In Honor of Gene Kelly

“The song has ended, but the melody lingers on.”

Gene Kelly (8/23/1912 – 2/2/1996) is one of the most famous dancers of all time, and is one of my favorite people to watch on screen. Starring in some of the most popular movies of the 40’s and 50’s, Kelly cemented his name in Hollywood history with his athletic style, innovative choreography, and his respect for dance as a medium to tell a story.

As a kid in Pittsburgh, Kelly and his four siblings took dance lessons at the urging of his mother. He teamed up with his brother Fred and hit the nightclub circuit (as I suppose Don Lockwood’s background scenes from Singin’ in the Rain may be somewhat autobiographical). After earning a degree in economics from the University of Pittsburgh, Kelly took his chances in New York City, making it to the stages of Broadway. His big break came in 1940, when, at 22 years old, he won the lead in the hit musical Pal Joey (17 years later, Frank Sinatra would play the lead on film with Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak). Metro Goldwyn Mayer studio head Louis B. Mayer caught Kelly’s performance and quickly offered him a movie contract.

If you were a dancer in the 40’s, MGM was mecca: the studio produced the biggest movie musicals with the brightest stars, best scripts, and most talented crew. Kelly made his big screen debut opposite Judy Garland in 1942’s For Me and My Gal. In 1944, he played the male lead Danny McGuire in Covergirl with a pre-Gilda Rita Hayworth, which made him a star. Kelly teamed up with a young Sinatra for Anchors Aweigh (1945), Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949) and On the Town (1949). AA had Kelly dancing opposite Jerry Mouse as the first film to incorporate animation and live action. Scenes from OTT were shot at famous New York City landmarks, making it the first musical filmed on location.

In addition to playing lead roles, Kelly collaborated with film makers as a director and choreographer, and he is primarily responsible for two of the greatest film musicals of all time, An American in Paris (1951) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952). For these films, he cast an unknown Leslie Caron and a young Debbie Reynolds, respectively, in the roles that launched their successful careers. AAIP won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1952 and features an elaborate 17-minute ballet sequence at the end of the film, the first of its kind. Kelly was given a special honorary Academy Award “in appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.” Singin in the Rain ranks on numerous lists and surveys as the most popular musical of all time, and has been released around the world in several languages.

In 1996 at 83 years old, Kelly passed in his sleep after a series of strokes. Even though he is gone, his incredible performances will live on film. He is remembered as the man who sings in the rain, and the every-man who made dancing masculine.


Happy Birthday Colette

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1/28/1873 – 8/3/1974), better known as simply Colette, led a controversial, successful and fascinating life in her native France. She danced through the Moulin Rouge in the Belle Epoque, aided Jews during the German occupation of France during World War II, and later in life became an officer in the French Legion of Honour.

At twenty years old, she married Henry Gauthier-Villars, a roguish figure who encouraged her to write under his pen name, Willy. Colette wrote a series of short novels from the perspective of a teenage girl, Claudine, growing up and being a woman in France. Each of the four popular books in the Claudine series were published every year from 1900-1903. With a taste for literary success, Colette divorced Willy in both marriage and publication. In her not-so-private personal life, Colette had a famous affair with Mathilde de Mornyk, or Missy, with whom she performed in the Moulin Rouge. In 1913 she had a daughter, also named Colette, and she married twice more in her lifetime.

Over the course of her career Colette wrote 50 published novels with collections of her letters and essays published posthumously. Her 1920 novel Chéri contained details of a somewhat autobiographical nature and exploited gender roles. Chéri was adapted for film in 1950 (French) and 2009 (English), and has played in a variety of incarnations on stage. Her 1945 novel Gigi translated well to the stage in its 1951 debut as a Broadway musical. In her international casting search for the perfect Gigi, Colette famously discovered Audrey Hepburn in a Monte Carlo hotel lobby. Gigi was also a successful Hollywood musical in 1958, starring Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier and directed by Vincente Minnelli.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”

Sonnet for Someday

Sonnet for Someday

Someday, my sore foot won’t even matter.
Someday, I’ll take an inventory on
my life and barely recall this chapter.
Am I unhappy? No… But the day’s gone
so fast, and I can’t remember what I
ate for breakfast let alone what memor-
able thing happened. People tell me “try
to live in the moment!” I can’t afford
that, though. I can’t play Ferris Bueller and
seize the day. Who will pay my rent, or do
my homework, or write lame sonnets? I can’t
take a break without my plan falling through.

