I haven't disappeared from the internet, but I have disappeared from this old LJ. I've been doubleposting over at my Wordpress blog for 2 years now and... well... that's annoying. So I haven't been doing it since December.
Anywho, I hope you will come read me over at
Maybe one day if I grow up and get a wordpress.org blog I'll figure out how to do that auto-export feature so I can appear on your friends-pages once again, but that's not going to happen yet.
So this isn't really goodbye, I hope. But it's been real. See you all out in the Real Internet.
Love and kisses,
In January, I spent two weeks in Michigan, a weekend darting in and out of ALA Midwinter, and started my second semester of grad school with a great deal of vigor and energy. Or at least I think I had a great deal of vigor and energy. If I didn't, I certainly should have.
In February, I wrote 50 two-page papers about 50 picturebooks.
That was about it.
I also stopped eating meat for the foreseeable future. That required considerably less energy than the first task.
In March, I became a Theater-Girlfriend, and spent a lot of nights and spring breaks alone with my kitty while Lance prepared for his directorial debut: an all 4th and 5th grade version of Seussical Jr. We entertained Lance's mother during a massive Nor'easter - sightseeing = umbrellas, restaurants, and woohoo, a The Giant Whole Foods in Dedham! I also bit the bullet and replaced my cell phone. Woohoo, texting!
In April, things started getting more fun. I visited David Macaulay's studio in Vermont, which was equal part childrens-lit-nerdgasm and funky-crazy-roadtrip. And then... AND THEN!! MY FAMILY CAME TO VISIT ME IN BOSTON!! Later, I celebrated 7 years of blogging, got hired for my second job, survived a week in Boston without Lance, and memorized all 151 first-generation Pokemon.
It's like I KNEW I was boring for the first 3 months of 2010.
May began with signing the lease on a new apartment for September and conquering yet another harrowing finals week. Earlier in the year, I thought finals would bring me unemployment and a brief respite from schoolwork. However, my boss scrounged up some summer work to occupy my time, I landed a swank publishing internship for the summer, and then class! Glorious, class!
The weather also became quite nice - I started running after work with Lance, and walking to and from most places.
June was just a mess of early morning Starbucks trips, 9 to 5's, and CSA vegetables. Literally.
So in July, we hit the road. Boston to DC. ALA Annual Conference. DC to Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach to DC. Pick up passengers. DC to Boston. When I returned, there was some entertaining (Whale watching and fireworks and heat wave OH MY!), and then back to the internship/part-time job grindstone.
Lance began his first teacher's summer vacation, and quickly took up a part-time job scouring Craigslist for free and cheap goods. When he brought home a window air conditioning unit, I cried tears of joy.
In August, there was work, packing, a weekend in Maine. A trip back to Michigan, packing, and an extended "I'm moving to Boston and I'm crashing on your couch until I find a place" houseguest.
In September, we moved.
I am so going to have to move again in September 2011 and it makes me sick to just think about.
Anyone I know want to move into my roommate's bedroom so we don't have to move?
In October, I went out on Halloween, under duress and in costume.
November was pretty crappy.
I tried to write a novel.
I tried to not have any nervous breakdowns.
I didn't try hard enough.
I did get to go to two Thanksgivings, visit my aunt and uncle and cousins, ran three times a week (before daylight savings hit...) and I'm sure some other redeeming stuff that I've forgotten.
And now, December has ended. This month, I wrote two 10 page papers, read 17 books, and made it home for Christmas.
How are you?
Are you going suck a little less than 2010?
Alright, I still want one of these from Margaret and Walter even though I haven't figured out what I will use it for, even after a year.
And since I lost my wallet, I really do need a replacement. Why not something adorable?
My qualm: this is obviously too cute and I will destroy it. Gussy, would you consider sewing up some little purses for us who abuse our purses and handbags? Something in canvas, perhaps? P.S. I don't think we met, but we went to college together. I figured this out by recognizing a picture of your husband on your blog. Awkward/Amazing. Fire up Chips!
Aaaaaand anyone want to buy me these?
No takers? Nobody? Ignore the price tag: I assure you, I'm worth it.
I'm asking my parents for a lunchbox. I am lame.
