Three Little Words

 If only I could make his mouth move and make what I wanted to say come out. But, what would He/I say?

If only I could make his mouth move and make what I wanted to say come out. But, what would He/I say?

We—I—joke how my husband, Curtis, has a set allotment of spoken words at his disposal each month, so he doles them out sparingly. It’s how I explain his silences. Everyone laughs when I say it. But, now, the laugh seems to be on me…

I’ve recently come to the long-delayed realization that, like Curtis, I must have a set allotment of words at my disposal, too. But…while Curtis’s is a monthly quota, mine is a DAILY quota. And, while, to my knowledge, his quota is only on spoken words, mine is on written words.

My writer friend Marty, gave a talk, recently, about Chaos. She noted how, in picture books, chaos is triggered by someone or something breaking a rule. For me, rather than chaos ensuing it’s blah-blah blah blah blah blah bluckkkkkk

Unlike Curtis, it’s not my words—written or otherwise—that run out. It’s my ability to use them creatively. I have this newly adopted Bullet Journal to thank for the realization.  

My last Fishbowl post, “Shot Myself in the Foot with a Bullet Journal, chronicled prats and pitfalls I encountered while undertaking to begin Bullet Journaling. Now a one-month veteran of the process, I have come up with a system that works for me. And some Don’ts (Or Donuts if you prefer):

 

 

  1. Donut #1 Do not Spend Too Much Time on It
  2. Donut #2 Do Not Try to Make it Look Pretty or Neat
  3. Donut #3 (with sprinkles): Do Not Write too Much

The realization that I was wasting precious words by writing too much of the wrong things too early in the day came about expressly because of this bullet journal.

Don't get me wrong. Bullet Journaling is fab-u-lous! This past month’s Bullet Journaling has done exactly what it is intended to do. It has:

  1. Helped me prioritize tasks and keep track of to-dos
  2. Provided a space to keep all those lists & notes (i.e. movies to see, books to read, things to fix, notes to write, passwords that I think I will only need once, misc.)

And, maybe most importantly of all, made me keenly aware of why I wasn’t writing what I wanted to write: CREATIVELY!

BTW: My sole purpose in writing this post on The Fishbowl now is as a caution to you, Dear Cherished Reader.

On Leap Day, as per the official Bullet Journal instructions, I reviewed my February monthly and daily task lists. What I realized was that each daily list had 3 or more tasks that required writing—and I was doing them before I got around to what I wanted, really, truly, wanted to be doing: creative writing.

 Since all those other Bullet-Journal aficionados share theirs, here's mine.

Since all those other Bullet-Journal aficionados share theirs, here's mine.

These included:

  • ·         Bullet-Journal updates of yearly, monthly, daily task-lists
  • ·         Free writing (to clear the cobwebs)
  • ·         E-mail check and response
  • ·         Word-play exercises
  • ·         Facebook post on my author page
  • ·         Calendar update on my website

This past week, in response to an interview invitation from writer/musician/blogger David Alan Binder, I have been answering questions.(He sent a list of about 40.) Yesterday I stopped at this one, “What do you do when you are not writing?” (Clearly intending that in this context "writing" referred to "written-in-hopes-of-publication writing)

 Yes, Curtis and I (with help from friends) glued all those beads, feathers and bling onto our Trini Devil & Angel costumes.

Yes, Curtis and I (with help from friends) glued all those beads, feathers and bling onto our Trini Devil & Angel costumes.

Part of me--the uncensored part, wanted to respond: “Glue beads and feathers onto costumes & parade through Port of Spain limin’ and whinin’.

Or turn on my Jack Nicholson’s Col. Nathan R. Jessup

                               “You want the truth? . . . YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH.”

Because truly, what kind of "professional writer" would David and his readers think I was if, in response to his next question: “What are you currently writing?” I sent the above list?

Having written the above—and hyper-aware that I have used 628 of my precious daily quota (not counting deletions and revisions) to do so . . . 

