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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rants & Raves of Becoming a Writer

It's none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.  - Ernest Hemingway

I have a whopping 519-page novel sitting on my desk… unpublished. When I look back on it, it sucks—written with all the callow grace of an amateur—but the fact that for an entire decade I had the disciplined commitment to write it is somewhat impressive. I have other unpublished stories that, in efforts to truly understand my protagonists, I’ve nearly sacrificed my sanity to write. I’ve morphed into the mindset of a dying bum in the Tenderloin, a coke-addicted suburbia housewife, and an old and lonely widow who just wants to sing karaoke, to name a few. If it weren’t for that voice in my head that feels the incessant need to narrate every mundane and exciting detail in life (from standing in line at the grocery store to those fleeting seconds just before a man jumps off a bridge), I’d have quit writing a long time ago. The ego can only take so much, after all.
Just before I arrived to that ‘fuck it’ point in life, I received an unexpected success: I got accepted to grad school, into the creative writing program at Mills College. Me—grad school! The punk teen from Chula Vista who used to ‘Abacadaba’ my way through Scantrons had made it into grad school. I was as thrilled as Honey Boo Boo on her birthday. Would a prestigious education open doors to getting published and becoming a successful novelist? Would a professor tell me that maybe my stories would have a better chance if all of my protagonists weren’t depressing lunatics?
My "acceptance glee" was short lived. Fear and self-doubt began to seep like poison through my body as I realized one thing: I got into grad school…and I was terrified.

Next Week: The ‘oh shit’ feeling continues…in a public performance space

Monday, March 18, 2013


I’d spent months on crutches, and even more months hobbling around on a cane after breaking off a piece of cartilage in my kneecap. Even though I can walk on my own now, I recently decided two things about myself: one, that I’m no longer the invincible 32-year old I once was, and two: that I wanted to cut off all my hair—both of which had everything and nothing to do with one another.
            I showed the picture to my hairstylist: Halle Berry in an edgy pixie ‘do, with strands of hair spiking out in every different direction. “I want to look like her,” I said.
            My hairstylist hesitated. “Are you sure? It’s really…short.”
            I insisted. She tied my hair in three ponytails—one in the back and two on the side—and in three quick snips, the last six months of the hair I'd been wearing fell to the floor.
           As I sat very still in the chair, I watched in the mirror as handfuls of hair rained down all around, the ends of the curls looped like cat tails. I’d been sick of my hair for so long, sagging and drooping with half-assed curls. I'd even began slicking it into a ponytail, embarrassed that my dull hair would reveal the vulnerable truth of how I really felt about myself. 
            Meticulously, my stylist cut, snipped and razed. “Is this length short enough?” she asked.
            “No. Shorter,” I said.
            She cut, snipped, razed some more. “How ‘bout now?”
            She cut, snipped, razed some more; she cut and cut, until there was hardly anything left at all. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Puppet for Lily

The first time I saw her she was rummaging through the trash, high out of her mind on god knows what. When she found what she’d been looking for—a soiled shred of plastic bag—she tied it in her hair like a bow. She began clawing savagely at her face, as if bugs were crawling underneath her skin, and that’s when she turned and I saw it: bursting out from underneath her cutoff top was a huge belly…she was at least six months pregnant.
I saw her again about a month later. The sun had barely reached its zenith of the afternoon when I recognized her on the street—a different piece of trash bow-tied in her hair—and not pregnant. Did she have a crack baby? lose it? abort it? I barely had time to wonder because I was forced to hop back clear across the sidewalk. With fingers down her throat she was spewing vomit all across Mission Street, the entire crowd at the bus-stop her audience. She was crying hysterically and tried to wipe her face but only smeared the puke that had been dribbling from her mouth. Ironically, I’d just said goodbye to my friend Lily who’d revealed—gushing with excitement—that she was pregnant. We’d left a baby boutique minutes before, wondering if the little creature swimming inside her would prefer a piggy puppet or a lop-eared bunny once it was born.
Steering clear of the puke puddle, I suddenly crossed the street heading back towards the baby boutique. Tears bubbled at the brim of my eyes without spilling down. The piggy puppet, I said over and over, the words reeling silently round in my mouth. Lily had to have the piggy puppet for her baby—she had to.