Publishing Failure and She Was Just Seventeen

Colgate Plax Mouthwash Alcohol Free
Colgate Plax Mouthwash Alcohol Free (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been feeling like a failure lately because my essay, “Claudia Songs,” has been rejected so many times. I log onto Facebook and see so many of my writer friends publishing, some often, some sporadically, but they are publishing. I’m happy for them, especially for the ones I know personally but still, that feeling of failure, “not good enough,” wants to creep into my writer’s soul.  The newer versions of “Claudia Songs” are still out there with about five journals, but I don’t know if the essay will get taken. A friend said to me, “Sometimes you have to send a piece to a 100 places” before it gets taken. Well, I’m nowhere near that. I probably have only sent “Claudia Songs” to 10-15 places, and most of those places were reading an earlier version of the essay.

My friend, I don’t know if she wants to be named here, also gave me permission to stop trying to publish for the next several months.  “Focus on the one project you want to work on most and write it as if you were writing to your ideal audience. Do that for six months and see what happens.”

What great advice. I’m trying to take it. It’s hard because I want to keep up with my friends. I try to remind myself that if I were to list all the publications I’ve had over 25 years it would be a long list. While not all of the publications were “creative” or literary in nature, many of them were. But it all feels so few and far between and I seem to have an emotional need to publish now to feel successful as a writer. Never mind what I’ve published since my twenties. Yesterday’s news, as they say. And I’m 50 now, and I don’t have a book.

“Focus on that one project for several months,” she said again, “and write your blog, especially if you can find a way to tie it into the project.”

It’s great advice, so here goes: I will try to focus on the “monologue” aspect of writing that I’m so interested in. In that spirit, I’ve signed up for a full weekend workshop with T.M.I. (Too Much Information) out of Rosendale, NY, to learn more about how to craft a monologue from the essays I write about my life. I’m truly looking forward to the workshop because the abbreviated version at the Woodstock Writer’s Festival was so great – one of those workshops where you are encouraged to keep going rather than having your work analyzed to shreds. And then you get to “perform” the piece at the end of the weekend to an audience.

The women’s weekend retreat is being held at the Lifebridge Sanctuary in the Catskills of New York. I will post a picture so get ready to lose your breath. It’s a gorgeous venue inside and out. If you’re in the Catskills the weekend of July 21-22, please come see the performance on Sunday night.

This is the Lifebridge Sanctuary near Rosendale New York. I think I’d try to sneak in here for the workshop even if I wasn’t a writer.

I will try to tie my blog entries into my focus on the monologue, when I can. Here is a draft of a short piece I hope to turn into such a monologue, when I truly learn how to do that:

She Was Just Seventeen

(Inspired by the Beatles Song, “I Saw Her Standing There.”)

Plax. Red fucking Plax. I’m on a mission. It’s nearly midnight. My old lady mother wants dental rinse, red dental rinse.

“Miss? Miss?” I call. The young girl behind the counter looks up at me after a pause and an inspection of her black nail polish.

“What?” she asks.

I want to mock her and say, “What? What? Is that your generation’s shorthand for ‘How may I help you?’” But I keep quiet, afraid that any verbal conflict will lead me to wring her neck and leave her dead behind the counter.

A dead checkout girl will not lead me to Red Plax, and if I don’t come home with it, my elderly mother will sigh that sigh that makes me want to crawl out of my skin, that “I’m not happy with my life” sigh. I don’t ever want hear that sigh again, the way I never want to hear another ABBA song.

“Where is the red Plax?”

The cashier gazes at me, twirls her hair with her left forefinger and thumb, nearly assumes an intelligent expression on her face. She’s probably trying to guess my age, some middle-aged woman who is interrupting her adolescent reverie. Is she dreaming of Justin Bieber? I note a little upturn of one side of her lip. She has nose piercings. Probably not Bieber.

“What’s red Plax?” she asks.

“It’s for your teeth.” Don’t they train these people? Her long brown hair now rests on her overdeveloped bosom. She shows amazing cleavage for a girl her age.

I move my eyes from her cleavage to the countertop, blue, and then to her eyes, also blue, and wait for an answer. No one else is shopping at midnight in Rite Aid, so, we are alone. The mood is a showdown.

She twirls her hair; I twirl my anger. Who will shoot first?

“Aisle seven,” she says finally, upturning the other side of her mouth. Is she smirking?

“I’ve been to aisle seven. There’s only green Plax in aisle seven.”