Eventually, The Grind will abate,
Just like today is yesterday’s Someday.

In Honor of Carole Lombard

On January 16th, 1942, the lovely Carole Lombard was taken far too soon in a tragic plane crash just outside of Las Vegas. The news shook an America that was ankle-deep in World War II. Lombard was on her way home to husband Clark Gable after touring the Midwest to sell war bonds when her plane crashed into a mountain near an airport refueling station.

Lombard was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 8th, 1908. Her family relocated to the west coast after her parents divorced. Her Hollywood career began at just 12 years old, when she was spotted by a film director while playing baseball outdoors. She started out in silent films, making a successful transition to talkies in 1929. In 1931, she starred in Man of the World with William Powell, a star with whom she had a brief first marriage. Even if her relationship didn’t last, her career took off as she starred in several screwball comedies of the 1930’s, earning her a reputation as the first great screen comedienne. She maintained a relationship with superstar Clark Gable, and the two wed in 1939.

According to Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen, Gable had been carrying on with his young co-star Lana Turner. Lombarde, who was supporting a war bond rally in her native Indiana, was eager to return home to reconnect with her philandering husband. In her haste, she refused a safe train ticket in favor of a seat on a commercial airplane. The book describes her insistence, stating that she refused to budge when asked to give up her seat to military travelers during a fuel stop in Albuquerque. The rest is tragic history. Gable was beside himself, and the whole country mourned the loss of the patriotic actress.

“I love everything I do. I’m immensely interested in and enthusiastic in everything I do, everything. No matter what it is I’m doing, no matter how trivial, it isn’t trivial to me. I give it all I got and love it. I love living. I love life. Eating, sleeping, waking up again, skeet-shooting, sitting around an old barn doing nothing, my work, taking a bath, talking my ears off, the little things, the big things, the simplest things, the most complicated things—I get a kick out of everything I do while I’m doing it.”

Lombard was a really wonderful woman. Read her full interview here.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929, and would have been celebrating his 86th birthday this year. King’s work as a civil rights activist, a nonviolent demonstrator and a brilliant speaker have cemented his name in American history–few historical figures are venerated so to have a national holiday declared in their honor. Beyond King’s work as an activist, he has contributed many meaningful texts as a writer. He is synonymous with “having a dream,” but there are many other gems in his repertoire.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

“Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.”

The Blonde and the Ball Player

On January 14th, 1954, one of the most famous couples in history tied the knot at San Francisco City Hall. Joe DiMaggio, whose famous career as a New York Yankee was winding down, and Marilyn Monroe, whose famous career as a Hollywood screen goddess was heating up, began the relationship in 1952.

Trouble hit early for the newlyweds when, arriving in Tokyo for their honeymoon, Monroe was swept away to Korea to entertain the troops. It was the first of many blows to DiMaggio’s pride… At the filming of the famous skirt-blowing-over-the-subway-grate scene from The Seven Year Itch, DiMaggio reeled as fans cheered take after take of a “delicious” breeze kicking Monroe’s skirt up, revealing her bare thighs and panties.

By October of 1954, just 9 months into the marriage, Monroe filed for divorce citing “mental cruelty.” Many instances of abuse by DiMaggio against Monroe during their marriage have been reported, but Monroe didn’t let on. Even if the marriage didn’t last officially, the pair remained close until Monroe’s death in 1962. In the absence of Monroe’s birth mother and any real siblings or relatives, DiMaggio may have been the closest Monroe ever came to having a family. It was he who arranged her funeral, and famously honored her request of having fresh flowers sent to her grave site, doing so twice a week until he passed in 1999.

