“Hope is the power of…

"Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate." - Chesterton

Okay, the circumstances aren't really even close to desperate. But I *am* hopeful that I will soon crawl out from under this teetering pile of writing (MFA thesis, idea for new book that would make a great movie) and sewing (I made my first real dress!) and reading (freshman English papers and 18th century American writing, oof!) and other stuff (finishing sending out rejection letters, waiting anxiously to hear back from Masquerade on whether they liked the anthology, spending time with Karina before she leaves, practicing for a music thingie I'm performing at, etc. and so on...) and actually talk to you guys.

Consider this as an arm sticking out from the pile to wave hello...

Despite everything, I'm having a good time. Not to worry. :-)

Okay, this story is too…

Okay, this story is too funny, even if probably not true:

There was a guy in Florida, Cuban by nationality, who had been unable to get US citizenship and was due to be deported. A couple of MIT students, who had heard about this guy and were after a lark, hopped a plane down to Florida and took this guy to a tattoo studio.

What they tattooed on to him was the DES algorithm, in some computer readable form. Thus rendering the guy unexportable. The US government offered to scrape the tattoos off, but they guy's lawyers screamed something about human rights abuses. The way I heard it, the guy was eventually granted citizenship.

In other news, I got e-mail from a 9th grader who wants to do a high school poetry report on me. *grin* This is even better than the student from Thailand who read one of my poems out loud to her class as her favorite poem. I wonder what it is about my poetry that makes it appeal to high school students. Mushiness, probably... Whatever the reason, I'm grateful. Made my day.

In my Creative…

In my Creative Non-Fiction class, we're taking turns to read from and present the work of an outside writer (I'll be doing Delany next week). This morning I read excerpts from Toi Derricotte, poet and author of _The Black Notebooks_. Lots of fascinating material, focusing on internalized racism. I wanted to quote you a little:

"One of the writing assignments I give new writing students is based on a quote by Red Smith. 'There is nothing to writing; all you have to do is sit down and open up a vein.' We talk about the pain of revealing ourselves, of getting out what is inside. Later I may ask students to write a letter of unfinished business to someone from their past. Often the first important poems we write, our 'breakthrough' poems, are angry. There's something about anger that motivates, that gets us over our 'stuckness,' over our fear. Often poems seem to burst out whole from some storeroom in the body/mind as if they had been sitting around waiting for years. But there is a danger in anger for black students. White students often write 'breakthrough' poems about their childhood. Often called 'brave' by the other poets in the class, these poems are frequently painful reassessments of their parents. Black students, however, often don't go back to childhood. They have clear angers that are more weighty right here in the present. There is always a 'last straw'. Writing about the past is not threatening to others in the class, but writing about what is happening in the classroom here and now is. For the black writer breaking silence, breaking restraint is a frightening step. The person who was the catalyst for the angry poem, unaware of the long history of oppression and internalized rage, takes it as a personal insult. Some students side with the white student, some with the black, but most students remain silent, afraid to go in either direction. In any event, the black student may lose a few of his or her best supporters, people who can tolerate poems about race as long as they don't make anybody feel too uncomfortable..."

- Toi Derricotte, "Race in the Creative Writing Classroom"

Sorry it was such a long quote, but I had a hard time choosing a place to stop. There's far more that's worth reading, especially for writers.

Hey, guys! Well, the…

Hey, guys! Well, the deadline has passed, and I now have all the submissions for my anthology. I have about fifteen stories left to read (that all came in the last week), and then it's time to start sending out rejection letters. I'm not really looking forward to that. I know exactly how painful those are, no matter how kindly worded.

In other news, tonight we throw a mini-party for Cliff and Sherman's birthdays. Until then, I have piles and piles of work to do, so I'd best get to it. Talk to y'all later...

Hey, everyone! Sailing…

Hey, everyone! Sailing class again today! (I have to pass a swim test first, yuck. I'm not a very good swimmer. Good thing we'll be wearing life jackets...)

I spent some time this morning typing in an excerpt from one of Natalie Goldberg's books. I imagine I've talked about her before in these pages; she has some of the best, most inspirational writing advice I've ever found. (I hear Anne Lamott's _Bird by Bird_ is also good, but I haven't read it yet). So I sent this excerpt to a friend of mine, and then I thought, 'Well, I already typed it all, and maybe there are some of the journal readers to whom it might apply.' So I'm enclosing it below. Slightly long, but well worth reading. Have a good weekend, everyone!

"I met Jim White, author of The Salt Ecstasies, when I first moved to Minneapolis. We would have breakfast at Snyder Drugs and end up spending the whole day together, walking slowly around the city's lakes. Often we sat on benches and looked at the ducks. Mostly what we did was talk about poetry. I had finally met a person who wanted to talk about it as much as I did.

