Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I had a great meeting with my writing partner this morning. I've been busy editing and rewriting the past few weeks, and I was eager to share the changes I had made. Also, I wanted some direction on the ending that I hurriedly wrote, so excited to be "finished." She gave me some great feedback and suggestions that will guide me as I continue revising, especially on those last few pages.

But the meeting was also great because I got to read some chapters of her current work-in-progress with new characters and plot lines. I loved it, and I so admire her ability to keep producing new and wonderful stories. It makes me excited for the time when I can begin a new project.

Monday, January 30, 2012


I'm a neurotically picky eater. I'm slightly less picky than I was five years ago, and far less picky than I was ten years ago, but I still have pangs of anxiety whenever I go to someone's house for a meal. My desire not to offend someone by refusing what food they offer is typically smaller than my desire not to eat something that's not on my approved "list."

But a couple years ago I had my first pieces of sushi, some California Rolls. Since then I've had lots of different kinds, including, I'm told, sushi made with eel. I ask my boyfriend to order it without telling me what's inside--I don't want to chicken out, thinking about whatever underwater creature is rolled up with rice--which has led to my most adventurous eating in my life. (There was one roll he ordered, explaining I would be very upset if I knew what was in it. After I ate it (and liked it), he wanted to tell me what it was. But I won't let him. Even now, weeks later, I don't want to know what I ate.)

I shocked my mom; I still won't eat bananas.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I bought a new phone.

My old one was great but... the GPS was unreliable and it didn't have a flash for pictures and my number had a Kentucky area code....

My two-year contract was up. I could have stuck with my current phone company and kept my old phone, or signed with a new one and get a great deal on a new super-smart phone. New won.

I feel a bit weird about it now, away from all the websites touting its great features, away from the ease of ordering a new one with a few clicks. I'll need a new battery for my car, soon. I hope to take a vacation this March or July. I have other things I could/should spend that money on. Oh well. Hopefully I'll have the new one for a while, at least until my new two-year contract is up.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Good Times

Tonight about twenty of us met to say goodbye to one of our coworkers. She's going to a better place: South Carolina. It's fun seeing the people I work with outside the library, and because of differences in age and geography, we only get together for special events (such as someone leaving). We're generally educated, well-read, and bleeding heart liberals. Despite our education and empathy for the less-fortunate, we laughed the most over the many mean and stinky people we've encountered over the years in the library.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The New Austen

I missed writing yesterday -- too busy watching the entire first season of "Downton Abbey"! Everyone at work was talking about it (staff and customers alike) and I wanted to give the show a try. Six episodes later, I'm caught up on the first season and eager to see the next two.

The show reminds me of something Jane Austen would have produced, in that it focuses on rules and manners and the limitations for women. But because it takes place in the early 20th century, not 18th century, we see the seeds of change. Unlike an Austen novel, we spend as much time with the maids and footmen as we do the family being served. I've seen and read "Pride and Prejudice" countless times, as Austen is so clever in her dialogue and descriptions and astute in her observations. Watching each installment of "Downton Abbey" is like watching a new adaptation of an Austen novel (set 80 years later), where we don't know what's going to happen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ready, Set, Action!

I printed out all 278 pages of my draft, 12pt Font, Times New Roman. Double-spaced. I'm enjoying going through it with a purple pen and post-it notes, marking up things that are awkward or unnecessary. Much of chapter six, I realized, was awkward and unnecessary, so today I rewrote it.

There wasn't much action. Except for a paragraph that concludes the chapter, I could delete the whole thing and the story wouldn't miss a beat. In the previous version of the chapter, I had my protagonist feel threatened and scared by someone--a stranger. I was trying to develop her character, showing how vulnerable she felt even when it wasn't warranted. All the excitement was in her head.

But how much more exciting would the chapter be if instead of merely feeling threatened, she is actually threatened? Her fear is legitimate. She is vulnerable. I still get to develop her character by how she reacts to the fear and threat but, I think, it becomes a much stronger chapter.

Even though I started with a rough outline, I wasn't sure where I was going each page. I think I was afraid to write anything that might distract me from the larger story. But now that the larger story is finished, I'm psyched to return to individual pages and chapters and improve them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


My grandma is a fan of Newt Gingrich. As readers know, my nana is awesome. She knits me hats, bakes me cookies, and is generally the coolest 90yr-old ever. But she likes Newt. She thinks he's "so smart" and has "great ideas."

