Awards Season

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Being in transit over the holidays meant we had no tree in our flat. I wrapped a total of three presents (small ones). It’s quiet work, waiting for the holiday spirit to visit.

But I came back after Christmas to find that fellow wanderer becomingmadame.wordpress.com had nominated Scribblerbean for two awards: the Beautiful Blogger Award and The Reader Appreciation Award. Mme’s sweet little note was probably one of the best presents a writer writing alone could receive: encouragement, and a quick little wink across continents that said, you’re doing ok. Merci beaucoup, Madame!

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As if that wasn’t enough, Josh Lattimer, who creates dazzling posts on fictionalmachines.com had also sent me a nomination for the One Lovely Blog Award.

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In turn, I wish to nominate Jmkhaprawannatellyouastory.wordpress.com

She produces wondrous little stories and illustrations that move me with their honesty and boldness.

Now these may just look like colorful little badges, but I haven’t been blogging for very long. Encouragement goes a long way! So for that, thank you ever so much. I resolve to write a little more everyday in emulation of bloggers I’ve admired over these past few months.

In the spirit of Oscar Fever and the Awards season, I’m passing along nominations for the Beautiful Blogger Award and Reader Appreciation Award to 15 blogs. These writers inspire me with their dedication to the craft, their brave, writerly ways, darling geekiness, and wanderlust.

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Marousia.wordpress.com

Bottledworder.wordpress.com

Jilannehoffmann.com

Ambientehotel.wordpress.com

Marcusspeh.com

Jarofsalt.com

Onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com

Tigergroves.wordpress.com

Catherinejohnson.wordpress.com

Poetrynotesandjottings.wordpress.com

Ayearinmyshoes.wordpress.com

Thirdculturekidlife.com

Gregorygcollins.com

Reddirtlattes.com

Anilbalan.com

If you wish to, here’s what you do next:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you
  2. Post the award(s) on your page
  3. Nominate 15 other blogs
  4. Share 7 random facts about yourself.

Here are my 7 random facts:

  1. I can’t do rollercoasters or tequila.
  2. One of the seven fish in my aquarium is missing an eye.
  3. The monster under my bed was a zombie. Of this I am sure.
  4. I draw pictures with paint in my other journals.
  5. I wish I’d worked harder to do better in math class.
  6. My bedtime is 2 am.
  7. I have never been to New York City.

Thank you for letting me into your strange and beautiful corners! I look forward to your wonderful musings in 2013.

Mistress of Spices, in a way.

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Having run out of coffee today I had to get my caffeine fix from another source. I rummaged and found a handful of essential spices (cinnamon, clove, cardamom) and brewed me some chai instead. The anise didn’t go into the pot; it’s just here because it’s pretty.

My course work in non-fiction is coming to a close so hopefully I can channel more energy back into this blog. It was a summer course, swift and rigorous, and stretched as I am, I am ever so grateful for the privilege of having taken it.

Thanks all for your patience! I do hope to be back to scribbling very soon.

How To Make Muffins

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On afternoons when the air crawls and my words get lost in a cloud in my head, I bake. As cupboards slam, the rattling of cake tins begins to dislodge ideas, shaking them loose like flour through a sifter.

For all its demands of focus and precise amounts, baking draws me into a state of unforced thinking, a mental meander that spills out beyond the countertops, past the lines on the measuring cup and confines of the measuring spoons. Before the hour is up the words begin to rise up, because memory is like yeast.

My chocolate chip cookies have found fans among my children’s friends for about a decade. Even without consulting the recipe, I can make these cookies without paying too much attention to amounts of flour, baking powder, baking soda, two kinds of sugar. I know the space a cup of butter occupies in my mother’s pink mixing bowl.

Sometimes the mixture is a pinch short of salt, or the butter is half an ounce over. Routine dictates deftness and pace, but sometimes I just want my cookies. The mess I make in my kitchen is spectacular. If the batter comes to a texture like down pillows (as it must for today’s sour cream blueberry muffins) it will be beautiful coming out of the oven. Hunger, as Carlo Collodi wrote, is the best sauce. Despite improvisation, a need is satisfied.

Not so when I attempt to write. As a craft, writing is more demanding and less forgiving than baking. So much can fall flat. There are no tried-and-tested recipes. There are no basic ingredients when one has tens of thousands of words to choose from, and only the most carefully selected will do. And even then, an afternoon’s efforts do not guarantee a satisfying result. Where it takes an hour to bake even the most gorgeous of all cupcakes, it can take a lifetime to create a work of substance and elegance.

I think about this when I struggle to craft a 500-word piece I can be happy with. The writer Jane Hirshfield, in taking apart the meticulous writing of Emily Dickinson, has said, “a single word can be as consequential to the experience and meaning as a single link is to the integrity of a chain.” And so I run my fingers over words to find the choicest, freshest ones (never, never use too much), roll them around so I can taste them first, testing them for heat or coolness. I imagine combinations of flavors, scents, and textures, staggered by the possibilities and the responsibility.

No wonder I get stuck. No matter: I head to the kitchen, and begin to bake.

What Jack Said

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English: Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palu...

English: Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palumbo, circa 1956 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jack Kerouac once said that things we feel find their own form. In my very early years as a writer-for-hire, I worked with clients and form was decided for me. There was no room for feeling. But writing thirty-second ad copy demanded economy of expression, bang for buck delivered in three different versions designed to win client approval. Not a bad method for reining in over-writing and killing the author.

I enjoyed writing ad copy not at all, although The Client always seemed happy.  Maybe all those years writing with restraints on has made it easier for me to attempt to write in poetic form.

What a delight to find so many poetic forms to play with. I’m still looking for the right form for what needs saying. Poetry has demands similar to ad copy – to say in a short space a version of the truth. I have yet to test the theory out, but it feels like a fun thing to try.