Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Fortunate Tidings

This was my fortune from the cookie I just pulled out of the pantry.


Ah, yes, well, you know, what can I say? I have vision. Not very good vision, though, which is why I have new contact lenses.

Regarding roller derby, let me direct you to this roster that Cat posted in her comment; it offers info on both flat and banked track roller derby leagues around the world. (Thanks, Cat). I totally mean it when I say go see a bout for yourself.

(And thank you to all the roller derby skaters who've come to visit my blog.)

And now, drum roll, please...

... I did it. I finished the first draft about 10 minutes ago, by the end of February, as promised, with 52,056 words, which means that I wrote exactly 6,000 words today. It may be very short, for a novel, and it's not false humility when I say that it isn't very good, but I accomplished exactly what I intended: to
"WRITE A NOVEL, even if it’s a very bad and very short one." And really, it's just a first draft, after all.

I'm so damn proud of myself that I'm taking myself to that corporate coffee place now to celebrate.

What baffles and amazes and amuses me is this: It took me 12 years to start something I finished in 24 days.

Yeah, so if you're thinking of writing a novel, just do it. (Like I'm suddenly an expert or something.)

In case you're numerically curious, here's the breakdown, although it's not entirely accurate, because I forgot to record the word count a few days in the first week.
Feb. 5: 2,177
Feb. 6: 4,271
Feb. 11: 10,548
Feb. 12: 13,761
Feb. 13: 17,382
Feb. 16: 20,617
Feb. 18: 23,286
Feb. 20: 26,611
Feb: 22: 31,150
Feb. 23: 35,088
Feb. 24: 38,393
Feb. 25: 40,983
Feb. 26: 44,071
Feb. 27: 46,056
Feb. 28: 52,056

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get the hell away from this computer.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Derby Girls

3B and H pencils, colored in Photoshop

Al and I went with friends Sunday to a roller derby bout, to support my friend Laurie, a referee for the Dominion Derby Girls.

I've watched a few episodes of A&E's Rollergirls, but I have absolutely no recollection of watching roller derby on television when I was little, although people tell me it was there (I vividly remember watching Prince Charles' and Princess Diana's wedding, though, through the holes in the afghan, when I was supposed to be sleeping on the babysitter's couch. Oh, sorry. I digress.). I don't remember hearing much about roller derby at all, in fact. Didn't even know that, not only did Jim Croce record a song called "Roller Derby Queen," but I actually already have it on CD.

To me, it's a new sport, even if it actually dates back to the 1930s. So I had expectations, from the A&E show, but really no idea what to expect (that isn't a contradiction in my head). Some of my expectations, such as seeing lots of tattoos and some funky clothes, were met, although it was cool to discover that the crowd was actually wildly varied in age, race and "type," from the mainstream to the eccentric.

The sport, though, was, well, far more intense than I dreamed, even having heard from Laurie about the demanding workouts they go through four or so days a week. (This isn't meant to be a slight to roller derby. Keep in mind that my absolute favorite sport is baseball, where they sit around a lot of the time and stand around a lot of the time and run and throw every once in a while.)

Let me just say, wow. It's sort of like basketball, in that they don't stop very often. It's sort of like football, in that they are trying to get past each other and there's a lot of physical contact. It's sort of like Olympic speed skating, in that some of these girls are wicked fast. And then, I could make some hockey comparisons, too. But really, roller derby is quite unique. And the endurance of these athletes is awe-inspiring (as is the endurance of the refs, who must skate the entire time, unlike the competitors, who swap in and out with their teammates).

Not only that, but they can cross their feet over. I never could get the hang of that. Much less while looking backwards over my shoulder while simultaneously pulling my teammate through the pack. Quite impressive.

If there are bouts in your area, go. The rules seemed a bit tricky, at first, but eventually, they made sense. I understood what was going on and got into the cheering very quickly. I can't wait to go again.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Staying on Tune

I don't know how it happened. Honestly.

