Saturday, June 30, 2007


Green room, headroom, boardroom.

Chat room. Safe room.

Making room, taking up room.

We’re always looking, it seems, for more room, but by nature we build walls to contain our space. Living room, family room, bedroom, even outdoor “rooms.” Do fences create rooms, too? In a sense, oh yes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I unpack a litany of boxes, seemingly endless, from a recent move a full four states away from the point of origin. Not that it was my original point of origin. But it was the latest place I left.

We move a lot, not because we have to but because we wish to. There are a lot of places to go, as it turns out, a lot of places to be. And just when I think I’ve found it, things change. Rather than run, I embrace it. Because I have hope. Because I just may be completely insane.

But it’s all about space really and where we live is, in the end, a way to define that space. To define ourselves.

In my case, I’ve finally hit upon a house, a roomy old nuanced house that I’ve slipped in to, comfortable as a cat in a lap. It’s been loved at some point, or various points, throughout its one hundred years, its rough edges smoothed over repeatedly, sanded down, rewrapped but not obscured. It is who it was to begin with, I think, and we see the ripple of imperfect plaster and curling edges of reluctant wallpaper beneath fresh paint. We see the swirling grain of the wood in the partially-finished banister posts. We see the raw, persistent strength in the unfettered attic, steaming with summer heat as we cross its creaking floors under trusses older than any of us.

It’s delicious.

And it could just be another old house, but it's my collection of rooms, my space, the place that tells something about me. That contains me. And by having the comfort of a space that is truly my own, I am somehow more free.

Because it’s easy to venture into the unknown, when you have a place to come home.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Growing Poets

Just a quick post today, to direct your attention to the link at left (under Line Drives) for A Poem a Day. Sounds bland, banal, innocuous enough, right? But, really, it's a revolution of sorts. Click and you will find something that tickles me to no end, a collection of student work, burgeoning poets, being grown by this organization: Writers in the Schools (WITS).

The current state of writing in our schools is one of my favorite topics (dusting off soap box, ahem) ... but I suppose I'll save that speech for another day. Suffice it to say, WITS has been added to my rapidly growing roll of heroes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dough Boy Blues

Funny, the things on which we become fixated ...

I am currently in a co-dependent relationship with my computer (actually, I need him far more than he needs me), searching for freelance writing jobs, scanning endless blogs, writers' forums, etc., etc., etc. Have you seen the new John Cusack movie, 1408? At one point, the main character looks at that little hotel map posted on the back of the door, and finds that suddenly his room is the only one marked, smack in the center of a vast space of inky blackness. That's how I feel sending queries, resumes, writing samples, into the seemingly endless abyss that constitutes the writers' market.

My computer and I are becoming unnaturally close. He may be all I've got.

Then again, it could be worse. On a jaunt to some downtown antique shops yesterday, in what I'd planned as nothing more than a momentary diversion, my son ran across a six-inch tall rubber Pillsbury Dough Boy. This became the center of his world. He's 10. Go figure.

Since I'm broke, I declined to pay the $4, and he spent the next several hours wallowing in dispair over the injustice I had perpetrated. "But Mom," he said, "it's a 30th anniversary Dough Boy."

This morning I woke up, checked my e-mail and found this, courtesy of my enterprising offspring: The Dancin Doughboy. I found this to be quite funny.

By the end of the day, I probably still won't have a job, but he may just be one dough boy richer.

Monday, June 25, 2007


New York mayor Michel Bloomberg has announced a merit pay program, in which low-income students and their parents will receive cash incentives for such things as standardized test performance, showing up for school, and finding their way to parent-teacher conferences.

As a parent and former teacher, I find this shocking. So much for teaching self-sufficiency and internal motivation. Instead, let's throw a little money at the problem and hope it goes away. It's insulting to educators, parents, and students alike.

Follow this link Money For Merit Program Unveiled For NYC Schools to the Queens Chronicle article for more details.

Lighten Up

I may be taking this too seriously.

A note: After I named this blog, I googled "Between the Lines" to see what might come up. Within the first 10 hits, a porn site of some kind -- I didn't click on it, but I think there was something about tan lines, etc.


Sunday, June 24, 2007


My favorite author: Joyce Carol Oates. I am devouring her vast catalogue as quickly as I can but she produces at a breakneck speed, so that each time I set one volume down, there's a shiny new tome to be discovered.

