Friday, May 27, 2011

Raven Street Notes No. 4

Oldest wanted to know what a role model was this week.

"It’s someone you look up to," I told her. "Someone who is a good example of what you’d like to be when you grow up."

She ponders.

"So, who do you think a good role model for you is?" (I’ll admit it. I was fishing).

She ponders.

"You are!" She points at me with a grin on her face. "And so is Emily—she’s a good role model for a fourth grader."

Fair enough.

A fourth grader is exactly what Oldest will be in a few months. In some ways it’s good her sights aren’t set too far beyond right now. She wants to stay a kid for as long as she possibly can. And her ability to eloquently express such a sentiment reveals to us just how hard staying a kid might be. But we’ll do our best to help her.

She told us “kid pajamas”—rather than sleeping in sweatpants and a t-shirt—just might do the trick.So I bought her a striped Gymboree nightgown, and I vowed not to mention for now the changes I see, the girl about to turn into a woman.


Middle endearingly bid me “Goodnight Mrs. Weber!” when I tucked her in this week. Before the aw-that’s-cute feeling could really concretize, she launched into her refrain: “Goodnight Mrs. Wierdo Weber.”


Is there anyone out there who can’t get The Hunger Games out of their heads? I am haunted, truly, haunted by the characters of Katniss and Peeta. So much so, that I could not watch Lauren and Scotty on American Idol during finale week without superimposing a pseudo-Hunger-Games narrative over their story, and feeling like such a voyeuristic consumer of the possible/potential romance wafting in the air around them. They did look sort of doe-eyed at each other, after all. And Mark says that--just like Katniss and Peeta--Lauren and Scotty probably share a trauma bond.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writerly Navel Gazing

Having an MFA means I’m smart about some things that most people have no use for, let alone interest. I’m sitting in the office I used the three years I was in my program, surrounded by books whose authors are all speaking to one another. Authors I’ve shared a laugh with over dinner and authors I’ve watched from afar, in a crowded lecture hall, smitten by their very presence and the movement of their lips as words floated from them. These books, their authors, are all talking to me, chattering that makes such a din. I want to dive back into them after this year of hardly listening. I want to dive into my own words on the page. And, more than anything in the whole wide world, I want the words I wrote to become part of this chatter, this conversation among readers, writers, thinkers, poets, artists, and cultural critics.

It’s a quiet whisper of a prayer I utter many times a week: Make a place for it, the “it” being my manuscript. If you care to know, it’s one of those my-horrible-childhood kinds of books, but I mean that in the best possible way. Like my whispered prayer, the book tells a story that lies dormant beneath this life I live now, filled with the clattering of dinner plates and children’s laughter and screams. It’s a “grief book,” meaning I wrote it in grief and it makes most people who read it cry. Editors like it or at least they send me grand rhetoric about appreciating the time spent with it. But this market is competitive, they tell me. Our MFA program directors told us the average time it took an MFA student to publish a thesis is seven years. Seven years. I fear I will give up long before then, but no—I can envision this alter self sidling up and taking me by the hand, leading me forward past all of my apathy and ready-to-give-up-now-ness.
You may not realize it is so totally not-hip to write about wanting to be published because doing so implicates one as the narcisstic, self-aggrandizing writerly persona that one so doesn't wish to be. But here I am all the same, wanting to find a home for this book. Ann Lamott once said she thought getting published meant self-esteem would begin arriving by phone, fax, and mail. But, honest, I don’t need a publisher for self-esteem. I really am at peace with myself in the world, but I’d be really awfully glad for this book to find its place in the world, too.