Happy Birthday, Gypsy Rose Lee

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing slowly… Very slowly.”

Rose Louise Horvick, a.k.a. Gypsy Rose Lee (1/9/1911 – 4/26/1970) kept the curtains of vaudeville open just a little longer–and a little more suggestively–with her tasteful take on the striptease. Much of what I know about Rose Louise I learned from Natalie Wood in the movie Gypsy, which is based off of the biography of the same name (spoiler: films based off of books may not be 100% accurate). All the same, Rose Louise had a fascinating life that’s worth examining. She began performing on stage as a child, spending her days singing and dancing in the background for her little sister June as willed by her ostentatious mother (also named Rose). June grew older and more resentful of her baby-girl characters and her mother’s constant pressing, deciding to quit the act at the ripe age of 13. Her mother had no choice but to give Rose Louise top billing in a new show, less baby-girl and more burlesque. Taking the name Gypsy Rose Lee, Rose Louise took off her gloves on stage–and a performing art was born.

Besides pioneering the classy gal’s striptease, Rose Louise was also a film actress and writer, but the story of “Gypsy” is perhaps her greatest legacy. In addition to the bestselling book and popular film, “Gypsy” was transformed into a Broadway musical with the help of Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim.

For more on Gypsy, check out the bios at IMDB, TIME or NPR.

Life Quotes: The Big Picture

“We should all start to live before we get too old.” -Marilyn Monroe

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” -Soren Kierkegaard

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” -John Lennon

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” -Charlie Chaplin


“What is it about a well written quote that transcends all of my understanding?” -AshLeigh Brown

98 x 98 Challenge: Hot & Cold

Microfiction Challenge: 100 words or less

I wanted to write a microfiction piece to submit to Microfiction Monday (yesterday…) and had the idea of using the word cold, because, honestly, it’s literally freezing in Wisconsin! When I finished, I felt like I only told half of a story, so I added “Hot.” I’m curious which is better, or if anyone else is up to the challenge!


“I’m cold,” he said. He crooked his elbow around my arms—dug his hand between my breasts. He twined his leg over my knee and tucked his heel under my ankle. His face he buried deep in my hair except for his noisy right nostril. His torso pressed skin to skin on my back. I sniffed loudly and shifted my weight. My shoulders pinched in, my arm dangled off the bed, and my head tilted up over his arm, layered with my pillow. I rested, still. He matched my breathing, exhaling warm on the back of my neck.


“I’m hot,” I said. He pressed the back of his hand to my forehead, shaking off his fingers in mocking as though he’d been burned. My feet and palms were clammy and damp, my sheets and t-shirt and hair clung to my skin. My brain stung and swelled in my skull, my nerves in knots behind my eyes, my limbs heavy and stiff about me. I kicked my comforter, flipped my pillow, rolled over. He brought me a cold glass of water. I sent two chilled gulps down my throat, drenching my dry mouth and cooling my chest.

For You

Just for you
not anyone else
    because I sat at work alone
    and laughed
    when I remembered your Papa John impression.
Just for you
    because I can’t go all day
    without thinking
    about what you’re thinking
    or what you’ll eat for dinner.
Not anyone else
    because I never
    want to kiss anyone
    the way I kiss you.
Just for you
    because you gave me
    my favorite place to be:
    tucked under your arm
    with my head on your chest.
Not anyone else
    because you’re the only one
    who can make the switch
    and be safe
    and, go ahead, laugh. It’s funny.
Just for you
    because I’ll never love anyone else
    as much as I love you.

My Top Ten of 2014

This was a fun way for me to recap my year. Not all accomplishments need to be quantified, but I do think it is equally as important to reflect on what has happened in one’s life as it is to set goals and plan for the future. Far too often people (myself included) dwell on everything that hasn’t happened. Here are my top ten of 2014 in no particular order. I challenge you to do the same!

