Sunday, November 16, 2014

Project Presence, Fallow Fields, Aion Review

Last week I promised to follow up on my new resolution to be more present and break the multi-tasking habit. This week I made a conscious effort to slow down and focus fully on one thing at a time, and surprise, surprise, I felt less exhausted and a bit calmer. I still caught myself multitasking on more occasions than I would have liked, but just  going into work with the intent of being more present made a difference. I’m nowhere near being the next Eckart Tolle, but at least I managed to eat my lunch while only reading e-mail, instead of reading e-mail, texting, talking on the phone, worrying obsessively about the future, and ruminating regretfully on the past. From here on out, I will worry and ruminate separately. That’s progress, folks!

Yesterday, I journaled a bit, inviting in the next idea, seeing if any new inspiration was ready to leap from pen to page. Nothing really happened. I found myself writing about a truck, a green and rusty ’77 Chevy that will figure prominently in a story that I’ve wanted to write for a while, but then I realized I’m not ready to write that story yet. That story comes with a lot of pain and grief, and it’s not the right time for me be mucking around with it, pulling the essence of all of that heartache out of the ether. Not yet. I want to write something fun and light, or perhaps strange and slightly horror-tinged, but I don’t know what. In the meantime, I’m exercising a great deal of self-control by not trying to re-read or edit my novel. I still need more distance. But I’m also okay with this creative fallow period. It seems natural, even necessary. I don’t feel panicked or blocked. I’m just here, waiting and open to whatever presents itself to me.

After having played Aion for a few days, I can say that it’s wonderfully bizarre. I haven’t played very many games with an Asian influence, and this one is strongly influenced by S0uth Korean pop culture. My avatar, a purple-haired mage, wears long, flowing colorful gowns, (but so far hasn’t managed to get her hands on a pair of pants longer than her thighs), and often spontaneously sprouts wings, floats up into the air and spins around in a dazzling array of colored lights. Her spellcasting is accompanied by baby-voiced nonsense words that sound like “Acuberdapen!” and “Gredurduran!” Strange but oddly cute monsters abound, and even their violent deaths are accompanied by little exasperated squees instead of tortured moans. There is a lot of flying, and the game seems a bit obsessed with wings, all of which are beautiful and ornate. There is a preoccupation with embarrassment and shame in the quest storylines, and a great deal of over-thanking and excessive apologizing. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I appreciate. It’s very mentally soothing, like an electronic version of cotton candy spun on a rainbow cloud. The only part about it I find slightly disgruntling is that after you’ve played for an hour, a message pops up that says, “You’ve been playing for one hour. Please take a break!” Excuse me, but I am a grown-ass woman with a job and responsibilities, and I do not wish to be judged in such a manner. If I want to play a silly video game for more than hour, that is my decision and mine alone. I’ll also eat cookies before dinner, run with scissors, and stay up past my bedtime if I want to. So there, Aion! 

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 9, 2014

All the Feels, Peak Multitasking, Electronic Distractions

Recently I heard Duncan Trussell on Alison Rosen’s podcast “Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend”. I listen to Duncan’s podcast sporadically and a little cautiously since I’ve discovered that the quality of his interviews depend almost entirely on the guest. Duncan is so open and boundary-less that he absorbs the energy of whoever he’s talking to, reflecting and amplifying their being. So when the guest is hyper, scattered or emotionally immature, the podcast is too exhausting for me. But when he has great guests, like Jack Cornfield or David Silver, it reaches transcendent heights.  I was excited to hear what Duncan would be like as guest on “Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend”, since Alison is so warm and kind. For me, it turned out to be one of those gift-from-the-Universe things—delivering an essential message at a time when I needed to hear it. It wasn’t a new message, or even an earth-shattering one, but I was due for a reminder: It is not pain itself that causes us so much turmoil, but our resistance to it. Our attempts to escape suffering only prolongs it. Instead, we can go into our pain, feel it fully, have compassion for ourselves, and accept what we are feeling without trying to distract ourselves or waste energy desiring a “better” emotional state. So of course I have now implemented that wisdom perfectly in my life and practice it with flawless consistency. Ha! If you’re so inclined, you can listen to the podcast here. It is truly a thing of beauty.

