Archive for the ‘Rejection’ Category

Keeping House

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Artists, Current reading, dreams, Rejection on July 20, 2016 at 8:13 am

The walls are lined with books, all in French. The literature sorted by period – the well-known classics, most of them from the nineteenth century and early twentieth. I pick up some of the more recent, read a few chapters, and set them down. Uninteresting? No. Predictable. You turn to the last page: sure enough the landing, as expected.

The boy comes back from his shopping expedition with two others in Toulouse. Tells me about his purchases and the highlight of their foray – a kebab shop where they ate so much, he says, that at nine PM, he’s not hungry yet. Large eaters they are not. He heads back to my place for the night, proud to have his own key, his own room – and the envy of some of his friends, still in the Home. Before leaving, he wonders how I can spend entire days alone. Reading and writing, I explain. The notion strikes him as too odd for response.

In fact, the writing is at an utter standstill. Something like a stunned silence with brief interjections from time to time. “I thought I knew, but I didn’t,” –  that kind of thing. Totally off track, in fact. Imaginary friends are tricky that way.

Recent writings in French don’t appeal much so I revert to a battered old find. The lives of famous seamen, offered in the year eighteen seventy-five to a young lady, as first prize in religious instruction. Instructive indeed in terms of the White Man’s great mission of spoil and plunder. The racism so blunt and blatant it could be lifted straight off some contemporary twitter feeds and Facebook comments.

Dispossessed and at sea. Basic theme: I thought I knew and I didn’t. A familiar place. I’d like to visit other spaces where some of the people keep some of their promises some of the time.

I’ll find my footing again? Of course I will. But I expected better and will have to find some way to make it so for myself and for others.

When nothing works out as you’d intended

In Absurdlandia, dreams, Local projects, proto drafts, Rejection, Uncategorized on July 19, 2016 at 9:02 am

lots of ways to chip away at someone’s self-confidence. Lots. Anonymity allows for lots more. Add the “hark, who goes there?” factor to it and  you can do a mighty fine job – something like the psychological equivalent of earth tremors. Is the ground moving? Will it grow to a rumble? Will your entire life’s work crash or dissolve or pale into insignificance? Are you being overly sensitive? Is it all your own fault anyway, etc. Upbringings rich in guilt education make for extra-favorable ground to self-inflicted doubt. Fighting the paralysis when it creeps in – how best to.

Move the limbs. Move the fingers. Refuse, refuse the verdict – be it self-administered or someone else’s take on who you are, what you mean, why you said or did not say, why you did or did not do.

The world’s a crazy place and not about to get saner.

Tenir debout dans le chaos. Just because it’s your life and you’re not about to be handed another.

How this will translate in fiction? No idea. None. Right now, the whole project feels as lifeless and useless as a dead fish left to feed the flies under a pier. I’ve no doubt this too shall pass, because that’s what feelings do. Pushing out and out, and out some more. Taking time out to say hey, me, whereto now? Nothing works out the way you expected, does it?

Whereto now.

Once more into the fray…or not.

In Drafts, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Querying, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on May 24, 2016 at 7:47 am

Every day (except when I shut down the phone, and close the shutters),  I meet people who aren’t blips on a screen or figments of my imagination. A lot of them cope with problems that make mine pale the same way the moon does when the sun comes out. Most days, I also read from some writer whose work makes mine seem ridiculous. Somewhere in the whole mix of uncertainties, I whistle a happy tune or crack a joke or blow off a huge amount of steam (this last in private, as much as possible; enough other people blowing off and blowing up in public, I see no point in joining that parade).

No amount of self-delusion will convince me I handle rejection well. I don’t. Rejection hurts. I don’t like pain. I hate getting the facts wrong. I hate getting brushed off. I hate ridicule, unless self-inflicted.  I forgive a lot and forget little.  I’d be better off forgetting more and forgiving less? Maybe I will some day, I haven’t found the trick for it yet.

All this is about the loathed and dreaded trio called Synopsis, Query and Rejection. Plus the underlying question: if writing is the part of the exercise I like, can I just give up on the dream of joining the Heavenly Choir of Published Ones, write on and deal with life as it shows up, period. Lots of folks have dreamt of making It – publishing, acting, singing, painting, tap-dancing, you name it. They didn’t. They did plumbing, copy writing, accounting, dentistry or gold smuggling instead. C’est la vie, and all that.

