Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey Carcass

I love turkey soup, but the experience of breaking down the carcass of a 23 pound turkey so that half of the remains will fit inside my inadequate stock pot is an exercise in coming face to face with one's own mortality.

The endless labyrinth of skin, roots of feathers remaining in the pimpled, fatty skin, layers of muscle, perimysium (ooh, new word), cartilage, tendon, bone... the popping of joints and the snapping separation of vertebrae.  The greasiness of it all.  Using my fingers to pick the meat, so we can consume it later.  This is enough to make turkey soup less appetizing.  All the parts of the turkey:  drumstick, wing, thigh, and breast-- they all become unrecognizable as I become more and more disoriented by the insides of the bird and as, part by part, they disappear into the pot.  The bones in the wing are impossibly large-- the size of three or four chicken drumsticks, and I find myself both awed and disgusted by modern farming methods.   I turn what is left of this creature over and over on the cutting board, trying to figure where there might be another deposit of meat I may have missed.  And, sure enough, I keep finding more.  We can easily eat for a week off this thing, and my cousin took home at least three pounds of meat on Thanksgiving.

About half the bird is now dismantled in the pot on the heat.  The rest will go into the freezer for the next batch.  I can only hope that if I can keep the stock clear, spoon off the fat, and create small enough morsels of meat that by the time I eat the soup my imagination will have separated itself from this gruesome process.  Perhaps a squeeze of lemon and several handsful of fresh parsley will help.

Random Dickinson Inspiration:

Soup is the Thing with feathers
In storage in the fridge
With most of the feathers Plucked
And greasy pimpled skin

It sat-- once--in Confinement
Ate steroid-soaked grain all day
And never stopped to Thank--
For its bounty in its Breast

Its heft weighs on Extremities
Unconscious-- to the pot
to Feed the family for a year
Consumed-- consumed-- we eat.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Accidental Rip-Off. NaNoWriMo Tragedy.

Like I needed any bad news today. 

I went to the library catalog online to see if they had a copy of the children's book about the boy who swam with the seals, which is supposedly based on a Chinook story, which I was hoping would help me with my story. 

So, turns out after searching "boy" AND "seals" that The Secret of Roan Inish is basically a rip-off of my book.  Or actually, my book is a semi-rip-off of that movie, except the problem is that I have never seen this movie. 


I mean, my "novel" (i.e. collection of disjointed scenes and concepts which is working its way toward being a novel) is a little more complicated.  There are two strands written in two different POV's.  The first is a girl who is a double amputee & competitive swimmer, and sort of her coming of age story and story of getting her first prosthetic legs at an older age.  The second strand is a story she is writing or creating in her mind in which her mother turns out to be a selkie (but they are called something else in my book-- they are sea lion people) and it turns out that instead of losing her brother in the ocean as a baby, he transformed into his selkie form and has grown up in their community, and is now a leader of sorts and is figuring out how to transform into his human form.  Then I haven't decided whether in that story she actually figures out that she is a selkie, too.  I think she probably does, because why not?  It's all part of her fantasy world that she is creating.  I think there will be tsunamis in both stories-- one more devastating than the other.

So, now my question is, do I go watch the movie just to make sure I'm not completely ripping it off?  Or do I refuse to see it just so I am not tempted to rip it off or refer to it in any way, shape or form?  Or do I incorporate the movie into my novel purposefully?  The third option could make some sense, because both stories are based in the selkie and chinook mythology anyway already.  But I don't like the idea of popular culture references because they go dead after a while for the reader-- they date the story.

Rgh.  Just when I need to be chugging out amazing word count which is going to wrap up this sucker...

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Need a Hug.

Just, you know, putting that out there to the universe.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Art Hike / NaNoWriMo Day 12 / Should Be Doing Nat'l Board Portfolio

Here I am at the TOB (the Transitional Office Building) which sounds like quite an uninspiring place to write, but in fact is filled with the history of dozens of SAWP writers buzzing away at their keyboards and notebooks; before that it was filled with hundreds of sorority girls for however many years blow-drying their hair and writing each other's mid-term essays.  We are not sure what it is transitioning from or to... but we are part of that mysterious transition.  It's been this way for years and years.

