Perhaps I will write about my daughter.

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I grew up watching fights. They are spelled out pretty closely in Becoming Alice. There was Dad fighting with Mom; there was Mom fighting Dad the only way she knew how, by crying. There was Dad fighting with my brother about everything he thought poor old Fredi did wrong; but there was Fredi who didn’t know how to fight. There was Onkel Max and Tante Dora fighting each other about everything and anything in the most mean and hurtful way possible. Perhaps they enjoyed it. I’ll never know. It was my first lesson in fighting.

Fast forward a decade or two and then I myself was doing a marriage. I grew up determined not to have a marriage like either Mom and Dad or my aunt and uncle. I had learned a little something in the process and was learning a whole lot more as I was doing marriage myself.

I learned that the early years of marriage are one way and the middle years of marriage often are quite different. It is when the fight comes out in the marriage equation. One partner wants things to go one way and the other partner pulls in the exact opposite direction. The fightensues. Over what? Over many things. How to raise children. How to make your money. Where to spend your money. How to behave socially. Who to be friends with. What to do about problem adolescents … especially those out of control ones. What to do about grandparents who interfere. What to do about those that need help, financially and/or physically. The list goes on and on.

Do any of these marriages survive? A lot of them do and they have a couple of things going for them. I find that those fights that stay on the issues have a much better chance of surviving than those that move on to attacks between fighting partners themselves, attacks on their shortcoming and on them personally. They usually are not about the issues that prompted the fight in the first place.

The marriages that seem to survive over the years are the ones where the partners have deeper reserves of positive feeling, lets call it love, for one another left over from the early years. I’ve known many couples who have gone through major problems and ended up with the most solid and satisfying marriages in the next stage of their lives.

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