Monthly Archives: May 2008

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10 tips for dating a writer

1. Try not to speak in sound bytes, because they will be stolen.

2. Would you interrupt a supercomputer when it’s cracking a code? Would you interrupt a jumbo jet when it’s refueling? Then don’t interrupt a writer when she or he is napping.

3. Sometimes it seems like your writer boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t do anything during the day. It’s like suddenly spending five hours at a coffee shop isn’t as intrinsically worthwhile as performing heart surgery. But you know what? Those people whose lives were saved on the operating table will eventually die of old age, but the writer’s blog entry will live forever online. At least until link rot sets in.

4. An unpublished writer is still a writer. Every rich and famous author was once a wannabe. Keep that in mind the next time the rent check bounces.

5. Only writing well and honestly can make your significant other truly happy. It’s nothing you did wrong. Words mean more than love to the writer. Words are love. But lucky for you, your writer will keep trying to put her love into words.

6. If you guys have a fight, it’s going to be transcribed into prose, and like it or not, the kids will probably read it one day. If you guys have sex, yikes. I hope you fare better than you did in the fight.

7. Make sure you fall in love with both the person and with the person’s alter ego who ceaselessly translates that life into prose. The two are equally important, and they are different. But you can’t have one without the other. You have to love the girl’s poetry, and you have to love the girl who makes fun of her poetry. It’s a tough job, but someone has to pay the writer’s bills.

8. Is it pretension, or is it creative license? Is it entitlement, or is it art? Are you dating the best writer in the world, or the biggest asshole in the world? Be willing to repress these questions if you date a writer.

9. Be honest with yourself. You’d probably be happier with a 9-5 bank teller who brings home a steady salary instead of an unemployed writer who brings home crumpled-up paper and mood swings. But the writer you love would probably be happier with a billionaire patron who asks no questions. So count your blessings.

10. Please excuse the occasional suspension of reality. Sometimes your loved one’s life doesn’t make sense until it’s written down. If the writer needs to delay the resolution of an argument for a year in order to write a novel that will prove she was right all along, just be patient. If you were a writer, you could also be right all the time. But you chose to pursue more challenging goals – like loving a writer. Just pray that one day this will all pay off in book royalties. At the very least you’ll be featured in the acknowledgments.

An ode to her amputated leg

The truncated calf springs upward

as if summoned by the ceiling.

Mom said it’s like a teenage erection,

bounding from the hospital gown–

a body part under

no one’s control.

So grandma’s got a stump now.

And she can’t harness or subdue it

like the horse she once cantered,

her two legs gripping the girth,

her two legs holding her steady

high in the stirrups.

Now she sits in a sterilized chair

with one lonely foot on the floor

and one knee poking out,

capped in fresh bandage.

And she thinks I can come for lunch

even though it’s 11:30 in the morning

and I live 500 miles away.

“We’ve got lots to eat. Just come on.”


I’m not sure she knows her leg is missing.

The calf was rotten, and wrapped in gauze.

But she wonders why no one’s changed her bandage.

In her head she still nurses the old wound.

“Sheila’s late,” she says. “Where is that cute surgeon?”

It’s the rehab guy, prepping her for the prosthesis.

“I’m going to need new shoes,” she says.

“No, you’re not,” says my mother. “You are going to need half as many shoes.”

“I don’t understand,” says my grandmother.

“You are missing a leg.”

Three babies have slipped down that leg, into the world.

Three babies have stood at that foot and listened.


When my grandfather died, we found an envelope marked “pornography” in his handwriting.

Photos of my grandmother’s naked legs in a bathtub.

He is not here to see this, or to lie beside the blank in their bed.

One leg to last until she dies.

Legs aren’t resurrected.

Legs are left in the operating room, their expired wounds gaping at the orderlies. And then out with the trash.

My grandmother’s stallion leg. Her narrow foot that only fit into special-order shoes.

And then her stump pops towards the wall and everyone screams.

She is different now, with her halfway limb. She weighs two pounds less.

It was a skinny leg.


On Monday I found myself grieving. I woke up and knew her leg was gone. I went to bed and missed her leg. Was it incinerated? Recycled?

Where will she put her stocking?

The blood reaches the knee and wonders where to go next.


I miss my calf, my shin. I miss my five little toes. I will never paint my toenails again. I will never feel another sandal on this foot. I will never be scratched on the ankle by Mama Cat or the rosebush. I will never tweeze another splinter from this sole.


My mother sat on the hospital bed where the leg would have been. My grandmother shrieked and jerked her stump into the air.