  1. Applying for the doctorate program in Creative Writing at UW-Milwaukee
  2. Starting my blog
  3. Heading to Wisconsin Dells to both kick off and wind down my summer
  4. Getting positions at two large Milwaukee schools of higher education
  5. Publishing my first work
  6. (Nearly) completing the master’s program at MMU
  7. Embracing every possible meaning of the word “structure” by starting Invisalign
  8. Going from a 100% to a 10% smoker
  9. Paying off my car and being more financially responsible
  10. Celebrating (rather than dreading) my 10 year high school reunion

That… Was… Awesome…

Last Saturday, 12/13/14, I went to see the “Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Performing the Music of Led Zeppelin.” It was a really great show, and reminded me of how much I love live music. Watching the bows of the violins dart up and down together and singing “what a whole lotta love…. what a whole lotta love!” with a few thousand people made for a pretty awesome night. Some of my favorite songs from the night were “Kashmir,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” and “The Rain Song,” all deepened by the live accompaniment of the MSO.

“Stairway” was the encore, of course, and even though I predicted it was coming after the 2-minute standing ovation, (yes, it was that good), I don’t think I’ve ever focused so much on the words to a song. It’s really tough not to read these lyrics and have the tune in your head, but try reading this as a poem. I’m curious as to what others see and hear!


There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775 – 1878) is a writer who needs no introduction. It may be surprising to some to learn that the woman only wrote six full length novels in her lifetime (in addition to shorter fiction). Austen’s novels transport the reader to another time completely. In her world, parents would labor to find an eligible bachelor with money and social status to marry their daughters off to. Quite a contrast from today’s parents, who may toil finding the perfect college or condo so their daughters can start their lives. Regardless, Austen’s writing is clever, honest, original, and truly withstands the test of time in spite of the fact that she wasn’t famous during her lifetime. The current Jane Austen fan base is a die hard bunch, and I’m sure the author would have been pleased to know that her words continue to delight new generations of female readers.

Austen certainly has a way with words…

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

“I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

“Where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?”

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.”

“An artist cannot do anything slovenly.”

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

A Sample Chapter of My Novel


The first time Pop brought Amy to open the bakery was the first time she remembered waking before sunrise.

“Come on, Miss Amelia,” Pop said, as he squeezed her little shoulder over the thick, pink quilt she slept under.
She sat up in bed, her pink striped pajamas pulled up and twisted around her little torso. Pop turned on the lamp next to her bed.

“Get dressed, Peanut. I’ll wait downstairs.”

Amy crawled out of her covers and looked down on Lawrence Avenue from her second story window above the Lincoln Square Post Office. The street was so different without any people on the sidewalk or motors humming, no sunlight glaring in from the windows across the street. (more…)

Happy Birthday, Grace Kelly

I wish I knew more about this woman. I’ve decided that a Grace Kelly biography is on my list of holiday-break-reading. Such a classic beauty, in a Euro-American way, and a role model for women young and old. I searched Google for some time and couldn’t find any candid images that revealed a woman other than the stylish, smiling icon I’m familiar with. She is so well known, in fact, it’s hard to believe she made fewer than a dozen films. I like to imagine her real personality a likeness of her character Lisa in Rear Window: Glamorous, sophisticated, independent, and maybe a teeny bit haughty.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been very in tune with my inner feminist lately, so I was pleased to find such an appropriate quote from the actress turned royal:

“I am basically a feminist. I think that women can do anything they decide to do.”

Grace Kelly, 12 November 1929 – 14 September 1982

A Woman Is Never Just One

Somewhere in between a hero and a
villain, between life and death, is woman.
She is praying in China and she is
studying law in Montreal. Never
once has she been singular. Never just
a woman, but a collection of one.

