Tuesday, August 31, 2010

the cooling

Last night as I fell asleep I swore there was someone walking on the roof. I'm pretty sure it was the cough syrup making me hallucinate. I woke up several times in the night, my lungs cold with the night air. I dreamt deeply, melancholic. I hate when my body is weakened. My immune system has been taxed, with the burn, the cold, the general non-care of my body. I need to eat more fruit.

I'm reading A.S. Byatt's Possession on the recommendation of my friend Eric. I am enthralled. Eric and I have similar tastes in fiction and we read a lot of the same social and psychological sciences. He knew I'd love the book. I think I may have watched the film adaptation of the book because ghost memories of plot points are keep rising up as I read. But it must not have been memorable. The writing is like nothing else I've ever encountered. This book was a labor of love.

The weather is already slipping from the summer that wasn't. I have so much on my heart and head this morning that my jaw hurts.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

on heat and theta inducing writing

The days are hot but I am overjoyed even as my skin burns and I sweat and my clothes stick to my body. I was made for heat. I feel languid, more myself than ever. I'm happiest and most active in the Spring but Summer, the thick press of it drives me into a part of my mind that's sensual, dark, moving. Last night a late walk through the neighborhood showed me I'm not the only one. The moon was full and people were sitting in their yards, kids playing in the street, friendly folks nodding hello as we walked up and down the streets. I love my neighborhood.

I started The Time of the Doves by Merce Rodoreda. When I read writers who write like this I wonder why I even bother trying to be a writer. Then I kick myself in the ass and remind myself writing is a lifetime consecration. Her writing, very stream of consciousness, reminds me of Marguerite Duras, who wrote The Lover, one of my favorite books, and a very sexy movie as well. Both these women write in a way that is hypnotic, they tap into some primal wave state in my brain, theta maybe, and pull me in so that when I look up from the page I barely recognize the world I am in. What a gift.

I find female writers able to induce this hypnosis more than men. And writers who don't write in English. Interesting. I find when I'm translating the work of others from Spanish to English then turn back to my own work, something has shifted and my writing has a thread of otherworldly in it, at least to my own eyes. Same goes for when I'm writing in another country. I wonder if brain waves differ when we think in different languages, for those of us who are bi/multilingual. I look at the work I did this past Spring in Mexico and I am impressed. I struggle to write like that here; maybe because distractions abound. I think one of the reasons I'm planning trip back next month is to tap into that state. I'm going to a city I've never been to before, an old sea port. I hope the writing comes with me.

I'm also loving How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like by Paul Bloom. I lose my shit over evolutionary psychology, biology and the behavioral sciences so this book was practically written for me. I'm culling all sorts of phrases and ideas for my own writing. I'm very much in love with the term biologically arbitrary. I don't have enough friends who are into these sciences and I ache to babble on and on about the ideas discussed in these fields.

La Creep will visit this weekend for the first time in months and I'm thrilled. We talk almost daily but having my best female friend in town is always a treat. Going to try to take it slow because when La Creep comes to visit, epic hangovers usually follow, which are usually spent on the sofa with lots of self-loathing and reality television marathons. Then we go out and do it all again.

Heaven's on Fire
The Radio Dept.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

alert and not alert

Last night was the first night I slept in the apartment alone since hearing of the attacks in my neighborhood. An attempted rape two doors down. A burglary a few blocks away. Women followed in the neighborhood. Before bed I double checked all the doors and windows and slept with a bat within reach. Last October after I had my apartment broken into it took me months to sleep without waking up in the middle of the night. I slept with the living room lights on last night.

I've still very tired from last week. Even though I rested all day Sunday and took a two hour nap yesterday, I fell asleep before 11 last night. Very odd. I had dinner with the family last night but didn't have the energy to engage. My dad asked me about Squaw Valley but I didn't have the energy. Recovering.

