These are a few of my favorite Spams…

I went over 100 spam comments today. I’m actually up to 102. I’m sure there’s a way to get rid of them–or at least to minimize them–but they don’t bother me that much. I mean, I get an email at least once a week from an anonymous internet source. Also: Some of them are great.

splinter cell 6

If some one wants expert view about blogging after that i propose him/her to go to see this blog,
Keep up the good job.

Besides the non-compound “someone” this was lovely.

mulberry mitzy hobo

Jamie Satterfield I am simply AMAZED that someone as locally accomplished as you are would, it would seem, purposefully omit the fact that South Central owns B97.5, and 94.3 the X. Yes you stated they own radio stations and have an “office” in Knoxville. If I didn’t know any better I’d say you’re trying to protect them while still fulfilling your obligation to “report the news.” I think you should re write and report the “rest of the story.”.

Emphasis on the hobo above. Super conspiracy theory, right?

marc jacobs stockholm

Det?? Ar en bland flera orsaker till varför webbplatsen är bland de mest besökta webbplatserna för Hollywood filmer Download. Ladda ner ett spökhus film eller titta på en Haunted House online på bara några sekunder med HD / DVD / ipod / DivX kvalitet. Titta all ny release filmer trailer, ladda ner och titta på filmer online gratis på vår wed plats tusen andra filmer och HD-video finns att ladda ner här. Vi arrangerar HD Format Kvalitet nedladdning med högkvalitativ grafik och ljud. Dess är billigare att ladda ner filmer på nätet utan att ladda ned från vår webbplats, så helt enkelt gå och hämta en Haunted House online från webbplatsen, bör du inte söka längre för ett spökhus, menar jag don?? Tsearch längre och gå till vår webbplats för att hämta ett spökhus film Ladda ett spökhus film.

I’m not Swedish. Though I played in a band with one a long time ago.

Anonymous

Hello, the whole thing is going sound here and ofcourse every
one is sharing data, that’s in fact excellent, keep up writing.

What? “And ofcourse every one is sharing data”!

pnchbgs

lifting is the funnest thing ive ever done in my life. i used to be well-fed and was sad about my life, but for the second time ever all is great because i lift all the time anyday im stressed because of it. and i have crappy anxiety days where that happens.

For the second time ever all is great. And a poor enjambment there with “im stressed because of it.” What’s the antecedent? 

How to Write a Book (According to a Preschooler)

Last week I was hanging laundry in the basement. We moved into this place in Iowa (have I mentioned this? We live in Iowa now) before we’d ever seen it and the woman who brokered the deal said it had a laundry room, so I naturally assumed it had a washer and dryer. But apparently that was a terrible assumption. Actually, it was duplicitous brokering, if you ask me, bordering on Orwellian double-speak. That may be an exaggeration. Anyway, one of my upstanding coworkers gave us a washing machine that’d been in his garage for some time. So now we do wash, hang the clothes across four separate lines in our laundry room, and wear our stiff jeans like we’re European. It’s not so bad really.

So I was hanging laundry and Eden was in the next room playing with Legos and she said:

image

“I’m making a book, Daddy. Just like you made a book.”

“Cool,” I said. I played it calm and collected, I don’t know that I’d ever felt prouder about being a parent. Which, it occurs to me, is probably selfish on some level. “How’s it coming?”

“It’s good,” she said. I clothespinned some toddler pants. Toddler clothes take up way more space on drying lines than they do anywhere else.

“I’m making a book, too,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “How’s it going?”

image (2)

“Well,” I said, “pretty slow, I guess.”

“When are you going to be done?” she asked.

“I’m hoping to be done this summer, but we’ll see,” I said.

“Why don’t you finish it in the spring?” she asked.

“Good question,” I said. And it was. Sometimes preschoolers have the coldest, most brilliant logic on the planet. “Books just take a while. I’m just having trouble finishing it.”

“You just have to write it every day, Dad,” she said. Then she went back to the Legos.

image (1)

Best advice ever? Likely.

(It reads: Eden Lily Eden Eden Lily Eden. Lily is her first real BFF. They go to preschool together and see each other nearly every day whether school’s in session or not. And I think they must be learning about patterns because according to my literary analysis she’s working in ABA ABA form.)

A Second Draft and a Quote from Anne Lamott

“I had a friend named Al who every so often took other people’s cats to the pound to be put down, because his friends couldn’t bear to do it themselves. They were cats who were, for one reason or another, like sickness or incontinence, a blight on the landscape. He didn’t care one way or the other about cats.”

Anne Lamott suggests finding someone like Al to do the dirty work of editing your manuscripts–particularly your plot. I like this idea. I give my drafts to Sarah and for a number of reasons. She knows me best–often much better than I know myself. Which means she knows when I defraud the stories or the characters. She knows when I’m just being lazy. And because we’ve lived together for a while now, we’ve come to terms with bringing those things into the open and letting them air out, hoping that the air will fix them. I also let her read initial drafts because she loves me and she’s the kindest person I’ve ever met. Also: Because she lives with me, she deals with the days that I disappear into fiction. This isn’t just when I’m writing; this is any time I’m swallowed by a story or a character or a problem within my fictional world. Which means sometimes she lives with a stranger for days at a time. And I’m thankful for her giving me the space to grind my brain gears until I figure it out. And when I think I’ve figured it out, then I give the draft to her and she lets me know if I actually figured it out or not.