She remains silent. Maybe she’s thinking about red Plax in the storage room. Maybe she’ll reach for the keys and take a look.

“Can’t you buy green Plax?” she says.

I note the cigarette display behind her, the rows of colorful Bic Lighters. I calculate the seconds it would take to jump over the counter, grab a lighter, and set her hair on fire.

Instead, I stand there, not budging.

She seems to have depleted her well of helpful suggestions.

“Look again,” is what she comes up with.

“Fuck this,” I say under my breath, but I follow her direction and turn toward the aisles. I suppose it’s possible the red Plax is hidden behind the green bottles. I head across a clean white floor. I walk past the cards and gifts, the stationary and school supplies, the deodorant and feminine hygiene displays, and again, I find the sign for aisle seven: Dental Care.

I behold a long, dizzy row of all things dental: Crest Toothpaste in a thousand variations, teeth whiteners behind locked glass cases, denture cream, dental floss, tooth brushes, and plaque removers, including green Plax. I kick a few bottles off the shelf. I see not one red bottle. I kick a few more bottles of green Plax to the floor. Oh, hell, I kick about thirty of them and the bottles lie on the white floor like dead soldiers.

Let the little cleavage-ed bitch pick up the bottles.

I turn myself around and prepare to walk up to that little twit and scream at that dumb ass little highness that there is NO RED PLAX. But maybe I should leave? Go to Walgreens? CVS? As I walk back along the gleaming white floor I look up at her and say quietly, “No red Plax.”

She shrugs her shoulders, reads a text message. I want to murder her. I guess her age to be seventeen. I guess her mother to be younger than I am, probably not even forty. I look at her brown hair leading to her breasts and wonder if someday she’ll be looking for red Plax for her 80 year old mother who insists on spending money on this shit, even though her teeth are brown and dead and nothing will bring them back. The counter chick with the cherry pop lips has no clue that she may be me in forty years.

I want to explain all of this to her, the aging, the generational evolution – or the collapsing order of things, like when you’re mother gets so old she becomes your child. If your elderly kid screams for red Plax you must find it. But I don’t think she’ll understand.

“Buy some red Plax for this frigging store,” I say to her as I approach the exit. She shrugs again. She really couldn’t give a shit. She was just seventeen.

You know what I mean?

If you didn’t enjoy theblog, maybe you can enjoy the song.

2012 So Far, 50 So Far

This post is mainly photos, just wanted to share some of 2012 with you all, as you so kindly share it with me.

Sadly (or not) the pic below is what got my blog traffic up by a catrillion percent in 2012. Is it art or is it porn? Say the key words Continue reading “2012 So Far, 50 So Far”

50 Gifts for My Birthday

The new studio. Not much in there yet!

On my desk at work rests a photo of my father and step mother in their early 50s. As my 50th birthday approaches at the end of April, I try not to over think that photo taken in 1986 at my brother’s wedding, when my father and Fran were only four years older than I am now. I try not to view 50 as the first step toward old age. Truthfully, turning 40 was more traumatic. Maybe turning 40 reveals the age when you know youth is gone (bye bye) and you take the first step into middle age; while at 50, you are knee deep in middle age and you’ve had 10 years to get used to living there. And let’s face it, you know so much more than you did 10, 20, 30, and 40 years ago.

I challenged myself this week to come up with 50 gifts or affirmations to give myself for my 50th birthday. Here they are:

  1. Get myself a writing studio. As some of my Facebook readers know, this week I rented some cool space with an artist friend and we are in the process of moving into our shared space. The rent is very inexpensive when split in two and the space is lovely. I’m writing from the studio NOW.
  2. Take myself seriously as a writer, as a person of wisdom, as a woman of experience. If one is forced to trade in youth and fertility, one must get something in exchange – I take experience, confidence, and self-knowledge, and you can have the tampons and the perfect body and the emotional confusion. Enjoy.
  3. See the Beatles’ tribute band, Rain, since I never got to see the Beatles when they were actually together. They broke up in 1970, when I was eight. Two of them are dead. Two of them are very old. I have floor tickets for April 14th.
  4. Join AARP (an association for older adults.) Don’t be vain. Take the discounts. The organization has already sent me a temporary card; apparently, they have my birthday on their minds also. The kid at Kentucky Fried Chicken has already given me a senior citizen’s discount without my even asking. Celebrate the 55 cents saved rather than stare in the mirror wondering: Do I look that old?
  5. Don’t worry about spending money if you are spending it on things that you value – like a writing studio, or personal training, or flying to Chicago to hang with a group of writers and read with them in the night at pubs and bars. That’s pretty cool, and not something I would have been capable of years ago.

