Down for the Count

Monday, December 31, 2007

It figures that I spent the weekend before New Year's Eve grounded by head congestion, coughing, sneezing, and overall fatigue. I've been down for the last two days, but the combination of yesterday's bed rest and today's Day-Quil (or store brand knockoff thereof) seems to be doing the trick. Anyway, on to the year-end reflection.

There are some years that suck. 2005, for instance, was one of those "don't let the door hit you on the way out" years. I won't go into the details, but it involved an ex, a psuedostalker, and a lot of ill health in my family. Given this last month, I kind of feel like 2007 should have been one of those years as well. Between the deaths of two grandmothers, general anxiety and stress of major life changes, and ending with the cold from hell, this seems like the kind of year to usher out the door without ever looking back.

But on the other hand, so much good has happened this year. I married my best friend and I had him to help me though all the rough parts of the year. I also took an exciting chance to try to do something different with my career. That, naturally, has brought on a lot of the aforementioned anxiety and stress, but I'm still happier on my worst writing days than I was in the cube farm.

Shortly after my grandmother's funeral I told Hubs that I'd never known I could experience so much life in such a short time. This year has been chock full of it. Of weddings and funerals an taking risks and making gains and well, life. It hasn't been the best year ever, nor has it been the worst. It was what it was and when all the changes have subsided, I'm sure I'll be all the better for it.

I found this blessing on a knitting forum and it seems applicable to closing out this year. "May the best of your 2007 be the worst of your 2008. May all your wishes come true and that those who have found pain will again find joy."

Happy new year, everyone.

December Reading

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi
A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
The Uses of Enchantment, Heidi Julavits
Carnet de Voyage, Craig Thompson
Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut

Short stories
"Or Else," Antonya Nelson
"Heart Shaped Rock," Antonya Nelson
"The Geranium," Flannery O'Connor
"The River," Flannery O'Connor
"The Life You Save May Be Your Own," Flannery O'Connor
"Everything that Rises Must Converge," Flannery O'Connor
"Revelation," Flannery O'Connor
"Judgment Day," Flannery O'Connor
"Nobody Said Anything," Raymond Carver
"The Student's Wife," Raymond Carver
"Fever," Raymond Carver
"Beginners," Raymond Carver

Notable nonfiction
"Come One, Come All: A Megachurch Grows in New England," The New Yorker
"Rough Crossings: The Cutting of Raymond Carver," The New Yorker

Lots and lots of reading this month. The Flannery O'Conner entry can be found here. The Raymond Carver entry is forthcoming, once I gather my thoughts on the selections and the New Yorker article.

I read Bluebeard for next month's book group. It was my first Vonnegut and I'll be interested to hear what the rest of the group has to say. A few people were very excited about this choice, but I didn't think much of it. It was a quick read and there were a few passages with fascinating theories of artistry, but the story and the writing didn't do much for me. Don't know if I'll read anymore Vonnegut any time soon.

Finished!: Hubs' Christmas Surprise

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Another scarf for 2007. This particular neck warmer was a Christmas surprise for Hubs. Well, a sort of surprise. He picked out the yarn (Filatura Di Crosa 127 Print) back in October, but given my average knitting speed, I don't think he expected to see it for another few years or more.

He was almost right. Once he picked out the yarn, I started thinking about patterns that would show off the print. I wanted to do something very simple and I sketched out ideas for rib variations that, had they materialized, would have looked lovely. By the time I had a collection of patterns to try, it was way too late to try any of them.

Finally, with five days to go before Christmas, I decided to toss it all and resort to my old faithful: mistake rib. The fabric that results from mistake rib is worth all the tedium of creating it, if you ask me. It's a fun stitch that looks a lot more complicated than it is. It has more texture than standard rib and isn't as squishy. All in all, great fast scarf stitch. And, for this particular yarn, it has the added bonus of letting the print do all the work. The stitching is basic, but the print gives it some pizazz.

As for the surprise, it went very well. Hubs never saw me knitting the scarf, which was the biggest challenge. Usually I pull out the knitting while we're watching tv or driving, and so I gave up many great knitting ops to get this done. I ended up spending nearly three days knitting. (But given that those three days were spent catching up with season 1 of Heroes, I guess I can't complain.) The surprise factor was really what made the gift and it was totally worth all the knitting for that.

Although, I think this will be the last scarf for a while.

Things I Should Have Read in Grad School

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sometimes you've just got to surrender to the season. I'm a writer in need of a strict routine and when it gets broken or interrupted, I'm pretty much useless. So for the next few weeks I'm switching my focus to reading and studying other writers, namely writers that I probably should have read years ago.

Since I started reading books about writing, I've realized how much of my cannon is sadly lacking. I'm still not sure how I made it through a three-year MFA program without reading "The Dead" or D.H. Lawrence or John Steinbeck or Moby Dick for that matter. Every time someone sends me a 100 Greatest Books Ever meme I feel like someone should revoke my MFA.

Well, no more. Over the holidays I plan to not only do some fun reading (The Uses of Enchantment and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) but to beat my way through the list of books on my "I should read this" list.

Today was all about Flannery O'Connor: "Geranium," "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," "The River," "Everything that Rises Must Converge," "Revelation," and "Judgment Day."

