Syndactyl Salutations

Thoughts on writing, knitting, and the world around me.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Book ReSort

Although it sounds like where books go on vacation, the title, in fact, refers to an organization formed to process book donations for the two huge book sales Lancaster County Library holds every year. They recently changed locations, and today I went to an open house at their new warehouse space. There were books for sale, of which I bought three for $2.65, and examples of the sorting process. I signed the visitor list and checked that I would be interested in volunteering.

I had volunteered at the local Literacy Council, but after a few months of my student not showing up or having too much help with the homework he said he wanted, I felt that I wasn't being effective as a tutor and threw in the towel. I've been thinking of finding something else to do, and this would be right up my alley.

I love books, not just reading them or attempting to write them, but everything about them. The smell of the paper, the heft in my hand, the cover art, the notations people make in them, even the creases in dog-eared pages and the spots from various mishaps. I could easily and happily spend a couple of hours a week sorting boxes and bags of books into categories. I could see myself working a shift at the book sale, putting new material out or rearranging the long lines of paperbacks on the tables. I find myself rearranging things when I go as a customer as it is.

I love the book sale, it outgrew the library several years ago and is now held in a roller rink. They sell tens-of-, if not hundreds-of-thousands of books in three days, twice a year. Collectors come from neighboring states and line up before the doors open at 7 am the first day.

The book sale is where I buy most of my books. I let myself indulge my guilty habit of collecting teen novels written between the '30s and the '60s when I go. It's the only conscious collection I have, and it grows every time I get to one of the sales.

Usually I am good for at least an hour at least two out of three days of the sale and I almost always run into someone I know. In April I stayed for less than an hour and only went one time, but it was too close to the big hurt for me to be able to tolerate the crowds. I did come away with two dozen teen novels and a couple of beloved childhood favorites.

Today I stuck with more grownup books (I had a teen novel in my hand, but made myself put it down and walk away. I'll save that fun for the real sale.). Not that I needed them, I have a reading list a mile long as it is, but who can completely pass up one-dollar or fifty-cent paperbacks?

Not I.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Sleepy Sunday

I was less productive today than yesterday, but not a complete slug. My muscles are sore from all the mowing I did yesterday afternoon.

I did some weeding in the front bed, but it'll still take time to get it in shape. We took a short walk in the close woods this afternoon and I took a few photos of the flora.

Yeah, I guess that's about it for the physical. Sort of a low day again. I got a call from a friend I hadn't heard from since before the April 18th tragedy. She said she and her husband hadn't called before because they hadn't known what to say. It was good to talk to her, but strange to be talking about it to someone I know well for the first time a month and a half after the fact. Apparently X heard about it first and told them. He asked that they pass along his condolences and thoughts when they spoke to me. I'm ambivalent about that, but it's neither here nor there.

I didn't do any writing beyond morning pages today, but I did think about it and look over a couple of things. Better luck next time, I guess.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

The Joys of Physical Labor

I've had an antsy few days, for some reason, and had a minor anxiety freak-out this morning concerning the possibility of taking the youngest to the ER (didn't happen). After taking my sweet time getting my act together in the morning, I found the perfect way to get rid of the antsies. I mowed the back yard.

This should not be a big deal, and it probably won't be from here on out, but today there still remained large stands of waist high weeds around the edges, and the previously mown center was also filling in nicely. I spent somewhere in the vicinity of two hours with mower, weed whacker, and hand clippers grooming our back weeds. It looks significantly larger and tamer now. If I had a spade, I'd re-dig my beds from two summers ago. Maybe I'll get up and go tool and plant shopping tomorrow morning.

Today was the perfect day to do this sort of thing. Warm, not hot, slight breeze, low humidity. If every sunny day were this way I would be thrilled.

I finished The Dork of Cork by Chet Raymo. It was good in so many ways. Another of the first person narratives, and this a first person I felt a misfit kinship with. The language is evocative and straightforward by turns. I look forward to reading his nonfiction as well, I hope my library has it.

I am also reading about schizophrenia, not as pleasurable, but equally as interesting. I wish I had learned about it out of interest, rather than out of necessity.

Now to bed and sleep. Before 10:30 on a Saturday night, yep, I'm adventurous all right.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Continuing Lag

One of these days I really will make this habitual. I just don't know which day that will happen to be. Today would be a great candidate, I'm sure.

I'm still not writing much these days, even though I'm thinking about it and even trying a little. I made notes on a story that needs to be completely reworked before it goes anywhere, and looked at notes about MONOGRAM. That's as far as I've gotten recently. Oh, and I did one morning page yesterday and one today. I've decided I dislike the 9 1/2 X 6" format I'm currently using as my carry-everywhere, jot-everything notebook at the moment. I obviously used to like it, since it's a used notebook I'm trying to fill, but I won't be going back to it again anytime soon. The expanse of the standard 10 X 8" or so is much more conducive to everything longhand in my life.

While I have not been writing much recently, I have begun taking photos and developing film again. I got a roll of black and white back the other day that had a few nice shots on it from the New York trip in October, particularly nice was one of 7th Avenue (I think) just after dark. I took nearly an entire roll of the sky after a storm on Tuesday. The sky and clouds were doing amazing things, so I actually used color film, and I liked many of the photos, though the area immediately surrounding my house has far too many utility wires for photographic comfort.

Construction of the new facade at work begins next week. It will mean ridiculous amounts of noise for the next three months, but it will also mean an opportunity to document the project with my cameras. I plan to choose two spots today and take photos from them each day that I am at work in order to try to capture the minutiae of the project. I am going to do the "before" shots at lunch today, I believe.

