Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Like a writer on a movie set

So. Writing.

The ABC/Disney folks finally set a deadline for fellowship submissions--July 1--and now I'm not sure how to proceed, or whether to proceed, or whether I should just go get a job at Walgreens and move back in with my parents and forget the whole thing. It's like preparing to drive through an intersection, and having the light turn yellow--sometimes you're obviously supposed to keep going, and sometimes you're obviously supposed to stop, but sometimes you're just far enough away that neither choice seems like the right one.

Here's the thing: I don't want to wait a whole year to apply. I've known about the fellowship since, what, January? I considered my options and picked a show. I did some research. I pondered. I worked. I hung around the Writers' Guild library, hoping to soak up the working-writer vibe. And it's not like this is just a contest, where you get your name in the paper and a $100 savings bond. This is for a job, something I actually want, and I'm afraid that I'll start waiting and never stop.

But then there's reality: I'm not very good at this. And I'm not supposed to be good at this. I'm a good writer and I've done some of my homework, but I don't have any training. I can listen to other writers talk about going from idea to page to screen, but I don't know how it works for me. I don't know any of my own tricks, or how I sound, or how I'm supposed to sound. Even my English degree is all about rhetoric; it never occurred to me that I might want to go into creative writing as a profession. So I'm wandering a little, here. And I feel guilty whenever CH takes up all of my writing time, or when I'd rather write here, or when I'd rather just not write at all. I'm realizing that it's probably going to take me more than four weeks to come up with something, let alone to polish it and write jokes--how do you write a joke, anyway? I have a few choices here. UC Berkeley Extension offers screenwriting and TV-writing classes; they're expensive, but I could do it. I hear Solano College offers online courses in screenwriting, which are appealing mostly because they're cheap and offer the chance to learn in my jammies. I hate the idea of putting off my application for a year, but I'm also realizing that I don't have the tools I need, and it's going to show.

So....I don't know. That's where my writing stands these days: it's there, it's creeping along, but I'm afraid I'm out in the tall grass at the moment, and four weeks isn't much time to find my way out.

Monday, May 21, 2007

All is right with the world

I've been having terrible reading ADD lately--my sidebar says I'm working on Beyond Black, but that's a lie. The first 40 pages or so were pretty good, but they made me feel all squirmy and discontented--the image I get is like trying to feed a baby who doesn't want to eat--so I'm doing us both a favor and returning it to the library until I'm ready to try again. Some other time, I guess. I picked up Yann Martel's Life of Pi for the weekend, but I knew it was a false start even as I took it off the shelf. Again, I want to read it. The first three chapters were really good. I just don't want to read it right now.

Apparently, being in a bookstore on a budget does wonders to clarify the readerly vision.

You see, I lost my debit card last week, and I'm living on cash until the new one comes. I had to go to the actual, brick-and-mortar bank yesterday and talk to an actual person to get money. I have money for groceries and gas and bridge toll for the week. I do not have money for books, no matter how pretty they are or how nicely I think they would fit into my collection.

I'm not really a book buyer anyway--I like new books as much as the next girl, of course, but I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices, and then I realize how many of the books out there are bad, and I end up buying books I've already read. At least I can trust them, right? But I was in Barnes and Noble last night, and the Fiction and Literature section owned me. I was all over the 20th-century female writers: there's this beautiful new paperback copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker that I've been eyeing, and it pained me to leave it there (reminding myself that I have a less pretty but perfectly serviceable copy of The Collected Poems of Dorothy Parker at home). They had a whole Dawn Powell collection, and I've been meaning to read Powell, but I don't know where to start. There was Simone de Beauvoir, and there was Flannery O'Connor, and now they're coming out with great editions of all of them, and I have no sales resistance when it comes to matte covers and rough-cut pages. It was ugly. I was practically snuggling the books.

In the end, common sense and the prospect of going back to the bank prevailed; I didn't buy anything. I feel so much better, though--I went straight home and curled up with Eudora Welty: The Collected Stories, and it's just right.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Long Goodbye

Tonight, for the very last time, I will spend my Tuesday night with Gilmore Girls.

