Friday, April 26, 2013


My tastes in what a story should be are in flux lately. After writing for some twelve years or so...okay, maybe more like fifteen...I'm seeing some really basic "rules" of writing in a way that I never saw them before. The idea that every scene should contribute to the story, for example, means something new to me now than it used to.

Three months ago, my concept of a story was different. I don't use the term slice-of-life very often, but that must have been how I saw my work. My goal was to capture a time and place in an expansive way. Scenes were included if they were plausible and interesting. I was writing about chaos by being chaotic.

Now, I am more focused on forward momentum. I have stricter rules about what is allowed in a story. It's not enough to be plausible. It must move the story forward.  It feels very linear, not specifically in terms of timeline, but in terms of a singular story that is unfolding.

I find myself still obsessed with chaos, for better or for worse. Is that due to my age? I see the happenings of the world as being completely random, which in many ways keeps my uninspired when it comes to writing. But I also think it moves me to really search for something worth writing about. Given that, I am still attempting to evoke the realization of the world's chaos in my current story, but I'm channeling that through my characters instead of including the chaos as part of the structure of the book.

Here's some rough stuff I'm playing with, including a little nod to the dear Michelle Davidson Argyle. I can't decide if I hate the last couple of sentences.

Each morning, she walked from her apartment to the office, passing the Hotel de ville, crossing the green waters of the Seine at Rue d’Arcole and cutting diagonally across the uneven courtyard of the Parvis Notre-Dame to Rue du Petit Pont, the cobblestones sometimes submerged after rain or after snow. She walked by vendors roasting chestnuts. She walked by gypsies asking for money. She walked by tourists posing for photographs, imagining herself captured and nameless in thousands of photographs, in thousands of households, in thousands of cities. 

For The Spectacle she wrote stories about long lost twins reuniting after fifty-six years, about the migration of monarch butterflies, about grunions beaching themselves at high tide on the shores of Baja California. With each piece she attempted to pry open the face of the advancing world to uncover the machinery underneath, the interlocking gears, the work of steady, knowing hands. She looked for truth in coincidences, in patterns. She looked for truth in chaos.

I don't know why I feel this way at the moment, but I do. And I am realizing just this moment that it has to do with reading Moby Dick. There were things I did not like about that book that I see in my own writing, and it's making me respond by changing my direction. It helps that I've also been reading Murakami and Toibin, who somehow manage to make these beautiful emotions grow by just gradually letting stories unfold.

I guess it's a good thing that I'm reading this year.


1. You put a cuppa sugar in a pot.
2. You pour 1/4 cup of water down over it and, without mixing, let it set until all of the water has saturated the sugar.
3. You put it on medium heat, and,  still without stirring, you let all of the sugar melt and bubble and turn a beautiful golden color. (A little darker if you want more of that lovely bitter taste.)
4. You take it off the heat and slowly add 3/4 cup cream while whisking. Swoooosh! It will bubble and steam and be quite exciting! Don't panic.
5. Add in some butter (3? 3.5 tablespoons?)
6. Add in a teaspoon or so of sea salt. Do it.


I never made caramel before because I'm not a huge fan of it. But I love making things from scratch. And I apparently like the homemade stuff a lot more than I like the stuff from a store.

I drizzled it on top of vanilla ice cream with another sprinkle of sea salt.

What's Peanut eating? My gray Puma sock. It means he loves me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Baguettes and brie and wine

She went to Machu Pichu, to Egypt, to Rome. She ran her hands along the weathered travertine and tuff of the Colloseum, still solid after so long. The monuments had lasted. They stood through the centuries, mighty and stubborn, as humans never could.

“I want to come home,” she said again. Fog swelled in the narrow alley beneath her open window. The air carried traces of mildew and old wood and the faint odor of rising dough.

 “Don’t come home, Diana. Don’t come to see me like this.” On the phone her father sounded far away. He was already fading.

“Let me see you one last time.”

“I’m not me anymore. That man is gone. I’m just pain and anger now.”

With the last of her money, she went to Paris. She rented a studio on the fifth floor of an elevatorless apartment building on rue Charlot in the third arrondissement. She bought baguettes and brie and wine. She crossed bridges and gazed at the golden light painting the surfaces of churches. She washed her clothes by hand in a tiny sink that had separate faucets for hot and cold water and hung them on the backs of chairs, on the windowsill, on the radiator. Puddles formed and dissipated. Rain came and went. Her father died.

What's Peanut eating? A cotton ball with medical tape on it. I fished it out before he swallowed.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sugar Free Pictes

Manuel and Isidro are at it again! This article was passed along to me by Red, I think, because I've been throwing around the idea of a Compendium of Lost Languages as one of the projects carried out by the supercentenarians of Cyberlama. (Can you detect the subtle fragrance of progress?)

Happy Friday, tout le monde! Or, as they say in Ayapaneco no one may ever know. 

What's Peanut eating? Tender spring blades of grass.