Monday, December 26, 2011

Branding Your Platform


One thing I've been thinking about lately—and this is prompted by Justine Musk's post—are writers who aggressively promote. (Justine has a great blog, by the way, and she's very engaging. Can't wait to read more of her work.)

We've all heard of "branding" and "platform." I confess these are words I can't really get my head around. What do they mean? Are they words coined by some ad exec? Don Draper, perhaps? According to Nathan Bransford, there is no such thing as a brand.

Do you agree? I think I do. I think for me, it's not so much the "branding" or "platform"as the willingness to engage with people. A couple of my "friends" on Goodreads are authors, and they only use the site to promote their own work, rather than share what they read. They're clearly trying to brand, but as a reader, that's a lot less interesting to me than authors who DO share book recommendations. One of them has written a series that looks awesome, but I haven't made time to read it, and I think that's at least in part because s/he does nothing online (that I've seen) but promote the blog and the books. It's kind of a turnoff. Authors who are willing to open up a little—even if it's insecure or negative—are a lot more likely to stay on my radar. It's not so much about the willingness to engage with people one-on-one (although I very much appreciate the authors who do that); it's more about the willingness to show a little personality. Authors on Twitter, for example, who link to articles they've read, who take a stand on some issues, who have opinions and are not afraid to share them—those are the authors to whom I naturally gravitate. Even authors who tweet what they have for breakfast—as long as the breakfast is awesome—are far more likely to attract me than authors who do nothing but aggressively promote their books. I'm still loyal to some authors, such as Stephen King, who don't use social media at all. But he did plenty of engaging in ON WRITING. Engaging can work wonders—whether it's online or off. I did two films (shorts) with a guy I "met" on Twitter, and we still keep in contact, even though we've yet to meet in real life.

I think this is one of the reasons Neil Gaiman is so popular. I wouldn't call what he does as branding or a platform at all. His blog is more like this smorgasbord of great links, book recommendations, advice on writing, etc. It started off as advertising for AMERICAN GODS and just grew from there. Yet he gets requests all the time to post pics of his dogs, cats, beekeeping stuff, etc. His fans think those things are just as interesting as everything else. I think one of the reasons he's so popular now is because he's willing to engage with his fans—perhaps even eager to do so. I once went to one of his readings here in Chicago, and he was a lot more earnest than what I expected. He really wanted people to enjoy the reading, and he spoke with every single person who wanted to get a pic, or a hug, or whatever. Not a bad "platform" for authors to model themselves after, in my opinion. I mean, obviously it helps that his writing is great. It always does. I guess what I'm saying that the people who are really good at branding make it feel like it's not branding. Because it isn't. Not really.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No Worries


I've been sweating my NaNoWriMo word count for a few days, but no worries now. Gatsby's been helping. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's Your Take: Why Do You Write?

This whole NaNo thing has kicked off a bit of an existential crisis for me: Why am I doing this? This novel is going to suck. It's derivative and poorly written. It will never see the light of day. It's the third idea I've started. Yesterday I started a fourth idea.

It's almost like my brain is creating new ways to get me to fall behind. Yet today, at 10 a.m. Central time, I will put in an hour of writing before going back to slogging around the Internet looking for new work. Then I'll put in another hour. I'm going to try to get in 3,000 words today, but ... who knows if I'll get that far.

The truth is, I don't have the foggiest clue why I write. I pretend it's so that I can have some element of control over my life, but let's face it: the work goes where it goes. That's both exhilarating and terrifying. Mostly it's been terrifying lately. Yet I'm still doing it. It's like I'm the very definition of crazy.

What's your take? Why do you write? 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Word Count

3376.

Starting to catch up. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNo Novel

I've started, though I'm behind. Only about 750 words in. You? 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween

Happy Halloween, folks!

Unfortunately, I'm not taking part in any festivities this year. Deadlines. Yay! Deadlines! And ... oh dear. Deadlines. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's Your Take: Ebook Pricing

This year I bought a Kindle. I didn't buy it because I'm all excited about the ebook revolution; I bought it because, at the time, I was editing fiction for a small publisher, and having an ereader to which I could download PDFs was necessary. I've moved on from that job, but now I'm a script reader for a screenplay competition, and this week I'm reading fifteen scripts—all of which are now sitting on my Kindle, waiting to be read.

