Eggs

I could still taste the runny yolks in the back of my throat as I walked along the red-brick sidewalk, my vision blurred slightly by the few persistent tears I couldn’t quite manage to suppress. The only thing Jeanine does worse than babysit is cook eggs. She definitely can’t cook eggs like Mom, who cooks the bacon first and uses the bacon grease to fry the eggs. And she can’t cook the eggs like Susan, the woman who used to be our morning babysitter. Susan was better because she didn’t even usually cook eggs, and made us toast with gravy instead. She called it S.O.S., or stuff on shingles. She said some people think the first S stands for something else, but we should just call it S.O.S. instead. She was way nicer than Jeanine, but she got a regular job so she couldn’t be the babysitter to come wake us up for school in the mornings anymore. Now it was Jeanine and Gerry, they took turns on different days. Gerry is really pretty, with blonde hair and a friendly smile. Jeanine is always in a bad mood. Gerry doesn’t make eggs, she usually gives us a choice between cereal or oatmeal. She says “do you want cold cereal or hot cereal,” because she says the oatmeal is hot cereal. I like both better than eggs.

Jeanine made fried eggs this morning, like usual. I told her before that I only like scrambled eggs, but she doesn’t care. She set our plates on the table in front of each of us, and I could see right away on mine that it was going to be tough to eat these eggs. The white part was slight gooey in some places and burnt in others, and the yellow was the same way. She told us to hurry, so I started eating my toast, trying to think of ways to get out of eating the eggs. When Tim was little, he used to hide food he didn’t want to eat under a little ledge that was part of the way our kitchen table was shaped, so he could come throw it away later. This table wasn’t like that, so I would have to come up with something else.

Eat your eggs, she told me, as I tried to work out a plan. She stood and looked at me after she said it, so there was no way out. I cut off a little part of the white, and accidentally got some of the runny yellow leaking onto it. I brought the fork slowly to my mouth, wishing it was cinnamon-flavored hot cereal instead. I tried chewing for a second, but knew I needed to get it over with fast. I swallowed, and felt the sliminess of the egg in my throat. Before it got halfway down, I felt my stomach heave. I hate throwing up, so I fought it back. It came out as tears, instead, so before she could see me cry I stood up and yelled at Jeanine.

“Your cooking is gross! I wish you weren’t our babysitter!”

I left the house right away, and on the walk to school I settled down some.

***

I don’t know how I always let him get under my skin like that. It was a perfectly good morning, with the only exception being that it was my morning to go wake up Colleen’s kids. She’s good friends with my mother, though, so going to wake up her kids, feed them breakfast, and send them walking to school before I go to school myself two or three times a week isn’t so bad. But this morning it was a little harder than usual, because I was running a little late. For a family that doesn’t have much money, the kids are sometimes very spoiled. I had a hard time waking them up, as they usually just roll over and go back to sleep after the first one or two times I rub their shoulders. So today I had to resort to yelling, a good old “rise and shine” like my dad used to do.

They finally started getting ready, so I went downstairs and started their eggs. Five kids, five eggs, five pieces of toast. It’s not so bad; I can usually whip it up in about ten minutes, if I cook two or three eggs at a time. Of course, their stovetop is uneven and the frying pan slightly misshapen, so sometimes the eggs don’t cook very evenly. I finished buttering the toast while the last three eggs were cooking, put the food on separate plates for each of the kids, and took them out to the table.

The middle kid glared at me. He has never liked me, and I’ve never been able to figure out why. I think he might have a crush on Gerri, the senior cheerleader who wakes them up when I’m not around. I don’t think she even makes them breakfast. I looked at the clock and realized I needed to get going if I was going to be on time to school. I told the kids to finish their breakfast, and while I tried to remember whether I’d brought my geometry assignment, the middle kid pushed his plate away and started screaming at me. His brothers and sisters started laughing when he stormed out the front door, so I told them to finish their breakfast. I already at some oatmeal at home, but if the kid wasn’t going to eat his egg I didn’t want to let it go to waste.

The Story

Tell me a story, she said. Her voice was sleepy and her eyes half-closed.

I began to tell a story.

In English, she said, as she did every night. I want to hear a story in English.

But you won’t understand.

It doesn’t matter. I want to listen to you tell me a story in English.

Very well, I said, as I did every night. Where shall our story begin?

