Tuesday, July 30, 2013

King Me

Most of the time when people think of someone who plays games, they think of someone who cheats. While this is sometimes true because the secret carrying-on of two or several relationships takes strategy, I don't think it would be fair to limit a true Game Player to this one form of manipulation. I think that the most prevalent and annoying form of game playing happens in conversation, and I think that their victims would agree with me when they really stop to think about it.

When I was on-line dating I used to see this on people's profiles all the time - a huge disclaimer that said "Does not want someone who plays games." And you know what they're talking about when they say that, you know that they're not saying "Does not want someone who plays Scrabble" or "Clue" or "WiiFit." They mean manipulative slimeballs. 

This kind of disclaimer would be terribly offensive for any other group of people. Like if it were common to say "Does not want someone named Helen" then Helens would be very sad, feel oppressed, and maybe start a support group about it. But Game Players are not deterred by this, oh no, they see that warning "Does not want someone who plays games," and they think, "Well, I'll just have to work my way around that." (Note: this attitude also works for Helens.)

So let's say that you're dating on-line. You could either be looking for a man or a woman but let's just say for our example here today, you're looking for a man. And in all honestly, speaking as someone who has dated both men and women, Game Players pretty much work the same no matter what gender they are. So, you've made it clear that you don't want ANY manipulative game players by wearing a T-shirt in your profile picture that says, "Nogameplayo-sexual." But this only attracts Game Players more, and so now you've found someone who you think is a nice guy, and he has made whatever moves he must make to get into your life. You are in a relationship. Though you never would have thought of this man as a manipulative game player, you're beginning to notice certain things, and really, you should have seen this coming because he has a skinny mustache that curls up wickedly at the tips, and wears a top hat and a cape. But you've been looking past this to the beauty inside of him until one day you notice that he wins every argument you ever have. An example of an argument that you recently lost was this:

You're getting into the car to go shopping for a new pair of shoes. You've been planning this since yesterday. As he slides into the driver's seat, he says, "Do you mind if we make a quick stop first?"

"No. Where?"

"I need a new evil cape. It won't take me long. And it's close to the shoe store."

"Well, I have to meet my mother at-"

"I'll drive fast. Won't take long."

"Can you just drop me off at the shoe store then and I'll shop while you shop?"

"But I want you to be with me. We're supposed to spend the day together."

"True, but-"

"And," he grins. "Don't you want to help me pick out something sexy?"

"I trust your taste."

His curly mustache unfurls with his frown. "This cape is for us. Not me - US. If you don't want to be part of us, that's fine. Go get your shoes and I'll shop alone."

You sigh and give in. And then you realize that you've agreed to do something that you don't want to do, that was not discussed at any point up until now, and that you don't know how to tell him that all of his capes make him look fat.

After three hours of cape shopping comes the next type of argument that Game Players always win, and that is "Arguments that Should Really Just Be Discussions." The discussion that you lost that afternoon went like this:

You: I'm hungry.

Him: No, you're not.

Nothing is as plain that you are with a Game Player than when they argue with a statement that is an inarguable fact, and STILL WIN.

"I'm hungry."

"No, you're not."

"Yes, I am! It's noon! I skipped breakfast! Besides, I shouldn't even have to explain this. I know I'm hungry when I'm hungry, how do you know that I'm not?"

He looks hurt. "Why don't you tell me how you really feel?"

And this gets you every time, especially this afternoon. Because are you feeling something besides hungry? Yes! You're pissed at him and yourself for not having a new pair of shoes! And you're in the car with a bag full of new capes with this jerk who reminds you of an annoying kid that you used to play checkers with who would move a piece to the end of the board and yell "King me! King me! Ha HA! I'm BEATING you!" and you're hungry and you're barefoot, and goddamn it, Helen, you're not going to take it anymore!

So here's what you do. Roll the conversation again.

"I'm hungry."

"No, you're not."

"I'm going to eat your cape."

"Hey! That's new, get that out of your mouth!"


"That's an $80 cape!"

RIP! "Five dollars now."

"You're crazy!"

"And hungry. Drop me off at McDonald's."

He swerves over. Congratulations! You are single and have lunch!

So readers, see what Helen did there? She didn't argue with him. Because you will not win an argument with a Game Player, you can only eat their cape and go.