Speaking of being present, this week, I finally hit peak multitasking. On a normal day, my job is rife with interruptions, distractions, minor crises, and other “surprises” that need to be dealt with, and it’s rare to have a swathe of time in which to sit down and concentrate fully on a project. But this week, it reached heights of comic absurdity. At one point, I found myself simultaneously eating, talking on the phone, returning an e-mail, and texting a colleague. I always promise myself I will stop this. I know it’s ultimately unproductive. But then literally the next minute, there I am again, frantically doing six things at once and not giving any of them my full attention. I’m not someone who enjoys bragging about being too busy or running around like my hair is on fire. I don’t like who I am when I'm doing too many things at once, and I don’t like how it feels. But in my compulsion to keep up, to prevent the whole avalanche of must-do’s from rolling down the mountain and burying me, I habitually multitask, and usually end up having to spend time correcting mistakes I made or revising correspondence I sent out while in the throes of Doing All the Things. I'm not really sure how to stop this behavior, but I have resolved to do so. Next week: A report from the frontlines of Project Presence.

I’m still out of sorts, being between writing projects and waiting for the next big idea to download into my consciousness. So I installed Aion today, a new (for me) MMORPG, as a distraction, because I’m evolved like that. I’ve ousted the Elder Scrolls Online and The Secret World from my rotation. They both started stressing me out too much at the advanced levels. I haven’t actually played Aion yet, but will provide a review here after I’ve gotten a handle on it. I haven’t punched my rug all week, so no update on that front. Since this is a shortish post, enjoy this meditation on presence with Allan Watts.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 2, 2014

At Odds, Fathers and Sons, Cat Conspiracies

I have found myself at odds this weekend--in between writing projects as I await the verdict on my novel from folks I’ve sent the first draft to, with no video games that excite or engross me anymore, and with a chronically-pained left knee/hip that is making it really hard to motive myself to exercise. I poked my rug here and there in front of the TV (That's not dirty; I was literally poking a rug, evidence below), and listlessly played a few vids and made a project out of nurturing Mr. Typist, who has managed to catch some horrible, lurching, tissue-drenching bug, but my heart wasn’t really in any of it. I have structured my weekends around the novel for the last year, and now that I’m retreating from it, I feel a little lost and unanchored. That, and my favorite month, October, has officially ended, leaving me in dread of the relentless, inevitable Holiday! Cheer! that follows. And I discovered that TV is horrible. I have Netflix and all, but the universal remote in the Typist household is programmed to require an IT degree to use, and I’m always too tired to absorb Mr. Typist’s patient, repeated lessons in how to switch from TV to Netflix, so when I punch my rug, I’m at the mercy of lame cable offerings. I cannot watch one more idiotic cooking competition, flea-market vendor battle, or forensic drama with a rogue chick-genius in ironic cat-eye glasses.  

In artisan rug terms, here is what I have accomplished so far:

I thought the whole core section was a little too dark, so against common wisdom, I nipped over to Joanne’s a few nights ago and bought a competing brand of yarn (I guess you’re not supposed to do this because of different brand dye runs not being compatible and such, but it worked out okay.) This yarn was lighter in shade than what I had been working with. But the important thing is that I just happened to be in line behind the most effing adorable father/son duo I have ever seen in my life. I actually teared up slightly witnessing them. The dad was a “hip” dad, who dyed his graying hair black and wore Converse high-tops and horn-rimmed glasses, and his son was a budding Goth. They looked like twins. The dad was enthusiastically explaining to his thirteen-ish-year-old son the rationale behind his purchases, and exactly how they were going to make the kid’s Halloween costume “totally rock”, and the white streaks they were going paint on his boots, and the matching stripe that was going on the leather jacket, and his son looked at his Dad like he was the sun, the moon and the stars, dark Goth eyes shining with pure enthusiasm. Then the dad started making fun of all the lotions by the check stand display case, asking his son if he wanted to smell like “Christmas street lamp vanilla spice”, and the son grinned with delight, but wouldn’t give in to outright laughter. I know the whole thing sounds completely corny and ridiculous, but the love between them was obvious, and the pure goofy guilelessness of their interaction redeemed my whole terrible week somehow. I really hope those two have a lifetime of happy Halloweens to come.