Enough for now, maybe later I'll talk about what I'm reading at the moment.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Conference Rundown...Delayed

Okay, now I'll write about the conference. I've been hibernating for most of the week, sorry.

The PennWriters Conference proved to be a valuable experience for me. I wasn't terribly loquacious or outgoing, but I still did manage to meet some interesting people. I sat next to a Tor editor at dinner the first night. I stayed up late talking writing, TV, and movies (among other things) with two of the most interesting people I have met in a while. They are both published and both incredibly talented, and I was amazed at how comfortable I felt interacting with them.

My poem didn't win anything in the peer voting contest, but I wasn't really looking for it anyway.

The sessions were primarily informative, and I got a chance to introduce myself to an editor I hope to work with this fall. I went to the session given by Donald Maass on Saturday and ended taking notes on Monogram the whole time. I'm not ready to start courting agents at this point anyway. Nowhere near ready.

I didn't do any of the face-to-face agent/editor meetings or any of the hands-on sessions this time. I wasn't equipped materially or emotionally for that this year. Maybe if I go to Pittsburgh next year I'll sign up for some of them.

I did do a little writing there and have done a bit since I got back, and that's primarily what I was looking for when I went. I wanted to step out of the surreality of my life as it is now and into the writer-creative energy I knew would be fully present there.

I'm planning on joining PennWriters and seeing what else they have to offer, and I'm hoping to start and maintain a correspondence with a few of the people I met while I was there.

By the way, go out and get Phobos, then read it as soon as possible! It is an engaging read, inventive and well-crafted. The story keeps you guessing and comes to a logical conclusion, while opening the possibility for further adventures for Mike Brogue and his Hammers (Please, please, please, Ty!). A well-researched science fiction thriller with nods to the earliest science fiction authors.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Return

Conference: Great!
Me: Exhausted!
More: Later!

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Freedom and Jitters

I should be packing, but instead I've gone through stacks of old writing fragments and watched Frasier fade from the airwaves. I want to go to this conference, I think it will be good for me, but I'm nervous about interacting with two hundred strangers for three days. How lame is that?

I've found the pieces I'm going to use for the contest. One is a short children's story, one is a short poem. Most of my poetry appears to need quite a bit of work, but this one isn't bad as is. I haven't come up with any nonfiction, I just can't muster it.

The heat is verging on oppressive these days, high eighties in May is jumping the gun a bit, wouldn't you say?

Okay, so I haven't gotten any more any more interesting here, sorry about that. Anyone out there enjoy your weekend, and I'll tell you all about mine when I get back on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Lighten Up With Exercise

Racquetball helped. Not entirely giddy or anything, but better than I was earlier in the day. We're still pretty bad, but we're getting better at sustaining volleys and hitting in fewer bounces (occasionally even one or none!). And I didn't end up on the floor this time at all, which I see as a major plus.

However, I do believe my left arm is going to be sore for the next day or two, because I spent the final twenty minutes or so playing left-handed. I was amazed that I could do it at all, though I have to admit that my left arm feels shorter and tighter than my right since I've not been using it much to play. As if I'm not lopsided enough already.

I think I'm going to see about entering the writing contest at the conference, after all. I had a couple of ideas of things I could use as I was going back to work today, so I'll examine them more closely tomorrow evening, in between bouts of packing and organizing.

Low Ebb

My emotional state today is not great. I'm moving and thinking slowly and having a tough time getting things accomplished. I've eaten nothing but junk at work, and barely bothered to eat at all when I was at lunch.

I listened to David Johansen's version of "Oh, Death" in the car, turned up to about 15, who knows what people in passing cars were thinking. I prefer the Ralph Stanley version of that song, but I don't own it. Maybe I should look into buying the "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack, mostly for that song. It makes the hair on my arms stand up every time.

I hope I am able to climb up out of this hole by Friday. Trying to network while depressed and gloomy is rarely a successful venture. These days I am adept at bumming people out in a wide radius.

I get to play racquetball in about three hours, so hopefully the exercise will help raise my spirits as well as my heart rate. And exercise is supposedly a good way to help deal with grief.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Long Strange Lapse

I checked the other day and realized that it had been nearly two months since I'd posted anything here. I've thought about it, but my life has gone strangely out of control and I've basically stopped writing. This is an unfortunate condition, since I am going to a conference in three days.

The reason for my absence can be chalked up to more freaky family stuff. But it's freaky family stuff gone completely awry and horribly wrong. I don't want know what to say to whoever may actually read this, if anyone does. My parents no longer have grandchildren, I no longer have my sweet baby neffs, and my world and that of my family will never ever be the same.

I no longer have my great-grandmother either, but the details and circumstances are much easier to deal with. Mildred Lewis turned 97 in February and lived on her own in her own home until the last week of her life. She died at 4 am on Mother's Day. She was ready to go and had faith that she'd meet up with my great-grandfather when she did. We were fortunate to have her for as long as we did, and her passing is bittersweet; sadness at her passing, but relief that she went quickly and quietly after twenty years of waiting.

I have my afghan from her that I have kept track of since I was young, and there are photos of five generations in a couple of different configurations.

Goodbye and godspeed grandma, I love you and will miss you always. You will remain in my thoughts.

I have cried very little in the past few surreal weeks, but I feel as though I am always on the edge of a weeping fit. I still stand by the statement that ever since my divorce nearly seven years ago, I can cry about stupid things in books and movies, but I have some frozen or welded place inside that keeps me from letting go about the important things. I don't like that about myself, not that I want to be a weepy mess, but I'd like to know that I am able to adequately express the emotions that I am feeling.

I think I'll leave it at that and save the more mundane things for another time.