Previous month:
June 2006
Next month:
August 2006

Cliques: your thoughts?

today's word count: 1,102

Heathers, The Breakfast Club ... all of my diaries - they all address cliques in middle and high school but I can't seem to drum up a comprehensive list - and am in need of your help. Also, I think cliques were called by different names in various parts of the country, or even state - so what were your options for cliques in high school? Okay, not like it was that easy: Hi, I'd like to resign my post with the nerds and apply to be a jock. No.

Here's what I've got off the top of my head: nerds, jocks, stoners, preps, cheerleaders, brainiacs, goths, metalheads, rednecks, posers and loners.

Any other suggestions?

Ani's Proposal

The others: So you're writing a book? (i can tell by their tone, they think it's silly and are secretly judging me for being so presumptuous to think i could possibly achieve this goal)

Me: Uh-huh.

The others: What's it about? (I freeze. Why must they challenge me like that?!)

And I'm not talking about you here my friend. I am talking about The Others. When anyone asks me this I freeze and stammer out an answer I regret later. After working all week on this proposal, and I mean all week, I finally nailed it this morning.

I was lamenting to Rose that everything I had come up with sounded so contrived. She said, "Well there's something in there about finding her favorite self right?" (quoting a line out of "Note to Self.") My eyes-widened. "That's it!" I pulled together my notes and actually clapped with delight at one part because that is what I'd been trying to say all along. So here it is:

Ani Benes knows life is a choose your own adventure; but she’s still searching for the magic guide book that will protect her from getting it wrong. Surrounded by people who always seem to get it right, Ani is all kinds of angsty about the future as she sets out into the world after graduation. In Talking to Strangers and Suitemates, Ani learns to embrace the journey of discovering her favorite self. 

The setting is primarily in the Pacific Northwest, Mexico and Eastern Europe just before and the years following 9-11.  Ani is raw and irreverent as she tells the truth about her relationships and the allowances we make for the people we love. She used to believe that when she finally grew up, things would be less messy. Now it seems life is getting more complicated as she questions her role in her family, her purpose on the planet and her plans for the future as well as the question lurking underneath it all: am I good enough?

Operation Acquire Agent Phase 2


Operation Acquire Agent has launched. After spending the better part of two weeks polishing, editing and obsessing over every last word and comma, 66 pages of my manuscript are in route to New York. Right now.

Even if the letter I get back says, "How dare you send me this!?" it's on. I've put it out there. Sure, rejection is a possibility; but so is the chance that I'll get a phone call that asks: "When can you send the rest?" I'm going to keep writing, just in case it's the latter. 'Cuz you know, the harder you work, the luckier you get and all that. Also, if I'm busy writing I won't be fretting.

The editing process was excruciating. Seriously. Do you know the difference between an "em" and "en" dash? Oh yeah, that's real. It was worth it though. Every time I thought I'd caught everything, I discovered more that needed fixing. Thank you so,so,so much to everyone who helped me out by reading/editing and giving me feedback!

The hardest part was writing the proposal letter. I know it's not as formal as it should be, but if I wait until I know all the rules to submit "the perfect pitch," it'll never happen. I made the card (pictured above) to submit with my packet because I wanted there to be a personal touch from me to the woman who agreed to give me a shot. None of the rule books said it was okay to send a homemade card with the package. In fact many of the "dos and don'ts" lists warned against anything that could be perceived as "gimmicky" or "over the top." But you know what? If someone took the card I made with the best of intentions to convey what a typed letter can't and thought badly of me because of it we aren't a good match. Just as much as I'm looking for a break, I'm looking for an agent who gets me and is willing to represent my work because she likes my writing and believes in me.

Let the heckling begin

In a show of support and solidarity, Raelene encouraged me to attend the awards ceremony for the writing contest I was recently rejected by. Okay--as a person I was not rejected, but my writing was. So, you know, it felt a little personal. I decided it would be an interesting adventure to check out the banquet and hear the work of the winning writers. You know, to better myself. And to heckle.

We started the evening at La Rambla, a cool tapas restaurant downtown McMinnville. (FYI - fabulous - but if you're hungry and not looking to spent a few hours worth of wages on an appetizer, well, not so much the place for you). We enjoyed good drinks, yummy bites of pretty food and good conversation. Luckily, I had just the right buzz going into this thing because as we climbed the steps toward the ballroom, I felt my social anxiety setting in.

Raelene's accounting of this is perfect:

We were surprised by the number of kids there until we started flipping through the compilation of winning pieces and realized that much of this contest was for kids. Hmm. I was starting to feel better about being rejected already. And by the time one of the judges started reading, I felt just fine about it. I'm sure she's a very lovely lady, but if she wasn't into my work, it's really just as well. Because she thinks poems should be logical. As she talked, it was getting harder and harder to make eye contact with Raelene. Finally we agreed that we simply couldn't sit through what felt very much like being at some random school's awards ceremony. When she leaned over and whispered, "I can't heckle eight-year-olds" it was time to go. We bailed and spent the rest of the evening debriefing, mocking and doing some more catching up.