On a darker note, my co-worker texted me a few nights ago about “National Cat Day”, the idea of which completely infuriated me. I responded with some rage-text babbling about how it’s not enough that cats enslave us with toxoplasmosis and force us to do their bidding, but that EVERY DAY IS CAT DAY! All cats do is eat and sleep, in between bouts of destroying everything we love and inducing sleep deprivation with their endless three a.m. demands to go in then out then in again, then, feed me. And on top of it all, they get their own day??? I call bs on that! Cats are not entitled to an entire day devoted to their narcissistic, ruthless selves. At one point, I owned three cats simultaneously. I know of what I speak! To this day, I love all of those cats with a helpless, Stockholme-syndrome-like adoration, but that does not make it okay that they get their own day. Is there a whole day devoted to really good typists? Not that I’ve heard of, kind sir! National Cat Day indeed! This is an outrage! Good animals and good professionals go totally unacknowledged, while godforsaken cats are awarded for their selfish gluttony by Their Own Day. I just don’t know what the world is coming to anymore.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I Have a Hobby, Poetry Redux, Mirror of Evil

Cue triumphant horns! At the ripe old age of 45, I have at last discovered a craft that I that I can actually do! A proper, useful craft that I have not given up on in a fit of frustrated rage, like when I tried crochet and candle making and pretty much every other craft ever. What is this miracle I have stumbled upon? ‘Tis rug making, my friends! And it’s so absurdly easy that even my clumsy ham-hands are capable of it. It’s not latch hook; it’s done with something called a punch needle. You stretch your material onto a frame, sketch out a design, thread the needle, and punch it through the material. It’s that simple. I was so excited when my friend showed me how to do it last week that we promptly made a date to go to a craft store so she could help me pick out the materials to do my own rug. I started my first rug last week. It’s my practice rug before I move on to a more complex pattern I want to do—a koi fish to match the koi panels we have in our living room. I fumbled around a little at first, but since my friend is also learning, we shared our tips and triumphs via text and got through it together.

Even though the rug-making easy, it still takes patience and persistence, and I like that. It feels symbolic. Also, now that the novel is out to its first readers and I’m awaiting critique before I do anymore work on it, it’s nice to have something to focus on that involves working with my hands and thinking in a visually creative way. I think it’s good for us writers to take a break sometimes and do something different. I used to paint in between writing projects, and although I don’t have any science to back this up, I have an intuitive sense that it was helpful to the writing process to switch gears and engage another part of my brain. I have a lot of ideas for rugs I want to make, and having ideas for projects make me a happy lady! Below are some pics of what I’ve done so far. I have to go in and fix some errors in the first swirly part, but overall I’m happy with the way it’s turning out.

Framed monk's cloth
The first go at it 

The first swirl is complete!

I dove into my poetry past this week while looking for material for an upcoming poetry reading, and I have a feeling that three short stories and a novel later, I may be returning to poetry again soon. We’ll see. With a little break and the rug-making, maybe something new will form for me creatively; like an idea for a new series. But I don’t feel blocked or panicked like I did during the time just before I transitioned into writing fiction. I feel like something will open up again soon; it’s just a matter of timing.  

In other news, my hair is turning gray. I didn’t notice until I went into a bathroom at work I’d never been in before. It was as though the light over the mirror in there was specifically designed to illuminate every gray hair on my head, like that stuff they spray on the walls to find blood splatters. I was completely shocked. I can’t see it in my mirror at home unless I really look, and even then, I can’t see that much. It’s been graying all along and I never knew! Having just had a birthday, I went into a decidedly unfeminist downward spiral about aging, losing my looks and becoming one of those irrelevant, “invisible” women that society ignores because I am no longer viable breeding material. That shit is real, and it doesn’t matter what sort of feminist pep talk I give myself, it still stings. But, as the ever-practical Mr. Typist pointed out, that’s what hair dye is for. (Also he wisely suggested I not go into that bathroom ever again.) Now I have to start making hair decisions. Do I commit to the time and expense of  a salon foil every four months, or just let nature take its course? Do I throw a box on it? Go full punk and dye it purple? Shave it off and start wearing wigs? There are too many questions with too many implications. The hell with this. I’m off to punch a rug!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Back to Basics, Reading Your Own Work, and The Poetry of Food

I was recently gifted a book called “Back to Basics”, confirming the fact that I know no absolutely nothing of practical use. Chapter titles include “Processing Your Timber into Hand-Hewn Beams”, “Creating a Homestead out of Sun-Dried Mud”, and “Setting Up Shop as a Beekeeper”. The book is full of detailed instructions on things like welding your own chain, churning butter out of “your farm-fresh cream”, and how to construct a small-diameter well. It’s both anachronistic and deeply intimidating. If there is such a thing as past lives, I’m pretty sure I died by my own hand as pioneer woman on the way to the homestead, flinging myself over a bridge in an attempt to avoid a life of barn-raising and grassland management. It’s all well and good to know how to build an access road and principles of traditional stonemasonry, but it’s completely irrelevant to my daily life. I’m going to write my own Back to Basics book that covers things like how to broker personality conflicts between your volunteers, how to sidestep clipboard-bearing sidewalk lobbyists, constructing a makeshift hairband out of binder clips and rubber bands, and principles of bribing the IT department to replace your 11-year old computer work station.