I’m in mourning for a leg. A skin and bones leg that leaned against a metal walker for six months. An emaciated leg I pushed in a wheelchair from the car to the clinic. A shadow of a leg that held its infection for a year. I changed the bandages. I saw the blood come and go.

On Monday I stayed in bed for a leg. I knew it was gone when I woke up. Then I couldn’t move from the waist down. Someone I loved was lopsided. Someone I loved could capsize on the floor when walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night. She might forget about the empty space. How long does it take to know your amputation? Someone must sit there to remind her: “You only have one leg left.”

I miss your leg. Even though some people have said goodbye to much more, I miss the part of your body that we knew, that we lost.

Strange coincidence, or the universe telling me I should kill a cheerleader?

I am surprised that my 300th blog post slipped by without anyone sending me chocolates or balloons. But I am equally, if not more, surprised that I unintentionally wrote my 300th blog post (according to my blog stats) about R.L. Stine writing 300 novels. Spooky, huh? What if this whole blog has been the first chapter of a horror novel? It only took us 300 pages to figure out something is hideously wrong.

Veronica Mars, I accidentally lived your life instead of mine

I just finished watching Season 3 (the final season) of Veronica Mars. I would have watched that TV show until the lead actress Kristen Bell died of old age. I would have consumed every second of Veronica’s life until her funeral, and then I would have looked down and discovered that my own hands were all wrinkled around the remote control and my heartbeat had slowed to practically nothing and I was eating Jello in a nursing home.

Then I’d want to start Season One of my own life but the DVDs would be all scratched and time-damaged by then and anyway modern systems wouldn’t be able to play the discs due to changes in digital encoding. So apparently I’d spent my entire adult life watching someone else’s entire adult life episode-by-episode, but I wouldn’t totally regret it because Veronica was a cool and interesting person. She was a teenage detective – that’s so awesome. And while I watched her on TV, I was also a teenage detective solving crimes and helping people. But now I am accidentally an old lady and I’m burying Kristen Bell like someone will bury me soon, not long after I finish this cup of Jello.

So I don’t care if Veronica never knew my name. I don’t care if Logan Echolls was never my actual boyfriend. I followed every Mars moment. I dreamed her dreams. When Veronica solved a high school mystery, so did I. It makes sense that we would grow old and die together. If I weren’t so attached to my television set, I would throw myself into her grave.

Goodbye, Veronica. It was worth it.

The VQR’s sloppy seconds plus a clubhouse grand opening

Whenever I write a post for the Virginia Quarterly Review, a little voice in my head tells me that I’m neglecting my personal blog. So I come here to write, but then I realize that I blew my whole wad on the VQR. So I try to buy back my post, but the VQR is like, “No way. We love this post like our own child. Not even for a million dollars.” So I put away my million dollar bill, sigh deeply, and then pull something out of my butt to blog about on Onestarwatt.

Taser parties = “a growing US trend” according to the BBC. What else do the English think we do over here? First we’re “throwing tea” into the Boston Harbor, then we’re “invading Iraq” for no reason, then we’re listening to “rap music” and eating “McDonalds,” and now we’re apparently tasering each other Sex-and-the-City-style over martinis. Okay, England. You finally got us. Next thing you know we’ll have stars and stripes on our flag.

Telephonic sheep.

Caller: Hi, I’m calling for a sheep.

Sheep: This is a sheep.

The Writer House opens in Charlottesville! I am excited about joining a writing clubhouse situated next to the best bagel shop in town (coincidence?). Don’t worry, John Grisham. Someone will eventually tell you the clubhouse’s secret password.

Four Must-Read Books for Aspiring Writers, according to Chris Higgins at Mental Floss. More recommendations in the comment section. Incidentally, here are four must-write books for aspiring writers: 1) your first novel, 2) your second novel, 3) your third novel, and finally 4) your how-to book about writing.

That’s all I got. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in the clubhouse. No poets allowed!

“I have written 300 books with this finger”

Even though I skipped R.L. Stine and went straight to Stephen King before I cut out the middlemen and just started murdering cheerleaders myself, it sounds like Stine gives good tea.

Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and how it relates to my own life

Makes me miss my people before they’re gone.

Makes we want to document more moments like this:

The bbf and I kick a blue rubber ball around the yard after his long day at work and my colossal afternoon nap. I collapse on the grass. “I’m exhausted from all this soccer,” I say. “I think I’m coming down with something.”

The bbf throws the ball at my head. “I think you have the trust fund flu.”