I'm rereading the Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix. I love fantasy. I need the escape, the psychic candy that comes from fantastical creatures. I'm also listening to Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. Lowry's language has me by the throat, enraptured and a little terrified. I'm waiting for The Time of the Doves by Mercedes Rodoreda to arrive, under recommendation from an instructor who told me my sentence structure would benefit from reading her.

I'm probably going to head back to my father's village for the holy festival the first week of October. I'm thinking of going to Veracruz first for a few days I've never been to Veracruz and I crave a few days of sea and solitude. I look forward to returning to Mexico since I write so much down there and the stories abound. I'm working on a new story that takes place in the village. The story is funny but dark and ultimately very sad.

Happy 79th birthday to my grandma, the crazy cougar.

Monday, August 16, 2010


What a weird summer. I feel cheated. But, nothing I can do. The nights are cold but some of those nights I have the warm body of someone I care about in my bed next to mine. If the nights were hot another body in bed wouldn't be as comforting.

Yesterday was wonderful. I slept in and spent the day on the sofa with a book, alone. I made toffee. I took a long shower and didn't put a bra on all day. Bliss. Last night my guy came over and and we watched the shows we like to watch and laughed. It was comfortable and lovely.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

what my notes say

Going through my notes from workshop and they're pretty funny. Here are a few from when I had my short story workshopped:

Strangulation isn't bloody.

Am I diminishing the gods or elevating man?

Spiritual genealogy, enraptured.

Leaves stuffed in mouth = erotic.

More cock. (rooster)

Love leads to bloodshed.

Is blood metaphorical or real?

Earn the fairytale right of removing pronouns.

Less feminist agenda. (Really? Come on.)

Love is tied to submission of self.

Animals are magic.

Here are some random notes I took throughout the conference/workshop. Some make no sense to me now but I'm sure they did at the time:

"passive suicide"

"vegan striptease." WTF?

Anthology Idea: "Poetry Written by People Who Don't Read Poetry"

"It's funny when you can't sing; it's not funny when you can't communicate."

"Her whole journey is lubricated."

"I've been disabled by modernism."

I get it, you're human. Now shut up.

Somebody needs to reach into your psyche and slap the shit out of your wounded inner child.

"Write around the soldiers."

"Asterix on your own grave."

"History is the distillation of rumor."

Is he drunk? I'm pretty sure that coffee cup is full of wine.

"Bring in the zombies."

"The language is writing criticism is the language of couples counseling."

And, some of the crazy shit said either to me or in class:

Did this come from your culture or from your imagination?

Lizz, your people believe in ghosts. Did you find this believable?

I forgot black history is real history.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

on returning

Outside my window, in the alley, my neighbor T is playing with his two kids. They're outlining themselves in chalk and filling in the outlines with colors and adding clothing, appendages, a chicken. I love being home right now listening to my friend play with his kids. They're great kids, hilarious and sweet. T is a very cool man, a plumber who wears the same exact thing every day, blue jeans and a white t-shirt. The familiarity is comforting to me today.

I've just come back from a week at Squaw Valley Writer's Conference. What a week. It was amazing and exhausting. My brain is so full of information, memories and ideas that all I could do when I got home earlier this afternoon was flop onto the sofa and watch crappy afternoon romantic comedies. I just walked down to the grocery store to pick up a few things, replenish my kitchen. Laundry is washing. I'm enjoying my solitude.

The conference was intense. There were hundreds of people, students, instructors, spouses, community members who came to the panels. I was in a workshop with 11 really intelligent writers who wrote in genres raging from historical fiction to sci-fi/horror. Every day we workshopped two pieces of work from the class with a different instructor. In the afternoons after lunch there were panels on topics ranging from obsession in writing to things I can't even remember. There were panels with agents, editors, writers. It was a cluster-fuck of ideas all week long.

I was housed in a fairly large house with six other writers. Most of us were under 35 and we partied. I had one old friend at the workshop, V, and we spent many hours shooting the shit. I don't think I've ever spent so much time talking about writing in my entire life. It was exhausting. This morning in the van ride to the airport a woman I hadn't met yet asked me about my manuscript and as I described it to her I was grateful that no one else is going to ask me about my manuscript. Not for a long time.

