Facebook Roulette

There it was. The tiny, innocuous red circle, perched off to the side of the ‘Requests’ category. I stared at the glowing dot as if sizing up the red numbers on a giant Vegas roulette wheel. “Come on baby, make it a good one!” I hit the ‘Requests’ category and watched the name and face come forth.

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I was a late-comer and reluctant joiner of Facebook, long after everyone I knew had lost the ability to lift their heads during gatherings, except to smile for a photo tag. I eventually gave in since there was no one left to talk to in person. I wasn’t even going to join at all until a writer I revere said, “If you ever plan to get published, then you should start your online platform now.” Platform? The only platform I ever knew was the one my college professor said needed to be lit on fire in order to change points of view.

None the less, I succumbed to starting my platform on Facebook. I picked a photo, twenty years younger; how else would anyone know who I was? I filled in a profile with as little information as possible. Then, after nearly throwing up, I hit the ‘Go’ button. Next on the list of humiliating prospects was begging for friends. I started with my boyfriend. Surely, he would be my ‘friend’. After he accepted my ‘friend request’ I was thrilled. One friend was enough- Right? “You need more friends,” he said. “No, I like having just one- thanks,” I replied. For weeks, he would mock me through emails containing screenshots stating:        “Melanie has 1 friend.” facebook-no-friends
At last, after being teased by my real, live, heads-down friends, I accepted more people into my anxiety riddled Facebook world. Beyond my closest friends I couldn’t imagine who would care what I had to say or what I was doing. Does anyone care where I ‘checked in’ at 6:42 pm? My boyfriend offered me a tinfoil hat and recommended I loosen up; pretend to be social and see what happens.

The real roulette game started after I became ‘friends’ with the queen bee; my high school girlfriend who knew every face she ever met and remembers amazing amounts of dirt on everyone. After linking to her on Facebook, the ‘friend requests’ started rolling in. Many of the early requests were from people I actually remembered from college or high school, but others were remote names I recognized from some distant, other life that I could not place in time or space.

My greatest surprise was learning the real meaning of social media: Anyone can say nearly anything without regard for decorum, wit, intelligence or couth, and it will shoot out into the universe and land just inches from my face. I was utterly shocked to learn that the bubbly athletic girl who had had public hot-tub sex at a kegger party was now a bible-preaching gun advocate. And worse were the frequent ‘likes’ that pushed Walmart into my ‘Newsfeed’. In contrast, I was pleased to learn that my first boyfriend, fifth grade kiss behind the school, was now an advocate fighting for gay rights in a deeply religious small town. From there, the game of roulette commenced; deciding who to ‘accept’ and who to ‘ignore’ and then see where the roulette wheel would land.

There were ‘friends’ who popped up pretending to know me (or perhaps were just building their own platform) despite the fact that I had zero recognition of them. Or the ‘friends’ whom I truly enjoy but who post something new approximately every 20 seconds. Why did it seem like everyone was doing cool stuff except me? I was fortunate to connect with some very interesting friends who travel and post pictures of cool cultures and rare plants, or those with a wicked sense of humor who share great jokes and fabulously written New Yorker pieces. My cooking friends grace my ‘Newsfeed’ with golden, crusty bread and oozing berry pies hot from the oven.

So, with trepidation I hit the red dot indicating that I have one new friend request and spin the roulette wheel, not knowing whether my new friend will be a hilarious photo bomber or a raving Fox ‘news’ lunatic. I guess that’s what makes it all the more interesting. So, on those occasions where the gamble turns out to be an utter, terrible mistake, I am grateful for the ‘unfriend’ button. Now where did they move that thing?

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Book at the Beach

Manzanita, Oregon is my favorite Oregon beach town for many reasons: the wide open and sparsely populated beach, the few but tasty restaurants, and the Cloud and Leaf bookstore. As I come through the drizzly coast range, I can already feel the pull of the little book shop. The door is usually propped open, a soft light emanating from inside. 20160521_140829.jpg The smell of clean paper is mixed with fresh rain. Colorful titles jump forward requesting my attention; mystery, humor, literature, best sellers. 20160521_140757.jpgThe owner is a soft-spoken, friendly woman who without a pause invites my book to joint the others. With delight, I see that my story has a new home in the local authors section. After years of work and buckets of self-doubt, my dream has come true. My book is on the shelf.

