Saturday, March 17, 2018

short story

I have these short stories, you see, and I can't get them out of my head. I'll be in the car or the kitchen or the shower and a little tweak pops into my head. It could be a better character name or a new title or scraping a scene or adding a new one. But always, I am tinkering with the stories I've already written. Always, I am fiddling on them, trying to craft them into exactly what I'm trying to say in the most compelling way possible.

The writing life is all-consuming.

No matter where I am, mostly, I am in my head.
Shuffling things around, reordering, changing commas to semi-colons; semi-colons to commas.

I have been thinking about the real world and how to best exist in it while I've got my head rattling, full of ideas to write about.
I am coming up blank.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Seeing Lorrie Moore in a Crowded Room

It was March 9th, 2018 when I was first in the presence of Lorrie Moore.

Setting: Tampa, Florida. AWP Conference.

Mood: Giddy.

Me and my best friend, Jen, a fellow Lorrie Moore Obsessive, went into the conference room early, before the last panel had even left. Once people started filing out, we pounced on the best seats.

For background: Jen and I have made up scenarios where we drive to Wisconsin where Lorrie Moore lived and have lunch with her under the guise of an interview. We have had a writing group where we made up Tom Swifties in admiration of Lorrie Moore's. We have texted each other underlined sentences many times, traded books with each other. We're fucking obsessed.

So Tampa. Conference room.

When Lorrie Moore took the stage, I nudged Jen and she nodded excitedly.
And then, L.M. herself read for a few minutes, an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir.

It was about when she got married in the courthouse and a news crew was there, hoping to film a newlywed couple who married for welfare benefits.
"But we're not on welfare," Lorrie Moore protested.
"C'mon," her new husband said, "it'll be funny."
"No," she answered.
"The bride said no," the judge said, and that is how my marriage began, Lorrie Moore finished.

When the interviewer asked her if her ex-husband would be mad that she wrote about this, without asking his permission, Lorrie Moore replied, "it'll be fine. I'm quite sure."

Lorrie Moore was, as expected, funny and calm.

About writing, there is always an excuse not to do it. You have kids that you're raising, your job keeps you too busy, you're tired, insert a million and seven other reasons here.
But as Lorrie Moore said, "Life keeps changing and you have to work around it. You're a prisoner to the stuff in your life. You're just making it up as you go along."

I have five days to put together the third MFA packet of this semester, my second to last one ever. If I think about that for more than a second, I get overwhelmed. But I'll just make it up as I go along.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

our pursuit

I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books , music, love for one's neighbor - such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children, perhaps - what more can the heart of a man desire?
 ~Leo Tolstoy, "Family Happiness" 

"Happy," for instance, once meant "luck." Not good luck or bad, just luck. Look what we have done to ourselves. We think we can actually pursue happiness. 
~Abigail Thomas,  "What Comes Next and How to Like It"

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 
~Thomas Jefferson, "The Declaration of Independence"

I never knew the origin of happiness. 
I never knew that it meant luck. 
Although Thomas' quote can be interpreted as bleak, 
I instead read it with hope. 
Like we are lucky, if we are happy. 
Perhaps it is fulfillment that we are pursuing. 
Tolstoy realizes how he can be fulfilled: by being useful. 
I love that. 
Every day now, I will think of how I can be useful. 
In being useful, I will find fulfillment. 
And if I'm lucky, in fulfillment, happiness.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

not snowed in, not at all

I am watching it snow, thinking of Florida.

Where tomorrow, I become a part of the greater writing community. Greater than this intimate writing group I host. Greater than this local MFA program I am a part of.

I am going to AWP, which is an annual conference where writers and editors and publishers convene and discuss books and how to create them.

On my thirty-fifth birthday, I will be surrounded by the kind of people who get me best, the kind of people who I understand most. Me and my tribe. My giant tribe of us who live in the bigger world and try to make sense of it with words.

I'm putting away my snow boots, packing shorts instead. It took a long time to get here, but at the end of all that, I found I am not alone. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

constant panic

It was 1:06 this afternoon, I was napping off a headache, when my phone buzzed. I used to ignore all calls, but now that I've got a child in school, I answer every call in a panic. It wasn't the school, but rather the spa I have a massage scheduled at, calling to inform me my regular masseuse is no longer with them and would I mind having a different masseuse?