But if you feel that you must win the argument, then you have to know their winning strategy. Game Players play on your insecurities and fears. Your best defense, therefore, is to have a solid view of yourself. Sounds simple enough, unless you have low self-esteem. Helen will prove this point for us in the following example:

Helen and Todd are sitting at the table reading the paper. Helen lowers the comics and says to him, "I think I'd like to take up photography."

"You have no eyeballs," says Todd from behind his paper.

"Yes, I do."

"How do you know? Sure, you see them in the mirror, but what if everything you think you see is just a projection of your imagination because you can't bear the fact that you have no eyes?

"That's ridiculous."

"Prove me wrong."

Helen thinks about it.

"You can't, can you?" he says.

"No, but that doesn't make you right."

"True, but it means that if I am right and you buy a camera you'll look like a fool, a fool with no eyes, and I love you too much to let that happen."

Helen, who suffers from poor self-esteem, is now only aware of the fact that Todd said, "I love you" and tells herself that even though he's a little nuts it's sweet of him to care.

(Fast forward Helen's life two years, add one nervous breakdown, lots of therapy in the aftermath, some self-realization, and a steady yoga routine.)

Confident Helen and Todd are having breakfast and reading the paper.

"I think I'd like to take up photography," says Helen.

"But you don't have-"

"Your chair's on fire."


Helen, with her keen ever-present eyeballs, lit the fire while he read his paper, thus distracting him long enough so that she was able to slip off to the camera store. Win!

But do you always win an argument with a Game Player by starting fires? No. Arguments with Game Players can also be won by the following methods:

1) Point out their own fears and insecurities. "Todd, you should get over your fear that if I have a hobby outside of our relationship I'll leave you."

2) Play on their fears and insecurities. "Todd, I'm leaving you."

3) Freak them out. "Todd, I started that fire with my eyeballs."

Now you are ready. Go forth and fight the fighters. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Gonzo Journalism

You have just woken up and you stagger to your front porch to collect your paper. You're thinking about coffee, and wondering why it is you don't read the news on the internet like all decent people until you remember that you are an indecent person. In fact, you have just staggered out your front door without pants.

Instead of finding your newspaper, you find me. I am sitting on your outdoor furniture, sipping an enormous mug of coffee, and clicking on my laptop. I am wearing a red flannel shirt and cut off jeans shorts because that's what I like to wear on Sunday mornings when I sit on stranger's porches. I toss you a pair of shorts and say, "Good morning! Would you like to hear the news?"

You nod, step into the pants, and sit on the chair across from me.

"Look, you should know that I'm really not into reading the news," I say.

"Then why don't you just give me my paper?"

"It's not that I don't like ANY news. I just don't like all of those big headlines. The ones about politics, war, murder, and natural disasters."

"So...you don't keep up with ANYTHING?"

"Of course I do! Look at this 'People pay ridiculous prices for Kanye's clothes.' Or look, this one's on yahoo - 'It's a feud: Honey Boo Boo vs. Cake Boss.'"

"There are wars going on. Plane crashes. Unrest in Egypt. President Obama -"

"Do you think Obama is more of a Honey Boo Boo or Cake Boss kind of man?"

You smack your forehead and hold your hand out for the paper. I sigh and hand it over.

"Thank you," you say, remove your pants, and walk back inside.

"Wait! Look at this! 'Ten signs that your coworker is a spy!'"

You slam the door behind you.

Well since YOU don't want me to deliver back page news, I'll go ahead and write about it. 'Cause, see, I find that the headlines that are towards the back of the paper, or the ones you scroll further down for on a website, are just as important as the ones that scream out in your face and eventually cause people to write facebook posts that cause other people to unfriend them. How many people do you know had family members unfriend them after the Trayvon Martin verdict or during the latest election? Conversely, how many people do you know were unfriended after posting the yahoo article "China's Donut Shaped Hotel." No one! This is the kind of news that gets you more friends!

Am I saying I don't have opinions about the big stuff? Of course not, I'm loaded with opinions. But writing about them here is not my job. My job is to share articles that preferably have "omg" in the title. Like this: "Tina Turner marries Erwin Bach After 27 Years Together" She's 73! He's 57!  "73 Year Old Woman Scores Younger Man - He Teaches Her What OMG Means" could have been the name of that article.