***

Once there was a young man who grew up happy and loved, very much contented with the place that he called home, and the people he loved, his friends and his family. But like in the beginning of many stories, the young man reached a certain age and began to sense that something was missing, something he would not find at home.

And so it was that after much waiting, the young man bid farewell to his tearful family and friends, and promised to return once he’d found what he was missing.

After traveling many places, the young man eventually found himself in an incredibly beautiful place, far from his home. Everything about this place seemed quite perfect to the young man—the scent of the air, the way the clouds floated lazily in the sky, the radiant colors of the sunrises and sunsets, the lush landscape filled with majestic trees and rolling hillsides. Everything felt right about it, as if it was precisely the place he was looking for. The young man stayed in this wonderful place and came to know the people, their language and their culture, and felt himself very much at home.

Soon, he met a quiet young woman who smiled and looked away whenever he was near. Eventually the young man summoned the courage to talk to her, and soon they fell very much in love. She complimented him on his ability to speak her language, but each night she asked him to tell her a story in his own. She loved the way his voice sounded as he softly spoke words she would never understand. Each night the young man created a new story, but every story told of a young man and woman falling in love and growing old together.

The young man eventually began to wonder about his mother and father, as he had not been home for many years. He wanted to bring his lover to meet them, but before they could leave she became pregnant, and so they waited for the child. They had a son together, followed by two daughters, and their children grew up happy and loved, very much contented with the place they called home and the people who loved them, their family and friends. He thought often of returning home; first he was too ashamed to return because he’d waited so long, but in time the young man grew to become an old man, and he was too afraid because he thought his parents might be gone.

When the young man’s son reached a certain age, he began to sense that something was missing, something he would not find at home. He bid farewell to his tearful parents, promising to return when he found what he was looking for. The young man and young woman grew old together, each day missing their son more than the previous day, but grateful to have each other’s love as their source of hope that he would find what he was looking for.

***

Was it a happy story, she asks, as she does every night.

Yes, I answer. The young man finds what he was looking for.

The 100% Perfect Burrito

This week’s writing experiment. with apologies to Haruki Murakami

One beautiful August afternoon, at a food truck on some narrow side street in west LA, I ate the 100% perfect burrito.

Honestly, there was nothing about it that made it particularly delicious. It didn’t seem to have any special ingredients. The underside of the tortilla had been left on the grill slightly too long. It wasn’t especially appetizing. But still, I knew before I even took a bite: It was the 100% perfect burrito for me. The moment I smelled it, my tongue became moist with saliva, as I anticipated savoring its every bite.

Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of food—a pizza with crisp pepperonis, say, or a bacon-wrapped hot dog, perhaps. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I’ll catch myself staring at a plate at the next table to mine because something about a dish has captured my attention.

But no one can insist that his 100% perfect meal correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like tortillas, I can’t recall the texture of that burrito’s ground-flour wrapper. All I can remember for sure is that there was nothing especially gourmet about it. It’s weird.

“Yesterday on the street I ate the 100% perfect burrito,” I tell someone.

“Yeah?” he says. “Tasted delicious, eh?”

“Not really.”

“Your favorite restaurant, then?”

“No, I bought it from a food truck. I can’t seem to remember anything about it—the flavor of the meat or the texture of the melted cheese.”

“Strange.”

“Yeah. Strange.”

“So anyhow,” he says, already bored, “did you take down the name of the food truck? Are you going to follow them on twitter?”

“Nah. Just had the burrito and went on my way.”

The food truck drove from east to west, and I walked west to east. It was a really a wonderful August afternoon.

Wish I could have seen the person on the food truck prepare burritos. Twenty minutes would be plenty: just watch how they grilled the meat, how they folded the tortilla. Discover how the complexities of fate had wrapped perfection in a thin wrapper of wax paper and tin foil. The burrito had surely been peppered with mystical seasonings, ingredients from a time when children played happy and free on the corner lot, sand in their shoes and joy in their hearts.

After speaking with my friend, I felt I should have taken down the name of the truck, or at least made note of its appearance, or where and when I had seen it. Having failed on these counts, what recourse did I have? I could track down all of the food trucks on the west side, one at a time, sampling their wares. Ridiculous. I’d gain all sorts of weight, and who knows whether I would even be able to recognize another burrito as coming from the same truck.

Maybe the simple truth would do. “Good afternoon. I believe I once at the 100% perfect burrito; could it have been served at this truck?”

