How to tell if you are in a D. H. Lawrence novel

With more than a hat tip to Mallory Ortberg.
(from a rejected submission to the Toast, but seriously, you guys, D H Lawrence!)
(Put an exclamation point at the end of every sentence. (!))

If you are a man:

You are from a family of farmers in the Midlands, a place filled with the blind pulse of life: the blood of the cow, the cry of the dying rabbit, the sucking throat of the force-fed goose.

When you look over the fields of your patrimony, you can easily imagine them opening into furrows to accept your seed.

Your time at school filled you with despair at your own dumbness, your insensibility to the nobility of books and literature. You are mad with the same passions these books describe and envious of those who can decipher their tiny marks.

You have complete mastery of the tokens of manhood, animal strength, hardness, the easy thrust of power that receives ample welcome from the thick strong body of a full-built woman.

Your rude hot blood is mortified by the dark quick disapproving look from a refined woman.

When you ride a horse you hold surcharged, throbbing life between the grip of your knees.

As you grapple in the arms of your enemy, you wonder, inarticulately, whether you might love him. You fight on, heaving with mixed-up love and hate.

Strong drink will take away sexual desire for a time. As long as life spurts within you, sexual desire will return, along with a bad mood from the drink.

If you are a woman:

You have mixed feelings. About everything. Contempt and desire, rage and happiness, fear and delight.

You are or will become a Brangwen.

You despise poverty and grossness and the squalor of life. You will answer hotly when offended by crudeness or insensitivity, yet be derisive toward the weak and the ignorant.

You may spend your youth feeding on ecstasy, a strange kind of ecstasy that makes the earthy people of the village shrink from you.

When you ride a horse you hold surcharged, throbbing life between the grip of your knees.

Your lover may want to kill you one day for not giving yourself to him fully. Your lover may want to kill you one day for giving yourself too fully, for your self-abandonment. Either way, he will want to kill you. You will outsmart him very brutally.

The challenge of your life is that balance, so desired, so elusive, sought in the heated intercourse between body and soul. You are at a threshold with exaltation and degradation at either hand.

Exhausted, barren hysteria is a distinct possibility, if you cannot or will not find one to accept your sacrifices, to take for himself your Christ-like naked soul. Flowers may help your condition.

You will never know whether you weep for misery or for joy.

Seeing & Thinking Fuzzy — a Photo Essay

I have been a photography enthusiast since I was a teenager, and I love experimental photography. My favorites of my own are abstracts or at least distorted in some way. I haven’t ever really thought why this would be. I recently realized that my writing often has this feature–obliqueness and indirectness.

Looking at things flatly/clearly/plainly just doesn’t do it for me. I like it mysterious, hard to read, hard to interpret.

Here are some pictures I took with a Russian-made medium format camera and nice slow film. Developed myself–no particular care with the timer. Because that’s the fun in it.

kids on bikes
kids on bikes

I like the graininess here. The lines across the top might be power lines, but the ones running across the bottom are probably scratches.

And this one, looking up at the sky. It seems to have been double exposed, but I cannot discern what animal’s curvy leg spreads across the middle.

sky and a sheep
sky and maybe a sheep

Finally, a picture of an immense tree. Overexposed at top, probably when the back of the camera fell open, as it does when the duct tape isn’t pressed tight. The detail on this is very good in closeup despite the deep shadows. A November picture, if I remember correctly.

tree with ladder and plastic chair
tree with plastic stacking chair

to be continued with a photo of a pinhole camera I once made, and a photo from it.

#PitchWars Post-Game

Did you see this tweet a couple days back?


I got picked by Stephanie Scott in PitchWars!!! In preparation for not winning, I had written a short blog post about patience. I talked about the authors’ need for validation, for someone to love them–I mean, love their book. At the same time, I dimly understood that the mentors were looking for books they loved, certainly, but also books that might succeed in the market. Maybe my manuscript had elements that would keep it from succeeding. Maybe the genre wasn’t right for this year.

Winning a writing contest is a powerful boost to the writer’s immune system. A win will keep you warm and cozy for a long time, long enough to push you through your current WIP, long enough to come up with a brilliant new story idea. So if you’re just starting with querying and contests, keep at it! One really complimentary critique or even a few lines of praise erases at least a hundred rejections. I did the math.

And about Stephanie Scott, and what really makes me happy about PitchWars, is that while I was all, I hope someone likes me–I mean, my book–she was looking at pitching and marketing her submissions. I assume all the mentors were doing this. Right here you begin to see the brilliant design of Brenda Drake’s contest. Finding someone who both likes your work AND who wants to find the perfect pitch so you can sell it? It’s genius.

I am so lucky today! I hope that in a few years, I can pay it forward and be a mentor, too. Cheers to the other winners of PitchWars and for the ones practicing patience, may your next contest be the one!

#Pitchwars Bio

Ahem. I’m feeling a little left out. And someone demanding these bios is a prospective mentor, so I am hereby COMPLYING.

A Brief Bio of Me:

Category: Places I have lived.
East coast (Delaware!), West coast (California, Oregon), the Midwest (Ohio, West Virginia).

Category: Hobbies, skills.
Words. Doing things left-handed, but never a circular saw. Unicycle riding (yes, indeed, I was that weird kid) Killer sudoku. DIY art and craft. Scrabble. Film photography. Cooking cicadas–well once, since you have to wait 17 years to make the recipe again. Comic-making.