I don't think you can make it through a college freshman composition course without reading "A Good Man is Hard to Find" or "Good Country People," but the rest of her stories are usually left for more avid readers, O'Connor fans, or literature majors. It's a shame, but it's not hard to figure out why. O'Connor's stories are not for the faint of heart. The characters are sympathetic, but difficult to like. I read a passage from "Revelations" to Hubs, who promptly retorted (about the character), "Wow, what a bitch." Exactly! And yet, still sympathetic. It's a mystery to me.

I'll leave the analysis and the academic review of these stories for the more skilled. The things I took away from them were probably not revelations to anyone but me. Anyway, I was struck by the language O'Connor used to create these worlds and characters. In "The Geranium" she writes, "People boiled out of the trains and up steps and over onto the streets. They rolled off the street and down the steps and into trains - black and white and yellow all mixed up like vegetables in a soup. Everything was boiling." That paragraph stayed with me, not just for it's electricity, but because it's a great (and obvious) example of using an image to depict a character's point of view. I was overwhelmed just reading that paragraph, which is how I would expect the protagonist (an elderly man from the country) to react to the New York City subways as well.

I also admire O'Connor's willingness to create ugly characters. Most of these stories dealt with a character with some physical abnormality. Those that are more intact physically are at least overweight or "plain." This is something I struggle with in my writing. I'm usually a little afraid to create an ugly character and in the all the workshops I attended, I recall only one story where a character was homely and that definitely wasn't the protagonist. I think we aspiring writers could all take a lesson from this and try creating a protagonist that is at least a little ugly. (Hmm... I sense a writing exercise here.)

There's so much more to take away from Connor's short stories. I'm glad I finally branched out beyond the usual stories. I'm sure I'll be returning to these stories for years to come to learn how to handle character, structure, place and so much more.

What To Do On a Rainy Day

Friday, December 14, 2007

When the weather outside looks like this:
And the kitties inside are doing this:
It's the perfect kind of day for making these:

This week has been dreary for reasons beyond just the weather, so I decided to just call it a sick week and not worry about the writing I haven't been doing. Today I braved the muck to get some Christmas shopping out of the way; however, a couple of hours in the rain was enough to convince me that errands can wait too. So I came home and made spiced nuts.

Spiced nuts are a Christmas staple in my family. My mother makes them every holiday and a few years ago, I took her recipe and began making them as well. Every year I bag up some nuts as gifts and they're usually a hit.

Unfortunately, this is the one recipe I selfishly hoard. I gave it out once when I was a secretary and my boss fell in love with them. She demanded the recipe. She even went so far as to call me at home on a Saturday to make sure she was doing it correctly (not that it's that complicated, but she was a bit flighty). Anyway, she made a batch and gave them to her clients. For several days following I fielded phone calls from clients who gushed over the nuts. One of our bigwigs even gushed while he was in the office and not once did she even mention that it might just be my recipe that she had used. Not that you have to credit the source, but even a private thank you to me would have been nice.

Anyway, since then I've refrained from giving out this particular recipe. Any other I'll be happy to share and take Saturday clarification phone calls, but this one stays in the family.

Temporary Hiatus

Monday, December 10, 2007

My grandmother passed away early this morning. As such, all writing (and knitting)-related activities are on hold temporarily. I'll be back online at the end of the week or early next week.

Writing Exercise: Lies

Monday, December 3, 2007

I'm back from spending an awesome weekend at a tiny Texas bed and breakfast. The women of my family have made this an annual trip and I can't tell you how good it is to get away from everything for a weekend.

But it's back to work now and time for my first weekly writing exercise. Over the weekend I read Antonya Nelson's "Or Else" from the New Yorker. Amazing story. I finished it and immediately flipped back to the beginning to read it again.

After reading, I was reminded of a character from David Benioff's The 25th Hour who claims to be the true author of a very famous poem. In his story, he had authored the work, but it was stolen by a colleague who then got all the credit and fame for it. This turns out to be a lie, but one that is humored by the character that actually knows him.

There are tons or writing exercises about lies out there, so I'm going to start out with something fairly general. Write a scene in which a character tells an elaborate lie about his/her life. 1000 words.

November Reading

Friday, November 30, 2007


  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
  • The Babysitters Club: The Truth About Stacey by Raina Telgemeier and Ann. M. Martin

Short stories
  • "Bar Joke, Arizona" by Sam Allington (from One Story, read more about it here)
  • "Promise Breaker" by Chris Aiden (read it here)

Noteworthy nonfiction
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollen
  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
  • The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
  • "Life in an Eggcup." John Gamel, Alaska Quarterly Review

Finished!: Lopi Lace Scarf

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I can keep my knitter membership card for one more month. I finally finished the Lopi Lace Scarf from Weekend Knits. This particular "weekend" knit took me about a month to finish. It was also the first not-to-be-felted project that I've done since oh... March? That is to say, the knitting on this actually mattered. And I had to get back in to the swing of things, ya know?

Anyway, a little history behind this project. The yarn is Reynolds Lopi Lite, which is what the pattern calls for. I even did it in the same colorways shown in the book. No originality here. I bought the yarn several years ago after I'd just started knitting and had yet to realize that you could substitute yarn for a project. So I've been sitting on this yarn for over four years and through three moves and I finally dragged it out of my stash last month when I was looking for an easy knit to get me back into the knitting game.

