Entries in Dancing with myself (32)

Thursday
Dec312009

2009 Favorites

In case you are interested, here is my Best of 2006 list, here is my Best of 2007 list, and here is my Best of 2008 list.

We had dinner with our friend Trevor a few days ago.  As we got caught up with one another, he mentioned that he was currently at work on his soon-to-be-released "Best of the Decade" list.  This Bear of Very Little Brain is not so ambitious.  It's all I can do to record and recall what I've read, seen, and otherwise experienced in the past twelve months.  I'll leave the decade retrospectives to smarter people (like John Scalzi and Trevor).  Following is what I thought was most memorable about 2009.

Best Books (Read or Re-Read):

1. M. Catherine Thomas, Selected Writings
2. Allegra Goodman, Kaaterskill Falls
3. Ysabeau Wilce, Flora Segunda
4. Larry Brooks, Story Structure Demystified
5. Janet Soskice, The Sisters of Sinai
6. Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses
7. Tahmaseb/Vance, The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading
8. Herve This, Molecular Gastronomy
9. Kathryn Stockett, The Help
10. Neal Stephenson, Anathem

Worst Book of the Year: Nick McDonnell's An Expensive Education

Best Eating Experiences:

1. L'Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay
2. Chez Papa
3. Cafe Angelina
4. Every other meal we ate in France
5. JoJo
6. Shake Shack
7. Dovetail
8. London gastropub, the name of which escapes me
9. eighty-one
10. Ouest

Top Movies Seen (I haven't seen very many):

Up
Food, Inc.
Star Trek
Where the Wild Things Are
Sherlock Holmes
Julie & Julia

Worst Movie of the Year: Year One (Please, oh please may I have that 97 minutes back?)

Top Music Downloads:

1. The Avett Brothers, "I and Love and You"
2. Great Big Sea, "When I'm Up"
3. Eddie Vedder, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"
4. Sting, "The Snow It Melts the Soonest"
5. Straight No Chaser, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

Greatest Personal Accomplishments:

1. Planning, catering, and cheerleading our family's three-week trip to France
2. Helping friends in need
3. Breaking down a few genealogical brick walls on some of my family's lines
4. Not literally bursting with pride while watching my sons perform
5. Giving two successful lecture series on Family History and Temple Work
6. Producing some rocking-fun Sharing Times in Primary
7. Getting my short stories "Fugue" and "Truck Stop" published
8. Perservering in the novel submission process
9. Getting on the Clapotis bandwagon with great results
10. Making a successful Pandoro from scratch

It was a quiet but lovely year.  I feel like I'm slowly but surely achieving better balance in the various aspects of my life.  I have big plans for 2010, mostly having to do with more structure and consistency in my daily routines.  Here's to the year ahead!

Wednesday
Oct212009

To the Fifth Power

Compound of Five Tetrahedra, courtesy Robert C. Webb/Wikipedia*

I'm feeling meme-ish today.  No one has tagged me for one in ages (maybe they aren't in vogue anymore), so I'll make up my own.  How about five categories with five entries each?  I like it.

Five North American Cities in Which I'd Seriously Consider Living:

  1. Montreal, Quebec
  2. St. Louis, Missouri
  3. Austin, Texas
  4. Cleveland, Ohio
  5. Portland, Oregon

Five Songs to Which I Know All the Words:

  1. Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy"
  2. "Watchful's Song" from the opera Pilgrim's Progress
  3. "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies
  4. Rush's "Red Barchetta"
  5. "September" by Earth, Wind, and Fire

Five Foods I'd Hope to Have in Unlimited Quantities on a Desert Island:

  1. Bread
  2. Butter
  3. Eggs
  4. Apples
  5. Chocolate

Five Chores I Should Be Doing Right Now Instead of Blogging:

  1. Purging my yarn stash
  2. Cleaning out the raised beds in my vegetable garden
  3. Sorting through the homeschooling cupboard
  4. Sewing a button on my green jacket
  5. Taking inventory of our coat/boot/glove situation

Five Childhood Friends I'd Love to See Again:

  1. Wendy Hegseth
  2. Brad O'Dell
  3. Bobby Cecchini
  4. Julie Rich
  5. Peter Engelhard

Now, for the all important tagging.  I'll formally tag five of you, but if you want to play, consider yourself tagged whether I mention your name or not.  Feel free to adapt or change the categories to your liking.  Charrette, LT Eliot, Goofball, Jenna, and Lee Ann: will you play?

*I know: that's an image of five fours, but just go with it.

