Booking Through Thursday: Short

So, in honor of the shortest month of the year … how do you feel about short stories? Love them? Prefer them to novels?

I like them. I don’t think I have any inherent preference for short stories over novels or vice versa, but I do have a more writer-based preference. For example, I’ve been working through the Portable James Joyce and prefer his short fiction over his novels. Similarly, I prefer Neil Gaiman’s novels over his short fiction, mostly because I prefer the complexity and depth of things like American Gods. Depending on the book, I think Stephen King does short fiction better than novels, too, just because I think his novels can get overly dense and he has a habit of including too much exposition, whereas his short fiction gets right to the point and tends to be interesting, unnerving, and effective. And I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I also have a very strong preference for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short fiction over his novels–specifically, I think the story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” is so, so good and so much more interesting with much better writing than The Scarlet Letter. 

Friday Five: Juice

  1. What’s your favorite juice? I liked the Naked brand juices, especially the mango and Green Machine. In terms of less fancy juices, I tend to prefer things like mixed berry or the Simply Orange that has mango or pineapple for it. I love them tropical fruits.
  2. Blend fruit juice with fresh or frozen fruit, (sometimes) ice, and other ingredients and you get a smoothie. What’s your favorite smoothie? Strawberry, but again, anything involving pineapple and/or mango is great, too.
  3. Juice in some contexts means credibility, the respect of others, and influence. In what way have you recently earned juice among your peers? I don’t know for sure, but I like to think getting a personal essay published did this. I mean, I doubt it because it’s a tiny step in a writing career, but it’s still pretty legit and it’s a step I’m proud of.
  4. How satisfied are you with your mobile phone’s charge capacity? In the words of surveys, somewhat satisfied. It hasn’t ever really held a charge well, but it seems like it’s been doing better since I started making an effort to close apps I’m not using at let the battery get low before giving it a full charge, plus not leaving it plugged in long or only charging it in brief spurts, with exceptions. I’ve had fewer frustrating incidents of short battery life since.
  5. What are your thoughts on Kool-Aid and Tang? I don’t ever remember trying Tang, and if I did, it obviously didn’t stand out. I do like Kool-Aid, though, but I think that has more to do with nostalgia that it does the actual quality of Kool-Aid.

Paul’s been saying for a couple weeks now that he wants to cook in one night–he’s had plans for cakes, cookies, and pasta salads, he just keeps forgetting to do it or we’re busy or something.

Friday night, we went out, which is what we usually do Friday nights. I think because we live and work an hour apart from each other, by the time one of us gets to the other’s place for the weekend, we’re both starving and it’s easier to go out or get takeout than it is to cook, and that’s especially true when Paul’s at my place because he has a huge appetite, is a little picky, and feels bad if he eats a lot of my food, even when I insist that’s what the food’s for.

Anyway, this past weekend was a Greensburg weekend at his place, and we picked Winghart’s, who happened to be celebrating their birthday with a singer, who was pretty good but whose name I never did catch. Left some cash in her tip jar regardless. The food was good, though I think they’re a little overpriced for the portion sizes, considering it’s just a step up from a sports bar. I mean, it’s good and different, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the price–unless we’re talking about their pizzas. But there’s a reason Paul and I fall into the trap of eating at Primanti’s every few weeks, which is also probably the reason my jeans have been getting snug. Spring needs to come so we can walk a few miles on a weekly basis as opposed to only doing it when it’s warm enough.

We did stay in Saturday, though. We got some goody, heavy snow for a good chunk of the morning, and when it cleared, he went out for some groceries while I played on the internet and wrote and such. He ended up coming back with some good snacks, made me macaroni and cheese for lunch, then made a German chocolate cake with peanut-butter and cream-cheese icing that was pretty amazing, followed by some simple but still good oatmeal-raisin cookies. And then we ate peach-pineapple salsa and chips. It was a glorious feast.

Brandon came close to joining us since he had drill nearby and my mom was worried about the roads being bad, but once the snow stopped, it was pretty much fine. And Greensburg’s pretty on top of their snow removal, unlike Washington, which is one of the reasons that when the time comes for future life planning, I’m voting for Greensburg life.