Between honey and vinegar, someone
in 1591 experienced a
side of one woman. Just one side of just
one woman. One facet of one lady.
She’s always on because she is never
off. Her identity throughout time is

evolving yet constant. From birth she is
innocent, each moment she grows by one.
One moment in one mosaic you’ll never
see because it burned to ashes in a
forest fire. Each child has had a mother
who surrendered part of her body just

to keep life going, whether it was just-
ified or not; and every mother is
an intricate machine called a female.
Every cell must sing with another one
to nurture a heartbeat to become a
fresh person. And she can cry when ever

she must without judgment, but she never
cries for the wrong reason. And tears are just
a tiny salty waterway down a
cheek in a grayscale photograph that is
aging in a damp basement of someone
you know. Somewhere in between a school girl

and a matron is one side of one her,
one face of one diamond that will never
be extracted from one chip of one stone
buried five hundred feet deep. Each side just
a glimpse of the whole, just as each whole is
a glimpse of what is woman. She is a

book that misses its title, because just
one title never captures all she is,
someone in between zeta and alpha.

As published in Arches – Fall 2014, the Mount Mary University student periodical

Don’t Call Me Sugar

Over the weekend, I worked on a creative non-fiction essay. I wanted to write a series of personal experiences, each headlined with a Scarlett O’Hara quote from the film Gone with the Wind. The intention was to show how Scarlett O’Hara’s audacious character is really a role model for me and, I think, for many women. I created an extensive list of Scarlett quotes, delivered perfectly in Vivien Leigh’s incomparable on-screen performance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the flow of telling my anecdotes while working in the quotes, so I had to botch the idea.
The list remains, and reminds me why Scarlett O’Hara is my absolute favorite character of all time. Even if you’re not a fan of the lengthy film, there are so many memorable moments that the movie itself can’t be denied as one of the greatest of all time. Here is a selection from the list of quotes I pulled:

“Fiddle-dee-dee! War, war, war; this war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream!”

“Why does a girl have to be so silly to catch a husband?”

“I never heard of such bad taste.”

“If I said I was madly in love with you, you’d know I was lying.”

“I can shoot straight, if I don’t have to shoot too far.”

“Great balls of fire! Don’t bother me anymore and don’t call me Sugar.”

“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

*It should be noted that Margaret Mitchell’s novel was adopted for the screen by Sidney Howard, among other uncredited contributors. See more quotes at IMDb or browse this extensive list at the GWTW Fan Page.

“Get Busy Livin’…”

The Shawshank Redemption premiered on September 23rd, 1994, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary today. This isn’t my favorite movie, but it’s definitely in my top 20. If you haven’t seen it, AMC seems to be playing it every Saturday. The movie is based of off Stephen King’s short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I’ve heard a lot of writers scoff at Stephen King’s talent, but you can bet they’re at least 50% jealous. There are so few famous, successful writers with such a career legacy that it’s easier to criticize. I’ve never read King’s story, but the film is so absorbing and interesting that I have to assume it was made out of respect to his manuscript.

I think the theme of Hope (or Hope against all odds) is the most prevalent, but because there are so many themes present it’s difficult to choose. Friendship, justice, corruption, isolation, there’s so much here that it’s hard not to pick out something that appeals to you. In fact, this is one of only a few films that I really love and appreciate that doesn’t focus on romantic love or relationships. I still feel like there’s something for everyone.

I wouldn’t call Shawshank a feel-good movie, but the ending is so satisfying that I’m always cheerful as the credits roll. The acting is equally satisfying, and makes me wonder why Tim Robbins hasn’t been in more movies than he has. Several recognizable quotes also distinguish the writing…

“Lord, it’s a miracle! Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!”

“How can you be so obtuse?”

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

“Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”


Creativity, Courtesy of Marilyn Monroe

“Creativity has got to start with humanity and when you’re a human being, you feel, you suffer. You’re gay, you’re sick, you’re nervous or whatever.”

On September 15th, 1954, Marilyn Monroe shot the famous skirt scene shown above for The Seven Year Itch. I am a huge MM fan for a number of reasons. When you watch her on screen, it’s difficult to pay attention to anything else. To me, she’s timelessly beautiful, mysteriously complex, and endlessly fascinating. I’ve read several biographies and have yet to tire of her story. When I find quotes like “Creativity…” or when I read anything that people who knew her have to say, I am reminded of why she never fails to interest me.