"Just listen to him," she says. "I know you like Obama but Gingrich knows how politics work and can get things done. We need someone like that."

She recognizes all his personal failings, with his three overlapping marriages. But she likes him. She likes Santorum, too--"The young guy," she calls him--but he's not ready yet.

I've stopped trying to argue with her. She'll never vote Democratic, anyway, because of the abortion issue, even though I think the President who got us out of Iraq is more pro-life than the one who invaded it.

It's just interesting to hear her perspective. Just as I started to wonder how anyone could ever in their right mind support Newt Gingrich for president, Nana gives me an explanation.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Five Things

Favorite Ice Cream Flavors
  • Mint chocolate chip
  • Peanut-butter and chip
  • Chocolate chip cookie dough
  • Moose Tracks
  • Vanilla (with hot fudge or peanut butter)
(When I tried to think of what to write tonight, I had a brain freeze. Much like eating ice cream too fast.)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Whole Battles Waged in Our Heads

When I came home from my grandmother's this afternoon, I noticed that my boyfriend had cleaned up the condo; that is, the condo minus my half of the bedroom. I'm immediately offended. He wants me to clean! How rude! I spent the next twenty minutes angry, thinking he's passive-aggressively manipulated me into cleaning.

It was only after I was done (I wasn't happy about it, but I did it) that we talked and I realized that at no point did he suggest that I should clean. In fact he tried to get me to solve his Rubik's cube. I created the whole drama in my head.

Such is the life of an introvert, eh? Whole battles are waged in our heads. Grudges are held and forgiven without those around us aware of what has happened, only that we're vaguely annoyed.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Surreal Headline:

"Newt Gingrich won the Republican Primary in South Carolina." Seriously? I almost feel bad for Mitt, if I thought he could experience real human emotions.

I feel bad for saying even that. I actually think South Carolina will be a bloop. That for the first time since 1976, they haven't picked the eventual nominee. Time will tell.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Monday I interview for a full-time position at the library. This won't be new for me -- in the first 18 months that I was with the library, I interviewed for 8 different full-time positions before I finally got one. I left it after a year because I picked up another class, and because I thought my life was heading in one direction. Now, I think, if writing is going to be an important part of my life, there's nowhere better to work than the library.

"Funny Library Montage," by Bryan Greenland

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lucky Girl

Some days I feel bowled over by just how lucky I am. I'm healthy, I have a job that I enjoy and an outside interest (writing) that I love; I have family and friends I love, and a boyfriend who can make me laugh like no one else can.

A lot of things about our society angers and frustrates me--injustice and inequality abound--but when I step back I'm reminded that things aren't all bad. And yesterday, with their offices flooded with phone calls as well as the protests across the web, from google to Wikipedia to reddit, we saw Senators and Congresspeople retreat from positions they were heavily lobbied to take. I hope this is a sign of the future: the voices of many becoming more powerful than the money of few.

I'd been afraid that writing a post a day would be difficult, but on the contrary it's been great forcing myself to sit and write for 10-30 minutes each day, regardless of when I work or what I have to say. Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon

My dad's foundation, Journey: The Ed Colina Foundation, is piggybacking (pun intended) on one of the top marathons in the United States, the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. When you register for the event, enter a coupon code (email me at perfectsand @ gmail.com for it, or my dad at ed @ edcolinafoundation.org), and 10% of your registration fee will go to the Foundation. According to the Flying Pig website, using this code will give you the "lowest possible price for Marathon, Half Marathon, Open Relay, 10K and 5K" through April 18.

If you're participating in the race, please consider entering the code. The foundation directly supports education, empowerment, and nutrition in Kenya. A little goes a long way.

Edit: I've been getting lots of emails requesting the coupon code.  Unfortunately, the Ed Colina Foundation isn't involved with the Flying Pig Marathon this year (2013).  Best of luck in the race!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Apt Phrases

I'm not a particularly metaphorical writer. I don't use much figurative language. But I do have some phrases that I fall back on without even thinking--"It's funny," "it seemed," and "it was as if"--that provide me a natural opening for a narrator or speaker to make some kind of connection or analogy.

