A Thousand Words a Day May Keep the Therapist Away

I had the pleasure and joy of joining my friends and alum from the South Central Kansas Writing Project (affiliated with the National Writing Project).  We were invited to present our creative work during the Friday luncheon of the Kansas Association for Teachers of English.  It was an honor to share my poetry among such prestigious company.  Pictures will be up soon.  http://web.jccc.net/orgs/kate/

 November is going to be a stellar month!  My poem, “Teachering Manifesto,” appears in the November installment of Poetry for the Masses.  This excellent little art project partners submissions from around the country into a quarterly broadside.  Poets then receive 25 copies to be distributed around their own neighborhoods and burgs.  My work may find its way to a happy little coffee shop in Ohio or a subway pillar in New York—awesome!  To see a PDF version of the broadside, click: http://www.poetryforthemasses.org/

 I’ve already mention that I’ll be reading at NakedCity Gallery as the featured poet on November 17th, and I’m absolutely thrilled about this!  I’ve been trying to get my talented husband to make a flyer for me, so when I have one available, I’ll also post that.

 After making a slew of October submissions, I’ve decided it’s time to concentrate on the writing.  It’s funny how much time can be taken up in reviewing journals, becoming familiar with publications, formatting material into submission requirements (vastly different from venue to venue—even if submitting what is ultimately the exact same chapbook).

 While I had initially decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month, I realized that writing a memoir really doesn’t really fit into the NANOWrimo philosophy.  I also feel incredibly intimidated about finding enough time to write each day on a project I haven’t given any foresight or planning toward. The idea of 50,000 words by the end of the month gives me an anxiety brick in my chest.  So I’ve decided to create my own NANO requirements.  http://www.nanowrimo.org/

 1000 words a day toward any of the projects I’ve been working on.  This might mean 1000 words toward the memoir, or 1000 words on the young adult novella that’s only half-way complete.  This may also mean 1000 words toward the scary story set I’ve decided to create.  Each project is currently occupying brain space right now, so it seems fitting to give myself some lee-way.  I hope to periodically share work through the blog, but am NOT counting BLOGGING toward my totals, so I’ll probably leave it for excerpts on Sunday. 

There is definitely something therapeutic about writing, whether I’m working on Fiction or Poetry.  By the same token, however, when I have a list of a gazillion things to do, and I feel added guilt and inadequacy by all that I CAN’T accomplish, sometimes keeping the goal small and manageable really is the ticket.

Another Excerpt from “It Happened One Night…”

I’ve been revamping my earlier story, “It Happened One Night at the Orpheum.”  Since I’m working on a serious wordlimit, I can’t just go on and on forever.  I also reworked the POV into first person.  I think this lends some urgency to the pace.  Below is an excerpt.

It Happened One Night at the Orpheum, part 2

About midway through the movie though, I couldn’t avoid the need to go the bathroom anymore.  I leaned forward, trying to get Stephanie’s attention, but she was too busy giggling up at Blake to even notice.  I sighed, resigned to make the trip alone. No hug for Stephanie after all! Not that I’m the kind of girl that needs to go potty in a large group like some high school girls, but this was the oldest building I had ever been in, and I could smell the age of the carpet.

I made my way to the back of the auditorium, the darkness complete, finally asking an attendant for the restroom when I couldn’t figure out where it was.  I would have to go up a floor.   The stairs had tiny lights, and I was thankful that I wouldn’t be expected to navigate them in the black.

But the little circles of light just seemed to make the lack of light more pronounced, and the shadows bent around in weird ways, climbing up the wall.  I reached out to the rail and felt something slimy.  Ugghh! I thought, jerking my hand back.

By the time I made it to the midlevel, I was rethinking this whole little restroom break.  The recently remodeled Ladies Room, though, was like something out of a fancy hotel.

On my way out, feeling more like myself in the bright lights, I stopped to check my make-up in the mirror.  To my chagrin, I realized that my eyeliner was smearing and needed some help.  Trying to fix it, I ignored the sound of someone entering the bathroom.  I saw the movement behind me, but I was pretty intent on looking good for Chris, so when I felt the hand on my shoulder I jumped, shrieking a little.  I turned around, expecting to see Page’s smug face, so pleased to have freaked me out … but there was no one there!

“Come on, Page.  This isn’t funny,” I muttered.  I twisted to look under the stall doors, determined to find the culprit.  This HAD to be someone’s idea of a bad joke… but the restroom was empty.

I was getting a totally weird vibe.  I bent over to check again, wondering if maybe someone was standing on the stool so I couldn’t see their feet.

From behind me, I head the door opening, and I jerked upright.  And I felt even more foolish when I realized that two women had entered while I was ‘peeping.’  They were now frowning at me.  I could feel the heat in my cheeks, and I shrugged my shoulders, giving up.

This place was creeping me out.