The homeless, hipsters, and the marriage of style icons

Gawker is compiling a guide to “New York’s modern eccentrics.” The list includes Mr. Purple:

Is Mr. Purple from the Upper West Side still around? I first saw him in 1978 on West 86th St. He wore flowing purple robes and a live boa constrictor wrapped around his neck and waist and he rode a purple bike…He asked my mother out on a date and she actually went.

This is so much better than Gawker Stalker. I don’t love the idea of turning potentially mentally ill people into pseudo-celebrities, but they’ve suffered for their craft a lot more than Sarah Jessica Parker has and they deserve the fame if they want it. Plus I expect that the internet attention will benefit them in some way. Maybe they’ll start blogs. Or write memoirs. Or maybe they’ll get laid by Gawker groupies:

The Earth Angel is a freak of nature who frequents the 6 train and various buses. He was written up in AM New York in early April. This guy gets on the train – with hair down to his ass – holding a folder in front of his face that he calls his forcefield. He claims to have been sent to Earth to find the angels – which, conveniently, are always hot chicks.

For some reason hipsters love crazy homeless people. I remember a man in D.C. who knew this and used it to his advantage. Every night he sat outside the Black Cat, an indie night club, and said “Black cat, black cat” on a monotone loop to the kids standing in line at rock shows. No one could resist him or the little change cup he shook. The man was a legend who made more money than I did. He may still reside in D.C., but I bet he’s retired to St. Tropez or Ibiza by now.

The story of the Black Cat Man teaches that if you’re homeless and you have style and a gimmick, you might as well capitalize on it. Maybe hipsters relate because they have style and gimmicks of their own. Is being homeless really so different from being in a band? Is being homeless really so different from living in a mansion? Is being schizophrenic and owning snakes really so different from seeing a therapist and breeding dogs for Westminster? For the sake of my moral convenience, no. But the truth is I lost my train of thought halfway through that paragraph.

Highlights and lowlights of my four-day workweek

Monday – I considered committing an egregious act of email stalking. The boy thought he shook me and my obsession years ago when he graduated college and moved across the county, but no, I still Googled him the morning after he appeared in my dream. I assumed that he’d want to know about us hanging out in my sleep. Luckily my girlfriends talked me down from the ledge and I never wrote the email. Stop following me, dude. Please. Enough already.

Monday II – I’ve got news for you, Most Expensive Restaurant in Town. People still go number two in your bathroom. You can’t fight the Wendy’s Combo that Monsieur Fancypants ate for lunch.

Tuesday – A member of my writing group told me that my submission was a cross between Jeanette Winterson and Marguerite Duras. Normally I’d have felt flattered at the comparison, but I’d been overdosing on Marilynne Robinson that day and I didn’t want to be associated with lyrical writers. After a while their books just feel like metaphor abuse. Or worse – onanism. Or worse – masturbation of underage analogies. [Damn! I can’t contain my lyrical nature!]

Tuesday II – Man at coffee shop kept borrowing my pen, then giving it back, and then borrowing it again. I told him he should keep it but he said it wasn’t the right kind of pen.

Wednesday – Watched some handsome fellows raise a tent. For a wedding. But the other gawking ladies told me I was too late: “You just missed J___ taking off his shirt!” One of those ladies was my mom. Tried to help with wedding decorations and mangled a boxwood. Talked about it in therapy.

Thursday – Attended the Emily Couric Leadership Forum luncheon. This year Erin Gruwell, the Long Beach high school teacher who started Freedom Writers, won the grown-up woman award. A dozen senior girls from local high schools were honored with the young lady leadership awards. Kayla Hansen, a Miller School senior, won the $10,000 scholarship. But don’t get too excited – she’s probably going to blow it all on college.

I love that our community produces such an ambitious and accomplished group of girls every year. And I love that the Emily Couric Leadership Forum makes a big deal out of them. I’m not sure if I knew what volunteering was in high school. I was too busy writing cool stuff on my ripped jeans.

I wish there were a mentoring program where confident, overachieving high school girls could adopt 27-year-old Big Sisters who are experiencing doubts about the sustainability of their artistic lifestyles. I would totally throw a luncheon for that.

Thursday II – Newborns at rock shows – yea or nay? Blogging on the couch while everyone else, including newborns, attend rock show – yea or nay? A related question – do sweatpants really deserve their bad reputation?

And now my cousin’s crazy wedding weekend begins! For three days I plan to leech champagne and to embrace being the kind of wholesome dork who likes partying with her family most of all.