I have to say without an ereader, I could not do this job. It's been great for traveling, too. A couple of weeks ago I visited my folks, and instead of having to lug my iMac, as I usually do, I simply downloaded what I needed to my Kindle and I was on my way. It's been great for my fiction reading, too. No more standing in front of my bookcase, trying to decide which book to take. No more bulky backpacks that accidentally smack people in the face on the train whenever I turn an inch. I gotta say this ebook revolution thing has been great for my back and for my safety.

As for ebooks, I've heard a lot of talk about the "problem" of ebook pricing. $9.99, it seems, is too high a price to pay for a novel. Yet ebook sales are increasing all the time, so obviously someone is paying this price. What gives? Why does the ebook price have to equal the mass market price? From my perspective, it seems a couple of dollars more is a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to wait for the book to ship. With nonfiction, I'd buy every book as an ebook (if it were available) since searching through one is SO much easier than in a hard copy.

What's your take? Are ebooks priced too high? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review

Reviewed Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country. Highly recommended. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

The death of Steve Jobs has lit up the online world. He was a visionary, a person who put art into technology. Not only that, he made it possible for many, many people to share in the success by allowing people to create their own apps and sell them through the iPhone, the iPad, and the Apple computer. That is the mark of someone who is truly innovative. Steve, here's to you.

Read the text of Steve Jobs's commencement address to Stanford in 2005.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

All Hallow's Read

Well, it's now October, and I'm looking for some really good ghost stories. Any recs

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Country

When I was a girl, we had to make a weekly visit to my grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa lived out in the country, in the same house they raised four girls and four boys. They were farmers, and their nearest neighbors were I don't know how far away. We could see the houses beyond the cornfields when we were driving along the road, and to my child's eye they seemed miles away. When we pulled into the driveway, my mom would remind me not to go too far back into the corn. (I was known for getting lost, even then.) I think the most I ever went back was four or five rows. I don't think I ever got seriously lost, though late one night, when my brother and sister and I spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa's, everyone went out looking for me anyway. Turned out I had burrowed deep into the covers my brother and sister had thrown off (I was really tiny), and no one found me until my brother accidentally stepped on me. He'd woken up, thought I'd wandered off into the corn, and alerted everyone in the house.

My grandparents were not "interesting" to me, I'm ashamed to admit now. Grandma always had a litany of complaints, and Grandpa, if he spoke, exhibited a Buddha-like patience when Grandma interrupted him. He would fall silent until she finished whatever tangent she was on, and then he would simply pick up where he left off, as if the interruption never took place. In the next room, they had an organ I liked to play, and like most American kids who only knew one tune, I banged out a number-by-number rendition of "The Entertainer" over and over again while they talked, before wandering outside to play.

Like any Midwestern farm, my grandparents' farm had a lot of trees. In an especially large tree in the back, Grandpa built a simple tree house, and me and my cousins spent hours there fighting, playing, and fighting again. There was also a rudimentary track—just some grass laid flat, really—that my cousins would race around on in their go-karts or their tiny motorcycles. I desperately wanted to ride one, too, but I was simply not big enough. My father still had to ride with me on roller coasters, and he always had to hook a finger into my belt loop to keep me from flying out. No way were my parents letting me on one of those homicidal pieces of equipment without a chaperone. But it didn't matter. In the country, there were all sorts of interesting things to look at: rusty tractors, snakes, apples with worms crawling out of them. It sounds impossibly quaint, but Grandma and Grandpa's truly was a big part of my Midwestern upbringing.

After a few hours, Mom would rustle the kids back inside, where we would start our goodbyes, a process that often took an hour or more. Mom would keep gently telling Grandma we needed to go. Like those performance artists whose movements are imperceptible to the naked eye, we kids would back up ever-so-slowly toward the front door. "No need to rush off," Grandma would always say, and Mom would say she needed to get home to start dinner. No matter how long we stayed, Grandma always wanted us to stay a little longer.

Grandma and Grandpa sold their land to a grocery store in the 1990s, and they spent their last ten years or so in a neat little ranch in the suburbs. It was a nice place for them to be, but I never felt it suited them. When Grandpa died (of a heart attack, right there in the house), Grandma began to lose her hold on reality. The dementia had already started before Grandpa died, but it seemed his death accelerated it. She spent another year or two in that house, with my mom and my aunt taking care of her, swearing Grandpa and his friends were playing cards under the bed. When my mom and my aunt simply could not care for her anymore, she moved into a nursing home, where she died. I know it's not what my mom wanted. But what could she do? That time comes for everyone, eventually.