And... well... I'm currently iPod-less. Which is a sad state to be in.
I wouldn't be opposed to an upgrade, if anyone was feeling particularly generous.
But I'm totally satisfied with a good old mini. I promise!
And with that list, I thought I found every last thing I could ever want. I really did. But then I chanced upon the Shabby Apple jewelry page.
Want. Want. Want.
Especially that one in the middle.
They texted me a coupon code, in case anyone's secretly shopping for me *cough* Lance *cough*. Just enter "sparkle" when you check out.
If you want to, that is.
I mean, surely I will buy YOU something nice, too.
Although I don't know what, exactly, that is yet...
Well, not including half of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
I am thankful for parents who raised me on The Road Trip. I've dropped quite a few jaws lately discussing my whirlwind holiday plans, but thanks to you guys, 32+ hours in the car over a span of 5 days doesn't really faze me at all. Hey, at least I don't have a paper due on Monday like I did LAST Thanksgiving!
I am thankful (and incredulous) that the semester is actually winding down and that I have a manageable amount of work ahead of me, some of which can be done during those 32+ hours in the car.
I am thankful for the seemingly endless amount of opportunities that keep falling into my lap.
I am thankful that after December 3rd, I can read books that were not published in the 19th century.
I am thankful for the little excitements of the holidays: baking, parties, twinkly lights, carols, gift buying, book lists, 2011 planners, etc
I am thankful to be continually employed.
I am thankful for this mercifully temperate weather, and for a good traveling forecast
I am thankful that I get to spend 2 weeks at home over Christmas. Oh goodness... so, SO thankful.
I am thankful for those who are waiting for me there.
It looks like I might make it to 100 books this year, despite the lack of novels on my class reading lists.
I'm not complaining, but every semester spent reading 7,000+ picturebooks (Spring) or 7,000+ page 19th century novels (Fall) takes away time from the Read A Giant Mountain of Books objective. Last fall, I was reading at least 600 pages a week, but those pages were divvied up over three or four titles instead of crammed into one Long, Long Book.
This is my first exposure to the glory that is 19th Century Children's Literature. And this includes some obvious titles: somehow, I lived almost 26 years without reading Little Women or Tom Sawyer. How did that happen? I have no idea. I was probably too busy reading The Babysitter's Club.
Anyway, I'm growing more accustomed to the 19th century cadence of language, the Boy Book and Girl Book paradigm, and the sheer force of will power required to make it through a phonebook sized novel with the tiniest words still visible to the naked eye, and I'm finding myself strangely fond of some of the stories.
Our professor told us that, at some point during our semi-chronological reading list, a book would click in our head, telling us "Oh, this is a book for children!" You see, in the 19th Century, children reading novels was A) not widely possible because a lot of kids were illiterate or too busy being poor or working on a farm, B) not enough of a money-maker to warrant a whole genre to themselves, and C) kind of anti-Christian and immoral. So those 700 page monsters were not really written for children, but for women who didn't mind reading about a child protagonist.
This week, I'm reading What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge, and even after one chapter, I knew exactly what my professor was talking about. THIS was a book for children, and I was enjoying breezing through it this week, even while nursing intense homework assignments and other mental-breakdown type situations.
However, I am not quite accustomed to the 19th Century Children's Literature Horror: the moment when you are reading when you realize exactly what craziness is going on between author and reader, child and adult, and society as a whole.
I'm breezing along with Katy and her appealing younger siblings. Katy is a freewheeling, Jo March type tomboy, who will obviously need some discipline over the course of the novel. I get that. So she gets on this tree swing, after her curmudgeonly Aunt Izzie tells her not to. Alright, so something bad is going to happen, since the narrator told me that the swing is broken. She'll fall off, get punished, and then move on to the next chapter-long trial of her character.
I should have seen it coming, but I was completely BLINDSIDED when Katy flies off the swing and blacks out, waking up to find out she is at risk for some kind of SPINAL CORD INJURY, and must now submit to the 19th Century Medical Treatment of Laying Down in Bed, Immobile.
Of course, the doctor says 2 weeks, but the 19th Century Horror keeps her in bed for TWO YEARS.
