Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Frlinkcipe

Short story smackdown with pie

Total time: 12 days


your favorite pie crust recipe

your favorite pie filling

your favorite short story


Bake the pie and pick your favorite short story and join the smackdown.

For a more coherent explanation, go here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Four soups

Here is the original opening of Cyberlama followed by some new possible openings that I'm considering. Thanks, Michelle, for reminding me to write!


I begin this volume of my memoirs—my sixth—a few years early. Originally, I had planned to write a new one every fifty years, but I sense that something unusual is going on. What that something is, I don’t know yet. I write this based on nothing more than a vague impression I got from some members of the staff as they were working in our room, a sense of tension, or secrecy, perhaps. Well, I can be certain of one thing at least—I know that I am not a genius. Having lived for so long, my insight into human nature still can’t rival that of Shakespeare or Tolstoy, Proust or Woolf, Cotter or Bailey. But it is serviceable, and when I’m at my best, it is honest. Usually that’s good enough.

To start at the beginning, my name is Diana Foster. In the year 2010, at the age of twenty-six, I was invited to take part in an experiment to sustain my life indefinitely. My spinal cord was fused to an ion activator that would allow my brain to continue functioning long after it would traditionally have given out. My circulatory and respiratory systems were integrated into nanovalve hydraulic pump systems—state-of-the-art technology at the time. I was fed through a tube. My UV exposure was reduced. My cardiovascular fitness was controlled. In short, everything possible was done to make sure that my body would endure for as long as the program continued. I am three hundred thirty-four years old now, and I feel as fit and alert as I ever did.

Option 3647

I opened my eyes to find Dr. Schultz and Dr. Russo whispering to one other. They stood by the biorhythm station, their shoulders almost touching. Dr. Schultz traced his finger down a list of numbers on the screen that were too small for me to read myself. Though I tried to stay quiet, Dr. Russo glanced over his shoulder and caught me watching them. He tapped Schultz on the shoulder. They logged off of the computer and left the room.

Option 4561 

The uniformed man cleared his throat as Diana stepped into the cobblestone courtyard. He waited underneath the lamppost beside the building entrance.

“Ms. Foster?”

She continued walking, her night’s groceries in a canvas bag in her hand. The light in the Guardienne’s apartment was already off.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to scare you. I just need to deliver a letter to you.”

“Oh, you’re an American,” Diana said.

“I’m from Washington.” The man straightened. “I just need to give you this letter.”

“It must say something important if you had to fly all the way over here to give it to me.”

“I wouldn’t know.” He offered up a thin envelope. The shadow from his fingers kept her from seeing whom it was from. “Apparently, they tried to mail you the first one, but you didn’t respond.”

Option 6678

I begin writing this five years early. We learned today that Volker sneezed. The event was recorded by the electroencephalogram, electrocardiogram, and the eye movement sensors. We contacted Dr. Schultz about it, and he has confirmed that it is indeed true.

Why am I playing around with this? I'm not really sure. Part of it has resulted from me thinking more about the big picture story. I think if the thing I'm trying to record is about my protagonist, Diana, joining this experiment and then coming to terms with whether or not it was a good idea, then the chronological presentation might work. It seems the most logical and the least distracting. But the reason I started jumping around in the first place was because such a long timespan is covered, and I liked the idea of mixing and splicing memories, which is a consequence of life. I'm not sure if I like Volker's sneeze as the frame for the story. It feels a little predictable. I'm also seeing if I like the story more when I write in scenes as opposed to a more conversation telling that I originally began with.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Frirthdaycipes


Total time: 38 weeks


1 ex-dancer, daughter of mother unable to walk after giving birth to her last son, daughter of mother lost to strangers in a gambling game who became a servant girl, daughter of father abused by uncle, daughter of father who ran away from home to become a servant boy, daughter of servants in the same house who fell in love and bought their freedom, pediatric intensive care unit nurse for some 40 years, maker of Ritz cracker sandwiches lined on a red plastic tray on Saturday mornings

1 ex-fight rooster raiser, ex-kick boxer, ex-smoker!, steel worker whose hands are covered with tiny blisters from having to work with acid for 40 years, maker of cool wooden toys that little boys liked to throw at each other, eater of Cup O' Noodles in the middle of the night with the kids woken up so that all three could fight for noodles in the same pot


Import both ingredients from Thailand, marry them and hold a reception afterwards for a total of $100. Take a picture of them looking young and happy and so much in love in front of a gold curtain (It was the 70's). Ahem--shuffle their DNA around Valentine's Day of 1978. Take the bun out of the oven at 11:06 pm in White Memorial Medical Center.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Canned Peaches

Here's where I am: I spent a few days brainstorming about the big picture concepts behind Cyberlama. The end result was something like: 6 people stuck together for a really long time. In other words, my understanding is still evolving.

I'm trying to write the book in chronological order just to see if that will work for me. I'm also cutting out the telling, which was a lot of the book. So, potentially, that will be a big transformation. I may not like it at all, in which case I will go back to an older draft.

I'm also reading Kent Haruf's Plainsong right now. Have you folks heard of it? When I started it, I kept comparing it to Cormac McCarthy, mainly due to the technical approach (all straightforward showing, no quotations marks, stuff like that). But now that I'm about 200 pages into it I'm really enjoying it. Some moments make me laugh. Some make me cheer. Some make me almost tear up. It's a sweet little book, and one of the few that I feel reflects what I'm also trying to do with my stories. It's a very quiet book, like Mrs. Bridge or like Yasunari Kawabata's books. These are my peeps!

I often think about literary lineages--how an author is influenced by the books that came before her or him. My lineage includes Homer and Tolstoy and Faulkner and Woolf and Delillo and the books I mentioned above. My lineage has not so far included writers like Philip Roth and Dostoevsky and Dickens--writers who I keep trying to like but don't ever fully connect with (even if I respect them). Haruf feels like someone I should include in this lineage.

What's Peanut eating? A manilla folder and lemon juice. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I don't really have anything to share except that I feel excited to work on Cyberlama again after a loooo-o-ooo--oo-ong break. I want to start from the beginning and structure the beast into a form that is mouthwatering. I'm toying with the idea of doing it all in chronological order, starting with Diana in Paris and ending with Diana at...the end. Maybe. I'm at least going to try that first. If that doesn't get me anywhere, then the revision will be more about making it as dramatic as possible by putting things in better places. The book is shuffleable like that. I'm into the whole stories-within-stories concept (as opposed to the babies having babies concept).

The most important thing. I'm excited!

What's Peanut eating? A neon green ear plug on the elevator floor. I cleverly maneuvered him around it on the way down, but he cleverly remembered to eat it on the way back up.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Friendcipe


Total Prep Time: hundreds of years, if not thousands


1 eye
2 eyes
3 eyes
15 ducks
3 pheasants
8 rabbits hung on a long, thick wire in a corner
1 dragon
something sweet


Mix very well until you get Bonded.