Or there are ones like this, "Cheesecake + Peanut Butter cups = the most decadent dessert ever." It's not much of an article, just a recipe, but the word "wow-factor" is involved. And it's news-worthy because I think people deserve to know what is the most decadent dessert ever. We deserve to know that as much as we deserve to know who was murdered yesterday, especially if it was death by chocolate cheesecake with peanut butter cups on top.

Better yet, this is my kind of news "Would-be mermaid banned from Fla. pool."  Just try NOT clicking on that one. You know, Florida I just don't understand. Who WOULDN'T want magical creatures in their pool? I thought the days were gone of excluding minorities from clubs but, no, mermaids must continue to struggle and find other places to swim. And swimming is what they do! That would be like banning me from a coffee shop. Way to be progressive, Florida.

Florida just unfriended me from Facebook.

But my absolute most favorite kind of news that I get everyday and read consistently is (ready yourself for a shock. You might want to put your pants back on) The Writer's Almanac.  It's through these daily updates that I learn things like, for instance, July 18th is the birthday of Hunter S. Thompson who was not only a novelist but a gonzo journalist.

I read this and thought, "What IS a gonzo journalist? A muppet reporter? I must know!" And so I looked on Wikipedia like the self-respecting lazy researcher that I am and found the following definition, "Gonzo journalism involves an approach to accuracy through the reporting of personal experiences and emotions as compared to traditional journalism, which favors a detached style and relies on facts or quotations that can be verified by third parties...Use of sarcasm, humor, exaggeration and profanity is common." 

How could I have lived so long without having known this? And how long would I have gone on without knowing had it not been for The Writer's Almanac? Thompson followed The Hell's Angels around to write about them in his sarcastic, profane style, which, as it turns out IS A STYLE! What does this mean for me as a writer? What gangs do I have access to follow around and chronicle their doings? Girl Scout moms? Sixth graders? Five hamsters? I have five hamsters, I can follow them around and take note of their lives and times. 8:00 - eat, 8:01 - twitch whiskers, 8:02 - bite human, 8:03 - eat, 8:04 - attempt escape. I have not listed time for pooping because it happens continuously. Perhaps I won't write about hamsters, although the schedule for Girl Scout moms is exactly the same.

This style will take practice. I need a place to practice, so hey, can I keep hanging out on your porch? The chair is comfy and the coffee is delicious...I can? Yay!...What do you mean "on one condition," who said anything about conditions?...Well, I don't know...I can show you a picture of it but can't you just imagine what it looks? I've described it, it shouldn't take a stretch of the...alright, alright fine. 

Here it is, as promised. The donut-shaped hotel in China:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Performance Art

[For some reason, one paragraph in this post is highlighted white. I didn't do this on purpose, though I suppose it is pretty. I'm working to get that to go away. I apologize for the visual distraction.]

The artist on Frenchmen St. would really love to shock me. Though I guess I make it sound personal when I say it like that.

I found her at one of those outdoor art markets on Frenchmen St while I was walking around with my friend Jeremy a couple of weeks ago. I usually steer clear of those things because it feels awkward when you're looking at hand-made necklaces and the jeweler is standing there staring at you, willing you to buy something. It's not that I don't want to buy art, it's just that my budget hasn't evolved past the"basic needs" category yet and I feel like I'm teasing these people when I walk in, become interested in their work, and then walk away with nothing.

But when I saw the the plastic, electric couch and love seat in the middle of the courtyard, I couldn't help myself.

"I think we should sit there," I said, pointing to the life-sized doll house furniture that were glowing like light bulbs. "So we can see what it's like to be a lightening bugs."

He agreed so we walked over to the couches with the purpose of trying them on until we realized that we would be sitting on someone's art.

"Well, they look cool," Jeremy said, standing in their glow.

"Yeah. I bet they're too hot to sit on anyway. Being a lightening bug is probably uncomfortable."

He looked around at the booths encircling the chairs. "We could look at stuff. You wanna?"

"Can we sit on any of it?"

He glanced at the tables of paintings, homemade-soaps, and jars. "No."

I sighed. "Art's too one-sided. It should all atleast double as an ottoman."

"Do you like art?" he asked.

"Well, yeah. I just don't always understand it."

[Note: This is the perfect time to say that you don't understand my writing. Especially if you are an artist who's sculptures look like chairs that people can't sit on. And cue tearing into me....NOW]

"This is interesting," he said, leading to me to a table of interesting things. The maker of the interesting things was so skinny, that the fattest things on him was his Adam's apple. I don't know if I imagined or not, but it felt like he was watching me the whole time I looked at his stuff and I felt guilty for walking away without buying anything.