I remember the first time I watched Gilmore--it was after college but before Maggie and I moved into the cottage; I went over to her parents' house and we watched the season-three premiere together. The episode is "Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer," and it opens with a dream sequence: Lorelai wakes up surrounded by alarm clocks, and when she goes downstairs, Luke is there--he set all of the alarm clocks, and he's hidden her coffee. He talks to her tummy (Sid & Nancy/Leopold & Loeb), kisses her goodbye, and leaves. She wakes up and calls Rory in a panic. I didn't know who Luke was or why he should or should not be the father of Lorelai's kids, but I knew with the Connie Chung joke and Barbara Boxer's name in the credits that THESE WERE MY PEOPLE.

Is it weird to say that a TV show has changed my life? I'm not saying I want to be a single parent, move to a quirky town in rural Connecticut, feud with my parents, and/or fall in love with a guy who owns a diner. I can also live without going to Yale, sleeping with my married ex-boyfriend, jumping off a tower, stealing a yacht, taking a sulky trip to Europe, and living in my grandparents' poolhouse. But there are books I might not have read, songs I might not have heard, and movies I might not have watched without the Gilmores around. There are friends--real people, good friends--I wouldn't know if I'd never started watching. And wouldn't I be a different person without The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath? Wouldn't I be different without the Shins? Wouldn't I be different without The Philadelphia Story and Grey Gardens? I can't even say what a different place my world would be without my Gilmore friends. They're not even my Gilmore friends anymore; they're just...friends.

There's a technical side of this show that's been important to me. I've spent a lot of time with the Gilmores over the years, and I think I've learned things about story and structure, about character and arc and relationship--Amy Sherman-Palladino (not to disrespect David S. Rosenthal for the brave and interesting things he's done this season; they are legion) showed me about making the big things little and the little things big, and how giving viewers what they want can also mean breaking their hearts, and how that's not always even a bad thing. I haven't agreed 100% with every writing decision she ever made, but I've usually been able to see her reasons, and I can respect that. Most of what I'll miss about the Gilmores, though, isn't about what I've learned from it. What I'll miss are Tuesday nights on the couch. I'll miss Birthday Week and the Firelight Festival, town meetings and Friday Night Dinner. I'll miss painting songs, fuzzy Certs that taste like keys, and "Luke? Can WALTZ," which sounds more like "I'm surprised I still have my clothes on." I'll miss watching The Donna Reed Show on mute and using a Bop-It to dissolve social tension. I'll miss the Troubadour. I'll miss Paris the person, "What's up, quippy? Why so silent?," and packing your chastity belt because you're going to Harvard. I'll miss non-crazy Sookie. I'll miss Madeleine Albright cuddling with Rory in her red power suit. I'll miss Mrs. Kim and "this Bible belongs to God but is being used by Dave Rygalski." I'll miss Zach and Lane and Steve and Kwan, and whichever of them is all over growing in the torso. I'll miss Blake Edwards night at the Dragonfly, Cletus in the dining room, and Michel counting blueberries. I'll miss stealing an answering-machine tape, selling the old boat and buying a new one, and apologizing in a hay-bale maze. I'll miss Kirk's pedi-cab. I'll miss Richard humming classical music to drown out the Czech teenagers, letting Lorelai climb out the window, and telling her to relax for a moment and enjoy Rory's graduation. I'll miss the two-steps-forward-three-steps-back of Lorelai and Emily. I'll miss the Crap Shack. I'll miss that whole corner of the world, because seven years is a long time to exist, even fictionally.

So tonight is the end, and I'm okay with it, sort of. I knew the actors' contracts were up after this season, and I'm always a fan of TV shows quitting while they're more or less ahead. I'm excited to sit down with some knowledgeable friends, some frozen pizza, some Mallomars, and some pudding (not in crystal bowls) to watch it all wrap up. It'll be fun, seeing the Girls finally find true love, or march off to become Christiane Amanpour, or whatever it is that happens in the forty-two minutes we've got left.

I'm ready. And anyway, there's always DVD.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

12 of 12: May

Sooper-speshul Saturday 12 of 12! Very exciting in theory; not really all that exciting in practice. But:

8: 15 - The obligatory waking-up picture. We've moved on to cotton sheets and tank tops this month, which is a step up, I'd say.

9:30 - My new, semi-bad weekend habit: lazing around in bed with my computer. Wireless and a functioning laptop battery have ruined me for anything productive before 11 a.m.

