Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Here's to madly writing

I am taking time out from studying to work on an article for Hip Mama, enjoying a peppermint hot chocolate at the cafe, when suddenly my Muse sits at my table across from me.

"I like your haikus," she says.

Staring at her, my hands frozen above my keyboard, I'm not sure if she's really here or a just needy figment of my imagination. "Thanks," I finally squeak.

She grabs my hot chocolate and takes a sip. "You do know of course, that you can get a peppermint hot chocolate any time of the year."

"I know."

"Then why do you insist on only drinking it during the holidays?"

"It's a tradition. And if I drank it all the time, it wouldn't be special. "

Nodding, she takes another sip. "I suppose that's true."

"Why are you here?" I finally ask. "I thought you were mad at me."

With a dismissive wave of her hand, she says, "Please. I was frustrated, that's all. I've had time to think and I've come to the realization that you're right. This is a temporary writing freeze, nothing more. You must focus on school and finish what you started, and not only finish, but finish well. Once you have a day job and a regular schedule you'll be so hungry for creative endeavors you won't be able to NOT write. I can wait."

"I'm glad you understand."

"I'm practical to a fault." She leans across the table and meets my eyes. "I have fabulous ideas brewing already, just waiting for the right moment."

"I know. Even when you were mad at me you were sending images about my next play."

She laughs. "Isn't it wonderful. It will be your greatest work. When is Script-Frenzy, by the way?"


"Then you'd better finish school by then, because I will be hounding you day and night until that play is written."

She drinks more of my hot chocolate, her snakes leaning close to the cup to catch the scent of peppermint. "This really is quite delicious."

"Want your own?"

"No. I'll just drink yours." She laughs again and the snakes hiss happily.

I watch my fearsome muse lick sticky chocolate off her fangs, her pale green eyes sparkling. Then I say, "I'm glad you're back."

"I never left."

"I wasn't sure."

"I will never leave you, Terena, although you may someday wish I would. Because ultimately you have no choice. You will either have to keep writing, or go mad."

Taking back my drink from her clawed, beautiful hands, I raise the cup to her. "Then here's to madly writing."

"Happy Thanksgiving," she says.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Haiku My Heart Friday: Studying

Almost forgot about Haiku My Heart Friday because I've spent most of today studying for my certification exam. The teacher said "Study the Red Book." All 550 pages of it. Sigh...

Studying All Day
Dreaming about the future
Wishing I could play

For more Haiku My Heart poetry, go to recuerda mi corazon, and then join in the fun. Write your own Haiku and link to Rebecca's blog. There's some lovely writing over there, and it's a great way to flex your creative muscles. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sorry, but I can't help you with your writing today.

A friend of a friend asked me to help her with her book proposal. I should have said no, but since she was a friend of a very good friend, I said yes, although it would take me a few weeks. After she sent me her work, I realized that she needed a lot more help than I'd realized. I quickly did some editing, made some suggestions, and sent it back, when what I really needed to do was help her revise the entire piece. But I didn't have time. I'm drowning in work right now, studying for two major exams and a working a full time internship. Any spare moment I have is either spent with my daughter or reading text books. Forget writing; my muse has abandoned me because the only writing I do these days is for my blogs.

I should have said no, but instead I said yes. The woman's agent is the one who said no.

I know it's not my fault the agent rejected her proposal, but I feel somewhat responsible. She asked me for help and I agreed to give it, but because of the time pressure I'm under, I gave her the minimum.

For the next few months, the answer is no to any and all requests for help with writing. As much as I enjoy editing and helping new authors, I simply cannot give the amount of time it takes to really help someone with their manuscript. A 200 page project equals a week of work for me, depending on the amount of help the writer needs. A simple proposal can take 5 hours. Anything less is unfair to the writer who is trusting me to help them, not just throw Band-Aids at a book and then wish them luck.

