Category Archives: Fiction

Throwback Thursday: NaNoWriMo

I am doing nanowrimo again this year, and I’m determined to win. So of course today, when I’m almost 3500 words behind, I have decided to do things like: read past nanowrimos; throwback thursday blog post; make plans for hanging out with old friends via Facebook.

So this will be quick, and then I’m seriously going to get writing. I’m doing this thang this year. I have a plot in mind and everything. I’m pretty psyched about it.

I’ve done it in the past. I think I’ve only “won” in 2003 and 2011, but I might be forgetting a year in there. 2007? I’m not sure.

Here is an excerpt from 2006, a year I started writing, but didn’t finish it. Enjoy!

==

Luke started stealing when he was three years old. Goaded on by his older siblings, Luke loved being the center of attention when, around the corner from the store, he would turn his little pockets inside out and wield to them the treasures he’d gleaned. For Moira, the ten-year-old, there was always nail polish, and for Gavin, the eight-year-old, mostly candy and occasionally baseball cards. Luke never stole anything for himself. He hadn’t associated stealing with gaining things; he only associated it with pleasing his siblings.

It began very casually, in a department store, on a shopping trip with his mother and brother and sister. His mother was taking forever in the underwear section of the store, so the three children wandered off together: nothing new, as Moira often babysat her two brothers. They found themselves around the corner from the department store, facing a candy shop with a display window filled with things so tempting that a diabetic nun would have to pause and consider it.

Gavin went in first, followed by Luke. Moira, trailing after them, was already forming an idea in her head. She selected a piece of peppermint salt water taffy (her favorite) from one of the barrels, and when Gavin wasn’t looking, she handed it to Luke behind the racks of novelty candies.

“Here, Luke,” she said. “This is for Mom. Put it in your pocket like a good boy.”

Luke worshipped his mother and delighted in the idea of bringing her presents. He put the taffy into the front pocket of his little overalls. As soon as Gavin came back from the chocolate-covered pretzels, bemoaning the fact that they didn’t have any money, Moira raised her voice to say, “We should probably get going, Mom will be done shopping soon.” Then she hurried them out onto the sidewalk.

They were back in front of the department store when she held out her palm to Luke. “Give it back now, baby,” she said, one hand on her hip.

Luke clutched his fist over his pocket. “Nuh-uh,” he said sternly, “This is for Mama.”

“You can’t tell Mama about it,” Moira said slyly. “You know why?”

Gavin looked back and forth between the two of them; he’d missed it altogether.

“You stole it, Luke,” Moira said. “Do you know what stealing is?”

Luke didn’t, but he understood that it wasn’t a good thing.

“Stealing is when you take something that’s not yours to take,” Gavin said solemnly. “Did you steal something, Luke?”

Luke’s eyes were big. “Moira gave it to me! She said it was for Mama!”

“What was for me?” his mother said, coming around the corner.

All three of them jumped, although their grasps of the situation were all slightly different.

“This, mama,” said Moira, with the true cunning of a ten-year-old child, and she gave her mother a big hug around her middle.

“Yeah,” said Gavin, and he and Luke joined in. Luke could feel the lump of taffy pressing uncomfortably against his chest as he hugged his mother, and he could feel a lump of similar size rising in his throat as he thought about what he had done.

Later, Moira convinced him that stealing was not bad. She convinced him that store owners had more than their fair share of things like candy, “and nail polish,” she added seriously, letting that sink in. All stealing was doing was spreading around the wealth. And there was nothing wrong with that, was there? Luke shook his head, understanding that Moira was right, she was right about things like this all the time. His mother said to listen to Moira, especially when she was in charge of him, and that’s what he had done, he had listened to his older sister. He knew he had done nothing wrong.

And that is why, when Moira took him to the corner drugstore the next afternoon, and in the back of the store, pointed out a color of nail polish she had been coveting, he obediently slipped it into his little pocket once again. It lay there, heavier than the taffy, and making a bigger lump, but Moira zipped his jacked up over him, claiming she didn’t want the baby to catch cold, and carried him out of the store, right past the store owner. The store owner didn’t even look over, he was flipping through magazine pages, bored with the kids who came in to check out the comic books or the gum rack, but never had money to purchase anything.

He noticed the little girl with the baby brother coming in more and more often, though. Sometimes it was the baby brother with an older boy. But always the baby brother. And the kids often bought things: shampoo, a magazine, a bottle of juice. He imagined that their parents just sent them out on errands frequently, and they brought the youngest one along to keep him out of the way. He didn’t put the little kid with the faded overalls, and his inventory which kept coming up short, together.