I was especially happy to meet Cindy and Luis Urrea, I follow their twitter. Luis is one of my favorite writers and we had a few great chats this week on writing, culture, the darker sides of being a writer and the part of Mexico our families are from. I also made friends with Chip Blake, editor of Orion Magazine. He led one of my workshops and it turned out we were both tweeting from the workshop. He was housed with Cindy and Luis. They were all super cool people. The staff at the conference was very approachable. I ended up meeting editors, agents and a few bat-shit-crazy people just by being friendly. Mark Childress was fantastic to meet and I can't wait for his next novel, I'm following the protagonist, Georgia Bottoms, on twitter.

I'm tired. My brain is fried and my body exhausted. Lots of walking up and down the mountain where I was housed. Last night a long walk in the pitch black. Coming home today I realized again how much time I spend alone. I doubt anyone at the conference would believe that. I was a social butterfly, flitting from person to person. During the week I heard my nickname go from Party Lizz to Tequila Lizz to Hot-tub Lizz. It was fun but as hard as I played, I worked. And I napped daily. The food wasn't anything to write home about but dinner was good socializing time. Much booze was consumed through the week.

I've come away with a lot of hope, silly as it sounds. I'm a writer. I have it. I'm not going to let it go. I was given great advice by Urrea, he told me not to rush it. As if there were any danger of that happening to me. I am slow in my writing, but deliberate. Fiction is fairly new to me but I think it suits me more than poetry, at least at this point in my life. I love poetry but have no desire to write any. It has served me well, the poetry comes out in my prose.

I'm happy to be home. B picked me up, took me for lunch and left me to my own devices. I look forward to sleeping in my own clean sheets on my soft, soft bed. I can't wait to sleep tomorrow and be laaaazy. New York Times, coffee, some italian sausages I bought to cook with eggs. Maybe a walk around the neighborhood. Squaw Valley was beautiful but this little orange and blue painted apartment makes me happy happy happy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

under the grey

I'll start off by again complaining about the weather. I miss my summer, I miss heat, sweat, a too-hot steering wheel. I miss the desire to drink drinks so cold my teeth ache, ice cream, dripping wet fruit, sticky hands, collarbones. I miss the shade of my umbrella at the beach, the hot sand as I go to dip in the freezing water. The scent of sunscreen and the blueish tint on my brown skin, the sting of it in my eyes. This morning is still gray. The evenings are cool. I'm over it.

I head to the Squaw Valley Writer's Conference this weekend. Summer Camp for adults. I was looking forward to getting away somewhere warm but after checking the weather I realized that dream too is dead. The nighttime temperature is in the 40s. It will be nice to get away for a week, have a new environment, concentrate on the writing. I'm taking a fat excerpt of the novel, and am terrified. I haven't touched the novel in almost a year. It haunts me, the characters questioning if I ever return to them. I imagine they want to know where they're headed more than I want to know. The thing is that the absent main character in the story is a woman like me, maybe too much like me for me to be comfortable writing towards when she'll make her inevitable appearance. She isn't a heroine. She is selfish and emotional and unable to connect to anyone fully. My protagonist is such a sweet girl, I don't look forward to disappointing her. But the book is at heart about disappointment. It didn't start off that way.

In news of unthinkable acts of stupidity, I have second degree burns on my left breast. The accident involved boiling water and not thinking things through. I ended up in the E.R., sobbing, scalded and with missing skin, with horrified nurses clutching their own unmarred breasts in sympathy. Thanks and love to B for driving my weeping self there. My family showed up, as well as the man I've been seeing and they all got to meet in the waiting room, to my chagrin. I like to have more control over if/when/where I introduce romantic partners to my family. But, whatever. My family liked him. I came out, all bandaged and in shock. I was in shock for a while. Sitting in my head with the walls up. I woke up crying yesterday imagining the scarring I'll have but after a visit to the doctor, he assured me the scarring, if any, will be minimal.

I miss dancing.