March 31, 2007

Sunset Barabara

Yes, this is Sunset Barabara. Funzi Keys, Kenya. It’s about ten o’clock in the morning. A murder has been reported from one of those mansion-sized cottages down the path. You’ll not read all about it in the late editions, I’m sure. You’ll not get it over your radio nor see it on television — even though a small-time bit player is involved. One of the smallest. But before you hear it all distorted and blown out of proportion, before those A-list bloggers get there hands on it, maybe you’d like to hear the facts, the whole truth …

If so, you’ve come to the right party. You see, the body of a not-so-young man was found floating the pool of the mansion, a sunburn on his back and two shots of vodka and passionfruit juice in his stomach. Nobody important really. Just a blog writer with a charity book and couple of American soap opera under-fives to his credit. The poor dope. He always wanted a pool, only the price turned out to be a little high …

Let’s go back about a week and find the day when it all started.

March 21, 2007

Swingout Sister Was Right*


Inabidi niondoke kesho.

That's Swahili for "I have to leave tomorrow." I learned in my Lonely Planet phrase book in the 'romance' section.

My stomach's been in knots for the past couple days. I'm not sure if it's anxiety or excitement, or maybe a cocktail of both. Lots of change and uncertainty ahead ... going back to school, giving up (for the time being at least) on making any significant money in a "real" job, waiting to hear about that liver thing. Feeling that the big blah is just around every corner and trying to avoid figuring out why.

It's that hollow rumbling feeling in your gut before a big test, or opening night jitters, or being 15 years old and dreading having to mow lawns all day with a fireman and an English teacher in an unwanted summer job your mom's hooked you up with. Looking back, the fireman was kinda hot, but that could just be a false-repressed memory. I have those sometimes.

All those years of therapy gave me such a good set of tools and what do I do with them? Travel!

As we've said before, It's not running away. It's carefully planning an escape.

So yeah. Off to Africa in the morning. Kenya believe it? (see what I did there?)

It's truly going to be amazing. We're staying here, here, and here. And despite my neuroses here on the homefront, I'm really looking forward to it, and hoping that no one channels Mrs. Francis Macomber.

I've decided to go without the laptop. Just write in a new notebook, specially purchased today for the trip, and take a break from technology. It's the first time I've done that in about ten years, I reckon. I'll have the camera, with at least 1gb of memory, and I'll take the iPod with plenty of Battlestar Gallactica on it, just in case, but that's more for the plane ride. Um, yeah.

So blogging will be sparse, if not non-existant. But I have added a little Twitter window in the sidebar, so there might be some updates there. If you get bored, there's plenty of other good stuff out there. Why not troll through my archives and compile a "reader's favorites" list? It can go on the redesigned site in the next couple of months. Yes, changes are everywhere.

And remember, you can go here and sponsor me in the marathon. Only four weeks till that comedy of painful errors.

Or you can go here and buy Shaggy Blog Stories.

Or you can hurry up and send me your home address and I'll write you a mini blog post postcard from Africa. Actually, I've had a few postcard requests (for readers' kids, of course), so if you'd like a postcard, go on and email me your snail address. Anything received before midnight tonight (my time) is guaranteed, anything after, well ... we'll do our best.

I wonder if I'll have the chance to say unanitumia kwa mapenzi tu** to any of the Masai guides we've been promised.

But that's all tomorrow, and it's all about living in the present. So now I have to bolt off to the opening night gala of the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. I don't know why they call it a gala. It's just a movie screening. Apparently you have to get invited to the big shindig after. The Royal Post has mucked it up again.


* It's better to travel

** for those of you sans phrasebook, that means "you're just using me for sex." Those phrasebooks sure do come in handy, eh?

March 20, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #37

“Hi honey, can I come up?’

I’m not sure who it is, but he’s awfully friendly and sounds like he knows me. Voices over our intercom are never that clear, like flies are translating through the wires.

He’s been here before, because he knows exactly which door. The blue one, three flights up, with no names or markings. Two knocks.

“Hey,” he says, his crooked smile flatlining, then curling back up, this time a little less sincere. “Um, is David here?”

“Sorry, he’s out right now. And you are?”

