Putting my money where my mouth is

I dearly wish this were going to be a post about how I just became a highly paid spokesperson for the Chicago Manual of Style, but in fact this is about editing.

It’s about the fact that I’ve been in two productive, helpful writing groups. It’s about the poems marked up and left in a folder. It’s about the end of the month.

I know I was supposed to be polishing up the Fucker to send to Beta Reader, but there’s this chapbook contest, see. I’ve killed my poetry manuscript, but it rises again in a shorter chapbook form with new poems.

Take the cold medicine. Clear the calendar. Get some fucking editing done. Enter those changes from the writing group. Go listen to the man I married read at the institution where I have my Second Job.

I’ve discovered it’s easier to be a writer spouse than a writer. I can be proud of his accomplishments and I can be supportive. It’s easy and not a lot of work. There is no crippling self-doubt and whining about the work I have to do when I think about my own writing.

But I’m not going to be just a writer spouse, don’t you worry your pretty little heads. I’m going to finish this post. I’m going to edit those fucking poems. Then I’m going to send them out into the great blue yonder. See you on the other side.

What roles are easy and difficult for you?

Morning Light

There are mornings when getting up is better than sleeping a few minutes longer. I swept aside tangled dreams of murder and a splitting headache with a cup of coffee and the reluctant dawn.

I was set to write a despairing post, but then the man I’m married to appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, with doughnuts.

I wrote a complicated work email, ate my doughnut, and took my headache back to bed. After a brief nap, I’ve been alternately trying and failing to work on two different projects, but my cold is making it hard for me to focus.

Then I got an email from a friend with just some straight up encouragement. And now I can’t even complain.

What encourages you?

For the Record

One hundred inches of snow in a month or so can test a person. It can test her inner resources, it can test her marriage, it can test her will to live. I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships recently because one of the major friendships of my life died last year. I think of my friend with her boyfriend, and how she couldn’t maintain her friendship with me and her relationship with him at once. Two people. Both of whom love her.

And I can’t help but look at my own romantic relationship. DP and I have been cooped up in the house together for a long time. Nerves have frayed. Tempers have flared. But also we have laughed and commiserated and reminded each other why we deserve each other (bad puns and terrible Russian accents come to mind; no one wants to inflict that on other people).

It’s Sunday morning and I have a lot to do today. I have papers to grade and a new weeks’ worth of assignments, reading, and discussion to set up. But I also have 12,000 words of my own writing to clean up. I am choosing to write. They say (whoever they are) that love is a choice. You choose to stay in love with your partner.

I could (theoretically) choose to spend an illicit weekend with a stranger, but I choose not to go down that path. I choose to spend my Saturday night with DP rewatching Agent Carter (no, really, it’s so good I watched it twice). But I also choose to be a writer. I could be building a snow fort, but instead I’m typing a blog post and will go on to edit those 12,000 words.

I’ve written (for me) a record number of words and stayed with DP a record number of years. What records are you breaking?

Making a Scene

DP, who eschews coffee, refuses to learn how to use my stovetop espresso maker.

“I know how that will go.”

“What do you mean?”

“Next thing you know, it’ll be ‘DP, darling, sweetheart, love of my life, would you make me a cup of coffee?'”

I deny it, but he might be right. (Shout out to Cougar who makes her spouse stovetop espresso coffee every single day. Lucky Dr. Mr. Cougar.)

Once you know how to do something then you know how to do it. That sounds simple, but it can be harrowing. Last year I revised my whole fucking book in a week.

So when my deadline to send The Fucker to Beta Reader comes screaming at me, I can’t take a powder. I can’t write a short whiny note saying that there is too much snow on the ground to write (also, Beta Reader is Canadian and would laugh in my face).

I gotta rush through and polish that turd. I gotta actually write scenes in the places that currently scream in all caps MAKE A SCENE. I don’t need to majorly reorganize, as I’ve already done that. I don’t need to change my name for anonymity (although that was a fun exercise last time due to the fact that I had to keep my last name somewhat similar so I could make a piano joke halfway through the manuscript).

So, 6,000 edited words a day. I’ve cleared my editorial calendar for a couple days. Grade papers, go to second job, feed dog and self, write up some discussion questions for class, edit 6,000 words, pretend February has 30 days, get it done.

What do you wish you didn’t know how to do? Do you make piano jokes?

Gratitude List for Northerners

It’s time to laud the things that make us miserable. I was so unhappy about the state of the world yesterday that I walked into Second Job and said “I’m trying to be positive.” Let me tell you, it’s bad when Indy Clause, a crankypants of the highest order, tries to be positive.

1. I’m fucking grateful that people on facebook are posting pictures of their Malibu vacations and near-naked Mardi Gras celebrations. How else would I remember what vegetation looks like, not to mention sun-kissed near-naked flesh?

2. I’m fucking grateful that my problems are so superficial and first world that my colleague buying me a chocolate bar cheered me right the fuck up yesterday.

3. I’m fucking grateful for our patriarchal and white supremacist society, which is so pervasive that it makes teaching students to see it is as easy as baklava. Makes my job easier.

4. I’m fucking grateful that my superficial, first-world misery is making my attention span so short that I can’t read, and I watch TV with DP, so we can be quietly, superficially miserable together. (He’s legitimately miserable due to Sinus Problems.)