When someone asks for help, I automatically want to say yes. It's just who I am. Need help with your book, your kids, your hair, your grocery list, your pets, your dirty windows, your relationship, your car... of course I can help. I genuinely want to help people, especially if it's in my power to do so. However, I tend to forget that there's just one me who cannot be in several places at once doing multiple things at once. Even I have a limit to my superpowers.

So, until at least the end of January, I must say no. I know you need help and I wish there were 30 hours in a day instead of only 24, but I absolutely do not have one more hour to give to anyone. If I gave up any more time, I'd have to give up bathing, and my family might start to complain after a few days.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Haiku my Heart Friday: Sunlight

image from running through rain

In the still wet dawn
I grasp a strand of sunlight
Keep it safe all day

Thank you, Rebecca, for reminding me that it's Haiku My Heart Friday

And to my muse, does this prove I've still got a bit of creativity left?

(I also want to clarify that I did not take this photo. It's one of my favorite images that I've found on the net which I saved for inspiration. I found it on a website called Rain Coaster Media/Running Through Rain and am hunting for the original artist to give her/him credit.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Am I still a writer, or should my muse find another artist?

My muse flopped onto the bed and let out a deep, pitiful sigh. "I'm bored."

Uh oh. It is never good when a must gets bored.

"When will you finish school, for Heaven's  sake?" she demanded, lifting her head to stare at me.

"Um... March. I think," I replied. "If all goes well."

"March?" Every snake in her hair glared at me. "Are you serious?"

"Yes, I am."

"March is four months away!" Her head fell back on the bed and she stared at the ceiling. "Four months... I can't stand it!" She bounced off the bed and stood. "You have to stop immediately."

"Stop? I can't stop now. I'm almost done."

"But you won't be done for months! This is impossible. I can't live this way any longer!" My Muse sank to her knees and clutched her head. The snakes entwined themselves around her fingers and wrists, hissing gently as if to comfort her.

"I'm sorry. I know it's hard..."

Without raising her head, my muse wailed, "You have no idea how hard it is."

"Not much longer. Really. It will be over before you know it."

"And then what?" Her golden eyes were filled with tears as she looked at me. "When you finish school you'll get a job. Then you'll be working all the time, with no end in sight. I've seen it before. An artist spends all her time at work, then at home doing laundry, and before long 20 years have passed and she hasn't written a damn thing. And then what becomes of me? Do you really think I'll just sit around and wait until you retire at age 65?"

I met her gaze and felt twinges of cold harden my toes and fingers. "I'm sorry. I know this must be difficult."

"Difficult?" My muse angrily swiped the snakes away from her face and rose to her full height of 6 feet. All the snakes hid on the back of her head. "Difficult?"

"Yes. And I appreciate your patience..."

"I am not the muse of a school teacher!"

"I know..."

"I am the muse of a writer. Do you know who else I have inspired?"

"Not really..."

"Leane Zugsmith! I was the muse of Leane Zugsmith."


She ignored me. "And before her, Margaret Oliphant. I have inspired countless others through the centuries, creating some of the greatest work in the Western World. Does that sound like the muse of a school teacher?"

The cold from her gaze had creeped up my arms and into my neck, forcing me to look away. I studied the floor and listened to her snakes hiss louder as she ranted. A pissed off Muse is not a pretty sight.

Suddenly, my Muse was quiet. I glanced up and saw she was sitting on the bed again, looking tiny and pale. "I like you," she said, staring at me with sad eyes. "I really do. I saw a deep potential in you, inhibited only by your lack of confidence and your insistence that you are undeserving of any measure of success. I thought with my guidance you'd uncover your talents. Instead, you've decided to become a teacher, giving up writing plays and novels for the comfort of a steady paycheck and a retirement fund."

"That's not true..." I whispered.

She stood and studied me closely. "It isn't? Are you sure?"

I met her unblinking eyes and nodded. "Yes. I'm sure."

