LJNDawson

Book publishing. And everything else.

Archive for the category “The Soul”

How We Talk About Ferguson

Scamp texts me from a lockdown drill that she’s going to “wallow in bed all afternoon” because her anger has exhausted her.

Nothing from Diva – probably too angry to even talk.

With Bernardo, the conversation is sort of interspersed with other things. “Chicken cutlets for dinner.” “They’re blocking the FDR.” A staccato of inter-leaved realities. All important. Some more important than others. We’re on the same page. We don’t need to make sense to anyone else.

With my therapist – I emailed him in a moment of anguish on Monday night. Tuesday morning, I got a response that basically said, “No, you don’t need to come in because of this. What you’re feeling is utterly justified and there is nothing wrong with you.” Is it a mark of privilege when you need some sort of permission or blessing to feel justifiable pain, and let it spill over onto people you love? Or is it a mark of how incredibly screwed up we are?

My project manager comes into the office with his usual greeting: “How you doin’?” “Sad.” “Don’t even get me started, yo.”

Tomorrow we’re supposed to give thanks. Today I’m sort of trying to gather up the pieces of my frame of gratitude, and impose that frame on all this. It’s a better perspective than despair, I suppose.

In the meantime, I’m trying to come up with civil rights/feminist/human rights organizations to donate to. That’s the Christmas present I want Bernardo to give me. Suggestions welcome.

All Is Safely Gathered In

If there is ever a constant to this life that rivals death and taxes, it’s that laundry will always need to be done.

Even tax-evading vampires need to do laundry.

Looking ahead, laundry is going to be the main chore through the winter. Laundry and sweeping up dog hair. Today we did the last of the fall chores. Cleaned the cars for the winter punishment. Raked the leaves and put them under the shrubs to compost. I closed the garden for the year, harvesting the last of the celosia:

Celosia harvest

And also the remaining green tomatoes, which I will pickle tomorrow:

Tomatoes

I’ve begun using my winter feel-good light in the mornings, setting the alarm a little early. One problem I have as the darkness sets in is a tendency to expect too much of myself. To use the word “should” excessively. This is tough to combat – I was raised a Calvinist, from a long line of Calvinists going back to the 1600s. During the Scottish Revolution, Petheric McCurdy and his two brothers fled the Isle of Bute (which they had basically run since the 1400s) in a rowboat, landing in Northern Ireland. (The tartan I wear at St. Patrick’s Day events is the green version of the Stuart plaid, because the McCurdy’s are part of the Stuart clan – nobody knows the difference anymore, and I get a secret ironic giggle. That said, Petheric and his brothers would fairly well strangle me if they knew I’d converted to Catholicism.)

All of which is to say – if you are of a mind to expect more of yourself than you can reasonably fulfill, winter can be a hard time. Like so many, I dread the darkness. But somehow, as a civilization, we manage to get through it year after year after millennia after year. So the darkness comes – because it must – but it seems we’ve discovered that we don’t have to succumb to it. We can find our pleasures in the ordinary things.

Celosia_vase

Stop Hitting Yourself!

Ta-Nehisi Coates has been killing it over at The Atlantic. It’s a public debate with New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, but Chait’s voice is receding in the face of the truths that Coates is telling.

I won’t summarize, because the pieces should  be read in full. Coates is a beautiful and powerful writer. I am left with an image of the wealthy white libertarian, boot planted firmly on the neck of the poverty-stricken black fast food worker or Walmart stocker, yelling that his misery is his own damn fault and to get up off the ground and make something of himself. And not moving from that position (or silencing the yelling) for approximately 500 years.

It saddens me that a movie like 12 Years a Slave had to come out of England – because in the US we cannot bring ourselves to talk about it. It saddens me that there are still statues to people like John C. Calhoun, the father of “You’re not the boss of me” politics that masquerade not just racism but the lie of white supremacy. It saddens me that after centuries of slavery, killing, redlining, homelessness, and mass incarceration, that anyone is equivocating on the rear view perspective that this country was founded on the vision of white supremacy.

It was not a question of “oh, black people and their civil rights just didn’t occur to anyone at the time.” Each and every step of this brutality has been intentional. Perhaps not planned, but definitely intentional.

It’s not a coincidence.

 

ETA: This piece, by Tressie McMillan Cottom, is a pretty great analysis of what’s going on.

We’re Up At Amazon!

The Place Where I Come From is available from the Kindle Store at Amazon – and each of the stories in the cycle is available separately as well! So plenty of Delaware to immerse oneself in. Probably more than any sane person would want.