His name is Nigel. “Just wanted to thank David again for Spring Awakening,” he says, hiking his backpack onto his shoulder.

“Dave should be here in just a few minutes,” I say. “Come in and wait for him. I know he’d hate to miss you.”

Two glasses of wine later, he’s telling me how hot my cousin is. “I couldn’t believe he picked me up at The Eagle,” Nigel says. “I never get lucky in bars.”

“Odd, David says the same thing. Oh, and he’s not my …”

The door opens and in he walks. Nigel beams. David blanches.

“Hi coz,” I say.

There’s a moment you know … you’re fucked.

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.


Backwoods Barbie

Speaking of stuffed and well-preserved ...

Just back from Wembley Arena where Miss Dolly Parton sang, told stories, and just entertained the bejeezus out of us. No pyrotechnics. No acrobatics. No overchoreographed lip-synching. No killer light show. Just lots of make up and hair and maybe a little collagen. I'm not sayin' ...

Sixty-one years old and she hits all her notes, toddles around on her way-too-skinny legs, makes fun of herself and her wigs, has a few giggles, and just sings her heart out. I loved it.

Do you think Madonna will be able to pull off the same feat in 15 years? I doubt it.


March 19, 2007

Edie Beale Comes to Derby

I'm wondering if taxidermy is like tattooing... you know, addictive. Like when you get one, you just keep thinking about your next one.

I spent the weekend in the country, up in Derbyshire in a cottage just outside of Ticknall. It was on (or maybe just near?) the Calke Abbey estate, which was amazing, if not a little disturbing.

Stuffed. Animals. Everywhere.

Not the plush ones you win at the carnival. Oh no. Taxidermy specimens. Owls. Puffins. Rabbits. Hawks. Hawks eating rabbits. Waterfowl. Fish. Waterfowl eating fish. Crows. Albino crows. There must have been hundreds, if not thousands of dead stuffed animals, posed together in glass cases.

The 300-year old house itself has not been restored at all since it was left to the National Trust in the 1980s, and it wasn't in the best of condition when the Harpurs donated it. Not only were these people packrats, but they packed the rats ... with sawdust and then stiched them up.


Fascinating. And the perfect place for a weekend murder mystery. On acid.

Our cottage, while not as big as the estate house, accommodated the 13 of us very nicely. It was a great getaway, and I reccommend Southwood House Farm to anyone. I don't know that I want to get used to seeing sheep out of my bedroom window first thing every morning , but for a few days it was be-ewe-tiful.

, ,

March 16, 2007

Red Prose Day

I'm very excited and more than a little surprised to be included in Shaggy Blog Stories.

The "blog stunt", as its creator calls it, is a compliation of comic pieces by 99 of the best UK bloggers ... and one by me. All proceeds from the book are being donated to BBC's Comic Relief charity appeal.

Congratulations, Bob. So what do you need me to do?


BUY LOTS OF COPIES!! You never know when you'll need a handy gift, or a laugh in the loo, or even a door stop.

Thanks to Mike for thinking me funny (that's two people now, him and my mom) and including me in the mix. He put the thing together in one week, which is really quite an amazing feat. More details are here.

Have you bought the book yet? Go. Go on ...

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March 15, 2007

Working Out with OCD

I've been working out with Sylvia for a few weeks now. I needed some motivation in the gym so that I don't get mistaken for a hippo when head to Africa next week. Next week? Already? Gosh.

I don't think I've lost much weight, but I can see a little difference in proportion. I'm not so much a hippo anymore as a pregnant giraffe.

The thing about trainers is they're there to push you a little bit harder and get you through that 3rd set that you might otherwise blow off. They're also there to count reps for you. Thing is, even when I know she's counting, I still count my reps in my head. My own special form of OCD. Sometimes I go backwards, becuase for whatever reason, at the end of the set 3-2-1 seems more doable than 10-11-12.

I've developed a little trick now that I know she's keeping track. When I get somewhere between 5 and 7 reps left, I start counting backwards from 10. That way, in my head I think I have about 3-5 more reps to go when she says "two more" or "last one." Whatever gets you through the day, right?

Anyway, she's been very busy, working long shifts, hanging out with friends, training a lot, and quasi-dating a boy who sort of has a girlfriend but she lives in Portugal, so the rules are a little bendy. Bless. All this has made her tired. Very tired. Narcoleptic tired.