As for this particular easy knit... It's not a complicated pattern, it's really not. Yet somehow I unknitted and reknitted the first quarter of this scarf. And Lopi Lite does not unknit well, let me tell you. It's splitty and clingy and the worst kind of yarn to unknit. And then there was the matter of my cat breaking the yarn.... Weekend knit, it was not. But it's over and I'm done with yarn overs for awhile.

If you aren't on Ravelry, here are the relevant details:

Pattern: Lopi Lace Scarf by Pam Allen from Weekend Knits
Yarn: Reynolds Lopi Lite (MC - Rose Heather, CC- Celery Heather)
Pattern Alterations: None. Except maybe unknitting and reknitting every other row. I think that gives the scarf its special look.

Next on the needles: Bamboo socks and "Hubby needs a neckwarmer" scarf.

The (Re)Education of a Writer

Monday, November 19, 2007

Two weeks ago I had a full week to write. Last week, not so much. I ended up going to my parents' place to help them care for my grandparents and get through Thanksgiving. I ended up being delegated to Thanksgiving so I spent more time in grocery stores or in front of the stove than I did doing anything conducive to writing.

But I'm back now and since then and (maybe even since before then) I've been feeling a little unfocused about writing. The week before last I began reading Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. About halfway through the first chapter I had a sickening feeling that all my years as an English major had made me a very poor, careless reader. I also realized that being a poor, careless reader makes for being a poor, careless writer. So I resolved to spend at least an hour each day "studying" writing. Okay, except by the end of the week I was spending about eight hours studying and maybe two minutes writing.

It seems to go against all notions of the creative life, but I think I need more structure to my day. In fact, I'm sure of it. Back in the MFA days, the structure was provided for me: go to class, spend all time out of class working on stuff for class. Basically, I need to go back to school and that's pretty much out of the question right now. (Though getting a Ph.D. is a vague, hand-wavy goal of mine.) Instead I'm setting up my own ReMFA.

Daily assignment:
Freewriting. I miss freewriting. I miss all the freewriting prompts that were doled out like candy in English classrooms. And I'm going back to the most basic of all drills: the timed freewriting exercise.

Study. I have a lot of reading and rereading to do. Prose's book contains a reading list that puts my bookshelves to shame. Also, I still have an incomplte list from a class I took with Antonya Nelson. I'd like to read (and by read I mean carefully, with-pen-in-hand-read) these books.

Weekly assignment:
Writing exercise. When I took the class with Antonya Nelson, she gave us some incredible writing exercises. Most had a word minimum and were related to the novels we were reading. Sadly, I loaned out some to a fellow MFAer and haven't seen them since, but I recently acquired The 3 a.m. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley, so I'll work from those and others I may come across.

Monthly assignment:
Write one new story. Eek!
At least five submissions. I have two stories that are about as finished as they can be (for now). I've already sent one out the door this month and it's time to get rolling on the others.

This is kind of already taken care of by my writing group, but I'm going on and committing to having something new(!) for January and, if I can keep up the assignments, I can reasonably commit to something new every month.

Kind of like a mini-syllabus, yes? I'll try this for a month before I tweak it. Wish me luck!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

For someone who is self-employed and living in central Austin (with a bus stop in my front yard, no less), I drive entirely too much. I've never really given much thought to energy or oil (except to shake my fist at the gas prices), but I started reading The Omnivore's Dilemma this weekend, and all the talk about energy and oil is starting to get to me. Today was one of those typical 90 degree November days so I decided to give the keys a rest and walk anywhere I needed to go.

Trip #1: The coffee shop on the lake. Okay, this is kind of cheating. I walk to the coffee shop regularly. It's just down the hill from our house and we probably couldn't park any closer, so I tend to hoof it when I go. But today I took a little detour and followed the footpath down to the lake. After all, if I can't take advantage of my starving artisthood on a beautiful day, then what's the point.

Trip #2: The library. When I finished the morning's reading and writing, I went back home for lunch and then decided to return Suite Franciase to the library. The book wasn't due for another three days so I could have blown it off, but in the interest in being a better earth citizen, I decided to return the book on foot.

This was a tougher walk than I counted on for two reasons. First, my tennis shoes are cuter than they are comfortable. Second, on my way back home, I tried to take an alternate route which lead me straight up one of the hidden neighborhood hills. Walking, I could handle, but walking uphill, even for just a small stretch, was a bit of a challenge.

Trip # 3: Central Market (FAIL!) And just as soon as I made it back from the library, I realized that I'd put off getting whole wheat bread crumbs because I was pretty sure the only place to get them would be from Central Market or Whole Foods. And thus, failure. Sure, I could have looked up the appropriate bus maps, but it was going on 5 o'clock and it was much easier to concede failure than attempt to cross the town on public transit during rush hour.

So it didn't exactly work out as planned, but according to, I walked a total of 2.79 miles today. Not too shabby. Perhaps I'll retire the car keys more often.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Well, last week may not have ended so well, but I did manage to get the condo completely out of my hands. I am pleased to announce that the condo is on the market and I did not make a single visit over there this weekend. Hooray!

With that behind me, I used the weekend to make some more major edits on a story that has been problematic for a while. I reread some writing group notes, did some major rearranging and am now feeling a lot better about the story. It's still not quite polished, but it's getting there.

Also, I went to Stitch this weekend. Austin's fashion show and "guerrilla craft bazaar" is in its fifth year, but this is the first time I've managed to make it. It's grown considerably over the last five years and this year was housed in the Austin Convention Center.