When I write, I am almost always trying to tap into an emotion, and usually one that I’ve just experienced or have been able to relate to well enough to write about it. Even with this quote, though I didn’t create it, I’m trying to evoke the curiosity and simple thoughtfulness I experienced when I read it. I think all writers try to stimulate their readers with universal truths or emotions in some way, but when those feelings have been fought, survived, or embraced first hand, they are that much more powerful.

In thinking about this base of creativity compared to the old writer’s mantra “write what you know,” I’m tempted to say “write how you know” instead. Anyone can research 18th century farming or designer sewing techniques or 1950’s celebrities, but no one can feel the exact way you do and express it the specific way you can.  Thanks, MM, for inspiring me again.

Happy Birthday, Elia Kazan

Happy birthday to the very talented Elia Kazan, 9/7/1909 – 9/23/2003.

Kazan was born in Greece and immigrated to America with his parents. He studied drama at Yale before going on to work as an actor, director and writer. In addition to founding the Actor’s Studio, the same Actor’s Studio that James Lipton is “inside,” he directed a number of famous films, including my favorites A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, Splendor in the Grass and East of Eden. These films alone launched or established the careers of Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, James Dean, Eva Marie Saint, Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood.

In his Actor’s Studio, Kazan promoted the Method, a style of acting that encourages complete immersion of the actor into character. To me, watching Marlon Brando in Streetcar for the first time must have been like seeing Elvis or hearing Nirvana for the first time–it’s just not like anything before it, but it changed everything after it.

I know and appreciate Kazan’s work in film, but he also had a huge impact on the theater and acting as a whole. He was interested in exploring social justice and controversial issues in his work, but his focus on acting and portraying realness are what set him apart.

Cry, My Love

Please sit here with me now and try, my love,
to see what I see. Use my eyes, my love.

I see a girl looking down at her shoes.
What do you think that implies, my love?

I see a man light a smoke, drinking booze.
Is he a bad boy or bad guy, my love?

He asks if she wants to go for a cruise –
They drove around then got high, my love.

Before long they both had matching tattoos:
his name was scribed on her thigh, my love!

First permanent ink, but then a fresh bruise.
While all she could do was stand by, my love,

he took off all night and she took abuse.
Why would he hit and run? Why, my love?

To her parents, she made an excuse.
She crossed her fingers to lie, my love.

Depression really, she called it “the blues.”
Far beyond a frown and a sigh, my love.

She drew the line the day he accused:
“You’re cheating on me on the sly, my love!”

She fired back – “This can’t be what I choose!”
She packed a bag and said “Good bye, my love!”

I’m the girl, here’s my bag, I’m cutting loose.
Now you can be the one to cry, my love.

Reality, Courtesy of Margaret Mitchell

“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”

Well said, MM. Gone with the Wind is by far my favorite story of all time, and I have Margaret Mitchell to thank for writing her dramatic, powerful novel.

If you’re a student like me, from time to time your expectations may swell up  in front of you while you imagine what you have to look forward to. As a student, it’s about potential, promise, and something you will accomplish later. But later starts now, and potential and promise mean very little with out action. Be careful not to let a lot of grand plans excuse your procrastination like it has for me in the past.


Autobiography, by P.

I was born on July 17th 2014 at 132 pm
  and I will be dead a year from now
  or so my pessimism tells me.
I have a small chance to really live
  but I’ll probably be less like the bible
  and more like a have you found jesus flyer.
I will meet fewer than twenty people
  but I will speak to less than half
  and will affect less than a quarter.
Nobody told me what I was supposed to be.
I have to figure that out myself
  but I think my existence is pointless
  so I don’t spend a lot of time on it.
If I had to guess I would say that I make people think
  about what happens to their words
  after they’ve been released
  but I have no way of knowing that.

Terry & Lisa – 2

Terry stared at the barbecued chicken legs roasting on the grill, glistening with thick brown sauce, charred just so near the bones while the hot, tangy smoke surrounded him.

