Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


I’ve been blogging less over here, devoting more of my time to working on my book as per my New Year’s Resolution. I’m not abandoning this blog, I’ve just been trying to finish my book. (I still write brief posts every day here.)

For all my fellow writers out there, here’s a couple of quotes I find comforting and you might too.


When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate, and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing.

                   — John Steinbeck



The first draft of anything is shit.

                  — Ernest Hemingway

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Buck, going over my list of resolutions for 2008


Me: Just because your goals for the coming year involve gallivanting to far away places like you’re Anthony-Fucking-Bourdain doesn’t mean that mine have to —

Buck: Max, do you like Anthony Bourdain?

Max: I have mixed feelings about him. I’d like to punch him in the stomach while I’m shaking his hand.

Me: HEY. We’re talking about me here, not Anthony Bourdain … and for the life of me I cannot understand why you didn’t like Kitchen Confidential.

Max: He blew up everybody’s spot.

Me: What does that mean?

Max: He sold out. The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club.

Me: Sam, do you like Anthony Bourdain?

Sam: I don’t even know who Anthony Bourdain is.  Was he in Fight Club? I don’t remember him. Is that his real name or his character’s name?

Me: What I want to know is, what in the name of sweet Jesus is so funny about my New Year Resolutions?

Buck: Well, for starters, they’re written on the back of a torn recipe for something called Kerin’s Salsa.

Me: [laughing] What the hell does it matter what they’re written on?

Buck: I’ve seen this recipe floating around for days. I was waiting for the salsa to show up. Mango, avocado, onions, cilantro, cucumber, and THE JUICE OF ONE LIME. 

Me: Sounds delicious. I am going to make it.

Buck: I don’t think it will take you very long.

Me: I have to purchase the ingredients first, which will require leaving the house. But what the hell does the recipe have to do with my resolutions? Why are you laughing at my life plans for a great ’08?

Buck: You’ve already got a lot of stuff from ’07 you haven’t done yet, and ’06.

Me: [laughing]

Buck: I’ve got a list of all the stuff you haven’t done yet

Me: What?! What the hell is wrong with you? [laughing]

Buck:[laughing] — and now you’re adding more.

Me: Why are you keeping a list of what I haven’t done?

Buck: [laughing] Because you’re always bringing up these lists all the time.

Me: It’s true. [laughing] I tend to do that. But I need the lists so I won’t forget.

Buck: Well don’t worry, I won’t. I mean, look at this one … 2008. Why did you write that at the top? So you’d remember which year’s list this was? You’ve probably got a book of your lists of resolutions. [In falsetto meant to be my voice] I think I’ll just publish all my resolutions. Nobody’s ever done THAT before!

Me: I’m not opposed to that idea.

Buck: And in each chapter you could explain why each resolution is un-resolved.

Me: [laughing] Except for the fact I don’t actually have these lists of un-resolved resolutions you claim I have. But I do have a reason why each one has remained un-resolved … thus far, anyway.

Buck: I’m sure you do. Maybe part of the problem can be traced back to 2005 when your resolution was to nap more

Me: Actually, that’s not as outlandish as it sounds —

Buck: Oh, I didn’t think it was outlandish at all —

Me: — because part of my resolution for 2008 is to nap better. I just haven’t put it on the list yet.

Buck: Quick, where’s a pen —

Me: I nap enough, I just don’t nap well. I start to fall asleep but then I wake right up and that sends me into a RAGE, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of a nap in the first place.

Buck: Okay [starts writing] nap well. It’s at the bottom of your list, though.


Buck: Well it’s written that way according to the reader. And Max agrees with me.

Me: Leave him out of this. If you weren’t reading my list of resolutions and laughing about them, I wouldn’t have been forced to put the numeral one next to my number two item

Buck: Yeah, you put it in afterwards, otherwise we never would have gotten that.

Me: You weren’t supposed to get it. They’re my resolutions. My being the operative word —

Buck: But when somebody sees that the first thing on the list is to juggle … well, this is only gonna get stupider.

Me: No. No. Juggling is not stupid.

Buck: There is no good reason to juggle.

Me: There is a good reason —

Buck: You’re too old to join the carnival.

Me: I’m not doing it for carnival purposes, I’m doing it to exercise my brain. I figure if I go into old age as a juggler, my brain will be sharp. Sharper than it is now.

