Revision, Day 4,590

At AWP I reconnected with a dear friend from grad school. [Management: Indy knows that the phrase “dear friend” makes her sound like her grandmother, but does not care. Grandmaternal Clause was probably the best person in her family. (Note to Cougar: best in a moral sense)] We were wandering through the three-ring fucking circus book fair, when Dear Friend mentioned that she was working on a novel.

“I didn’t know you wrote fiction!” I said. I met Dear Friend in a nonfiction workshop.

“Well, it’s a mystery novel,” Friend said sheepishly.

“Why that tone? I love mystery stories.”

“You do?” There is a pregnant pause that shows up between writer friends. If we were dating, this would be the point when someone would suggest that we take our clothes off. But as Friend and I are both happily married to other people, the following suggestion is slightly different.

“I would read it,” I said. “Literary mysteries are one of my favorite genres!”

“You would? What could I possibly do for you in turn?” Well, readers, I had an answer to that. Grandmaternal Clause would have read it out of the goodness of her heart. I had ulterior motives.

“Wanna read my memoir?” I had been wanting to ask this question of my friend so bad, but as with other kinds of propositions, the moment hadn’t been right.

“Of course!”

She needed a reader who was both a writer and a fan of the genre, and I needed someone who writes the kind of thing I do. We both felt like we had won the lottery (or gotten laid).

Friend sent me her mystery yesterday. I’m 5/6 the way through a paper edit of my own MS. And this morning instead of buying fireworks, planning a BBQ, editing, or going through the last sixth of the book, I’m entering edits. This is a picky stage I hate. The command “more” in all caps peppers my draft.

Instead of my usual reaction, which is, “Well, shit. If I had known what else to add I would have done it the first time,” I’m aiming for the positive. This is a series of writing challenges. And wouldn’t I rather be writing than anything else? Wouldn’t I?

What would you rather be doing?


My mother had a lot of rules about a lot of things. It probably came from being German and having a lot of children. Is it any wonder that I grew up to be a copyeditor? I am used to following and breaking rules.

My mother’s rules for husking corn are as follows:

1. Outside!

2. Take a bag.

3. This is a task that is normally done by children.

4. Do not bring those husks back in the house! Throw them away outside.

5. Did you wipe your feet?

6. Pass the butter, please.

As I am the youngest in the house, I husked the corn. Because DP is doing most of the cooking work, I husked the corn. Because corn is in season, I did not buy frozen.

Summer is time when I have no structure, and my ability to get shit done falters accordingly. Eat better, drink more water, no drinking until quittin’ time. Follow your mother’s rules unless there is a good reason to break them. (I mean, really, who doesn’t wear shorts into [Southern City] in August??)

What rules do you follow, what rules do you break?

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I have spent a good amount of time this week despairing rejoicing revising.

I’m seeing some good connections, finding things I need to expand, refocus, or move around. I’m beginning to think I might have a book after all, that I might finish this summer, no problemo, what was I so worried about?

And then, fifteen minutes ago, it all came to a jangling halt.


The problem chapter in the problem section is blitheringly incoherent. I don’t know enough to write it.

So it’s back to the primary sources (which I think I have). It’s crying into my metaphorical beer. It’s back to work, motherfucker. No one said this shit would be easy.


It’s cloudy at Fangs and Clause central. This week has been a little rocky for a couple totally uninteresting reasons. Our country is in a full-scale meltdown over its racist self. Then I found this.

There’s nothing I love more than making fun of rich entitled white people. I’ve been repeating, “my uterus literally aches” to DP and my friends. I laughed, I cried, I read the comments.

This article is Indy Clause Christmas.

What’s been cracking you up recently?

Operating at Full Crankitude, Captain!

Good morning! Things at Fangs and Clause Central are rocketing back to normal. No more traveling, visitors, or having people do dishes for me for at least another few weeks. With normalcy comes a few points of irritation.

1. I fucking hate nostalgia. It’s fine to look back, but keep your “wasn’t it better when we could use rotary telephones, ride a bike in a creek, and get whupped, and we still turned out okay” to yourself. You were probably posting it from your fucking smart phone, asshole.

1a. I fucking hate that the Confederate flag is nostalgia. The number of times I’ve seen a Confederate flag next to an American flag here in the North just shows how ignorant people are of actual history. I learned today that flying the stars and bars came back into style in 1961. Because that is an enlightened year in history that we should all aspire to repeat. I guess we’re repeating it anyway.

2. I fucking hate the fact that the last mystery story I read had five glaring typos. These weren’t the kind of thing only a copyeditor were notice, these were the kinds of err[rs that loo k like thise.

2a. Hire me, goddamnit.

3. I fucking hate that no one will do anything about access to guns. I am not against guns in principle. But a background check should be fucking necessary. Let’s all talk about flags instead rather than making actual change.

What do you hate today?

You Must Change Your Life

Rilke wrote a beautiful poem called the “Archaic Torso of Apollo.”

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In this series of poems, called The New Poems, Rilke captures the perfect lyric impulse of a poem. These are touchstone works for me and many others. I love this poem because it is about the transformative power of art, blah blah.

Art is not the only thing that must change our life.

Teri writes, “I have not actively worked. I have sat quietly.” When a white man opens fire on a black church, when a hurricane devastates a city and the media hardly seems to care because it is mostly black people that are affected, when a black woman can be shot in the face for asking for help after a car accident, then we must change our life.

I just came back from Baltimore, among other places, on a visit-family-and-friends tour of the east coast. When she heard we were going to Baltimore, my mother-in-law blanched. “That Baltimore?”

“Is there another Baltimore?”

“Isn’t there still rioting going on?”

My mother-in-law scorns the racism and ignorance she sees in others, when she sees it. As Teri says, I too was raised in Southern politeness and respect for my elders, and I sat quietly.

Rilke never tells you how to change your life. I am a writer, not an activist. I am not always comfortable speaking up. This whole blog originated as a place to say what I wanted to say as a copyeditor when I had to hold my tongue and say, “Flesh is not just one color. OK to change ‘use a flesh-colored pastel’ to ‘use a peach-colored pastel’?”

On the way home we listened to some good alt country music. Uncle Tupelo does a great job representing coal miners and the fucked up nature of the capitalist system. Darrel Scott, although I love many of his songs, needs a gender studies class. I can explain in great detail why that is (DP had to hear the whole thing).

Mother-in-law, the whole city isn’t rioting. People had a legitimate concern. It was a response to police brutality. My explanations are not good enough. So I need to read more, learn more, listen more in order to respond to casual racism clearly the way I can dissect a country music song.

How will you change your life?

The morning after

My favorite second sister left last night and we were all sad and glum. Well, at least I had two poodles to console me because the triplet tornado briefly joined the hurricane clause, and the triplet tornado comes with a dog. But now they are gone too and DP and I are alone in the house.

I’m a little bit light headed. No dog wanting things? No triplets coming up to be amused? No sister needing just the right word—I swear to god, Cougar, there is not a single word for that particular thing!

So I turn to the quieter needs. My book whining in the corner, my paper on fly brains desperately needing to be returned to my editorial overlords, a few books wanting to go back to the library. Dishes tired of being mucked up with my amazing spicy peanut noodles (recipe available upon request).

And once I’m settled in, it’s immediately back to Home State to watch The Kid (my niece) graduate from high school. She feels old and I feel ancient.

What are you guys up to?