Gratitude: April 2014

As many days as possible, I list at least one (sometimes up to six) distinct thing(s) for which I’m grateful. The list is archived monthly. Here’s April 2014. 

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I’m grateful for strawberries and almonds and a pot full of black coffee for breakfast. Seeing what the author did with the floating POV, being annoyed but wanting to read on anyway. Getting the last workshop critiques out of the way to make room for the new ones. Amy Hempel.

I’m grateful for a day of reading and writing. Advance reading assignments from my next writing teacher. Spending most of the day with the work and insights of Flannery O’Connor. Her incredible POV control–like an innovative director of photography situating readers physically and specifically in the scene–with lines like this, “The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulder blades were just behind his hat because she was standing up looking down on him.” Her motivating judgement of beginning writers “too lazy or highfalutin to descend to the concrete where fiction operates.” My new mantra: descend to the concrete, descend to the concrete; or in terms of the piece I’m rewriting now: sit at that brunch table, sit in that dining room.

I’m grateful for clean drinking water. Some morning hours to read short shorts by Carver and Hempel. Indulging in reading “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” even though I was supposed to have moved on to bookkeeping by then. The experience of a good, private cry. Absolutely great news from one of my writing friends. Another task checked off the list at the office, and the delightful woman who made it happen.

I’m grateful for getting through the day despite feeling off and insecure. The pleasant cafe that serves breakfast all day. Fun dinner discussion with Andy. Poetry exchanges.

I’m grateful for having made a concrete checklist for the piece I’m rewriting; maybe it will graduate to “story” this time around. This: watching the first few minutes of a movie with Andy when he complains about the violence; I pause the movie to say, “I just need to argue a point—” He interrupts to say precisely what I was about to, “I know, he needs to show the stakes.” Then I break into my best Key & Peele falsetto to say, “That’s what I was about to say!” And we laugh. Ruby washing her face in the sunlight. Ellie on her tapestry-covered princess perch. Saturdays. Today.

I’m grateful to have had time to help move a good friend’s book collection. Finding Faulkner in her old college anthology. Borrowed books. Conversations on floors.

I’m grateful for another class at UCLA Extension. Getting to know a knew-to-me teacher and another set of fellow students. Flannery O’Connor. That my first deadline is weeks way.

I’m grateful I made it the panel I wanted to see at the Book Fest on time. Running into two creative/writing friends. The little girl who invaded my space and looked me in the eye for long dozens of seconds. That I didn’t flinch when she grabbed both of my earrings. The way I felt in the minutes that followed. Being able to buy a much needed fleecy sweatshirt. A glass of wine under the big tree. Hearing these things from established authors, “A good novel is disturbing.” “I don’t know my world view until I write it.” “Writing is a way to live an engaged life. You can’t do it blindly. You have to pay attention.”

I’m grateful to have gotten Andy’s taxes filed.

I’m grateful for a nice long chat with Mom. Beginning a rewrite on an old story. A two mile walk.

I’m grateful for A Public Space.

I’m grateful for a 100% writing day.

I’m grateful for “Remote Feed” by David Gilbert. David Gilbert.

I’m grateful for Andy bringing dinner in for us. The yumminess of Kung Pao tofu.

I’m grateful for days so fine they slip from memory.

I’m grateful for time to water color some journal pages. Turning the leaked ink into the moon.

I’m grateful for brunch with my writing group. A great discussion of “God of Ducks.” Tina Louise Blevins.

I’m grateful homework was collected.

I’m grateful for ibuprofen.

I’m grateful for morning time to read Faulkner’s Nobel banquet speech. This, “The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

I’m grateful for a ricotta drenched lunch with a darling friend. And the 5 block walk to and from.

I’m grateful for something* specific for which I have no words. The challenge of working on defining and labeling that*. Befuddlement and wonder, not crypticism.

I’m grateful for a shitty day writing. The epiphany at the end of the day to put away one draft and pick up another. (To my brother: story draft, not beer draft.) My brother. Beer drafts. Story drafts. Having been told by my teachers that some stories are harder than others.

I’m grateful for a full day of writing, complete with a walk. The way Ellie enjoys sitting on her perch in the sunlight.

I’m grateful for making it through the rewrite checklist on the new draft of the easier piece. Finding a place to stop the action. Getting to Staples to make workshop copies and time to grab dinner before class. Being able to study with teachers whose love of writing and writers is endearing and infectious. CVW’s Harris, his alluvial fan, and the way he did not rise up in the end. That emails to a person dead too long do not bounce back. A difficult rewrite begun. An easier rewrite completed. Motivating homework assignments.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to lean from Lisa Cron during her 2 night workshop at PEN Center USA. Learning about how story “as essential to human evolution as the thumb, because without story, we wouldn’t know what to hold on to.” Those times when running into acquaintances reminds me that I’m a part of a community. Having read an average of a story per day in April. So many stories.

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