Max: But you always said anybody who juggles is an asshole.

Me: No, what I said was, anybody who juggles professionally is an asshole. But I didn’t really mean it,  I was just trying to encourage you to aim higher … for something that pays better.

Max: I was eight-years-old.

Me: Well it worked, didn’t it? If I hadn’t planted that in your head just think what you’d be making right now … just think what you’d be earning if you were a juggler! ….. You should thank me.

Buck: Watching somebody juggle is like watching somebody whistle.

Me: [laughing] I’m not doing it for you to watch me, I’m doing it alone … in private.

Buck: If a woman juggles in the forest …

Me: You won’t be laughing when after a year of juggling I’m suddenly able to do people’s taxes —

Buck: I’ve never heard you mention a desire to do people’s taxes.

Me: I never have mentioned it. I’m just saying that’s how sharp I’ll be. I used to juggle, don’t you remember? You used to coach me on it. Don’t you remember?

Buck: Absolutely not.

Me: See? You should be juggling.

Max and Sam: [laughing]

Buck: Yeah, then I can be as sharp as a carny. I’ll be wanting to leave town, to get my ring toss set up.

Me: [laughing]

Buck: Anyway. You’ve got juggling as your first resolution. No one will even pay attention to the second one because they’ll be laughing so hard at the first one —

Me: These are my resolutions. They’re not for publication. I’m not getting paid for writing these –

Buck: Well, normally when somebody writes a list, their top priority goes first, but you’ve got finishing your book right below juggling

Me: No. Finishing my book is number one —

Buck: But I’d never know that without your number here —

Me: I had to add the numeral because you were making such a big deal —

Buck: And you’ve got buy a sewing a machine … make pants. It sounds like you’re going around pantless.

Me: No. I want to make a bunch of silk harem pants. I’m going to develop my own fashion style.

Buck: My god …you already have your own fashion style.

Me: So? I’m adding harem pants, what’s so odd about that?

Buck: Okay. I’ll add that for you. Develop. My. Own. Fashion. Style. But number four is quit smoking. That’s not very high on your list.

Me: It’s not.

Buck: So we should just cross that off altogether.

Me: I’m going to do it, but not till I get around to it.

Buck: I’m crossing it off.

Me: Well go ahead, but I will quit smoking when I get around to it. It takes devotion, you know.

Buck: Yeah, I know. I quit smoking EIGHT WEEKS AGO.

Me: You’re doing great! I’m so proud of you.

Buck: What is this paint some portraits?

Me: I’m going to paint some portraits in 2008.

Buck: Of who?

Me: Who do you think? You, of course.

Buck: What will be your medium?

Me: Oils or acrylics. I haven’t decided yet.

Buck: Listen, listen. You need to finish your book. All these things you’ve got on this list, these are all things that keep you away from what you love best and what you’re supposed to be doing, your writing.

Me: I know. It’s awful, I know. I just … I don’t know. I just …

Buck: Put the juggling aside, put the harem pants aside, forget the portraits of me, and just sit down at the computer and write.

Me: You’re right.

Buck: Of course I’m right. Forget all the other crap on that list except for finishing your book. And the quit smoking part. You still have to do that.

Me: I know. How hateful. I hate quitting smoking.

Buck: I’m with you on that one, baby. That’s why I’m  your advance scout.


Links: Juggling Makes Your Brain Bigger

BrainReady Recommends Juggling

Sew Harem Pants


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Two Days In El Paso

     I’m on deadline again, fighting my way through that mind numbing caul that rolls in every few weeks. For the past two days I have accomplished nothing. Unless you count this:

halloweenicons Made Tollhouse cookies and ate approximately 15 before they were cool.

halloweeniconsWandered around Target for an hour and left with a dog bed that will hopefully entice Stella out of Buck’s sock drawer.

halloweeniconsUsed a photo of my mother at age four to start a collage. Marveled how such a darling child could have grown up to refer to me as “an obstreperous hellion with smarmy friends.”  In irony, I gave her a crown that says have a good time. In reality, her catch phrase was so don’t blame me if you end up murdered in a ditch.

halloweeniconsWatched Fail Safe and wondered what Henry Fonda really thought of Jane and Peter. Bridget, yes. The other two, no.