I've been a city girl my entire adult life. As a kid, the country didn't feel interesting. I mean, I didn't think about it that way, even though it was. And while I love Chicago, I'd give a lot to go back to the country now. I wonder if my path will ever lead me there again.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Banned Book Week

Almost forgot about this. Buy a banned book, folks. Collect them, and be proud. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Don't Give Me An Excuse to Stay Home

I was over on Mira Bartok's blog the other day and saw this interview with Andy Laties, who wrote the book Rebel Bookseller


In the interview, he makes the argument for the indie bookseller and why consumers should shop their local bookstores instead of Amazon or one of the big chains. (Or, actually, the only big chain left.) It's interesting reading, and he makes some great points. I haven't read the book yet (though I plan to), but as far as his interview ... I don't agree with the activist approach.

As a reader, I try to support authors by buying new books. And I shop in indie bookstores because I do care about where my money goes after I spend it. But the truth is, I have only a little discretionary income. I don't want to be guilt-tripped into spending my money in certain places. Indie bookstores who talk like they're nonprofits ("Support us!") only grate on my nerves. They're not nonprofits. They're businesses.

Here's an example of a bad experience. One summer I strayed across a one-weekend only book sale stationed outside of an indie bookstore. I made the mistake of attempting to buy a couple of books, only to be berated by one of the staff because they weren't open yet. Not corrected, not "I'm sorry, we're not open yet." Instead, she snapped. I went back and bought those books later that afternoon (they were hard-to-find gems I knew I wouldn't stray across anytime again soon), but after that I never went back to that store. Just one bad experience ruined that store for me.

Perhaps it's capricious of me, but the reality is the onus isn't on me as a consumer to "support" a business. I do what I can, but I'm not going to shop in a store that gives me the same or even worse service than Amazon or a big chain. I think the smartest approach indies can take is to focus on what they can do that Amazon can't: giving welcoming, personalized service in their stores. Appealing to the consumer's sense of fairness and right/wrong will get indies about as far as it has the green movement. Far too often I see indies take their customers for granted. These days, it's just too easy for people stay home and order online. Indies shouldn't make it easier by being jerks to their customers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

Like all Americans, I was deeply affected by 9/11. But I don't think I realized just how deeply until 2003, when I was teaching at the Dallas School of Music. Some of us had our students play a little concert for the local firefighters.

Before the concert started, we all stood facing the American flag, our hands on our hearts. One of my colleagues played "Taps." It was one of the most haunting and life-changing experiences I've had. I'll sound crazy when I say this, but I could swear I felt all the fallen souls in the room there with us, silently acknowledging our tribute.

Today I make another tribute of reflection and silence. You will always be remembered. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Savory Oatmeal

In theory, I like oatmeal. I like it sweet, and for a while I was eating oatmeal sweetened with spices and a banana.

Only I don't crave sweet foods in the morning. I want savory foods, like eggs, cheese, potatoes. That sort of thing. Of course, these foods aren't healthy to eat every single morning, so I usually settle for cereal or maybe some rice.

But today I tried savory oatmeal and I'm pleased to report the results were good. I put a little cheese in the oatmeal and topped it with one sunny side up egg and a little salt. I cribbed the recipe from here (even though I didn't really follow it), but I don't have the "high quality" ingredients the recipe calls for. Just regular grocery store ingredients. Still, I liked the results. Problem solved, I think. Now to try new recipes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Progress

Tonight I went to my first training session to register voters. Had to drive an hour to get there, but I don't mind. Can't wait to get out there and start talking to people.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New York Foundation for the Arts Source

Writing? Creating art? Check out the New York Foundation for the Arts free source for grants, residencies, etc.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are You Awesome?

Just came across this no-strings-attached grant that awards $1000 to awesome projects. The "micro-committee" doesn't necessarily stop at the awesome projects, however. If you can convince them you're awesome yourself, you can still have a shot.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Feeling Decidedly Eeyorish This Evening

Took all day to get ONE online application completed. It was a long application, and I turned it in without one piece of documentation——which I probably won't get by the deadline. Ah well. But I'm still hoping it wasn't a waste of time.