Moral of the Story:
To discipline an unruly (albeit well-meaning) young woman, you must simply hobble her until she learns the patience, humility, and grace of a complete invalid.
Oh, Contemporary Realistic Young Adult Fiction, you are calling my name.... See you in January of 2011!
Goal Word Count: 15,003
Current Word Count: 13,556
Folks, this is the point in the month where I start kicking myself for doing so little planning. Sitting down to write is mostly painful: the pulling words to pulling teeth analogy is feeling apt. If I had any idea what I was going to write when I sat down, I think the Opening a Word Document Anxiety would be alleviated.
But looking on the brighter side, I've met almost all of my daily goals since my last check up. I fell behind on Saturday - I forgot how the weekends can be rough for me. See: all of my homework that I never get done on my days off. This is a bad habit. I would really like to use this extra time to get ahead, because I will be spending the 24th and the 28th in the car, and the days in between shuttling around between friends and family, and then only two days to recover and finish.
Plus, oh, final projects and school.
I also decided to switch points of view last week, from first person to third. But maybe I'll switch back. Because I can.
This week I've been thinking about two things.
The Zero Draft
My YA novels usually begin in my frustration with a situation that many teens find themselves in, something that makes me upset. (WINTERGIRLS = Eating Disorders, f.ex.) But I think that if I focused on plot first, the stories would never go beyond "problem novel" fare. To me, the most interesting element is character. So I ponder a situation, do a lot of character freewriting, and wait for a new voice to pop into my head and start whispering. I do not worry about straightening out the plot bones until after I have written a mess of a first draft."
This is comforting for me, who is staring at a word document with multiple POVs, crazy plot lines and character relationships that seem to have nothing to do with each other, and no idea about what will happen next. But I've also been reading up on dramatic structure, and the takeaway from that research is that without structure, nobody will want to read your book.
But maybe, like Laurie does, I can take an entire draft - a Zero Draft, if you will - to figure out my characters, and in the next draft let them tell me what they really want to do.
A Glass Case of Emotion
This week was a big, fat reminder of how completely incapable I am at controlling my emotions, and how easily I let them sway my behaviors.
Last week, I was on a roll. I had this new scheduling system that was working out really well (shut up!), I was prepared for my classes and starting assignments early. I was nailing my wordcounts.
Then, on Friday, I got a poor grade on an assignment I worked really hard on. My professor's comments were not terribly specific, and amounted mostly to "You need to change the focus of your research project." This normally wouldn't bug me - I'm not as big of a GPA fiend as you might think I am. However, 1) I worked extra-hard on this project, deliberately, and was not rewarded for my efforts, 2) The grade I received made it impossible for me to get even an A-minus in the class, and what was worse, 3) The project is ongoing, which means I still have another part of the assignment due, which apparently needs major revision and reformulation. And this part is due on Friday. Also, 4) hormones.
So yes, I was upset for all of those reasons, and suddenly, the insecurity I was feeling about my coursework seemed to trickle over to my NaNo Word doc, too. Anything that put me in front of a computer, really. And with the project deadline looming, and no clear work to be done to get a good grade, everything in my life feels kind of... crappy. I can't really focus on anything.
This is obviously a problem, and it doesn't just affect my writing. Even the magic schedule that was last week's salvation is unappealing. I don't know what to do about it, currently, except slog, slog, slog and try not to wish too sincerely for someone to put me out of my misery.
Moody Author Photo:
Maybe it's my apartment's abundance of counter space, and that magical, magical dishwasher.
Or maybe it's my schedule. If I don't want to get everything done, I have limited free time. If I want to get everything done, I have no free time.
But there's always dinner. And when I'm in the kitchen, dinner is all I have to do.
Last year, I used to come home from work or class, plop myself onto the futon, and will dinner to cook itself. Or, more likely, I'd will Lance to whip me up a plate of something, or bite the bullet and suggest takeout.
We did eat at home, though, 95% of the time, but meal planning often occurred while browsing the aisles at Trader Joe's, and once, Lance soothed me by saying, "It's okay. Why don't we just eat the same meals we ate last week? They were good. They tasted fine!"
We ate a lot of pasta, two choices of casserole - sometimes both in the same week - veggie burgers, nachos, and cheese pizzas made with those 99 cent bags of dough.