Also keenly aware that because, in this post I discuss my mis-use of creative energy I prefer saving for "writing," some of you have already Fooled Yourselves into thinking this post doesn't apply to you. Yoo-hoo: Creative energy is "energy for creating, being creative, making, doing _Fill-in-the-blank_  

. . . I just want to say:

If you decide to create a Bullet Journal (or any variation on a task list). . . 

And If you prioritize the items on said list. . . . 

Do not do as I did and prioritize them in terms of “importance” to others, or with an eye to crossing-off-as-many-items-as-possible-because-it-feels-good. Prioritize them in terms of “important” to you! 

In short: EAT DESSERT FIRST!

  1. Select for Creativity. Use your creative energy to create—don’t waste it on trivial/menial tasks

  2. Select for Joy. Be sure to put tasks that bring you joy at the top of the list

(Note to readers: As of March 1, Bullet Journal Task Lists will be made the night before, email and responses, posting on Facebook, etc. will be written in my down time. If this results in a lack of liveliness in above-mentioned writing, I apologize in advance.)

Word Counts Playlist:

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Why Paper Books?

A paper book aids my concentration by offering to do nothing else but lie open in front of me, mute, until I rest my eyes upon it,
— Verlyn Klinkenborg on "Why he likes 'old fashioned books'"
       I LOVE MY BOOKS!

    I LOVE MY BOOKS!

The question Isn’t what will books become in the world of electronic reading. The question is what will become of the readers we’ve been—quiet, thoughtful, patient, abstracted—in a world where interactive can be too temping to ignore.

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The Truth About Visitors

Visitors use towels, dirty dishes, take up space, have the nerve to claim the TV clicker . . .basically wreak havoc on routine. And more...

. . . If were lucky that is!

After having a home in New York for more than 3 years, I could name the sights on my way to and from the grocery, post office, hardware store & the airport exits. . .  I was especially familiar with the view from my desk chair. And since we're being truthful, with the view from the fridge to the TV. . .  I had a drawer full of New York/Long Island "Sights to See" Guides but had never cracked the spines. 

Then the visitor came! 

The visitor was framly (friend-so-long-they're-family) John from Tulsa. John and I, almost 30 years ago, worked together. We were both restaurant cooks. Our working relationship spread from kitchen work, to raising kids, gardening, decorating, painting, unpacking, packing. We work well together and have fun while we work. Our motto is: 

Crank up the music and get er done! 

Without apologizing, I'll admit how, in anticipation of John's visit, I looked around at my house, at the columns of boxes needed to be unpacked, at the stacks of pictures waiting to be hung, and the cupboards waiting to be organized, at the wallpaper waiting to be hung, and practically salivating. Imagine what John and I could accomplish this week!

And even though John was using one of his two-only weeks of vacation to come and visit, he wouldn't have minded one bit. In fact, I know he would have loved it! (He's that kind . . . )

Still. . . as enticing as the thought of all we could accomplish was, instead we:

 Walked and walked and walked the city, discovering wonders like this Zipper Graffiti

Walked and walked and walked the city, discovering wonders like this Zipper Graffiti

 Hunkered under a nut vendor's umbrella during a rain shower, then finally broke down--after we were soaked--and bought umbrellas.  

Hunkered under a nut vendor's umbrella during a rain shower, then finally broke down--after we were soaked--and bought umbrellas.  

 Toured  Radio City Music Hall --and sneaked snaps of  Tony Award  rehearsal through the camera room window. Then, come Sunday night, glued ourselves to the TV with take-away dinner to watch the show because "we were there"!

Toured Radio City Music Hall--and sneaked snaps of Tony Award rehearsal through the camera room window. Then, come Sunday night, glued ourselves to the TV with take-away dinner to watch the show because "we were there"!

 Braved the long and winding line at The Original Shake Shack. Which shake should we try? 

Braved the long and winding line at The Original Shake Shack. Which shake should we try? 