5. I’m fucking grateful to be offered another class to teach in the fall (same one I taught last fall), so that I can rage against my adjunct state. And I have to go out and buy some new fucking pants because all my work pants are aged or stained. What is it with mysterious spots on the thighs of my pants that won’t fucking go away?

6. I’m fucking grateful for that I can’t do math, so I can’t quite calculate how many feet have fallen in the Northern Wasteland in the past month (90″ = 7.5 ft.).

7. I’m fucking grateful that my white Jetta had a catastrophic coolant leak so that I now drive a blue Golf. I always hated edging out between snowbanks in a Jetta the color of snow.

8. I’m fucking grateful that some asshole decided to stock wiper fluid that freezes below 32 degrees because how the fuck else would I know that the stuff existed? And I can’t fucking see out of my car windshield, which is fine, because the world is a snowy hellscape anyway.

9. I’m fucking grateful for my four years in the Upper Midwest, which gave me a tolerance for cold and the indignities of winter. I’m fucking grateful I don’t live in Buffalo where squirrels are freezing and falling out of trees. And I’m fucking grateful I don’t live in some godforsaken Southern state where there is one snowplow and no one knows how to drive in the snow.

What are you grateful for?

Fit to Print?

In a stunning example of white privilege not seen since the Yahoo! News headline “Americans explore Muslim Holidays” [as if there weren’t Americans who were Muslims], the New York Times publishes a winner this morning.

Killing seen as a ‘Ferguson’ for Hispanics

Oh, good. All of us white people can go back to watching Portlandia, and not worry about little things like murder and patterns of racial injustice. Only specific racial groups need to concern themselves with police brutality. Thank you, New York Times, for absolving white people of any responsibility of benefitting from or participating in white supremacist institutions. It’s only brown people getting killed. You know, they do that. Something in their nature. Sure has nothing to do with systematic prejudice and lack of economic opportunity. Nope. Nothing to see here, folks, move on.

What the fuck, New York Times? If police killings are not a nationwide all-people issue, then what is? Oh, right. Fashion week, George Clooney, and sportsball. Feh.

Beloved Readers

My very favorite pub closed last year. This was the place where DP and I would go when everything else seemed stupid or irritating and we didn’t want to cook. We always agreed on it. I think Valentine’s Day is a stupid manufactured holiday, but DP could always convince me to go to Favorite Pub. And we would have a nice, low-key dinner, and bourbon and chocolate cake, and we would be happy.

The closing of the pub the first credible threat to my marriage.

So it was stupid Hallmark season and not only was Favorite Pub gone, it was supposed to snow and gale and blizzard and the sky filled with locusts. What was a poor Clause to do? Well she decided to make dinner for the man who usually makes dinner. Back in my bachelor days, I ate mostly vegetarian food because I can’t really cook meat.

Baking chicken or fish fills me with insecurity. But give me chickpeas, squash, dried apricots, chicken breast, home-made harissa, and a shit-ton of spices, and I can make a stew, and whistle while I work. So it was chicken tagine, Turkish salad (cucumbers, radishes, scallions, carrots, parsley, feta, lemon, oil, zatar), and baklava.

Baklava! You would think that it would be difficult, that your Greek grandmother would have to hand down the recipe to you, that the average human being would be unable to complete the complicated pastry. But this is not so! It is easier than pie and slightly more difficult than cake. And because I love you, dear readers, I’d like to share the recipe.

Baklawa as per Claudia Roden, Queen of Middle Eastern Cookery

First make the syrup. Dissolve 2 1/2 c sugar into 1 1/4 c water and add 2 Tb. lemon juice. Simmer until it thickens. Then you’re supposed to add 2 Tb. of orange blossom or rose water. I could find neither in the two neighboring supermarkets (one of which is in an area so white they think taco “shells” are ethnic foods). Interwebs said that you could marinate orange zest in sweet white wine for 24 h, but of course I left no time. Vanilla extract or triple sec were other suggestions. I went with the vanilla bourbon we use instead of vanilla extract.

Roden mentioned that Greeks will add honey to this syrup. So I did (heaping dinner spoon), because I like honey. I sort of imagine you could make a Canadian version of this and add maple syrup, and it would still taste good.

Put the syrup in the fridge to cool.

Take out frozen fillo dough. (I imagine Greek grandmas make their own, but I wasn’t not in the mood to give myself a nervous breakdown.) You should have done this two hours ago (sorry).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large casserole or baking sheet with sides, lay out the first fillo sheet. Brush with melted butter (I would melt 2 sticks of unsalted butter to work with) and spread with ground nuts (3-3 1/2 c. or 1 lb. pistachios or walnuts ground fine).

Because Roden is a culture maven, she says that some people use ground blanched almonds mixed with sugar (in which case you use half the above syrup). The recipe itself calls for ground pistachio or walnuts. I imagine any ground nut would be good here. In Iraq and Iran, they put 1 Tb. ground cardamom with their almonds. I used pistachios, and DP and I agreed cardamom would have been good too.)

Work quickly and lay out the first half of the fillo sheets with butter and nuts. Then the remaining sheets of fillo should be brushed with just butter.

Cut diagonal parallel lines 2 in apart into diamond shapes.

Bake for 30-35 min. Faint from the delicious smells emanating from the oven. Come to and taunt DP about this mystery dessert, and didn’t he want to know what I was making him. DP is wise to my ways and demurred. Take out the baklava and pour your syrup along the cut lines. Serve once cool.

What do you love?