Category: Jobs I have had.
Golf pro shop clerk, gherkin packer at a Vlasic plant, telemarketer selling some bullshit scammy “product”, many miserable office positions, temping, microfilming, singing waitress (bad idea, job giver of yore) paper-pushing.
Job I have now: small business owner. Pros: you are the boss. Cons: you are the boss.

Category: Writing.
Member of: SCBWI (DE/MD/WV), WV Writers Association, one awesome RL critique group, Scribophile.
How I write: in a super-stripped-down freeware program called Rough Draft. Don’t even think about curly quotes or color-coding shit.
When: 6:00-7:30 a.m. weekdays, plus Saturdays.
What: my current manuscript & pitchwars sub is about my fifth or sixth completed novel. I started on NaNoWriMo in 2004, and man, was there a lot to learn about how to write a novel. I’m almost there.
The current MS is the second with this main character; the first book I wrote was flawed but probably funnier. I am in the early stage of another novel with Penny, aka Queasy, the existentially nauseated teen who only wants to know what’s really going on. I wrote a pretty lame query; the novel is serious and somewhat complex, running on the themes of family pathologies, loss, big mysteries, first love, how bad people can sometimes be good, and a number of other things. Plus a lot of things, both literal and figurative, are lost or disappear during the story.

Category: Music.
Music I listen to now: Alison Moorer, Gillian Welch, Devotchka, Rasputina, Wilco, The Mountain Goats, The Drive-By Truckers. I know, I can’t keep up. These kids with their new music.

Category: Reading.
Favorite books. All of them, Katie.
Book I hated. None.
Influential writers (for my writing): Raymond Carver, Grace Paley, Kurt Vonnegut, Tillie Olsen. I spent decades reading short stories. Not that it always shows.
Mysteriously compelling ones: Michael Kohlhaus (Kleist), Left Hand of Darkness (LeGuin), The Edible Woman (Atwood), Jane Eyre, Berton Roeche essays. Honestly, I’d have to write an book about what I love about these works and authors.

And that’s it. My blog goes back many years, to my mommyblog days. You can read it. I ported it from blogger a couple years back and some posts and all the pictures are lost.

2013 reading list, Continued

28. Sir Edward Orme & The Jolly Corner, James
29. A Woman’s Power, Alcott
30. In One Person, Irving
31. Girls to the Front, Marcus – NF
32. collection of James Thurber essays
33. Julia and the Bazooka, Kavan
34. Child of the Mountains, Shank – YA/MG
35. The Incurable Wound, Roueche – NF
36. In the Heart of the Sea (the Essex), Philbrick –  NF
37. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down  – NF
38. Trent’s Last Case / The Leavenworth Case, Bentley, Green (in progress)
39. Cat’s Table (in progress), Ondaatje

2013 Books, to Date

2013 Books, to Date I don’t even know where I got that list from March, but here is my official refrigerator list so far.
1. Flight Behavior, Kingsolver
2. Haunting of Hill House, Jackson
3. Ellen Foster, Gibbons
4. Maniac Megee, Spinelli
5. The Wooden Sea, Carroll
6. Feed, Anderson
7. The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake, Bender
8. The Music of Chance, Auster
9. Republic of Love, Shields
1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Mitchell cannot get into this though I loved Cloud Atlas and others
10. Gone Girl, Flynn
11. Summerland, Chabon
12. Fault Lines, Huston
13. Goodnight Nobody, Weiner
14. Independence Day, Ford
15. Gone Baby Gone, Lehane
16. How Fiction Works, Wood
17. The Doctor’s Wife, Braddon
18. The Art of Detection, King
19. How Not to Write a Novel, Mittlemark, Newman
20. Absolute Fear, Jackson
21. Grace Paley Collected Stories
22. Lady Audley’s Secret, Braddon
23. Gun Machine, Ellis
24. A Grave Talent, King
25. Bird By Bird, Lamott
26. How to Write Killer Fiction, Wheat
27. Careless in Red, George
A bit light on history & science (as in NONE) but I did read Plato and a Platypus and I’ve got Made to Stick on my reading table. Also, Reinventing Eve, Shrub, and the autobiography of Damien Echols (sp?) of the West Memphis 3. That’s four more for 31 to date. I’m not sure I’m going to make it to 50 this year either.

Rhetorical questions

About the Friends of America Rally on Labor Day.

Q. If these are the friends of America, who are its enemies?
A. Labor unions, earth scientists, and environmentalists. In other words, anyone who doesn’t love coal!

If I don’t love coal, am I an enemy of America?

Working class anti-unionists in this state need to review the history of the West Virginia mine wars.

The climate change deniers don’t realize the boat has left the docks and they’ll soon be stranded on an island by rising ocean water.

And Mr Blankenship can bitch and moan about outside agitators and tree huggers, but most of the protests of his mining operations are organized by local groups, filled with local citizens, groups like the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the WV Highlands Conservancy, and Coal River Mountain Watch. That’s because many of them know what kind of company Massey Energy is. For a taste, read this.

By contrast, the so-called Friends of Coal group is nothing but a marketing arm of the coal industry. There are no “members” — just miners wearing their free t-shirts.

So, friends, enjoy your picnic. Some Americans will celebrate other things on Labor Day besides the love of coal profits.

I’m a West Virginian, and I approved this message.