    The view from my desk.
  6. Fix up your house till it feels good to you again. A carpenter just did a beautiful job rebuilding the steps to my backdoor. Little things like that go a long way.
  7. Fix up your body till it feels good to you again. I’ve started working out 4 times a week as I once did, two with Randi, trainer extraordinaire, and two at the new fitness club across the street, mainly because it has a pool!
  8. If I put on a few extra pounds, despite my best efforts at keeping fit, and if my stomach is no longer perfect, no longer boasting sexy ab lines running down either side of a flat tummy (now not so flat), be okay with that. Give myself some leeway. Love my not quite so perfect body.
  9. Finish my first book. Stop telling myself it’s not worth finishing. It is.
  10. Write that second book. You do have it in you.
  11. Spend more time reading great books.

    Read great books.
  12. Spend less time reading Facebook.
  13. Continue to make myself vulnerable in love; it’s one of my finer qualities even when it gets hard or embarrassing or sad.
  14. Keep taking risks with my activities and my personal relationships – travel, love, speak up, be yourself. WTF – you’re fifty!
  15. Don’t worry that I don’t write as well as other people, that I will never be one of the literary greats of society. I write well enough, and I have people interested in what I have to say.
  16. Don’t be afraid to laugh and smile, I mean, really let it go. Stop covering my nose and my mouth, just because long ago, someone stuck a pair of glasses on a butternut squash and said, “This is Cindy.” Big nose. That happened 35 years ago, get over it. Same with the comment from an ex-boyfriend, “I’d like a nude poster of you from the neck down.” It made me feel ugly from the neck up. Again, that was 35 years ago. Get over it.
  17. Don’t fear growing older. Don’t I feel that my life is better than it ever has been? A resounding YES!
  18. Sleep when I feel like it. Sleep like cats.
  19. Dance when I feel like it. Dance like a bunny doing a binky (bunny happy dance.)
  20. Don’t worry about how I look.
  21. Don’t worry about what people think of me.
  22. Don’t worry that I will die someday.
  23. Celebrate the moments of my life as often as possible.
  24. Document those amazing moments of my life. I’ve had several just in the last 4 months!
  25. Be bitchy when I need to be.
  26. Stop apologizing so much when I haven’t done anything wrong.
  27. Play with the cats without feeling guilty I’m not writing.
  28. Write without feeling guilty I’m not playing with the cats.
  29. Work hard at the office, but accept I will never be the geniuses that my coworkers are (and they ARE!) I bring my own special talents to the job and the team.
  30. Do what I can for my mother but know I must live my own life.
  31. Accept the changes in my body.
  32. Accept the changes in my mood.
  33. Accept the changes in my perspective. My apologies to those under 35, especially to those who are “old souls” but damn, anything below 35 sounds so young to me. You’ll see what I mean someday.
  34. Accept the wrinkles around my eyes.
  35. Keep my mind more open than it has been in the past, to different ideas, different kinds of people, different ways of seeing the world, and different ways of viewing my life.
  36. Believe that my life has meaning, even if I can’t define it.
  37. Believe that I will always be okay, even at that moment when I am ready to leave the earth. The key word is “ready.” I will be ready, so don’t worry now.
  38. Believe that people love me.
  39. Let people come and go in my life. Most people do not stay for a lifetime. This is what life is.
  40. Choose who I want to be with.
  41. Hope she chooses you.
  42. Choose someone else if she doesn’t.
  43. Eat red velvet cake and buttercream frosting a least once a month. Also, cheese puffs, green mint oreo cookies, and other unhealthy foods.
  44. If you need to cry, just cry and be done with it.
  45. Go to Japan.
  46. Go to LA.
  47. Go to England.
  48. Go to bed with someone you find sexy (don’t let 50 stop you.)
  49. Go to the place that makes you feel happy.
  50. Go wherever the hell you want.

I expounded less on these gifts and affirmations as I got further along, mainly because I might be at this forever if I didn’t shorten my statements. And yeah, I became a little fatigued. I am almost 50, after all. I find it interesting that I did not mention panic or agoraphobia anywhere in my list. I have come very far. I think it might be interesting this month to pick a few from the list and write more about them. Now, there’s an idea for some blog entries during my birthday month.

Thank you for reading, everyone. You’re the best.



Is it just me?