No, who would believe it? Or even if they did, they would probably not be able to recreate the experience for me. Sorry, the employee could say, we may have made the 100% perfect burrito for you, but we have since changed our produce suppliers and have not had the same luck with avocados that we once had.

It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I’d probably be through with burritos. I’d never recover. I’m nearly thirty, and I know that losing touch with the flavors of youth is a simple fact of growing older.

I recall walking away with my burrito, as the truck’s ignition roared to life behind me, and they prepared to drive away. I walk a block further, slowly eating the burrito, and turn: the truck has already turned a corner as I am nearly halfway finished with my snack, the taste of sour cream and grilled onion lingering on my palate.

The Proclamation

Last week’s submission for my fiction class. Enjoy.

As the time for him to walk onto the stage drew nearer, Philip’s deep sense of pride at having been chosen to read his essay at the town celebration became all the more completely eclipsed by his intense nervousness. This year was a big celebration—one hundred fortieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation—so everyone was talking about how the crowd would be the biggest one until, of course, the big one-five-oh. Among all the seventh graders in Hardin County, Kentucky—proud birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, only Philip had been ballsy enough to write an essay about the vast differences between what it meant to be a Republican in Lincoln’s time and what it means now.

Of course, he knew better than to submit that essay. The essay contest was judged by several prominent Republicans, so he submitted instead an essay about how proud Hardin County should be of having such an integral connection to the only United States President yet to have had a patent in his name. In the “ringer” essay, as Philip liked to call it, he wrote extensively about how shameful it was that the commercial boating industry of Lincoln’s time had failed to pick up on his ingenious ballast tanks, which would have worked wonders to help buoy ships over shoals. The essay judges fell for his trick, and now he was set to read his real essay in front of this large crowd.

As he waited in his seat, next to the podium on the rickety stage in the hot Autumn sun, Philip felt a drop of sweat dribble slowly from his knee down the side of his calf. He knew he shouldn’t have worn his favorite black corduroy pants. Would the man at the podium—an ass of a man with an ugly bowtie and a bushy moustache—ever just shut up and introduce him already? At least the white button-up shirt he’d worn wasn’t soaking up as much heat as his pants. He wondered if these Republicans knew his father was a die-hard Democrat; it would explain why they hadn’t given him a bottle of water, or anything at all to help with his parched throat. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Finally, the bow-tied brustache man introduced Philip to the crowd and initiated a round of applause. Philip stood up slowly, clutching his essay tightly in his sweaty left hand while the brustache man overzealously shook the right one. He stepped up onto the small box they had provided for him behind the podium, set his papers down, and looked out at the crowd. Now standing, he could clearly make out the scent of funnel cakes and corn dogs, and he felt a drop of sweat form on his temple and roll slowly down his cheek.

“Republicans,” he said, not yet looking down at his paper. He had memorized the entire first paragraph. “Republicans are not today,” he said. He stared out at the crowd of people who had come to celebrate Lincoln’s birthplace, and he didn’t see a single person who wasn’t white. The edges of his field of vision, too, began to go white, and he felt the box below slip out from beneath him as he collapsed behind the podium.

My Onion Wanna-be Piece

Every week we’re supposed to write a short (250-500 words) piece of fiction, based on a list of experiment ideas. Last week I submitted this, based on the experiment “Chronicle,” which suggests trying mimic the style of writing used in newspaper articles. Naturally, I gravitated toward an “Onion” style piece. I will try posting my other experiments here, as well, in the weeks to come. Enjoy!

Area Man’s Attempt to Use The Secret to Remove Ants from His Bathroom Horrible Failure

Fresno (AP) – Local twenty-something Jack Jackson recently sought to employ techniques learned from reading the back cover of a recently popular self-help/spirituality book entitled The Secret, which suggests that readers can effect profound change in their lives through focused positive thinking.

Jackson rents a single room in a condo located in the Fresno Townhouse Association of central Fresno. “I also have my own bathroom,” he stated in an interview, “and I can use the washer and dryer any time I want.”

Jackson claims that he has noticed ants in both his bedroom and bathroom before, and even occasionally an ant or two in the shared kitchen space. They have never really bothered him.

“They’ve never really bothered me. I just let them be, same as spiders,” Jackson mentioned, seeming overly proud of himself. “Sure, there have been times when I left a cereal bowl in my bedroom, and that’s my bad. But after the recent wet spell, the ants in my bathroom were out of control.”