In the meantime, I did make the mistake of revisiting the comments on my published essay and got annoyed–annoyed enough that I had a post planned about it, but enough time has passed that I don’t really care anymore. Basically, a commenter felt that I made the city out to be full of violence, then went on to question why anyone under 35 wouldn’t live directly in the city itself. It was one of those things where I felt they’d misconstrued some things and ignored others, to the point that I wondered if they’d read the whole thing, since the entire piece detailed exactly why I’m not living directly in the city. And even if it didn’t, people are free to live where they want, and just because you live in the city doesn’t mean everyone else wants to or can (although I do want to). It struck me as very “well, I live this way, why doesn’t everyone else?!” But as for the questionable reading comprehension, I’ve noticed that a lot on the internet lately–people have very strong reactions to statements that were never made.

As for Sunday, we went to Meloni’s for a little lunch my parents decided to have for Brandon, since he left for basic training yesterday and some of the extended family mentioned wanting to see him before he left. I was running late because I forgot I needed gas–because I didn’t feel like getting it on my way to Paul’s Friday–and ended up having to sit with my Aunt Vicki, which I joked later was my punishment for being late. Fortunately, she behaved and made surprisingly pleasant conversation. So did Paul’s mom, for that matter, until she started harping on when we’re gonna get married. See, the catch is she told my mom she’s gonna stop pestering Paul about it, and she has, but what that means is she pesters me instead and talks about potential wedding bells to anyone that knows us that’ll listen. She still interprets the lack of an engagement ring as doubt and stalling, not the lack of money for a ring or a wedding. In fact, Paul quite romantically told me a couple weeks ago that when he can afford it, he’s “marrying the shit out of” me.

She also said she’s anxious for me to change my last name, even though I have no plans to actually do that should we get married.

I’d rather just have a house, though. At this point, if I spent money on a wedding, I’d feel like it was wasted when I could’ve used that money to get a house and quit renting. And I really want to quit renting. Neither washing machine is working, and this place is drafty in these unusually subzero temperatures.

I Got Published!

That’s right. I wrote a thing, and The Billfold published it.

It feels like it took forever to get something published, but in reality, the amount of work I was submitting was pretty small. In fact, I’ve probably submitted more in the past month or so than I did all of last year.

A great bonus is that I’ll also be paid for this, and of course it feels like a huge step forward. That said, it’s funny how inconsequential it feels when it’s followed by a rejection from a sister site a few days later, but as a fellow writer once said, got to think of pieces as pets trying to find the right home. And that one’s a tough one to nail down in terms of relevance, timeliness, tone, subject, pretty much everything. It would do best, I think, in a local publication.

But all in all, I’m proud of myself. It feels good and a little bit weird, mostly because it’s memoir. On the one hand, I of course posted it all over my social media, meaning I quite publicly invited everyone from former teachers to classmates to coworkers to relatives to read it. This one isn’t too personal so that’s fine, but it’s bizarre to think that people I’m ordinarily not close with now have this glimpse into the inner workings of my brain. It’s a very new, strange sort of vulnerability, but the reaction has been positive–even in the piece’s comment section, which I risked peeking at since this is the kind of piece that’s unlikely to draw a strong, harsh reaction.

People seem to relate to it, actually, which is obviously a great feeling as a writer but is its own form of weirdness, too, although not necessarily in a bad way. It’s just that I’ve suddenly got strangers expressing thoughts on my life and experiences. This piece isn’t really mine anymore, you know? It’s gone from a little thing on my computer shared with a few other writers for feedback to this thing on the internet.

I can’t imagine what sort of proper existential crisis I’ll have when I publish something truly heavy.

But for now, this is an exciting start to a career beyond basic journalism and an exciting start to 2015.