A couple times this morning, I did my "restart at 10" trick, and got back down to zero. "Are we going to 1,000?" I asked.

"Sorry, I zoned out," she said. "But you love this exercise, no?"

Um, yeah.

I believe she took a full-fledged nap during the abs workout today. And I'm counting on having sore obliques tomorrow morning.

March 14, 2007

Living in the Present Progressive

I have to take a test in a couple hours. A language skills test. Me are being with the nerves.

It's for a CELTA teacher training course that I'd like to take next month. Yeah yeah, I've already heard it ... you're American, how can you teach English?

I've passed the first round of screening, which was a written application involving questions like:

a) What's the difference between "an Isolated house" and "a secluded house"? How would you teach that? (My answer was that game show contestants are placed into isolation booths, trying to win a secluded holiday.)

b) Explain the error in this exchange: "Have you got any money?" --> "Yes, I've been to the bank yesterday."

All kinds of Borat stuff.

I can spot incorrect usage at 500 paces. I'm just not so clever at identifying, let alone explaining, the rules governing past perfect vs. future progressives.

So now I have to take a half-hour written test and a half-hour interview with the good folks at International House London, in their swanky new Covent Garden digs.

Part of me believes that it'll be fine, and that they'll take my money and I'll go through the training and get my certification. Sort of like a PADI (Pay And Dive Immediately) SCUBA certification.

Part of me is worried this will be yet another audition/interview where I'll be under/overqualified and they really liked me but I'm just not quite the right fit.

Maybe the written part will be open book. I'll take a grammar book in my case, just in bag.

March 13, 2007

Tuesday 200 — #36

They’ve caught me.

I’m sitting in the principal’s office. Mrs. Phelps gave me the note during homeroom. Report to Hardcastle’s office at 9am sharp.

He’s at his desk, thumbing through a file, swatting at the fly buzzing around his sunburned forehead. I thought we’d covered our tracks, but something kept niggling at the back of my mind. What had we missed? Had Phelps started feeling guilty and confessed? Surely she had more to lose than I did.

“Mr. Slocum, you must be very proud of yourself.”

Asshole. Thinks he‘s so clever with his sarcasm. I just stared at my lap, pulling at a hangnail.

“This isn’t easy for me, Slocum, but it seems you’re hiding something.”


“Seems you’ve got some surprising talents. Based on your essay and interview, you’ve won Most Promising Senior, which as I’m sure you know entails a $5,000 scholarship.”

“Thank you, sir.” I tried to hide the smirk.

“You’ll get a letter and details in the mail. Congratulations,” he sneered, dismissing me and the fly with a sweep of his hand.

As I walked to the door he said, “Oh, and Slocum?”

“Yes sir?”

“You know she’s only screwing you to make me jealous, right?”

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.

Is This Living?

Here's the new trailer for Playstation 3. I've read that it's not going to be on telly until March 16, but I just saw it on Channel Five. I thought it was for a new indy art film, but no.

"We want to review the emotional relationship between consumers and the PlayStation brand,” Duncan told MCV. “The ‘This is Living’ campaign is designed to promote a rational role for the PS3 in people’s lives.”

Drag queens, martial artists and hand grenades. Sounds rational to me. I guess.

Interesting video on how Heavenly Sword was made with live actors. The graphics in the game are going to be amazing.

I think I'll stick with my Wii for the time being, but this does look sorta cool.

King of the ....

9 am and I'm having a cup of tea, reading blogs and looking for Post of the Week nominations.

It's beautiful outside, and the windows are open. I can hear the occasional car drive by and birds singing in the square.

And then, just now, in the distance, a very distinct Tarzan yell.

I have a gym appointment in a bit, so I can't just sit and wait for a hottie in a loincloth to swing into the living room from the trees across the street. I'll leave the French doors open, just in case.

March 12, 2007

All that Daylight

Good morning to all my North American friends who are now saving daylight. Do you feel an hour closer to me today? We won't start the DST until March 25 here in the UK. It's all a bit confusing, eh? I'm sure that timing on more than one international conference call will be messed up over the next few weeks.

