Friday, August 20, 2010

Driving and Zipping and Rafting, Oh My!

I was home, and then I was home again.

In between, over the course of 5 nights and 6 whirlwind days I was captive in a car for a total of 17 hours dipping our wheels in four different states; I minigolfed, badmintoned not-too-terribly (did I mention I have no hand-eye coordination so, yes, this was actually one of the more difficult of all the "feats" for me),  ziplined and whitewater rafted, and in between all of that I eked out a massage and a few gloriously-quiet and relaxing swims.

Of course, it was only the latter that felt like the traditional definition of vacation, but I'm not complaining.

I am neither an athlete nor a daredevil, and I am the only girl in the house. One of the main reasons I plan these "non-stop, on-the-go" vacations is to give my two boys -- 12, and about to turn 15 -- a true chance to bond.

The truth is, they are very different boys with very different interests, and at home, with other options at their fingertips, they don't always spend the kind of quality time together I had hoped they would.

But shoved in a car with new things on the horizon, there is truly the need and opportunity to bond. To cuddle up together, And to find common ground.

Despite the dollars spent on ziplines and raft excursions and 40 ft. ropes courses, this vacation that opportunity was found in the simplest of places: in the car (okay, only on the ride there) and on the badminton court at our hotel.

There were silly, fun, exhausting matches of us against them (we lost, we lost, and, er, we lost), and, more importantly, there were Federer-Nadal quality matches between them that lasted more than two hours.

In the end, the older son bettered the younger son by a few mere points, which in our house is a very good and important thing.

But most of all there was good sportsmanship, a sheer joy at playing with one another, and, most importantly, talks about wanting to find a badminton league here where they can be a team and "destroy" everyone else TOGETHER.

For me, the vacation had high highs (I am now officially a zipline addict) and low lows (sometimes, in a family of three men, I am the only one to rally to do anything and everything, and yet, still, the far less appreciated and, -- harder -- the less "wanted" parent).

But the knowledge that my boys, for a few short days, bonded and admired each other, was well worth the money, the heartache and the trip. And, my own personal exhilaration was a bonus.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inertia, and the Art of Water Cycle Maintenance.

So, thank god I swim. Because other than swim, (ok, and a few paid mediations) I've done absolutely nothing productive in more than three weeks.

I'm in what is known as a rut.

At least as far as my writing is concerned.

As far as my writing is concerned I am annoyed, frustrated, heartbroken, befuddled and shut down. I'm sure I could add to that list.

First there have been the endless rejections on Swim Back to Me, several that have started with great hope -- a jazzed editor sending my agent a note about how she can't put it down, how the writing is gorgeous, how the mood is evocative. Then, the inevitable silence. Either that or a brief rejection at the executive board level. And then silence from my agent again.

Follow that with mixed feedback from my editor on my option WIP, Frankie Sky, a manuscript both I and my agent strongly believe in.

Now, I've got two pieces I'm working on: a women's fiction piece (I actually started a long time ago and was -- at the time -- excited about) called The Garden of Ruin and Story, and a rewrite of my YA manuscript, Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me (titles inevitably to change). But I find I open the screen on either one of them and just stare. Or maybe type a sentence or two and then switch to email or Facebook.

The bottom line is, I'm in a rut.

Utter inertia.

At least everywhere except the water.

*top photo credit Rick Kopstein,

*bottom photo credit Carol Moore,

Friday, August 6, 2010

Jellyfish Jam

Ogden Nash once wrote:

"The Jellyfish
Who wants my jellyfish? 

I'm not sellyfish!"

Hmmm... no offense, Ogden, but I think I can do better than that.

Jellyfish, jellyfish
with your long stringy arms
your gelatinous body,
so short on charms
your thoughtless mind,
your sucking fingers
your sting that burns like heck,
then lingers
your bulbous looks
like peeled-back brain,
you act aloof
then inject your pain,
oh Jellyfish, jellyfish,
through my hands you flutter,
can't you please ditch me
for the peanutbutter?

Hmmm, okay, maybe not.

So, why do I once again have jellyfish on my brain? Because it is August and they are out in full force. This morning's open water swim was a veritable jellyfish extravaganza. Especially the harmless moon jellies, which I don't really mind coexisting with.

But, now, the lions mane are out too, and during this morning's swim, my friend Evelyn got stung by one. A MERE 20 feet from me. And she's the second victim this season.

She called out and we stopped as she clutched at her arm and suggested we not "swim over there."

Er. Okay then. But we all know that jellyfish are like cockroaches: once you see one, you can be sure there are hundreds you can't see.

Then again, after the initial pain and creep out, she was fine, and we all kept on swimming at her behest, so why is it that I spent the rest of my swim panicking and periodically jerking up out of the water to shriek like a girl?

What is it about jellyfish that elicit such fear in me?

Is it their long gelatinous bodies without faces? Or the slippery way they flutter as they catch in my fingers? What is it about them that has me slathering on $13/bottle Seasafe lotion that promises to deter them, and ordering a $79 Ecostinger long sleeved, full body swimsuit that promises to detract? Because, it's not their sting itself, since I have now been with two swimmers who have been stung and then been quickly fine enough to carry on.

Nope. It's just definitely the freak out factor. The fear of being accosted by some slimy, faceless alien from the deep.

So, I'm working on a new plan. To be like Spongebob, friend to all the jellyfish in the sea.

I've got step one underway: the Jellyfish Jam. So turn the music up and dance it with me. Come on, you know you want to:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trying to Truly Internalize the Subjectivity of Art

(also known as bracing myself.)

But the truth is, well, that it's true. Art -- books, movies, paintings, theatre, dance, music, etc. -- is subjective. What you love, I may not. What I love, you may hate. Or simply not connect with. We may not see art the same way.

I often remind myself of this in relation to my own writing, trying to figure out how you weather and withstand a bad review when and if it comes out. Or worse, what about a scathing one? Forget about Booklist and School Library Journal. Have you ever read some of the customer reviews on Amazon?

At any rate, I got a real reminder this week of the true subjective nature of art.

Last week, for my mom's birthday, we went into the city to see two plays (both still in final throes of previews) and have dinner. The first piece, which I will not name here out of the goodness of my heart, was a horrible, over-acted, over-directed trifle of a thing that was meant to be funny but, to me (and the other five people I was with, all avid theatre goers who have seen a remarkable amount of theatre in their lives, from Broadway to so off-off-off Broadway they ran out of offs), was not funny, nor nearly as schocking as it meant to be, but instead was stale, silly, offensive, unbelievable, and without a redeeming bone in it's ugly theatrical body.

The good news for all was that evening's play, a wonderful piece called Trust with Zach Braff in the lead, redeemed things. Everything about it -- sets, costumes, dialogue, acting, were fresh and nearly pitch perfect, at least in the first act. If the second act didn't quite hold up, it still was a great piece of memorable theatre that we all thoroughly enjoyed.

Ah, but then art is subjective, remember?

Last night, I saw my mom. She said, "remember [insert name of play]?" At first I didn't because I had conveniently wiped all thoughts of it from my mind. But then she said, "it got universally good reviews."

According to the New York Times, the matinee we all unanimously hated was "lacerating" and a "sensational comedy," and most of the other major reviewers I could find agreed with the New York Times.

Does this mean I was wrong, or does this say something higher about art? About how what we think of art truly depends on what we, as an individual, bring to its viewing?

And what of Trust? Well, no reviews have come in yet, but if they come in negative, skewering, scathing, was I wrong? Have I seen less of a show?

Food for thought anyway, as I brace myself for my own round of critical judgment to come.