Sunday, March 14, 2010


I try not to write too much about my daughter on this blog. I don't want her to find it in five years and scream at me about all the embarrassing things she did as a toddler posted for all the world to see. I am trying to respect her privacy for the future when she will need it. However, neither do I want to lock everyone out of an important aspect of my life (and hers!).
So here is an update: My Dear Daughter is so amazingly creative. She is making dresses for fairies out of flower petals and glue. She was unfulfilled by a mere 2-dimensional approximation of a flower dress glued to a flat dress-form and clipped to a cardboard Tinkerbell. She is now trying to make a 3-D actual fairy size dress that allows for their wings to flutter from the back, all the while wondering whether any fairies will wear her fantastic dresses. Even her first grade teacher is impressed.
Dear daughter is reading well, ascending the "A.R." ladder with steady progress. She apparently does not test well enough to attend the advanced reader sessions with another teacher, though. I am not sure there is anything wrong with what she is doing or that I am doing to coach her. She likes reading, and can do it, but she doesn't love it, and she never chooses it over any other activity including boring ones, like waiting for an appointment. She has two avid-reader parents as examples, but it is just not something she does now.
Soon she will be tested for the gifted program in school. I so want her to get in because I know that she will have better classmates if she does. Not that I hate her peers, but I wouldn't want to be their teacher, and I can see why she gets distracted in class. Still, distraction is a part of life, and she has to be able to teach herself to stay focused. Do I think she is gifted? Yes, probably. But I do worry that she will not test well. I did not pass when I was tested at the same age. It wasn't that I was ungifted either, but I was similarly easily distracted and poorly focused. I didn't know the consequences of that failure until too late. So I desperately want to her to avoid those consequences! I will not be disappointed if she is not 'truly gifted', but I worry that I wont get an accurate result from her testing. Also, I can have her re-tested independently, but it costs a lot of money, and I don't want to stress her out. She is smart enough to figure out what she is being tested for and to be anxious about it. Mostly, I just want her to stop hating school, and stop seeing school as optional.
Dear daughter every morning wants to stay home, despite everything I say to convince her otherwise. Almost every afternoon she tells me of the reasons why school was bad, boring, or otherwise unsatisfying. She is six! She has another decade of school at minimum! I cannot live with all this negativity! School is not that fuckin' bad when you consider the alternatives...being ignored at home, sweatshops, forced labor, lifetime low wages. Besides, its First Grade! It is not that bad or that hard: So you have to subtract eight from ten and spell 'people' correctly. Maybe some of this school-hatred is her lack of perspective, but I don't know how to give her that perspective. I dont know how to make her love school like I did or her father did, as an escape from boring home life, a social gathering, a place where excitement and accomplishment are just after the ring of the bell...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

on writing

I am reading a book about writing and the creative process. Its a book for book club recommended highly, but its not my usual cup of tea. However, I am fascinated by the discussions on writing, writers block, 'tricks' to use for ideas and storytelling. It is darn fascinating to peer into the mind of someone who has had several books published to try to see how they do it; to peek into that creative well and see the spring of ideas. At one point the fictional author of the story gets hate mail from a reader, and rather than identifying with the abused author, I can see the point of the hate-mail writer: "your books are insipid; you don't deserve to be published" because that is exactly how I feel about some authors! And I had to realize that it is not so much a commentary about the author, (who obviously has a devoted following or they wouldn't get their books published), as it is about the inadequacy of the hate-mail writer: about their fears as a writer, about their inability to do something similar or better, about their lack of audience. I can relate to all of that. At least with a blog, you can write about anything, and not get a whole lot of hurtful feedback (unless and until you get famous), but rarely can you get paid for it either. And I don't presume to have an audience of any more than twelve.
I have thought to myself "I can write a better story than..." this person or that author - fill in your own blank. But then I have to ask myself, "If I am so sure I can, why don't I? Why don't I try?" Why indeed? Because I am better at critiquing what is wrong with a story and even providing a better direction for it to go. But I am much worse at coming up with my own story all on my own with unique characters, development, and interesting plot twists, and reasonable dialogue. "Alex Cross wouldn't have said that, he would have done this", I find myself saying, particularly reading 7thHeaven, but it does me no good, because I can't write a different ending for this already published story.
As for this current read, I don't identify with the main character well at all. If she were a real person, I would avoid her, because she would drive me crazy. So it is hard to read this book because I want to reach in and slap this woman, give her advice, shake her up, and I can't. And yet, I can't stop reading it either, because I think there is an interesting plot buried in there, because I want to know what happens! Isn't that every author's goal - to get their audience to turn the page because they want to know what happens next?
Also, it is fascinating to suppose that a popular author has doubts, fears, blocks or his or her own. That they don't want to reveal too much of themselves in a story, and yet they can hardly help themselves. Authors are exhibitionists, whether they admit it or not. And just because an author is published does not make them very good at either speaking (like at book readings) or at teaching (as in seminars and workshops) because those are different skills! And yet, that is what modern authors are expected to do.
I have been slowly reading a 'how-to' on story writing that i downloaded as a free e-book. It is actually quite helpful. It has a lot of nuts and bolts advice on thinking about your story from a planning perspective. Its very logical and straightforward. And I cannot help to wonder if that is NOT the way it is done by most popular fiction writers. That instead, they get inspired by one little bit of trivia, and then go off and tell a whole story about it. That some of their best work comes from creative exercises like "fit a fedora and a butterfly wing in the same short story".
I guess the truth must out - I would love to write a fictional novel, and I want it to be good - engaging, interesting, helpful, insightful. I have a good idea...I just need to bring it out.