Do you suppose there are some absent minded vampires who will forget, get up an an hour early and accidentally kill themselves?

Did everybody's computer switch over correctly now that DST came up early? Is it Y2K all over again?

Do those of you who don't celebrate DST feel a little left out? Like diabetic kids on Halloween?

Was it a little extra dark when you got up today? What are you all going to do with that extra hour of sunshine?

March 11, 2007

Do You Like It Long and Slow?

"Congratulations, that was your longest training session to date," Paula Radcliffe told me after I finished my long v-e-r-y s-l-o-o-o-w run this afternoon. She also let me know I'd burned 2,023 calories.

Bring on the cheeseburgers.

Marathon training. It's all about the long slow training runs. I'm in between two training schedules these days ... the "get you around the course" and the 4.5 hour finish. I doubt I'll hit 4:30, but I want to do a little better than barely finish. So I'm trying to do at least what the GYATC schedule says, with a goal of reaching the 4:30 schedule (even if I'm a little slower than their prescripted times.

So, today I should have run either 3.5 hours (run 5 mins, walk 1 min) or done a half-marathon and tried to come in around 2:30. I ended up doing 3.5 hours and covering 14.5 miles. Very slow and I walked more than I'd have liked, but I survived. And I'm not crippled. Yet. Ask me again in the morning.

But oh my, what a nice day for a long run. Everybody's out and about ... perhaps too many people around the London Eye, but I say that every time I run along the south bank. The parks are filled with athletes and loungers (I being the quasi-athlete longing for a lounge chair). It's quite a different view along the Thames than Sig. Canaletto painted two and a half centuries ago, but lovely nonetheless. We ambled through Hyde Park, down through Chelsea, hit the river just east of Battersea. I lost Larry at Vauxahall Bridge. He said he was having hip flexor issues and would take the bus home. I figured he'd end up at RVT, but no, he was here when I arrived a couple hours later.

I continued on, crossing the river at Horseferry Rd (is that the Lambeth Bridge?) and then headed along the Thames, crossing back over at London Bridge. Hobbled along the embankment back to Westminster and then made my way through St. James Park, Green Park and back into Hyde Park which brought me right home.

Two thousand calories later, I think I'm ready for a snack, and maybe a trip to the pub. I bet Soho's looking rather fetching on such a nice day.

March 10, 2007

Draw Me a Story

Canaletto arch.jpg

So after the suckiness of yesterday morning (which was really just icing on the cake after Thursday's chat with the doctor, trip to the dental hygienist, and futile repair attempts on the MacBook) Peter the good houseguest and I trundled off in the sunshine to Dulwich to see the Canaletto exhibit. I love when Peter comes to town because we go to things that I usually skim over in Time Out. Not to mention he is Glinda compared to the previous polterguest's Almira Gulch.

Despite being a "household name", I didn't know much about Giovanni Antonio Canal or his 18th century visits to London. I'm pretty much of an art 'tard. He truly left some stunning landscapes. I especially liked the side-by-side paintings of the Thames, depicting views to the right and left from Somerset House. There was also an amazing interior of Westminster Abbey.

My favorites were at the end of the exhibit. There were several caprices (or perhaps caprizzios?), landscapes which came from Caneletto's imagination rather than painting snapshots on canvas. I'm fascinated by the creativity behind that. It's one thing to paint what you physically see (a skill I'm in awe of), but to paint somehting so realistic that is only in your mind ... it just blows me away.

The show's a big hit, and is much more popular than was expected. Give it a go if you can. Really good stuff.

Happy Days

You know when you have those days when everything just clicks? When projects seamlessly fold into each other and it's like the universe is going out of its way to pave the the streets with synchronicity and ease?

You do? Well, as they like to say over here, bugger off.

For the past couple of days, the universe has decided to toss me challenge after challenge in an effort to prove the "that which does not kill us makes us crave valium" addage.

Got my annual MOT results from the doctor. He's very concerned about my liver (which, to the shock of all, has been very healthy the past several years). Apparently my ACL has unexpectly spiked up rather high, so that's a bother. On the one hand, I know it could be a glitch or a lab error and I just need to wait for the retests to come back. But then again, I'm the king of imagining worst case scenarios and playing them out as the actual end result. So, natch, it's painful liver cancer for me and I can never have a martini again and yellow is the new tan.