Saundra Meyers, the woman who rents the bedroom to Jackson, verifies that he has, in fact, left food in his room. “He’s just like a teenager. Pizza boxes sit in his room for days, and you can see the trail of ants carrying away crumbs, but he doesn’t do anything about it.”

After scanning the back cover and first few pages of popular New Age spirituality book The Secret while waiting in line at Target one evening, Jackson began to think that maybe his best bet would be to use the “law of attraction” to “manifest” a bathroom free of ants.

“I don’t know if the mouthwash attracts them or what. I always put the lid back on tightly, but it doesn’t seem to matter, and I always feel bad when I smoosh [sic] the ants. So I tried envisioning a bathroom without ants, and really believing that it would become a reality.”

After three days of positive thinking, Jackson’s attempts to use The Secret failed. He then borrowed a can of Raid from Meyers, who gave him a vaguely disapproving “I-told-you-so” look.

Get Ready to Start Calling Me ‘Master C’

I may have grown up listening to David Alan Coe, but that don’t mean I can’t get myself edumacated.

I had a little case of the Mondays going on today, but then I came home to find a letter in the mail from CSUN informing me that my thesis proposal has been accepted. Yay! Now I get to really get to work! I’m stoked, though, because it means I’ll finally finish Never Enough, the piece I started ten years ago as a freshman at Bradley University. But I am applying for the Teaching Associate Program, which would give me some valuable hands-on experience in the freshman composition classroom. If I’m accepted to that, it will push my graduation back by a semester. As I told my sister, though, that means I’ll either graduate in the Spring 2010 semester, during the same month I’ll be having a wedding ceremony back home, or I’ll graduate in the Fall 2010 semester, during the same month that I’ll turn 30 years old. So either way it’s going to be a busy year!

Speaking of wedding, I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I simply can’t keep eating the way I did three years ago and expect not to put on weight. I’ve tried going to the gym with varying levels of success, but my gym membership expires this month and I’m not comfortable forking over another year’s worth of membership fees to continue seeing limited success.

I wasn’t really thinking about this, though, when I accidentally stumbled onto this Lance Armstrong website the other day. After playing around with it, and discovering that it claims I can lose 2 lbs a week by keeping my calorie intake at 1674 or less each day, I decided that I might as well give it a try. I’ve noticed in the first 48 hours of using it that simply having an awareness of how much I’m consuming is enough to make me reconsider certain choices. And best of all, it’s free. So maybe by the time I meet Yuka in the aisle, I will have shed a few of these extra pounds I’ve gained since I’ve been working a desk job. No promises, though ;-)

That’s it, for now. I need to get started on this thesis!

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Freedom

I celebrated the Fourth of July this year by watching three David Lynch films back to back. We started with my favorite, Blue Velvet, followed by Wild at Heart, and finally Lost Highway. It was my first time seeing Wild at Heart, and I have to agree with some random comment I spotted on the Internet somewhere, that True Romance seems much less original and impressive after seeing Wild at Heart. Which isn’t necessarily to say that I prefer Wild at Heart… I think I’d have to see both again to make that call. Who knows, maybe it’s apples and oranges? Wait, Lynch and Tarantino? I guess that would have to be fruits and nuts.

Anyway, I spent some of my other free time this weekend tinkering around with this site, installing the latest version of the wordpress theme I’m using, and tweaking various settings and features. Feel free to offer your thoughts on the appearance in the comments section, but keep in mind that I will promptly disregard them.

I also signed up for classes for the fall semester, and can’t stop thinking how crazy it seems that in just two more semesters I might finish a Master’s degree. Probably the most exciting part about it all is that I’ve recently had some inspiration about where the story in my novel is going. I’m still not sure how feasible it will be to work on my novel as my Master’s thesis, but I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it. It’s just nice to think I may have some direction for it again. Now I simply need to get working on it…

Becoming a Blogger

Coming of age in the late nineties and early twenty-first century, blogs have played an increasingly important role in my development as a writer and my experiences as a student of writing. A couple of significant changes in the American cultural landscape in the second half of the twentieth century were in the process of influencing English departments across the nation as I was growing up. One of those changes took place in the form of rapid and widespread popularity of television, and eventually video games, as preferred pastimes in American households. The concept of reading for pleasure, especially in the latter portion of the century, seemed more foreign with each passing year, particularly among the nation’s youth. The other important change came by way of the proliferation of creative writing programs in universities and colleges around the country. In the first half of the century, many published authors held worked during the day as journalists and completed their works of fiction or poetry in their evenings off. By the end of the century, when I was preparing to begin my college education, writing programs existed in academic institutions all around the country. So while the literacy of the rest of the country was in decline, English departments dealt with the internal struggles about the roles and functions of creative writing programs and where they fit in the department as a whole.