Monday
Jan052009

The Thing with Feathers


I was looking for a quote on resolutions to kick off this post, but I got distracted by re-reading and snickering over my favorite 'demotivating' posters at the ever-fabulous Despair, Inc. Here I am again, and now I can't take any of the absolutely lovely sayings of Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, and the like seriously any more today. Go visit Despair, and you'll see what I mean.

Though I love a good bit of snark, I'm not a cynic, especially not when it comes to goals and dreams. I have a couple of resolutions that I'm keeping to myself for the moment, but I have some writing plans that I wanted to share. Here are a few of my goals for 2009:

1) Read 100 books.

I usually read close to 80 (and I do keep lists), but last year's unique circumstances only allowed me to get through about 40. Life's too short for numbers that low; assuming I live another 50 years, if I only average 40 books per year for the rest of my life, I will have only read another 2,000 books.

Depressing: I'm sure I could go on Amazon and find close to that 2,000 that look appealing right this very minute, and that doesn't take into account all of the treasures to be published in years to come. I like the number 5,000 much, much better. We'll see how it goes.

I believe very strongly that a writer must read as much as possible. The more you read, the better you'll write. Patrick, when reading this, will want to interject something here. Be patient, honey; "wait for it" (sorry--inside joke).

2) Sell a novel. I really don't mind which one.

On this very day one year ago, I mailed out ten query packages to agents and publishing houses. Over the next several months, I received eight rejections and had two non-responses; I still expect to hear from one of those, since the slush pile at that house is roughly 12 months deep, but the other I have written off completely. Flaky agent.

Then Anne came along, and I decided to concentrate on short stories for a while. I have enjoyed developing a new side of my talent; more on that farther down the post. But now I feel ready to get my books out to people again. The fact that David Farland/Wolverton has accepted me into his novel-writing workshop--to be held this April--has refueled my long-form-writing fires. I can't wait to go!

3) Have 5 short stories published.

I've already submitted two to new venues in the past couple of days. Both have been rejected elsewhere, but I have confidence in them and am sure that both will eventually find homes. More of their siblings will follow suit. I'm using Patrick's parking philosophy as I market them.

When I park my car, I generally look towards the emptier end of the lot or street, but Patrick gets as close to the door of his destination as possible, then circles outward. Though his approach runs counter to my instincts, it does tend to get results. So instead of starting at the bottom of the the short story food chain, I'm starting at the top.

For my short stories, I have a list of the SFWA-approved markets. To qualify for membership in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), one must either publish a novel with a company on their approved list, or publish three short stories with periodicals on a similarly exclusive list. It's a short list, my friends, made up of the top-tier magazines in my chosen field. I've started there and am now circling outward. I covet SFWA membership and am doing all I can to get it.

4) Keep Tuesday nights and Fridays as sacred as possible.

I can usually sneak an hour or so of writing in any given day, but larger chunks of time for writing are as rare as hen's teeth given my current situation in life. I do have Tuesday nights and Fridays from 9:30 to 3:30, though. It's not much time, but I am very grateful to have it.

I will resist the temptation to do other things on Tuesday nights and Fridays, fun things like visiting with friends or watching movies. Instead, I will write. Why? Because a writer writes. If you're thinking about writing or talking about writing or doing something else that isn't writing, you're not a writer.

Do you have any goals for 2009? If so, I'd love to know that I'm not the only one; let me know, and we'll keep each other accountable.

Oh, and just in case you didn't recognize this post's title, here's one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Friday
Jan022009

2008: The Year in Review

For my 'Best of 2006' list, click here.
For my 'Best of 2007' list, click here.

Life just keeps getting better, though this year was more about quality than quantity. I didn't read nearly as many books, see as many movies, or eat at as many fabulous restaurants in 2008 as I did in previous years. I bought very little new music and saw almost no live theater. I didn't leave the the East Coast--let alone the country--except for two funerals. Despite all that, I count last year as the richest and fullest of my life.

Top Five Eating Experiences
1) Thomas Henkelman, Greenwich, CT
2) Petrossian, New York, NY
3) Grifone, New York, NY
4) Ocean House, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
5) Café Gray, New York, NY

Top Five Movies Seen
1) Wall*E
2) Quantum of Solace
3) Iron Man
4) The Dark Knight
5) Kung Fu Panda

Top Ten Books Read
1) The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
2) Ex Libris, by Anne Fadiman
3) The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett
4) Stranger Things Happen, by Kelly Link
5) Duma Key, by Stephen King
6) In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan
7) Zoe's Tale, by John Scalzi
8) Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
9) Making Money, by Terry Pratchett
10) Last Year's Apocalypse, by Douglas Lain

Top Five Aesthetic Inspirations
1) diana:muse
2) amybutlerdesign.com
3) whatever.com
4) wondermark.com
5) madelinetosh.com

