Wednesday, September 29, 2010

why is graph paper


For me, a decidedly imprecise, non-mathematical person to adore graph paper the way I do gives me pause.  But then, I remember speaking to a group of people somewhere (sometimes they let me do that) and I was recalling what a brilliant metaphor math can be for fiction writing.  If you don't know what to do next, look at what's already on the page.  You're constantly trying to balance equations of the emotional or structural or narrative kind.  The hints are all there, just like they are in algebra.  There are knowns and there are unknowns.  Start with what you know and keep working until the unknowns reveal themselves.

I imagine it to look something like this in my brain:

(Hensley stands between cars and throws off pieces from lunch) + (why?) =  The bread tumbles quickly down into the ravine on one side of the tracks and it gives her a jolt of adrenaline.*

I sometimes wish I could graph a book.  Translate each and every sentence into a numerical value and place it on a sheet of tired, old graph paper.  I love plotting points (no pun intended) with a sharp pencil.  I even like all the unknowns.  I just don't always know how to solve for x.

*From my own algebraic work-in-progress.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

on happiness

When you have kids, you really want them to be happy.  So much so that sometimes you slip them an extra chocolate, or buy them an overpriced super-cool pair of shoes, or cuddle them long past bedtime.  But here's the thing about happiness that I've slowly realized:  it's a homegrown product.  It's difficult to acquire from a source other than your own heart or head or wherever the hell you think it's located.  So when we had a quiet (dare I say, sullen?) moment in the car this week and I wanted so badly to tell a joke, or turn in to Baskin Robbins, or say to hell with all the homework, let's just kick off our shoes and watch a million hours of TV, I refused.  I didn't try to cajole a smile or turn on the radio or even rant and rave about positive attitudes.  Because that would only bring amusement or distraction.  Instead, I let the sullen mood ride.  It hung with us in the car all the way home.  As I caught glimpses of that little face in the rear view, I winced.  I come from a long line of enablers and I have to fight the impulse to make everything all better.  But I told myself that maybe this would be a moment that he will remember.  Maybe he's hating me, or hating life or hating the hating, but whatever he's doing and thinking is all his very own.  His life is already here.  And whatever daydream he creates or tirade he composes in that moment is his alone.  When he emerged from his room later that day, a smile on his face and a bounce in his step, it was clear that the happiness was all his, too.  Homegrown.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the story of an engine

In addition to educating me about why yesterday's post was technically impossible (outputs to your USB?!--the typewriter becomes your keyboard, peeps), my dashing husband has become a finalist in the Guggenheim YouTube Play Biennial!!  Out of 23,000 entries, his is one of the 125 short-listed.  Go and observe.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

advancement in obsolescence

Since I've been having some trouble in the ass + chair department, I found myself wondering if this amazingly innovative invention could be a magic bullet, or shall we say seatbelt?  Believe it or not, folks, it's a fully operational typewriter (click, click, click) that outputs to your USB monitor.  I love it.  It's so ridiculously sentimental and simultaneously fickle.  You still long for the romance of typewriters and the long nights and hot sweats that kept them company, but you're just not quite ready to do without the excellence of the instant edit and air conditioning.  The delete and save and shrink to fit.  Just check out the video and then see how much you love it, too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


photo via
Funny that in the last post I called myself an old woman for whom time flies faster than she can fathom.  Because suddenly thanks to the Franz, I find myself wondering what in the world makes an adult?  And when do we really think of ourselves that way?  And will I ever?  Aren't we all secretly just masquerading.  Getting better at doing the things we don't really want to do and dealing with the things that scare us and disgust us, but still, really, just absolutely clueless?  I remember the first time I had to kill a roach, instead of standing on the toilet seat and screaming for some adult to come and help me.  It was a big moment.  Maybe my feelings of being trapped at age 23 have something to do with not having a truly adult skill.  I don't do surgery, or trade securities or run a business.  I don't climb telephone poles, or dissect tissue in a lab or write code upon which the world depends.

The Franz seems to mourn the loss of real adults.  People who are certain of their age and maturity.  People who no longer feel like rebels or poseurs.  They make better parents, better citizens, he told Terry Gross on Friday.  I'm not so sure.  Maybe when and if I ever become certain of my adulthood I'll see the wisdom of his words, but for now I tend to like it when I see a little bit of the kid showing through in otherwise totally adult people.  How 'bout you?  

Monday, September 6, 2010

We sat on the porch and watched the first leaves fall.  It made me catch my breath.  Am I already that old woman who can't believe how quickly the seasons change?  Yes, I am. 

We retreated to the cabin and looked at photos of the children there when they were younger.  So freakin' adorable.  So cherubic and joyous and easily carried.  And yet, I know they're just that adorable now, plus they can count change and pick-out wardrobes and do laundry and wax philosophical and build their own forts and make excellent chocolate chip cookies all by themselves.  This is the time.  This is the moment that I will soon (gosh, those seasons just change in the blink of an eye) be longing for.  When the children are still my main occupation.  They live in the house and make the house purposeful.  Here we are, they seem to speak with their mismatched socks and overgrown bangs, becoming ourselves