It was a few booths before we found the lady who liked to shock. She was sitting in a folding chair, in between two racks of her prints. There was a third rack across from her, and it was that one I chose to peruse because then I didn't have to see if she had a starving Adam's apple. The paintings were sharp cartoon characters - faeries, trees shaped like women, and nightmarish things with claws. I was admiring the small details of them (the shapes of toes and hips) when she said from her chair, "Their stories are on the back."

I twisted my head around, unsure that she was talking to me. It was then that I noticed she was beautiful in her black dress with blue eyes and dark hair.

She pointed to the palm of her hand and then turned it over. "Look on the back."

I flipped over the print of faeries that I'd been looking at and there was a slip of paper in the in the plastic case that told me their story. I began looking at the pictures with new interest, now that I could know more about the creatures in them. Jeremy was interested in one particular picture of a little girl walking along who was being followed by a swarm of dark, hideous creatures. The artist said it was inspired by a reoccurring nightmare she'd had as a kid, and I half listened to their conversation while I looked at print after print. After reading one that was about strength and female sexuality I said to her, "You're a good writer."

She smiled sideways. "Thanks."

She began to talk about the painting, about how it was important to get the nightmares out, even if it disturbed people. Especially if it disturbed people, she said, because it was important to break them out of their own little dreams. It was Jeremy who was asking her questions so it was mostly him that she addressed all of this to, but she looked right at me when she said, "Some of my work disturbs people, but you know what? I just stick my tongue right in that hole and push."

Several things happened inside of me when she said this. First, I could feel what she'd just described as if it were being done to me but not at all in a pleasurable way. Second, I felt smothered, like I couldn't breathe, and I wanted to knee her in the face. Third, the guardian in my mind that keeps me from going crazy shouted out a set of instructions.

"Shields up!" she said. "We have a potentially aggressive woman on scope! Let nothing in emotionally or physically!"

"Done," my brain said.

"Do not lash out violently."

"Yes, sir."

"I'm a ma'am. Your guardian subconscious is female."

"Oh.  Yes ma'am."

"Excellent. Are we disconnecting from any sex abuse memories that this woman has provoked?"


"How's the inner child? She ok?"

"Eh...she's a little rattled."

"She always is. Tell her to get up here with the grown ups and watch us work."


"Sarcastic remarks at the ready?"


"Fire at will."

I looked at the artist, the tongue pusher, and I wanted to suggest that she stick her tongue in the hole of a pencil sharpener. And I wanted to tell her that it was people like her, puffed up peacocks strutting around with obscene gestures spray painted on their feathers, that were the stuff of my nightmares. People who want to push and shock, and push and push and push no matter how you feel about it. Hold still while I hold you down, just hold still if you love me, if you want me to feel better. Hold still and I'll force you open and I'll tell you a story and I'll show you a nightmare.

I turned around and set the picture on the shelf where I'd gotten it. Then when I looked back at her again, my kid, the one that the guardian in my mind had invited to the captain's chair to watch me deal with the artist, looked out into her face and saw another little girl. That one had nightmares just like me but she didn't deal with them like me. I had become very still and quiet and thought if I just made myself small enough that the bad thing that was happening would eventually stop and everybody would be ok. The woman hurting me wouldn't feel bad about herself if I didn't bring it up, and I would be ok if I forgot about it.

The artist child didn't make herself forget to make everyone else feel comfortable. In fact, she decided to make everyone she could feel extremely uncomfortable.

"She's hurting too," my inner child said. She looked at the guardian and said, "Why are so many people hurting?"

"I don't know but that doesn't give her the right to hurt anybody else."

"She doesn't know you're hurting," my brain said. "She doesn't know you're thinking or feeling any of this. She just knows her own shit."

"She wants to shock me," the kid said. "I don't like being shocked."

"Then don't be," the guardian said.

I came out of my head. "Sounds effective," I said to her.

She nodded and then went on to describe her work, how it's used by children's therapists and by parents who want to help their kids deal with their emotions. She showed me a book of her work that had nude pictures of herself.  I listened to her and flipped through the book, stony faced, not reacting except to say "cool" from time to time.

