Instructor Did NOT Like My Work

Dear Reader:

“My Favorite Kitchen” did not earn high praise. This does not crush me; in fact, it rather excites me. It gives me the impetus to ask: Why do I write? It fires me up! It makes me thankful that I’m 57 years old and so I can see that it doesn’t matter that my instructor didn’t appreciate my essay. It makes me think about other writers; it makes me think about readers.

First, I write because I’ve always admired writers and loved books. I write because I enjoy the challenge of it and I am so elated when I feel I’ve got it just right. Nathaniel Hawthorne said “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Yes, it is!

Sometimes I write because I hope I can help someone. I always turn to the page when life becomes difficult for me. I look for advice and comfort and I find it. When I wrote about my brother’s death, my decision to be a stay-at-home mom and the benefits of Prozac, I was reaching out to you, dear reader.

I also write because it’s more fun than cleaning, jogging, golfing, cooking….etc.!  In other words, I enjoy it. And, it is nice to think that others enjoy reading my posts. With you in mind, I  keep my entries as short as possible and as entertaining and truthful as possible.

When I was asked to write 750 words describing a kitchen…I thought:  What? Why? I don’t want to write that. (BTW…750 words just happens to be my self-imposed max limit: I figure if I can do death, marriage and antidepressants in that many words, I should be able to convey most ideas within that word count!)  So, I improvised. I didn’t adhere to the word count. I didn’t offer generous details of how the kitchen looked (I can’t remember what color the walls were or how the countertops looked). I tried to make the topic work for me and this venue.

I decided to publish the work here because I thought it might remind you of your own grandmother or inspire you to allow someone to linger in your work space, and I added the recipe because I thought you’d like that!

Off to make some coffee,

Michele

 

 

 

 

Period. space, space.

Dear Reader:

This is, at once, an explanation for my errors and a defense of my sanity.  Since I launched fromthepinkshed.com, I’ve received comments, criticisms and suggestions from those nearest and dearest to me. There is nothing I like more than constructive criticism, unless, of course, unbridled enthusiasm is the alternative. How is it possible to make it better if I don’t know where it went wrong?

Here is a partial list of the mistakes I’ve made as illuminated via lengthy text messages from friends and family:

  • You haven’t been alive for a “century”…insert “half.”
  • There is an extra space between the first sentence and the second sentence.
  • The “Bachelor’s” name was Nick, not Chris.
  • There is an extra space between every sentence in paragraph 2.
  • Um, your link doesn’t link.
  • There’s an extra space after, LITERALLY, every sentence in your post, Mother!

 

What’s with all the extra spaces? Period.  space space.  Period.  space space.  Typing, I think, is kinda like riding a bike…you are not supposed to forget how to do it. I learned how to touch type back in 1976 when I was in high school; I topped out at a swift 80 wpm! Fast…I was fast. I’m still pretty fast! When readers began pointing out my “spaciness,” I began to type more slowly and edit. But, really, I was bothered. Are the extra spaces the first indication that I’m at the top of the hill and will start rolling down very soon.

NO, definitely not. The answer came from my daughter, as so many other good things do!  She called one day to say that after a class in typography as part of her Graphic Communication major, she had the answer to the riddle.

Here’s the explanation.  Typewriters, it turns out, are very democratic machines. Every character is given the exact same amount of space on the page. That means that the letter ” i” is given the same amount of space as the letter “w,” even though it clearly doesn’t need it. This is called monospaced typesetting and we need that extra space between sentences to make it easier to see the beginning of new sentences. Word processors and computers and everything that is not an old typewriter use proportionally spaced fonts, which adjust spacing to the size of the letter. This is why a proportional font can fit 12 letters into the same space where a monospace font can only fit nine.

So, I’m not crazy; I’m old.   Fine.  I can live with that.

Michele

 

What’s at the Bottom of Your Heart?

Dear Reader:

I attended a half day writer’s workshop yesterday…you know the routine. After the facilitator reads inspiring works of literature, you are given a writing prompt and 30 minutes to record your thoughts. Usually, I’m not fond of the prompts, but I liked this one, so I thought I’d pass it along to you.

