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Five years…really, Jules?

December 2, 2016

Five years since I’ve blogged in here? I am one lazy writer.

I have so many things to say, but I can’t speak them. My soul drips off my fingertips like honey, but sticks in the back of my throat.

I’ve been dormant for the most part, except for the fall of 2014. I enrolled in the Creative Writing class at the college here, mostly to force myself to write, partly to polish the rust off my skills, and hopefully to learn a thing or two. More of the technical nuts and bolts, if you will.

It was a great class. I did learn a lot. The instructor is a great writer and an awesome teacher, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I was in his class. Well, except for the angst ridden-lice picking monkey-starstruck lovers brigade who made it their mission to disrupt class as much as possible. Their fearless (and witless) leader had a definite huge chip on her shoulder, and despised the instructor in particular (which begs the question – why sign up for the class to begin with? It’s not a required course…) so in her campaign to wreak holy jihad upon him, the rest of us endured a fair amount of aggravation as well. I seriously was ready to jerk a knot in her head by the end of the class, and finally did tell her to shut up one evening towards the end. Amazingly enough, she did. I’m kinda surprised I didn’t awaken one morning soon after that to find a bloody horse’s head in the bed with me. But then again, such things as that would require effort on her part, and a disengagement from the left hip of her boyfriend, so I was fairly safe after all.

It was a productive time. I crafted a number of short stories. Some winners, some that needed to be burned before they were ever turned in, but that’s how the story always goes. I polished up four stories for inclusion in the college’s yearly magazine, three were chosen. The home run hitter of the three was, unbeknownst to me, submitted to a national competition called the Gold Circle Awards at Columbia University in the City of New York. I was chosen for third place in my division. Pretty impressive for a national contest. I was shocked, humbled, and elated. I was also asked to enter the annual poetry contest at the college, submitted a couple of poems, and won first place with one in my division. More shock and awe. I tried to start a writer’s group, but it never got off the ground. People have these things they keep referring to as “lives”…I vaguely remember having one of those, long ago…

What have I done since then? Almost absolutely nothing. Nothing that I’ve finished or polished, for sure. Little blobs of grey matter on a page now and again that I never made further love to. But I have the jones again. It’s like an itch that won’t leave me alone. If you write, or do anything else creative, you know what I’m talking about. I’m still enamored with poetry, though writing it comes far more difficult to me than regurgitating a short story or CNF out of my head. Ah, but to finally craft that perfect villanelle a la Dylan Thomas, a Pantoum, a Shakespearean sonnet…I aspire to something like that.

I did, however, drag out a poem I started on last winter, tinker with it a bit, and post it on the poetry blog for safekeeping and further revision/composition. I think I might have done more damage to it than I did enhancement. It’s pretty rough. Okay. It’s pretty bad.

Still…I wrote this week. A bad day writing is better than a good day of anything else. And what did Uncle Ernie always say? “The first draft of anything is shit” – so maybe it isn’t a total loss…


The Fear of Success

April 18, 2011

We all have it. ‘We’ as in writers. If we’re any good at our art/craft. And if we’re good, we know it. We may (and often do) have personal lives that are a complete emotional train wreck, but we have literary egos as vast and solid as the Bering Sea.

You may think we fear we won’t be able to handle the constant rejection that inevitably comes with the territory, but we can handle that. We can take that on the chin. We know how many rejection letters any given famous author got for any given famous piece of work. We can recite it to you like jocks can recite baseball stats from 50 years ago.

We sniff at rejection. It’s a badge of honor.

What we really fear, more than anything in the world… is success…


Because if we’re successful… then we aren’t doing it strictly for the love of the art anymore. We’re doing it for… *shudder*… money

It’s become our… job.

(Which is, of course, precisely what we dream of.)

Will we still want to do it? Will we still crave it? Will it still be our truest love when we have agents, publishers, readers, editors… breathing down our necks to get it done?

Will we still leap out of bed at 3 AM to peck away at a glow in the dark keyboard at night because we awoke with a literary orgasm so strong we broke a nail on the headboard, or be up before our spouse on a camping trip so we can fall face down in the decaying leaves in the wee hours so we know what that feels, smells, and tastes like when we write about our heroine falling into them as she’s being chased through the forest by a madman? (And hopefully we either have understanding spouses, or, ideally, writer spouses…)

We’re not sure.

