The Editor Needs More Coffee

In the past week I have visited six states and three old/new friends. I have rearranged my house, spent time with Sophie the New Poodle, hosted a bunch of people, cooked, and after that went to an obligatory social occasion where I knew no one but the hosts.

In between, I have collapsed into naps and sat amongst the poodles. Yesterday I enforced a Pax Clause between Sophie and new roommate poodle. Then I went to bed. This morning I have a plain old workday. Thank god.

My proudest accomplishment this weekend, besides Pax Clause, was faking my way through Hebrew songs when no one else on my side of the room did. The words were written down. I have been faking my way through Hebrew songs and prayers half my life. Hasn’t everyone?

What are your proudest recent achievements?

And someone please send me a good editorial question so I have something more interesting to write about. Thank you.

The Editor Melts

I love July. It is the pulsing heart of summer. It is also the only time I fleetingly miss working in an office as my house does not have air conditioning. I have learned over time that the heat makes for good editing weather because really I should move as little as possible.

Ms. Sophie is settling in nicely, thanks for asking. Oh you didn’t ask? Too bad. Poodles are really elegant dogs (except of course when she shakes herself and near falls over). They test boundaries, but ultimately want to do what they’re told. As a result, I have a black shadow that is nearly as large as I am, but much furrier.

Yesterday someone online recommended the conscious style guide, which is a compendium of useful, nonoffensive terms and precise definitions to use when talking about sexuality, ableism, ethnicity, age, and health. Some people call this political correctness, I call it being accurate and letting people determine what they want to be called. You wouldn’t call your new friend Bob by the name Mark just because you are too lazy to say Bob, right? Right.

And one last little link, which makes me want to change this blog name to “Why Clippy* Drinks.” Can I do that?

[*A quick reminder of who Clippy is. This link makes noise and might make you laugh until you cry.]

How is mid July in your neck of the woods?

Freelancing with Dogs

We agreed to get a dog the first week I went freelance. And when I say, “we,” I mean, I finally caved in to my spouse’s incessant pleading for a dog. To his utter surprise, a month ago and seven or so years later after Mr. Dog came to live with us, I agreed to get a second dog.

It’s nice to have a dog when freelancing. At least it looks at you when you moan about having to renumber citations eight times. For christ’s sake why can’t people with Ph.D.s in science cite each source IN NUMERICAL ORDER ON FIRST MENTION! There. It drove me to all caps. (Spare me your observations that they may have added or taken out sources and were more interested in the content than getting their citations straight. I just don’t care.)

Walking a dog gets you out of the house when you can’t take it anymore. They’re cute and love you. So why not have two dogs? I mean you could just drive a few states away and pick up a gorgeous poodle dog who was rescued from Louisiana because her owner died and the family didn’t want her.

So now in addition to having a little muppet thing (Mr. Dog), I have a horse, by which I mean a tall 36-lb poodle lady. I can’t work because I have to get up and go into the other room and look at her lounging on my couch. Is she comfy? Is she really mine? Holy shit!


Critical Thinking and Police Shootings

Louisiana is an open-carry state. Alton Sterling had a gun that he never drew. The man was shot by police when he was on the ground.

Justin Cohen writes, “Be aware of a few standard, and racist, media tropes about Black victims. In the wake of police executions, you are bound to hear a few things that distract from the real issues. One of those storylines is that ‘he was no angel,’ wherein the media will outline the various ways in which the victim behaved inappropriately in the past. None of this matters, and it certainly does not change the fact that the police killed the person outside of any legal process. I smoked pot when I was in high school, for example, and if the police used that as justification to murder me, that would be ludicrous.”

I am not a black man selling CDs outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I am a white woman who edits from a comfortable home in the fried-chickenless (but liberal) Northern Wastes. Denial is a way that many people distance themselves from a man like Sterling. “He must have done something,” or “He shouldn’t have been selling [possibly pirated] CDs.”