I am not a big fan of competition-style reality shows. Not only that, but I tend to prefer bands and singer/songwriter/musicians over singers who just sing (with some exceptions, most of whom recorded forty or fifty years ago). But for the first season ever, I am watching American Idol. And I'm really into it. I definitely have my favorites already. I'm invested. I am shocked, myself.

Let's just get this straight. I can't sing. Sometimes I can stay on tune, if I really pay attention and work at it. But I don't have a good singing voice. (I know this for a fact. I taped myself once, I'll admit it, out of curiosity, because I didn't think I sounded that bad, and I immediately taped over it because it was mortifying. That's when I learned that the voice we hear inside our own heads is not necessarily the same voice everyone else hears.)

But my biggest observation about American Idol is that I, personally, don't care so much about the singer's voice as I do about their personality (at this point, they all have pretty good voices, anyway). And I don't mean, "Oh, she's so sweet," or "He's so nice, please don't vote them off." I mean the personality they put into the songs. I got the impression that some of these singers memorized the lyrics as a bunch of syllables. That they had absolutely no idea what the songs they were singing were about. And that's sort of sad.

Because there's more notes to hit than musical ones. If you can't hit emotional notes, then you're just singing in another kind of off-key. If you're singing a happy song, I want to believe that you are the happiest person in the world. If you're singing a party song, I want you to get me off the couch and dancing through the sheer joy of your singing. If you're singing a love song, I want to feel loved. And if you're singing a song about breaking up with someone, it doesn't matter if you're male or female, I want to feel like you're breaking up with me.

No matter what song it is, no matter how many times I've heard it before, no matter how much it might be my favorite or least-favorite song, ever, I want to believe that you are the very first person who ever sang it, that you wrote it, last night, in your hotel room, on a napkin, and that it is the most important thing you'll ever sing.

And only a few people pulled that off. They're my favorites.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Professional Procrastination

This is very funny.

10 Ways to Be Busy All Day and Never Accomplish a Thing!

I am especially proficient at numbers 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10.

(Via Tinker).

Getting Territorial

I am pleased to announce that I have settled on a web hosting company, and registered a domain name, and will soon have a web site to call my own.

I will officially unveil my site address once I have something to show.

Mailbox Magic


My name actually got drawn out of a hat, and I opened the mailbox today to find a lovely, cheerful, bright yellow package from Tinker, full of sweet treats -- chocolate, a beautiful Valentine's cookie, a tea bag (English Breakfast, my favorite, how did she know?), and very best of all, a beautiful, luminous piece of her artwork. I am SO excited.

I really wish I could take a picture, but you'll have to settle for words, which at times like this, are highly inadequate.

A thousand thank yous, Tinker!

Found a story, found a story, found a story, last night.

Actually, it was this morning.

I rarely watch the news these days, preferring to read the paper, and even that I don't accomplish every day, but for whatever reason, I turned on CNN this morning, to find this.

Then I happened to read the whole front section (back to front -- there's a weird thing about me) and read the paper version of this.

And I remembered that not only did my husband buy peanut butter at the grocery store the other day, but he showed me the two kinds he bought when he got home. And the brands only really stuck out in my mind because I don't normally buy Peter Pan peanut butter. If he hadn't held them up to me for my approval, it would never have even occurred to me to go check our peanut butter lid for the number.

Which begins with "2111."

And get this:
The most cases were reported in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri.

So I watched the news, which I don't normally do, read the paper, which I haven't done lately, and actually paid attention to the peanut butter my husband bought.

Clearly, someone's trying to tell me something. Don't eat the peanut butter. And they're saying it in just the same ominous tone of voice that I use when watching scary movies: Don't open that door! Don't go into the dark woods alone! No! Are you crazy?!