The experience in two words: very cool. I wasn't too sure what to expect since years of church craft bazaars have left me dreading the crochet toilet tissue cozy. But I was really impressed with the quality and creativity behind the vendors at Stitch. There was some really amazing stuff. For instance, knitters will need to check out Rebecca Yaker's Sock Monkey Wearable Art.

Anyway, of course I took the opportunity to support the indie crafts and do some shopping. I picked up this screen printed tee from Harrilu. I also scored this gorgeous necklace from Austin's Ornamental Things. Natalie has many other beautiful pieces, so please check her out.

The best part about the bazaar and fashion show, though, was just seeing all the support for indie designer and artisans. Wandering through the booths I had the feeling that even though my knitting barely registers as a hobby these days and even though I don't design anything and even though my art is in a different medium entirely, we're all in this together. We're all out there, just trying to do what we love and hoping to find others who value that as much as we do. Even though I'm a writer and I spend most of my time crafting alone, this gave me a greater sense of the community that is out there. It may not be my community, but I'm very glad to have found it.

Bad Day

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I spent a great day writing at the Green Muse on Tuesday. Unfortunately everything else in my life went to hell on Tuesday night. Okay, so not really to hell exactly, but immediately after writing, I went back over to the condo to find out that a pool of dirt had seeped back through the carpet after the cleaning. This was blamed on a dirty pad and so now I have to replace the padding and have the carpet cleaned again.

And of course, the bathroom project has gone over the estimated two days and the condo can't go on the market until it is finished.

And then I got home and found that my white cat had dug into my knitting bag, pulled out my Lopi Lace Scarf, and, in dragging it to the living room, had dropped half the stitches and broken the yarn. This scarf is cursed, I tell you.

So on Wednesday, I spent no time writing, and all my time calling back carpet cleaners, tracking down documents for the condo, and getting a thousand other chores done, that all somehow involve around the condo.

I was hoping today might be better. That I could get the condo stuff out of the way in the morning and spend the rest of the day focused on the story I started on Tuesday or, at the very least, fixing the story I want to get submitted this week. No such luck.

I got to the condo to meet the Salvation Army pick up people, with whom I was sending off my sofa, bookcases, entertainment center, and other heavy stuff. As they were backing their truck down the drive, one of the yard people came over and told me that they couldn't drive their truck down there. Um. Okay. One of the residents of the codo drives a huge truck that is regularly parked down that drive. I told him that they had to drive the truck down there because there was no way they were going to carry a queen-size sleeper sofa out my door and few hundred feet back to the street. He kept going at me about how it was against the rules, how they could ruin the trees, how someone was going to have to pay. . . and all the while, the truck is safely backing its way down the narrow drive and how exactly am I going to stop them without being run over? So I just shrugged and walked away.

Y'all, I am not normally that rude. But I am at the end of my rope. What the poor yard guy didn't realize is that I am already on my last nerve with the HOA because every time I tried to report my neighbor's noise violations, they refused to do anything about it, even while acknowledging that the noise was a problem. And because the minute it looked like my condo was going to go on the market, they began passing stipulations to keep me from renting it out. And so, on what should have been my last day of dealing with this stupid HOA, I was being chewed out over rules that are not universally enforced.

I am so annoyed. So writing today? Probably not. Sitting and fuming sounds a little more like it. Sorry for the vent, y'all. We'll return to our regularly scheduled snark and cheer shortly.

Extra, Take Two

Last Wednesday, I got called by the casting company to go be a part of Friday Night Lights filming on Thursday. Of course, I went.

Now, I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that before I was even off the phone with the casting assistant, I was mentally preparing exactly what I would wear, how I would do my hair, and what I would bring with me to read/do ("Oh hi, Connie. Teach you how to knit? Sure!"). So on Thursday I stuffed my Lopi Lace Scarf, my latest New Yorker, and about a gazillion changes of clothing into my teeny little backpack and headed north to the set.

Parking was a breeze. I pulled into the Arbor parking lot a little before 4:15. I parked, hoisted my "backpack" out of my trunk and meandered in the direction of a large white trailer that looked official. No one else, however, was meandering with me. Still, just beyond the trailer was a big white tent with tables set up and about ten people milling about, filling out their vouchers and talking shop. I knew that this was going to be a small shoot, but I began to worry that this was going to be smaller than I anticipated. You see, as much as I love being an extra, two things scare me to death: 1) cameras and 2) acting. Needless to say, my Hollywood career is safely limited blurry person in crowd scene. I sat down at one of the tables, breezed through my pay voucher like an old hand. By the time I finished, another 20 people had arrived and it looked like more were on their way.

Then it was off to wardrobe and here is where I felt woefully unprepared. The directions for being an extra involve bringing several changes of fall clothing. I thought long and hard about both the outfit I was wearing (dark jeans, black camisole, wool Abercrombie and Fitch sweater) and what I had brought (long sleeved button down blouse in muted pink, a bright purple cowl neck sweater, a standard long sleeved t-shirt and another pair of jeans - lighter in color in case what I was wearing was "too dark"). I left the house feeling well equipt, but my fellow extras were pulling rolling suitcases full of clothing. I swear, women had brought their entire winter wardrobes with them.

I arrived at the front of the line, prepared to plead my case that layers are the ultimate fall wear and I had several sweaters in my bag and please don't send me home.[1] The very nice wardrobe assistant glanced at me, told me I looked fine. I shoved my sweaters back into my bag and headed back into the tent.