Sometimes we would recite our poems to each other. I remember the first time. I was driving Jim home and he said, 'Oh, I'll recite one of my poems.' And he did. A beautiful one about a deaf boy catching a Frisbee. Then I recited one of mine. I can't remember which one. He said, 'Hey, that's good.' And we both let out a sigh of relief. It almost didn't matter how much we liked the rest of each other's work. It was the first poem that counted the most. We could continue with our relationship.

One day after we knew each other a while -- Jim was ten years older than I, a veteran poet -- he turned to me, 'Who gave you permission to be a poet? Was it Allen Ginsberg?' I had studied with Ginsberg the summer before. 'Someone along the way has to give you permission.'

'No.' I shook my head. I was too shy to say, 'No, Jim, it was you.'

I have a friend who is widely published and is now working on her third book of nonfiction. She read me two of the chapters last week. I listened to them, my head cocked to one side. They were beautiful. 'Hey, that's a novel you're writing.' She smiled, very pleased. She couldn't contain herself any longer. She wanted to be a fiction writer but wasn't as sure of herself in that area. I was the only writer she knew, and whenever we got together, she said, 'Let's talk about writing.' Of course, I love to talk about writing and was pleased, though our friendsh was multileveled and we shared many interests. I realized in a subliminal way that she was asking my permission to be a writer. Naturally, anyone can be a writer, 'It's a free country,' I used to scream as a kid when I was in an argument with another kid. But there's someone further along on the path, who gives you the nod, who says yes, who adores literature as much as you and so gives you permission to love this odd thing all the way and to continue with it in the face of everything.

When I say 'you ask permission,' I do not mean you have to go to someone higher up on the totem pole and inquire, Is it okay if I write? Write before you ask anyone. As a matter of fact, never ask anyone; always write, but it is about relationship. You know another writer and this reinforces your own love and commitment. It is not about them saying yes or no; it is about encouragement and friendship. And it is about something deep and unspoken. When I was with Jim, I quietly vowed to continue, to carry on with this great thing we both loved. I didn't stand there digging the big toe of my right foot into the dirt and say, 'Gosh, Jim, well, golly, do you think even dumb old me can write?' It's more like you stand shoulder to shoulder, looking out a the vista, and the older writer points and says, 'See,' and you nod and smile, knowing that the vista is good and sweet and you always want it in front of you.

Cecil Dawkins was over for lunch last Tuesday. We both had finished our novels the same week. She worked on hers for eight years. Three years ago at the start of mine, I had brought her some chapters for suggestions.

I said, 'You know, when I came to you, I didn't know what I was doing.'

She nodded. 'Yes, I know, but I figured you'd figure it out.'

Last week we sat and read to each oother from our manuscripts. After I read her the epilogue, she said, 'Well, I think you became a writer with this book.'

I was thrilled. A seasoned novelist had given me the nod. After she left, I sat on my bed, thinking, 'I want to be a writer more than anything else. That's what I want to leave to future generations. If I stay true to this path, I won't be afraid to die when it's my time.' I felt an invisible thread pulling me through my life. I wouldn't be so afraid to die because I would have been busy dying in each book I wrote, learning to get out of the way and letting my characters live their own lives.

But a thought just occurred to me. 'Well, when do I get to live my life?'

The answer that came back to me is 'You don't. Not in the old small-minded way. A bigger life happens. You extend yourself to the past and future. When you get tired of your big life, take a break. Go have a cup of tea or maybe even a chocolate chip cookie."

- Natalie Goldberg, _Wild Mind_

Hey, guys. Sorry the…

Hey, guys. Sorry the journal's been so spotty -- beginning of semester craziness and some emotional stresses (generally better now). Things are still generally good -- I'm really liking my classes, and Karina's visiting, and I'm getting to know Heather better (she writes too!) and I'm feeling very alive, if sometimes tired. :-) I've started learning to sew! I'm throwing a 20's-style party in a few weeks (The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, 5th Annual) and Heather is helping me make a dress. It's a chocolate-brown tango dress -- I'm a little nervous about the collar, but the laying out and pinning and cutting went well yesterday (though my neck was killing me by the end -- I need a work table if I'm going to do more of this!). I'm going to wait a couple of days before I start sewing.

Gotta run, but here's this interesting tidbit of news:

KEY WEST, Fla., Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The Key West City Commission has approved a rule that will allow city employees to add domestic partners onto their insurance policies.

The ruling makes Key West the first municipality in Florida to extend insurance benefits to unmarried homosexual or heterosexual couples that live together in committed relationships.