So maybe I've figured out how to grocery shop, figured out what I can and cannot achieve in the kitchen, and lost that "WHAT WILL MY BOYFRIEND EAT THAT I KNOW HOW TO COOK?!? anxiety.
Or maybe it was the farm share. 16 weeks of delicious, fresh, local, sometimes strange, always abundance produce. I was literally forced into new recipes. Italian stuffed zucchini? Did it. Beer-batter fried zucchini and eggplant? Done. Sweet corn risotto? Delicious, but my stomach is dying at this point. Tomato sandwich? Now that's what I'm talking about.
The season is over now, but I haven't served up a steaming plate of nachos for dinner yet, and I've kept the pizza/veggie burgers/frozen tamales to once a week.
Instead, I'm checking out cookbooks from the library and... actually cooking things from them!
It's exciting. Lance took a sick day last week and texted me to offer to make dinner, and I found myself feeling a little bummed out that I wouldn't get to make that pasta recipe that looked so good.
Just since October, I've made:
- Moroccan lentil soup
- Lentils and stewed tomatoes
- Chipotle quinoa with black beans and corn
- Chipotle corn chowder
- Spicy taco soup
- Italian sweet potato gratin
- Homemade minestrone soup
- Lots of roasted winter vegetables
- Baked ziti with eggplant and spinach
- Crispy baked chickpea bites
- Mushroom bourguignon
- Leek and mushroom quiche
Everything is vegetarian. Some of it is vegan. Everything was good. Some of it was TO DIE FOR.
It's just fun, I guess, to feel like a rockstar in exactly one room of your apartment.
My friend Lindsey and started a food blog earlier this summer, The Things We Eat, and we post sporadically with recipes and other ponderings. It's fun, but lately, I outcook my ability to blog my meals, and most of them are so delicious I forget to snap any photos anyway. We might not be the most regular posters, but we are always eating, and always scheming of something new and tasty to share.
Goal Word Count: 3334
Current Word Count: 2205
In what will probably become a regular occurrence this month, yesterday I found myself with an entire, delectable day at my disposal, but far too much to cram into it. Insult to injury: I began my impeccably planned day by failing to set my alarm properly AND once I woke, found that I'd set my clock 10 or 15 minutes slow. Who does that?
Anyway, for some reason I thought it would take me an hour to write 1667 words. It did not. I spent an hour in the morning and then another before bed, but after such a jam-packed day, I fell asleep before I could get to 1667.
Not the best start, but I did get up at 6:00 a.m. this morning and pushed it up to 2205 before breakfast. Hurrah!
A very brief history of Jessica vs. Nanowrimo:
2007: Finished, with a novel that I still think has potential, despite some MAJOR flaws that make me crazy just to think about them.
2008: Tried a new POV and an off-the-wall setting, but did not finish, mostly because I contracted a feverish illness THE DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING and yes, I still went Black Friday shopping, because I am an idiot.
2009: Thought better of taking the plunge, but did it anyway, resolving to intentionally write the stupidest story ever committed to words for the sole purpose of greasing my rusty fingers. After 10,000 words or so, decided that I didn't have enough for my character to do for a full 50,000 words, and decided to invite two more narrators to the party. Did not finish, again because of an impossible Thanksgiving weekend, this one packed with two 16 hour car rides, numerous family obligations, a paper due on Monday, and A BROKEN LAPTOP SCREEN.
Aside from all of those circumstantial excuses, the only real difference between my 2007 success and my 2008+2009 failures?
I went into 2007 with a plan. I had characters. I had plotlines for each character. I had little arcs for the relationships between each character. I had a structure. I'd tried out the voices of each narrator to make sure I could write them effectively.
So of course, I would try to write a novel in 2010 without much planning. I am awesome.
What I Do Have: two characters, a vague idea of an ending, an idea of their main conflict, competing plotlines (which one will win?), a setting, character sketches, and a brand new notebook in which to write all of this down.
What I Need: a solid narrative voice (yikes), a clear plan to get from beginning to end, ideas for scenes, an idea of what good writing actually amounts to.