So… we procrastinate. Make excuses. Waste time with other mindless, non-productive entertainments.

Fellow writers get published, and we’re happy for them. We secretly envy them. Not in a mean way, but in a ‘”Cripes I know I could be there too, if only I’d get out of my own way” way.

Cause we know we’re just as good, if not better, than they are…

And yet… we hesitate.

We work feverishly on a WIP… then walk away from it.

It might be ‘finished’, but it’s never ‘polished’.

Never ready for submission.

Why do we do it? Or, more appropriately… not do it?

Because, as the quote from T.C. Boyle states in my headline…

It’s an addiction… and it’s a sweet one. It’s one we don’t want to break. One we don’t want to fall out of love with.

And we’re afraid that if we find success… we’ll lose the love of our lives. That muse draws us stronger than any flesh and blood lover ever could… and we never want to lose it.

And that, my friends, is the plight of the ‘starving artist’. It isn’t because they aren’t good enough.

Like any other addict… they’re not brave enough.

See how I’ve suddenly switched from ‘we’ to ‘they’, so as to distance myself from such weak creatures?… because surely I don’t fall into such a category…

Julee’s Laws of Personal Grooming

February 21, 2010

I was hunting for the nail clippers this morning, and was reminded of something I wrote a while back.

Women in my age group – you can relate.

The rest of you – read and laugh, but remember.. your time’s a’comin’!

1. If you’ve just done your nails, invariably you will brush one of
them up against something and screw up the whole works. Then, when you
take the polish off that nail to redo it, the polish remover will take
off polish from the nails you’re holding the cotton ball with, thus
making it necessary to redo your whole manicure. Rinse and repeat, as
you will brush up against something with a wet nail again.

2. If you need the nail file – it’s in your desk at work. If you need the nail clippers – they’re lost.

3. When you get old, you begin to grow hair in places no self respecting
woman should ever have hair. Because you’re old, your eyesight is also
failing, making it doubly hard to find such hairs and tweeze them out.
Putting on reading glasses doesn’t help, as 99.9% of these new hairs
will be white, and therefore practically invisible to you. If you do
find them, see rule #2 and apply it to the tweezers.

4. “When will you ever learn?” is a mainstay phrase in my House of Style.
This applies quite often after a noble effort to tweeze my own brows.

5. The older you get, the harder it becomes to haul your leg up far enough
to sand the dry rough skin off your heels. It also becomes harder to
shave delicate areas, especially when you have this huge protrusion in
your midsection that has the “Goodyear” logo tattooed upon it that you
can’t see past.

6. Attempts at a decent pedicure, using toe
separators to keep from screwing up the polish like you just did on
your nails, will result in toe cramps that will make you cry. Hence,
you will falter and scrape your toes against the floor, screwing up both
the pedicure and the carpeting.

7. Applying makeup is a joke.
Reading glasses get in the way of seeing what you’re doing on your
eyelids, and if you remove them, you end up looking like Cleopatra on
acid. For the first time, I’ve paused and pondered ordering some of
those silly looking glasses with the flip-up lenses. You know the ones.
They’re in every junk catalog you get, along with the gag gifts like
the toilet seat that farts when you sit on it. The ones you get because
one of the ‘respectable’ places you ordered from sold your address to
the heathens.

8. Sweater dresses will never look good unless you
wear them in the dead of winter with thick tights to mask your leg
imperfections and a full body shaper to flatten your stomach, make your
butt smaller, fool yourself into thinking you still have a waistline,
and render yourself unable to breathe till 5:15 PM, at which time the
tortuous contraption is peeled off as soon as you walk in your front
door. And I’d highly suggest ‘basic black’.

9. Lipstick will be applied crookedly. Guaranteed. Don’t bother. Your lips will be more attractive bare.

10. Dead sea salt scrub infused with aromatic, essential, emollient oils will make your hands look better. For about an hour.

