A Day in the Life

Wake up, and realize that today is the day of the total solar eclipse. Of course, I am far north of the path of totality (the name of my new video game), so I will only get a partial eclipse. But that’s okay. I can still make a pinhole viewer and see a crescent shadow where a round shadow will be. Fun with optics and astronomy!

It’s the second-to-last day of class and I finished grading before 10 am on the day of class. What?? That’s unprecedented thus far. I think I was better about grading the last time I taught that class last fall. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

So maybe I should get some writing done. I wrote 250 words and felt like a champ. Then I looked at how much I had left to do and instantly deflated. Lord knows how I lived my life when I had actual drama to deal with. I suppose an eclipse is pretty dramatic. My third sister is visiting friends in the path of totality, and I am a little jealous.

What’s your drama?

How Was Your Weekend?

Great! I’m so glad you asked. It started on Thursday when we filled a huge truck full of our belongings (actually a bunch of college kids did the actual filling, I just ran around like an idiot, packing and preparing).

And then I took Friday off to rest my back, do valiant battle with chapter 9 of my manuscript, and consume a remarkable birthday dinner full of oysters, seasonal vegetables, pork, and bourbon with Spouse and Old Friends (not as old as me, but whatever).

Saturday consisted of a long drive to a pretty place and the emptying of the truck into a storage shed. After a sweaty few hours, I reemerge to find that everyone now knows the name of my hometown and are standing in solidarity with it. What?

Cue some very complicated reactions. I have a love/hate relationship with my hometown, as do many people with their places of origin. But in my heart of hearts (whatever that means) I love Charlottesville. (I know this breaks down my pretense of anonymity, but I can’t not write about it. Also rest assured the copyeditor in me is entirely outraged at the way people have misspelled it.)

In the nineteenth century a ten-year-old black girl was beaten to death by a white UVa student for being “insolent.” Likely this meant that she didn’t step out of the way fast enough or didn’t acknowledge him the way he expected. Or maybe she had a bratty ten-year-old moment, as all of us have had.

The beating happened at what is now the busiest cross-walk in town, a popular location for pedestrians to get from the university to the yummy yummy bagels and other delights and horrors along the commercial district neighboring the university. (You Cvillians know where I mean.)

Thousands of students, professors, staff, tourists, and townspeople walk over that spot daily. Yet the history is not acknowledged in any way. It is too common, maybe. Or maybe people don’t want to talk about it.

Charlottesville is a town rich with history and an accompanying white nostalgia. It is a very segregated town. The university’s professors are often more liberal than their students. It has an incredibly high number of bookstores per capita, and you can almost always see the mountains.

I hope the horror of this weekend will be a wake-up call for white Americans to do the right thing and actively oppose hate and bigotry in all its forms. I don’t know how to end this post because I’m either going to write a couple thousand more words or descend into cliches. There are no easy answers. So do what you need to do to take care of yourself and to make the world a better place.


Indy Clause


Never Ask the Following Question(s)

I was on the phone with my very favorite second sister when she made the fateful error. “How is your book? Have you finished your book yet?”

My voice went chill. “What do you mean? Are you talking about our most recent murder mysteries [that we both read all the time] or do you mean the book book?”

“The book book. Hey, let’s both finish our books by this summer!”

Dearest, darlingest favoritest second sister [who reads this blog], somehow that’s not how this works. I keep thinking I’ve finished the book, or I’ve written all I can, when yet another person tells me it’s not ready, and I see what they mean.

I have an MFA in poetry. And minus one very very good graduate class in creative nonfiction, I’ve had to teach myself how to write a memoir. Poets just present you with three objects and allow the reader to draw her own conclusions. Evidently prose writers have to tell a story about those three objects.

I am not very good at telling stories. I get caught up in small details and backtrack and regress and tell it wrong anyway. Nevertheless she persisted.

Maybe if I got off the Internet. Maybe if I weren’t moving. Maybe if I didn’t have the attention span of a gnat. Maybe if I were better at physics. Maybe if all these things were true, my work would be done. But I doubt it.

I get jealous when I see other books published. But some of them are not thought through. Some of them have not found their form. Many of them sag in the middle.

But the only way out is through, and other such cliches. Wah, wah, wah, writing is hard.

What’s the worst question you’ve been asked?

Home Office Design

More often than not, I work from my couch. But periodically, for example, when I’m about to move, I start thinking about office design. My current office design, and the office/bedroom designs of my past, can be best described as “how can I pack the most books into this space?” When I lived with roommates, my bedroom was jokingly called the library.

But one of my favorite distractions is to read dumb design articles and think about how I could or could not function in the space. The chairs in fancy design magazine home offices all look hideously uncomfortable. The addition of cowhide (fake or real) does not help, and does not fit house style (and I don’t mean Chicago). That said, I would love more stained glass windows, a window seat, and possibly even a ladder.

Before I worked at home, and before I worked in publishing houses, I worked in bookstores. (Ed. note: Bookstores and Indy Clause have the same aesthetic: Fit in as many books as possible.) The joke was that there are two kinds of booksellers. Those who alphabetized their books and those who spent so much time humming the alphabet song under their breaths at work that they felt no compunction to do so at home.

We all made fun of people who arranged book by color. They were Not Real Book People. But today I found the worst in anti-book sociopathy. Scroll down until you see the photo where the designer wrapped each book in brown paper for consistency. Words cannot express my horror. I am clutching my pearls. It Cannot Be Borne.

What drives you to capital letters?

Tricks to Getting to the Page

Keep up with all legally prescribed psychotropic medications.

Buy a cute notebook. Buy ten cute notebooks. Get a filthy (yet legal) stationery habit. Look at your beautiful pens and pencils and the trendy Japanese notebooks. They are begging to be used. Use them.

Read. Use your disdain for the shoddily written books to write your own. Use your inspiration to scrawl something new. No one gets better at writing without writing.

Start pondering your very complicated feelings about the word “Yankee” (or word of your choice).

Bribery. Self-loathing. Reward systems. Another cup of coffee.

Louise Erdrich writes in Blue Jay Dance about how she tied herself to the chair with a bathrobe belt. She could loosen it in case of emergency, but it kept her from bounding up before her executive function could stop her.

Get the fuck off the Internet. Oops, it’s now “internet.”

How do you get to the page?