Honestly, I don't remember most of the pictures she showed me. But I remembered what she said about sticking her tongue in holes. And now I've blogged about it. So I was right - it was effective. It made me think about why I reacted the way I did, why I felt so uncomfortable, why it made me feel so violated that I had to work with different parts of my brain just to calm myself down.

It's probably time to start writing about that part of my life, not to scare anyone or shock them, but just in case someone else is living through child abuse memories that they'd made themselves forget. Oddly, to get all of this work out, I'm going to have to do exactly what I don't like doing. I'm going to have to make myself visible when the child inside of me wants to stay quiet and invisible. Be very, very quiet and still and obedient. I seem to be carrying that philosophy over into too many areas of my life and my writing career has been one of them.

So I'm just going to stick my ear in that toaster...no, that doesn't work. I'm just gonna stick my esophagus in that geyser...no that's dumb. What can I stick in something that's shocking without sexually traumatizing me or anyone else?...I got it. I'm just going to stick that hamster in that rabbit cage, GODDAMNIT, I'm just going to stick that waffle in that fondue pot and I don't care who it upsets!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Vanishing Animal

I needed atmosphere, so I grabbed my rough draft and I went to the zoo. I had the day off and seeing as how it was Independence Day I suppose I should have worn red, white and blue. But I couldn't find anything and I was anxious to get out the door, so I threw on my Social Aid and Pleasure Club T-shirt and hopped in the car.

Writing in the front yard worked so well the other day that I figured surrounding myself with wildlife would have the same effect, if not better. AND IT WAS. Just so you know, if you're writing a scifi/fantasy novel about a locksmith who opens the door to a different world, and part of that world is a carnivorous forest, the zoo makes for a better feel than a coffee shop. I spent about the first two hours walking around taking notes on the way animals moved, the smells, details about them written on signs, things I've never noticed like the way flamingos knees bend in the opposite direction of ours when they walk, and notes on ferns and other plant life around the them. Then I sat at a bench outside of the Primate Exhibit and wrote for two solid, uninterrupted hours, with all of the smells and sounds that I needed. Peacock cries and howler monkeys, and cicadas that sing in chorus, somehow making the heat hotter. I took pictures of vines and rocks that I want in my forest, and signs with phrases that spoke to me, like "vanishing animal" and "coin vortex."

For some reason "Sea Lion Pool," struck me as particularly beautiful. Those three words have nothing to do with each other when you take them apart, and all three of them have their own power. Sea - one of the largest bodies of water on the planet, lion - one of the most powerful animals on the planet, and pool - a rejuvenating space that (to me) suggests fun and relaxation. The three together is dynamic. I explained this to my coworker James this morning and he raised an eyebrow at me.

"It's possible," I said, really thinking about it. "That there are still remnants of illegal drugs stored in my spinal chord that, when released, make terms like 'sea lion pool' tear-jerkingly beautiful."

"I'm crying for you, Gen," he said.

But he did admit that "coin vortex" and "vanishing animal" were neat terms.  He wouldn't have taken pictures of them though. I noticed that some of the other zoo patrons were giving me strange looks when I took pictures of signs or when I scribbled in my notebook. But they didn't ask about it so I didn't bother to tell them that I'm writing a scifi/fantsy novel that involves a carnivorous forest and that I noticed in doing so that the zoo smells just like the French Quarter, minus the booze. People write there, so why shouldn't I write at the zoo?

I'm writing everywhere lately. It all comes out at work or while I'm driving or doing the dishes. This is especially bad when I'm at work. The other day I had the impulse to answer the phone in Japanese and I don't even speak it. I just wanted to play with new sounds.

Speaking of strings of words and sounds, there was a quote etched in the rock by the sea lion pool that I've never noticed before. It's by the poet Robinson Jeffers, who was possibly tripped out by the term "Sea Lion Pool" when he wrote, “As for us we must uncenter our minds from ourselves; We must unhmanize our views a little, and become confident As the rock and ocean that we were made from.”

I'm a little nervous to finish this book and have people say, "You had a writing frenzy and did all of that research for...THIS?" Well, yes. But I don't think this is just a phase. I will write like this until I'm just the memory of an animal and between now and then I foresee a whole lot of stories. With luck, not all of them will draw funny looks, but I suppose even if they do I'll still keep writing them, just like how I'll still keep snapping pictures of word strings and vines.  

"I think that one's eyes are hurt," a guy said by the Sea Lion Pool, pointing to one who's eyes were closed.  