Anxiously awaiting another chance to nerd out

February 17, 2010

I mentioned in my last post I intend to be present for another author reading this month, and it’s coming up soon. Next week, in fact. I need to go get my tickets!

I’ll be seeing Neil Gaiman, author of “The Graveyard Book” among many other works, including the Sandman series of comic books.

Not my usual reading fare – but I’ve been following him on Twitter for a while and he’s quite the interesting guy, so I’m intrigued to go see what he has to say…

I’m assuming he’ll be reading from his latest work, which is a kid’s book, and I’ll be anxious to hear parts of it.

I’ve yet to read any of his works, despite my intrigue the past few months. I’m wondering if I’ll be anxious to purchase and read this latest work after I hear part of it read.

If you’re interested, follow him on Twitter: @neilhimself

Check out his website:

(why in THEE HELL can I STILL not get the linky thingie to work right?)

Six word stories

February 14, 2010

For the uninitiated – tell a story in just six words. You’ve got to have conflict, action and resolution in just six words. The reader has to know the whole tale from beginning to end in a flash of reading.

Here’s one from Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Pretty powerful for just six words, huh?

I’ve been trying them this morning as a writing exercise. Not as easy as it sounds! Here’s a few I came up with as I sipped my chai tea and ate my oatmeal:

Numb fingertips. Wet socks. Homemade cocoa.

Child. Wife. Mother. Divorcee. Lover. Grandmother.

Unloved roses. Tears for tulips past.

Everyone wants diamonds. Nobody wants garnets.

Beloved cat fights rattlesnake. Children cry.

I have more, but I’m not going to post them here 🙂

Walking around the house backwards

February 7, 2010

As the search continues for my own writing niche… I keep trying new things to kickstart my heart.

Keeping in mind my old and dearest loved professor’s advice on walking around the house backwards… that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I go places I haven’t been before, at least in circumstances I haven’t been in before. I do things I never would have done before, either because the thought of them scared the bejeezus out of me, or they just never occurred to me.

I’m walking around my house backwards.

First – I went into downtown Chicago alone – at night. I attended a function I wanted to go to – alone.

No way would I have done either of the above not too long ago.

Walking around the loop alone after dark? Me? Are you nuts?

I did it, though, and I got to attend the event I wanted to attend – and I found myself enjoying the city alone at night.

I saw, on my way out of the train station, and on my way back in, homeless people, trying to sleep – on benches, even on the stairs. I had to pick my way around a couple of them to get out the door and onward to my destination. I tried to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb their rest.

Afterwards, I had some time before boarding my outbound Metra back towards home, so after I grabbed a quick bite at McDonalds inside Union Station (and giving some money to a man standing outside the doorway holding a cup) I ventured back outdoors, through the Canal St. doors, and leaned on the railing watching the Chicago River drift by dimly lit in places by the glow of the skyscraper lights.

I lost a few more bucks to another panhandler while I was out there. LOL.

But… I got ideas. Ones I want to develop. The intended purpose of the evening was fulfilled. Well worth the cost of a train ticket, a meal out, and less than 10 bucks in handouts.

I’ll be stepping outside my comfort zone again a bit later in the month. Another successful author will be reading in Naperville on the 23rd – and I plan to go. He writes numerous things – and in genres/venues I’m not a big fan of. So why go?

I’m walking around the house backwards.

Writer’s block, revisited

February 5, 2010

Yeah, I know. I’ve talked about it before. I don’t currently have it, but it’s been on my mind this past week, as has everything else that was discussed by T.C. Boyle Monday evening.

He was asked what he does if he hits a ‘dry spell’.

I’ve heard/read other authors give their tips of what they do. Most of them just simply say “Keep writing. Write through it.” A few have some special trick that always seems to work for them.

Boyle looked at his questioner like he had three heads. LOL.

“I don’t have them.” he said. “I’m always writing. When I’m inbetween novels, I write short stories. When I’m ready to write a novel, I write a novel. When I’m done, I may take a break, but then I’m writing short stories again.”

I can’t imagine working on something, and never have that feeling of being ‘stuck’. Not knowing what to write next, at least for a while.

It’s amazing to me that he never seems to experience this.

Do any of the rest of you, like Boyle, never have a problem with writer’s block?