“So Terry, how are ya holding up at Schmidt’s?” Mike asked, interrupting his view by prodding at the chicken with a pair of long barbeque tongs.

“Oh, it’s good. Same old shit.” He took a long gulp from his sweaty bottle of beer.

“Yep, we got it good, don’t we?” Mike grinned as he looked down at the chicken. Mike had Terry by eight or nine years and eighty or ninety pounds. On couples night he always wore large Hawaiian shirts that draped over his round shoulders like a muumuu, with long, loose khaki bottoms that could hardly be described as shorts because they only exposed a few inches of ankle above the Velcro-bound sandals. (more…)

Happy Birthday, Ms. Susann

On August 20th, 1918, Jacqueline Susann was born in Philadelphia. She became famous for writing the novel Valley of the Dolls, published in 1966. Dolls tells three women’s stories as they each rise from humble beginnings and become stars in their own rites. The pressures of romance, beauty, and fame become too much for old fashioned Anne Welles, beautiful Jennifer North and feisty Neely O’Hara, as they cope with their struggles by popping pills. It’s no Ulysses, but it did earn 1966 shock value points and record-breaking sales.

I’m very aware that this book doesn’t have a great rap, and it’s often rejected as campy and melodramatic, but I love this story and I’m not afraid to admit it. I have Jacqueline Susann to thank for writing the first book I read that I literally could not put down–even if I only had five minutes in a waiting room to read two and a half pages. It was also the first time I read a book twice in a row. I haven’t read Dolls in a long time, but I may have to bust it out for old times sake.

In many ways Susann made her own success, living in the exhausting book-touring, autograph-signing, celebrity-interviewing kind of author’s world. She was just as fabulous and loud as the characters in her novels, even basing elements of her fictional world on her own dramatic life. And to those critics who panned her books, she said  “As a writer no one’s gonna tell me how to write. I’m gonna write the way I wanna write!” I don’t really want to be Jacqueline Susann, but I respect her for her unapologetic attitude, saying what others were apparently dying to hear, doing what she loved and being successful, particularly as an outspoken female in the late 60’s.

Jacqueline Susann died of cancer in 1973 when she was just 55 years old. I read this entertaining article about her life, check it out if you’re interested.


Terry & Lisa – 1

Lisa ran the plump tip of her middle finger all the way around the plate, gliding through the cream cheese mixture to make a perfect ring a half inch inside the edge. Then she sucked her finger clean, just like her mom used to, lips puckered out and away so she didn’t ruin her make up. After a sprinkling of dried parsley flakes, the lid of the “Dip & Go” covered the crab dip and she popped it in the fridge.

Her one-month-to-go belly couldn’t be covered by her pink terry bath robe anymore, as it would gradually peep out from under the belt, tied tight at the band of her bra. At home that didn’t matter, and she smiled when she caught the bump’s reflection in the window of the stove.

“Terry?” she called out softly to the man lying on the couch. Legs crossed, shoes on, he laid with his eyes closed but kept his brows and forehead scrunched tight. “Baby?” She leaned over and softly combed her nails through the curly blonde hairs on his arm.

Tennos Evol

Tennos Evol

Much harder to climb out than to fall in.
Fight through the doubt: when I lose you, I win.

You fell into my world and we painted
the quiet blue a vivid red. I had
hardly noticed I was red, too. You stained
like ink in a washing machine, red
tint soaks in, and saturates what’s inside.
But I loved being red. So much better
than blue. Then I convinced myself to hide
my secrets from view. I thought, “forget her
and her silly ambitions, this is love.”
But then I caught it in the mirror, because
your red love didn’t hide the truth in front of
me. The truth that I missed the blue I was.

Who Can Ya’ Trust?

On August 8th, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned from his presidency in anticipation of impeachment hearings after the Watergate scandal. I did not grow up in the sixties, or the seventies, or most of the eighties, so to me, Richard Nixon has never been “hip” or “a nice guy.” When I look at this picture, which is usually the image I get when I think of Richard Nixon, I think “shady” or “a bad guy.”