Around the same time that I began to discover my desire to write, however, another cultural change was in the works. The Internet was beginning to take off as an important communication tool that would revolutionize media around the world as this SEO Agency had confirmed already. As I found my way into an English program in a small, private Midwestern university to begin my trials and tribulations as an aspiring writer, developments were set in motion on the Internet that would eventually provide me, along with many other tech-savvy writers of all stripes, with new types of opportunities to find places in the world for our writing.

How the Internet Begat the Blogosphere

In the last year or two, traditional media outlets have begun to catch on to the fact that the blogosphere has a surprising level of influence in American political discourse. Some people argue that blogs have made it easier for average citizens to engage in the public dialogue, and is therefore a more democratic forum than traditional media outlets, most of which are now owned by large corporate interests. Others have argued that opening up the national dialogue to anyone with an Internet connection allows people to make claims and put forth arguments without the same set of journalistic standards or accountability that are meant to preserve the integrity of traditional media. But of greater concern from a literary standpoint are the effects that electronic media and the blogosphere could have on literary culture. In order to get a better perspective on that, it might be helpful to have an understanding of how blogging developed as a medium.

Some of the earliest bloggers, though not necessarily known as such at the time, began to create online journals in the early- to mid-nineties to publish thoughts for anyone with a dial-up connection to see. These students posted about a variety of topics, usually including day-to-day life events along with ideas and discussions about computers and the nonstop growth and development of Internet technologies. In the mid- to late-nineties, there were websites online that served solely to allow users with little or no technical expertise to create websites of their own. By the early 2000s, other websites had emerged that allowed users to create updateable online journals. The subject matter, maturity level, and regularity of new posts on these journals varied widely. While many of these journals were maintained by web developers and political enthusiasts, a rising contingent of teenage girls were writing posts about their crushes on boys (or other girls) and the teachers they hated most. The term ‘blog’ was eventually coined as short for ‘web log’. As greater numbers of bloggers posted with more regularity, and more new bloggers started posting, the popularity of blogs began to infiltrate the general public. As of September 2007, the blog search engine Technorati tracked more than 112 million blogs (wpengine review/about).

On the political landscape, the blogosphere poses a strong direct challenge to traditional media formats. Politically-minded bloggers examine, compare, and critique every aspect of the stories that appear in traditional media, including tone, delivery, assumptions, facts, sources, newsworthiness, and so on. The egalitarian nature of the blogosphere allows most bloggers to remain independent and relatively anonymous, which often affords them the freedom to be quite brutal in their assessments of people in the news and of the traditional media outlets that cover the stories. Opening up the national political dialogue to anyone around the country with an Internet connection is a wonderful way to revitalize the notion that everyone should have an equal voice on matters that affects us all. Yet while anyone can set up a blog and start posting, the sheer number of blogs in existence today makes it unlikely that any writer will gain much notoriety without a certain level of skill as a political pundit. The necessary skills could perhaps vary by taste, so that a writer might be able to gain readers due to their ability to analyze news insightfully, or with certain levels of humor or vitriol. Readers could potentially even gain popularity by simply writing about sensational topics such as sex scandals, as one Washington, D.C. staffer did. Whatever a writer’s draw might be, the simple fact remains that anyone can blog, but not every blog will attract readers.

That same principle holds true when it comes to blogs outside of the political realm, and particularly when it comes to literary writing. The increasing ease with which many writers can publish their work for the world to see has had a tremendous effect on politics in the United States in recent years, but it also shows promise for affecting literary culture. It is never easy to accurately predict what might be on the horizon for technology or literature. However, the widespread popularity of blogs, along with social networking sites such as Myspace.com and Facebook.com, as well as video sharing sites such as Youtube, it seems clear that mixed media will continue to become increasingly diverse and accessible, and therefore continue to grow in popularity. These sites and features are not nearly popular enough to draw the youth in the United States completely away from MTV and video games, but instead they are supplementing those forms of entertainment and providing new opportunities for young people to demonstrate creativity and self-expression. While Myspace profiles and instant messaging accounts are not likely to launch every student, or even many students, into careers as bestselling authors, the popularity of blogs is a refreshing sign that hope remains for literacy in America. And for those of us who are interested in writing, blogs can provide a place to experiment with narrative craft outside of an academic system that can, at times, be somewhat stifling.