By the end of the summer, Moira’s nail polish collection had increased considerably, Gavin had been comfortably kept in Bazooka bubble gum and tootsie rolls, and the owner of the corner drugstore was out a little more than a hundred dollars. Luke had celebrated his fourth birthday, and had become one of the slickest fingersmiths on the Lower East Side.

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The 10 Worst Things About “The Office”

The Office used to be a really great show. Like, a really, really great show. We were late on the train, but we started watching it in the summer of 2009, which was overall a really good, happy, sunny time for us.

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I would say the first three seasons are really the best. At the end of Season 3, Jim and Pam got together, which was nice, but was also the beginning of the end. Seasons 4 and 5 were still okay. In Season 6, Jim and Pam had their first baby, and the show tried to replace the romantic tension of “Jim and Pam” with “Andy and Erin” (which failed).  They brought in a new company (Sabre) and a new recurring character, Jo (Kathy Bates) (who I normally love). Then Season 7 was the final Michael Scott (Steve Carell) season, and frankly I don’t remember much of it. In fact, I can’t tell you what happened in seasons 7 through 9, and I just finished watching the most recent episode 5 minutes ago.

Next week is the final episode of the final season, and it can’t come fast enough. Back in the early seasons, we couldn’t finish one episode without starting the next one. Now we spend the whole time half paying attention and occasionally snorting with exasperation.

So without further ado, here are the 10 worst things about The Office:

Oh, it probably goes without saying that if you are still catching up and you don’t want to read spoilers, you should probably stop now.

Okay, the 10 worst things about The Office:

1. They’ve tried so hard to force Pam and Jim drama.

We loved watching them flirt, watching the near-misses, and yearning for them to get together. Those moments were so touching. Once they got together, there were still some nice moments – the proposal, finding out she was pregnant, and the wedding, for example. But we’re missing the push-pull of two people who are so obviously meant to be together but can’t make it happen. None of the substitutes – Andy and Erin, Dwight and Angela – have lived up to that. Face it, Pam and Jim, you guys are a boring married couple who mostly gets along. Just enjoy it.

2. Which reminds me – what the heck is Jim’s Philadelphia job?

And you don’t have to hit me over the head anymore with the fact that Pam feels guilty for making him come back to Scranton, but that Jim just loves her so much, blah blah blah.

3. Blatant foreshadowing – quit acting like we haven’t seen all this “surprise” stuff projected for seasons.

Yes, Phillip is Dwight’s baby. Duh. Dwight and Angela are going to get back together for reals. Duh. Why have you taken so long getting to this point? This is what you’re going to use to fill up all these hour-long episodes?

4. Too many random, flat characters.

What is Nellie still doing there? Who are Pete and Clark? Why are they there? Are they just trying to replace the brilliance of BJ Novak, Mindy Kaling, Steve Carell, etc? It’s not working.

5. Here are some other character complaints: Kevin has turned into a ridiculous and unfunny parody of the actual character he used to be.

But remember when Kevin brought us this gem? He’s totally not like that anymore.


6. Also, they just never figured out Andy Bernard’s character.

I guess he was kind of funny at the Stamford branch, when he was calling Jim “Big Tuna” and singing “Lovefool” over and over again. But then he was dating Angela, and then he was the angry guy who punched a wall and had to go to anger management (aka go film The Hangover?), and then he came back and was the dorky guy who went to Cornell, sang in a capella groups, and was in a community theatre production of Sweeney Todd…and since becoming Regional Manager (a TERRIBLE decision) he’s just been given Michael Scott-esque storylines and dialogue. Oh, except for when he was gone for months on a random boating excursion (aka filming The Hangover 3?). Ugh, I like(d?) Ed Helms but I am so over Andy Bernard.

7. Introducing the film crew.

The first time Pam looked up and spoke to Brian (the boom mike guy) I had a moment of “Whoa, that’s kind of cool.” Then it turned into more fake Pam and Jim drama, and it just got to be too much. It just feels like a gimmick to draw out these plot lines to fill the rest of this finally-final, but it-just-never-ends, final season.

8. Making the documentary into a thing.

Also, all of this talk leading up to watching the documentary feels like filler. And in tonight’s episode, the whole office gang gathers round at Poor Richard’s to watch the documentary. But…how can it be airing if there’s still one more episode for us to watch? Also, all the talk about the film crew and the documentary has just meant that we’ve had a lot of clip show-esque moments. Lots of footage of the good old days for us to look back on and remember when we used to love this show and marathon it and rewatch the Christmas episodes. But it’s like rubbing our noses in it, to show us the moments we loved, when what we have now is so much LESS.

9. Dwight’s beet farm spinoff that almost happened.

Luckily it didn’t get greenlighted, but for a hot second we almost had a new NBC show called The Farm. It would have featured Dwight Schrute and his family running a bed and breakfast -slash- beet farm that they had inherited. One of the episodes of The Office season 9 was the pilot episode for The Farm. I get why NBC passed, and I support their decision.

