The write music. #amwriting

I find I often need to get to a place of intense longing or sadness in order to write anything of substance.

Here are a few songs that take me there.

“L’hymne à l’amour” – Edith Piaf

Pretty much anything by Edith works wonders. This one especially.

“If it kills me (Casa Nova Sessions” – Jason Mraz

Unrequited love. If longing runs deeper than that, I don’t wanna know about it.

“Jolene” – CAKE

A genuine jam, a girl taking a chance in the night to break out of her quiet life, out-of-control love. Yeah, yeah.

“Gravity” – John Mayer

I’m usually not a fan, but damn. Keep me where the light is.

“Grey” – Ani DiFranco

…And it’s October 2007 again. (Used only when completely necessary. Knocks the wind out of me for hours.)

What are some of your writing songs? 

THANK YOU: Updates on my open letter

First off: I want to welcome all of my new followers! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my stuff, leave comments, and generally be awesome.

The past forty-eight hours have been surprising and wonderful. It was wild to wake up this morning and see over one hundred new e-mails about the post: likes, comments, follows. And all of this? Yet another gift from How I Met Your Mother. 

You see, it all started with this: a simple post, and a simple tweet:

firstpost

I tagged the creators and cast on a whim, hoping that one of them–ANY of them–would see it. I didn’t expect much, considering the amount of comments they must receive from fans like me.

Well. Not even two hours later:

OMG

I need to point out that this screencap is saved on my computer as “OMG.”

I saw this and couldn’t speak for a moment. My wife, thinking I was reading something awful, just kept yelling “What? What?! WHO DIED?!” Eventually my vocal chords and mental faculties came back online.

A few hours later, CARTER BAYS RETWEETED MY LETTER. I am still in utter disbelief that this happened, but the meteoric rise in followers, retweets, and visits to my blog confirm the facts.

Twenty-four hours passed. My letter had nearly 2,000 views. This is probably small potatoes to most bloggers out there, but my past posts have gotten, like, twenty views, tops…and I’m pretty sure most of those were from me, checking in on different computers. So. Huge deal for this kid.

And then, this happened:

I really need to thank Cheri, the editor, who wrote me this letter. So thoughtful and personal!

I really need to thank Cheri Lucas Rowlands (@cherilucas) who wrote me this letter. So thoughtful and personal!

And yesterday morning, there I was, on the front page of WordPress.

pressed

The retweets and comments continue to pour in. Thank you all so much for being here and reading and joining the conversation. Some of you are even sharing your own deep connections with How I Met Your Mother and other TV shows, and this is the most astounding thing to me of all: that something I wrote could resonate with you on a level that goes deeper than a specific show. It has been enlightening and touching to hear from you. Thank you for sharing such deep emotions with me.

You know, I’ve been focused lately on finishing up some short stories to send out for publication; the curse of the MFA-holder. I truly never thought a love letter to my favorite show would be the first thing to make any kind of impact. It gives me hope that I’ve got some stories to tell. And once again, I have HIMYM and its creators to thank. And WordPress! And you, too.

I know this has to end sometime, and probably soon. But I will always remember the day that Carter Bays reached out, when he didn’t have to, and held me up for the world to see for a moment. Eternally grateful.

Thanks for being here. I hope you will stick around.

An open letter to the creators, cast, and crew of How I Met Your Mother

I was going to title this letter “Why I won’t be watching HIMYM Season 9,” but I realized that might make it sound like a laundry list of complaints, and this is the exact opposite of that. I won’t be watching Season 9, not right away, but I’ve got a reason.

If any of you on the show have actually found this letter, I need to say “thank you” up front, in case you don’t make it to the end. So, thank you.

How I Met Your Mother (Season 1)

I guess everyone has a “thing,” and HIMYM has been mine since I found it in 2007. It was a rough time for me; I was living in France, alone except for a small group of new friends, when my father passed away suddenly. Just like that, he was gone, and so was the person I used to be. When I returned to France from the funeral, one of my new friends had the first 2 ½ seasons of How I Met Your Mother on his computer…probably illegally; I’m not going to lie to you. I sat with my new group of friends, huddled around the glow of the laptop, and within a weekend we had binge-watched the entire thing, and then I re-watched it. And re-watched it.

At first, it was just comforting to have something in which I could lose myself, but over time Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney became an extended circle of friends. I don’t mean this in some crazy-stalker-bitch kind of way; I fully understand that the People In The Box are not real. But their stories, their lessons, were, and are. And they saved me from the loneliest time in my life.