My Education and My Growth as a Writer

One of the more pervasive bits of lore about creative writing, that it cannot be taught, was impressed upon me early by the classrooms of my childhood. The idea was never stated explicitly, but rather brought to life by the sheer rarity of efforts to teach us to write, especially as a means of artistic expression. In all of the years of my education up to high school, the only memorable experiences I had with writing instruction took place in the fifth grade. My teacher, Mr. Scott, assigned two writing projects that year: the first a report on one of the fifty states, the second a short story. We were given very little direction or guidance for these projects. The state report was ayear-long project for which we were instructed to aim for fifty pages of material, and the short story assignment was spread out over the course of a week or two, during which we were expected to produce two to three pages of fiction. While the lack of direction left me with no idea of how to approach the state report, I dove in to the fiction assignment eagerly and ended up with a five page story that I hoped would eventually become a series of book for teenagers. I turned in thirty-five pages of heavily plagiarized material for the state report, which Mr. Scott sternly informed me was “not an A paper.” Both he and my classmates, though, enjoyed the short story I’d written.

I learned a few lessons from those first experiences with writing. To begin with, I had been officially indoctrinated with the belief that writing is a solitary activity that cannot be taught or imparted. The thirty-five pages of information I gathered about Montana was a testament to my lacking creativity and originality. My failure to do anything more with the five-page science fiction story after submitting it to class, in spite of all of my daydreams about the many possible directions I could take it, was further evidence that even if I could be creative, I was too lazy to follow through on inspiration. Other than using a primitive word processing program on my family’s first PC to write sporadic journal entries, I took an extended hiatus from writing.

My next experience with writing came when I finally reached high school. My freshman English teacher was a recent college graduate who played in a punk rock band. He had us free-write in a journal every week and encouraged us to be inventive and playful. We read interesting fiction that wasn’t as old as most of what we’d read in other literature classes up to that point. We were encouraged to consider not just the ideas in the work, but also how those ideas were presented. We were encouraged to experiment and look for ways to create pieces of our own that attempted to do what we thought the original works were doing. After reading dystopian novels such as Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and Brave New World, I wrote a two-page short story about a future in which humans all live in pods that are buried in the ground whose only interactions take place via the Internet. They decide to break out. I immensely enjoyed the writing experience and idolized the teacher. That was the first time that I thought that maybe I, too, would like to be a teacher. At the time, I was preparing to leave for a math and science academy, so I thought I would probably end up teaching math.

My experiences at the math and science academy quickly eliminated my interests in math and science. I continued to read dystopian literature and became very interested in changing the world. I found some of my greatest pleasures in writing extensive notes, emails, and letters to a girl I wanted to date. Manipulating language to develop ideas, construct arguments, and imagine possibilities became something of an addiction for me, particularly when I articulated thoughts on society and philosophy. At one point, I began a set of memoirs in which I hoped to justify my reasons for constantly skipping classes, but I didn’t manage to finish them before being asked to leave the academy. I returned to my home high school and began to use the Internet as a place to share my writing with others. The greatest excitement came when others read and commented on my work, providing me with the necessary stimulation to continue moving forward. I enjoyed the challenge of working with ideas and language that I though, for the first time, that maybe I wanted to be a writer.

I approached my college career much the way I had the fifty-page state report: with little guidance and without asking for help. I had no reason to know that creative writing programs existed at the college level, and I believed that anyone who wanted to write had to major in English. As far as I could tell, English majors who didn’t teach high school all went on to earn a master’s or PhD, in order to teach at the college level. It seemed quite reasonable that if a writer couldn’t simply write and get published with little effort, that writer would have to live and work as either a teacher or a journalist while waiting to be discovered. I spent my first two years as an undergrad at an expensive private university that offered only one creative writing course, and I was surprised to learn that they offered that one. I paid thousands for courses that would’ve cost hundreds at a community college, and I decided by the time I finished my second year that I had no interest at all in teaching high school.