But have I overused these phrases? Worried, I used the awesome "ctrl+f" function in Microsoft Word. I discovered that I used "It's funny" three times and "it seemed" twelve times. I also used "It was as if" twice. Ironically, with all of these phrases, I break a rule I taught: avoid using indefinite pronouns to begin a sentence, especially when there's no clear antecedent. That is, don't use "it" unless you and the reader know what "it" is replacing.

This search function is great in that it allows me to notice when I'm being repetitive. We all have phrases that we overuse, both in speech and in writing. When we're aware of those phrases, we can hopefully replace them with something more creative. ("Hopefully" is another one I overuse!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Revision Fun

Yesterday, my boyfriend introduced me to a beautiful, dark, and moody video game called "Limbo." I'm generally antagonistic toward video games, refusing to play one for more than 10 or 15 minutes. I quit "Portal" after a half-hour because it was giving me a headache. In "Limbo," you control a boy as he navigates a dark and dangerous environment. You can go forward and backward, jump, and pull and push things. Because there are so few options and because the action moves slowly, I played this game for almost an hour.

There's no music or dialogue, no moments of levity. But there are numerous opportunities to die: spikes, long falls, and giant piercing spiders (at least, I think they're spiders). I felt bad for killing the boy over and over again; luckily, each time he dies, the action rewinds to just before the unfortunate death. The death scenes can be gruesome, though there is an option in the menu: "no gore."

I was thinking how nice it would be to be able to go through life taking extreme risks, knowing that we could rewind if something goes wrong. How would that affect our behavior?

I'm in the process of revising my first draft. I'm going back to the beginning and trying to read it with fresh eyes. Today, I completely changed the beginning of the second chapter. I wasn't happy with it before--the writing was fine, maybe, but the content was off. I didn't realize how much until I reached the end. It's exciting, being able to edit with the knowledge that I can always go back to how it was; that the rest of the story and these characters' lives will still be in tact. This is one of the fun things about being puppet master to made-up people :)

(Picture from Limbo video game review, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/7902760/Limbo-video-game-review.html)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pop Cultural Literacy

I've followed the Republican primary race so closely that I could tell you the difference between Bain Capital and Bain & Company. I could probably report three key points from each of the last three republican debates. There is less-than-zero chance I'll vote for any of them, so why the obsessive curiosity?

If you look at my browsing history, I probably visit Entertainment Weekly website as much as the New York Times website. When new magazines arrive at the library to be labeled before circulation, the first one I look for is Us Weekly. Then People Magazine. Then, maybe, The Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker. Even though I don't watch it, I like knowing who was kicked off Dancing With the Stars. I like knowing that person's reaction as well as the viewing public's reaction. I read Chris Harrison's weekly behind-the-scenes blog from "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette" because I like to know what drama is going on.

I think my interest in the circus that is the republican primary is the same as my interest in the rest of pop culture: I like to know what's going on, what people are talking about. That way, if it comes up in conversation (the same thing goes for sports--I have fun surprising people with my knowledge of pro-football and baseball), I'm armed with statistics.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And *Then* I'll Do My Happy Dance

I finished my book last week, somewhere in the 78,000 word range. It's bittersweet right now because I'm not pleased with the end. But it's there, it's typed, and now it can be moved around, embellished, and adjusted. This should be easier than getting it down in the first place.

While I was slogging through the middle, I could just confidently report, "Oh yeah, I'm writing a book! Har! Har!" But now I have this 260-page manuscript. It's it. It's the big thing I've been working on for over a year. And that confidence is on a shelf somewhere until I get the 78,000 words into the shape of something I'm proud of...

And then I'll do my happy dance.

Friday, January 13, 2012

As Creepy As It Sounds

I read Neal Shusterman's young adult novel, "Unwind," over the past day and a half, and I highly recommend it. Like "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent," this story takes place in a dystopian future in which a second civil war has been fought between pro-lifers and pro-choice supporters. To end the fighting they settle on a "Bill of Life" that prohibits all abortion, but once a child becomes thirteen, he or she can be "retroactively" aborted ("unwound"). The child is taken apart, limb by limb, organ by organ, at a "harvesting center." Those body parts are then given to cure the sick.