Rather odd, since I've pretty much cut out both my prescription and non-prescription intake over the past couple years. And, comparitively speaking, I've hardly drank at all this year, what with my "I'm fat and need to get in shape for the marathon" mentality.

Coming out of the doctor's with my news, I called Larry. Phone not working.

HSBC has, again, decided that I don't exist, because they claim they got undelivered mail (which they have never resent) for me and they couldn't reach me via my email. They had my old work addy, which I changed with them over a year ago when I took the package. So they cancelled all my direct debits, which mean my gym membership got mucked up. My mobile got turned off. Neither Carphone Warehouse or 02 let me know about the retruned direct debit, they just put a block on the phone. Thanks.

It's all sorted now, but a pain. Especially when you queue outside Carphone Warehouse's door at 10am, waiting for them to open and then they can't take your money because "the system's down. Can you wait about a half an hour?" Argh.

On Thrusday night, my fairly new MacBook died. It was working fine when I went to have a little lie down/meditation after my doctor's appointment. Thirty minutes later, I come back to a white screen. Rebooting, it's not finding any system to boot. Call tech support. Find the startup utility discs. Nothing. It's like the hard drive ceased to exist.

So it's now at MacHosptial gettting fixed. No charge to me, as it's under warranty and all. But I wasn't as dilligent with the back-ups as I should have been and I've lost most all of the writing I've done over the past several months. Mostly journals and story snippets and the like. Nothing major, but sitll ... it's like the last six months of computer scribbling never even existed. Very sad.

And I remember being in therapy back in NY trying to get over a "why bother, it's all so pointless" mentality.

Fuck. I wanted Aaron Sorkin to script my life, not Samuel Beckett.

All right then. It's not the end of the world. Have a do-over with the writing. Figure out what's going on in my guts and do what we can to make it better. Call HSBC once a week and tell them I'm alive. Fail again, fail better.

And I know it could be so much worse. I didn't lose everything. And I still have my health. Ha! Well, at least until my next doctor's appointment. It's silly isn't it? There's absolutely no reason for me to believe there's anything terribly wrong, but one whacked-out test result (which has yet to be confirmed) opens up a whole black hole of unkown and insecurity. It's good to be neurotic. Right?

As for the files, there is an external hard drive with the really old stuff, and the not-dead-yet mac upstairs (the one with the red wine addled keyboard) has a bit on it as well. It's mainly the journals since January that I'm sad about, and the drafts of stories I've worked on for creative writing classes.

But oh those journals. They were genius, GENIUS I tell you. Very John Kennedy Toole and ripe for posthumous publishing. Now Larry will have nothing to publish after my dodgy liver demise.

March 9, 2007

Got Funny?

Mike at Troubled Diva has been whacked with "Big Idea" stick and wants to publish a a paperback anthology of (funny) blog writing, to benefit Comic Relief.

The call for submissions is here, where he's got all the rules and whatnot.

Here's your chance to get published, at no cost and no risk of losing your copyright. And it's for a good cause to boot (but only when booted with oversized comedy clown shoes).

March 7, 2007

The Old Gray Pere

I woke up this morning with stiff legs and a creaking back. The marathon is going to kill me this time. God, I'm getting old, I thought. I did a few stretches, hobbled into the kitchen and made some coffee. Sat down to do some journaling, and looked at the date.

March 7. Oh. At least I'm not as old as some people.

bill and bob.JPG

Happy birthday, Dad (he's the one on the left). Have a great day. I'll be there in spirit, and Larry and I will drink a Manhattan for you tonight.

The white hair suits him, don't you think? I can't wait for mine to finish the transistion to that color.

March 6, 2007

Tuesday 200 - #35

And you don’t know which way was out so you turn and you run and you don’t look back and did they say “get him” or “let him” and you don’t stop to find out you just move your feet as fast as you can, one over the other, arms pumping at your sides, blood screaming in your temples, jumping over puddles or splashing right though them, trying not to knock down people on the path who might be some help, but you can’t really know, so you run to find somewhere safe but this isn’t safe, this is the place that should only exist in the stormiest of nightmares, and you run and your your heart pounds twice each time your foot hits the ground, the wind whooshing in your ears, burning lungs clutching at air, the baby carriage a blur as you bump past yelling sorry but not too loud because the followers might hear, and you hurdle over the bushes that weren’t meant to be crossed and the muddy twigs grab your feet and you’re flying now, running through air, landing on your hands and face and sliding through the muck and you hear them catching up.

