Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Creeps and Crawlers

The other day I noticed an unfamiliar charge on my card. I monitor my account closely, so I spotted it while it was still pending. I called the bank, thinking this could be a benign mistake. They put the transaction in the ‘to be investigated’ virtual pile.

Two days later an even larger charge from the same purveyor (the bank was unable to get any information on them) appeared. Now the bank and I were clear this was fraud, and that my charge account had been compromised. The account was closed immediately, and now it’s in the hands of the Fraud Department.

That same day the ants appeared. They make their yearly appearance when the rainy season starts, forming a dense parade route somewhere in our bathroom or kitchen. The rains started late this year, so the ants came late also. Over the years I have tried many gentle ways to persuade them to take their business outside. I tried pouring cinnamon in their path, on the advice of an animal activist. I tried the sort of ant traps that supposedly only make them uneasy, and I tried wiping a hundred times a minute. I even tried talking to them. Nothing worked.

But the solution did appear in the form of those traps that make the ants come in, take the sticky sweet food on their backs to the nest, and this kills the whole nest. It takes about a day to work, but it does, every time. We don’t see each other until the next rainy season at least.

A day later the ants are gone from our bathroom, but the charges on my card are still pending. I trust that I will not have to pay them, and because I acted quickly, even the bank will not be out. But the creeps deserve no less than the creepy crawlers got.

So I had this amazing idea. What if instead of just closing their account with a slap on the wrist, the bank gave them money, even more money, sweet and sticky money that was marked as loot from a deadly robbery? Then, once in their possession, they will be arrested for the worst kind of crime, put away, and the key thrown in the ocean.

All right. I’m fantasizing. But it does me good at the moment. It’ll be a much more just world if innocent ants get to live free (but not at our homes) and creepy thieves get their nests poisoned.

Wishing all good folks none of the above.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Something and Nothing

There’s an old Jewish saying- IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING.

(The English version is more like ‘if it’s not one thing, it’s another.’)

I remember the hot water heater bursting many years ago when I lived in a rented apartment. I was supposed to fly to New York for a funeral the next day, and the landlord was too busy to deal with it right then. I remember thinking that I’m glad it didn’t happen when I was away and the damage from the water would have been substantial. But then, it would have been better if it didn’t happen, period.

And then I thought of this^ saying.

I thought of it again when a writer friend, now jobless (she did have a day-job, as most do) and newly out of unemployment benefits, had her water heater burst. Now what.

I thought about it last summer when the third of our semi-antique vehicles became dysfunctional, just as my kid needed to be taken to the doctor. We had three non-working cars and one sick kid. What next.

I thought of it when my editor (an otherwise fantastic professional to work with) had a new brainstorm, which required a whole re-write, only days after an Email telling me we are good to go and heading to line-editing. Tell me about it.


But then I thought- what’s the alternative? NOTHING.

This is not to disparage those calm periods where everything is ticking along smoothly. Those halcyon days gliding on gently, where the silent pulse of time ticks without murmur. Those are the breaks, allowing batteries to re-charge.

To be honest, I am barely alive during the calm. If I am, I must confess I don’t remember it well. In life, like in stories, it’s the punctuation, the breaks, the cracks and the explosions that make the stories. There has to be SOMETHING.

Ah, blessed Something.

And as I’m counting, I wish blessings to come in gingerly. Unlike fiction, where the ‘one-two-three-CLIMAX’ is a convention of story telling, I wish the Somethings will space themselves. More like a fender-bender, not a pile-up on the highway. In my less Zen moments, I wish for more Nothing and less Something.

I wish you plenty of Nothing, bits of Something, and a good working car.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Good

There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer.

When asked to define great, he said, "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!"

He now works for Microsoft writing error messages.

All righty, then. This joke can take me to the light and lofty side, or the dark and dread-filled.

On the positive- I go to the place where I contemplate how to make a reader feel, which, after all, is an important part of writing. Oh, the bliss.

On the negative, it sends me into this labyrinth called Computer, on which I have become dependent and of which I know nary a thing. Oh, the horror.

I love this joke, because it packs a multi-layered punch.

Writing is an emotional journey.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in pursuit of publication must bear a lot of rejection.

And that is all right, because we know that great, very good, pretty good and not so good writers have all gotten rejections. The one thing certain is that rejection does not make you special: not especially good, or (gulp) especially unworthy either.

So the other day I got a rejection from a periodical to a non-fiction article I submitted. It was a long shot, not only because I rarely write and never submit those, but because, well, any submission is a long shot. No biggy.

But the friendly editor sort of gushed about my article, the one she was also rejecting, and ended her letter with an emphatic invitation to see more from me. Her tone was not only friendly, but included a cute pun.

Not having another non-fiction article in my arsenal, but wishing to show appreciation for the warm and jest-full response, I replied with a ‘Thank You' and this off the cuff ditty:

I wasn’t kidding                

When I said

I have objection

To rejection.

The most forbidding,

Which I dread,

Shout interjection

Of affection.

So if you’re going to tell me ‘NO,’

Please do not sign, “I liked it so.”

Which I thought was the end of that, unless and until I think of something else to write which may be a good fit for her periodical.

A week later I got a note from her, saying the poem did not work for her, so she regretfully must reject it.

Now I do feel special. I’m one in the distinct group whose response to a rejection got a rejection.

Any and all marvelous rejection stories welcome-

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Get Interviewed...

On a Diane Kress Hower’s blog:

My first guest interview, and the topic is PASSION FOR PICTURE BOOKS.
Stop by and leave a comment.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The New Year

This New Year’s Eve my family watched a most fitting movie: Midnight in Paris. As time relentlessly marches forward and 2011 refuses to stay, we hung out with a narrator who is immerses in nostalgia and wishes he could roll back the clock.

This Woody Allen movie is a lovely tale with a picturesque backdrop. The story’s message, given a bit heavy-handedly at the end, is that the best time is the time we’re in. At any rate, we don’t have a choice in the matter. Until a reliable Time Machine is invented, this is where we are, and the forward march continues undeterred.

Or does it? It occurs to me that in literature you can, in that special way we inhabit stories, really be in any time and any place. We can even take others with us. They’re called readers.

I’m not smart enough to think of time in terms of physics, or metaphysics. But I know stories.

I look at Father Time in this old fashioned card, and suddenly I don’t feel oppressed by him.