It's as creepy as it sounds. The narrative shifts between a number of voices, from a teenage boy whose parents are having him unwound because he's always been trouble, to a teenage girl who was raised in a state home and is being unwound because her piano playing isn't exceptional, to another boy who has been raised his whole life to be sacrificed as a "tithe" because of his parents' religion.

I was reminded of Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" in which children are raised for the sole purpose of giving themselves up, as young healthy adults, for organ harvesting. Both books ask, what does it mean to be human? to have a soul?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winter, Finally Here

By this point in January, we've usually had at least one snow day--I remember trick-or-treating in snow boots one year. But as most of you know, this Winter has been anything but Winter-like.

This afternoon, however, while the temperature hovered around 32, we were treated to an onslaught of giant snowflakes. Imagine a shaken snow globe and you'll get the picture. It was lovely and put everyone who didn't have to drive anywhere in a good mood.

Photo credit: wcpo.com winter weather gallery

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wearing Blinders

ThinkProgress drew my attention to a short film by Adam Butcher called "Bradley Manning Had Secrets." The animated movie of 5.5 minutes uses the actual chat logs between Bradley Manning and Adrian Lamo, the guy who busted him. The conversations took place about a week before everyone learned his name. I recommend watching it. If nothing else, it humanizes and provides greater understanding of Manning.

I tend to wear blinders when it comes to the Obama administration doing things I don't like because I feel they've got enough people actively rooting against them. From dropping the public option to extending the Bush tax cuts, I've defended them and rationalized their decisions.

But some things this administration has done (notice, I still avoid holding President Obama personally responsible) in the name of national security leave me chilled, from the use of drones to the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA gives the president the power to indefinitely detain an American citizen. The fact that the President promised not do do so means nothing. He "signed the bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists." I must be naive when I think, If your reservations are so serious, then DON'T SIGN THE BILL!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Trolling for Laughs

Have I talked about my collection of troll dolls? Between the ages of ten and thirteen (correct me if I'm wrong, A!) every time I was dropped off at the mall, every time I found myself in a Hallmark store (which was surprisingly often circa 1991), I shelled out $7.99 or so for a new troll. When birthdays and Christmas came around, I also received a new troll. By the time I out-grew trolls, I think I had 45 of them. When I turned 25, my troll-buying partner-in-crime gave me all of her dolls, too.

I'm not sure what to do with them. They're not worth much on e-bay, and my mom often kicks herself for not holding onto some of her now-collectible memorabilia from her own childhood, so I'll probably keep them around a little longer. I'll get them out every once in a while to admire them and blow on their hair.

Monday, January 9, 2012

In my first creative writing class freshman year of college, I received some good advice that I've held onto: If characters are talking to each other, have them doing something unrelated to their conversation. Inevitably, what they were doing will infuse the conversation, and their actions will seem to take on greater meaning.

We had an assignment to write such a scene, and mine was a man and his daughter, home from college for Christmas break, painting her new bedroom while talking about school. I had no idea where the scene was going to go, or what the mood was, but I quickly realized that it was tense and awkward. I then created the backstory in my head: her parents had recently separated, and her dad moved out while she was away at college. She'd come home, and her reality had shifted.

Our actions and silence communicate just as much as our words do. At least, I wish they did. I feel like I frustrate those around me with my silence. If only I had telepathic powers. Then I could zap my thoughts and feelings into people's heads. And I'm sure they would tell me, "Okay, you were better off not saying anything."

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I figured out the end of my story Thursday. After I finished revising the many pages my writing partner had so carefully critiqued (thanks!!!), I jumped to page 260 and realized what I needed to happen. The fact that the realization made me emotional suggests that it's the right way to go.

That isn't to say I'm certain it'll be good or that I don't suffer from near-crippling self-doubt. It's just enough to give me the motivation to keep at it.