Yes, others became literary agents, editors, publishers, producers, film makers, etc. Some start off reading queries (or a few lines of same). Some read part of the synopsis. Some ask for the first ten, thirty or fifty pages. I assume most of the ones doing that drudge work are young, and, of course, on the lookout for what their boss wants. Do I have the time, patience, energy and stamina for another ride in that direction, while keeping the rest of my life from foundering on low-lower-lowest income and the growing problems this entails.

I don’t know how to describe what I write. Especially not for a three hundred word max drop-down page on someone’s web site. I’m an almost seventy-year old university drop-out. I had something resembling a career, ages ago, and dropped out of that too. I live in a run-down town and teeter on the edge of… what do you call it? Poverty? Yes, I guess that’s what you call being poor in this country*, unless political correctness strikes those words from your vocabulary. I laugh a lot. I cry a lot, too. Some of my characters do the same. Some do nasty things. Some would love to get even, and don’t. To my knowledge, none of them make it to the Promised Lands, no matter whose promises they listen to.

There. The paragraph above captures some of it, except for the laughing part. Without the laughing part, none of it is worth bothering with. If you don’t laugh, you may as well close the shutters for good, and just give up. Which would be a pity because you’d miss the saffron yellow and the orange and wine red on the curtains, the light on the bookshelf and the sight of Aly walking by on his way to the bus out of town.

*this makes for a lot of us living under the official poverty line, by the way. There’s life and lots of it, below the poverty line. But this seems more annoying than interesting to those for whom gross and net earnings are what matter – and all my best to them if that’s what keeps them going.

As the man said: “Sanity’s a hard concept to define”.

In Absurdlandia, Drafts, dreams, Hautvoir, photography, Poetry, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on May 23, 2016 at 7:36 am

Dreams are impossible to share. With some dreams, you try anyway because they were so horrific, you need words to exorcise them. With others you don’t try, because they’re so close to perfection, you don’t want to mess them up.

The dream last night was of the second category. Rather than attempt a description, I flip through the images in my head, secure in the knowledge no one else has access to them. What? a dream of sexual fulfillment? Of world-wide fame and fortune? Nothing of the kind. A dream of someone lost between two cities, wandering in a third and what she records there with her camera. See? You know nothing about what made the dream something close to perfection.

A poem I didn’t copy down yesterday. One of the Russians, I’ll find it again. Sometimes, things you don’t copy down linger the longest.

Last night, I typed in the infamous The End on my latest attempt at fiction. Will it fly? Will anyone else catch the mix of Little Nemo and…never mind. You build your paper plane. A few strokes on a computer can destroy it. Objects built with 3-D printers have more consistency than a piece of unpublished fiction – a thing almost as fragile and elusive as a dream.

Meanwhile, in the world of real: the astounding space of a so-called service provider. With a computer-savvy someone yesterday, I spent two hours finding the access to – well, to the service provider’s automatic answering device. My query now carries a Ticket Number. No, it doesn’t match up to the number of seconds evolved since January 1st 1601 (the computer-savvy someone tells me this is one clocking device used by another entity). I may or may not receive a satisfactory explanation + adequate solution. This is the world of real where things screw up a lot, then a bit more after that.

Occasional stop-overs in dreamland: mandatory, the body decrees. Don’t even think of dealing with Real without them.

Two Caps

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Animals, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Rejection on March 30, 2016 at 8:43 am

Something like having the words knocked out of your mouth, over and over again. Something like being told only sissies give up.

Sissies – you know, wimmin. Wimmin break down before the finish line. If they don’t, somebody comes along and moves the finish line further. Play by the rules. The rules say the odds are against you. Your job to prove you’re the one in a million who can beat the odds.

Note how it’s all about being Number One.

Walking out with the dog early this morning, the moon all crisp and clean up in the sky. Four or five stars still visible in the rising light. Crying is a waste of energy, you told yourself because the urge was there. Crying being for sissies, of course.

Two caps during dreamtime. The first, a fool’s cap from a local production. The second from the stage show of an international celebrity – say, one of the Beatles. A cap worn in concert or on an album cover such as Sergeant’s Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The caps were meant for some kind of museum but the dreamer decided to keep them. The dreamer doesn’t have as many issues with truthfulness, honesty and being a good little soldier who doesn’t complain. Shades of long-ago visits to the gyno, here. The obstretician who always greeted me with the words: “Ah! my favorite patient. Always smiling, and never a complaint.” I was young and more than a bit stupid and trusting. The man had found the perfect way to shut me up and make me store away my list of troubling questions. I smiled. I joked. I made my doctor grin. He got my money too.  Hurray, hurray.