So in addition to setting aside writing time, I'm setting aside planning time. Today, I spent 15 minutes typing up as much of a favorite novel as I could, into a Word Document (Try this! It's kind of fun to look at whatever words you respect as they once looked to the author: Times New Romaned on a white background), spent 15 minutes analyzing what each sentence accomplished for the scene or the novel, and then spent 30 minutes brainstorming ideas to write about because... um... I'm already out and it's DAY 2, PEOPLE!
Writing is really, really hard and really, really scary.
Moody Author Photo:
This is my little sister Dorothy. She is a runner!
I am not a runner, I have never BEEN a runner, and I actually hate the physical act. It hurts. I can't breathe. I can't run for any significant distance, despite other indicators of my physical fitness. I would much rather chug away for an hour on an elliptical machine than run a mile.
This hatred was born a long time ago. I was in elementary school when I was first instructed to run around the white circle on the blacktop. I remember the first half of a lap was great - I was fast! I was in first place! Once I finished the second half of the lap, things started to suck, and I came in just ahead of the asthmatics.
Things got worse in middle school. Every year, students were enrolled in three quarters of gym and one quarter of health. Gym class activities varied depending on what quarter it was - first and last semester always included twice weekly timed outdoor runs around Tuccamurgan Park. The gym teachers claimed we weren't graded on our times, but I was averaging a 16 to 14 minute mile, and during those quarters, I was averaging a B in gym.
On a side note, my GPA fixation started early. I was also a B student in math, and whenever I had spring or fall gym, I studied extra hard for my pre-algebra tests because I knew I was going to get a B in gym because I just couldn't run.
Anyway, despite all that, I am running. I am running because my school's gym is inconveniently located, because gym memberships in Boston are prohibitively expensive, and because even if I could find one cheap enough, Lance and I can't figure out where there would be a gym conveniently located for both of our schedules.
So I'm trying this new trick. It's called MAN, I LOVE RUNNING! I CAN'T WAIT TO RUN!! GAH WHAT A RUNNER'S HIGH! MY LEGS ARE GETTING SO STRONG AND I AM GETTING FASTER AND THIS IS GETTING EASIER! WOW! WOW! WOW! I AM GOING TO RUN RIGHT NOW EVEN THOUGH I DON'T WANT TO BECAUSE WHAT IF I DON'T GET A CHANCE TO LATER?? THAT WOULD BE TRAGIC!!
I'm holding down my mental shift key, basically.
And it's kind of working.
Of course, I choose to start pursue this habit about 5 minutes before the temperatures dip below freezing and the running paths ice over... but I'm going with it.
These things help, too:
1) I walk
I've chanced upon a disproportionate number of blogs written by casual marathoners (as in, people who run marathons but not to the point where they are too busy running to blog and entertain me). Most of them mention that they walk during not just actual marathons, but even long training runs. This floored me - I've always held this opinion that runners are so in shape they don't have to walk. That if you have to stop and walk (like I do, often), you might as well give up.
Of course, I TRY not to walk, but if I have to walk, I remember all those marathon runners, walking when they get exhausted, just like me, and then I make sure I run again.
2) I engage in mental aerobics.
Without resorting to caps-lock affirmations, I definitely trick myself into keeping at it.
If I start to talk myself out of running because it's too cold/too hot/I'm too tired/I just ate/I'm too hungry, I slap myself in the face and say "Well, who cares? Just go out and have a cold/hot/full/hungry run. When you get back, you'll be cold/hungry/full/hungry, but you won't be dead. And if you feel like dying, you can walk home, you idiot!"
(I never said my mental aerobics were particularly kind)
While I'm running, I often want to stop and walk (aka die). Now, I force my mind to reason with my body before I stop: I have to think of a compelling reason to stop running, and I have to keep going until I think of it. And of course, while my mind takes inventory of my reasons to stop, my caps-lock brain kicks in.
I think, "I should stop because my legs really hurt."
and my perky caps-lock brain says,
"WELL! You are getting stronger! Your legs need to grow more muscles, so of course it will hurt, but once they are done growing, it will be easier! Also, you are going up a hill! Once you start descending, it won't be so bad!"
Repeat for: lack of oxygen, throat pain, slightly painful ankles or knees, or boredom.