Best Birthday Present
Barack Obama being elected the 44th President of the United States

Greatest Accomplishments

1) Producing the utterly delicious Anne Catherine Perkins, born 13 May
2) Reading through The Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price by June 30th.
3) Running yet another rewarding (if streamlined) edition of Perkins Summer School
4) Successfully completing a two-year service mission leading the local women's group of my church's 12-step Addiction Recovery Program
5) Writing my cookbook Comfortably Yum, available in mere days(!) through Lulu.com
6) Querying agents and publishing houses regarding two of my novels
7) Surviving rejection and/or non-response from all parties queried
8) Writing my first-since-high-school short stories and submitting them for publication
9) Having my short story "Dodmen and the Holophusikon" produced as a podcast
10) Outdoing Patrick for the first time ever in our Christmas gift exchange
11) Putting up three fantastic batches of jam: pear, red raspberry, and peach-white raspberry
12) Creating my online Advent Calendar

Thanks to all my readers: both family and friends, lurkers and commenters. You were one of the main reasons 2008 was so fantastic. Happy New Year! Let's make sure 2009 continues the upward trend.

Monday
Nov242008

My Very Own Fake-ronyms

If you've hung around Planet Blog for very long, you've doubtless encountered folks discussing NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo, which stand for National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month respectively. The first requires that the participant write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November, while the second requires that one post to one's blog every day in the month of November. Both are rewarded with special blog badges, a sense of accomplishment, and the approbation of peers from around the globe.

I 'did' NaBloPoMo in 2007 and had a blast, but it was exhausting trying to post every single dang day, especially since November is by far my busiest month of the year. I tried to do NaNoWriMo at the same time, but failed pretty spectacularly early on. No matter; I have my own schedule, and I'm cool with that. I think I may do my own version of NaNo in February or March, since those months are relatively uneventful at the Perkins Corral, and I haven't written 50,000 words in one month in a very long time.

I have a few close friends who are having huge success with NaNo this year, and I couldn't be more thrilled for them. To go from aspiring writer to writer-with-a-completed-first-draft in a mere thirty days is a Herculean feat worthy of much celebration. The consistency and momentum that is built with such an event is a fitting reward for the dedication and sacrifice required.

I don't know whether there is a term for words coined by putting the first parts of each word in a title together, as with NaNo and NaBlo, so I'm dubbing them 'fake-ronyms.' This morning, while rocking Anne-the-Fussy-Teether, I thought about creating my own November events and the fake-ronyms to go with them. I could easily earn shiny badges in the following:

CleCaBaDoCo: Cleaning Cat Barf out of Down Comforters Requirements include a neurotic feline, several bed coverings marked 'Dry Clean Only,' a washing machine with a capacious and forgiving lint screen, and a sense of adventure/desperation.

GeHiRuPriShaTi: Getting Hip to Running Primary Sharing Time I've taught Primary twice and served as chorister for a year once long ago, but I have far less experience in the auxiliary than most active LDS women my age. Last week, I got called into our ward's Primary Presidency, so I am surfing Teh Web like a crazy woman, trying to get up to speed.

FaPlaCaCa: Failing at Place Card Calligraphy Yes, we're hosting Thanksgiving again this year. With 20 eaters, the tables will be full and the fun will be plentiful. Every year I aspire to elegant table settings, and every year I settle instead for large quantities of tasty food. Will this be the year my spread looks like Martha's? Doubtful, but one can dream.

SleeDeTeeTo: Sleep Deprivation with Teething Toddlers and EnTaPre: Enduring Tattling Pre-Schoolers Ahh, the fantastic tag team my two youngest children are. Anne stopped sleeping through the night back around my birthday, and every night since then has been a bit dicey. My nights go like this: two or three solid hours of sleep, followed by four or five hours on the couch or in the rocking chair with a restless baby.

My days are dominated by Daniel, who is training for a future position in the CIA by spying on his siblings and reporting their behavior to me in the most annoying self-righteous tones possible. Alternatively, he tattles on me to me: "Mom! The bathroom is a mess. Mom! Anne is all alone in her bouncy seat! How could you leave her? Mom!" Fortunately, KiBaTiSheGi: Kissing Baby Till She Giggles and ReSeuMiTi: Reading Seuss for the Millionth Time go a long way towards mitigating the effects of these first two.

IgGraRooGroFee: Ignoring Gray Roots and Gross Feet Is there any way I can color my hair and get a pedicure before Thursday? Must. Fit. Into. Schedule. Somehow.

NaDaChoTum: National Daily Chocolate-in-the-Tummy I win, I win!