 Took turns playing "photographer" with Russian tourists at Rockefeller Center--while pretending not to speak English

Took turns playing "photographer" with Russian tourists at Rockefeller Center--while pretending not to speak English

Before I knew it, I notices my mind drifting back to my stories. The "What ifs" and "I could trys" were popping, snapping, pinging and zinging in my noggin. At a level I hadn't experienced since first beginning on this writing journey, I found myself wanting to get to work. I even pulled out my cell phone to jot some story notes. 

 Sniffed spices and filched samples at  Grand Central Station Marketplace

Sniffed spices and filched samples at Grand Central Station Marketplace

 And even bought souvenirs   

And even bought souvenirs

 

 Played with Dots pillows--even though we knew we'd get in trouble-- in  Dylan's Candy Store

Played with Dots pillows--even though we knew we'd get in trouble-- in Dylan's Candy Store

 Sat at Meg Ryan's infamous " Sleepless in Seattle " table at  Katz's Deli (with the bossiest, grouchiest staff in the world!)

Sat at Meg Ryan's infamous "Sleepless in Seattle" table at Katz's Deli (with the bossiest, grouchiest staff in the world!)

 Note one, but two tours of the   Tenement Museum  , and walked the streets, and explored the gift shop . . . 

Note one, but two tours of the Tenement Museum, and walked the streets, and explored the gift shop . . . 

 And finished with a Frozen Hot Chocolate at  Serendipity 3- -because of that scene in the movie . . . 

And finished with a Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3--because of that scene in the movie . . . 

Julia Cameron, discusses the importance of taking ones' self on "artist dates" in her 12 Step Guide to Creative Recovery, The Artist's Way. She believes these dates to be so restorative, she prescribes them weekly as a vital component of the recovery process. 

As prescribed, I've taken myself on Artist Dates. However, as with gym time, spa time, dentist visits, and other "good for you" scheduled events, regardless how enjoyable,  I tend to rush through Artist Dates to art stores, playgrounds, museums and the like. After,  I tick them off like just another chore on the list and more on. 

  When the Newark Express pulled away last evening, I was sad to see John leaving.

When the Newark Express pulled away last evening, I was sad to see John leaving.

At the same time I was bubbly, energized and excited to get back to writing. Why?

When we were kids and acting fussy. Not naughty, but that sort of irritating, pestery, whiney baby-ish, my folks would send us outside. "Let them play it out," they'd say. As though, by playing hard, we could use up, expel our peevishness. 

Artist Dates can be inspirational, informative, restorative even. But let's face it, they aren't necessarily fun. On the otherhand, Play Dates are fun. What the heck? We are writing for children + We are trying to tap into our inner children + Play Dates are fun = Maybe you do need to stay focused, keep your butt in the chair, approach writing as seriously as every other career. But, but, every now and again, especially when we're feeling peevish, we need to get out there and play! 

The truth about visitors is: Visitors visit to have fun. They want to play. And, unless they visit when we're away, they come looking for a playmate. Sure, we can do our best to stick to "business as usual" when we have visitors. But why?  

Playmate! Come out and play with me/And bring your dollies, three/climb up my apple tree . . . 

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An Anthor's Fear . . .

If a tree falls in the forest and noone is near, does it make a sound?

The question was first posed by Philosopher  George Berkeley, in A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (pub. 1710). Here's the passage "But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park [...] and nobody by to perceive them. [...] 

 Help! I'm falling and I can't get up . . . 

Help! I'm falling and I can't get up . . . 

In June 1883, in the magazineThe Chautauquan, the question was posed, "If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?"

The question was answered with an emphatic NO!

 "Sound is the sensation excited in the ear when the air or other medium is set in motion."[3] . In other words, if there is no ear near to hear it, there is no sound. 

If a book is published and nobody reads it? Then it is no book. 

Spoken or not, this is every author's fear. And we are a fearful lot: 

         First,  we fear we won't be able to tell our story . . . 

         Then,  we fear our story will never be published . . . 

         After, we fear no one will want to read our book. . .  

And in-between, before and after there are a byzillion other smaller fears... (Is it any wonder so many notable authors, as Mr. Bojangles put it,  "drinks a bit"?)

 They make housecalls . . . 