(note: I wrote this months ago and saved it as a draft on accident)

Cool like that

Rosebday2 Zivijo, Zivijo, Zivjo to Rose.

Our husbands knew Rosie and I would be friends before we even met each other. My very first memory of Rosie is dancing together at her Christmas party shortly after we'd exchanged our first words - something like "Oh, it's sooo nice to finally meet you!"

It was a couple years before we saw each other again- after the successful completion of Operation Back to Mac. Just after we moved back, covered with paint from our first house project and unpacked boxes all over, Paul and Matt were hanging out and decided that would be a good night for Rose and I to really meet. I was impressed by her spontaneity because she agreed to drive out after work and meet for a quick dinner at the brew pub and then off to Michael Moore's latest movie, Fahrenheit 9/11 - our mutual loathing for the current administration, combined with some witty, sassy comments confirmed what our husbands knew all along. We were destined to be friends.

As weird as it sounds, I feel like Rosie and I have always been friends. Sometimes we share stories and it's like, "Why didn't I know that about you?" Oh, yeah - we hadn't met yet. It's also amazing that for as few years as we've been friends, so many of my favorite memories are from times together - from dinners out to hanging out at home making fun of tragic movies, during phone conversations and weekend adventures, I cherish the memories and look forward to many more. One of my all-time favorite memories is when she set it up for us to go see Anne Lamott (just the coolest writer on the planet) in Portland. I'll never forget some of the conversations we had and how awesome it was to experience meeting my favorite author (the coolest writer on the planet) with Rose. In fact, if it weren't for Rose, I may never have met her face to face. When the crowd started to merge in to get autographed, several of the nice,Spiritual people got a little pushy and if I'd been alone I would've gone to the very, very back of the line instead of standing my ground to keep my place up front. As I stood there flustered, Rose took my arm and reminded me that I deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. She's just cool like that.

I adore Rosie for the complexity of her character - a combination of calm and intense, gentle and strong, hilarious and serious. She is thoughtful, kind and generous. Smart, beautiful and stylish. And a super talented writer. She introduced me to the world of blogging, and for that I am SO thankful. She is brave and speaks up for what she believes in. Pretty much all-around-awesome.

Also, Rosie Lou has the coolest friends. Sometimes - okay nearly always - when I go to parties I'm pretty anxious about it but Rose's friends are so welcoming, smart, sassy and fun to talk to ... who you hang out with says a lot about who you are.

So, Rose- wishing you some Cowboy Love and fun adventures in the year ahead - glad you were born!

love ya to the moon and back!

in the field


(women's locker room at pool, two women approximately in their 80s are talking as they dry off from the shower) they're talking about the horror of what qualifies for as art these days. I wish I had a pen in the shower, but I'm pretty sure this is an exact quote: "I don't care what the artist is thinking. I want to know: is it pretty enough?"

And then later, as I'm drafting the letter I'd like to sent to the wonderful woman who agreed to take a look at my work - I'm thinking about how to best explain my motivation behind "Talking to Strangers" and suddenly the power goes out in the coffee shop. First, a startled silence, which is quickly followed by the instant connecting of strangers in the dark. A chorus of "are you okays" and speculations as to what caused the out, people immediately springing into action to help the shop's employees, and each other. People seated in tables near the window offer to share their tables so others can continue reading or writing, and then suddenly the whole coffee shop is one big conversation. I love that. So as I'm sharing a table with the guy who offered it to me, we get to talking and here's my favorite quote from him : "this whole business of having kids is just a crapshoot."

In the coffee shop this  morning I experienced the essence of what talking to strangers yields. That is what I want to convey in my writing. That, more than anything, life is a choose your own adventure. Every person you meet along the way you have the opportunity to help, the words exchanged can influence the trajectory of a life.

All kinds of angsty

I am having one of those days where I can hardly stand myself. I had big plans for today - instead I've accomplished pretty much nothing. I went on a bike ride first thing and that is the only thing I can check off my growing "to do" list. So I'm surrounded by a day's worth of half-starts and realize I'm having the start of an anxiety attack. Okay, I can handle that. Since it's too early in the day for a drink - kidding - I try to figure out what will help me get out of my head. I remember that it's Thursday, Farmer's Market day- I decide to go there, run a couple errands and try again when I get home.

But what is WRONG with me? Why do I feel this way, all kinds of angsty and scattered. And it dawns on me, oh yeah - I've shared my writing with people. And it's not a rough draft anymore. It's really out there. And they might hate it. A lot. I don't understand that in myself. What possess me to want to be a writer if I'm so freaked out about sharing my work?