Friday Five: Can’t Help Myself I’m Falling

  1. When did you last trip and fall? I can’t remember the last time I actually fell, but I’ve slipped on ice a few times in the past couple weeks. I’ve managed to not actually go down, though.
  2. What’s a fond memory you have of this past autumn? The Erasure and Fleetwood Mac concerts are definitely the best.
  3. What’s a nice waterfall you’ve visited? The most notable one is probably Niagara Falls, but local Ohiopyle is always pretty. It’s just easy to take it for granted when it’s so close and we can go up there just to hang out.
  4. What are your thoughts on Jimmy Fallon as host of The Tonight ShowI don’t have cable so I don’t actually watch it, but I do catch clips and I like him. I love Fallon in general, and I think he does some fun things and is a good, refreshing host.
  5. Who has most recently fallen out of your favor? First of all, it’s been awhile since anyone has at all–at least a few years. But if I had to narrow down the most recent one in those years, it was probably Paul’s sister Julie. She’s too much like their mother–stubborn, a bit narrow-minded, judgmental, and maybe a little bit fake.

Booking Through Thursday: Collections

Do you prefer to read collections that are all of works by the same author? Or collections by different writers? Consistency or variety?

I tend not to be too interested in collections, for the most part, although I don’t know why. I think I have the same attitude toward them as I do greatest-hits albums–too much opportunity to skim over what’s really good in favor of what got a lot of attention. I haven’t read things like anthologies since I needed them for classes in college, and I wouldn’t revisit them now for the aforementioned reason.

That said, I do make some exceptions for writers’ collected works. Unless I already know I only like specific works, I don’t mind having entire collections by certain writers. I’ve been working through a James Joyce collection from college, and I’ve been discovering I don’t really like his longer work. But I also have a Shakespeare collection from college I plan on keeping. I have a Mark Twain collection, too, but that’s a strange exception where if I could parse it down to just the stories I like, I’d be happier.

And then there’s my two volume complete works of William Carlos Williams. Obviously, that’s easier to do with poetry, but also obviously, I really love me some William Carlos Williams.

2014

I’ve been wanting to do a 2014 post basically since New Year’s, but I’m just now getting the time for it. Basically, leaving IYS didn’t actually free up any time–it just means my time is divided other ways and I spent more time writing for Examiner and AXS, but that’s fine since it makes me money.

So, I normally revisit the previous year’s resolutions and goals, discuss how I did, and set new ones. And I’ll probably still do something like that, but in looking back at last year’s posts, I don’t think I did it last year. What I did do was this. So I think i’ll do it again for 2014.

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year? 
Paul moving out of his parents’ house. I feel bad sometimes for pushing him to do it when he has trouble with money sometimes, and I told him that, but he thinks it was a push he really needed and it’s done more good for him than not. It was incredibly healthy for him to get out of his parents’ house, which I think we both agree is a pretty toxic environment, but it had a huge positive impact on our relationship. It’s not that things were bad, but he was happier, which improved the quality of the relationship, and neither one of us had to deal with his mom removed our biggest–and at this point, only–source of tension. Plus I’d gotten to a point where I very rarely went over and spent time with him at their house because of her and it being a toxic environment for me, too, with her negativity and criticism and judging. I saw no reason to keep putting myself in that position, so I chose not to. With Paul out, I can almost go over whenever I want. The only thing in the way is the hour-long drive and our jobs. And I’m not gonna lie, we also had a lot more sex. My leaving IYS was pretty good, too, as I now write for websites that pay and lost a huge chunk of stress.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
The lead-up to Paul moving out. His mom just got to be way too much for me, and Paul and I were actually supposed to be on break until he did move out, but he acted so fast when I made that decision that I had a hard time standing by it. Not to mention we’re both really, really bad at staying away from each other when we try to. I don’t think we could break up if we tried. Because we’ve both tried at various points and it never took.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year? 
Probably how much I’ve enjoyed the company of co-workers I’ve started talking to more, especially within our writing group. And that group itself was an unexpected joy, both in it happening and in the outcome. My coworker Paul had discussed it and I couldn’t go to their first few meetings, and I was really nervous and self-conscious when I did, but they’re all lovely and have given me an ego boost but constructive criticism, too. It’s been both helpful and fulfilling.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Like last year, I’m not sure how truly unexpected any obstacles were. Paul’s mom has had real mental-health issues that I always suspected existed, but they’ve manifested in a big way, which of course has upset him. Also, IYS became much more of a stressor than I ever anticipated.