The extras kept trickling in, and, in total, there were about 100 of us. I listened to several rounds of "If you have filled out your voucher, but have been approved by wardrobe, please step outside and get in line." I took out my scarf and worked a few rows, realized that I'd forgotten a yarn over in the first row, back knitted some. Worked another row and got distracted by another announcement (final call for wardrobe), and messed up again. Put away my knitting and pulled out my New Yorker. And thus, the sitting and waiting began.

It was during this time that I realized that there is a whole culture of extras, people who know the production assistants by name, who recount war stories of 'the night they ran out of food,' who refer to the principles by their first names and as if they had just had them over for dinner the night before. One in particular had seated herself at our table and she chatted constantly about the last gig, the 6 a.m. call time, being down on the field during the last game. I nodded politely and tried not to take my eyes off my magazine.

After about an hour, the PAs began to move through crowd and picking out youngish looking guys and "hot" girls. This group was taken out to wardrobe and most of the men returned in fairly thugish looking clothing. They were told to sit in a corner near the front of the tent. Another PA stood on a chair and instructed us that we were going to go to the theater soon. He explained that we were to look like we were watching a movie and that at times we would be expected to pantomime. He demonstrated what this meant by pantomiming the rest of his speech, to which he received a wry chuckle from the crowd.

It looked like we weren't going to get a real meal, so I meandered up to the front of the tent to check out the nourishments. There was a tub full of animal crackers, a bowl of Tootsie Rolls, and a cooler of Gatorade, none of which are on the South Beach Diet food list. I meandered away from the food table and outside the tent. I fiddled with my cell phone and talked to another regular about how to get cast again (call them every week and see what work they have).

Finally, we were off to the theater. We lined up against the outer wall while two different PAs gave us more instructions -- be quiet, do not touch the light balloon, look out for wires, do not chnage your seats, and for God's sake do not touch the light balloon. We filed into the theater. As we entered the doors, we some of us were handed props. I selected a styrofoam cup in hopes it was filled with water, but no such luck. Sprite. Also not on the SBD food list.

Once in the theater, a PA assigned me an aisle seat next to another girl. Two rows in front of me, Gaius Charles ("Smash" Williams) was talking with someone who looked vaguely directorial. Behind him sat Neiko Mann (who plays Smash's little sister). They were going over some choreography for a fight. I tried to act uber-cool and not watch, but I failed. I am, by nature, a gawker and I found myself mesmerized by everything that was going on. There was, indeed, a gigantic light balloon being maneuvered by four PAs. The unit director was going through stage direction with four young men in front of me. Tony was moving people from one seat to another to fill out the theater.

Once we were all settled, the unit director gave us some instructions about the shoot. We were all from the Dillon's north side and we are racists. Okay, he didn't say racists. He said that we were not used to seeing an African American in our movie theater. He said that we might even be a little uncomfortable with it. So, yeah. Racists.

After that, we went through the shoot, stopping at specific places in the scene. The gist of the scene is that Smash's sister is getting heckled by the one of the guys in front of me. Smash is going to come up and tell him to knock it off. The heckler is going to mutter a derogatory racial remark and Smash is going to beat the tar out of him. Right in front of me.

For the first couple of takes, the audience didn't do anything. However, for the takes that would include the fight, we were told to react naturally. Tony explained that for me that meant whispering to the girl next to me. Uh huh. My natural reaction to a fight breaking out in front of me would be to get the hell out of there. That wasn't an option, though. Other extras were told to stand, to look at a certain person, to put their feet in the seat, etc. We rolled again, this time with the fight.

Now, for this take, camera "C" was positioned right next to my temple so when I looked up at the movie screen, in my peripheral vision I could see the camera. I spent most of the take telling myself to not sneeze on the camera.

After the next take, the director decided we needed blood. This turned out to be a fairly controversial decision as there was no good way for the actor to actually get the blood. There was discussion about securing a cup of it to the back of the seat. About having a little package on him to begin with. Finally it was decided to cut the bottom off one of the cups and rest it in the drink holder in the row behind the heckler. The makeup artist expressed some concern about getting blood on the extras and I thought, as cool as this is, I really like my sweater and I don't want blood on it. The director instructed the actor not to spill the blood, and viola! Crisis averted.

We did the fight (with blood) a two times more and then the crew switched to the back of the theater and we did it all over again. Finally, the director declared a wrap on that scene and all the principles headed out to the lobby to film the next scene. Tony and another PA picked out a smaller group to be lobby patrons and the rest of us were dismissed.

It was fun. I feel like I got to experience what John did when he was a Dillon assistant coach: getting to see the action up close and even more interesting, experiencing some of the behind the scenes goings on. That said, I'm glad I did the football game first. It gave me a little more understanding of what my role was (sit and don't do anything until they tell you to) and I felt a lot more comfortable having a camera merely centimeters from my face.

Also, it was a lot of fun to work in a group this small. There was a lot of camaraderie among the extras and the crew. Lots of joking. Lots of laughter. After every take, there was almost a collective sigh from the actors. You could tell that they were really experiencing the tension of the moment, but then letting it go almost the minute that the cameras weren't rolling. The PAs would talk to us, tell us about movies they'd done or seen.