Maybe I'm afraid of being exposed or something. Like if people read it, they might think, "Well, I  thought you were a good writer, but then I read your work and well, don't quit your day-job."  Or, "Wow, you sure had us fooled - that's what you've been working on all this time?" So now I'm feeling all insecure like I'm in seventh grade again stressing about where to sit in the cafeteria and what to do at recess so it's not obvious I don't have anyone to eat with. I'm off to market. Hopefully I'll come home a saner version of myself.

Speaking of To-Do Lists - here's a link to a blog I enjoy checking out:

Bulimia Brain

Bulimia Brain is how I define the constant stream of thoughts in my head around food, the obsession with self-control and the desperation and frustration that comes with setting myself up for failure and then being surprised to find I've failed.

Though it's been years since I was a practicing puker, the feelings don't go away and as of late have been growing stronger and driving me nuts. I actually thought I was "over it." Now I'm realizing that recovering from bulimia is not unlike alcoholism, in that it's never over. You don't wake up one day and go, "Huh. I'm done with that, no more temptation, no more mental anguish." Instead it's more like psychological warfare and you do your best not to give in to the darker pull coming from the recesses of your brain. And you make better choices, as often as possible. Humor also helps. Hence the name "Bulimia Brain." It might offend some, I suppose, in which case this blog is so not for them. Otherwise, take it as I mean it: humor as coping skill.

Bulimia Brain manifests in other ways as well. Consider this post I started working on back in April: It occurs to me that even though I'm not puking after meals anymore, the bulimia actually never went away. It seems to have surfaced in my approach to housekeeping. I am totally all or nothing about it. Either I clean the whole house and am scrubbing for hours, alphabetizing spices (this could be a touch of OCD mixed in with the aforementioned BB) cleaning out drawers, getting down and dirty with the shelves in the refrigerator, or I'm doing nothing. Balance? Not so much. And I go in binges, some weeks you might come over and be impressed by the "menu" on my fridge. Upon further examination you'll notice it was from two months ago and not only hasn't there been a new menu since then, there's been no meal cooked either.

Revolving Resolutions

Besides feeling defensive and mentally defrosting, I am working on accomplishing some life-long goals this summer. Year after year after year, as demonstrated here, my New Year's Resolution list includes some variation of "lose weight" and I've never really done that. The only time I remember being even remotely happy with my physical appearance was on my wedding day because I worked my ass off going to the gym most mornings and to kickboxing classes, etc. to get into my dress. I still remember when one of the coworkers saw me on the sidewalk one day and said, "Oh my Gosh! Where's the rest of Nathalie?" (Go ahead and classify that in this category: What not to say!) Anyway, it's kind of sad that I could work that hard to fit into a dress for one day, even if it is an important day, and then not be able to keep up on being healthy for something as major as my health.

Dear_diary_12311990December 31, 1990

1)Be happy & cheerful 2) Make other people happy & cheerful 3) stop drinking 4) stop thinking & attempting suicide 5) loose weight 6) be healthier 7) work harder at tennis 8) Carpe Diem

December 31, 1991

1) Be happy 2) Don't argue back 3) Get a job 4) Get over $300 back in bank 5) kick hardcore tennis ass 6) Love my friends 7) Love myself 8) Dear_diary_12311991_1Love my family 9) Be loyal to R. and make him happy 10) Write a Novel 11) Get in the paper 12) Collection of my poems 13) get my license  14) exercise lots 15) Be healthier 16) Get spiritual - religious 17) Raise grades 18) Don't be so bitchy - Raise Grades - Organized

Dear_diary_12312000forblog_1 December 31, 2000

... and for my favorite New Years Eve tradition - resolutions and dreams for the New Year! 1) An area of my life I fell short is my health - taking good care of my body. I am getting pretty chunky. D. thinks I'm full on FAT but I believe I'm going to turn it around before i get there.

Summer Vacation: What not to say

When the fact that it's summer vacation for me comes up in conversation, I can count on the following comments: 1) Some form of a "well-meaning" insult like, "You suck. I wish I was getting paid for some vacation." And, 2) So, what are you doing with yourself now that you're not working?

On it's face, maybe not offensive. But let me introduce myself for those who don't know: I'm a touch sensitive. Just a titch. And I loathe feeling like I have to justify myself. The first comment pisses me off and makes me want to explain how a) I am not being paid for this vacation, these days "off" come out of my checks - every month. And, b) this time off still won't cover the amount of time I put in unpaid to do the job. As for the second one, well, that's not so bad except that the first comment has usually set me off by then so I feel defensive and want to say that "writing is working goddammit" But, since even I can recognize that, possibly, that would be an over-reaction, I just smile and say "Oh, I think I'll work on some writing projects and organize everything."

That being said, I do recognize that my reaction is more a reflection of my own insecurities, blah blah blah. And, make no mistake, I am stoked to be on break and thankful that I have this time to come up for air. I do not think school would be safe for children if staff didn't get time to recharge.