My favorite collective of musical conduits: Red Hot Chili Peppers. I devour their vast catalogue as well, repeatedly, mostly because it inspires me to keep moving when my resolve is flagging.

There is a point here, and it's this: that these two seemingly divergent indulgences (high-brow academic literary icon vs. funk rock iconic anti-heroes) have something in common: they are fearless.

I find it attractive, I think, in that it's what I lack.

Reading Oates and considering the Chili Pepper flow I am, every now and again, taken aback. Stopped short. Frankly, in my unintentionally middle American sensibility, shocked to my core.

I hate that. And then, I love it.

Because, as an artist, I hold back. Primarily due to fear. Fear of being judged, fear of offending, fear of putting myself or others in an uncomfortable position. It's the anti-Christ for artists, really, that fear, because there is no salvation for an artist who is afraid to express herself wholey and completely. Without constraint.

Censorship is rooted, of course, in that same fear. The fear of being put in the position of judging, the fear of being offended, being in an uncomfortable position.

Artists who are not afraid to use words and paint scenarios, cutting words and horrific scenarios, are unfettered. Unstoppable. Free. That's why folks like Oates, and the Peppers, and Damien Hirst, rise to the surface. They are fearless.

They rattle me, and yet I keep going back to the fold because I crave it. Because I covet it.

Because I want to be free, too.

Something to think about: the genius of an artist to rattle the global cage AND amass a $258 million fortune through his art. Is the real shock value in the art itself, or the $$$ it draws? Regardless, Damien Hirst, with his preserved shark corpse, rainbow pill cabinet, and diamond-studded skull, among others, is my new hero.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Writer's Block (a flash fiction piece)

There are no letters she can reach so sounds will have to do. Stringing them together like popcorn, there is a pattern, if no sense. She’s left them all uncertain and so they’ve drifted away, one by one, scattering like birdseed. Pigeons linger outside the window, cooing breathily.

At one time she would not have minded, but she’s found that writing is difficult without actually speaking. No one wants to be interviewed on paper, or by flashcard or sticky note. No one wants to work that hard, and if they have to write their answers down they might have too much time to think about them and revise their viewpoints, opinions, cross stuff out. It tends to taint things, when people have to consider themselves in print, before you’ve had a chance to shine it up a bit for them.

People are afraid, too; it’s one thing to choose not to speak to them, that can be mysterious, aloof, even sexy, but it’s another thing entirely to not be able to.

It was also becoming more difficult to write because as time goes on, her brain is forgetting the essence of what it is that she is trying to say. Words are becoming foreign; she thinks more in number and scent and color and taste. Big nutty crimson 4s, citrusy white 79s, 3s that look like blushing and taste like cotton candy.

It’s hard for them to understand, and she has no way to explain. Instead, she walks through the park in the early morning, swirling through the mist like a sylph; is it the mist that is translucent, or is it her? She avoids, but will make eye contact with the squirrels, who seem to get her view of things. She imagines what it might be like to scramble up a tree and spend the day poised high above.

She also thinks about him, but it’s of little consequence. They will never meet. Because he is from a long time ago. Because he made other plans. Because he is dead.

His face is a 123, a potent green, that piney taste of gin and something like cantaloupe. She opens her mouth to say his name, but finds she’s lost that, too.

First Time

For someone who's been writing most of her life, professionally on and off for seven years, I'm pretty slow on the uptake. This is my first blog, my first entry, and for some reason I feel as exposed as in those nasty recurring dreams about public restrooms with no walls.

Perhaps I have said too much, already.

My goal is, as is likely the case with most bloggers, mostly self-serving. I intend to put as much of my writing out there as possible, in the vain hope of affecting someone, at the very least having a reader or two. I want to be a better writer. I would love to make a little money somewhere down the road. I want someone to tell me something that I write is good. (note: Writers attempt to appear altruistic, of course, but our egos are as big as the next guy's -- likewise the insecurities.)

On the other hand, blogging is also about community, and that's intriguing, too. Writing can be a lonely lot, especially for those of us who did not immerse ourselves in the writing life early on. Instead, I studied half-heartedly and went about my life, eventually fell into the professional (heading a community newspaper, completely by accident), and then wandered away again. Trying to find my way back, and connect with other like-minded folks on the way. This seems like a good place to start.

So here I am. My future posts will be much more interesting and much less self-involved. Well, maybe.

At any rate, the first one's out of the way. Perhaps this means I won't have those dreams anymore.

I'll keep you posted.