For the first time since completion, I read my entire novel in one sitting yesterday, looking for plot holes, narrative flow issues, and other red flags. It was interesting. There is way too much eye-rolling going on, that I can tell you. It cannot be my main character’s incessant go-to. I will be removing many instances of eye-rolling. But overall, I’m relieved. I think I need some guidance on the narrative structure of the last third of the book, but I didn’t find the major issues I feared I would. Of course, I’m so close to it I have no idea what it needs at this point. It’s time for a little distance and an outside perspective. Interestingly, since I’ve finished the novel, I’ve had a few ghostly whispers of poem ideas lingering around my ears. Perhaps poetry is coming back to me now that I have this story out of my system.

Speaking of poetry, on Thursday, November 6th, I will participating in a poetry reading organized by the preeminent David D. Horowitz, owner of Rose Alley Press! The name of the event is "Luscious Lyrics: A Smorgas-bard of Writing about Food." My fellow readers will be Nancy Dahlberg, Martha Silano, Joannie Stangeland, and David D. Horowitz. There will be free food, folks! Come on out and enjoy some poetry, good nosh, and lively company!

When: Thursday, November 6th, at 7 p.m.

Where: Room 202 of The Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, October 12, 2014

First Novel Jitters, Musings on October, TIL I Use Too Many Dryer Sheets

I completed the first edit of my novel this weekend, and sent it to two people who generously agreed to read it. There are a few other people I’ll be sending it to for feedback as well. But now I’m really jittery. Having labored away at this in almost total seclusion for two years, I’m starving for feedback. I can barely stop myself from cyber-stalking them with desperate inquires: So what do you think, huh? Do you like the main character? Are you done yet? Is it good? Is it publishable?  Did you have to stay up all night reading because you couldn’t put it down? It doesn’t suck, does it? Does it make you feel all the feels?  But I’m also nervous that I will get confirmation that it’s a total dud. About every hour I get struck with a mild pang of panic. What have I done? It is a ridiculous act of hubris to write an entire novel and then send it to people you know and ask them to read it. To further exacerbate my nerves, I have been researching how to write query letters to agents, even though I’m nowhere near ready for that step yet. Writing an effective query letter sounds almost as hard as writing the book itself. I’ve jotted down a few notes on what I want to include, but the whole process feels incredibly intimidating. Also, I am kicking myself for not becoming a book agent so I could fill my spiritual void by being loved, adored, and desperately sought-after by hungry writers.

It’s October, my favorite month! Fall is here. The relentless sun has retreated. It’s crisp and chilly and properly damp again. There are pumpkins! And pumpkin spice lattes! (I don’t care that liking them makes me a white female cliché and an internet joke. I will drink them with impunity, and I will not apologize). The endless and deathly gloom of the Seattle winter hasn’t settled in yet. The chilly weather is still mild enough to be comfortable, and the fall leaves are fiery and colorful, instead of just brown and dead. Scarves and boots re-emerge in all of their nubby glory. TV airs spooky paranormal ghost shows and tawdry horror movies. The tourists are gone and we have our city back. October has the best of everything. The only thing making me a bit sad this month is that it’s the first anniversary of my cat Zooey’s death. I still miss her so much. I was listening to a “This American Life” episode this morning, and a man who had lost his teenage son to a gun accident said about grieving, “It’s not true that it gets better. It never gets better. It just gets less immediate.” Not to compare my grief to the loss of a child, but Zooey was a lot more than just a pet. If there is a cat afterworld, I’m sure she’s the head of her own feline motorcycle gang by now. I’ll toast my next pumpkin spice latte to you, Zozo!