And I know the next part is a little hard to believe.  Why didn’t I just go straight back to Chris and the group?  Why did those stairs leading further up seem so attractive despite the shrouding darkness?  It’s impossible to explain, except to say that my curiosity has always gotten me into trouble.  And as soon as I saw those stairs, I just wanted to follow them up, see where they led.

The stairs led to the balcony, clearly a place for lovers’ trysts as was demonstrated by several couples that didn’t even bother to look up at my passing.  The sound from the movie was crisp and clear, and I made my way to the edge.  I gingerly leaned over and immediately spotted the Scooby Gang down below, still laughing and throwing popcorn at the screen.  I searched for Chris in his Shaggy outfit, but he wasn’t below.  Damnit, neither was Page.  If those two were off kissing in some corner, I just might scratch her eyes out!

From out here, on the edge of the balcony I could see across the oval ceiling, the plaster relief, the shadows.  I was standing at least 25 feet above the floor seats below.  I reached out, grasping the clammy coolness of the railing.   My mind seemed to tune out the sound of the movie, the fleshy sounds of the kissing behind me.  My gaze was drawn to dark recess along stage left, and I could only stare at the inky shadow that seemed to spread across the lovely frescoes, moving unnaturally through the lighter darkness.  I wanted to point at it, scream at the people behind me, “Can’t you see that?!”  But I was frozen, watching as it slid along the wall, oozing toward the audience.  I know how crazy it sounds, but right in that second, I just knew that the darkness was evil, something terribly wrong and unnatural. The shadows had been sliming around all evening.  I didn’t want to know what it was going to do when it reached them, but my friends were down there… even bitchy Page didn’t deserve whatever that had instore.

I started to call out, thinking to hell with how crazy it seemed, inhaling to scream a warning.

I never got the chance.

A hand shoved me roughly from behind.

I lost my balance, flipping over the balcony, looking behind me, only to see NOTHING; barely grasping the metal in time, my feet dangling, nearly swallowing my tongue, and I was panting, incapable of making even the tiniest squeak of sound and I thought, this is it. I’m going to die right now, I don’t really want to die…

And to see the inkspot racing along the wall toward me had my mind stilling.  If it reached me, if it even touched me, I knew I would be forced to let go.  And why didn’t anybody look up?

A Night in Verse

While the writing has certainly slowed down to the inevitable pressure of teaching, I have still been polishing up poems, dusting off those tired pieces in hopes of sending some work out!

I am also pleased to announce that my poem, “It Started One Morning on a Bridge,” has been selected for the November issue of Naked City.  This particular poem is part of a series based on my imaginary alter-ego–A 30-something professional who made some very bad decisions in her life.

As an added plus, Naked City hosts A Night in Verse, an open-mic featuring the poet of the month.

On November 17th at 7:00pm at Naked City Gallery [121 N. Mead, Suite 104], I will have the opportunity to read my poetry.

I am searching through the piles for things I want to share. Then afterward, local poets (the REAL talent) will sign up for open mic.  To see the latest issue and to learn more information, visit:

http://www.nakedcitywichita.com/

Last year, another poem from the same series was printed in the August 2010 issue of Naked City: Afternoon at the Donut Whole.  I thought someone might enjoy seeing it here.

Afternoon at the Donut Whole

Part I

I can see Big Ed from Hydraulic,
and I wonder why we can’t do this
at his place or mine.

I wonder if he’s ready for me to meet his mom.

Does the wattle control the sound a rooster makes,
how loud would that be if they just
put a siren in the belly?

Part II
The smells find me as soon as I swing open the door—
crisp maple bacon, peanut butter, fresh coffee beans
I want tea,
something cinnamon
that makes me feel alluring and sophisticated.

I want him to smell me and the cinnamon
and think of Christmas morning and presents.
Tea is grown up,
and I am SOOO an adult now.

Part III
I sit across the enameled face of Mr. Rogers,
stare into the eyes of my love,
my soul mate,
and I want his face to crack like a Braum’s ice cream sugar cone
in the hands of a two-year-old…

The bastard.
I will never meet his mom.

It Happened One Night at the Orpheum

I have had the most wonderful/busy/crazy week.  Though I could spend hours talking about the lovely Gillian Welch and her partner, I’ll let the video suffice.  Her music playing through the great hall of the Orpheum Theater has stayed with me for days.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NPEj63d0jY

On that note, I’ve had a story in my head for a month or two.  I’ll be sharing this first part with my fellow KWA members in my critique group tomorrow.  Though it’s silly and a tad cliche, This will develop into a Young Adult ghost story.

It Happened One Night at the Orpheum

             Madison Lake took a deep breath and stuffed her hands into the pockets of her Levis.  The chilly October air curled under her light jacket.  Should’ve worn a costume, she thought.  Could I possibly stand out more? Everyone else in line outside the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Wichita had dressed to the max.  From the hobo clown a few feet away, to the man dressed as Voldemort further down, these people took Halloween seriously.  So far, she had seen a pregnant cheerleader, several terrorists with turbans made from towels, and a giant pack of cigarettes.  She had no idea how that guy was going to sit down.