And I find that when I do need to stop to walk, my brain and body are pretty much in agreement.
3) I distract myself
This is not as easy as it seems. When I started running outdoors, the only thing that would keep my mind off the pain was movies/TV on my iPod, even if the screen was in my pocket. Not-so-unfortunately, I only had one movie on my iPod: Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Side note: Mental Aerobics during this period often included "Come on, Jessica! Keep going! Keep running until this awesome song is over!
Over time, I figured out how to focus on an audiobook, which is handy because I'm almost always listening to one, or even a This American Life podcast.
And now, my brain is finally trained enough to occasionally 1) Think of my own independent thoughts while I'm running or 2) Listen to music.
4) I listen to exclusively awesome music
This may involve making a new playlist for EVERY RUN, but whatever.
Lately, I require these offensive little ditties of questionable musical quality:
5) I finally bought workout clothes that fit (sort of).
My shoes no longer make my ankles hurt or make my toes go numb. My sports bra doesn't cut off my breathing apparatus. I am still wearing a pair of XL Adidas shorts that lost their drawstring, but it's nothing a little creative hiking-up can't help.
6) I run so slowly that leaves falling from trees pass me.
I have trouble pacing myself (see: Elementary School Blacktop), so I started running as slow as I possibly can. At times, I have slowed down to the point that I wonder if I could walk faster.
So I stop running for a second and walk, and yes, I can and do routinely walk faster than I run.
I ignore judgments from fellow runners as they pass me. Even Lance leaves me behind when we run together.
I get over it. I AM THE SLOWEST RUNNER ALIVE AND I AM AWESOME!!!!!
Anyway, I'm not any sort of running expert (obviously), and I'm mostly writing this so I can look at it in the spring when I want to start running again but fall back into my previously non-running ways. But in the past few weeks, without any concerted effort to run faster, I've cut almost a minute off my Seriously Slow mile time, I've run 2 miles with stops and 1.75 miles without, which is a Lifetime First, and far exceeds my 6th grade dreams of running a mile in under 16 minutes.
I don't know if my time would get me that coveted A minus yet, we're moving in some sort of direction, and it feels pretty good.
I'm starting to miss Regular Life. Life without schoolwork. Life without homework. Life without reading lists and syllabi and part-time jobs. I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone who's met me in the past year, but this whole Moving Across the Country Away From My Friends And Family, Living With A Boyfriend For The First Time, Managing My Own Finances, and Starting A Quite Rigorous Graduate Program? Yeah, it's really hard. My days are generally spoken for, and even when they aren't, my mind is occupied with what's coming up, what's next.
I think a lot of people - especially academics - thrive in this state, when everything melts away except for your work. I think I could go places in academia if I could live that way. But I can't. I am acutely aware of what I'm giving up, living like this, and it makes me miserable, even if the work is objectively enjoyable, the subject matter amazing. I can't focus. I can't surrender.
Oh, there are moments of joy, that's for sure, and moments of giddy exhilaration about what I'm doing here, the life I'm preparing for, the opportunities I have. It's all very thrilling, but it's also very stressful and exhausting.
If I were better suited to this kind of work, I think, I would look at this unhappiness and think about how to change my work, how to challenge myself. Instead, I find myself trying to inject my School Life with Real Life whenever I can.
Yes, I will drive 16 hours to spend 3 days with my family over the holidays.
Yes, I will wake up an hour early everyday so I can just SIT and BE for awhile.
And on Saturday, we went to the Jamaica Plain Lantern Parade.
I'm not really sure why I wanted to go.
All you do is walk around a pond, holding a soda bottle lantern with a candle in it.
I had homework to do.
And the boys I dragged with me were under-impressed.
But it was within walking distance of my apartment. An it's going to be winter soon so I should enjoy the outside. And there were a number of adorable little kid costumes to be seen. And yes, we bought a cool Pac-Man lantern.
And it seemed like Real Life.
Like something I'd do before I moved to Boston and entered School Life.
And speaking of,
You can add friends on there... somehow. It's kind of confusing, but add me! I respond very well to competitive little word-counter bars,
and with the School Life in the way,
I'm going to need all the help I can get.