But I will heed the Helpful Voice. Fortunately, he bought two brands, so we still have options. And apparently, we can get a refund if we send the lid to ConAgra foods (but their site's a little, um, busy at the moment). But, see, that means taking the lid off of the possibly contaminated peanut butter. What a dilemma. It's all so exciting.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

As of yet.

All righty. Updates.

Number of words in the novel to date: 17,382

How many words I should be writing each day: 2,083.3

How many words I've averaged per day since Feb. 5: 1931.3

How many words I wrote today: 3,621. (It's getting easier.)

How many poems I've read in the last 43 days: 43. Thanks to this book.

How many drawings I've done in the last 43 days: ehhhh, not 43.

How many journal pages I've filled: a decent amount.

How many servings of fruits and vegetables I've been eating every day, on average: 1.27
(I'm making that up, but it feels about right. Hey, I said "more than one." That's more than one.)

How many days I've worked out in the last six days: 2. (And I still can't move.)

How many letters I've written since Jan. 1 to friends, family members, editors or companies: None. Not even thank-you notes for Christmas presents. I'm going to hell. But I will mail the thank-you notes from the handbasket, I swear.

Number of museums I've been to this year to date: None. But lots of people are interested in going with me. So I'll be getting that going very, very soon.

How many things I've baked: I made peanut butter cookies in January. I think it was in January. Honey, was it in January? They were very, um, greasy.

How many classes I'm taking right now: Signed up for more drawing lessons, so that counts. But I'd like to take another one or two, as well.

Honestly? I may only be actually accomplishing about half of the resolutions on a strictly numerical basis, but life has felt pretty good the past month and a half overall. I'm pretty darn pleased with myself.

One more update: Took the digital camera into Best Buy (turns out I bought the 4-year service plan and I thank my 29-year-old self for that wise choice) and they are attempting to fix it. I've never loved my camera, mainly because the flash is so overwhelming that it smashes everything in its reach, but the camera has suited my needs up to this point, and I miss it. I wish I could send it letters, as if it were at summer camp.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Just in time...

... for Valentine's Day.

Talk about romance.

The History of Love

I love getting books as gifts -- and this year, I was given The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss, as a birthday present. I finished it today.

One of the best books I've ever read.*

I find it so easy to review non-fiction books and so difficult to review novels. And I usually find other people's reviews lacking, as well. Having finished the book, I read the reviews at and shook my head over quite a few of them. Most of the complaints were about finding the book difficult to follow, and I can't address that, because I didn't find it difficult to follow at all. One reader complained that it left unanswered questions at the end. I didn't personally have any unanswered questions at the end, but I don't usually think that's a problem, if the questions are the kind of questions that can't really be answered, anyway.

And if I had read the editorial reviews, I'm not sure I would have ever picked the book up on my own. Technically correct, they don't capture any of the magic of this story. They make it sound so ordinary. And it is not.

So what would I want to be told?

I thought the characters were exceedingly human, flawed but real. I slipped into their skins as I read -- I identified with them, with all of them, even though my life is entirely different from theirs. The pacing is excellent: The story moves and doesn't get stuck in itself. I never got bored, but I had time to think. The book is packed with romance -- not sickeningly sweet romance, but varieties of romance -- both the nostalgic romance of long-lost young love and the romance of young love just beginning, with all the awkward elbows and teeth, and without the nostalgia; the romance of mourning; the romance of mysteries being pieced together. And my favorite: the romance of many people's stories coming together, intertwining with their knowledge, or without. One of the things I loved about the Three Colors trilogy, too.

Do you ever stop and wonder, Is this moment significant? Is this a defining moment? Could I point back at this moment and say, 'That one meant something?'

Maybe you don't. Maybe I'm silly that way. But The History of Love is filled with those moments, blended seamlessly together.

My only complaint? That I can't read the book-within-a-book, also called The History of Love, in reality.