So I'm not making a permanent move right now. Where my folks are is just too economically depressed, and the only way I could make it work is if I were fantastically wealthy ... which I'm not. Too close to the edge. Right now I'm staying where I can be available onsite for work. I just don't think I'd be much use to my folks if I'm having to borrow money off of them because I can't find any work for what I do in their area. I wish I could move; Mom's in the hospital again because her blood's too thin. We don't know yet if she was bleeding internally for a while or what. *shakes head* And this time I can't even make it home.

I'm just thankful I have SOME kind of work right now. I feel like one of those ringwraiths in LOTR that are constantly sniffing out Frodo and the Ring——only it's more work I'm sniffing out. Not depressed, exactly. But I'm definitely feeling a little discouraged. I turned down a bunch of jobs because I thought I was moving. I'm still getting lots of leads, and I'm working, but I need something full-time. Ah well. At least right now I have time to work on my Great American Novel.

Not to mention, Orson has turned into something of a triple threat, if you get my meaning. Doesn't seem to remember what the litter box is for anymore. He's on two units of insulin, which has helped cut down on the frequency of his er, deeds. We're trying a bigger litter box because his arthritis makes it hard for him to aim (did you really want to read about this?). So far, it's ... not working, really. We're getting to our wit's end, but hey. At least we have some Anti-Icky Poo to clean it all up.

Signed,

Eeyore

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reading

How are folks doing on their reading this year? My goal was to get 75 books in this year, but so far I've only read 27. Probably I could read more instead of watching Lord of the Rings for the eighty-sixth time ...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

What Helps You?

A lot of people knock self-help books——and in many cases, they're not wrong. So many self-help books suck. Personally, though, I've found several that have helped me a lot. Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, Kenneth Christian's Your Own Worst Enemy, and Stephen Pressfield's The War of Art are just a few of the self-help books I go back to again and again when I need a tweak of inspiration.

What about you? Do you read self-help books? If so, which ones have helped you? How have they helped you? For me, the biggest benefit I've gotten from self-help books is that they have helped me to train myself to think differently. They've helped me to think more positively, which in turn helps me to actually do positive things instead of sitting around complaining about my life. (I'm not totally cured of this, but I've come a long way.)

Aside from The Secret,—which is BS, IMHO—what helps you?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Instant Creative Solutions!

Out of ideas? Check out this site for instant creative solutions. (Cribbed from Janet Reid's blog.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Your Artist Statement

Applying for a grant? Getting that writing website up? Need an artistic statement that will impress? Try this arty bollocks generator. For when you need to BS. Fast.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Should You Work For Free?

This handy flowchart should help you decide. There's a non-f-bomb version available, so look for the link if a few curse words offend you. Hilarious and enlightening.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Dark Stuff

I finally read the WSJ article that criticizes the YA publishing market. The article makes me a little angry, but mostly it makes me sad. Once again an industry is getting beaten up by clueless parents.

In case you missed it, the article opens with a woman, Amy Freedman, searching for a YA book in the bookstore as a "welcome home" gift for her 13-year-old daughter. Revolted by all the "vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff," she left the store empty-handed. The article went on to criticize the state of the YA market and questioned the validity of an industry that exposes just too much of the dark stuff to teenagers.

But really, I think what the article reveals is that some people are just not involved parents. How is it that this woman missed her daughter's reading habits for 13 years? If you're a parent involved in your kids' reading habits, trends in the YA market shouldn't come as a surprise. Also. I suppose Freeman has never heard of Amazon, where you can search for books to your taste. Big market out there, you know. And then there are the classics, such as Little Women (one of the most innocent books ever written) and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and Jane Austen, and . . . well, you get the point. Plenty of stuff out there from which to choose. If one stop off at a Barnes & Noble was enough for her to start railing about the publishing industry, I'd hate to know what she gets out of the evening news. Or maybe she doesn't watch that, because it's just too much real world.

That's to say nothing of the article's author, Megan Cox Gurdon, who was equally clueless.