Allez. There’s sunshine out there. Words to pull out of a cap for one or another character. Anger to recycle into something else more conducive to… to something a lot better than proving you can stand up again after every put-down. Until the day comes when you can’t stand up no more? Thanks, let’s try something else.

Walking the walk

In Animals, Artists, Drafts, Film, Hautvoir, Music, Rejection, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Theater on December 18, 2015 at 9:49 am

Things you say out loud. Things you share with close friends. Things you keep for yourself – or reveal to a stranger about to leave a night ride on a Greyhound bus, never to be seen again.

Things that leave you speechless. Finding words for them anyway.

I walked home from the school last night, after a delicious meal with the teachers – and confirmation someone else will teach English to the kids. Ahead of me in the long ill-lit pedestrian walk between the stadium and the pool, a young couple strode forward. Dress code and attitude spelled ‘hood + in love. They made their goodbyes near the boxing club. The girl made her final recommendations; turned and headed back toward the housing units (notice I don’t call them apartments or homes, although most of them  match up to those descriptions. Most, but not all).

He moved on. Crossed the bridge ahead of me. Let out a call. His buddies responded from the new spot they’ve staked out recently. At which point I reconsidered my route. A pity; I know many of them. In full daylight, on their own: greetings get exchanged, polite nods and even smiles. Mais la nuit, tous les chats sont gris. (But at night, all cats are grey).

Dropped in on my neighbor. Watched Marion Cotillard in La Mome, and listened to a jazz piano improv of the Allegretto of Beethoven’s 7th symphony – part of a musical work in progress receiving a first public hearing tonight.

Idle thoughts: what if neither Romeo nor Juliet had died for real that night. What if their marriage had been annulled by the Church, and they had both been reclaimed by their family clans. Then,  lived out their lives in close proximity, both linked forever and forever estranged. Closed societies are like that. Secrets morph and rumors become official doctrine.  The unsaid lays down a fresh layer, then another, then another still.

Grace Notes

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Contes d'Exil, Current reading, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Rejection, Sanford Meisner on August 24, 2015 at 7:57 am

When we come back from our morning walk, the dog and I, men are settling in at their sidewalk table in front of Le Grandgousier. Since this is Monday, others wait for the first bus out of town. I stand on the terrace overlooking the river, the two bridges and the market square. Complex light, this morning, scattered by banks of cloud into deep purples, oranges, and hot pink.

Why do you write what you write? Why do you write it the way you do? Which is worse: being ignored or being misunderstood? Or being disliked for those very things that matter most to you? Take  your pick or choose: all of the above.

The only editor ever to detail the reasons for rejecting something of mine hadn’t read a single line of the stories. He said so in the first paragraph of his letter, and then pasted in some of the comments from his reader. This was many, many years ago. The stories were in French, elliptical, and required a lot of reader participation. The characters were Russian. As a natural consequence, they had Russian names and patronymics. The reader objected to that. The editor relayed the objection.

What else can you do but read the letter with growing disbelief and thank the gods for the rejection? Do you want to argue with an editor who’ll want Irina Dimitrievna called Betty or Nadine?

Intelligent discourse with an intelligent agent. Same with an intelligent editor. Failing physical access to either, careful attention to the characters (1) and to what you enjoy reading and writing (2).

Yesterday, I read through Jim Harrison’s The Games of Night again. Can any writing be further in style from Nabokov’s Pnin? I happen to appreciate both. Finding an agent or an editor may be a “business transaction”. That’s the surface of the issue, at least, as far as I’m concerned.  You listen to advice or criticism when you and the characters see the value-added benefit – not so much in terms of salability as in terms of valuable reading.

So: grace notes. Those moments when both the writer and the character enjoy something for the enjoyment of it. Because it pleases the eye. Because it soothes the nerves. Because… because.

Back to a pile of junk in an imaginary scrap yard. Two characters devising the intro to a short sketch.

When approaching endings

In Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Rejection, Revision, RLB trivia, Scene Prep, Theater, Visual artists on May 21, 2015 at 5:45 am

Much like a landscape you’ve gazed at from a distance, the experience undergoes a radical change when seen up close. Instead of a coherent scene with all discrepancies smoothed out, there you are with jagged bits, unexpected (nay, unwanted) details, a restless cast of characters who know they’re about to get thrown over with no promises of severance pay or unemployment benefits. (Just to confirm this to the writer, a kind agent sends me her kind thanks this morning for work that isn’t the right fit for her. Always helpful when approaching the ending to another piece of fiction headed straight for the slush pile.)