So, I'd like to do this again. I'll definitely go to the next games, but, writer's strike willing, I'd really love to work on a smaller set again. You know, with Tony. . . and Kyle. . . and remember that one time that we shot that fight scene. . .

[1] I found out later that very rarely do people get sent home for wearing inappropriate clothing. Instead, wardrobe assigns them clothing, takes their voucher and they don't get it back until they turn in their clothing at the end of the night, pretty much making sure they are the last people in line. On a night like the football game from hell, I'm pretty sure being sent home would be a much better option.

Strike? What strike?

Monday, November 5, 2007

I am probably the last person who should be blogging about the WGA strike. I'll admit that my only vested interest in the Writer's Guild of America strike is simply that I don't want Friday Night Lights to go off the air. I'm selfish that way.

On the other hand, I want writers to get paid for their work and to be compensated for the many ways that I watch their (usually good) television shows. So while I'm still trying to sort out my feelings on the issue, here are some useful links for understanding exactly what's going on in Hollywood and why reality may once again rule in 2008:

Obviously, there's a lot more than that out there, but if you're just now hearing about the strike or beginning to worry about your favorite shows, the above links are a great place to start your research.

October Reading

Thursday, November 1, 2007


  • And Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris
  • The 25th Hour by David Benioff
  • Later, At the Bar by Rebecca Berry
  • Blindness by Jose Saramago
Short stories
  • "Willing" by Lorrie Moore
Noteworthy nonfiction
  • "The Corrections: Of Abridgments, Commentaries, and Art," Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, Oct. 22, 2007.
  • "Why is Indie Rock So White?" Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker, Oct. 22, 2007
  • "Women and Children For Sale," Caroline Moorehead, New York Review of Books, Oct. 11, 2007
  • "They'd Much Rather Be Rich," Andrew Hacker, New York Review of Books, Oct. 11, 2007.

Self-employment has its privileges

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The view from the office right now. Nice eh?

Unfortunately, I'm not doing anything terribly creative, just writing up ads for tomorrow's Craigslist postings. I have two days of dedicated writing time this week. The rest of my life is consumed with condo selling. With any luck, the place should be out of my hands (and into my realtor's) next week and back into the writing life I go. In the meantime, I blog.

Update #1: South Beach Phase 1, or who knew I ate so much bread?

You never know how much junk you consume until it's three o'clock on a Tuesday and you're contemplating snack food. Ordinarily, I would have gone for one of the following: peanut-butter sandwich crackers, a 100 calorie pack of Cheese Nips, or two pieces of "whole wheat" bread (with butter and strawberry jelly and a glass of milk, of course). Obviously, all of these were off limits so I spent the week of Phase 1 dutifully counting out my 15 almonds or taking a handful of cherry tomatoes from the fridge. And you know, it worked. Also, I think I broke my boredom eating habit. I think. It's only been two weeks. The jury may still be out on that one.

If nothing else, doing Phase 1 of SBD helped me realize two very important things. Number 1: I ate/eat way too much sugar and flour. Number 2: It's not terribly difficult to prepare a meal that is without these two ingredients. In the end I think I lost about 6 pounds. The book estimated losses between 8 and 12. I would have been happier with 12, but oh well. I'm going to continue on into Phase 2, but as the holidays get closer, I may opt for less South Beach and more, "eat as little starchy stuff as possible." We'll revisit the idea in a few weeks.

Update #2, The big 3-2, or at the stroke of midnight the New Yorker will call and want every short story I've ever written.

Yeah. Didn't happen. Didn't expect it to except in that dreamy way that I wish literary journals would suddenly call and say they'd like to publish me. You know, without ever submitting anything.

But the big day came and went with as little hoopla as possible. Hubs and I had brunch with some friends, then browsed the Domain, and then had dinner with his folks. It was a nice, low-key birthday. I did feel a little bit melancholy about the idea of hitting thirty two and being knee deep in dieting and condo selling and not yet able to focus on my writing. In fact, I had a bit of a temper tantrum this morning when I realized that I had yet another day of cleaning the condo and endless non-writing-related errands to attend to. I feel a little like an imposter, ya know? All that talk about writing full time and two weeks into it, I'm still dragging my feet and doing a lot of not writing things. It's kind of like I replaced the job with all the unrelated errands: the condo, the diet, cleaning, etc.

That realization led me to establish at least two writing days this week. As for today, if I can't give my all to writing yet, I can at least not focus on it in a pretty place.

Yes, Yes..

Monday, October 29, 2007

Yes, it has been weeks since I last posted. In that time I've finished Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet and celebrated my 32nd birthday. Both are entirely bloggable events and updates are coming just as soon as I have a second to sit down and breathe.

Back soon.

It's A Tough Life for a (Fake) Coach

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Would you trust this man to coach your football team? Apparently the FNL folks think Hubs makes a pretty good blue pixel because he's been called twice to come to a shoot.

The picture is from our extras experience last month. See how happy he was? How thrilled he was to be picked to be Extra #204 (Panther Coach)? Yeah, that happiness is long gone.

We got our paychecks this week. Now, extraing does not pay a whole lot. It's hourly, and it's kind of crappy hourly pay. You hope for overtime, because that means you're getting time and a half.

Anyway, Hubs was released from his "specialty" role at two-thirty in the morning, giving him only an hour and a half of overtime. Us lowly fans weren't released until four-thirty, thereby giving us four hours of overtime. Also, the powers that be took pity on us cold, hoarse fans and gave us $50 bonus for sticking it out. So when Hubs looked at my paycheck, he was not thrilled to notice that it was double the amount of his.