Yesterday, I took the kids for a hike to Pontatoc Ridge trail, I think my favorite trail with quick and easy access. It's closer than Sabino, with fewer people, and within a couple hundred yards you are pretty much in the lush desert, with lots of ups, downs, arroyos and, intermittently, gorgeous views all around town and beyond. I get tired of having to hike the road at Sabino. 

We took a)  the dog, and b) sketchpads for each of us.  Oh, and my daughter would not want me to leave out c) snacks. 

My son spent at least an hour going through my drawer of hiking equipment and packing his small frame pack so that he could carry the dog in back.  I took out many of the items he had included, such as hand-warmers and the knot-tying game.  But I enjoyed seeing him so focused and excited about the hike.  Both kids did great-- many of the rocky parts of the trail were a real challenge to my daughter, who is a tall five-year-old, but she loved scrambling up them and felt very accomplished.  Markey was patient, though a little anxious, in the backpack, and we didn't even receive any disapproving looks from ethical hikers who follow the rules (no dogs).  I don't think Markey would have run after a javelina or taken down a bighorn sheep.  He only weighs 4 1/2 pounds.  My daughter carried her own water in a reservoir-- yea!  That was (literally) a load off my shoulders. 

We had kind of a late start, and it's getting dark early, now.  We made it maybe 3/4 of the way up the switchbacks, and ran out of time, so we found a good spot and stopped to sketch. 

I am amazed at his drawing.  We only sat for about 30 minutes.  Wow.
My daughter drew this and that-- she would draw something and then have me guess whether it was something that she saw around her, or something that wasn't here.  First she drew part of the ridge across from us, which I recognized.  Then she drew vampire teeth.  Then a butterfly.

Good times!

Now I'm warmed up and should move onward toward my NaNoWriMo novel before my students out-wordcount me into oblivion.  Perhaps I will have a scene of artwork en plein air. 

Friday, November 11, 2011


Swinging with my Daughter

I give her a small push
seat myself in the swing next to her
pump my legs two or three times
then hold my legs in front, swinging, watching her.
She pulls and pumps.

Me in my windbreaker and work pants
She in knit pants, snags in the knees
    her unzipped sweatshirt hanging from her shoulders
    her mouth orange from cheese puffs

I slow and wait
until we swing in unison

Then, as she accelerates
I pump my legs and we keep time with one another


for the melody

of this fall day


She watches my legs


and back


and back

and keeps rhythm with me.

her face parallel to mine
her satisfied smile, her two missing teeth

her dark hair flies off her forehead

and back into her face.

two strands trapped in the corners of her smile

I pull and push faster
climbing higher
toward the palms
silhouetted in  a pure blue






We defy gravity

opposite one another. 

ahead, she turns to laugh

behind, I lean back
to view my topsy-turvy girl.

I slow my legs
allow the earth its pull.
She pumps hers...

then stops. 

We slow

arcing past each other

at odd


our feet trail in the sand

we hop off

I offer my hand

Photo from another lovely Himmel Park visit:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pink Martini at Starr Pass amid Documented Accomplishments

Shuffling Pink Martini on my iPod.

Documenting my teaching accomplishments.

Curled up on a couch in a boulevard-sized passageway outside the ballrooms with massive glassed views of saguaro, ocotillo, a golf course, and, farther down the vale, the city stretching across the floor of the valley.  The crispness of the day refreshes me.

Enjoying the last couple hours of solitude among colleagues and music, writing and thinking.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

NaNoWriMo No Naps! Day 5

I'm sitting here in my room at Starr Pass at my National Board Candidacy Working Retreat, trying to write the instructional context passage for Entry 1 of my portfolio.  And it is so quiet.  So quiet.  And my eyes keep drooping mid sentence. 

Several times today, I took a break from my National Board work by opening up my novel and adding to it.  I am writing in fragments, writing the chunks I know I will need.  I am allowing myself long paragraphs of telling, figuring I can go back and turn those passages into scenes at a later time. 

