Lightning Bolts

Even if I know it’s a draft and not a finalized version of a book, I struggle with endings. Throughout most of my writing process, endings find me. I write a sentence and think, “Oh, that’s the end.”

That does not happen at the end of a book. That last scene is sticky and hard to set down. I walk away with little bits of it still on my fingers. The end of a book is a set of contradictions. It should dramatically conclude without feeling over-wrought. The end should satisfy the reader but leave them wanting more. The end of the book is the justification for all the pages preceding it, the reason for the writing and reading.

Which is why I always know when I’ve really ended a book. When a book is finished, I feel a Zeus-like power between my palms. Watch out, world! This lady can create beauty out of nothing, and chuck lightning bolts too.


The guitar is not my main outlet for creativity, but I do really love to play worship music.  For years this love has been kept safely in the wee hours of my living room, but has recently exploded into amplified worship leading for a group of 20-50 people.  My skill level is far from awesome.  I tend to use words like “proficient” or “adequate” to describe my guitar playing.  This is not only my first experience leading a band, it’s my first experience being in a band.

In my defense, I think I’m a much better band leader today than I was two months ago.  And really, there are very few activities I can say that about.  But to be honest, I’m just not great at this yet.  As possibly evidenced by my drummer taking a (hopefully) temporary leave from the band.  Tonight I will miss the steady beat of the toms and the metallic rustle of the cymbals behind me, that surprising tonality I was just getting used to.  She is a pretty fantastic musician.  I already miss the generous heart of my drummer, who was always willing to give me a ride to band practice.

Which is how I wound up at the church at 9am on a Tuesday morning.  Since the cute husband and I share a car, the only way for me to make a 4pm worship practice was to have him drop me off at the church on his way to work in the morning.  So today my writing will be done in a back room of the church.  I have settled in on the one couch the church owns, which I’m pretty sure the youth group picked up off a friendly curb.  As my habit goes, I’ve formed a little nest for myself.  I have my laptop, a bag full of food that I will carefully dole out throughout the day, my iphone is blasting my writing playlist, and my guitar is resting in its case nearby.  Later it will be an instrument for worship.  At the moment it’s serving as a coffee table/footrest.

To Try: A Poetry Workshop

I was asked to teach a poetry workshop to the women in Breaking Free.  These are women who have recently escaped from human trafficking and prostitution locally, and some of them have heard me perform my poetry at Breaking Free events.  The thing is, I have no idea how to teach this stuff.  Teaching is not an area of creativity I have much experience in, and all the formal education I’ve had in poetry has focused on close reading and scansion.  Probably not the best jumping off place.  So I hold up the workshop I shamelessly stole from my friend Moira, like a shield that will protect me from the failure that terrifies me.

I’ll be honest, I am a little afraid of these women.  I have heard stories about them stealing wallets and cell phones, but those stories aren’t half so scary as the vague warnings that “these are women who have been living in survival mode, just be careful.”  No matter how well meant that warning is, it sounds like there’s a small possibility that they might try to eat me if I let my guard down.

Heather, the woman who oversees my work at Breaking Free, kindly offers to introduce me and explain what I’m there to do.  When she tells them that I’m here to teach poetry writing, a hand shoots up.  “I have a poem!  I have a poem!”  Her eyes are green and shifty and she rocks constantly.  I worry that something about Nantucket is forthcoming.  But Heather nods patiently, and the woman closes her eyes and grows completely still.  She recites from memory a beautiful, tender poem about someone she loves.  She speaks softly, keeping her eyes closed, speaking to the heavens.  I know without asking that this is about someone she lost, that she’s already learned to distill beauty from the pain.  For a second I think about admitting that I don’t have anything to teach these women.  But before I do that, I look around and I see the wonder on all the other women’s faces.  They see what I see, and they want it too.  So I decide to try.


Greg, my employer told me a story early Monday morning about abstract art. He described a trip he took with the girls to the Weisman Art Museum. One of the pieces was a bean bag, and Izzi was excited to see it. She was also excited to run over and jump on it, because let’s face it, that’s what makes a bean bag awesome. Greg did a great imitation of his own reaction, waving his arms and shouting “Izzi don’t! It’s art!”

What makes a bean bag art, exactly? This and similar questions have sloshed around in my head this weekend after my cute husband took me to the Walker Art Center for our first date night of the year. I try very hard to keep an open mind, but my husband and I both found that our appreciation for what he casually terms “weird art” is somewhat limited. There are many, many, abstract pieces that I really enjoy and could stare at for a long time. But an architectural piece that appeared to be an empty room, a metal pipe leaning against a piece of black construction paper that hung on the wall with thumbtacks, a photograph of a disemboweled dog, these can grate on me after a while.

The strange thing is, I’m a big fan of expanding the definition of art. I plan Women’s Creativity Nights every couple of months (the next one is February 20th, and you should be there if you’re female), and at these events I try to challenge and encourage women to show off anything that they’ve created. Over the last year I’ve been delighted to see the creations of many women who’ve told me point blank that they’re not artistic at all. Seeing that creativity emerge is not just for their benefit either. In fact, I’d say that my motives are almost entirely selfish. I want to see all the creativity in all the people around me coming out and blooming, no matter how it looks once it’s out. I’ve never had the tiniest bit of trouble appreciating anything that those women have brought into my house.