Speaking of stories, Andrew Sullivan directed me to this online essay, Story Theory: Confessions of a Literary Darwinist by R. Salvador Reyes. After being moved by a Jackson Pollack painting, Reyes began to wonder why he was moved by art. He explores how humans had "come to love literature and art" and "how evolution has shaped audiences' responses to art." In a nut shell, he realizes that humans seek patterns; we need stories and narratives to make sense of the world around us. Stories help us remember and, thus, survive. The whole essay is worth reading.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Gutter Balls

My boyfriend and I went bowling tonight, just the two of us. We showed up at a crowded bolling alley to find dozens of disappointed Bengals fans (we lost; it was lopsided). A lane was available only after a twenty minute wait. Now, we had never bowled together, so neither knew what to expect. I'm proud to report that I won the first game, with a grand total of 71 points. I lost the second game, even though I got 76 points--my boyfriend got almost twice as many points.

It was a nice change of pace from our usual evenings--movies, games, computers--in that it challenged our coordination and strength more than our minds. Actually, that would be pretty cool: controlling a bowling ball with my mind. Maybe I could even break 100!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Four Christmases

My parents have been divorced most my life; my boyfriend's parents have been divorced most his life. All parents and new spouses live in the Greater Cincinnati area. Hence, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were spent driving up and down I-75 and around 275, going from one house to the next, opening one present after the next. Man was I exhausted by the end, already wondering how we could streamline this next year. Maybe host my own Christmas and invite everyone over? That could be interesting. Especially if I had to decorate. Or bake. Or both.

On second thought, driving around the city to open presents at different houses doesn't sound too bad.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Recommended Reading

A couple months ago a woman asked for reading suggestions. "I love to read," she said, "especially classics." Immediately I asked if she had read "Prodigal Summer," by Barbara Kingsolver.

"I can't stand Barbara Kingsolver," she said.

I was momentarily flummoxed. She loves to read, I thought, but she doesn't love what I love. If she couldn't stand one of my favorite authors, then I feared she would hate anything I recommended. I asked more questions, like what has she read more recently that she enjoyed, and who were some of her favorite authors. I eventually connected her with some titles and authors that, hopefully, she would appreciate.

The other day I received the biggest complement from a friend: she told me she reads books that I suggest on this blog almost exclusively. From the "Hunger Games" trilogy and "Divergent" to "Cutting for Stone" and "Rules of Civility" she's taken my suggestions and, often, has passed the books onto others.

For me, it's always slightly scary recommending a book. What if they don't like it? What if they judge me for liking it? But it's so rewarding when they like it as much as I do.

At the end of December I highlighted some of my favorites from 2011 for the library blog. I think I mentioned most of books here, but feel free to check them out.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I corrupted some coworkers today when I told them about what happens when you google "Santorum." Try it, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bittersweet Milestone

I recently reached my goal of writing 75,000 words.

Unfortunately my celebration was short-lived; my story isn't finished. All this time, I've been using word count as a goal. When I was starting out, I looked at websites, at the novels I loved, and considered how long they were. Then I settled on a number--75,000--that made sense to me. Then I structured my story and its events with that number in mind.

I had wanted the chapter I'm working on--the chapter that got me over 75,000--to be my last. And part of me wants to tie everything in a neat little bow in a few telling paragraphs. I want to be finished! I want to go back to the beginning and start the revision process! I want to make it better from page one, not be stuck on the end!

But if I end it now, or in the next few pages, the book becomes very melancholy. Don't get me wrong, I love melancholy. I'm often melancholy myself. But I don't want the book, on whole, to be melancholy.

In the mean time, I'm going to keep writing. Even if the ending is different than I'd planned, even if I have to write another three chapters. Focus on telling a good story and, hopefully, everything else will fall into place.

By the way, I meet with my writing partner this evening, after a break of almost a month--I couldn't be happier. I've missed getting feedback and hearing a trusted voice saying, "This is good! Keep going!" or even "This needs work" or "This is unclear."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Flipping into the Playoffs

The Bengals are in the playoffs! They didn't play particularly well yesterday; in fact, they lost. But enough other teams lost that it didn't matter. I'm just excited that they'll play one more game. The national reporters note that it's only the third time the Bengals have made the playoffs in the past eighteen years--but they don't mention that it's also the third time in the past seven, and the second time in the past three.

(Picture shows wide receiver Jerome Simpson flipping into the end zone during their December 23 win against the Arizona Cardinals. GIF Via Mocksession)