"No longer with them." Yeah, I knew that wasn't an obituary. As soon as I hung up, I googled my masseuse. I found what I suspected: a news story saying he was arrested earlier this week for two counts of sexual assault. How did I know I'd find that? Call it a woman's intuition.

Two weeks ago, a writer friend emailed me an essay contest centered on the #MeToo movement. "Have you or someone you know survived sexual harrassment, assault, rape or abuse? If so how did it change you?" it asked. My friend wrote a line above the forwarded content: "Thought you might have something that fits these parameters. I do." 

Of course I do, I thought. Don't we all? 

Every woman I know has survived sexual harassment. Those of us lucky enough to have dodged assault, rape, and abuse know how easily we could have been victims of it. 

Danger lurks in every one-on-one male interaction. 

Every time I've closed a restaurant with just one male around, every time I've been alone in a car with a man, every time I've had a massage, every time I've let a plumber into the house, every time I've been on a date, every time I've been at a house party with that drunk guy who wouldn't leave, in the back of my mind, I knew what could happen to me.

Sometimes (more often) it's in the front of my mind. I have played out scenarios that don't end well. I have run in the dark, having visions of being grabbed by someone (this happened to the other Holly who went to my school) and I have run until I was so exhausted I had to stop and catch my breath under a streetlight. 

I have been stranded in a man's house with no way to get home. 

I've said "yes" to sex because I was afraid to say no.

I was trying to put words to this the other day, the intimidation of a man. I don't know that I can do it correctly. What I can say is there is an anger that people harness and I am always aware of how quickly people can drop the reins, lose control. It is especially scary as a woman, alone with a man who physically towers over me, who will be believed over me by virtue of his gender alone. It makes me feel helpless. Like a sitting duck. 

The first man I slept with carried a gun on him at all times, even to the pool. I wonder if that's what made me scared first, what kept me scared. 

More likely, all of us women live in this constant state of panic, wondering how much longer we can survive before our massage appointment falls on the wrong day at the wrong time.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018


This morning was rough.

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed.

I'm taking a class on campus which might seem stupid, but it's not, because yesterday, when I was stuck on a story, the required reading for my campus class got me unstuck, so it is worth it, but it adds to my stress, to my endless list of things to do. I am leaving for class in thirty minutes. Instead of finishing my homework, I'm writing this.

I'm writing this because it's important that I remember, on mornings like today which are chaotic and loud and irritating, beautiful, good moments still occur.

For context: I was crying, breaking down all the way. Holden came and sat in my lap, put his arms around my neck. Brandon came and hugged me from the other side. Then they looked through old pictures and Holden kept saying, "this was before you were born" to Brandon about pictures Brandon wasn't in. I smiled, wiped my tears, cleaned this place up, and put on my makeup.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Q417 Songs

I haven't kept up well on my blog. It is my final semester of grad school. I'm also taking a screenwriting class on campus.


I'm occupying my time in other ways, but sometimes, when I'm sitting at my computer any way, I think, I'll blog again. Blogging is my first draft, my unedited writing. It is my journal that I share.


Music was such a part of 2017 for me: so therapeutic, such an escape. I have never worn headphones like I did in 2017, which is to say all the time.


This girl at the high school I teach poetry at has been revising a poem for years: a poem about why she wears headphones. The four second pause between songs is when her mind screams at her, "Listen, listen!" and the negative self-speak revs back up, deafens her. It is only while her music is on that her mind quiets itself.


"That's really cool," I said, then I found myself saying it again, "that's really cool." I just repeated it again and again. She had found words for something I hadn't and that is what is so beautiful about art: there is room for all of us to contribute, to inspire one another, to discover ourselves through each other.

So for the final quarter of 2017, here are some of the songs I geeked out to. Some of the songs that drowned out my negative self-speak. My new tunes, if you will.

The Long Day is Over - Norah Jones
Cannonball - ZZ Ward
Her Life - Two Feet
Broken - Lund
Gooey - Glass Animals
I Can't Go On Without You - Kaleo
Monsters - Ruelle
Beggin For Thread - Banks
Like That - Bea Miller
Down - Marian Hill
The Blues Man - Hank Williams Jr.
Here We Go Again - Ray Charles ft. Norah Jones
Havana - Camila Cabello
A Pirate Looks at Forty - Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds, and Jack Johnson