All this to say that I finished the second draft of this novel. The first draft was 30k words, with giant chasms of missing information. The second draft is 45k words, will smaller breaks in the narrative and characters that sometimes turn sideways and disappear. I am in the midst of a slow sludge toward finished. And then I am sure that I’ll be miserable with the product. But I will be done, which is more than I can say about most things.

Post script: It has taken me two years of on-and-off writing (read: bad writing habits/life in general) to finish this draft. It’s really the first draft that I’ve let Sarah read all the way through. So, she’s been waiting a while. Now that she has this draft, I ask her every night if she’s read it yet. My wonderful wife, who takes care of our kids while I teach/write, who works her new job at a preschool with more kids, who I demand to spend time with me in the evenings–I expect her to read this draft in days. And when she hands it back to me, it may well be months before she gets another draft. Something about this isn’t fair. If you don’t live with a writer, count your blessings.

Bicycling Habits

photoI ride a bike to work now. Since we now live a half mile from my office and in a small town, we sold our Honda Pilot. One car. It’s great. And my bike is fantastic. I took it Brother’s Bikes, this shop in town that some guy set up in his garage. He asked me what I wanted him to do and I said, I don’t know, make it run better? Smoother? He cocked his head and said, I’ll see what I can do.

When I came back the next day he told me I was missing 1st gear (out of three). I’m thankful he found it.

Sarah and I had this little getaway a couple weeks ago in this town that swears it’s the Bed and Breakfast capital of Minnesota. It was great. We lived with my folks this summer–which was a blessing–but it was nice to have a couple days just the two of us with no responsibility and our own space. The morning before we left, we rented a tandem bicycle to ride it down this trail to a tinier town that had the most amazing French Silk pie you can imagine. (The strawberry-rhubarb was equally good.):

photo (1)

I’m happy to show off the bike and my girlish figure. But the point of this post, I guess, if there needs to be one, is that we rode this tandem together, Sarah and I, two people that haven’t ever (I think) been on a bike ride together on separate bikes. And now we were on one. And I think I about drove her crazy, because unbeknownst to me, my bicycling habit is to pedal as fast I can in order to get to a point where I can coast. Once the coasting has slowed to a less-than-effective rate, then I pedal as hard as I can to get back to the coast. Sarah, from the back of the bike, asked, Why can’t you just keep pedaling?

I don’t know. I hadn’t thought of that.

But it’s probably reflective of how I live. It’s definitely reflective of how I write. Sprint, coast, sprint, coast. Sticktoittiveness is not my forte. I don’t know if I just get bored or so enjoy the coasting that the superpedalling is worth it or what. But I’d like to learn to pedal consistently at some point, instead of always finding myself in a flurry of paper and spokes and whatever other chaos I can cram in.

Annie Dillard and The Writing Life

I’m glad a writer like Annie Dillard exists. She writes fantastic sentences and I’m certain that she speaks right to the heart of some people. She is not, however, my jam.

I just finished The Writing Life, another in a string of craft books I’ve devoted my summer to reading. It had some good moments–mostly one liners–but on the whole it was maddeningly manic. She hops around from story to story a lot, talks a lot about herself and the cool places she’s been, drops an occasional great quote from someone else, and then wanders off into seemingly meaningless tangents.

Come to think of it, that sounds an awful lot like this blog.

So on to another occasional great quote:

“A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, “Do you think I could be a writer?”

“Well,” the writer said, “I don’t know … Do you like sentences?”

The writer could see the student’s amazement. Sentences? Do I like sentences? I am twenty years old and do I like sentences? If he had liked sentences, of course, he could begin, like a joyful painter I knew. I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, “I liked the smell of the paint.”

AND:

“The people who read are the people who like literature, after all, whatever that might be. They like, or require, what books alone have. If they want to see films that evening, they will find films. If they do not like to read, they will not. People who read are not too lazy to flip on the television; they prefer books. I cannot imagine a sorrier pursuit than struggling for years to write a book that attempts to appeal to people who do not read in the first place.”

I have a blog? I have a blog.

I didn’t totally forget about this blog. But I got busy an then every time I thought about writing on it, I though, I’m going to have to explain my absence.

To who? (Or whom?)

If you’ve missed me, thank you. My head is screwed on pretty straight at this point and my plan is to roll out some excellent posts in the near future.

Anybody have any ideas for blog types I can come back to regularly?

Jokes

My daughter has almost zero sense of humor. Which isn’t to say she doesn’t do hilarious things–they’re just never on purpose. Her little brother on the other hand has a pretty impressive understanding of jokes for a 2-year-old. And I think Eden has noticed, so lately she put out a little more comedic effort.