10. I am going to be seriously bummed if Michael Scott comes back for the finale.

I think Steve Carell made the right choice in leaving when he did, and I think the series should have ended on that note. It’s limped along now for 2 more seasons, and I want to remember him on the show the way it was. I hope that Steve Carell holds to his decision to not come back for the finale. I like to think of Michael as moved on, married, and raising kids with Holly.

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Look, The Office: I will 100% still watch rerun episodes of you on TV. I will seek you out. I even still want to go back and watch your original, British version. But, like many things, you’ve just overstayed your welcome. (You took the Weeds path, rather than the 30 Rock path.) This is partly my fault for continuing to watch you, but we had some good times. I’ll be there watching next week, for the full hour and 15 minutes or whatever nonsense you’ve got up to, but then I’m going to gently but firmly change the channel, and that will be your signal that it’s time to go.

We’ll always have Diversity Day, and Booze Cruise, and Casino Night, and so many more.

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Throwback Thursday: Prose

Okay, here’s something from one of my creative writing: fiction classes at Davis. I have zero recollection of writing this, but it’s got my name on it (and it sure sounds like me). The prompt for this little homework blurb was:

A Stranger Comes to Town (April 2004)

“Guess where I am,” he said, and then, without waiting, “I’m coming to see you.”  She went through a quick spray of shock, excitement, happiness, and then suddenly shock again.  He lived an hour and a half away from her – two hours in heavy traffic – and while they had been talking over the phone for the entire summer, she didn’t feel the need to meet him in person.  He had offered to drive down to visit her several times, and each time she had mumbled stories of previous engagements and sworn vague promises.  “I got tired of waiting for you to make up your mind.  I’ll be there in an hour.”  The call ended and she was left holding the phone to her ear.  She was still holding it there when it rang again, no more than a minute later.  “I know what you’re thinking.”  He began talking before she could even say “hello.”  “You’re thinking that I don’t know where you live and so how can I find you?  You’re thinking you’re going to hide in a city of twenty thousand people.  I know you’re working tonight and there can’t be many Blockbusters in town.  I’ll see you soon.”  He hung up again without waiting for her to say anything.  She couldn’t help feeling that, despite their telephone relationship, he was really just a stranger coming to town.

I’m intrigued by this…and also by the reference to Blockbuster. LOL.

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Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

So I made this “25 books in 2013” resolution for myself. What with book club, audiobooks (yes, I’m counting them), and keeping a list of what I should read next on GoodReads, things are going pretty well so far.

I’m currently reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Have you heard of this book? Has someone told you to read it? If so, and if you haven’t, then now is the time. Put down whatever lame book you’re reading and immediately start reading Gone Girl.

This is the first book I’ve read in awhile that I’ve found really, truly engrossing. I can’t put this book down. I started reading it 2 days ago and I’ve been devouring it, but my reading hours are limited these days, meaning I end up staying up way too late reading. Then I wake up exhausted (at 2:30…at 3:30…at 5:30…) but still not quite regretting my decision. I can understand when people say they got through this book in one sitting. (I used to sit around on the weekends, when Drew worked at The Lion King, and I would just read all day. I would sleep in and then literally sit around reading. All. Day. Long.)

Anyway. I had regular friends tell me to read this book, I had work friends tell me, Sarah and Vinnie told me, and I just kept going, “Yeah yeah.” Then someone finally loaned it to me and I finally picked it up and the rest is history. Every night when I reluctantly close the book I just keep thinking, “What is happening?! What’s going to happen?!” I am a little sad that I’m going to finish it soon. But also I’m thrilled because OMG WHAT’S HAPPENING?!

It’s funny, I’ve actually had one of Gillian Flynn’s other books saved in my Amazon cart forever. A couple years ago I went through Amazon, clicking from one recommendation to another, and dumping anything that looked interesting into my cart. Then I stuck everything into “save for later,” and I mostly ignore it. But Flynn’s Sharp Objects is near the top of that list, so I see it every time I check out with my other products, and I keep thinking I should check it out. And now? I 100% will. (I almost bought it yesterday, but then I bought myself an external hard drive instead.)

ANYWAY. If the storyline, the suspense, and the writing weren’t enough to keep me enraptured, here’s the one little thing that pushed me over the edge into adoring Gillian Flynn. Without giving anything away, this is a paraphrased line from the book:

She waited in the car and watched her husband and me exchange papers. (And yes, that is the correct wording: her husband and me.)

I LOVE YOU GILLIAN FLYNN. I love you and I love that you said that. (PS: It’s said in a diary entry type chapter, so it’s the character’s interjection, not technically the writer’s, so it’s acceptable.)