"It's not fair," he said. "I was there as long as you were and I had to stand the whole night and I had to go through wardrobe."

"Right. Poor, mistreated you that got to chat it up with the actors and crew. And, wasn't that Kyle Chandler you were tossing the football around with before they started taping?"

"All I'm saying is, any job that makes you take off your pants should pay more."


Candy Corn vs. South Beach

Monday, October 15, 2007

I started the South Beach Diet this weekend. I know, I know... this blog is supposed to be about writing and writing goals and turning thirty-two and what not, but I started a diet. *I* started a diet. This is bloggable.

I'm not sure what inspired me to check out the official South Beach diet book last week, after all, for the last few years my health philosophy has been eat well, move a lot. This philosophy served me pretty well until I turned 27 and got a desk job and at the same time my metabolism decided to take a few years of vacation. After that, it was just a short slide into candy corn and Funions and so, South Beach.

A couple of words about diets: Any diet that tells you that you will not miss the food that you are giving up is LYING. Any diet that tells you that you will not be hungry IS LYING. Also, water, even eight glasses of it, does not fill you up.

On the other hand, there are positives. For one thing, the recipes in the book are idiot proof. I can make almost any of them, which is saying something coming from me, the girl who considers boiling frozen broccoli cooking. In the three days that I have been on the diet I have made a Mediterranean green beans, balsamic chicken, ginger pepper chicken, and a baby spinach salad with tomatoes and mozzarella. Not bad. And Hubs is happy because he gets to have all this and a piece of cake for dessert.

And yes, I've already gotten the fad diet lecture from a few friends and there are a couple of more who scoff at any diet that doesn't include running 10+ miles daily. However, I read the book. The book doesn't seem so bad. And, if at the very least, this diet gets me to replace candy corn with cherry tomatoes, well, that doesn't seem like a step in the wrong direction, now does it?

On Patience

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's old news by now, but earlier this week the Austinist interviewed fellow SWT alum [1]
Scott Blackwood about his upcoming novel, We Agreed To Meet Just Here. The interview offers some encouraging words of wisdom for aspiring writers:

I think the thing I try to get across to student writers is that they need to be patient—the typical writer's apprenticeship is probably ten years. You can't rush it much. There's a lot of falling down and getting back up again.

I think you have to read like a writer reads all of the time, for the sensibility, the techniques, the craft your favorite writers are using. I think that some people think talent is enough, but from my experience, it's the knowledge of craft and the development of a writer's sensibility, the sense of rightness and proportion, that evoke talent—not the other way around.

I like the ten-year theory better than the everything-happens-at-thirty-two theory. For one thing, it's shorter to type. For another, it acknowledges that writing is work, a skill that takes practice and perfection rather than something that one day bursts forth from a wellspring of talent.

And I like Blackwood's take on talent as well. It's hopeful. During my three years in the writing program, I felt like a magnificent impostor—a no-talent hack who was somehow mistaken for a writer. But I watched my stories improve as I practiced daily and as I studied writers I admired. In the years since graduation, I've felt my skills decline again. Thinking of talent as a consummation of study and practice gives me hope that I can get my skill back.

Anyway, I've started up my short story journal (journal) again and I'm going to add a regimen of daily reading and thinking about writing to my schedule in hopes of getting back to the "study" portion of the writing life. I'm good at studying. At writing, well... that remains to be seen.

[1] Sadly, no claim to fame for me. Scott graduated at least a year before I got there, though I did, apparently, inherit his TA office as evidenced from the stack of manuscripts I had to clean off the bookshelf.

Support Good TV

Friday, October 5, 2007

Remember Firefly? Remember how you watched the first few episodes on DVD and thought, "Gee, this is such a great show. Why didn't I watch it?" And remember how guilty you felt when you realized that if only you had watched it (when FOX would let you) then maybe FOX would be running it tonight instead of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Season two of Friday Night Lights airs tonight on NBC. Please set your DVRs for 8 p.m. CST. If you want to catch up, all of season one is available here. You don't have to be even remotely interested in football to fall in love with this show.

Also, Kyle Chandler is hot.

That is all.

Ravelry, Chuck Woolery Ain't Got Nothing On You

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The new fad in the knitting community is a nifty site called Ravelry. I put my name on the waiting list for membership a month ago and, as of yesterday, there were still approximately a gazillion knitters and crocheters in queue ahead of me. (This is what you get for being the last to know everything.) But then my very awesome coworker and fellow knitter got a second invitation and turned it over to me, and today... Ravelry!

So here's a little confession: I love organizing, cataloging, and recording. It may go beyond love into a slight psychotic obsession. As a child, I made a game out of trying tocatalog our family books, photos, and videos on index cards. When I was ten, I actually created a template so I could record results of (sigh)... Love Connection. Yep. For at least a week I could tell you who went out with who. Who went out with who again. Who the audience thought the best match would be. And possibly even what tie Chuck Woolery was wearing. I was a weird kid. I was a born librarian. Only, you know, I'm not.

So of course, I was spastic when I realized the possibilities with Ravelry. The opportunity to categorize my yarn? To keep track of my stash. I can actually show progress on my knitting!

Except I haven't actually done any knitting since the wedding whirlwind began.