I washed the bedding yesterday, and Mr. Typist keeps finding dryer sheets in the pillowcases and between the sheets. Today he informed me that I don’t need to use so many drier sheets because science and blah blah blah. “Unless,” he said, “you like having  sheets that reek of Bounce.” At which point I admitted, yes, I do like having sheets that reek of Bounce. It makes them smell fresh. I am susceptible to marketing gimmicks. I know that dryer sheets are coated with toxic chemicals and I’m a huge dupe and a typical neurotic female who is obsessed with household cleanliness, but you know what? I don’t care. I like the smell. It’s comforting. It makes me feel like there is some purity in the world, and that for all my mistakes and failings, and for all of the pain and bewilderment life brings, I can least have sheets that smell like a clean summer breeze on a country mountain top in a field of wildflowers surrounded with lavender. All I ask of the world is to be left alone to enjoy my fresh-smelling sheets and my pumpkin spice lattes in peace. Represent!

Warning: This video has swears.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Weekend Matinee: My Review of “Gone Girl”

I almost never go to movies in theaters anymore, and it’s unprecedented for me to see a movie on its opening weekend. But ever since I read “Gone Girl”, I’ve been champing at the bit for the film to come out, and I managed to make it to a matinee today! I’m hip and current! I actually saw a movie the same weekend it was released! I even balked like a true old person when I realized matinees are nine dollars now. Nine dollars? When did that happen? God, I need to get out more. Anyway, here’s my review:

Nick and Amy, a loving and well-to-do writerly couple living in Manhattan, fall on hard times when they both lose their jobs and are forced to move to Missouri and live with Nick’s ailing mother. One day, Nick comes home to find signs of a struggle in the house, and his wife missing. He quickly becomes the main suspect in the case, and finds himself at the center of a media feeding frenzy. The scrutiny is especially intense because Amy has a measure of fame—she was the inspiration for a series of beloved children’s books her parents wrote called “Amazing Amy”. As the evidence piles up against him, Nick makes a series of blunders that only increase the suspicion of the police and media.

Unfortunately, I found “Gone Girl” to be slow-paced, frustratingly detached, and emotionally unsatisfying. It was well-written (Gillian Flynn, the author of the book, also wrote the screenplay), well-acted, and well-shot. But there was a strange disconnect between the actors. It seemed like each of them were acting separately in their own little glass bubbles, and none of them were connecting with or reacting off of each other. Even Nick and his twin sister Go didn’t feel as though they were in the close relationship that was constantly referenced. It felt like everyone was acting at each other rather than with each other. None of the characters are especially likeable, but even the ones who are more sympathetic didn’t evoke much of an emotional response from me. It was frustrating, because all of the performances individually were amazing, especially Rosamund Pike, who played Amy. (Special kudos to Neil Patrick Harris, who was exquisite as Amy’s creepy ex-boyfriend).

As technically good as the acting was, even the characters most harrowing emotional moments didn’t draw me in or make me feel like there was something at stake. It seemed like director David Fincher was more preoccupied with creating a detached “portrayal” of a troubled marriage than telling a story. If this was the goal, he succeeded—it felt very portraiture-like, as though I were in a museum looking at these figures behind glass while someone narrated their lives for me in a recording: Here is what a sociopath acts like. Here is the puzzled detective. Here is the arrogant, cynical lawyer. Around the corner to your right is the big murder scene. Also, the pacing seemed out of synch for a story that hinges on “time is of the essence” suspense. Everyone moved around like they were slightly stunned, and no one seemed to be in much of a hurry. Even Nick doesn’t seem particularly worried about his own fate until much further into the film. And the score, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, seems incongruous with the tone of the film, as though it’s being used to invoke the suspense that the direction can’t.

Gone Girl flirts with satire in the portrayal of the media, with Nancy Grace’s doppleganger relentlessly attacking Nick, and the crass manipulation of public opinion by Nick’s celebrity lawyer, but even that felt a little on the nose. It’s unfortunate that excellent casting and storytelling still couldn’t make this movie a satisfying psychological drama, a satire, or a suspense thriller. I love most of David Fincher’s movies, but I think in the hands of a different director, “Gone Girl” could have captured more of the book’s breathless tension and acute emotional charge.

But it wasn’t all bad. As previously mentioned, Rosamund Pike’s performance was stunning, especially in her portrayal of the past Amy in a happy marriage,, where she has moments of luminous charm that are a joy to watch. Kim Dicken’s understated portrayal of lead investigator Rhonda Bones is intelligent and subtle. The dialogue is witty and amusing more often that not.  And I respect Ben Affleck’s choice to commit to Nick’s unlikeability right through to very end. You don’t feel that he deserves what he gets, but you don’t feel particularly sorry for him either.