YA books about abuse, vampires, and self-mutilation may get published because that's what sells. But those books probably sell because—at least in the cases of abuse and self-mutilation—that's what is. (I'm not so sure about the vampires.) There are kids out there with very real, gut-wrenching problems, problems too big for them to deal with but they're dealing with them, anyway—and guess what? YA literature, just like all literature, can help them make sense of the senseless things that happen to them. That's what story does. I think what Gurdon would like is to pretend that the dark stuff doesn't exist, or even if it does, it should be swept into the sewage system as easily as what we flush down the toilet. And maybe for her life, she's right.

But for many kids and teenagers, that's not the way it goes. Even kids raised in a safe environment have problems. Kids raised in the foster care system or by unstable parents get knocked around by life far too soon. Should we ignore them? Teenagers get ignored enough. By the time a kid gets to middle school, all that creative research that goes into childhood education drops off a cliff, leaving many kids to wander in an educational no man's land until they graduate. Fiction—yes, even YA fiction—can help them make sense of the senseless things that happen to them. That's what story does. Even the dark stuff. I know because I have a teenaged niece who told me so.

Kyle Cassidy weighs in here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Changes

Lots of changes this month. Orson has diabetes. He's been losing weight and has been drinking a ton of water, yet he's still dehydrated. We finally got him to the vet and she diagnosed Orson with diabetes. He's on insulin now, though only D has injected it. According to D, Orson "took his first shot like a champ," and injecting the insulin is a cinch. When I get back to Chicago, I'll have him show me how to do it.

I'm out of town because I'm in the Fort (aka Fort Wayne). My mom had congestive heart failure the Monday before Memorial Day and had a pacemaker put in. She's still in the hospital, but we expect her to be released today. I've been here helping my dad get through the week. I'm pretty sure I'll be moving back here by July. It's not 100% certain, but I'm looking at apartments here and eventually a house.

As much as I love Chicago, I just can't see myself staying there now that it's pretty clear my parents won't get back to a level of independence they used to enjoy. Mom's still pretty weak and her recovery is going to be long, and she's going to need someone to help her with grocery shopping and laundry. Right now she can't lift more than two pounds (doctor's orders).

Besides, I've been pining for a life in the country, and that is something I could never afford in Illinois. I can afford it in Indiana, I think, at least eventually. I have to admit I have no idea whether I'd like living in the country. The only time I've ever been in the country was at my grandparents' on their farm, where we would climb trees and hang out in the treehouse my grandfather built for us and race motorbikes and gokarts around his "track," but that hardly counts as living there. I could very well be romanticizing the idea of living in the country. But I want a house. I want a garden. I want a library and a fireplace. I could have all that in a house in the suburbs, but then I would have to have neighbors. I was raised in a suburb, a creepy suburb, and I don't think I could go back to that. Neighbors scare me. I don't want them unless I'm in an apartment where most people keep to themselves. I mean, I like people. Honest. I just don't want them as neighbors. And I'm willing to put up with almost anything not to have neighbors.

So I'll start in an apartment and work from there. I'm slightly worried about the job thing. Fort Wayne is rather economically depressed, and the only jobs available are restaurant jobs and medical jobs. But this could be an opportunity for me to finally start the copywriting business I've been talking about doing. Lots of work in that area, it seems, if I can break in, and it's something I can do from home and still have time to work on my fiction. Copywriting is something I sense I could be really good at and enjoy at least enough to keep doing it until I publish will undoubtedly be my hit novel. ; ) At any rate, I'm 97% sure I couldn't go back to being employed by someone else—especially with the kinds of jobs that are available in the Fort. Being self-employed in grad school and beyond, I got used to making my own decisions and I don't think I could go back to being bossed around. If I need to meet with clients in Indy or Chicago, I can still do that. I've got a pretty big list of businesses to start cold calling and cold writing.

In some ways, I'm really looking forward to the (possible-probable) move. Fort Wayne does have an excellent library (especially the main branch downtown) that is really freaking fun to visit. It also has some great bookshops (though some have closed down, sadly) and a couple of good coffeeshops.

It only has one artsy movie theatre, so I'm going to miss the freedom I had in Chicago to see whatever artsy independent film I wanted. And the thai food. I'm going to miss the great thai food. And Bikram yoga. Oh my God will I miss Bikram yoga and the cutie who taught there.

But this appears to be my new lot in life.