Eden [already laughing]: Judah! Do you want to hear a question that will make you laugh so hard?

Judah: Sure.

Eden: Are you a truck?

She then proceeded to laugh as loudly and exaggerated as she could. Judah joined in, but it was definitely a toddler courtesy laugh.

She turned 4 yesterday. Four! I know everyone says this: It’s incredible how fast they grow. But some things people say because they’re true.

I have a gift for taking things for granted. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Today, with the two of them in the back of the car, trying to tell jokes and being good and kind to each other, I was overwhelmed. It can be a sublime life.

What’s in a Name? Ask Buzz-Buzz.

Our house has a three-season back porch where, when it begins to get warm (like, I don’t know, July…) the kids like to play. It feels like it’s almost outside. We’ve been out there today, before the next 4-8 inch April snowstorm comes rolling in.

A fly has found comfort in the extra warmth of our porch–we leave the back window cracked sometimes for our tomcat Van Gogh to get in and out and apparently this fly found its way in. At first, Judah was a bit anxious about this fly; I don’t know if he mixed up a basic fear of bees with their cousin the house fly, but he wasn’t interested in the backporch with the “buzz” flying around back there. This is what he called the fly: “Dadda, there’s a buzz on the back porch.”

I tried to tell him it was fine, it wouldn’t bother him, to which he responded with the mantra: “It’s fine, the buzz won’t bother me.” But he still wasn’t interested in the porch.

That’s when Big Sister came to the rescue. She said, in her wise beyond almost-four ways: “We should give him a name.”

I said, “Okay. How about Buzz?”–real original, I know–“Or maybe Mr. Buzz?”

And she said, “I think Buzz-Buzz.”

Judah was suddenly on board. Now he wanted to invite Buzz-Buzz to lunch (we are out of yogurt, but Judah is sure that Buzz-Buzz has some at his house–no matter Buzz-Buzz probably loves fresh banana bread). He still seemed to have some anxiety about the whole thing–he was like hyper-aware of Buzz-Buzz’s location–but at least now he was rolling his trucks around the porch, talking to Buzz-Buzz about the different kinds of cars he owns.

I have a tendency to make everything didactic, so I’ll exercise that tendency now. Aren’t things less scary when they have names?

It’s hard out here for a … Midwesterner.

I’ve spent the morning scanning my book for typos and feel the overwhelming need to apologize if you’ve got one (or three) in your book. The apology probably isn’t best practice–I don’t know what best practice is but I’d guess it runs along the lines of pretending like there are no mistakes. This is where Midwestern roots run in dissonance with the self-promoting necessary to hock copies of a book.

I hate self-promoting. All of it–writing the blog included–feels icky, which is the best word I can think of for it. What I should be telling you is that my publisher is going to send my book in for a National Book Award–this is why I’m skimming for typos. But even then, what I want to say is Anyone with a publisher and a couple of dollars can be put up for a book award.

It’s hard to tell sometimes if its humility or roots. Or just #humblebrag. Maybe it’s some sort of combination, like most things. But what I really wanted to get to here, is a broad brush THANK YOU for all the support, kind words, and buying of books that you’ve done. It means the world to me; that’s actually what I’ve been overwhelmed with–the immense support and love from great people, far and wide.

And thanks for not sending a million emails pointing out the little things. The stories, the whole of them, are good and I’m hoping people get that.

Besides, when this little collection that could explodes, winning awards from fancy-pants folks, you’ll get to say: I own a copy with typos, I was there at the beginning. Right?

Exclamation Marks

I was chatting with The Venerable Josh Engen yesterday, as I am wont to do, and I offered to make his band’s record/coloring book the first release from this multimedia collective I’m trying to start (more on that at a later time) and he responded with “Sure!” If you know Josh (and if you don’t, you should), you’d know that he’s not an exclamation mark guy. So I assumed it was sarcasm–or worse–but it turned out that he really was using an exclamation mark in the way it was intended: To show exclamation.

Which got me thinking about emails. I send a lot of them. Because I live in St. Paul and teach in NW Iowa, I’m in contact pretty regularly with my students via email. And I’m always using exclamation marks. Is it because I want them to like me? Probably. Though there’s also something to be said about how much we communicate via text and how punctuation plays a role in that. (For punctuation ideas, might I suggest this?)

I also make jokes in the emails. But I realized today that they’re probably jokes my dad would make. Which got me wondering again: At what point does a person stop being cool and not notice it? Not that I’m delusion and think that I am or always have been superwaycool, but I suppose I’ve always thought I was doing okay. And what happens if that has changed, but I’ve failed to recognize it? It made me think of The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot, which my lit class read earlier in the semester:

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

Of course, I’m nowhere near as sad or crabby as Mr. Prufrock (Or Mr. Elliot?). And if I’m being honest, I’ve been old my whole life. So I guess what I’m trying to say is:

Stop making so much noise! And using so many exclamation marks!

And get off my lawn.