halloweeniconsDecided my absolute bottom line for a scented candle is not $42.99. It is $7.99.

halloweeniconsHelped Buck install two bathroom lights. Asked him why every time he calls my name it somehow ends with me holding my arms in an unnatural position while all the blood drains away.

halloweenicons Sent an email to The Fresh Air Fund suggesting they sell air fresheners as a fund raiser.

halloweeniconsWatched a lizard climb up the side of my house and disappear into a crack.

halloweeniconsRe-washed a basket of clean laundry because I couldn’t face all those wrinkles at the ironing board.

halloweeniconsTook a nap and woke up with this thought inexplicably running through my head: Does Robert Downey Jr. constantly have to clarify that he is not the son of Morton Downey Jr.? 

     And that’s where I’m at this morning. Two days into my deadline marathon with nothing to show for it but some cookies and a dog bed. The cookies are nearly gone and Stella is still in the fucking sock drawer.


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Temporary Insanity

This is not my Q&A Sunday, but a temporary distraction I have run into.

Dear New York Times,

While reading today’s paper at 5:30 this morning (by flashlight in my backyard), I stumbled across a problem that has made it impossible for me to continue on with my day without first pointing it out to you.

I am writing in regards to a major error in your story “Sold on a Property Despite Its Past” which appears on Page 21 of the October 14 Sunday New York Times. The story attributes The State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers as having been largely designed by “Thomas Kirkbride, a 19th-century doctor renowned for his designs of mental hospitals …”

Essentially, that is incorrect.

While Thomas Kirkbride was indeed a 19th-century doctor, The State Lunatic Asylum at Danvers (now the AvalonBay condominiums and apartments) was in fact designed by Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, a prominent 19th-century architect who designed more than 500 buildings in Boston, including several townhouses in the South End. (With that in mind, it is rather ironic the asylum would ultimately become a condo and apartment complex.) It is unfortunate that the name of this highly accomplished architect is all but forgotten.

Beth Greenfield, author of the article in today’s newspaper, mistakenly attributed Dr. Kirkbride, who was in fact a Philadelphia psychiatrist, as being the architect of the Danvers compound. He was not, but the confusion is understandable as Dr. Kirkbride was the architect of a system for running asylums. Known as The Kirkbride Plan, Dr. Kirkbride’s recommendations were adopted by most asylums in the United States, Canada, and one in Australia. The Kirkbride Plan was a recommendation of long, rambling wings built in a staggered design so that each received sunlight and fresh air. It was believed this would provide a semblance of privacy for patients, and the exposure to sunlight and air would have a curative effect. Several of these asylums dedicated buildings to Dr. Kirkbride, which I believe is where the confusion comes into play.

I do not profess to be an expert in the field of architecture or asylums, or anything really; nor do I hold any ill regard for Ms. Greenfield as a result of her error. I am only pointing this out because this mistake was one I nearly made myself (God forbid!) this week while writing about the State Lunatic Asylum at Taunton, Massachusetts, in my blog: www.LifeWithBuck.com. In my research I found several examples of this error, most pointedly in the book, Angels in the Architecture: A Photographic Elegy to an American Asylum (Great Lakes Books) by Heidi Johnson, which is focused on the former Northern Michigan Asylum. It seems this institution also dedicated its “interconnected wing” buildings to Dr. Kirkbride, and Ms. Johnson did not clarify this issue to my satisfaction. (Dr. Kirkbride’s family must be quite proud, while the family of Michigan architect Gordon W. Lloyd is undoubtedly quite disappointed.)

It’s an honest mistake and, as I said, one that I nearly made myself.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to an enormous clarification in tomorrow’s New York Times. It would be best, I feel, if you were to run a feature story on Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, which I would be happy to write for a byline (of my choice) and nominal fee.


Wendy @ Life With Buck


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A Literary Lunch

An Old-Fashioned Literary Lunch At Barbara’s House

     I’m three days away from flying back to Buck and El Paso, and I’m quite excited about leaving here, because I’m flat-out exhausted. My working vacation has been more of a New England Odyssey than I’d planned. I’ve hung out at a biker gathering with 300 people smelling of leather and lube, where a 20-something bike builder told me he’d be a great feature story in the magazine because, “No offense, but I’m young.” From there, I’ve stood up to my knees in low tide while having a screaming match with tourists over a Playskool toy. And I’ve been hopelessly lost on back roads driving through miles and miles of cranberry bogs and bee hives, where it crossed my mind that I might never see another human being again. But in the middle of all that, I had lunch with Barbara and her sister, Joan, and it felt so good I stayed for six hours and we talked non-stop the whole time. 