Overall, I give this movie two out of five typewriter ribbons. If you want to kill an afternoon in a dark theater, there are worse ways to do it. But if you’re a fan of the book, be prepared to be disappointed.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Double XP Days for Real Life, Editing Snag, and a Brief Book Review

This weekend, the game Neverwinter Nights is offering double experience points, so of course it’s my moral duty to my avatar to get at least a few hours of game play in. As I was running my burly Orc warrior around graveyards and slaying necromancers, it occurred to me that we need a double-experience day in real life. This would be an occasional day in which you get extra credit, extra pay, extra servings, and extra attention for simply showing up and doing what you’re supposed to do. Compliments are extra-nice, serving portions are doubled without the extra calories, small daily accomplishments are punctuated by triumph horns and ticker tape, and you’re guaranteed a bonus for completing routine tasks. I think it would go a long way towards keeping the populous motivated to continue sweating it out on the giant hamster wheel of industry. Same as in Neverwinter, these days would be announced on short notice and over at the stroke of midnight. Everyone would go to bed full of brownies and self-esteem, cheers echoing in their ears.

Speaking of self-esteem, I have hit a slight snag with the editing of my novel. Which is that I think my novel is a big hoovering pile of suck. I don’t how I went so quickly from “This editing thing is a lark and I don’t why everyone says it’s such a big deal” to “Argh! I want to burn this damn thing and throw myself off of a bridge”, but that’s where I am. I have lost all perspective. The whole story seems completely nonsensical and I’m absolutely convinced no one will to want to read it and everyone who does will laugh at me. And I don’t want to feel that way about my precious. Writing coach Robyn Fritz says that a book in progress is "a living, real being ready to partner with you to bring it into the world and find its audience—and yours." This rings true to me, so I don’t want relationship issues with my novel. Maybe my novel and I should go to couple’s therapy. Perhaps my novel and I need a little time away from each other to think things over. I did go against prevailing wisdom and starting editing right after I finished it. Most writing sites advise waiting a long time, re-reading it in full, and then starting the editing process. But I don’t want to wait “a long time” because I want to get it done. I don’t want to be that person who spends ten years working on a novel only to finally abandon it. I don’t want to be somebody who babbles endlessly about a project that everyone secretly knows they’re never going to finish. Plus, I must get something substantial out into the world before I die since I don’t have any kids and I fear obscurity in death and have a powerful urge to leave my mark on this world even if it’s just in some small, unimportant, chick-lit sort of  way.

Speaking of not having kids, I finished comedian Jen Kirkman’s book, “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself.” I wouldn’t say that the book “chronicles” her life as a child-free comic, because Jen doesn’t seem to have a sense of linear time or a preoccupation with ordering events. She writes stream-of-consciousness, which I enjoy. The book covers a bit about her upbringing and her early days in LA struggling to make it, but mostly it talks about the experience of being willfully childless, and all of the horrible things people are willing to say to you about that decision if you’re a woman. She’s tells abhorrent stories in a hilarious way, she’s personable, and I relate to her a lot, but as a willfully childless person myself, I reached the point a long time ago where rude, thoughtless comments don’t elicit an emotional reaction anymore. I just eke out a tight smile, endure the insults, and wait to roll my eyes until I walk away from the offender. When I was younger and in the process of planning a wedding, I was shocked and angered by the constant heckling and threats about how I would regret not having kids and how I would never know real love. I participated on a forum for the child-free, because I felt really isolated and needed the support of like-minded people. I cried at the casual rudeness of strangers and questioned my mental health. And over time, it just stopped bothering me. I don’t take it personally anymore. I think not having kids was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. I don’t know where Jen is at with it now, but I suspect at the time she wrote the book, she was still processing a lot of outrage and genuine hurt feelings over people’s reaction to her; primarily the accusation that she’s selfish (which is something I still hear all of the time about myself.) She takes down the ignorant in a savagely smart and funny way, but for me, reading it felt like revisiting a struggle I’ve long left behind. Still, it was totally worth a read, and I laughed out loud at least once per page, so I give it three typewriter ribbons.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Body Rebellion, Self-Care Quest, And Some Funnies