I’ve also set up an author page on Amazon.

This has been a tedious process – Guy Kawasaki is right when he states that using Word is the way to go. It proofs and spellchecks, to a degree – I’d missed a lot of typos due to scanning. I pasted the cleaned-up stories into Pressbooks, and then exported mobi and epub files.

Now on to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple. It’s hard work, and boring, but ultimately rewarding. I think. Meanwhile, here’s a taste from the first story in the cycle:

 

We drove through New Jersey, through Philadelphia and Wilmington. The land got flatter and flatter, more and more sandy. As we headed south on Route 13, the houses and shopping malls gave way to fields of soybeans and corn. We were almost out of Delaware when the fan belt broke.

“You had to make this trip,”  Stephen said, as we pulled into a gas station near a sign that said, “Milton: If you lived here, you’d be home now.”

“It’s an old car,” I said. “We’re lucky it didn’t break down completely.”

“Then at least we could’ve gone home.”

“You can still go,” I told him. I went over to the gas station attendant.

“Is there a hotel here?” I said.

He pointed to a sandy lot across the highway, behind which was a very unimpressive weatherbeaten one-story building with a dingy sign next to it: “Milton’s Sunrise Hotel.”

I picked up my bag and started over. A few steps behind me, Stephen was snarling to himself. When we checked in, I took a shower and put on a dress. “I’m going to get something to eat,” I said. “You coming?”

He shook his head. I shrugged, slammed the door as I went out.

I walked downtown, past three churches and a factory, to a place called the Red Rail Lounge. The parking lot was filled with pickup trucks, and inside the restaurant were men in tee-shirts and dirty jeans, most of whom leered at me when I came in. I frowned back at them and got myself a burger and a Bud. A couple of guys tried to get me to dance, but they were greasy and sweaty, soaking through their tee-shirts, and most of them hadn’t shaved in about three weeks. I left before anything terrible could happen, and it was only ten o’clock whenI got back to the motel. I took another shower and got in my bed.

I’m Publishing A Book And I’m Terrified

After decades of giving advice to both publishers and authors, I’m eating the dog food. My book, “The Place Where I Come From,” will be released shortly. Here’s its description:

‘We drove through New Jersey, through Philadelphia and Wilmington. The land got flatter and flatter, more and more sandy. As we headed south on Route 13, the houses and shopping malls gave way to fields of soybeans and corn. We were almost out of Delaware when the fan belt broke.’

Milton, Delaware – a town at the Southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula – is very flat, very sandy, and very small. “The Place Where I Come From” portrays the lives of small-town inhabitants just before the Internet became prevalent, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Influenced by Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg Ohio“, “The Place Where I Come From” is a precise depiction of a particular place in a particular time – when isolation and stillness haunted the lives of a small, rural town.

I wrote it many years ago, originally, as my college honors thesis. I added stories to it in the years after I graduated. And it’s just been sitting around – part of it in the Mount Holyoke College archives, the rest in various literary magazines.

To answer the obvious questions:

1. Yes, it has an ISBN for the epub version.

2. I am not publishing it in paper form quite yet – just digitally.

3. I used Pressbooks.

4. I received my thesis back as an image PDF from the college archives; I enrolled in a trial for Adobe Acrobat and OCR’d the file, and then edited it. I scanned the additional stories myself, OCR’d the files, and edited those. No part of this book has ever seen a Word document – that was not on purpose, but only because Word was never necessary.

5. Cover design by Vook, except for the Amazon version, where I used their cover generator.

6. I’m doing KDP, Nook Press, iBookstore, iTunes, and Kobo. I enrolled today and am working out the kinks on the vendor side.

7. None of this was hard, but that’s only because I understand the book industry from the inside out and knew exactly how to make a book.

8. If you are from Delmarva, or associated with it in any way, you might like this book. If you like Shirley Jackson, Alice Munro, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Sherwood Anderson, Stephen King, or William Carlos Williams, you might like this book (only because those are the book’s influences, not because this compares to ANYTHING they’ve ever done). If you are a teenager or college student, you might like this book.

9. Yes, I am experimenting with metadata. WE SHALL SEE.

 

UPDATE – the Kindle version has gone live here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E3EO8I4

I don’t care what they say – it’s f***ing Spring now

0322131820

Bernardo accuses me of causing more bad, wintry weather by declaring it Spring (damn the torpedos! full speed ahead!). But he is wrong, wrong, wrong because Gerardi’s is officially open for the season! Scamp took this photo from the car on Friday evening; Bernardo was just there today picking up produce.