When I came back to the States in January of 2008, HIMYM was there again as I transitioned into life with my girlfriend. I was grieving, unemployed, home for hours and hours every day by myself. I bought the first three seasons of the show and plowed through them again. It put me at ease to know what was going to happen next, at a point in my life when I had no direction.

bfast club

At the time, HIMYM was halfway through its new season’s first run on TV, and it didn’t feel right to jump in the middle…or to watch only thirty minutes at a time. So I waited, all the way until October, to get the next boxed set. From that, a tradition was born. Since then, I have waited until the fall after the show airs to get the DVDs and watch all of the episodes, one after the next, barely breaking for food, water, or sleep, only being satisfied when I’ve seen everything there is: the deleted scenes, the gag reels, the episodes with commentary. And when it’s all done? You guessed it. Back to the beginning I go.

I own all of the DVDs, but I still DVR the episodes in syndication and watch them. I’ve often joked that you should hire me to be some kind of continuity adviser; I would put money on being the girl who’s watched this show more than anyone else on earth. (But seriously, do you need someone for Season 9?)

The show is such a part of me that it, at times, seems to parallel my life. While there are lots of fun and/or silly similarities, it’s the big coincidence that resonates. The first time I saw “Bad News,” when Marshall’s father, like mine, dies of a sudden heart attack, it was 2007 all over again. I was right back there in that moment.

robin daggersThis episode was so difficult to watch, and still is—I usually skip over it—but it was also cathartic to watch Marshall grieve over the next few episodes, and watch him become himself again. It took me a long time to get back to that place of normalcy, and this episode helped put a little more of my grief to rest.

I remember when I decided I would write you this letter. I was watching “Do I Know You?” for the umpteenth time. Marshall started to tell Stella how much Ted loves Star Wars:

He watches it when he’s home sick with the flu. He watches it on rainy Sunday afternoons in the fall. He…he watches it on Christmas Eve! Ted watches Star Wars in sickness and in health, in good times and bad.”

It was then I realized that HIMYM is my Star Wars. And I knew I had to let you know.

barney sense depSo, in honor of the end of a show that, hyperbole aside, kind of saved my life, I am keeping tradition alive. I will put on my figurative Sensory Deprivator 5000 during this final season’s TV broadcast this fall and, as I have done for every season before, I will wait. I will wait until every episode is in one place, and then I will start at the beginning. No: not at Season 9, Episode 1—at Season 1, Episode 1. On the Friday of Columbus Day weekend. And I will relive every moment, and every memory it holds for me, one last time, before basking in the sunset of the final season.

And just in case you made it this far: thank you, again. Thank you for giving me, by way of the world, the most meaningful show to ever come into my life. I will miss these characters like I would miss a dear friend. You all have helped and healed me in so many ways.

And good job on picking the mother. I never doubted you’d come through.

Love,

Your number one fan (but not in a Kathy Bates kind of way).

PS: You can now read an update on all the awesome stuff that’s happened to me since writing this letter here!

Senator Davis filibustering abortion bill! Live video feed.

Finally, a filibuster for progress…or at least to keep us from moving backwards.

Click here to watch the live stream of Texas Senator Wendy Davis, who is filibustering an abortion restriction bill that would effectively close nearly all abortion clinics in Texas. 

GO SENATOR DAVIS!!! The Fifth Wave is behind you.

You can write to Sen. Davis here to show your support.

What do you think about Davis’s chances? How do we stop this state-by-state assault on women’s freedom? Your thoughts and ideas are welcome in the comments section. 

Relax, everyone: I’ve figured out the problem with SNL.

It’s okay. You can all stop tearing out your hair. I’ve got this.

Recently, my wife and I burned through some of the latest episodes of Saturday Night Live. There was some great potential in the hosts: Kristen Wiig, Zack Galifinakis, even Jennifer Lawrence, who seems pretty naturally hilarious. And while each episode had a sketch or two that drew a soft chuckle, I was left mostly with disappointment. And anger. Yes: anger.

Why was I angry? On the simplest level, I was angry because these comedians have a responsibility to make me laugh, and they blew it. Three times in a row. And they’ve been blowing it season after season, if I may be so bold. But underneath the anger was frustration; I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so bad. Of course, I knew it was the writing; the talent is there, if sorely underused (*cough* Kate McKinnon *cough*). But I couldn’t seem to nail down what exactly had changed, until this morning.