So that's the plan. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This May Help






Ever forget the title to a book you're trying to find? This hilarious site may help you. Renames the titles of many classics so you don't have to.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding

Okay, I was never one to plan my wedding as a little girl or a teenager, (one former boyfriend was disappointed to learn I've never had an "ideal wedding" in mind) but I still think the royal wedding is pretty neat.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

1000 Awesome Things

Because we all need to remember the little awesome things in our lives, here's the blog 1000 Awesome Things. It was started by Neil Pasricha at a time when his best friend had taken his own life and his marriage was falling apart. It was a great idea and now the blog is not one book, but two.

I can think of four things off the top of my head that are awesome:

1. Used bookstores.

2. The first cup of coffee out of the pot.

3. Animals that like your piano playing.

4. Friends that say, "She NEVER does this" when her dog is going spastic with excitement when you visit.

What are YOUR awesome things?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Party Time

If you're a writer looking to get published, you could do a lot worse than stray across Evil Editor's blog. He provides query critiques, critiques of the first 150 words of your novel or short story (or even a chapter), and most importantly, a lot of laughs. His minions also throw in their two cents, and reserve the right to make fun of you if you get defensive about your writing.

Some minions have put together a party honoring his fifth year anniversary, so if you've been wandering around the Internet, looking for an interesting, fun place to go, you've found it. Don't be shy. We don't bite.

Well, not too hard, anyway.

Monday, April 18, 2011

It Was . . .

one of Those Days.

I did something to piss of Chicago, because Chicago pretty much ate up my state tax refund today.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Meeting Neil Gaiman



He did a great reading and I could even hear him from where I was. And he's as personable and kind as his reputation. Really glad I got the opportunity to meet him, and I hope I get to again soon.

Also . . .

I have been promised by Management that I will get out of work in time tonight to see Neil Gaiman at the University of Chicago. Which means I should figure out where I'm going. Right.

Too Deep Thoughts for 6:30 In the Morning

Sex Scenes at Starbucks post got me thinking about religion.

For the most part, I don't believe in God. It's not that I'm terribly scientific or that I believe science has disproved the existence of God. (Though I love Neil DeGrasse Tyson's quote (and I'm paraphrasing here), "The great thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.") It's more that I can't reconcile all the suffering that goes on in the world with any all-knowing, all-loving God who would allow it. Yet, supposedly, we are made in His image, and we allow it. (I'm speaking of the Christian God—the only God I was raised to believe in and the only way my puny mind can conceive the existence of God.)

But that doesn't disprove God's existence, either. It's possible God is a lot more hands-off. And I acknowledge that faith can be a good thing. It's what got my mom through three open heart surgeries. It can be a balm for much of the pain in people's lives, much as a creative life is a balm in mine.

But if there is one, my guess is that the Eastern religions have it more correct. God is in everything, in all of us, a concept by which we choose to do right. In other words, God is our conscience. I think maybe I could believe in God as long as I don't have to put a face on the concept.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Better


Orson, dog eared.

A bad pic of the sick cat. His ear has been drained twice, and the hematoma came back a third time, but today it seems to be receding. He'll always have that floppy ear now, and I think he actually looks cuter for it. The arthritis supplement is helping him move, but he still needs to lose weight.

I'm still crazy with this yoga thing. Even got up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning to make the 7:30 a.m. class because I had to work. I'm not sure I can describe the ways in which my life, my mindset, has changed. It's not just that work seems to be going better, or that I have more energy, or that I'm writing and making art again. It's like I'm coming unstuck and I actually feel like I'm living again, instead of just existing, which feels strange and new, almost like I've been given a magic elixir with unknown properties. I didn't expect changes this quickly. I just . . . I have goals again.

Ah, I'm gushing. Tell me what you do to get unstuck.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Minutiae

Back on the wagon for yoga after taking off last night to get D's cat to the vet, who drained the ear hematoma and gave me ear-applicable antibiotics for the ear infections (poor thing has a yeast infection in each ear). Also got a supplement for his arthritis, so I'm hoping he'll feel better soon. He's been awfully quiet (he's usually a "talker,") and administering the antibiotics is causing him stress. It's causing me stress, too. First time he's clawed the floor to get away from me.