But what? Courage, yes? The sky is free of clouds this morning. The sun rising in golden splendor. The apartment… never mind the apartment. One thing is certain: one of the characters is standing in front of her personal take on one of the great classics of nineteenth-century painting. A large canvas. An eyesore, in her treatment of it? That too.

Allez. Kind thanks, the agent wrote – I mean, her rejection letter says. Best not to give it too much thought. Nor to the boy about to get thrown over by his father. Nor to… etc.

A new day. How best to make the best of it, and of the utter visual mess I encounter, every time I lift my eyes from the screen and look around at the apartment. The place looks like a half-struck set after a walk-out by the stagehands. Still no answer about the job. Still no idea where I go next. The whole thing gets laughable on a regular basis, and am I ever grateful for that.


Levels of discomfort

In Drafts, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Querying, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on April 24, 2015 at 6:23 am

A cv plus what they call over here une lettre de motivation in which you sell yourself and your interest for a job rates an even higher level of discomfort than sending out a query plus synopsis. Why? I don’t know too many people who enjoy doing salesmanship on their personal experiences and abilities. Some folks have that skill to a remarkable degree? Yes, but I’m not one of them. I would rather clean up the spelling and the grammar on a student’s paper? Yes. Why? Simple: I know French spelling and grammar rules well, and no one will bat me out of the playing field for cleaning up the mistakes in a student’s paper.

Risk-taking at the wimp level. Note: we all have a wimp level. This happens to be mine.

Meanwhile, the town emerges slowly from an unseasonal and uncharacteristic fog while gender-related debates swirl on, from the most ridiculous to the most disturbing.

Watched an overlong documentary last night: a French school nurse’s daily ministrations, ranging from nicks to self-scarifications, minor belly aches to rapes and unwanted pregnancies, or teens dealing with the loss of a parent or a brain tumor. Overlong to my taste because the film maker chose to focus only on the nurse’s interactions with the teens where, of course, she dispenses pills, advice, compassion, humor, empathy, etc.  She’s good at her job, even with the girl who pushes all her buttons. But who she is, other than the school nurse – who knows? who cares?

Does any of this relate to the draft revisions? At first glance, no, except as a search for striking the right balance – the outgoing, the inner-directed. The brave, the wimpy, what makes this character advance and that other retreat.


In A post to keep afloat, Artists, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Querying, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on March 16, 2015 at 9:16 am

Maybe what frightens people away from writing – or any other sustained endeavor requiring a commitment to regular practice – are those bouts of bone-crushing loneliness when the work isn’t going well. Or when an off-hand remark out of nowhere feels like the thumb of God resting on the top of your head. “A writer, are you? So where are the books?” Or: if nobody wants your stories (implied: if they’re not good enough for the professionals), why don’t you self-publish? Or: Self-publication is the only way to go. Those fat publishers and book sellers don’t deserve to make  one centime off your sweat (this from the Anarchy Forever ones who will never read a word of mine anyway, since I’m willing to solicit the attentions of arrogant literary agents who are nothing but the running lackeys of… etc).

Plus, the scary ones who say: “I’d love to read what you write.” And the panic sets in: oh my gods,  please spare me well-intentioned criticism. Please, please. Etc.

Of course, once you’re into the writing, there’s no bone-crushing anything. You’re in it, the same way a swimmer is in swimming by the thirty-fourth or fiftieth lap. The whole problem, to use that example: getting to the pool in the first place, and into the chlorinated water and off through the first laps filled with faulty breathing, poor coordination, and all the garbage churning through the synapses.

A young girl (ten? eleven) delivering a parcel to my mobile home in Florida, once. Stepping inside and opening wide, frightened eyes. She looked around. “This is so… freaky,” she said.

I looked around, searching for the source of the freakiness. “What’s bothering you, Heather?”

The answer took a while to surface. “The… quiet,” she said.

As in: no tv sets competing for attention – in fact, no tv set at all. No music. No screaming over the rest of the racket. The quiet. Hearing the natural sounds around her. Lord help us- listening in to her own thoughts. How freaky can it get.

The toughest are the bone-crushing bouts of loneliness, but even those are all right, once you manage to make something out of them.

One thing I know: you don’t put on supremely accomplished juggling and acrobatics like those I saw this weekend at  Elsa de Witte and Laurent Cabrol’s Bêtes de Foire* without spending a lot, a lot of alone time with just you, gravity, and objects in need of re-enchantment.

* The title refers, in French, to the so-called Freak Sideshows that once flourished at country fairs. These days you can find freak shows on TV, I guess. (You’re sounding snobbish, the voice says in my head. Oh, Heather, you were right. Silence can be freaky.)