It might not have been legal, but it (as other people have said better than me) is not a capitol offense. I like how Cohen makes the comparison of Sterling being shot to him being shot for smoking pot in high school. It brings the metaphor home. Let’s apply some critical thinking to this situation. We can stop claiming denial that the person somehow brought this upon himself. (And we know what that argument sounds like.)

The right not be killed by the police is a basic human right. The problem is widespread and institutional. It’s not that all white police are racists. It’s that there is a system of laws, media, and entertainment that criminalizes men of color. When a police car passes me in my medium-sized, relatively peaceful town, I do not expect to be harassed. I don’t think I would be that easy in mind if I were black. The next town over is diverse, but mine is pretty white.

A black hoodie and shorts on a small white woman is read quite differently than a black hoodie and shorts on a big black man. And that’s ridiculous. I would crack a joke about how wearing a hoodie (particularly in the Northern Wastes) is  human right as well. But we all know what happened to Trayvon Martin.


The World

Yesterday I went to the doctor’s office. As I left, having been assured that I would probably live for another year, I saw a grown woman in the waiting room in tears. I tried not to stare, because I’m sure she was already embarrassed.

“We’re setting up a room for you now, honey,” the receptionist said, and the woman nodded through her tears. Going to the doctor’s makes me nervous, because I saw both of my parents die of cancer. I always think I’m next. I know this is not very realistic, but it’s part of a small anxiety I take with me into hospitals and doctor’s offices.

But so far that anxiety doesn’t show very much externally. I don’t know what the woman’s situation was, but I was not as different from her as I seemed, hurrying calmly from the waiting room. I had joked with the woman who had taken my blood and also with my doctor. (The phlebotomist had a postcard on her board that said, “Always give it 100%, unless you’re donating blood.”)

Writing puts me on the narrow edge of survival. It cuts me up and makes me weak. It leaves me ready to burst into tears or say something inappropriate at any moment. But I love it too. It makes appearing normal in public more palatable. I am not normal; I have a goddamned book printed out in my bag. But I’m filled with terror also. I take the things I love most and relive or anticipate their loss on the page. It’s a privilege and a pain in the ass.

How close are you to crying and/or saying wildly inappropriate things in public at any given moment?

Early July

I have such mixed feelings about the fourth of July. Our country is leaning hard right towards nationalism, and frankly, fascism. One of the planks of the Republican Party platform is exceptionalism. I do love the United States, but we are not somehow better than other countries. To think that is to engage in magical thinking and to ignore history. We Americans are good at that. It is not one of our more endearing traits as a country.

That said, I’m going out in a few hours to drink beer and eat grilled food outside with some friends. (Someone might be bringing her FOUR schnauzers. I hope she does, and I will report back.) I love sitting outside in the shade talking and drinking beer with people I like.

Often the Fourth finds me antisocial and writing. I’ve been doing that too this weekend. I write under my tree when I can, and inside when it gets too buggy or the screaming children in the park are too much. I made a revision checklist that I need to work through. Then it’s time for a print-out and I’m reading the fucker aloud. I’ve said this before, but this time I mean it.

Where does the fourth find you?

What Needs To Be Done

A few weeks ago someone asked me for advice about her first time at a writing residency. I said that she need to do whatever she needed to do in order to write. Then I realized this was advice one could take home.

I need to finish the fucker. I’ve been working on it some or a lot every day, depending on my work schedule. Sometimes I take Saturday off, not because I’m a good Jew, but because I am exhausted by the book.

I had a friend with kids who rented an office without telling her husband to write in the mornings. She told him she was going into work early. My demands are fewer. I’ve been struggling to find the mental space to write. In order to do that I need to eat regularly, drink water, and take my psychotropic medications every day. So far, so good.

I need to ignore my spouse’s needs, when they are tangential to me. I need to stay on task. I need to write on paper, so the distracting Internet doesn’t reach out to hold me in its glittering arms. I don’t have to respond to texts or emails right away. I need to get my ass in the chair. I need to clear my calendar. I need to get the fuck off the Internet.

How do you get your brain in order?