During my freshman year at that university, I started work on a piece of fiction that I didn’t know how to handle. I meant for it to be the beginning of a short story, but I had neither anyone to consult with questions about narrative craft, nor did I have any idea what questions I should ask if I did. A close friend was studying creative writing at a university near my hometown, and his enthusiasm for the program was enough to convince me to transfer. The writing program there was still in its early stages of becoming a distinct entity within the English department. I wasn’t very clear on what the distinctions were in the writing program, so I chose the “professional” writing option over the “creative” writing, because the former sounded like code for “the option for those who would like to have a career.” Not long into the program, I did manage to enroll in a fiction workshop. When I finished my first short story for that class, I knew without a doubt that I would have to switch to the creative writing option.

As an undergraduate creative writing student, I did not gain a strong understanding of what my education was supposed to be doing for me. I took a heavy load of courses outside of my major, and most of my credits within the creative writing major were earned taking literature courses with English professors. In my entire undergraduate career, I took barely more than a handful of creative writing workshop courses. Those workshops seemed to lack context, both in terms of my education as a whole and in terms of what it meant to study creative writing. We read and discussed published writing and student work, but spent little or no time at all discussing theory, or career goals, or what it means to be a writer. But for all the drawbacks of a writing program experiencing growing pains and creative writing workshops that perpetuate a certain level of creative writing lore, writing and discussing my work with others provided me with the push I needed to get involved in writing. Unfortunately, since graduation, I have found that I struggle to write fiction without a workshop deadline to meet.

What Blogging Has Taught Me about Writing

Around the same time that I transferred into a creative writing program, I created a new website in order to post some of my essays. These were pieces that I had posted online in the past with “build-your-own” websites, but this time I went so far as to go through the process of getting domain name ideas, buying my own domain name and designing a page from scratch with help from the same friend who’d convinced me to study creative writing. In addition to each of us having sites of our own, we also created a collaborative site to post our poetry and fiction. We tinkered with our websites as a hobby in our free time, until one day when he emailed me to say that we had to do this new thing called “blogging.” He created small inline frames for each of our sites to serve as a place to inform our viewers of changes, additions, and updates. I started slowly on my personal blog, simply writing to let people know if and when I posted a new story or essay, or to share some bit of personal news. But on more than one occasion, I found myself sitting down to write a brief post about some trivial matter and then getting caught up in the narrative, until the blog entry ended up much longer and more entertaining than I could have anticipated.I was beginning to learn that “every occasion for writing is an occasion for writing.”

By the time I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, my blog had grown to be the primary feature on my website. The site also features more than forty essays (of varying lengths and quality) on numerous topics, more than twenty poems, and over a dozen short stories. The main attraction to my site, according to the website statistics tracking, is the blog on the front page. The blog is also where I often turn to share bits of writing for the general public that I wouldn’t otherwise be likely to write about in an essay or piece of fiction. And while I do not treat my blog as a personal diary, however, as I have found over time that there is a certain personal style of writing that lends itself to the medium. In Keywords in Creative Writing, Bishop and Starkey mention that creative nonfiction is rapidly becoming the new chic genre. As a blogger and a student of writing, I find that I often turn to my blog to write simply for the sake of writing. As long as blogs continue to allow that freedom, and as long as writing studies departments continue to struggle through their growing pains, blogs show a great potential to develop as an important new genre in English literacy.

Looking for the Resurrection

I’m actually working on some writing today. God, how I miss it. I wish I would do a better job of managing my free time. And my money, for that matter. I rarely take advantage of the fact that it costs nothing to sit at home and write.

Anyway. The trip to Nicaragua was fantastic, if I haven’t said so already. The visit at home reminded me of the saying: fail to plan—plan to fail. I didn’t plan out my visit, so I didn’t get enough time with some folks and didn’t fully enjoy my time with others (because there wasn’t enough or because I was stressed about trying to fit others in). And I know there are a few that I didn’t even manage to see at all :( mea culpa! I will plan better in the future!

My aunt, uncle, and cousin visited yesterday. We ate at Pink’s famous hot dog stand, and then spent the rest of our time together trying to find the Griffith Observatory. It was closed by the time we arrived. Then it was getting late and they had to head back down to San Diego, so I drove them past my workplace on our way back to my place. It was a nice time, but I promised I would try to be a better tour guide in the future. We’ll see!

I also went with my friend for another Zen meditation with Brad Warner in Santa Monica. It was another fine experience, and I’ll definitely keep going back!