It’s Happening…

My mother told me many times that she didn’t particularly like me (or my brother, to be fair) when we were babies. She told me that although she loved us, she just didn’t like babies in general and found us to be much more interesting when we were kids (versus drooling, babbling mounds of somewhat ambulatory flesh). That hurt my feelings for a while.

But now I have kids. And I adore them. And they drive me batty. And now that the big one is about to turn five, I understand what she meant.

My almost-five-year-old has been a challenge to us since the day he joined our family. He is stubborn and driven, irrational and extremely loud. Luckily, the closer he’s gotten to five, the more these traits have morphed into confident, motivated, curious and enthusiastic. He wants to know everything, and he’s finally old enough to begin to understand some of the answers to his questions. It is so amazing to watch it happen.

He asks a million questions every day and I’m trying hard to give him good answers. Sometimes I’m just too tired, and sometimes when the questions are: “Mommy, what is the TV made out of? Mommy, what is plastic made out of? Mommy, what are cats made out of?” it gets a bit tedious. But lately, he has asked some questions that have me super jazzed. I guess I should preface – I have never spoken to him like a child. I talk to him like a small intelligent person, which he is. I might limit the topics I cover with him, but otherwise, I talk to him just like I talk to my peers. As a result, half of his questions are: “Mommy, what does ‘optimistic’ mean? Mommy, what does ‘pertinent’ mean?” etc. And I give him a definition and a synonym and then use the word again for him. And then, almost every single time, he uses it for me. In a totally new sentence. Completely contextually correctly!

The other day he skinned his knee. He held it tight and I watched him steel himself against the pain. When he was ready, he stood up and walked back up our hill to where I stood.

“Mommy?”

“Yeah, buddy. You okay?”

“Yeah. But Mommy, I damaged my knee. I think I’ll need a Band-aid.”

Damaged. hee hee.

Words are my thing. That’s probably not a surprise. So this latest development is fascinating to me. He is learning like five or six words a day through the manner I just described. He may not retain them all immediately, but it’s like I can SEE the foundation that’s getting laid down. It’s SO. Cool.

And I will admit that there is a part of me that cannot wait to witness him drop one of his twenty dollar words on some unsuspecting adult. 🙂

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Learning the Hard Way (Again)

It seems this is the only way I ever learn. I think I remember my parents telling me that a long time ago. But telling me things rarely does much good. I seem to need to find them out for myself.

This writing endeavor has been much the same as the time my parents told me that I wouldn’t enjoy a multi-day many mile bicycle trip from Santa Cruz to San Simeon in high school. I was absolutely convinced that it would be amazing. Never mind that my ballet legs rarely rode a bike.  Never mind that there was camping involved and I don’t do camping. I borrowed my dad’s bike, got a cushy seat and a couple pairs of bike shorts and I was off. I spent the first night sweating in the humid tent, nursing a very serious sunburn that crossed my thighs about midway up in a straight line that mirrored my new shorts, and thrashing around trying to relieve the terrible cramps in my legs. I spent much of the second day riding along in the “injury van.” That second night I came down with a terrible cold. I don’t even remember what might have happened the third night. The point is that my parents were right. But I couldn’t be told.

Another example? I recently ordered a ballet skirt from 32fouettes. If you haven’t seen these, and you dance, check them out — they’re adorable. Anyway, having not yet received the skirt, I decided that it should be no problem at all for me to make one for myself. Then, I thought, I could make a whole bunch more, have them in a million colors and eventually sell them to my classmates, making me not only popular but also extremely rich. (okay, I didn’t really think all that). But I like making things, and I do okay with a sewing machine if I have good directions. Which, in this case, I did not. So I ended up making a very silly looking circle skirt out of a sheer black stretch chiffon, which would probably be adorable on a five year old. Not so much on yours truly. Not one to be daunted, I embarked on a search for an actual pattern and found the Selfish Seamstress, who very unselfishly offered a free pattern for a very cute wrap skirt (though I don’t like trying to tie these, hers is very nice and I thought I could probably handle that). Here’s the beautiful skirt she made: Ballet Skirt for Grownups. She also looks like a very pretty dancer, by the way. ANYWAY, the point is that I made this skirt, using the same fabric mentioned above, and then found a teal grosgrain ribbon in a drawer that would work perfectly for the waist. I sewed it on with a really cool leaf and vine stitch that my machine does itself, so the black skirt had a teal ribbon with contrasting decorative black stitching. It is SO pretty. And would be great if I hadn’t cut the ribbon so f’ing short. Did I listen to Selfish when she told me how much to cut? No. I did not. Two skirts down, enough fabric left to try one more time. THIS one will be perfect. I’m sure of it.

With that in mind, I’m trying really hard to listen to the advice that is all around me, coming from more experienced writers. I’m trying to learn about agents, about publishing, about the craft itself. And I think maybe I’m doing better. But I still seem to have to discover things like Scribophile and Duotrope for myself. Maybe people told me about these, maybe they didn’t. If they did, I don’t think I listened. (Although, I finally did head over to Scrib on the advice of one of my commenters here, so thank you!!)

