Stuff I Write, Stuff I Like

Stuff I Think About Stuff I Write: Harry Crews, Cotton Candy, Guilt, Joan Didion, Kids, Words and A Plague of Basement Locusts

In Uncategorized on June 2, 2013 at 5:13 am

Harry Crews used to say this about writing:  “You wait until you got time to write a novel, or time to write a story, or time to read the hundred thousands of books you should have already read – if you wait for the time, you will never do it ayrex minimum deposit. ‘Cause there ain’t no time; world don’t want you to do that. World wants you to go to the zoo and eat cotton candy, preferably seven days a week.”

Trying to be a writer or any kind of artistic type while balancing groceries and bills and dishes and trash day and raising kids and showering every once in a while – plus making time for cotton candy, which is, of course, delicious– can feel impossible.

Especially the raising kids part. There’s so much guilt there.

“Shh, mommy’s working,” I’ve heard myself say for too many years now.

I worry what this does to my kids, how they take that in and in.

My son, in an end-of-year report, wrote this about olymptrade my work life:  “Sometimes it seems like my mom never gets time off. She’s always working.”

By which he means I stare into my computer. By which he means he hears me say “not now.” He hears me say, “seriously, I’m trying to think here,” and, simply, “no.”

No to whatever it is he’s asking, to whatever it is he needs at the moment, to whatever it is I think can wait.

It hurts my lungs to write that.

Most true things hurt to write about.

How can I be sure about what can and cannot wait? How can I know what really matters?

Joan Didion, in her wonderful book Blue Nights, talks about this, too. After the loss of her daughter Quintana, Didion runs back through time, worrying over the moments when she paid attention to her work, the page, and shut her daughter, her heart-work, out.

“Shh, mommy’s working,” she said.

Having a child is like letting your heart walk around outside your olymp trade review body. The writer Elizabeth Stone said that and it’s true.

I love my children.

I need to write because writing is what I do, another kind of out-of-body heart.

There’s no way to balance this.

One of my writer friends who doesn’t have kids sent me an e-mail the other day. “For when you get away from your writer’s desk,” it said.

I read the e-mail on my phone when I took a break from mopping up a puddle of apple juice I’d just spilled on our not-so-mop-able old kitchen floor.

My writer’s desk is covered with bill baskets and Highlights magazines. I write when I can, where I can, which is rarely at that desk these days. There is no photogenic, iconic writers’ nook in our house. My husband, a writer too, and I – we write where we can, in the bathroom if necessary.

 

“How do you balance your life/writing/work/kids/etc.?” someone asked me in an interview recently.

It seems like such an easy question. My husband and I understand each other. We do our best to give each other time. We read for each other, too, which saves an incredible amount of bumbling-around. We’re very honest with each other and will tell each other whether something is working or not. It helps a lot.

As parents, we know how important it is to love and still corral our kids. But sometimes it’s easier than others.

One day when it was my turn to write, my husband said, simply, “go.” I went down and locked myself in my office. I swooped everything off that writing desk and settled in, determined to knock out 10 pages, just like that.

A short while later, I heard footsteps. My son and daughter snuck down and stood outside my office door. They kept knocking. They kept shoving notes under the door.

“We’re hungry,” my daughter said.

“No, starving,” my son, who’s older and more sophisticated when it comes to manipulation, said. I knew they’d just had lunch.

“We’re scared,” my daughter said.

“Terrified,” my son said, even though I knew my husband was right upstairs doing dishes and had probably glanced away from them for just a minute.

Finally, when I still didn’t open the door, my daughter said, “You know, there are bugs out here,” and my son said, “Locusts.”

 

There are no locusts in our basement.

I love my children.

I love my children.

But sometimes it’s important to not open the door.

Tell me how  to live with that.

Nice Stuff People Write About Stuff I Write: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Review of “The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious” (They Like It!)

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Thank you to the Post-Gazette and Books Editor Tony Norman for this wonderful review of “The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious: A Memoir”  —  

“Let’s face it. Not every book written by a  Pittsburgher is brilliant. But Lori Jakiela’s painfully funny memoir “The Bridge  to Take When Things Get Serious” is so good you’ll wonder why the Trafford  resident and Chatham University professor isn’t the literary toast of the entire  country by now. This is a book about taking care of a dying mother, a writing  teacher’s lament about the next generation and a sideways love story.

“Part of the unabashed fun of reading this book is seeing familiar landmarks  through the eyes of an exceptionally talented local writer who is only one New  York Times book review away from a national reputation. While this memoir may  not be the last word on the volatile subject of mother/daughter relationships,  it is fair to assume it is already among the most honest and best written this  decade. Reading Lori Jakiela’s memoir should be on every Pittsburgher’s bucket  list. > Available everywhere.

Stuff I Write: On Writing, 40-Somethingness, Mortality and Red Cake

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Here’s an excerpt from my essay, “It’s Over Before You Know It.” The nice folks at Hobart published it in their May issue. It’s about writing, mortality, and of course red cake. Get a bigger piece over at Hobart.

***

Last week, my birthday passed without time to celebrate. No cake, no party. I’ve been working a lot.  My daughter refuses to believe I’m a year older because I didn’t blow out any candles.

“If you don’t blow out your candles, you’ll never be 49,” she says, a good thought.

30420-birthday-candles

I don’t worry about age, though I spend money on a moisturizer by a company called Bliss. The moisturizer’s called “The Youth as We Know It.”  I like companies with a sense of humor about laugh lines. I like companies named for happiness.

bliss-the-youth-as-we-know-it

Still in this, my last forties-year, I do wonder about time–the way it passes without me realizing it, how much I’ve wasted by focusing on the wrong things or the wrong people or the wrong landscapes.

“It’s over before you know it,” my father used to say about living.

“Patience, jackass.” My father used to say that, too.

Every year for my birthday, my mother would make my favorite cake–red devil’s food with maple frosting. It’s a difficult recipe, at least that’s what she always said.

“Can’t you pick something else?” she’d say, and sigh.

“For Christ’s sake, do not stomp in the kitchen,” she’d say when the cake was in the oven. “This one’s sensitive.”

“We’ll see if it comes out this year,” she’d say every year, though every year it would come out just fine.

I’m not sure what the fuss was about, except that the recipe came from my grandmother, who was notorious for leaving out ingredients so no one could duplicate her recipes, which meant no one could ever replace her.

“It’s about immortality,” I said the other night to my friend, Ed. We weren’t talking about recipes. We were talking about writers, why some people wrote so many books.

“People shouldn’t write so much,” he said, but I disagree. I think writers  should write as much as they can. Not because it makes them immortal, not because, as Ed would say, they’d be trying “to write for the ages,” but because writing is work and it’s what we’re made to do. It gives us purpose. It’s useful.

It says, “I was here. Maybe this life mattered a little.”    Read more and get the red cake recipe at Hobart.

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