Okay. I seriously have to finish this book tonight.

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over the rainbow

Let me start out by saying, I really like my job.

But it’s hard to be away from B for 9+ hours a day, counting my commute. So sometimes I find myself wondering, Where is that Perfect Job for me?

The one that’s a career, not just a job.

Flexible hours, but generally 9-5.

Preferably there’s a daycare onsite.

They pay me what I think I deserve to get paid. Plus awesome benefits (including dental and vision) for me and my whole family. Plus a retirement package.

There’s the possibility of advancement.

It’s something I enjoy doing, ideally in the arts. It is both challenging and satisfying on a daily basis.

Casual dress code, friendly work environment, fun coworkers.

A boss who’s also a mentor.

Maybe I can work from home some of the time.

I guess as long as I’m reaching for the stars, some Google-style cafeterias offering free lunches wouldn’t be so bad. And maybe, like, an on-site gym? I guess it’d be cool if they issued me an iPad too. And paid for my personal phone? Which I use for work stuff occasionally.

So if anyone hears of a job like this, ideal for a San Francisco-based almost-30-year-old with an English degree, could you let me know?

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Is it already almost November AGAIN?

It’s October 11, which means we’re into the middle of October, which means it’s almost November, and November, as you know, is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Dangit. It just kind of snuck up on me this year. If I’m going to even attempt to do it again this year, now’s the time to think about it, so that we don’t get to November 1st and I just panic and start writing and then end up with 12 pages of third-person narration where the main character is obviously just a thinly-veiled version of myself.

I want to put some thought into it, and come up with a storyline ahead of time. Even though all of the Nanowrimo propaganda is about how fun it is when you hit a wall and you don’t know what’s going to happen next, and then your characters do something crazy that you weren’t expecting, I don’t work well like that. (See above, re: 12 pages, thinly-veiled version of myself.) I need to have a storyline to follow, and some idea of where things are going. The details that crop up on my way to the already-envisioned end can surprise me. And the ending can surprise me too, ultimately. But I have to at least think I know where it’s going.

I’ve been getting the year-round emails from the crew at the Office of Letters and Lights (they are in charge of Nanowrimo, as much as you can be in charge of a concept), and I haven’t unsubscribed from them, although I have to admit I haven’t opened and read them either. I guess I’m just walking a middle line, refusing to commit to either participating this year, or to making a decision to not participate. (I have 20 more days to decide before November 1st – technically I could still join in after that, but I’ve never been successful at starting late.)

I would love to make this work this year, especially since I’m not going to work and so you would think that I would have more time at home to write. We’ll see how this unfolds. If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave in the comments. In the meantime, a Google “I feel lucky” search for “plot generator” suggests this: “The story starts when your protagonist buys a new car. Another character is a gypsy who put a curse on your protagonist.” I don’t know…

Ooh, but refreshing the plot generator gives me this: “The story starts when your protagonist shoplifts. Another character is a thief who is the most attractive person your protagonist has ever met.” I kind of like that.

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Lying at a wedding

We went to a wedding yesterday. At the reception – which was a full-on 9-course Chinese banquet, although I counted 11 courses before the cake – the girl next to me started making small talk. Her date (fiancee? husband? boyfriend?) was part of the band and so he was up and down through most of dinner, so somewhere between the shark fin soup and the abalone with mushrooms, she asked me what I do.

When I told her I work at a theatre company, she asked me which one, and it turned out she’s actually kind of into theatre. She’s actually been to see shows that we have put on, the most recent 3 years ago, but that’s still far better than most people I find myself making small talk with. I immediately upgraded my conversation from the standard “talking about my work with people who don’t care about theatre.”

“What have you seen around here that’s good?” she asked me, and I reached out for anything, anything we’ve seen lately.

But it appears I’m a theatre major failure, because it’s been months since I’ve seen anything. Well, I guess I’ve seen shows at my work. I resorted to fibbing and talking about shows at other companies, that I’m sure were very good, but they closed before I had a chance to see them.

Erin recently saw Chinglish at Berkeley Rep, and she raved about it, so I almost said that I’d seen that, but luckily something stopped me, because it turned out that my tablemate LOVES David Henry Hwang and saw Chinglish last week. Yeesh, that could have been messy.

After the reception I got to thinking: we should really see more Bay Area theatre. There is so much here. It’s just that a lot of it is so spread out and/or difficult to get to. And let’s face it. I’m into being at home and in pajamas by 8pm these days. I missed opening night of my own company’s current show, and haven’t actually managed to see it yet – and this is the last week of performances.

But I think I might see if I can get tickets to see Chinglish. I’ve heard such good things.

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