:: :: ::

What's a Tuesday 200?

Last week's Tuesday 200.

March 5, 2007

Kill It, Cook It, Eat It

Here's a BBC3 program to jump-start all you would-be vegetarians.

BBC3's 'kill it, cook it, eat it'

If you had to slaughter your own meat, would (could?) you still eat it?

March 4, 2007

Burn Sienna

You know how sometimes you read an interview and want to just go hang out with the interviewee? Maybe have a glass of wine, or go to lunch, or invite them over for a game of Scrabble?

Or, in the case of Sienna Miller, just bitch slap them.

Mary Todd Attends a Writing Workshop

I really enjoy my writing workshops. I’ve found them, and the people who attend them, to be inspirational. They force me to sit down and write without overthinking. I’m always amazed by the variety of voices and stories that can come from a group of writers doing the same exercise. There’s also something comforting about being in a room full of people who are in the same boat — looking to improve their craft, or find a voice, or just get a nudge into writing a bit more, or perhaps a bit differently or deeper, than they already do. It’s an instant support group.

And then came Ted. It wasn’t his real name, which was long and had way too many consonants and misplaced vowels, but he said we can call him Ted, cause it’s easier. So why didn’t he just write Ted on his nametag?

We were going round the table, making introductions at yesterday’s creative writing workshop. “Nothing elaborate,” the instructor said, “just tell us your name (for those of us who can’t read name tags), where you are with your writing, and what you’re hoping to get our of today.”

My favorite was “my writing and I aren’t on speaking terms at the moment.”

“Well, writing is how I make my living.” Ted announced, like he was lecturing at a symposium. “I really don’t know what to expect, so I’m sitting close to the door just in case. I’m only here because some friends of mine bought this for me, saying I should get out more and meet people, and since I’m already a writer they thought this would be good for me.”

Oh boy. It was as if Addison De Witt had aged about 30 years, lost his charm and become, if possible, more arrogant and condescending.

We moved on. The first exercise was to go for 5 minutes, finishing this sentence, “It is true am I …” Easy enough. Split up into pairs, read your pieces to each other. Mine was a glib bitchfest about the polterguest. My neighbor’s was a profound couple of paragraphs about his discomfort feeling both superior and inadequate as a gay man in a hetero world. Good stuff. Then it was go back to the piece, rewriting it in third person. Change as little as you can, and see what happens. Mine lost its immediacy. J’s became much more layered, not really being able to discern the line between what the character felt and where the narrator was commenting on it. Really interesting work.

Discussion was opened up to the table. “I didn’t like the first part at all, “ Ted said. “Writing all of this ‘I’ stuff … it sounded too confessional and amateurish. All so much ‘dear diary.’ That’s just not the way I write and it isn’t anything I’d want to read.”

Fair enough. Some people like first person, and some people don’t. I think it depends on the story.

We moved on. It’s still only about 25 minutes into the 5-hour workshop.

Next up was a reading from Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. I had not heard of the writer or the book. The excerpt was from the beginning of the book. I thought the writing was poetic and perhaps a bit over-dramatic. But it had a certain style, almost dream-like in some of its imagery and flow, like she was mining patches of her memory as she talked about what made her the woman she is.

We finished the three-page handout. “Any thoughts?” the instructor asked.

Ted tossed the handout into the middle of the table. “It’s rubbish.”

When asked to elaborate, he went on about how much he hated Audre Lorde, how she was overrated and was far from being the master of her craft. She was trying to be poetic and it was just drivel. “Don’t get me wrong, I like poetry very much. I write a lot of it myself and it’s very personal, but I toss it under the bed where it belongs. This belongs under her bed.” He went on to say that before his current writing work in the theater (okay, we get it, you’re a WRITER), he used to be an editor for gay and lesbian publishing in the 80s and this type of self-aggrandizing confessional writing had run its course.