"Then prove it." Suddenly, my Muse vanished.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Full Circle - "Traveling Blind" with Laura Fogg

The first book I published was called Traveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers, written by my daughter's Orientation and Mobility Teacher, Laura Fogg. A memoir about her 30 years as a teacher of visually impaired children, Laura shares stories about many of her students and what each child taught her about life, joy, grief and hope. My own daughter's story is one of the chapters. I had watched her for 10 years working with my daughter, but publishing her book gave me a clear picture of what being a teacher of visually impaired people was like. Shortly after the book was released in November, 2007, I applied to the O and M program at San Francisco State.

Last week I started my internship with Laura, riding with her all over Mendocino County, teaching toddlers and high school students, both multiply disabled and able bodied, English and Spanish speaking. She also works with other teachers to help them understand a child's vision issues and parents to help them communicate their child's needs. She eats lunch in her car and rarely takes a break. Occasionally she works 10 hour days. But through it all, she seems joyful and tireless. Even when she's starting to feel the stress because everything happens at once, she has a smile on her face. 

I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Life has come full circle. Queen Teen was born visually impaired. Laura has been her teacher for 12 years. Laura wrote a memoir. I published it. Her book inspired me to go to school. Laura is now my Master Teacher.

Hey, someone tell Oprah. I think our story would make an excellent feature for her magazine.

The other perk to this internship is I now get to work with my own daughter. It kind of feels like cheating taking Queen Teen on shopping trips and nature walks after school. Queen Teen is in heaven. She likes going on outings with Laura, but with Mom in tow, it's that much better.

And this is Laura's office

Anderson Valley in October

And this...

And here's one more shot of Laura Fogg's office, which is mine for the next five weeks...

The Village of Mendocino
No wonder she loves her job.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pics from the Alternative Press Expo

And once again time got away from me. I said I'd have these pics posted two weeks ago.

Terena at APE
The Alternative Press Expo was fabulous, despite the fact book sales were mediocre. The greatest thing about the expo is the people. So many talented, creative, passionate people work that event, and even more come to support and celebrate the artists. And, Medusa's Muse shared a table with the photographer Charles Gatewood and V Vale of REsearch Publications, both of who were wonderful to spend time with for two days in a cold warehouse.
Rick and V Vale
They arrived after Rick and I had already set up our half of the table, so I was mighty annoyed when V Vale started setting up an extra table smack against the spot Medusa was assigned to. No one could reason with him; he was determined to set up that extra table. Eventually I gave up our end of the table because there was more room on that side, but it pissed me off I had to reorganize everything and give up our prime location. But quickly, he won me over. V Vale is funny, passionate, intelligent and generous with his knowledge and time. In less than an hour, he felt like a friend.
Charles Gatewood and V Vale
Charles is equally kind, and surprisingly sweet. He's nothing you would imagine a photographer who takes pictures of people's piercings and sadomasochistic fetishes to be. He's full of stories and ideas about art and culture, and he and Rick had a blast chatting about photography and living in San Francisco.

I sold 8 copies of Punk Rock Saved My Ass, and 6 of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro, which was exciting. Quite a few people were interested in giving publishing a try and I hope my book will help them. Publishing isn't easy, or financially wise, but it is rewarding on so many levels. The people who bought Punk Rock Saved My Ass all had the same look of wide eyed excitement on their face; the book spoke to them. One man said, "I've been looking for a book like this." That right there makes publishing worth everything.
Rick hard at work
We plan to do the Alternative Press Expo again next year, and the Anarchist Book Fair this Spring. I love the people who work at and attend these types of events. They are living the spirit of DIY, creating their own art and taking control of their dream to share that work.

Unfortunately, I didn't sell enough books to get a new tattoo. 

Here are just a few of the great artists, artwork, and comics I saw at APE:

Industrial Fairytale, by Sarah Dungan

Turkish Orgenebilsin, by Bob Lanz

Heroic Tarot

Robert Bowen

Hyperactive Monkey

Para Somnia

Jaina Bee

6th Circle

Unemployed Man

And book publishers

PM Press


Last Gasp