In order to qualify, couples must register as domestic partners at the city clerk's office.

For a $50 fee, they will receive a certificate recognizing them as committed couples. City officials say the certificate could be helpful on mortgage applications and in other financial matters.

Only residents of Key West may apply for certification.

The city still has to work with its insurance carrier before the benefit package goes into effect, but the ordinance clears potential snags.

Florida's business community already had broken the domestic-partner barrier, as firms such as Disney Co. -- which owns Walt Disney World in Orlando -- have extended benefits previously granted only to married couples.

Oh, and if you like peppers, check this out...

Last Night I slept…

Last Night

I slept badly, tossing and
turning -- first too hot, then too
cold, twisting until I was tangled in
sheets. The mild claustrophobia
kicked in then, and the dreams
grew worse, mutating from vague
anxieties to full-blown nightmares.
When I finally woke it was to a
grey morning, tired limbs, and
sweaty, sticky skin. I so did not
want to get up; I felt cheated
of my sleep. When I rolled over,
your eyes were open, and you quietly
said, "I love you." The first thing
I heard that morning, falling into
a frustrated silence and shattering it
with surprised joy. I haven't woken
to you, and those words, in far too long.

Well, Jeevan pointed out…

Well, Jeevan pointed out to me today that all of this month's journal entries up to now have said 1997 instead of 1998. I will duly go back and fix now, but what happened to my faithful proofreaders? Shmuel, David? I'm shocked... :-)

In other news, I have my first sailing class today (it's offered as phys ed here) -- exciting. Lots of new things, lately; while I was in Chicago, Todd (mathematician friend) took me ice skating for the first time, down on the new rink they have on the Midway. I fell down twice in half an hour, which I'm told is not bad at all (though I admit, I was either clinging to the wall or Todd or Karina's hand for most of the time (and my knee was not pleased with me. neither was my ankle)). I had a great time...let's hope sailing goes as well.

I'm starting to feel like I'm back on track, like I'm actually going to get everything done, like I'm not flailing. We'll see. :-) The classes look really exciting this semester, with tons of good reading. I went a little book crazy yesterday; bought some textbooks, but then bought a bunch of other books. It wasn't really my fault, though -- I'm giving a presentation on Delany's autobiography for my creative non-fiction class, so I *had* to go to the sf bookstore, see? And once there, I was lost...

Remind me not to oversleep. I start having nightmares. Maybe it's just my body's way of telling me not to be lazy. It's strange, because actually in the last week I've had a lot of intensely happy dreams, sort of 'it'll all work out' dreams. Dreams about Kev, and my family... Weird.

Those of you on the list (I really ought to name the readers' list, and formalize it. Ideas for names?) should be getting some odd stuff this semester. Creative non-fiction appears to cover memoir, essay, letters, collage, etc...in other words, you'll probably be learning more about me than you want to know. Maybe I'll label the non-fiction pieces as such. I'm more than a bit nervous about them, to be honest. At least with fiction, no matter how much of you is in them, you can say -- 'Hey, it's just *fiction*'. No such screen to hide behind here.

I do believe in being brave. I believe it almost always pays off. But sometimes it gets tiring, and it's almost always scary.

Good thing I like you guys. :-)

So, the madness has…

So, the madness has begun. Last night I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m., and today I actually got up on time. (Over vacation, my wake-up time crept later and later, not so subtly influenced by Kevin, who I swear would sleep twenty hours a day if you let him). As I partied a little too hard last night (Heather and David came over last night, and somehow Heather and I decided to finish off several dying wine bottles left over from parties), I'm not feeling my best this morning. Still, David made me drink lots of water before I went to bed, and my tea is steeping, so I hope to be back to my normal stalwart self soon. Oof.

Then it's towork! I have a two page fiction piece due today -- it'll be the first new fiction writing I've done since mid-December, I think. Eep. Good thing I have school to get me off my butt. Will send it out to the reading list when it's done, so y'all can see what a very rough, very short draft looks like. Should be good for a few laughs, at least.

Well, I survived the…

Well, I survived the first day of classes reasonably intact, and didn't make a fool of myself when introduced to the students I'm TA'ing. Let's hope the rest of the semester goes as well. I'm feeling very energetic and ambitious right now...we'll see how long *that* lasts. :-)

I do have a pile of work to do today, so I'll just point you to the new page of random sexual humor I added this morning. I don't know that any of these jokes would stand on their own, but I get enough of them sent to me that I decided to start up a page for them, so that you can read them when you're 'in the mood', as it were. :-)

Have a good day, everyone -- I may check back later.