They make housecalls . . . 

 

 

 

 


 

 

That's why I did it--4 am wake-ups, 3 flights, 6 hours drive--Why I went to Fenton, MO, where, thanks to Deborah, the Barnes and Noble Community Relation's Rep, and Rebecca Grose, my publicist, visited 6 schools, gave 6 school and 2 store presentations, to read. Read it I did. I read VAMPIRE BABY at least a dozen times, and NOT NORMAN, A Goldfish Story, too! 

What ohhhh, what a joyful time it was! 

 

 Gretchen, the brand new Guffey Elem librarian, came by the store after work just to scoop up copies for her library!

Gretchen, the brand new Guffey Elem librarian, came by the store after work just to scoop up copies for her library!

 


 

 Angie and "Granny from Philly" brought the triplets, Jacob, Ryan & Kevin, by for Storytime (and Granny asked where I got my hair cut, but didn't think it was worth the trip to my Trini hairdresser, Helen...)   

Angie and "Granny from Philly" brought the triplets, Jacob, Ryan & Kevin, by for Storytime (and Granny asked where I got my hair cut, but didn't think it was worth the trip to my Trini hairdresser, Helen...)

 

 Mrs. O, the Trautwein Elem librarian broadcast the program and answers to their most excellent questions throughout the school. I've met David Shannon...does that count??? And yes, it really did take me 2 years to write that book with just those many words...

Mrs. O, the Trautwein Elem librarian broadcast the program and answers to their most excellent questions throughout the school. I've met David Shannon...does that count??? And yes, it really did take me 2 years to write that book with just those many words...

 B&N Children's Section welcome

B&N Children's Section welcome

What these pictures don't show is a couple hundred K-2nd graders, in all manner of costume and hair-do, eyes bright, shaking their fingers and shouting out "NO BITE!"

Music to my fearful author's ears!

The "I VANT MY VAMPIRE BABY" Contest begins Oct. 15. Enter to win!

Link: http://kellybennett.com/blog/2013/10/i-vant-my-vampire-baby-contest-details

Superman is onto Something...

What Inspires: Random Reading Opportunities Phone booths are all but obsolete...Page turners are being replaced by electronic scroll bars...Libraries are being cut as callously as carbs from the At kin's Diet. Still, book lovers find a way...

A  while back I read how the kitsch red British phone booths were being tossed into the Public Works refuse lots and left to rot. Until, that is, book starved folks in rural areas began turning them into lending libraries. I wondered how it came about: Did someone desperate to make a call, maybe in need of roadside assistance, race into a phone booth, dial and dash. And  in his/her haste leave behind a pocket novel, which was picked up some days later by a passer-bye who picked it up and read it. Then, a good read later, returned it, along with a few of his/her pre-read selections, to the phone booth. Maybe even called a friend to tell them of this brilliant deposit/depository and thus the phone-booth turned honor-system lending library--a "free" library in the truest sense--was born. No matter how it started, the craze caught on and now red British phone booths are being refurbished and redeposited as libraries.

Folks in Clinton, New York caught onto the Phone Booth-turned-Library trend with "America's Littlest Library" http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/home/891988-264/town_of_clinton_ny_opens.html.csp

I've noticed how phone booths in the U.S are similarly disappearing; In other countries, too. They are disappearing so quickly that at the brand-new Jakarta airport terminal they installed the phone stations but never even bothered with the phones...instead the kiosks are and seem destined to remain un-phoned. Sad how phone booths in the UK become libraries while U.S. phone booths have become toilets... what's that say? (I digress...)

But not all of them! NYC Architect, John Locke, is refurbishing phone booths for use as libraries. He's designed a shelving unit that fits inside the phone booth casing easily.

Then a note about the newest wave in libraries flew across my screen and bouyed my spirits:  Birdhouse Libraries. These lending libraries mounted on poles look more like marten houses. But they are definitely not for the birds. A  not-for-profit organization called "Little Free Library" http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/ has taken it upon itself :

  • To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
  • To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.
  • To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world--more than Andrew Carnegie!