So for you other stubborn do-it-yourselfers:

1) Scribophile is a wonderful community of writers where you can post your work and get honest and helpful critiques and support. There are forums where you can ask the silliest or most esoteric question, and you can learn quite a bit just in reading and critiquing the work of others. I believe that my writing has improved drastically just through the time I’ve invested here.

2) Duotrope is a market listing site that offers a great search tool to help writers find markets for their work, and also offers a submission tracker to help stay on top of what’s been sent where (something I’m terrible at on my own.)

Please, go forth and learn from my mistakes.

Almost Forgot

Some of you know that most of my stories / novels are set in New York City. I can’t help it. I lived there for only four years, but they were my formative years (for me, this was ages 24-29 – I was a bit of a late bloomer). Anyway, the place grips and owns me. I doubt I’ll ever really understand why or escape its grasp. And that’s okay with me.

That said, I spend a lot of time researching various historical aspects of the city, and stumbled upon my new VERY FAVORITE site. Check it out: Ephemeral New York. I love it almost as much as ice cream.

The Free Weekend

This weekend I am going away. ALL. BY. Myself. To a Westin hotel with a Heavenly Bed, thankyouverymuch. With NO children. (was that clear when I said all by myself? Cuz that is what that means, really.) It will be quiet (unless I make noise) and there will be no TV (unless I turn it on.) I don’t have to share ANYTHING with ANYONE, and I can even just not talk at all.

I have been planning this for months — at the suggestion of my very nice and wonderfully understanding husband. And I am ridiculously excited.

But Delancey, you say. What will you do with all that free time? Won’t you be bored?

I think not. I do have big plans to write. I’ve been stalling lately, actually, knowing that this was coming up and saving my efforts. Which I hope won’t lead to great disappointment if I don’t do much writing or if everything I produce is crap. But I do have big plans to spend most of the weekend writing. It might be too hot to actually leave the hotel anyway, so that bodes well for my efforts.

My fear is that in making this a BIG WRITING WEEKEND, I’ve overburdened myself with expectations. But I’ll take the gamble for the the weekend away, thanks.

Wish me luck! And wish my husband luck with those small people we call children. Ours sometimes act like possessed lumberjacks, and I hope they’ll go easy on him.

Breaking a Leg

My ballet recital is this weekend. Yes, you read that right. I’m an almost forty year old woman participating in a ballet recital. (My husband finds this hilarious. I expect it to be less funny once he’s sat through an hour of watching the other classes perform, waiting for me.)

I danced growing up, which I have mentioned before. I was pretty serious about it in my youth, and the context I was in was pretty serious. So it’s been hard for me to accept taking something that I took so seriously and placing it in a context that is much more ‘just for fun.’ I’m annoyed that the dances I’m in haven’t been rehearsed enough. I’m annoyed that the choreographers haven’t focused on giving us marks to hit on the stage, or working to ensure that we are all together, that lines are straight. I’m a perfectionist, and ballet generally suits that nature. But when I’m part of something ballet-related that I know will be FAR less than perfect, it gets to me. And the worst part is that I know I will be far less than perfect. Life has intervened like it never did when I was seventeen, and I’ve missed rehearsals and had to focus in so many other places that I’m not confident I’ll nail this performance.

But I told my mom about my irritation with the whole thing, my embarrassment that I’m even going to do this. And she told me about a woman she knows who is 87 years old who participates in a tap dance recital every year. The woman she described was enthusiastic and fun, doing something unexpected just because it makes her happy.

And I realized that I should be the same. I should be excited to perform because I LOVE to be onstage. And I should be excited about it even though I don’t get to dictate the terms. I should be proud and happy that I can still do it, even to this degree. I should get up there and love every minute of it.

So that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Remember, don’t wish me luck. Say “break a leg.”

Passion Begets Passion

Writing, I think most writers will agree, is fueled by passion. There is something in me that will not let me NOT write. Not anymore, anyway. The push to write, the organic motivation driven by something beyond me, yet within me, is not new. But the acceptance of that gift, my own willingness to embrace and nurture it is. I’ve been a writer since I was little. I’ve always known that.

What’s weird is that I’ve been something else since I was little too — a dancer. I have been a ballet dancer since I was three years old. From the time I was old enough to have a consciousness of myself, I described myself as a dancer. That was how I knew myself. I’d taken dance classes my whole life, from three to eighteen. I performed with a company, dabbled in the requisite eating disorders and vied for the all-important solos, self-administering the appropriate amount of self-hatred when I did not get them.

I left ballet when I went to college to pursue other activities. Like drinking, for instance. But every couple years I’d take a class, and play with the idea of going back. I dabbled here and there for twenty years, and finally returned to ballet “for real” in September of 2011. I worked hard and got myself strong enough even to return to pointe, though I soon realized that there was little point to this endeavor (no pun intended.) I continue taking two classes a week, which is great for my body, but even better for my mind.

For I’ve found that pursuing one long lost passion has ignited and fueled the other passionate pursuit. When I’ve missed ballet for a week or so, I don’t write as well. I can’t say why exactly, because my usual workouts (Crossfit, high intensity circuits or running) don’t seem to have the same effect. It’s ballet that is somehow connected to the core of who I am, and when I’m channeling that, I write more and better.

Have you found a connection like that? I’m interested to hear if other writers have seen one passion fuel their writing in the way that ballet fuels mine.