21 November 2010

The Pony Express or How Mail Gets to Wyoming

Or maybe the mail doesn't get to Wyoming at all. I'm starting to think that's the case--my mother sent me my calligraphy set last Friday. As of the last post (on Saturday, a week and a day later), it still hasn't arrived. I'm miffed about that because noodling about with some ink and so forth is what I'd like to do just now. I spent literally all of my Sunday grading (all right--all of my Sunday minus a longish tea break at 10 a.m. and a very shortish dinner break at 5:30), and if I were a smart person, I would return to my stack of papers before I go to bed.

If I were a smart person, I also would do something else with my night that doesn't involve holding a writing instrument. Or typing. Or knitting. Generally speaking, I would do something with little or no involvement of my wrists and fingers.

Does anyone have any actual hobbies that fit this bill?

Perhaps riding Pony Express and getting the mail to Wyoming faster than its current pace would suffice.

Now I have my good and practical reason to get that horse I've always wanted.

14 November 2010

Reading and also writing

I'm currently reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Williams (yes, I know: me and everyone else on the planet). The link goes to the book's LibraryThing page. What a cracking novel. I'm only about a third of the way through it, and I am dazzled by the number of significant and interesting narrative threads Mitchell's braiding here. The one that I am most interested in (the most human of them, perhaps) is, of course, the one the reader gets least of, but rather than feeling slighted by the choice, it's easy to recognize a) the narrative necessity of that construction b) the practicality of how that thread may weave itself through the rest of the plot with consideration to the novel's reality. And, well, it's lovely enough to want to keep that one set of interactions rare and striking and not dull itself with too much familiarity.

All that said, though, if the last 200 pages of the book want to be nothing but Jacob and Aibagawa, I would surely not complain one bit.


I am needing, in a very significant way, to get past a wall of inaction this weekend if I don't want to call my writing goals for the month a sham and a mockery. (And, lest anyone be confused, I surely do not wish to do this.) The most prudent way to approach this, of course, would be to open up the Word document the novel is in and start typing, But I have the attention span, of late, of a sparrow. Or of my cat, The Scoo. See photo.

And so I think that I'll turn to pen and paper this morning. And, for those of you who like that sort of thing, the choice will be my True Writer Water Lilies pen filled with Levenger Cocoa ink, and the paper is the Ecosystem notebook that has been dedicated to this single project. (Seriously--Ecosystem notebooks, available at your local B&N or on the interwebs, are brilliant things. No crankiness at all with fountain pen ink, and mine, which is roughly 8" by 5", has held up to much, much rough treatment. I first discovered this gem through the Letters and Journals stationary giveaway, which I was fortunate enough to win in July.)

Anyroad, it's time to get on with it.

09 November 2010

Compartmentalizing on a Snowy Day

Today is the first substantial snow of the year. The ground is too warm--from its 67 degrees yesterday--for any flakes to linger on roads and sidewalks, but the grass and the trees are powdered sugar-dusted, and the fall has been constant since it was light enough to notice the flakes.

I'm not supposed to be blogging just now--my to-do list is rather daunting at the moment--but I feel like I've been sprinting through my day and I need fifteen minutes of quiet, of stillness. I suppose writing a blog entry demonstrates how poor I am at actually achieving real stillness, but I am completing a single task in doing this, concentrating on one thing, and that's a milestone for me. (I even tried to manage to screw that up--the title of this post reminded me of a poem whose title I don't remember and whose author escapes me and whose lines I can't quote. Locating the poem, then, to reference properly, was not a success, and I spent five minutes with one hand on the keyboard and one hand poking the books on my shelf, willing one of them to turn into the anthology I wanted. If I had the correct anthology in my office, I could find it in a tick, because I remember where in the book it is, but I don't remember what it's called or who it's by. Memory is such a strange and fickle thing.)

My Tuesdays and my Thursdays often feel like this. I teach back to back classes (which fill nearly three hours) in subjects I love, and I am always breathless by the end of the second. This afternoon found me having meetings with some students and then with a poet from the community who was looking for some basic feedback: was his writing "good enough" to bother continuing to write? It breaks my heart that he even considered this a necessary meeting, but I understand the anxiety. The best part of it is that I got to meet a cool new poet (who has apparently been writing his entire life) who isn't a student, and I invited him to the open mic night that the awesome Casper College poetry class has started to hold twice a month. Hopefully he comes to that.

But that was another conversation to leave me somewhat breathless. (Maybe the real moral of the story is that Holly should learn to breathe between her sentences.) And so here I am, taking a few minutes to re-center before embarking on the rest of my afternoon. I do, at least, take a breath between the period and the next capital letter. Most of the time.

07 November 2010

Lazy Sunday

Well, it's not exactly lazy-lazy--I still have a to-do list, but the weekend has felt incredibly decadent in that I didn't/don't have anything to grade. To that end, I've been rather productive in the sense that I've gotten a nice-sized batch of stories out into the world.

I've also decided that perhaps the more effective option for my November challenge might be to ensure that I do one writerly act each day. I say this because, while I've been accomplishing things, I haven't exactly been following my own plan. Mostly, I've been striking while the proverbial iron is hot--instead of revising one story, I did two. Instead of sending one story out to three places, I sent two out to a total of nine journals. So, I'm resolving not to be particularly fussed over what gets accomplished in what order, so long as something gets done.

One thing that has actually helped me to be productive is the acquisition of some new writing tools. I try to avoid relying on "stuff" whenever possible, but when there's a basic pleasure in using the instrument, I find myself far more interested in completing tasks. Most significantly, I'm talking about fountain pens. In March, I acquired my first fountain pen: a Levenger True Writer in a pattern called Water Lilies. It has since been discontinued, which is heartbreaking because it's really, really lovely (and inspired by the Monet painting, of course). In the past month, too, I added a black Levenger True Writer with a stub nib and a Lamy Studio to my new collection.

There are countless blogs devoted to the art of the fountain pen--to fine-tuning and appreciating the nuances of these instruments. At this point, I'm not qualified to comment on any of these issues, but what I can say is that there is a brilliant and beautiful simple pleasure in writing with a quality pen. The ink flows without any kind of pressure--not only is it much, much easier on my hands (which makes it easier to write for a long time), but there is a lovely metaphorical reassurance in that, too. The writing instrument isn't fighting the writer, so that leaves one with only the idea and the words themselves to wrestle.

03 November 2010

New Set of Challenges

Well, the first three days of the month went somewhat successfully. I did manage my transcription task (by almost twice my goal), and I managed the pencil-edits on a story. But then I got kind of involved in the editing process, and I decided that I'd do pencil edits on three stories. Which is still better than I'd been doing, of course.

My new set:
Nov. 4: Electronic edits on one story
Nov. 5: Mail out one story to three journals
Nov. 6: Transcribe & edit 2 pages

In other news, I've figured out how to make the ginger tea that I've been mad for since I had it at the local Thai place. It's stupendously simple--boil X inches of thinly-sliced ginger in X cups of water for ten minutes, and then add a bit of sweetener of some sort. I added agave nectar to mine, though I think a mild honey would be an even better option. Right now, though, all I have is some super-robust German honey that is a bit too overpowering for beverages.

Sometime soon, too, you'll be hearing about my new fountain pen obsession. Stay tuned.