* And I have read a lot of them. On average, I'd guess 1-2 a week since I was 10. I wish I had an exact count, though, because that only works out to 1,144 to 2,288, and I actually own about 1,300 books, most of which I've collected in the past 10 years (and I wonder where my money goes). And even though I haven't read every book I own, I know I've read hundreds of books I don't own. So it must be around 2,000, or maybe more. And of that, I'd say 60 percent would be fiction. So, give or take, I've read 1,200 novels. But do I have any way of proving this claim? Of course not. Unless you sit me down with a list of every book ever published, and then I could check them off. But even that wouldn't be totally accurate, because I might have forgotten one or two or fifty, and besides, that would take way too much time. Which I could spend reading more books.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Practical Voyeurism

Like many people, I think, I am fascinated (perhaps even obsessed), with other people's home offices and studios. Call it practical voyeurism. I look for tips and ideas and inspiration.

This morning, I just discovered Boss Lady and her Flickr pool, Women's Workplace Wednesdays (via Make It, a blog for craft entrepreneurs).

I might contribute, someday, when I get a working camera again. Sigh.

I've been soaking up pictures of Alicia Paulson's amazing studio in the February issue of Romantic Homes and the Spring issue of Better Homes and Gardens' Creative Home magazine. And now, there's even more pictures of her home in the next issue of Romantic Homes. Can't wait to pick up a copy.

And then there's my long-time favorite (well, long time in the blog world), On My Desk, which is a gift to the world from Linzie Hunter.

As for me, I've been scouring furniture sites, art supply sites, and office sites for the perfect studio furniture, and honestly? There's not a lot of options out there. At least not in my price range. I suppose furniture is like anything else, though. Follows a trend, and if you don't like the trend, well, tough. And white furniture, which I prefer in a small room like mine, just isn't big these days. But even beyond color, there don't seem to be a lot of super-functional options out there. I want a painting/drafting table and desk set that combine storage with attractiveness, and I really don't want all my supplies be out in the open (so no ladder desk), but I want everything to be close at hand. I also don't want to have to keep moving things out of the way every time I switch projects (Off the desk or table, yes. Out of reach, no).

Perhaps I should become a furniture designer just to get what I want. IN fact, once I get over my irrational fear of cutting my fingers off with the table saw, I might do just that. In the meantime, I am hoping to piece together a mish-mash studio that works.

Fiesta, Forever

My camera died -- I mean, really died -- on Saturday, so I can't show pictures.

But I had a wonderful birthday party filled with good friends and bright colors, and the conversation was so unstoppable that even though we had music playing, you couldn't hear it. That's what I call a good crowd.

And I had party bags filled with great little toys -- like, get this, miniature Barrels of Monkeys! OH MY GOD. What fun. I can't get over them.

And we had a brightly-colored pinata packed with brightly-colored candy (thanks, Amy) and a house packed with brightly-colored balloons (thanks, Laurie) and walls strung with brightly-colored streamers (thanks, Elizabeth).

And there were tacos (thanks, Honey) and cake and ice cream and, like I said, wonderful, brightly-colored people. I am so lucky.

About the camera, I am pretty sure my extended service plan expires on February 28. So it might have died just in time. Keeping my fingers crossed, because otherwise, it becomes a choice between new, non-tattered clothing and a new, functional camera.

Dah-ling, I'm a writ-ah.

I discovered National Novel Writing Month on October 31 last year, and there was just no way it was going to happen for me in November. So I promised myself I would try writing a novel in one month, starting in a few months. I mean, really promised myself. Granted, I've been promising myself that for years now, but this time I meant it.

I started this morning. I have 24 days left in February (which really isn't even a month, it's a few weeks, but I have decided not to postpone it until March, because I've been postponing already too long).

I'm going to write every morning, starting in the wee hours, for two or three hours, before I stop for coffee and breakfast and get started on my other work.

I'm very excited.

In order to finish by February 28, I have to write 2083.3 words a day every day for the rest of the month, including weekends.

Today's word count: 2177.