And I’ve been knitting like a maniac. Finished my shrug made with Tess Kitten, and launched a hat and a very sparkly blue cable sock.

A word, then, about Ravelry. Even if you are not into knitting (or fiber arts in general), I urge you to set up a user ID and look around. Ravelry is an amazing universe of metadata. Yarns are tagged and taxonomized. Patterns are linked. The faceted search is a wonder – I could spend (and have spent) DAYS constructing complicated faceted searches to pinpoint the exact right pattern for some obscure yarn that I picked up at a fiber festival. If you are a metadata geek or a design geek, Ravelry is amazing.

I spent Palm Sunday logging all my yarns, and choosing potential projects for each one. I have 105 yarns. I reserve the right to change my mind, but damn, the fact that this is even possible, down to the METER, is amazing to me. I have loads of great projects lined up for Spring knitting.

Right, I’m better now

IMG_0428

 

Daffodils. Coming soon to a yard near you.

Nights Like This

Tonight I left work and went across the street to the gym and did an amazing cardio workout. Just the bike – but stupendous…I finally got through 14 miles in 45 minutes. (Yes, well, hip injury. It was exciting for me, personally.) In a state of bliss I drove home, to find Bernardo and one of his BFFs, Charlie, greeting me as I pulled up against the curb. They were going to rack the wine a final time, and begin bottling.

But they needed fuel. Bernardo had put up some flounder in crazy water, with sauteed spinach. So we had a bit of the 2012 before dinner – it is coming along deliciously – and sat down. Fish in crazy water is substantial enough to warrant a red wine, and Charlie brought us a robust California cabernet. And in the middle of dinner, the doorbell rang – it was our neighbor Rich, six weeks post-knee-surgery, come to see what the wine-bottling was all about.

We persuaded Rich to have a little fish, and then the men disappeared downstairs. As I was nestling into the couch with my laptop, I heard the sound of pool balls being smacked into pockets. Eventually, this turned into the sound of wine being bottled.

A beautiful night to come home to. Friends, food, wine, and the lingering endorphins of an amazing workout.

The Luxury of Morals

I was reading this today. Quite shocking, particularly this bit:

I’ve optimized soups,” Moskowitz told me. “I’ve optimized pizzas. I’ve optimized salad dressings and pickles. In this field, I’m a game changer.

To think of food as being “optimized” (and I am a product manager; I “optimize” products all the time) is one thing. But Moskowitz followed up:

There’s no moral issue for me,” he said. “I did the best science I could. I was struggling to survive and didn’t have the luxury of being a moral creature. As a researcher, I was ahead of my time.

This sounds so much like the ultimately destructive scientist in dystopian movies, making excuses retrospectively while also trying to establish his brilliance.

If being a “moral creature” is a “luxury” – and I say this as someone who has struggled to survive myself, with two children, no less – then we’re here. In the future. Day by day I go past the New York harbor, watching our ships come in – literally. Ships filled with cheap merchandise made by who knows what impoverished men, women and children from who knows which lands, unloading from their containers and shipping off to Wal-Mart in a logistical wet dream. I spend a considerable amount of money each week (and time, in terms of food prep) on Real Food because eating what I’m apparently being programmed to is literally an exercise in futility (if not morbidity).

The only ones who benefit from this level of mass-production – and it is everywhere, from our food to our clothing to our furniture to our transportation, our movies and TV and even our books – are the corporations. And they seem to be quite happy to merely repackage their messages until we swallow them like we do Cheetos.

I don’t want optimized pickles. I want the real thing. And that’s the least of it. I want my daughters to grow up and grow old. I want the world to have green in it, for my grandchildren and their grandchildren. And I want them all to do good things – because doing good things is not a luxury. It’s how we’re going to continue to live.

Rumors

I don’t think I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, but twice a year – August and February – a seasonal malaise sets in. Stasis is boring. By now, the thrill of snowstorms, possibility of skiing, winter stews and soups…has worn off completely. Even on a sunny day, so long as it’s cold outside, I’m depleted.

I know it’s only a few weeks until things begin to thaw. But now I crave ramps, the first shoots of rhubarb, garlic scapes, pea tendrils. Nettles. Delicate green things. My brown, dry garden fills me with despair. I don’t want to go outside, but I can’t stand being inside. I am always cold. I go silent. I should not be left alone in my own company.

Enduring these two weeks – just as in August I endure the final two weeks of the month by going stir-crazy in the oppressive humidity – is made worse by posts like this. So tantalizingly near…and yet not at all.

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