 Barbara: Remember that story we wrote together?

 Me: I remember we couldn’t sell it.

 Barbara: Was it Ellery Queen that rejected us? I saved the rejection, but I don’t know where it is.

 Me: I used to save all my rejection letters with the plan of one day making a giant paper sailboat that I could sit in as it sank to the bottom of a lake. I almost had enough, but then we moved and Buck made me throw them away.

Joan (Barbara’s sister) : What story got rejected?

Me: It was a Halloween story. Barbara and I would take turns writing a couple paragraphs, then email it back and forth. It was about a teenage girl who was killing her friends and putting their heads on stakes at the end of the driveway, or someplace like that.  I don’t remember where she displayed them.

Barbara: She staked them along the side of the road. It tied in to roadside memorials and the way some are decorated for the holidays. I think one one body was disguised as a scarecrow.in one of the memorials. [laughing] Or maybe they all were.

Me: Something happened and the girl’s mother came home early one day and found a head in the oven.

 Barbara: And there was a pumpkin involved somehow.

Joan: [laughing]

Barbara: No, Joan, we were dead serious.

Wendy: If I sent it in someplace, we must have been serious. Or maybe we just wanted the stupid rejection, hoping they’d say We’re sorry, but your story is in such very poor taste and is so repulsive —

Barbara: I’ll look for the rejection. I saved it because it was hilarious, they sent the whole thing back in a plain brown envelope.

Joan: How long ago was this?

Me: Ten years, maybe more. God I love that lamp. It’s maddening how much I love it.

 Barbara: I know, don’t you love it?

 Me: I told you, it’s maddening how much I love it. I can barely sit next to it knowing it’s yours and not mine. I once spent three-hundred dollars on a desk lamp. There’s definitely something wrong with me. That’s why I’m not allowed to touch money anymore, because whenever I see a really great lamp, like that one over there —

 Joan: Maybe you could sell the story now. As a screenplay.

 Me: You know, that SAW bastard is the only person who comes out with a movie right at Halloween every year. He’s cornered the market. Maybe we should invade his territory. If only our story didn’t suck so bad —

 Barbara: It should have been a sign when we were killing ourselves laughing about the cooked the heads.

 Me: The hair was burning and it smelled. Hey, let’s write another one. With pictures! I want this to be a picture story. I wonder if I could get Buck to dress like a dark angel with big black wings from Wal-Mart and ride around in front of the house on a motorcycle so I could take photos.

Joan: That’s a great idea, because I wanna read it.

Wendy: And see it.

Barbara: Okay, let’s do it. But you have to start it, you’re better at starting them.

Me: I do love to start stuff. And finishing it. It’s the middle part I hate. But we’ve only got a little more than a month to do it in time for Halloween.

Barbara: You’re right.

Me: Let’s not put any thought into it at all. 

Barbara: Right.

Me: I’ll get on that this week. I need to make a note to myself to do this.

Joan: I have notes everywhere. Notebooks, sticky post-it notes, lists.

Me: I do too, but I don’t read them.

Barbara: You used to write on your hand. You had lists on your hand.

Me: I still do. That’s the only method that truly works for me. But I rarely leave the property, so I don’t even need to make lists of things to do anymore.

Joan: I don’t leave the house, either. It’s a freaking scary world out there and I’m sick of it.

Me: I never go out alone at night anymore, but that’s mostly because I have night blindness and can’t see well enough to drive. I see stuff in the road that isn’t there. I’ll see a big white cat in the road up ahead, but then it turns out there’s no cat.

Barbara: Remember Dad saw tenements for awhile? He saw tenements lining the streets, like the kind we lived in as kids in Woonsocket. But they weren’t really there. It scared the shit out of me when he told me. He figured it was the glare from his glasses at night. 

Joan: Glasses do create a weird glare. Shadows.

Barbara: Maybe it’s Shadow People.