Words don’t bleed, cut them

I can’t recall who said it, but this quote has proven true: “Words don’t bleed, cut them.”1

Over the past five years I have crafted a story onto the page. Plodded toward the finish line pushing hard for word count, straining for depth and meaning. I rewrote the story twice to make the characters more engaging. I reworked the structure to follow the hero’s journey, carefully adding pace and plot. Eventually, the story was done. Then it came time to give it away to someone else, an editor and publisher, who would look at it with fresh eyes and a steel heart.

When the novel came back, I stared at the corrections. Mountains of corrections. Not just grammatical, but technical, developmental, and logistical. I stared at the page. My heart broke a little. Then I took a deep breath, hit “accept all” and dug in. I cut full scenes. I cut entire plot lines. I cut words, favorite and beloved. I realized then the real truth, that in fact the words did not bleed. Instead, cutting words set the story free.

Now, I am rebuilding. I am happy to find that in the more trim version, the plot is less leaden. The protagonist has purpose, and the story baggage has been left for someone else to claim. I love the story arc more than ever before. I am energized to write again, to create, to live inside my characters.

Perhaps this year will be the one that sees this novel to print. No matter if this draft comes back once again from a second edit with “Try again” written all over it, I know that I will see it through. I will trust the objective view from outsiders. I will trust that the story will only strengthen each time. And I will trust that things cut back, will only return stronger and more beautiful.

1 if anyone knows the source of the title quote please let me know – I’d love to give proper credit.

Books for Food

For weeks on end I have been feeding an insatiable appetite. Trolling the fridge for fat-laden, cream-based anything; savoring hunks of bread laden with wads of peanut butter, stirring up huge bowls of mac and cheese, delving into the depths of the bag to find the saltiest, thickest chip.

I finally found time to run to my local book store with an hour to shop. With a foamy latte in one hand, I ran my fingers over the table of ‘Hot Summer Reads.’ Torrid love affairs and twisted family secrets offered up their titles. ‘Fiction and Literature’ tempted me with rich plot lines and deep moral exploration like something cooked long and slow, covered in a rich sauce. My mouth watered at the thought of finding the perfect book to read late into the night.

Finally, in ‘Mysteries’, I found a small cache of previously unread books from a known favorite author. I plucked two books from the shelf, paid in full, and ran to my car. I sat and looked into the small bag with a deep smile on my face; I had hit the jackpot and found not one book, but two. It was like opening the pink bakers box and finding that not only had the baker delicately wrapped the cool chocolate éclair in lacy paper, but he had also included a creamy hazelnut-vanilla cannoli.

Next time I find myself staring into the abyss of the fridge or the kitchen carb drawer, I think instead that I’ll go to the book store and pick up a delicious treat.

Exploring Change and Transformation

In an effort to get to know my characters better, I’m exploring change. What makes one person change, grow, and adapt in the face of challenge and another regress or cling hopelessly to a fruitless past? Does change reveal a more authentic self or just a more polished interpretation of the practiced self?

 

Few-Word February

February feels like the month of few words. Ideas, thoughts, and stories reside in my head but nothing seems to make it to the page. The blank page stares back, empty, hoping, waiting. I sit poised, pen in hand, longing for the ink to flow, but the words just jumble and clog.

So in lieu of finding my own original words, I will turn to the beautiful words of others.

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your hearts longing.

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer

-from Opening the Invitation

Coffee vs. beer: Which drink makes you more creative?

Got the creativity blues? Here’s a great article from The Next Web that goes into the science on the brain and how coffee and beer can percolate our creative centers.

Coffee vs. beer: Which drink makes you more creative? – The Next Web.

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