November 10, 2009
I've been sitting here all morning -- yes, actually physically here, in this virtual white space of my publishing platform, it's kind of like Tron -- trying to think of something to write about. And having a bit of trouble. I'm tired, I'm congested, I've just discovered that this "parent-teacher conference" thing is just a thinly-veiled excuse for schools to force you to parent your own children for two days in a row, and somehow our personal math means two schools x two days off = THREE days of scheduling fuckuppery.
(And only ONE actual parent-teacher conference. RIDDLE ME THAT, expensive hoity private school. EXPLAIN YOURSELVES.)
It's punt time. I could use a little writing exercise, so how's this...YOU GUYS post questions/topics in the comments -- any old random topic you want! the more off-the-wall the better! -- and I will pick some and update this post each time I write a little bit about it. Live, in real-time! Or...you know, whenever I get around to it, in between the whole keeping-children-alive thing.
I have actually done a variation on this before, a long, looooong time ago, if you would like to refer to that post for inspiration. Yeah. That's dryer lint. And multiple paragraphs about a kitchen sponge. I'm hoping we can come up with something a little more interesting than that.
(Oh, God. Nobody's going to ask me ANYTHING, and it will all crickets and silence and I will not only be forced to come up with my own post topics ANYWAY, I will also have to spend mental energy on creating sockpuppet commenters to hide the fact that no one asked me anything and maybe I didn't think this through very well.)
Whoa. Well. Oh em gee and all that. I guess my little attempt to guilt y'all into participating worked better than I anticipated! While my plans to rapidly update "live, in real-time" did NOT work as well as anticipated, what with the immediate and simultaneous arrival of Thing One on the school bus and the wide-awake caterwauling of Thing Two from upstairs. So there was much lunching and some sobbing when I had to break it to Noah that his afternoon school is closed today.
"But whyyyy I miss my friends, Mommy? Whyyyy my friends are all gone, Mommy?"
"Because it's Staff Development Day, sweetie."
"I know, dude. Laaaame."
THEN I got momentarily derailed by the sudden appearance of an itchy, bug-bite-like thing on my boob, which required much Googling. Turns out it's a bug bite. Okay then! Now we are ready!
First up, by nature of her being FIRST!!!1!!1 is Allisone's suggestion of irrational fears.
Yes. Look. I'm still very, very scared of volcanoes. I've told you this one before. It's nothing I made up to be cute or calculatedly quirky on my About Page: I once had a full-on anxiety attack at the Mirage in Vegas while watching the beginnings of the outdoor laser/lights/fountain volcano show they do. THE GROUND RUMBLED. IT WAS OMINOUS. I FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. IN FRONT OF COWORKERS. I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS ANYMORE.
And yes. It really is thanks to an episode of Reading Rainbow. Hill of Fire, to be exact. Farmer finds a bump in his field, bump gets bigger and bigger and then eventually erupts and like, I don't remember. Everybody dies. Some with puppies. I think I was cowering behind the couch by the end. The WORST parts, honestly, were the scenes with LeVar Burton at the site of an erupting volcano in Hawaii. I kind of had my first girl-boy crush thing with LeVar. (Or maybe second, after Magnum P.I.) I was also maybe seven. My memory put LeVar like, RIGHT THERE, on the very edge of the volcano's mouth, gazing into the fiery abyss with his usual non-threatening enthusiasm, but according to the PBS website he was actually 2,000 feet away.
That night I had a dream that my class was going on a volcano-climbing field trip, and we were all lined up and tied together at the waist with rope, when the girl in front of me turned around and told me that we were SUPPOSED to wear closed-toe shoes, AMY, way to follow the RULES. I looked down at my feet and saw that I was wearing flip flops. Then I woke up. I spent the entire day after in my backyard, looking for bumps. And probably a lot of other days after that.
Fun update to this story! I now follow LeVar Burton on Twitter, but have never worked up the nerve to tell him this story and/or ask if he knows how I can obtain a copy of that episode. For like, therapy, and stuff.
Okay, next question, from Mary, who wants to hear how I discovered my love and/or talent (AIRQUOTES talent AIRQUOTES) for writing.
I'm actually one of those cheesy Tracy-Flick types who ALWAYS knew exactly what she wanted to do. I was going to be a writer. I'm not sure I ever remember seriously wanting to be anything else, beyond the usual "actress/mommy/astronaut" phases. I wrote my first "book" when I was five or so. It was called "The Pink Bunny." My mom still has it. Aside from the questionable design choice of writing a book about a pink bunny on pink construction paper using primarily pink crayons, it honestly was not a terrible first effort.
Pink Bunny is lonely. Pink Bunny goes out to find her friends. She finds one (who I think was a purple cat or a blue bear or some other dubious, carnivorous companion for a bunny) and invites them over to her house. They eat popcorn. The end. I even made a cover and additional title page, asking my mom how to spell each and every word. "How do you spell 'written'? And how do you spell 'and'? And how do you spell 'illustrated' And how do you spell 'by'?" On and on, this went, and my mother never once let any trace of boredom or OMGness into her voice as she patiently went along with it.
I even made a back cover, where I drew long squiggly lines to represent the book's synopsis and publisher's information.
I routinely started and abandoned book ideas all through elementary and high school -- usually whenever I came across a really cool notebook that I just HAD to write something in. Most of the results were predictably horrible, so, so horrible, but my parents never, ever stopped telling me that I was a good writer and to stick with it.
It also helped that my dad was a high school English teacher and our house was almost hoarder-levels full of every classic piece of literature in the WORLD, and I was encouraged to treat his office like my personal library, and also to write "book reports" for him on the books that his much-older students were reading.
Later, I started mixing in funny short stories based on people and teachers from school, or big controversial events that I thought needed to be diffused with a little humor. I'd pass the stories around and even the snotty popular kids would laugh and tell me that I was soooooo funny and should write a book or for a magazine and I would nod seriously and then go back to whatever crap-ass "serious" novel I was currently attempting to write longhand in an obnoxiously twee leather journal.
In college I tried my hand at "real" journalism and absolutely HATED IT. I wasn't good at it. The style and form and pace didn't come naturally to me at all, and two weeks after landing a super-prized position at the Penn State student paper, I quit and switched my major to English, even though I had no idea what the hell I would do with it. But clearly, I was not cut out to be a writer after all. I guess maybe I would teach? Or be some kind of editor? Eh?
But! Then! (Oh my God, this story. It is so looooooong. Where's a goddamn editor when you need one?) (Oh. Right.) I took a literature course in American Comedy. Mark Twain. James Thurber. Erma Bombeck. Garrison Keillor. David Sedaris. While I was sort-of famous for being one of Those Students who regularly wrote A-level papers on books that I didn't even READ (hello, HEART OF DARKNESS, YOU ASSHOLE), I read every scrap of assigned reading for that class, and even all the short stories in our textbook that we never actually covered. I still HAVE all the books from that class, to this day. Changed my life, this realization that writing "funny" could still actually "count."
I toiled away for a few more years after that, more aborted novel attempts, some short-story and essay rejection letters, struggling to keep myself disciplined to KEEP WRITING even after a long day of editing investment advice and stock market commentary.
So I decided to maybe start a blog, just to have a dumping ground for my existing stuff and maybe a place to write something new, and just to see what would happen. The end!
(Still haven't written that blasted novel yet, though. Sigh.)