From the seventies until the departure of Comedy Writing Genius Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live gave us art to imitate in life. Each week, they created new avenues of humor through wild characters and scenarios we couldn’t have dreamed: A door-to-door shark serial killer, a Catholic school girl with anger management problems and a penchant for Lifetime movie monologues, Samurai warriors who run a deli. These comedians were in the business of changing, and deciding, what was funny in America. They gave us new things to laugh at and added a whole slew of catchphrases and inside jokes to pop culture. We never knew what they were going to determine was funny on any given Saturday night, but it almost always was. And even if it wasn’t, at least it was something different.

But now, life imitates art…and life isn’t all that interesting. The majority of each episode is packed with Internet humor that’s already weeks old, so the whole show ends up looking like one big live-action meme. The whole Internet has already discussed and bagged on rich housewives, Game of Thrones, and cougars. What could the writers at SNL possibly add to the discussion that is new and, more importantly, funny?

This doesn’t mean that everything the other writers and casts have created was genius, or original. Sure, there were pop culture references and parodies and impressions. But now, instead of SNL giving us inside jokes, they’re trying to keep up with the online community’s humor attention span, and it’s just not possible. For instance: when Seth MacFarlane hosted (a genius writer who really could have been tapped), they did a “Gangnam Style” sketch. Really? The video is old as soon as you see it.  Face it: any reference you make to any online craze is just making you look old and behind the times.

So stop trying to keep up with stuff that isn’t that funny anyway! (Yes, I’m now talking directly to you, SNL). Nothing online is; we see it, we snicker to ourselves, we move on. You’ve forgotten your responsibility to decide what makes us laugh and are resting instead on what you know already has. But we don’t laugh that hard at any of it, and–speaking for myself–kind of hate all of it, deep-down. As in seasons past, you shine when you do something out-of-the-box and fresh: new characters, new scenarios. The highlight of the Kristen Wiig episode wasn’t the ten-year-old Ring reference; it was the (admittedly hard-to-watch) acupuncture sketch: three women (and their straight man) really going for it. No Internet inside jokes, no dead horses.

For the future of humor in America, I beg you: take back the reins. We’re idiots. We don’t know what’s funny. It’s your job to show us.

The What.

Last night, my wife and I were talking about writing. Given that I am a writer, you may think this kind of thing happens pretty regularly.

You would be wrong. And so was I, in at least one way.

The conversation began as a discussion of What Writers Talk About. For her, in most cases, the stuff we say to one another isn’t all that interesting; as a reader, she wants to know the What–the subject of our work–and all we seem to talk about is the How: the process, the edits, the self-loathing and general despair. As a result, we then turned toward the Why: why don’t we talk more about what we’re actually writing?

If you can believe it (as you should, from reading this blog), my response was: fear. A fear that my idea will be found wanting, or that the listener won’t understand the concept, or that my explanation will outshine the work itself: that someone will find out that I’m not really a writer at all. Instead of telling, I keep it inside, thinking I’m the only one who can understand, until everything is perfect and ready to be shared.

But it’s funny: as soon as I started talking to a non-writer about the What, I wanted to keep talking. I confessed that I haven’t touched my novel since January, because I’m scared of the hard parts (file under: Crying While Writing). I told her that the ideas are there, ready to be written, but putting my fingers to the keys brings everything back so clearly that hiding seems so much better of an idea. I mentioned the raw-beyond-raw short story that’s been slowly growing momentum since last summer, and not in terms of abstract ideas. I told her the plot. The What. I suddenly wanted to read it to her; it was the craziest thing. In telling her the What, I had given her advance access to the fledgling world I was creating. It made me want to take her even further down into it.

Why on earth had I waited? Did I think she was going to knock around inside the new world like a proverbial bull? That she would peek behind the scenes, tell me my seams were showing? Sharing even this greenest part of my writing got me excited to write again. Rapture replaced fear, and I read her the opening scene. My brain buzzed the rest of the night with new ideas spawned from our conversation and the simple act of reading words aloud.

I realized then that, while I sometimes told myself that I didn’t share my stuff with non-writers because they wouldn’t understand or I feared they would take it personally, the real reason was that I didn’t think it was worth sharing–that it needed to get to some enlightened, pristine level before anyone who didn’t fully understand the process could read it. I’ve squandered years on this kind of doubt, all while an incredible source of encouragement and feedback sat two feet from me on the couch, wanting to be let in.