It seemed dumb to ask mom for money for a costume, and her own savings was blown.  Her house was full of barely unpacked boxes, and her mom seemed totally stressed out enough as it was.  Besides, she thought, dressing up for Halloween is for little kids.  She snorted.  Tell that to these people.  She’d never seen so many grown folk acting like freaks. 

Maddy flinched away from the tall guy in the full-on Pin-Head costume, the needles stuck in the face of his mask casting long shadows.  She tried to stand as close to the brick wall of the old theater as she could get.  The flashing marquee cast blinking splashes across the painted and masked faces. The eerie effect made even the Tinkerbell a few people down the line look ghastly.

A shadowy figure loomed near and she clutched at her jacket.  The figure bumped into Maddy’s hip, and she realized it was Stephanie, even as the girl squealed, “Maddy!”  She was a little dazed, and the next few words were lost in Steph’s giggling enthusiasm.  “… made it! This is gonna’ be so much fun! I can’t wait for you to meet Chris!”

            Chris?!  Christopher Ryan? The guy from Maddy’s geometry class? Tall, dark, and way out of her league?  With the deep brown eyes and the smile that lit up the whole room?  That guy was the hottest thing since Edward Cullen!!  How could Stephanie NOT tell me HE was coming? she thought frantically.  Would she look stupid without a costume?  Stephanie clearly had on a costume, although Maddy couldn’t figure it out. 

            Stephanie continued to babble, pulling her toward the back of the line, gushing on so fast that Maddy had a hard time following her words.

            “… and you like my costume, don’t you?”  She looked at Stephanie, considering the purple dress straight out of 70s polyester heaven, the purple tights and a neon green scarf.  It all seemed vaguely familiar.  The hair was the best part, teased and feathered into a strange bouf tied back with a headband.  Stephanie posed for her.  “So, what do you think?  Pretty good, huh?”

            “Uhhh,” Maddy struggled. 

            “Oh come ON, Maddy! You don’t get it?”  Stephanie’s impatience was palpable and she tried not to squirm.  Finally, Stephanie just shrugged.  “Don’t worry.  You’ll figure it out.”  She hooked Maddy’s arm and pulled her on toward the art deco stained-glass doors. 

            From behind them, they heard a voice: “Hey, new girl.”  The tone had Maddy hunching her shoulders even as she turned around in line.  She sighed.  She was sure that every high school across the country had at least a few Page McElroys sprinkled in.  These girls always had the latest hair styles, the most expensive clothes, and the snottiest attitudes.  Maddy hated clichés and stereotypes, but if the shoe fit? she thought philosophically. 

            For once, though, Page wasn’t dressed in the latest fashion.  In fact, that sweater she was wearing had to be the ugliest color orange Maddy had ever seen.  The wool skirt wasn’t much better for the coolness factor, although it was definitely short and skimpy.  And her sweater certainly had a deep V down the front!

Too bad Page was draped all over Christopher, and she was clearly making sure he had a view.  But he didn’t seem to notice.  He wasn’t even looking at her.

“Hi,” he said, looking straight at Maddy.  He had this little half-smile, and his eyes seemed to be crinkled up with humor, and Maddy forgot about everything else.  It was like she’d hit the world’s mute button.  She noticed his olive green tee-shirt, the brown corduroy pants, his mussed-up hair.  She sighed, answering “Hi,” back.

“Great,” said Page, her grating voice breaking the spell.  She thrust a bag at Maddy.  “Here.  You can be our ‘Scooby.”

With dawning horror, Maddy realized the paper bag now in her hands was clearly marked SCOOBY SNACKS in black Sharpe marker.  They were all dressed as characters from the cartoon: Stephanie as ‘Daphne’, Chris as ‘Shaggy,’ and Page as the sluttiest ‘Velma’ Maddy had ever seen.  And apparently she had been invited on this little outing for a very specific reason.  The gang just wouldn’t be the same without the dog.  She wanted to die.

Before she even had time to react, before she needed to blink the tears out of her eyes, Chris snatched the bag out of her hands.  “You’re such a bitch, Page.”  He shifted his body away from hers and she immediately pouted.

“Come on, Chris, where’s your sense of humor?  I was only kidding!”

His muttered, “whatever,” was drowned out by Stephanie’s scream of excitement, “Blake’s here! Blake’s here!  He’s Fred, you know,” she said to Maddy, clapping.  “The gang’s all here.” 

His costume was the best.  He even had on a silk Ascot.  And in his arms, he carried a stuffed animal.  “Brought your Scooby,” he said, passing the toy to Chris.  Page rolled her eyes at me and then smiled a little, like she was saying, “A joke’s a joke. No hard feelings?”  I stared at her.  But Chris was suddenly beside me and I could feel his warmth through my thin jacket.  I shrugged, following Stephanie and Blake into the theater.

*          *          *          *