By setting up these road-sized lending libraries all over the place. The website shares lots of examples of these Book Houses. There are even directions how to build your own. Why not build one and mount it in your own front yard.Phone Booths . Birdhouse Libraries.Say, maybe--with the state of the postal service--mailbox libraries are next?

Sampai Jumpa, Nanti, Jakarta

Last Jakarta News Note March 1, 2012

Seven years ago today I arrived in Jakarta to begin my Indonesian adventure. Curtis was already here, having arrived mid-January to begin his new position on the “BP Indonesia New Wells Delivery” Team. The next day we were handed the keys to our freshly painted, curtained, empty new house. Having signed up for a 3-year assignment (which morphed into 4 years seconds after Curtis said yes), we’d chosen a house quickly on our look-see trip in December. We weren’t buying it so what did it really matter we told ourselves. Settling into a new country, new customs, new people and language was an experience I wanted to capture and share, so I began writing Jakarta News that 1st day. As happens, different became familiar; unusual, customary; awkward, comfortable; Jl Pejaten Barat 1, No. 11, Kavling 5 became HOME. So, it’s been a while since my next-to-the-last Jakarta News posting.

Yesterday, a day shy of seven years later, I turned the keys back to the landlord, pulled the door closed and said goodbye to our Jakarta home.

Along with the house came staff: a housekeeper, Rusnati and her husband, Rohemon. “Try them out,” the HR rep told us. “At least while you get settled anyway.” There were several people in our garage that day, all brown, quiet, shy… some older, some in uniform, one hugely pregnant young woman. I recall wondering if she was, in fact, our maid, and if so, if she was going to expect to have her baby in our house and what I’d think about it…

Rusnati (not the pregnant one) stayed when the others left and so identified herself as our housekeeper. She didn’t speak much, nor did I, as I assumed she couldn’t speak English. Speaking wasn’t much of an issue at that point as the house was empty but for our suitcases, a rented bed, borrowed lamp and boxes for tables.

Every time I wandering into the garage or out those first few days, Rohemon was sitting in the garage. I’d smile; he’d smile. But we didn’t exchange words and I was clueless as to exactly what he was going to do, or when he’d begin doing in. After a few days later,  our company-assigned driver, Aan, who did speak English (extremely well) set me straight. "Rohemon would," Aan explained, "clean up the garden—if he had scissors and a broom..."

Clean Rohemon did, and plant and prune and nurture. Having won the battle for ownership, Rohemon’ s pond now gurgles pleasantly as water tumbles down the waterfall where the fat rat drank. The orange and white pond fish, which replaced the monster ikan lele, which replaced the bobble headed goldfish, and the soap suds-poisoned fish and saltwater-suffocated fish before them  are plump and fluttery. We’ve hatch a few batches of babies. And the few remaining ikan lele, descendants of the nasty, spotty monster fish that once lurked in the shadows, only darting out to terrorize their pond mates, are as tame and friendly as the rest. (Proof that it is nurture vs nature?) At last report, Chris’s blue-tongued lizard family was still romping about—even the one Joy’s dalmatian, Cale,mangled. And Andrea’s turtle still takes the occasional dip in the pond.

After the packers pulled away, while Rohemon swept the grass one last time, Rusnati, Curtis and I wandered through the rooms, straighten the curtains, checking cupboards, turning on fans and off lights.

Even empty, the once white-washed rooms, pulse with color, life, memories of parties and people, visitors, adventures, achievements. Rusnati’s two older daughters graduated college, as did Max and Lexi; Rusnati’s younger daughter, naughty Andrea, who it was feared wouldn’t be allowed into middle school because she wasn’t doing well, is now a computer ace with a paid high-school internship; Aan’s oldest son also graduated from Uni and is now a videographer traveling throughout Indonesia (including filming SBY, Indonesia’s President); Aan’s daughter is in her last semester in Uni, and his youngest son, Izwan, is top student in a multilingual honor school. Izwan is going to Singapore with his school this spring—the first in his family to hold a passport and travel out of the country!