But I didn't think so. It was swimming with the other one who also had her eyes closed, not squinting them shut in pain, but with a soft face. My note says about them, "Both sea lions swim in slow circles with their eyes closed like they're in love." That's what my mind is like all the time now, not in love with a person but with all of these sounds. I close my eyes, say "Vanishing Animal" to myself and swim.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Front Yard Blues

I wanted to write after work, but not in the house. I'm working on part of the book where my characters are in the Forest Door, which is a place where everything (the grass, the animals, the bugs, and tree saplings) try to eat you. I'm almost finished with this part and yesterday I got the feeling that I needed some extra inspiration so I took a blanket and the stack of looseleaf paper that is my rough draft and I went to the front yard.

There's a figure 8 of azalea bushes near an oak tree out there. I walked to the center of the figure 8 and spread the blanket, happily cloaked by the bushes when I laid down on my stomach and began to write. This proved to be a perfect place to write about a carnivorous forest. Because my lawn is filled with things that want to bite me - ants, spiders, mosquitoes, and little grasshopper-like thingies that aren't exactly grasshoppers. They enjoy springing from my legs to the grass.

So The Water Door Magician is coming along. Though I did stop once to roll onto my back and look up at the sky that was still blue but yellowing with the sunset by then. I don't know what it is that makes powerlines beautiful against the clouds, but they are when you look at them from a grasshopper's point of view. It was because I was listening to "Elvis Presley Blues" by Gillian Welch on my phone. It put me in  mood to lie on my back and look at things.

I was thinking that night about Elvis

Day that he died, day that he died

I was thinking that night about Elvis

Day that he died, day that he died

Just a country boy that combed his hair

And put on a shirt his mother made and went on the air

And he shook it like a chorus girl

And he shook it like a Harlem queen

He shook it like a midnight rebel, baby

Like you never seen   Never seen

DMV Testing

You might recall my ex-boss who smells like onion bagels? Loretta Von Stink? The one who would tell me how to do something, change the rules a week later and then scream at me for doing it wrong? The one that my coworkers and I strongly suspected of being undead because she was pale and veiny and sometimes had a trickle of blood on her chin? Well, it turns out that she also illegally parks. That. Bitch.

I learned this yesterday when I got out of my car and picked up the scent of onion bagel. I resisted the urge to dive under a nearby SUV and hide, but bravely made my way towards the building knowing that I would probably bump into Loretta. And sure enough, she was getting out of her car in the next aisle...parked in a handi-capped spot (pause for moral outrage). There was no tag hanging from her rearview mirror, no blue little wheelchair guy on her license plate. She walks perfectly fine, aside from the fact that she staggers and gropes for brains. She's NOT handi-capped.

"What do we do?" I asked my coworker James after I'd set my stuff down and had a moment to conspire something. "Do we call the police?"

"I'm not sure they'd do anything. It's hospital property. Maybe hospital security?"

"We could. Makes me mad. Why is she parking there, there's lots of spots and it's not like it's far to walk from the parking lot to the building. Not for someone who's NOT handi-capped."

James thought about it. "Do they consider not having a soul a handi-cap?"

"Hmm. I don't know if the DMV would consider the lack of a soul a driving hazard."

"You would think that they would atleast test for it. They test your eye sight, maybe they should test whether or not your a soulless douche."

"What would that test be like?"

We came up with a test. We're hoping that the DMV implements it soon, what with the alarming rate of soulless douches there are on the road.

1)  For breakfast this morning you had:
     a. eggs
     b. cereal
     c. the blood of virgins

2) Your coat is made of:
     a. cotton
     b. faux leather
     c. Dalmatians

3) You are a manager. When your employee requests a day off you:
     a. approve her request
     b. do not approve her request
     c. kidnap one of her children

4) Your hair is made of:
     a. hair
     b. live snakes
     c. the broken dreams of your employees

If you answered "C" to any of these, you might not have a soul. This does not mean you can not drive a car. This simply means that you probably park illegally.

And I wish I had a more victorious ending to this story but Loretta had moved her car by the time I walked outside to check. Maybe she had a change of heart, like the zombies in the movie "Warm Bodies" whose hearts start beating again when they are touched by love. Or maybe she saw a puppy that she could park on top of instead. We'll never know.