Friday, February 02, 2007


I've found a new place to spend money.

It's much, much closer to my house than A.C. Moore (which I still love and always will) and has amazing prices. It's almost all art supplies, instead of art and craft supplies mixed together. And it's got that urban warehouse-y feel, which just tickles my inner artistic fancy. It's just what I thought Virginia would never have. And it's only a 5-minute drive away.


Another birthday present:

J.K. Rowling has finished the seventh book.

Seven years ago, I must admit, I looked at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with scorn.

Yes, scorn.

I've read fantasy books all my life and I could not figure out why people were getting so excited over a book about a normal kid who discovers he has magical powers and goes to a school for wizards/magicians/witches/warlocks. It's not like these ideas hadn't popped up in many variations before, and in books by authors I adored and respected.

I really thought Harry Potter was another dumbed down version of good things that already existed and that people were just jumping on the trendy bandwagon.

It was a year before I caved in and bought the first book.

I bought the second book within a week.

Truly, it doesn't matter if elements of the Harry Potter books have been in other books before. There are many different delicious dishes made out of flour and eggs. The Harry Potter books are good stories. And that, my dears, is why I read voraciously. Because I love good stories.

I can't wait for Book 7.

And while we're on the subject of fantasy, magic and fairy tales, Pan's Labyrinth is a haunting and beautiful movie and, yes, I think it will be one of my lifelong favorites. I first read about it at Inside a Black Apple, and I point you there, as her description is right on point.

My Favorite Day

I woke up this morning more excited than I did on Christmas...
because it's my BIRTHDAY! My favorite day of the year! And I'll tell anybody and everybody! I have no shame! It's my birthday! Hooray, hooray!

And I could finally open the package that came almost a week ago from my Mom:

birthday books1b

I am thrilled with these; I've been skimming them and they look so wonderful. I am very excited. Thanks, Mama.

This next present I actually got to open when it arrived, because Al was so excited that it had come:


This is no ordinary birthday gift. I was once the proud owner of a beautiful blue ceramic drum, which I purchased directly from the man who made it at an SCA event (His name escapes me, but he was a member of Rolling Thunder, and he looked like Inigo Montoya).

I treasured that drum. I took it with me to all sorts of places. I gave it a place of honor wherever I lived. My mother and I banged on it at the turn of the millennium while drinking Veuve Clicquot. I was devoted.

(I knew this is a terrible picture, but I thought we had so many more years together.)


But on the day I moved to Virginia, it fell out of the moving truck, onto Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, and shattered into a pile of ceramic chunks, and a piece of hide. I was quite distraught. I let out a wail that reverberated off the brick buildings around me. People for five blocks around turned to see what that terrible mourning sound was.

And I'm no rhythmical genius, but banging on a drum is quite therapeutic, and I've missed it these 18 months.

So for my birthday this year, I, who am usually against asking for specific things, asked Al for a new drum. I knew it was coming, but he found it. Isn't it beautiful? He deliberately chose it for the woman on the side. The glaze on my old drum had, I suppose in the firing, formed a vague shape of a woman flying through the clouds. So Al thought this would be a proper homage to my old friend.


It already feels like part of the family. And this time, it has a padded case.

And just now, while I wrote this, the doorbell rang yet again (the phone and the doorbell have been ringing like crazy, and I feel so loved), and this arrived from my 3-month-old sister Olivia.



Oh, she my be just a wee thing, but she and I are already kindred spirits.

I love my birthday. I'm neither happy nor unhappy about my age, which is 32 today. Thirty-two used to sound so, not old, but adult. I think I once envisioned myself in my 30s as being all-knowing, all-wise, grown-up. But in all my 32 years, what I've truly learned is that the older I get, the less I know. I really don't know anything. And that's okay. Because it makes life more of an adventure.

But I love that I get a day every year to surround myself with bright colors and cheerfulness and indulge. Even if I have to share it with this guy, who finally had good news this year.