Yesterday was one of those days where my body and mind rebelled against my agenda. I woke up with great plans to edit another fifty pages of my novel, clean, work out, and perform a litany of other mundane tasks, and I ended up spending all day lying on the couch alternately napping, crying, and staring at my Kindle. Part of it was genuine illness; I’ve had sinus issues for weeks now and I think I finally came close to getting a full-fledged cold, but part of it was mental fatigue, too. My body and brain needed rest. My spirit needed to grieve. At the same time, I had to fight off a fair bit of guilt for just allowing myself to collapse, since the concept of a day of rest seems to have completely gone out the window in this culture, along with the concept of listening to your body and honoring its needs. This happens to me over and over again when I’m in “push myself” mode for too long, but I never seem to learn. Part of the problem is that until I collapse, I don’t even realize how hard and fast I’ve been going. I’ve never had adequate commitment to self-care, but I realized yesterday I need to put a decent practice in place, and soon. I’m one of those people for whom life is difficult and bewildering even under benign circumstances, and almost unbearable when it gets stressful. I find Yoga aggravating and meditation tedious, so I’ll need to come up with an alternative. Primal screaming, maybe?

One good thing about crashing out with a Kindle for a day is new books! I love the “Try a Sample” feature on the Kindle Fire, because it gives you a generous sample of each book. I was looking for something funny to ready yesterday because I was so emotionally spent, and I discovered that lots and lots of comedians have written books. One of those is Jen Kirkman, whose book I bought after trying samples of six or seven other comedian-penned books that just didn’t grab me. Jen reminds me a lot of myself, and her book, “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself”, is hilarious. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ll review it here when I’m done. 

I’m still not feeling fully up to snuff (I don’t know what that phrase means, but I’m using it anyway), so this week’s post is shall be cut short. Here’s a video to amuse you in my stead:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Goatfish Redux, A Return to Consciousness, Editing Edification

This week, my first-ever published book of poetry, “The Goatfish Alphabet” will be spotlighted at Naissance Chapbooks press! The title reprint will be of higher quality than the original, and if you purchase a copy, you’ll also receive a free copy of “The Lost Shoe” by Martha Deed. I know that several people who enjoyed “The Goatfish Alphabet” expressed disappointment in the quality of the original printing, so if you’d like a brand-new, shiny copy on better quality stock, now is your chance. You can purchase a copy here, and Naissance will send you both “The Goatfish Alphabet” and “The Lost Shoe”.

While I’m featuring books, I recommend subscribing to Pietro Abela’s weekly book excerpts. His book, “A Return to Consciousness”, is on the brink of publication with a major publisher, and he is releasing excerpts for free online in the run up to the release. I just wrote and deleted a long, detailed, and personal account of my experience as a long-time student and client of Pietro’s profound form of healing work. In retrospect I felt that it was a little too personal to post publicly. But I will say that because of one single session I had with Pietro at a critical time in my life years ago, I made contact with an infinite, loving, safe place within myself that I knew I could always access--and that was profoundly freeing. It didn’t solve everything and it didn’t mean I would escape pain or suffering, but it changed me forever. I highly recommend subscribing to his weekly excerpts. I’ll be first the let you know when the book comes out!

I took a week off from working on the novel, and started the editing process today. After staring at the screen for an hour, frozen with fear and befuddlement, I came up with a sort of loopy, homemade method that I think will work. I’m going through page by page making nips and tucks, and keeping a separate document of notes where I find continuity errors, major discrepancies, “time warps”, voice inconsistencies, etc. I’m also keeping a separate document for full section re-writes. I was dreading this process, thinking it was going to be torturous, but I was at it for six hours yesterday, and it hasn’t been bad at all. I’m actually enjoying it (I say that now, full knowing that by next week I could be quivering mass of frustrated rage.) The only glitch so far is that I made a grievous “find and replace” error, so be warned, me mateys! For various reasons, I had to change the name of my main character’s New Agey ex-boyfriend from Len to Jasper, so I blithely punched “Len” into the Find box, and “Jasper” into the Replace box, and now the novel is littered with words like “swolJasper” for “swollen” and “caJasperdar” for calendar. Apparently, MS Word doesn’t intuitively know that I meant to change only the name Len, not every occurrence of the combination “l-e-n”. According to Mr. Typist, the proper thing to do was to add a space to the beginning and end of the word “len” in the Find box. Hmmph. Now he tells  me.

Since this has been a lit-heavy post, here's a recording of "The Trouble with Poetry" by Bllly Collins. Enjoy!

---Kristen McHenry