Monday, July 1, 2013

An Exercise in Cheese

For the past four Saturdays I've been teaching a creative writing workshop for kids 14-18, but that's not what I find funny. What I find funny is that it focuses on YA Romance. I do not write romance novels, and I am not good at being romantic or maintaining romantic relationships so what I'm doing teaching this subject to young writers I don't know. But they let me keep teaching it and for the most part I can run it how I want. After much consideration, I decided not to start the class by saying, "Hi, I'm Genevieve Rheams, local author, with a deep fear of intimacy and very little knowledge about love." Instead I gave them this writing prompt:

Exercise: Write about how you would react if your breakfast began talking to you. What kind of food is it and what is it saying? Is it asking you questions? Can other people at the table hear it? Five minutes.

This was at the beginning of the class which was all about the arc of a plot.  So far we've covered character development, dialogue, and plot, so really teaching this hasn't been much different from teaching "how to write a book." Tomorrow, since this is the last class in this particular topic, I decided to tackle romance full on by leading a discussion on "How not to Write Cheesy." And there will be cheese!...No really I'm bringing cheese. I haven't decided if it should be cheesecake brownies, or actual cheese. These are growing girls. Ooooo, maybe nachos....

Anyway, it turns out that cheesy romance is all about your perspective. A lot of readers think that Twilight is cheesy, while others leave their bedroom windows open at night, wishing that a teenaged vampire will fly in and stare at them creepily while they sleep. One person's cheese is another's love monkey. Maybe I'll leave that out of my speech.

It is now three days later. And I FORGOT THE CHEESE. Luckily one of my students brought brownies as a last class celebration.

This is something I'm going to continue to do now that I'm part of the Young Writer's Guild of New Orleans, so next month I get to teach a new group (with hopefully some of the same faces). I wasn't sure if I would like doing this kind of thing you know, getting up and talking for two hours in front of people but it turns out that I absolutely love it. And in teaching the kids (these these smart, funny, wonderfully imaginative kids) how to write for a genre that I'm not too familiar with, I've learned some things that are important to know when writing Young Adult romance and I feel that you should know them too. They are:

1. Have brownies often.

2. Girls like boys with feelings.

3. Vampires sparkle.

4. Don't forget the cheese.

5. Female writers ages 14-18 talk a lot.

6. Females ages 14-18 most likely talk a lot regardless of whether or not they are writers.

7. There is a direct correlation between the amount of brownies a teenaged girl has consumed and the amount that she talks.

You now equipped to write your own YA romance novel. Though those last three might just be things I learned from running the group. 

Speaking of those chatty kids, in their honor I have decided to take the challenge of my own writing prompt. It was in two parts. The first part was this:

Exercise: Part 1 - A girl wakes up in the hospital. She doesn’t remember how she got there, she just knows that she was in her grandmother’s mobile home when a tornado hit. Another family had run into the trailer with them for shelter and one of them was a quiet boy about her age. She remembers the tornado right outside the window, then the boy’s face next to hers, and then nothing. When she wakes up she has bandages over most of her body, and the boy walks into her room with something in his hands. He holds it out to her and asks if she is ok. What is the object and what do they say to each other? Ten minutes.

I will not be writing that part. I will do this:

Part 2 - Now rewrite it and make it as cheesy as possible. 10 minutes.

Storm's eyes snap open. She tries to rub them, but when she lifts her hands she notices that they are in bandages. She gasps, screams, "My manicure!" and falls back onto the pillow, her golden tresses falling angelically and symbolically around her head.

At the sound of her cries, Hugh rushes into the room. His long blond hair flows majestically as he strides beneath the airconditioning vent, his magnificent chest swells beneath his torn t-shirt, his eyes are an ocean of blue tears, raging like the sea. His hands are filled with roses, the thorns of which prick him but he does not feel the pain.

"You're awake, my love!" he cries, rushing to her side.

Storm screams again. Her bandaged hand falls across her eyes. "Hugh! Don't look at me! I'm not beautiful anymore!"

"But you could never be anything but beautiful to me!" he cries. He drops the roses across her. "Look! I scoured the forests where we played as babes for the most beautiful roses! I've gathered them every day and brought them to you hoping to find you awake! And now! You are! My darling!"

"MY darling!"

She faints.

I'd go on but that was ten minutes. A little over actually. That was fun, I kind of liked it. Stay tuned for further Stories of Storm and Hugh - Desire in a Trailer Park Tornado. The love that FEMA could not replace.