February 4, 2010

No. not the kind Mom and Dad accused you of (rightfully) when they asked you who put the cat in the dryer..

I mean people who get up and read stories aloud.

I was telling a co-worker about my evening downtown listening to Boyle and he asked me if I’d be interested in going to a storytelling event at a coffee shop in Des Plaines on Sunday, and if so, he’d forward the e-mail to me with the details.

I said “Sure! I’d be interested!” and the wheels began to turn.

Not only can I use this as yet another tool to kickstart my heart, but I also began to think – maybe this is something I could get involved in myself, as a way to get myself out there.

From what I understand, these people read stories written by others. I could do that – and also read some of my own.

I think it’s worth looking into.

Any of you have any experience with it?

Share 🙂

Ideas on the fly

February 3, 2010

Also known as: what do you do when an idea comes to you, and it isn’t handy to jot it down in a notebook?

Like, say, when you’re driving?

I’ve thought about this these past couple of days, since it was another question that was asked of T.C. Boyle Monday night: What do you do if you get an idea while you’re in the car?

He said… "Hope I remember…"


He did say that the ending for "The Women" came to him in the car when he and his family were on their way for a fun day of swimming, etc. – and he pulled over and jotted down some notes.

I found that fascinating. He’s a novelist and a professor with, I would assume, a pretty decent income. I would have thought he kept a mini recorder or some other such gadget with him for those instances when Lady Muse whispers to you and your hands aren’t free to write.

Maybe he does, and he’d just forgotten to bring it.

I prefer to think he doesn’t even own one. I’d like to think he’s old school like me – and has a small cheap notebook he carries with him everywhere.

Mine stays in my purse and might be brought out at a moments notice anywhere, on the train, at my desk, waiting in line in a store…

But I’m pretty much screwed if I’m driving, unless I decide to pull over. The back roads I take to work don’t really have a good place to do that in a lot of places, so I also do a lot of ‘Hope I remember…’

So what do you do when ideas come to you and you can’t write them down right away?

Hope you remember?

Pull over and write them down?

Use a gadget to preserve them till you can write them out?

Boyle had some very good questions asked of him the other night, which I’ve been pondering for my own answers to… so you may get another post or two in the coming days with his insight/answers on a couple of things… maybe you’ll be sick of hearing about him by then.

I won’t be… I never am 🙂

Seeking inspiration from a master

February 2, 2010

I went into work early today, so I could leave early and catch an inbound train downtown.

I was headed for the library. The one on Van Buren and State.

One of my favorite authors, T. C. Boyle, was there tonight, as he calls it (aptly) performing.

I hadn’t seen him for 3 or 4 years I think?

Anyway – he read a short story from his new collection, and he was, as always, fabulous.

He looked great. He strode out in a bright red jacket and pants, a black and white t-shirt underneath, and the ever present high tops on his feet and ear cuff on his ear. Hair askew as it always is.

A little older, beginning to look just a tad wizened, but brilliant as ever.

Just the sight of him made me smile.

He was animated as he read, and his delivery and wit captivated his audience as it always does.

He made remarks that made us all laugh. He answered questions and stayed for a signing afterwards. I didn’t stay to get anything signed. I knew I was going to be home late enough as it was.

He was asked if any of his children read his works. He said that his sons had modems attached at the hip and never read. His daughter and her boyfriend make videos of his short stories.

He said they’d all been required to read The Tortilla Curtain in school, and because of who they were, they were expected to have some special insight. He said it wasn’t a problem, he’d helped them with their papers. LOL.

He was asked if he ever re-reads his own work – and he said he reads and re-reads till he’s finished with it – and then never reads them again.


He did say that once he was to appear at a venue where he’d be asked questions of an earlier work, so he took it on the plane with him and re-read it.

I went because I wanted to see him again. I went hoping to spark some inspiration in myself. I sat there and listened to him, and thought how wonderful it would be if, someday, I shook his hand as a literary colleague.

How sweet would that be?

I feel like I accomplished what I went for. As I returned to Union Station, there were homeless people everywhere, napping on benches and stairs. I thought – ‘there’s gotta be a story here somewhere..’

And I think maybe there is.