Me: Yes. Thank you. Buck thinks I’m the only person who believes in the existence of Shadow People. Maybe your father’s tenements really were there. Maybe that’s where the Shadow People live.

Joan: Yeah, a netherworld of Shadow People. They’re there, but we don’t always see them.

Barbara: Yes. There’s a place online with photos of them. I sent you the link about five years ago.

Me: I know, I kept it and I look at it about twice a week.

Barbara: I’ll send it to you, Joan. Somebody set up a camera to take photos all day when no one was home. Except the Shadow People. They were home, and they’re terrifying.

Joan: Send it to me. I’ll write it down so I remember to remind you.

Me: But who are we to think we’re all there is? That’s so pompous of us.

Joan: Exactly. This is a little weird, but I wake up at night — and I know I’m awake, there’s no question, because I sit right up in bed — and I see these little crabs crawling along across my skylight. I’m not scared of them, because I know they’re not there, but I see them.

Me: You’re preaching to the choir. I have night terrors, I’ve had them all my life, and I see amazing things that aren’t really there. And I’m awake. I stand up and walk over to them. About a month ago I woke up at three o’clock in the morning and saw a guy in our courtyard. He was smiling at me. I told him to go away and he did, very slowly. Buck HATES IT when I see these things. He says it’s how he will die, of a heart attack from waking up to me yelling at a Shadow Person at the foot of the bed. Because I did that to him once. I shouldn’t say once. I’ve been waking him up that way regularly, ever since I met him. Yet, he never seems to get used to it. He’s probably been sleeping really well ever since I came out here.


Me and Barbara, Satisfied That Shadow People Exist


Barbara’s favorite Shadow People Photos.


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Today In El Paso

I’m still limping towards deadline and must fall back on action photos and promises.

Wishing I could set up a time lapse camera for you — because I had an inkling how this day would go — I had to settle for the next best thing: Buck.

Here I am first thing this morning, all happy, orange (as per my psychiatrist’s suggestion), and bright eyed despite being awoken for the day at 5:45 AM by an anxiety attack brought on in a dream where I opened the magazine and there was literally a hole in the middle where the fucking feature bike should be. 

By 2 PM I was feeling a bit peakish and had moved outdoors to the construction area to work among the cement bags and drop cloths for a change of scenery.

By 4 PM I had spoken to a friend from home who had spent the day at the beach adding to her seashell collection. I, on the other hand, had since abandoned all computer contact and just stood around indulging my own hobby which I stumbled upon about 18-months ago: smoking. 

This is the part where I fulfill promises and dreams.

For Theresa: My waffle sundae from a DQ somewhere in New Mexico


For Moonbeam: The Theda Bara clock I got on eBay


For Andy, who technically didn’t ask for anything  but I could hear his thoughts across the city: 

 Buck in the early 1990s wearing the hospital robe he stole

 from Children’s Hospital in Boston in 1971. When I took this photo on my back porch

on Cape Cod, little did I know it was actually for you.

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Buck Camped Out In An Office THAT IS NOT HIS


There is a terrible behind-the-scenes maelstrom going on right now over a blog I spent the morning writing. Titled My New T-Shirt Design: A Reason To Live. I was seconds away from hitting the Publish button in my Windows Live Writer when my work was inexplicably deemed too controversial for publication by those who can physically overpower me. DAMMIT.

 I. Cannot. Tell. You. How. Much. I. Hate. When. This. Happens. To. Me.

 And you’d be surprised to learn that it happens to me A LOT. I am not kidding. It happens everywhere. Newspapers. Magazines. Radio news copy. Ads. Giveaway flyers and asinine newsletters. Those stupid Christmas letters I write every year and NEVER get to send because they are always being intercepted at the freaking mailbox because “oh, it might hurt someone’s feelings” or “someone might cry.” wah, wah, wah, her Christmas letter hurt my feelings. To those people I say, Grow the fuck up.

Can you imagine? And now the unkindest cut of all: My New T-Shirt Design: A Reason To Live

Everywhere you can think of I am censored. Hey, read the First Amendment for cry eye (you know exactly who you are). This is not Communist Russia!

This is far from over. Oh yes, it’s wicked far from over.

Remember my poem about you that was published in a chap book? Yes, I thought you might.

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