5. Pick three words to describe 2014. 
Progressive, (mostly) calm, exciting.

6. What were the best books you read this year? 
Animal Farm, although I’m not sure how much that counts since I’ve read it twice before. Maus, even though I only finished the first book, because it’s probably one of the best Holocaust memoirs I’ve read in part because of the graphic-novel format and the fact that it’s told with animals–Jews are mice, Nazis are cats, and Polish people are pigs. I’m told the second volume has others. And Tess of the D’Ubervilles, which just sneaks in since I finished it in the first couple days of the year. Man, I loved that book.

7. With whom were your most valuable relationships? 
Mostly the same core group as last year–Terra, Paul, Brandon, and Kelly, plus probably my mom. I’ve realized gradually over the past couple of years how much I learned from her, especially when it comes to independence and strength. She suggested–after I’d already considered it, but still–that some of my issues with Paul living at home stemmed from having my dad deploy multiple times as a teenager, so I’m much more independent and used to much more independence than Paul ever had until now, really. It’s also fun to spend time with your parents as an adult. Not that I ever disliked it, aside from typical clashes, but there’s something about living alone and supporting yourself, and the distance, I’m sure, that makes it easier to enjoy spending time with your parents. It’s almost but not quite like relating to them as peers and not authority figures, but of course that doesn’t mean they’re not in charge me, because sometimes, they still are. Terra and Paul, meanwhile, remain like a personal cheerleading squad and huge sources of support. They’re the first ones to listen when something’s wrong and be happy for me when good things happen. They’re also not afraid to be honest with me, though–they may be super positive, but they’re not afraid to call me on my shit, even if it’s gently. Brandon and Kelly are still fun to hang out with and are sort of a go-to double date, I still can’t bitch about anything on Twitter without him texting me about it.

8. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year? 
I’m happier and more confident, and I think those two things are related. I think they build on each other, and I’ve spent the last few years building myself back up–with help, of course, both professional and otherwise. I think I’m smarter and more informed, and more compassionate and understanding as a result but less likely to take bullshit. Do no harm, take no shit.

9. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally? 
Just covered it, but happiness and confidence are the biggest ones. I don’t necessarily know that I’d say I’m the happiest and most confident I’ve ever been, but I’ll get there if I keep it up.

10. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually? 
Like last year, I’m not sure that I have. But the next book I read is gonna be C.S. Lewis, so come see me next year.

11. In what way(s) did you grow physically? 
I think I did more yoga than the previous year, although I’ve also gained a little weight. That said, though, I spent more time walking with Paul, and I have more stamina and better recovery now. Long walks with him–and I’m talking a few miles–used to kick my ass and have me sore the next day, but now I barely notice it. I’d like to get to a point next year where I can go ever farther/longer.

12. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others? 
I’ve seen a few people I haven’t in a few years and was on questionable terms with, at best. It went well. It felt nice. I’ve also talked more with certain coworkers, and of course, my relationship with Paul improving has probably made us closer.

13. What was the most enjoyable part of your work? 
I’ve worked on some really kick-ass shows. Like, high-profile shit. Like, I know what happens in a certain popular spin-off for most of the rest of the season. And on the side, I’ve been writing about music–including live reviews–and getting paid for it, which is great. Any writer will tell you that the only thing better than writing is getting paid to do it. Livin’ the dream. Almost.

14. What was the most challenging part of your work?
Mandatory overtime and difficult shows, like last year. At IYS, stress and a lack of time and feeling unappreciated and sort of feeling like the site wasn’t going in a direction that I felt fit what I wanted to be doing. Speaking of, it’s also challenging to cover electronic music when the artists all sound alike and the genre is mostly boring.

15. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year? 
Probably Tumblr.

16. What was the best way you used your time this past year? 
Yoga, writing, having fun, going to concerts, spending time with people I love.

17. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
I’m allowed to put myself first, and I should.

18. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2014 for you.
Moving forward.