Stress is something he also went through when the vet cleaned out his ears and drained the hematoma. But this morning his ear started filling up with fluid again, so it's gonna be another pow wow with the roomie to see what we can do. Surgery will require blood work and some tests to make sure he's a candidate for anesthesia, but it would also permanently cure the hematoma and allow his ear to heal. Sigh. We'll see what D thinks. I'm beginning to hate it when he goes out of town because something like this always happens when he does.

I counted my sessions and I've done 23 sessions in 31 days. Not bad, but I'm on a five week plan to complete 30 sessions in 35 days. We'll see how I do.

Other than that, I'm working on a short story with plans to adapt it into a script for a short film. What's everyone up to?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cat

My roommate's cat has a very swollen ear, and the ear is drooping. I'm guessing it's an ear hematoma? Any ideas would be great. I'm going to try to get him to the vet tomorrow, if at all possible.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Graveyard Folklore

Hi. Does anyone know of any good books on graveyard folklore? I'm not particular about the region. I found some decent stuff online about Appalachia, but that's it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Comments

The rash of spam comments seems to have long since past, so I've turned off moderation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Coming Along

Really starting to see some results now. Haven't weighed myself lately (gave up on that), but I'm definitely smaller. And I'm improving in the balance poses, which up until now have been my nemeses. There's a slight problem that's developed in the bow pose, where I feel suddenly and intensely nauseous while I'm in the pose, but it goes away as soon as I'm out of the pose. Maybe should ask about that.

I did my last night of my first month yesterday evening, and now I have to pay for my second month. The first month was cheeeeaaap, and now I'm going to have to pay full price. The people at Bikram know what they're doing. They hook you with a cheap first month, and once you're addicted to the high, well, you just gotta have more. I've experienced so many other benefits than just fitness. I'm much more alert, especially at work. I don't drink nearly as much coffee as I used to. Creatively, I'm becoming unstuck and considering new things. I've started what feel like a million short stories and novels, only to have the blank page eventually kick my ass, and last weekend I actually finished the first draft to a short story. I'm even flirting a bit. If you know me at all, you know this is a HUGE change. (Shy! Unbelievably shy.)

I'm coming to the end of a project at my current freelance assignment, but nothing new is on the horizon yet, so I'm a little worried that I won't be able to keep it up past this month. But we'll see. I'm getting more calls from temp agencies and I'm getting my resume out there. I just hope I land something soon so I can keep this yoga thing going.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crawling

Tonight was the hardest night yet. I usually don't take a break during the yoga routine, but tonight I almost couldn't finish. Thought I was going to hurl by the time class was over, and then I thought for sure I was going to have to crawl to the bus stop.

Need to make sure I drink enough water every day. Kind of slacked on that this week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mob Nickname Generator

This is too much fun.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Eleventh Session

So I've completed eleven sessions. No weight has come off, unfortunately—at least not outside of the margin of error—but I have a LOT more energy than I had three weeks ago. Like a ton.

Still, I can't say I'm not discouraged. Twice this week I've considered not going to class, but I bucked up and went anyway. Right about three weeks into a new routine is when I start to lose interest and then quit, so I just have to keep at it. (You guys help!!) I'm seeing such improvement this week in terms of holding certain poses, I'd hate to lose the momentum.

Despite the disappointing scale results, I'd say I'm firming up a bit. My jeans fit just a tiny bit less tight. I wouldn't say they fit more loosely yet, because there's still not a lot of room to spare, but I expect at some point to be awash in denim, much like the guys I see on the train with their jeans hanging around their thighs (how they keep them there is a mystery to me . . . is it some sort of special elastic made just for that style of jeans?).

But I need to buy proper yoga clothes. A huge t-shirt and a pair of "yoga pants" (a term I use loosely) that cost $6 from Walgreens isn't really cutting it. I'm still too chubby for a sports bra and shorts, but last night I saw a young woman do the entire 1 hour and 15 minute routine in a strapless top. And no, nothing fell down. If she can do that, I can splurge a bit on new threads.

The instructors are still very encouraging, but now they're starting to call me out in class, which can be a little embarrassing if I can't hear them. I've learned to set my HA's on the distance setting, and tonight I'm going to try to find a sweatband to keep the sweat out of my ears so as not to risk them shutting off in class. It's amazing to me how unprepared I was when I started this. My diet still needs a lot of work (which probably accounts for the lack of weight loss), but I'm at least paying more attention to what I eat, which is a start.