So what’s the difference here? Is it merely the human contact? I wonder this sometimes when I walk into a gallery that feels frustrating. If I knew the artists, if they were here describing their process and their dreams, would it make the art come alive for me?  Maybe it’s possible to expand not only my definition of art, but my love for the hearts that created it, such that I could feel that for artists that I’ll never meet. I wonder.

The Color Pink

Okay, so here’s why I didn’t want to start a blog. Let’s start with the constant, and now sadly ubiquitous state of busy-ness. And no, I will not be apologizing for that. If I can fill my life to the brim with poetry, music, literature, recovering drug addicts and rescued prostitutes, not to mention a husband who’s possibly cuter than an actual button, I will die a happy woman. Even if I never have any extra time. But more importantly, blogs can be so heartily boring. They so easily become self-centered, navel-peering nonsense. But I do like to write, and I do love a challenge.

Today I was making those poofy things that go on the top of hats. I can’t remember what those things are called, so it’s a good thing that I already know how to make them. I made two of them this evening while watching Julie and Julia with the aforementioned cute husband. As a side note, that movie really is delightful. This should not surprise you, because it was written by Norah Ephron, whom I can’t help but adore, even when one of my favorite pieces of hers (Heartburn), could only be purchased in a bright pink cover. I’ll forgive her that, because both of my poofy things were also a very cheerful color of pink.

I make hats to order, so I don’t get to choose the colors, and I think that is a very good thing. I have discovered so many colors that can be really fantastic which I never would have tried if I was left to my own devices. This year seems to be the break-out year for my crocheted hats, scarves, and mittens, which are being ordered by the bundle-full to help prevent AIDS in Africa. As I tell the little girls I nanny for, “people pay me to make these hats, and then I use the money to buy medicine for little kids in Africa so they don’t get a really bad disease.” The girls, being quite concerned about the little kids in Africa, proceeded to ask me if they have shots in Africa, if they have doctors in Africa, but most importantly, if they have band-aids in Africa. I assured them that they do.

A new year, a new decade, and some new hopes

Here are my hopes and goals from last year. I like to review a little bit and just see how these things are panning out.

1. I would like to find a publisher for my female casanova book this year.
This did not happen, and it took me most of the year to come to peace with this fact. I have accomplished a lot towards my writing career this year, doing spoken word at several venues, working on name-recognition, widening my sphere of influence, and generally getting my work out there and appreciated. That’s been a lot of fun.

2. I would like to get pregnant before the end of the year.
Also did not happen, but rest assured, we are working on it.

3. I want to take a vacation with my husband. Not a whirlwind trip to visit relatives and sleep on various couches, but a romantic vacation to somewhere beautiful and relaxing.
This did happen. Ben and I took a fantastic vacation for our fifth anniversary. We went to the Vineyard National Conference in Galveston which was a rocking awesome time, and then took a week-long cruise to Jamaica and the Grand Cayman. It was totally great, relaxing, and romantic.

4. I’d like to get a draft out of my next book.
I did also accomplish this, and I am super excited about this book now. I know I always say this, but I think it’s far better than anything I’ve ever written, and I’ve heard confirmations of that from people who’ve read this and other things I’ve written. Here’s to hoping it’s fate is also different than the others.

5. I would like to lose 20 pounds for real.
I did lose 20 pounds, and kept it off all year. Ben has lost about three times as much weight, and we’re still working on exercising regularly and eating healthy despite our busy lives.

So, three out of five isn’t so bad, I think. Appropriate to the general feeling of my 2009, which was consistently both hideous and glorious. My new year stuff are not exactly goals, they’re more like hopes that I can help with a bit.

1. I would like to finish the book I’m working on, and possibly do a draft of my next project.

2. I would like to get pregnant this year.

3. I have several goals all related to handling my schedule a bit better. If I successfully implement all of them, it might result in the ultimate hope of having some margin in my life.
a) Take a sabbath, which will be at the least a half day every week where I am free from the constant need to be productive. Since I’m an introvert, this will probably also consist of some alone time.
b) Make a date night a priority again. VLI students and graduates, laugh if you must. I am a determined little person and I like my husband a lot.
c) Keep to a 40 hour work week between my nanny job and my writing. This will serve both to keep me accountable to working consistently on whatever writing project I have going, and let me know when it is okay to stop working on whatever writing project I have going.
d) Make no more and no less than one appointment to connect with someone every week. I love to say, “let’s have coffee some time!”, but I need to be more realistic in my planning.

4. I want to work out three times a week. I tend to have a few months in every year where I work out 5-7 times a week, and then not at all the rest of the time. I’d like to even that out a bit.

5. I would like to get published this year. It would be pretty rocking awesome if the book I’m working on now would be my breakthrough book, we’ll see how that goes.

So there they are, my big hopes for the coming year. Here’s hoping that your 2010 is fantastic and full of fun God stuff.