12: 15 - Post-haircut. The temptation to somehow Photoshop in some lipstick here was absolutely absurd. Note to self: in future, do not look like well-styled zombie in photos.

12: 27 - Wandering the streets of Alameda after the haircut. Alameda's like Stars Hollow--every time I get my hair cut there, they always seem to be having a festival of some kind. It's kind of bizarre.

12:34 - Thrift-shopping for a bit.

12:42 - Nanette Lepore? In Alameda?

1:12 - Testing out a new taqueria with a vegetarian burrito. All taquerias must win me over with an acceptable veggie burrito--only after they've shown their trustworthiness with beans and rice can we move on to meat (chicken, then carnitas if they're really good). My burrito was huge, but not super-authentic. Real burritos shouldn't have cheddar cheese in them.

3:32 - A trip to the Target in San Leandro. I like it better than the fancy two-story one in Albany (though Albany's escalator for carts makes it a close contest). This one has a more diverse clientele, and has yet to fail me in the area of DVDs under $10. Thumbs up, San Leandro!

4: 25 - On the way home from Target. A sunny day in the Bay Area.

7:40 - Lasagna for dinner with my friends Helen and Bill, and then...

10:23 - to the Starry Plough for some music! This is the Shelley Doty X-tet. They were good.

11:47 - Plum Crazy, who were talented, funk-wise, but also a little jam-bandish for my taste.

Good weekend, all!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Oh, oh, we're halfway there

It all started with one cabley little swatch, and now...half a shrug! A quadrant of a sweater!

Here we have the whole half-enchilada, laid out--that's the left sleeve, shoulder, and the front and back segments of the little bodice. The puckery part in the lower-right corner is the back section, which still has live stitches on a stitch holder. When I finish the right half, I'll graft the back sections of both sides together, and you (theoretically) won't be able to tell. Magic!

Here it is folded to look like it will once I've sewed the sleeve seam--basically a sweater without a body. Made for chilly evenings and wearing inappropriate tops to church. So, perfect. (Kidding. Sort of.)

Cabling allll the way up that arm.

I have the vague suspicion that the (sizeless) pattern is going to be a bit too small, even though my gauge was perfect. If it's too narrow, that's fine--I'll just add more rows to both back sections before I graft them. If it's too short--i.e. The Shelf becomes a problem--I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Or I'll just wear it anyway, because I MADE IT WITH MY BARE HANDS, and that is an excuse to wear just about anything.

Now for His Girl Friday and casting on for the other half. (Oh, the fabulous life I do lead!)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"I forgot to feel the President's glands."

Ugh, I hate being a blog slacker. Busy, busy, etc.

Except not, because I took a sick day on Monday, and slept all morning and then spent the afternoon crashed out on the couch with the first season of Bones (Hey, don't mock; at what point does cheesy and obvious outweigh pretty and charming? We shall see). I felt fantastic all day yesterday, but woke up this morning with my throat scratching and my lungs wheezing in a not-very-amusing way. Not cool, body. Not cool.

So maybe it's less "busy, busy," and more like "boring, boring." Which isn't really any better.

I did give up on a book recently, which is pretty unusual--the first hundred pages of Broken For You were fine, but I was reading on my break one day last week, and I reached the end of a sentence and said to myself, "I can't go on." It was all very swoony and dramatic, but I'm much happier now, having picked up The Best American Non-Required Reading 2006, an anthology of essays, short stories, graphic short stories, excerpts from scripts, and all kinds of non-categorizable writing excellence from, well, 2006. The most thought-provoking piece I've read so far is the Iraqi Constitution, which I admit that I a) didn't actually expect to finish, and b) am finding so dense that I'm reading it in five-page spurts. I'm finding it both hopeful and kind of depressing--hopeful because it lays out what sounds like a pretty good proposal, where everybody is treated well and the government functions for the good of the people, but depressing because I know that's not what's happening. It also brings up issues about the United States Constitution, and about Constitutions in general--where and when did we as people decide that a single document meant authority, and what is it that makes us (mostly) recognize that authority today? Why do the U.S. and Iraqi Constitutions cover so much that sounds so basic to human civilization? (I think I know the answer to that one--implication and natural decency just aren't enough for us.) It's a really interesting piece of writing, if you're into that kind of thing.