I have decided to have the point of view shift from first to third person throughout the novel, although I'm not going to tell why... that would be giving too much away.  If it doesn't work out I could always go put it all in first person...  see?  right there I was falling asleep in the middle of a sentence.  It's so quiet here.  I haven't had a good night's sleep in weeks.  The weird thing is, I haven't had any vivid dreams for a long time, either.  I was hoping writing fiction would maybe bring some dreams on, but so far, no.  Not even anxiety dreams.  Isn't that funny?

I'm going to go lie down, now, and snooze a little.  I'm sure I'll be continuing to work tonight.  On my professional writing and my nanowrimo novel.  The professional writing, I'm sure will be fine if I devote the time and effort to it. The novel?  Well, it's getting better as we go onward.  I'm thinking it's a young adult novel... unless I can find a way to bust it free.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Can My Setting Be Wonderland? Young Writers Want to Know! NaNoWriMo and Intertextuality

Yesterday, a student wrote me with a great question.  She wanted to know if she could set her NaNoWriMo novel in Wonderland. 

I answered her question the best I could, saying that fanfiction was all about borrowing from other texts, and literary allusion was all about borrowing from and referring to other texts.  To me, the biggest issue is one of ethics.  Are you openly borrowing and transforming, reinterpreting, and reinventing?  Or are you stealing under the guise of originality?

She answered the question for herself somehow by finding out about the issue of public domain.  To her, now that she knew there was no copyright ownership of Wonderland, she could use it in her novel.  But I told the class that although copyright is certainly a consideration, the issue really goes beyond that to one of ethics and artistic integrity, but that there were multiple grey areas we could discuss.

I googled intertextuality, and of course a boatload of postmodern academic linguistic semiotic mumbo-jumbo came up, which I could read and interpret and try to simplify for my high school students... or I could spend the next half hour working on my own word count on my novel, from which I am drawing on Celtic mythology, and Chinook stories and language. 

If anyone out there knows of a plain-language explanation I could use with my students, or an interesting and accessible set of interconnected texts we could use to discuss the issue, please leave me a comment.  Thanks!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day 3

Word Count: 3817

Well, I am quailing.  My ideas are getting more fragmented vs. more linear.  No plot is materializing.  In addition, I have realized the extent of the research I need to do to pull this off.  Also, my scenes feel devoid of motivation for the characters.  Maybe I should just throw the selkies and the tsunami back in there and just go with it, cheese or no cheese.   At any rate, I have another 900 or so words to write today. 

I wish I had some books of Northwest native american stories. 
I wish I had spent more time at the tidal pools in Oregon.
I wish I could talk to Rich for an hour about prosthetics and the ins and outs of C-legs vs. conventional legs.  For instance, can a person walk up stairs with a C-leg?

Off I go to... rescue this novel from mediocrity and half-assedness. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day 1

I am attempting this alongside my students because I don't think it would be very fair to expect them to do something I had never done.  Besides, I would be envious if they had won NaNoWriMo and I hadn't.

Once again, I am discovering that I don't think in plots.  I think in places.  Sometimes I can think in people.  I think in images, in abstract notions, and even in sound.  But plot is beyond me.  So we will see how it goes.  These students!  They think in plots!  I am so envious.

So, the first scene that I write is my character on the cold Oregon beach in a wetsuit, thinking about entering the water despite her mother having forbidden it.  She doesn't go in, but that's not the problem.  I kind of like the scene, except that my character is a double amputee and is on the beach with her sand wheelchair with huge ridiculous plastic wheels.  She wakes up from a nap on the sand, and has a few moments with her two dogs, and... how the hell does she get off the beach?  Her single mother can't afford a motorized sand wheelchair.  She probably had to rent the sand wheelchair she has.  Who the heck pushed her out onto the sand, and how is she getting back home after these solitary moments on the beach?  Perhaps I'll have to turn it into a dream.  Damn it.  Leave it to me.  This is what I'm talking about.

At any rate, my word count is 1880.  Woo-Hoo!