When we first moved in, our voices echoed in the high-ceiling-ed rooms. I’d tilted back my head and yodeled once and Rusnati had come running, fearing the worst. Over the years, I yodeled many more times. Curtis hollered back, which always made Rusnati shake her head and laugh. Earlier today, when I was gone for a bit, Rusnati let out a yodel. She told me about it later, laughing about how the packers ran in from the garage to see what was wrong.

Last evening, after turning over the keys, Rusnati and I sat on the front steps as we have grown to work together, side-by-side, with a plant between us. The street cats, Ochie, Aan's pet, and a new younger one who looks like Ochie and is also learning to yowl for attention, lounged on the porch steps, taking turns nibbling snacks. (We left several full containers of food. Warjo, our pool man and relief gardener--the only one of us who'd return tomorrow--had promised to feed the cats, and the fish, and water the plants, too, until the new tenants moved in.)   The sun was low, the call-to-prayer a low background chorus.  Rusnati and I didn't say much, but not because we couldn't communicate; we speak the same language now, our own Pigeon Indo-English-Sign blend, a language of like minds, common goals, kindred spirits.

We’ll be in Jakarta a few more weeks, while Curtis wraps up his job. Then we’ll say farewell to our Jakarta Life. We’ll say it the Indonesian way: not “goodbye” but “sampai jumpa, nanti!, Until then…”

 

 

 

 

 

Yanking Weeds

Every heard the saying, “Can’t see the garden for the weeds?” Revising a story is a lot like pulling weeds:

  • Not fun to think about
  • Easy to put off
  • Necessary
  • Not to be taken lightly—mustn’t yank carelessly or you could pull out something good.
  • Hard work—gotta dig down and get to the roots, or the problem will persist
  • And like pulling weeds, once you get started, ripping out all those unwanted/unnecessary weeds/words is satisfying—even fun, sort of... And, the end results make it all worthwhile!

The International Reading Association’s “Engage/Teacher to Teacher blog”  declared September 5-9th Revision Week. The postings are all there, ready and waiting for you to read and be inspired. Click back through postings from that week you'll find teaching tips from Newbery Honor winner Cynthia Lord, a podcast from Kate Messner (Real Revision), "5 Questions With” by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz (a.k.a. the Two Writing Teachers), among other revision-themed features.”

Now pull on those gardening gloves and let's get after it!

On Being Bad

What Inspires me: Going "Jake" In Art & Soul:  Notes of Creating, artist Audrey Flack recants a conversation she had with fellow artist,  Jimmy Ernst, in 1983. Jimmy begins by saying:

"I'm doing bad work . . . there's hope."

Audrey: "I did bad work for a year when I began doing watercolors again after a break of twenty years."

Jimmy: There was a time when it was not held against artists to show bad work. It was expected in terms of their development...."

For some reason being bad, doing bad work isn't' expected any more, nor  is it accepted as "part of our development." not by us, the creators, and definitely not by others.  We are supposed to be good--preferably excellent--or remain invisible until we are good. But how can we ever get to good if we won't cut ourselves some slack?

"I think you have to be bad before you get to be good," Jake Gyllenhaal said in a Jan, 2011 interview in August Man Magazine.

I'm with Jake. He was speaking about acting, but his words can be applied to just about anything. Take writing. Wouldn't it be easier, less confining, decidedly more fun (and a little naughty) to let ourselves go "Jake" and write IT--whatever IT is, and how ever IT comes  just  spew it out. Dare to boldly go where we try to keep ourselves from going...bad.

How does this apply to our characters?  What if we let them go "Jake" and be bad before they get to be good?

Hmmmmm... Could be interesting--which, anyway you read it,  is way better than boring, staid, predictable, safe... But oooooh bad is scary and sometime ugly and messy and  icky...what if someone should see it? What will they think of me??????

Dare we? Dare we allow ourselves, our work, our characters to  Just. Be. Bad. Really Bad. Stinking rotten lousy bad.

There's really only one way to go from there, right?

Go Jake!