I’m not going to get political here, but I immediately thought of Bill Clinton as I was reading up on Watergate. That was during my time, and even if I didn’t totally understand what was going on, I knew it was important because we all had to to sit around the TV and watch the “I did not have sexual relations…” clip replay. Does anyone even remember that anymore? The ultimate question I’m left asking myself is, if the president is capable of lying without consequence, then who can you trust?

I’ve been playing with this idea in a few different ways, but I mostly draw from the theme that the illusion of safety, security and trust is almost more believable than the real thing. When I think of the place where I feel most safe, its in my home. In reality, I rent, I live upstairs and I don’t have a basement (in Wisconsin, basement = tornado safety). I feel my home belongs to me, because I ignore the ten people who felt the same way about it before I did, unlocking the door everyday, taking a deep breath and plopping on the couch or bean bag or La-Z-Boy. And yet, I somehow feel untouchable at home. Nothing will ever happen. I trust it.

I don’t know where this idea will lead, but for the time being there is a husband and wife, Terry and Lisa. They live in the Midwest in the 90’s, newlyweds, and she is pregnant. She trusts everyone and everything, and he is extremely defensive. I wrote a scene that begins with Terry and Lisa going to a neighbor’s house for a dinner with two other couples, and ending with Terry and Lisa going to bed that night. I like the idea of challenging whatever the illusion of trust is, and how it can make a person go crazy thinking about what they “know” or even feel comfortable with. I’ll clean up the scene and post it in the next week or so.

It won’t, but if it turns into a novel I will dedicate it “To Hip Richard Nixon, I trust you.”

Rise of the Standards of the Writer

Over the weekend, my fiance and I went to see “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” We both enjoyed “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” from 2011 and were looking forward to seeing this installment. I think what I enjoyed most about the 2011 film was that, although the visuals were high jacked with CG animations and explosions and shit, there was still a compelling story behind it. I had an expectation that the narrative would continue, but the story within “Dawn” felt like a build up for the final battle scene. There was one moment in the film that gave me a strong sense of human connection: when the humans are able to re-activate a dam-powered generator, a gas station comes to electric life and the characters hear music for the first time in a long time.

I realized, seeing this movie, that my expectations for story have grown as my writing has. My standard for a narrative has developed, and I anticipate and hope for something that moves me. In exchange, I would hope that my writing has blossomed and grown in style and sophistication. Easier said than done… I’m back on track submitting poetry, and I’ve started a short story that I hope to post in installments on this blog. You be the judge!

Stuck in the Present

Any writer can relate to that moment of feeling stuck. Creatively stammered, writer’s block, a dry spell, whatever you want to call it, it’s frustrating. One tip that I’ve used occasionally is to Google “This day in history” for interesting tidbits that fuel the imagination. The History Channel online at history.com has a nice tool that produces a list covering social and political topics, which is where I found out the world’s first test tube baby was born 1978, and in 1897 Jack London set sail for the Klondike. I also found out that, on this day in 1985, Rock Hudson publicly announced he had AIDS.

I just watched “Pillow Talk” a few days ago, which is one of my mom’s favorite movies, but always makes me smile, too. I think about Hudson, who was rumored to have been homosexual, playing the sex-crazed Brad Allen, and wonder what his life was like. I imagine the fantasies he must have set off for female movie-goers in 1959. My head is swirling with ideas around this! The way celebrities were portrayed during Hollywood’s golden era as these unattainable, faultless, beautiful people; what pressure that must have been. The hiding-in-the-bush paparazzi probably wasn’t as intrusive back then, but to always be on guard for the sake of your career. I also think about the enormous distance between the connotations of “homosexual” in 1959 and 2014. Even though Hudson made his AIDS announcement in 1985, I think the rumors circulated for years before.

So there you have it, a quick way to find some inspiration in what feels like a relevant way. In 2059, this day in history might refer to “The day the most inspiring writer’s block cure with Rock Hudson was posted.”