Gimme Shelter (documentary)
Image via Wikipedia

Or are we training our kids to blow up the world?

Recently I posted the Rolling Stones song, “Gimme Shelter” to my Facebook wall. I chose a Youtube video that explored the 1960s through a collage of images. The video smartly captured this complex decade: from the war in Vietnam to calls of peace from hippies; from groundbreaking music to the soup-can art of Andy Worhol; from the torture of innocents to rainbows of hope. The video included images of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, The Beatles, Malcolm X, and Fidel Castro. I believe someone made this collage video as a class project and set it to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

If you would like to view this interesting video before you read on, here is the link:

The song itself is haunting, with the high-pitched background vocals and Mick Jagger’s own distinctive voice, its dark edginess, and the repetition of the lyrics, “War, children, it’s just a shot away, a shot away, a shot away….Gimme, gimme shelter, or I’m going to fade away.” Yet the song ends on a hopeful note, “I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away, kiss away, kiss away….”

I don’t know if Jagger and Keith Richards purposely composed this song to express the turmoil of the 1960s, but it does. Whatever the composers’ intentions, it serves as an anti-war protest song, a song in which the vocalist is obviously asking for shelter and making a plea for love. It’s uncanny how the music and the words, the overall sound and moodiness of the song, bring back the 1960s half a century later.

But have you seen what the song is being used for today?

A network-run commercial recently aired for a new Xbox Game called, “Call of Duty: Black Ops.”

If you haven’t seen the commercial, take a look at this link before you read on:

Yes, everyone has a gun and most of them have machine guns: the attractive expressionless black woman in a business suit, the slightly overweight white girl with the smile on her face as she shoots her weapon, Jimmy Kimmel with the bazooka and yes, that is Kobe Bryant, also with a smile, as he shoots something up. At the end of the commercial, an  Arab-looking man walks in the streets holding two hand guns and shooting up the joint while the words, “There’s a soldier in all of us,” are imprinted over the video.

Am I the only one appalled by this commercial? Am I the only one who views the game and the commercial as a frighteningly unaware glorification of war? It’s Veteran’s Day. If I were a vet or a current soldier, I’d be pissed that risking my life for this country is being sold as an Xbox game where violence makes people smile.

Am I the only one who is shocked that the game is being marketed and sold to our youth as the greatest X-Box game ever?

I am horrified by the misuse of the song, “Gimme Shelter.” Does no one in the 21st century understand what that song really meant? How misapplied it is to a video in which everyone enjoys the killing but there is no blood, no innocent human carcass of the indigenous peoples, no body bags filled with 19-year old American boys being shipped home for burial? That was the 1960s. Not this.

It’s only a game, right? The technology of the Xbox is fabulous, I hear. The resolution  is “awesome,” no? No one really gets hurt, ain’t that the truth? Yeah, yeah, and freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I’m all for it. But is this where our culture is taking these freedoms?

I’ve been reading reviews of Call of Duty: Black Ops, online. So far, I can’t find anyone who is terribly disturbed that the biggest, hottest new Xbox 360 game is about smiling while you shoot people.

There was one guy on one website who commented: “it makes war seem like a game which it’s really not…” No, buddy, it’s really not. Ask any veteran. Or someone who has lost a loved one in a war. Not much to smile about, I would imagine.

Most comments sound more like this one that I’ve copied from a website:

“I’ve watched that commercial 20 times. What? I have a life! I do. Anyway, awesome, awesome, commercial. Love the hippie chick kicking in the door and the look of pleasure/rush of adrenaline on the face of her co-shooter.”

What??? Awesome commercial, this dude says, and he especially enjoys the “look of pleasure/rush of adrenaline” on the face of her “co-shooter.”

Is it any wonder there is “bullying” in our schools, murders in our streets, wars that never end? Or that we are so accustomed to violence that we think the commercial is “awesome, awesome,” instead of “horrific, horrific?” I don’t know whether such marketing promotes violence or whether the violence promotes the marketing. I just know something smells bad here.

I suppose I should give the commercial credit for being multicultural, multiracial, gender inclusive, etc. Well, nice. When we finally include everyone, we have them shooting bazookas and machine guns.

While technology marches us forward, human values leap barbarically backwards.

Is it just me, or are we training our kids to blow up the world? And to smile about it.

I don’t usually rant in my blog entries and I hope for all our sakes my next entry will be fun and funny. I usually want you to laugh with me or be moved with me. Today, on Veteran’s Day, I ask you to be afraid with me.

Gimme shelter.