At the bottom of your heart…

At the bottom of my heart, there’s a mess

A beautiful mess

There are stacks and piles, bits and fragments,

Bright colors and blurred lines

All collected over more than half a century

It is a painful and joyous mix

It is particular and general

Fanciful and serious

It is, I imagine, not so different from what is at the bottom of every one else’s heart

And, yet it is uniquely mine.

There is the face of my very elegant third grade teacher who seemed to approve of me in the way I wished my mother had and often simply wrote “tres bien” at the top of my papers.

There is the memory of the summer day when I drove my shiny new olive-green 1967 Mustang down the street and the handsome guy stopped in the car next to me at the red light shouted out his approval.

There is a small herb garden just outside the kitchen door at my Nonnie’s house. I’m picking and she’s cooking just inside.

There is the note I’ve left on the counter for my grandmother 35 years ago stating that “Tom has picked me up for dinner and will return me at around 8 or 9 …. Or “maybe never” scrawled in his horrible writing below mine.

There is a smile that stands out from the rest. It’s the smile of a darling boy who grows into a very handsome young man but never has the chance to grow old.

There is an angel, Mary. Once a week for that horrible year, I came to her and spilled out my life. She helped me find my strength.

There is the Mexican family who served us dinner for years in their tiny restaurant, and also opened their hearts to me and my family.

There are the faces of neighbors and friends who have come and gone but will always remain.

There is the doctor with the heavy German accent, the stylish blonde hair and the sensible brogues worn with fashionably simple black under her white coat. I trusted her with my daughter.

And my daughter, so difficult in birth, yet so easy in life. My joy.

There is a push and a pull at work in this very messy heart. It can be difficult to leave the door open. It is not without pain or risk or effort. But it is not yet full.

I’d love to know what’s at the bottom of your heart, dear reader!

Sincerely,

Michele

 

 

Guest Post: Inner Space by Laurie Seidler

Dear Reader:

I’m packing for Mars.

Yeah. I’m an astronaut. Self-trained. Rigorously self-trained. I’ve been running stairs. Well, not so much running stairs as using them on an as-needed basis. You know, when I’m downstairs and I have to get upstairs. And I squeeze a tennis ball. A lot. Preparing for space travel is an arduous and exacting science. You have to mix anaerobic and aerobic activity.

What drives me? What drives any explorer? Curiosity. A thirst for adventure. The need to test myself. Mars is there and I’m here. Enough said.

Also, I have an empty nest now, and a bit of free time. A fair amount of free time, truth be told, and I don’t do well with free time. I need structure and goals. So I’m planning and executing a 270-day trip to Mars, during which I’ll be following the kind of regimented program of exercise and intellectual stimulation that keeps astronauts sane as they hurtle through the vacuum of space.

You know how people say, “I’ve always wanted to do X. I’ve always wanted to [learn to surf, play the cello, read Proust and not just say that I’ve read Proust]”? Well, I may actually read Proust. And learn to surf. I’m not sure yet. The trip is still in the planning stages. But it’s a go, as we like to say in the space business. It’s on. I’m in the process of establishing the mission parameters that I’ll be following for the 270 days that I’m “away,” and I’m chronicling the journey in a mission log.

We’re happiest when we’re absorbed, when we’re rising to a challenge. Well, everything I know about astrophysics I learned from Star Trek and I get dizzy shaking my head, but I’m going to Mars, if only metaphorically. That’s my challenge. We’re all travelers, I’m just steering my ship in a new direction.

Call it a trip to inner space.

Laurie Seidler

My friend Laurie has a BA in history from Yale and an MFA in writing from the California College of the Arts. Formerly a reporter and editor for Dow Jones & Co., she teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her book, 22 Shelters:   Lessons From Letters , is an inspiring read.

In addition to those amazing credentials, Laurie was the first mom to be-friend me when my daughter switched schools in the second grade. So, yes, she has a permanent place in my heart. Her only “child” is a sophomore in college.

Sunday’s Quote

“Sunday is a likely day to write a poem. Because poetry is a piece of language flying around: you’ll find notebooks, something on your phone. It’s about finding them and getting them off that crumpled piece of paper and onto my computer.”

Eileen Myles