“I saw her read once, alongside Maya Angelou. She fancied herself to be Toni Morrison or someone and she’s just not. If she were a white man, she’d never have been published,” he said, crossing his arms and adding, “I’ll just sit out on this discussion. It’s not for me.”

Like anybody wanted to discuss after that. But we did, a little. People tenderly danced around what they liked, often acknowledging Ted’s dismissal of it with asides like “I do agree that it could have used some editing.”

So we finished up with the opening session, and were ready for our first break. Before we left, the instructor asked if we could add one more house rule to the existing shortlist. “Can we agree to not call anyone’s work ‘rubbish’ for the rest of the day? I’d like us all to go out on some limbs this afternoon, and if we can start calling published work garbage, then what are we going to say about raw words fresh on the page?”

I thought it was nicely put. A simple request to help us amateurs feel a little safer about writing personal stories (and that’s how this guy works … he teaches to draw on your own stories and then find ways to fictionalize them).

“Oh, I’ve read your books,” Ted said to the instructor. I was waiting for him to say they’re not rubbish, but he just put on his jacket for the smoke break. He’d been very clear early on that he needed his cigarette breaks, not that his yellowed teeth (a fitting complement to his jaundiced disposition) didn’t tell us that for him.

As I was leaving the room to stretch my legs and grab a coffee I heard Ted say, “This approach just isn’t for me. I’m a professional writer and if I’m not free to call something rubbish when it clearly is … “ and by then I was out of the room.

So we lost Ted.

And other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the workshop?

The rest of the day was lovely. Some really good work came up. I have several pages of new ideas. I walked away with some new jump-starts and perspectives for my writing. I heard the beginnings of great stories from a very diverse group of interesting men, some who already wrote, some who swore they had no creative bones in their bodies (and whether they believe it or not, were wrong in that assumption).

Despite having taken classes from this guy before, only one of the exercises was a repeat, and that’s a fun one I’ve done a few times since. Write down the alphabet, one letter on each line of your paper. Go back to the top and write down the first word that comes into your mind for each letter. Write down the name of someone you’ve loved deeply. Now write a love poem to that person using those 26 words in the order they’re listed. You’ve got five minutes.

Sure it’s silly. Sure it’s “rubbish.” But some good nuggets come out of it. You just never know.

The very last thing we did was to spend 6 or 7 minutes writing a list. The instructions were simple enough. “Finish the following sentence and then do it again till I say stop: ‘I want to write about ….’ “

I got about a page full of writing prompts out of that. Hearing everyone else’s list, I got at least that many more. But, to be honest, there was one I didn’t put down on my page, ‘cause I figured we’d be reading them aloud and I didn’t want to be the one who went there.

I want to write about pretentious arrogant twats who can assasinate a room's creative energy with a mere flash of their nicotine-stained grimace.

Job done.

March 2, 2007

Wii Interrupt Our Regular Blogging ...

I would love to sit down and write about all kinds of things, like:

  • How brilliant Equus was last night (despite a terribly misguided directorial/design choice at the very end (and how they made the horses looked like Doctor Who villains with ridiculous halogen eyes)

  • My vaccinations for Africa and how expensive the malaria pills are

  • My marathon training combined with my new personal trainer Syliva who's adorable but kicking my ass. Need to lose a stone before Kenya so I'm not mistaken for a hippo

  • Our polterguest

  • New job opportunitie springing up like weeds just as I'm finishing an application for a TEFL course (wouldn't you love to have me teach you English?)

  • How good I'm getting at casting on, but how bad I am about making things too tight

  • Speaking of tight, my just-shy-of-painful sports massage two days ago with the stronger-than-he-looks Howard. Every time he'd go deep he'd tell me how tight I was. In other circumstances ....

  • How much I'm enjoying Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair

Yes, so much to write about (including a writing workshop tomorrow afternoon that I'm most excited about), but I just don't have time.

Oh no, kind readers, blogging time is no longer on my side. My Wii search is complete, the console is purchased, and I'm up and running. Yay Mii. If you'd like your Mii to interract with mine, my console number is 2267 7741 5286 3479 and the Mii Parade is ever so lonely.

I've also got that Post of the Week shortlist to pull together.