Friday, March 31, 2017

The Advice Column

As some of you know, I am now the advice columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune.  My tagline is "Like Doctor Laura!  Only Nicer!  Like Dear Abby!  Only Not Dead!"

The response has been interesting and wide-ranging.  Sometimes people think I'm smart.  Sometimes people think I'm an idiot.  I just had an email from a reader who had as his topic heading "Lousy Answers!"  Then he proceeded to tell me why those answers were so terrible with relish.

Which is fine.

I don't actually get my feelings hurt very often on the advice column front because I understand that people are going to have really different opinions based on their own experiences.  But what I loved was this guy's P.S.  After basically ripping my column apart, he apologized in his P.S. for the email's font, which is sort of like apologizing to someone because the knife you just stuck in him hadn't been polished the night before.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A little advice for writers

Last night I had an awesome time at the Sweet Branch Library as The Author in the House.  Chris Chambers and his crew had lights and candles and tea and crumpets and, as my friend Gretta said, it's like I was attending my own wedding again.

Speaking of Gretta, I'm posting these suggestions I gave for all of us writers to keep us focused.

1.  You will never have enough time to write, so don't put off writing the thing you want to write.  It never gets easier.

2.  Negotiate on a daily basis when, where, and how much you'll write.  When I'm struggling, I write to a word limit.  500 words is doable for me.

3.  Remember that slow but steady will get you to the finish line--just like it got the tortoise there before the hare.  If you write 500 words a day, 5 days a week, you'll have a book-length manuscript by the end of the year.

4.  You don't have to start at the beginning.  Start wherever your energy takes you--even if it's in the middle or the ending.  You can fill in the necessary details (such as a beginning, for example) later on.

5.  In other words, give yourself permission as Anne LaMott suggests, to write a shitty first draft.

6.  Stop writing before you write yourself out during any given period.  That way you'll have an easier time getting started the next time you sit down.

7.  Try writing the old-fashioned way sometimes--with paper and pencil.  Martine Levitt suggests that when you write by hand, you slow down the process just enough to make better word choices.

8.  Read like a writer.  When you find yourself marveling at something an author has done, ask yourself how she/he did that.

9.  But don't forget to read like a reader.  Sometimes writers become so aware of craft that they stop reading for fun.  READ FOR FUN, YOU GUYS!

10. Remember that if you write, then you're a writer.  You're a real writer.  Too many people think that you're only a real writer if you've been published.  And too many people think that getting published is the only reason for writing.  Write because you want to.  Because you need to.  Because writing helps you make sense of your life and the world around you.  And while you're at it, create a writer's life for yourself.  Do a reading!  Join a writers' group!  Go on writers' retreats with writer friends!  No matter where you are on your writing journey, you can do any of these things.  Just remember to write.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

That moment when you thought you were coping . . .

. . . but then you realize you weren't?

Here's the thing I tell myself about myself:  I'm unflappable.  It's not that I'm super easygoing.  I internalize a lot.  But on the outside, it takes a lot to ruffle the feathers.  I'm stoic.  Like the British.  Only with better teeth.

Anyway, the dogs now believe anytime I pick up my keys that I am taking them to the dog park.  They sprint to the door and wait so we can go to the dog park and catch flying objects in our mouths together.  They're all PARKPARKPARKPARKPARKPARKPARKPARKPARK!

Most of the time I can disabuse them of the notion that the four of us are going on a date, but you know how dogs and people are--they believe what they wanna believe.  So even though I say NO PARK FOR YOU, they do their damnedest to shoot out the door like bottle rockets--the kind my boys used to set off, which made some people on 2nd Avenue call the police, etc.

Sons=Good times.

But whatever.  Meanwhile, the dogs raced out this morning when I was a) on my way to work and b) already late for work and c) had an open can of Dr Pepper in my hand.  I called them but of course they ignored me and ran around in the street for awhile, trying their best to get hit by Subarus, which is the car of choice here in the Aves.

So I lost it.

I started swearing on the front porch and otherwise losing it for all the world to see, and I was so noisy, that Ken Cannon, who had previously been almost naked because he was getting ready to shower, pulled his clothes back on so he could come outside and assist.

We corralled the dogs.  I stomped off.  And even though I was late, I went to Backer's to buy a hot cross bun.  And as I bit into it while furiously driving to work, I thought to myself, "My coper is broken."  This is what Karin will sometimes say about our six year-old granddaughter who can fall apart easily some days.  Her coper is broken.

My coper is broken, you guys.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What I do for fun now

Hello, Blog!  I see that I've ignored you for far too long now.  Let's try to correct that, shall we?

Let me start by telling you what I do for fun now.  As you know, I'm a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune, which entitles me to receive all manner of unsolicited email.  Right now I am particularly annoyed by those sent to me from the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C. because their idea of reform is vouchers.  Bleh.  Also charter schools.  Also bleh.  What's so great about a system using tax dollars that doesn't have to be accountable to taxpayers IMHO?

Anyway.  I've taken to writing back snarky little emails about Betsy DeVos who favors guns in schools so we can shoot bears, etc.

They never answer me.  So today I sent a series of emails daring them to answer me.  Double-daring them.  Double dog-daring them.

It's been excellent fun.

I'll let you know if I hear anything back.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today's wish

As I was going through papers, I found a drawing a former student gave to me on the last day of class.  And so my thoughts turned to the her and all my students who write and continue to write and hope that their work will be acknowledged.

I want their work to be acknowledged, too.  I have learned so much from them--important lessons about dedication and resilience and humility.  And I've been impressed with their work, too, knowing in my heart of hearts that they have often been more talented, more skilled than I am.

Just wanted to tell them all for being a part of my life.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


I feel like I'm doing okay.  But then I realize I haven't responded to texts or emails or calls--not because I've deliberately chosen to ignore them, but because their existence has altogether slipped off the slick surface of my brain.  My brain which can't seem to hold onto an idea or a thought right now.

I'm also leaving things behind everywhere I go.  I've always done this--my parents used to lay bets on what I'd forget to bring home whenever I left--but I'm even worse than usual right now.

It occurred to me that maybe this is how the aftermath feels.  I did all my crying this summer.  And now there's this.

If you don't mind, would you share how your experience played out after the death of a family member?


Friday, January 27, 2017

Some thoughts on my life as a writer

I almost said "my career as a writer."  But then I thought that I haven't exactly had a career--at least not if a career is something that supports you (and your family) monetarily.  But writing has certainly been a huge part of my life.

The thing of it is this:  I never really had a plan when I started out in my twenties, although "getting published" somehow, somewhere was always a goal.  To that end I tried a little bit of everything and sent those bits everywhere.  Along the way a few things did, indeed, get published.

Meanwhile, certain unexpected opportunities presented themselves along the way, and I rarely said no--not even to the offer (when I was first starting out) to write manuals for MLMs that sold bee pollen and endorsed cryogenics.  This means I have a CV that lacks focus.  On the other hand, this tendency has taken me to this place--a chance to be the Salt Lake Tribune's Dear Abby.

Except for the part where I'm not dead.

It's kind of exciting at this age to be starting something brand new.  Am I nervous?  Yeah.  I am.  But feeling nervous makes you feel like a kid again.