Getting lost


Nothing prepared us for this small Caribbean island, not our maps, not our omnipresent iPhones, not our best intentions. From the moment we arrived, everything assaulted us. The colors, vibrant; the people, guarded; the sun, brutal. We wanted an escape. Liberation from reality. A break from our cold, gray, gritty winter. The chance to turn bitter truths into lies.

We drove the twisted island roads, where we had to navigate by feel rather than sight. Carefully planned trips to dinner quickly dissolved into goose chases as restaurants eluded us. Nothing lasts on an island. By the end of our trip we’d sampled a wide variety of island cuisines, from simple pinchos by the road the first night to tacos on a bluff overlooking the rainforest to empanadas and croquettas in a café on a busy square. The unpredictability riled us.

In our wanderings, we found fences. Fences edged even the most run down homes, staking off territory, setting boundaries as if the island itself weren’t solitary enough, as if this spot of land could ever be owned. Barbed wire fences lined the glimmering beaches, grates locked up the defunct restaurants, blocking access. We respected our limits. We did small things – hiked to a stone tower, stumbled our way into a cave, ferried to a tiny island with a strip of brown sugar sand. We found an old church, its joyful music pouring through its wrought-iron grates. In the old city we found a few more places where life escaped the fences – rounding a street corner we came to a window without a pane, a woman just inside sitting at her kitchen table. We said hello.

Who could we be here? Certainly not who we thought we were. The island had its own ideas, its inhabitants, others. The island tried to darken our skin and lighten our hair; it tried to change us. Its inhabitants spoke to us only in English, refusing to teach us. The island initiated us, its inhabitants imitated us.

Our old ways failed us. You, driving, always chose the wrong fork, and I, frantic, would cry out, “Stop!” and then, “Turn left. Here.” And despite your irritation, we found that this new way, this irrational and immediate method of judgment-making, worked. We went in-between. We were forced to stumble, jerk, grope, seep, abandon our desires in favor of finding the surprises. So maybe this will be our new thing.

Girls in prison


I’ve heard really good things about this new show, Orange is the New Black, and last night I finally got around to watching the first episode. Yeah, I liked it. I can see why I’ve heard so much about it. I’m drawn to the idea of prison as this sort of alternate reality where smartphones are obsolete and escapism is nearly impossible. I like that women get to be bad asses, drawing on their survival skills. I like the reverse-edginess, where the prison culture feels like it could break down into a knitting circle at any moment.

At one point, a male guard tells Chapman (the main character) not to make any friends. What? Don’t make any friends? Why not? Is is even possible for a group of women to live in close quarters without making friends? I say no. Ladies, making friends is our superpower. No wonder the male guard warned against it. It makes his job that much harder.

I did have one gripe, though. It bugged me how Chapman’s past and present are pointedly at odds with each other. Her decade-old lesbian relationship bought her a ticket to prison, forcing Chapman to put off her marriage to her nice-Jewish-boy fiance. Now, I’ve only watched one episode, so maybe the writers will redeem themselves. But really? The glaring stereotypes strike me as outdated.

Have you watched it? What did you think?

Is that weird?

When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend named Hippa Zakka. She lived in the wall under the dining room window.

I used to plan imaginary feasts with her as my guest. I’d set the table for the two of us and prepare our pretend meal. Hippa and I would set out on grand adventures in our Winnebago. We’d read together. She shared all of my toys.

Hippa Zakka was always ready to play with me. She was up for anything. I played with her for many years, even after I’d started school and had real friends.

Hippa never let me down. She never ignored me, never broke a promise. She was always fun, never mean. She was just right.

Hippa Zakka taught me a thing or two about how to be a good friend.

Edit me, a revision

I haven’t always known how to edit. I have a master’s degree in English lit, but my education did not prepare me for my career as an editor. No, I learned to edit afterwards, on the job. My process is one of many, I’m sure, but I want to tell you about it. It sheds some light on what I’m seeking from this blog, I think.

Before I begin to edit something, I try to learn from the writer what they expect in the final product. I gather the appropriate style guide, dictionary, and any other reference materials. I find a quiet place to work uninterrupted. I take a moment to clear my mind and focus on my work. For me, editing is almost meditative. I need to completely focus on the writing, turning each word, each phrase, over in my mind to ascertain its meaning and clarity. I try to make my queries objective, to be minimally invasive in the writing.

When I edit, I pay complete attention to the writing in front of me. The words become the most important thing in the world to me, if only for the brief time that I am editing them. I seek to understand the words, in the smallest sense – of spelling, punctuation – to the largest – of theme and message. As an editor, I care more about being present for the writing than about changing it in any essential way.

So, edit me: Read my words. Give them your undivided attention. Offer me your constructive criticism or your compliments. Am I who I think I am? Or, as I suspect, is there more to me than that?

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

Have you read this?

Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer

It was a birthday gift from a friend who reads this blog. Thanks, S. I liked the book very much. I also like that you get my project here. You understand me.

The book is a work of art, its narrative cut, literally, from the pages of another story, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz.

Tree of Codes works, loosely. It is an exercise in taking away, a practice of editing. The result is a translucent tale, bordering on illegibility, that includes as it excludes.

Here are a few good lines:

– “children greeted each other with masks on their faces”
– “we passed the chemist’s large jar of pain.
-“a face from which life was walking, a pale network of lines on an old map of distant lands wandering over memories which would suddenly blow away.”
-“he became almost insane with mother.”

The story is somewhat strange and dreamlike. Reading is difficult but quick. It leaves me wondering about the rest of the story, the scraps of edits tossed on the ground in the process, not to mention the whole wide world excluded from the original text of The Street of Crocodiles.

So, have you read it? What did you think of it? If not, you should check it out.

I hate mirrors


I don’t have a lot of mirrors in my house. There are the usual ones above the sink in the bathrooms, and one full-length in my bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, I like to look nice. I spend the requisite half-hour in front of my mirror each morning, putting on makeup and blow-drying my hair. I check to make sure that my outfit looks good before I leave my room. You know, the usual stuff.

But seeing my reflection throughout the day has never been high on my list of priorities. Once I check in the morning, I’m pretty much set for the rest of the day. Unless it’s date night or girl’s-night out, I just don’t look in the mirror on purpose. It’s no big deal, but every once in a while if I catch a glimpse of myself that isn’t quite right, I feel bad for the rest of the day. So I try not to let that happen.

But if this blog were a mirror of me? Well, I think it’s obvious that it would be cracked, shattered into hundreds of tiny slivers, held together as if by magic. Each shard would reflect a different angle, a separate moment, a fragment of me. You’d glimpse my dark hair here, my green eyes there, my smile, my tears, my memories each locked in its own little piece. All together the pieces would barely make sense; you might not grasp just how usual I am in reality. You might think that you know something about me, and then you’d blink or change position, and that image would vanish, replaced by another, equally powerful one.

And me? I’d be behind the scenes, rearranging the shards like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle just to short out your assumptions. Don’t ever believe what you read online.


Elevator pitch, take two

Yesterday, I gave you the cocktail party version. The one I’d tell to my friends or acquaintances, or to a bunch of other English majors or art students.

But, so what? I forgot that this is also a marketing spiel. I’m no salesperson, but I need to write this version too.

I’ve been away from work for five years now, raising my kids. I’m ready to return. Not because I have to, because I want to. I won’t squander this opportunity, and believe me when I tell you that this IS an opportunity. I’m not going to waste it by handing you a boring piece of paper with a gaping hole in it. I’m going to fill you in on the details, in full color. I’ll show you that what I’ve been paid to do is only a shadow of what I’m capable of. I’ll demonstrate the skills I’ve picked up as a mom.

I want this blog to become my resume. It will be my writing portfolio. I’m going to give you my words, and I want to collaborate. In my imagination, it’s awesome. This is starting as a conversation. I hope that it will lead to a book deal, a creative writing job, or both. I want to get paid to do what I love.

The elevator pitch

I have a sick need for critique. I inherited it from my mom, along with her diamond earrings. That lady gave it to me straight. And I haven’t found anyone else who is that genuinely critical since she died. Bad haircut? She’d tell me. Pants that looked cheap? She didn’t spare my feelings.

I’ve been without an editor for six years now. I’m doing okay, but life is boring. I need to change it up. I want to tell you my stories, the secret ones. The ones that have been simmering and growing into their own. I want to tune into my private radio station and retrieve those old tales, and I want you, dear reader, to listen. I want you to critique. Tell me what I need to add, take away. I’m baring myself to you and I’m asking you to take your best shot. Trust me, it will feel like love to me.

Let’s do something interesting together.

Written for Yeah Write’s 31 Days to a Better Blog.

Your car


Crossing the parking lot with you, I see it before I recognize it. I’m not a car girl, so it’s easily the oldest car that I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s rusty white.

You are beaming. This is your moment. A vintage ’66 Mustang and a date with your long-lost girl? What more could make your dreams come true?

You want me to get into this? I think. Is it safe? I wonder. I am so clueless on the coolness factor.

You, bursting, hold the door open for me, help me into the worn vinyl bucket seat. That old car smell, so evocative, sears into my memory. That smell, it’s you. The you who could be anything, the you who could do everything, the you that I knew so long ago and did not yet know.

To you, this is your moment in the sun. This is really, truly it for you. Your last first date. You are shining. And that car, that terrible, awful car, is everything to you. It tells your story writ large and symbolic. You’ve done it. You’re out, you’re free. You’re an adult, and this car proves it. And my existence here in your car proves it. So I settle into my bucket seat and hold on for the ride.