For once I'm not beating myself up about things not being perfect.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Second Week

Okay . . . eight sessions completed. I've dropped a few pounds, though it's hard to say how many because the scale LIES. Seriously, I'm moving up and down a bit, and it's sort of like those Gallup polls that are always on the news: I'm within the margin of error. So I'm not sure whether I've actually lost weight or not, but I haven't gained any—which I usually do at the beginning of a new workout routine, so I'm still happy. And I'm getting a little stronger with each session.

My feet have (mostly) stopped hurting and tonight after class I only hobbled halfway to the bus stop, then my legs had more of a spring in their step. Until now I've literally hobbled out of class. One night this week I wasn't sure I would make it to the bus stop.

So far the instructors are super sunny when they see me. Most of them break into HUGE smiles when I come in. The vibe I get is that most out-of-shape people tend to quit after a couple of sessions, and there's maybe a little surprise that I'm still going. Except the Cutie doesn't smile. He looks a little . . . relieved? Semi-happy? Not sure, but he's turned out to be the most intense instructor I have by far. That's not a bad thing, mind you, but . . . I wouldn't mind another wink.

Keep your fingers crossed that I'll be able to do a session on Saturday. I will most likely have to work.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

105 Degrees

105-degree yoga. Ow.

I started classes at Bikram Yoga Chicago. It's one of those classes where you practice yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees. I was a bit scared at first (suppose I lose my balance and knock someone else over?), but so far it's been great fun, if hard work.

Completed my first week. Didn't want to say much about it until I'd completed a few sessions. I got four sessions in this week, and next week the goal is to get in five. While I can't say that I'm noticing a difference in my waistline yet, I can say I've made tiny increments of progress in my practice. I'm a little stronger. But the heat seems to have had affected my concentration. It's all over the place now when I'm outside of class. I suspect this will change as I keep practicing.

Taking a class, while more expensive, is a lot more fun than practicing on my own. Making a financial commitment has turned out to be the key to my actually getting off my ass and doing it. I've had to accept I just don't have the discipline to work out on my own at home. I wish I could be one of those people with that internal discipline that keeps them doing the same healthy thing, day in and day out, like some automaton, but I'm not. I'm capricious and, to put it nicely, too much of a free spirit. But this isn't about making some sweeping change in my life or even "getting out there" (although so far that's been a nice byproduct). I'm just tired of being chubby. And really, I want to avoid the health problems my mom has had, which includes three open-heart surgeries and two strokes.

The downside is traveling in wet clothes that slowly freeze as you're waiting for the bus. The upside is that hot shower you get when you get home. (The studio has showers, but so many people take the classes, it's tough to get in any more than a quick rinse, and anyway . . . I'm a bit shy about taking my clothes off in front of other people right now.) I really need to purchase better clothes in which to practice yoga. A loose t-shirt and loose yoga pants just don't cut it for some of the poses (I'm still too chubby for some of the poses, actually).

Also (and this shouldn't come as a surprise), the little wink I got from one of the cutie instructors after class has been a tiny little inspiration in keeping me going. : )

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thundersnow!

So thundersnow really does happen.

I missed most of the fun of the thunder and lightning by falling asleep, but in looking outside, I'm glad I'm working from home today.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Day Late

I'm late, as usual, but like some people, I didn't get the day off. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, here's MLK's letter from a Birmingham jail. The guy could not only speak, but knew how to write.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

President Obama's Speech

I didn't get to see this live, but I take a great deal of heart in what he said. It was moving to see not only the victims memorialized, but the heroes get their due. So often these people do their deeds in complete anonymity. God bless us all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tucson

I wouldn't say that I'm falling into a depression, but I continue to be a little haunted by the death of the 9 year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green, who died in the Tucson tragedy. She was born on 9/11. Something good to come from 9/11 and now that light has winked out.

And instead of coming together and mourning as a nation, there's more hate and infighting and mockery and divisiveness. To me, this is a bigger symbol of our decline than any placement on a global scale for education or health care.

Some days the thought of just chucking it all and roaming Europe for a while is very, very appealing.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolutions

Anybody make any New Year's Resolutions yet? I have some kicking around in my head, but I've not gotten around to writing a list. Erm, so I'm off to a good start, yeah?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Wishes

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

I hope all your splendid dreams come true this year.