My knitting basket? Luckily, not quite empty, but as I look at it, I have to wonder am I really going to finish that 2x2 ribbed sweater... on size five needles... with fingering weight yarn? (To my credit, I managed a full twelve inches around thanks to the Alamo's Firefly marathon.) But I refuse to let Ravelry be wasted on a knitter like me! I will perservere! I will knit again. I will knit lots of little things from Weekend Knits!

I may not be the best knitter. I may not have the most complex projects, but Ravelry, I promise you I will be the most organized.

Leap of Faith

Monday, October 1, 2007

I did it.

I gave notice on my job. Starting mid-October I will officially be back to starving artisthood.

Oh good grief, I hope this was the right decision.

Extra! Extra!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

(Yeah, lame, I know. I'm really too tried to come up with a better title.)

Last night Hubs and I were extras on Friday Night Lights. We got to the set at 5 p.m. and left at 5 a.m. and, as such, my brain is not functioning well enough to report on how Hubs got picked to be a coach, how sitting in football stands for 4 hours hurts your bum, or how it really does get cold in Austin, Texas at two in the morning.

Instead, I'm going to let Peter tell you.

Going back to bed now...

Piecing It Together

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Four years ago I was sitting in my therapist's office (yes, I had a therapist, just as every sane person should), bawling about my fate as a barely employed American. Since graduating with my MFA in May, I'd been sending out resumes daily, hoping to find full-time work in something practical.

What I wanted was a salary, benefits, and a structured schedule. What I'd managed instead was three separate full-time jobs. I taught English and public speaking at a local culinary school from 6-8 every morning. From there, I went to the one-woman run Asian chamber of commerce where I was paid $12.50 and hour to create the newsletter, organize field trips, and fill in for absent ESL teachers. I left there at four and went directly to UT to tutor volleyball players. On the morning of that fateful visit, I'd done the math and realized that if I kept this up for another year, I'd earn a salary of $25,000 a year (before taxes, of course) for working five 12-hour days a week. That was not what I got my Master's degree for.

Four years later and I'm salaried. I've got a 9 to 5 schedule, a cube with my name on it, and probably just about as much job security a one can have working in the high tech industry. So what's causing me to want to chuck it all and strike out again, doing odd writing jobs or picking up a class here and there?

My therapist would have every right to think that I am crazy. Lately I've been thinking of that pre-salaried life and maybe romanticizing it a little. It's not that I don't like my job, it's just that it doesn't leave me any energy for what I really want to do: write.

When I graduated, I had the vague notion that writing was something I'd eventually come back to. I could put it on hold for a few years, build up a little nest egg, come back to it when the time was right. But writing doesn't work that way. Putting it on hold has only served to weaken my skill and strengthen the desire. I'm tired of trying to fit my writing around something to which was never going to be anything more than a day job. I think it's time to piece together a day job around writing.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

I may have made a little bit of an impulse buy tonight.

Hubs and I were at the mall to pick up the suit he bought for this weekend's wedding. Unfortunately, the jacket sleeves were too short and the pants were too long so the salesperson sent us off to kill 45 minutes in the mall. Naturally, we went to the Apple store.

Now, I've been rationalizing the idea of getting a new iPod for quite some time. For one thing, Hubs nixed the idea of an iPhone until the second generation (yay for geeky husbands). But even then, I'm not sure I want an iPhone. They're all kinds of shiny, but the touch screen and I just cannot get along. My fingers are too fat or something.

Also, my iPod mini is pink and the headphones are tearing. That totally justifies it. Totally.

So, just in time for our trip, I have a new toy. We've spent the evening ripping CDs and making shameless new additions to the music queue. Also, we found a nifty program that allows you to convert your DVDs to MPEG-4 files.

This is, of course, what we've been doing instead of packing or, say, locating our passports amid the moving boxes. That's okay. We may not make the plane, but at least we'll have something to play with.

Let's get one thing straight

Friday, September 14, 2007

I do not know how to begin blogs.

It's surprising, actually, since in the last ten years I must have started at least 25 of them. Okay, maybe 25 is an exaggeration, but it's likely the number is in the double digits by now. The only one that garnered me any sort of net.fame was back when blogging was (gasp!) rare and that blog is now defunct. You can't see it, no matter how much you bribe this man. But that's not the point. The point is that I have been blogging for so long that I should know better.

So why now? Why the resurfacing? Well, for one thing this year I will turn thirty two. Thirty Two.

Once upon a time when I was in grad school and dreaming of a career as a starving (yet published) writer, someone told me that everything happens for you at thirty two. He was thirty two and had just published his first book. He was also incredibly good looking and I may have been hanging on to his every word as if it was my lifeblood, but I digress.

That writer is now ensconced in his late thirties, has two books behind him, and probably forgot all about his "everything happens at thirty two" theory. I, on the other hand, am sitting in a cube in corporate America with a novel and short story collection in the drawer and looking at the days ahead with trepidation because I will turn thirty two in forty four days.

Let me put you out of your suspense. Nothing will be happening for me when I'm thirty two. My novel is nowhere near publication, my short stories need major overhauls and my new writing comes in only fits and starts. But if nothing else, the impending birthday inspired me to kick myself into gear. I may not get published during my thirty-second year, but dammit, I'm going to document every minute of it.

So welcome. Grab a chair, a news reader, and maybe some knitting needles. See you on down the road.