We need readers; I know that writers always say that. But we don’t need them just to read. We need them to listen, even in the earliest stages. If you have a reader in your life who you’ve been afraid to let into the deeper levels of your writing life, just do it. Today. No matter how scary it seems. Tell them everything.

See what happens.

The first (of many).

I got rejected today.

Back in December, I applied for a couple of long-term writing residencies/fellowships. I heard from Phillips Exeter Academy today, which was the one I really, really wanted, since it was an ideal setup for me and my family. I guess they received over 300 submissions this year; that’s twice the number I’d anticipated. I was hoping to at least get short-listed. No dice there, either. 

Of course I’m sad about it. While part of me knew I wouldn’t get it my first time out, the rest of me was quite hopeful, right up to the moment earlier today when I dropped everything I was carrying and tore open the letter, on the sidewalk in front of my house. But I know that rejections are as much a part of this writing life as the acceptances and publications; after all, how can we ever improve if we are accepted every time we submit?

Today I got my first rejection letter; it means I’m working. It means I’m trying to be better. It means I’m sending out pieces of myself to be judged. And that’s brave. To the first of many, and to my new motto:

Image

Forty-five: make them pay at the polls.

Here are the forty-five senators who shot down the gun control bill yesterday, and links to their contact information. Let’s show them what a well-organized majority can do.

I didn’t see this information all together anywhere yet and figured it was the least that I could do. Please share and contact.

  1. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  2. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
  3. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)
  4. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
  5. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
  6. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  7. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)
  8. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
  9. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  10. Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN)
  11. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  12. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)
  13. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
  14. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
  15. Sen. Michael Crapo (R-ID)
  16. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
  17. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)
  18. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)
  19. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
  20. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  21. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)
  22. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
  23. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  24. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)
  25. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)
  26. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)
  27. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  28. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE)
  29. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
  30. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
  31. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  32. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)
  33. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  34. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
  35. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
  36. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)
  37. Sen. James Risch (R-ID)
  38. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)
  39. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  40. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
  41. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
  42. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)
  43. Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
  44. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)
  45. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS)

(Source for senator names: MSNBC)

I may have more to say on this later, but I need to organize my thoughts. This is a good place for all of us to start.

Our hearts are broken; our spirits are not. 

~ From the Sandy Hook Promise

The write brain.

I’ve been feeling quite restless lately.

It’s something that happens to me from time to time: an itch to change course, start over. I am rarely, if ever, at liberty to do much with the feeling; change of this kind usually requires a good deal of cash, or time, or both. So I let the feeling stay for a while, and eventually it passes.

But this is different.

For two years, writing was mandatory, thanks to my MFA program. I had books to read, chapters to write—deadlines, even. All of that went away in January, and into the vacuum of structure rushed a whole lot of great stuff. I became an adjunct at a community college and the editor-in-chief of my program’s lit journal (which is accepting submissions, by the way). My library writing class continues, and I was asked to judge a fiction contest for Fordham University. I even signed on to write a critical review of The Color Purple, with all that spare time I have.

It is, as I said, all great stuff. Great for my resume, and for me professionally and personally. But part of me wonders if I haven’t overbooked myself with good things as a way to avoid the truly hard thing that I’m meant to be doing—finishing this novel—and if this buzzing in my head is just words, backlogged.

I haven’t added a line to my novel since I handed in my thesis (the first third of the book) last semester. Hell, I haven’t written anything creative since then. There was so much momentum in the MFA: the good kind of pressure on which I thrive. And now, I’m left to my own devices to create my own routine. And I’ve failed, so far.

I keep thinking that some sort of left-brained calendar will help, and maybe it would. Maybe it would at least silence the buzzing and clear the cobwebs if I knew that I’d put time down, on paper, to put things down on paper. But I turned 27 this year, and I know myself pretty well by now. The calendar will fall prey to my right-brained aversion to routine for the sake of comfort, and I will be here again, whining on WordPress about my mental constipation.

I think it’s time to give in to the right brain, to listen to the buzzing instead of trying to manage it. Lefty, you’ve done right by me for some time, saving me from panic with spreadsheets and lists. But I’ve got to turn the keys over to your counterpart and start listening to the only schedule that matters.

Starting now.