April 10, 2016

The Importance of Being Persistent

I was sitting in a friend's kitchen, two years ago, when I received a pop-up Facebook message from a man I met in India ten years prior.

It was so odd, getting this random message at 2 a.m. with my cell phone in one hand and a hot toddy in the other, wedged between two friends on a couch we'd pulled up in front of her brick oven to keep warm as snow whooshed wildly outside.

Stories come out of moment like this, and so before I let myself sleep on it, as I normally might, I wrote him back and then wrote down some notes so that I wouldn't lose any momentum when I went to put pen to paper the next day.

The product of those notes, "Passenger," became a short memoir about the driver I befriended in India in 2004. Thankfully for Facebook, I can check in, but since he hasn't posted in the couple of years since I heard from him, I doubt social media is any sort of priority.

I've sent out "Passenger" more than a handful of times to places I thought it'd be a perfect fit, only to receive a rejection. And once, a publication that shall remain nameless considered it for over a year before finally replying that they liked it, but just couldn't figure out how it could be "a cohesive fit with their overall style," whatever that meant.

But something in me told me that it did have a home somewhere. On a whim, recently, and with a few minutes to spare between classes, I sent it out again with absolutely no intention to hear back. And then, not even a week later, I received a lovely email from two editors:

We love it and would like to feature it in a future issue . . . . It's a beautifully sensitive and nuanced piece with a wonderful sense of place.

I suppose it's true what I keep hearing: write what you love, edit, and keep sending, sending, sending.

Check back here to link to "Passenger" when it's up!

April 1, 2016

The Genesee Writers Series: Monica & Sejal at Writers & Books

Sure, I was honored when Wanda Schubmehl at Writers & Books asked me to join my long, long-time friend Sejal Shah to read at the Genesee Writers Series. You mean me, read my writing, at my favorite place in Rochester, with my childhood friend, who I call "a real writer" (because she is)? How could I say no?

As February 9th grew closer, though, I began freaking out. What, exactly, was I going to read, and how would I fill my half an hour? Did my pieces need to be cohesive or completely different--same or different genres? What if my stuff really stunk, and people walked out?

I decided to stick to what I knew best: three pieces of creative non-fiction/memoir. 

See? Scarf.
I locked myself in my basement bathroom to rehearse, and timed myself. Took a shower. Put on an appropriate amount of makeup and dressed, including a scarf for the appropriate amount of writerly flourish (and I know this was a good move, because Sejal also wore a writerly scarf). 

Sej and I warmed up the crowd of familiars (of course our moms were there!) with a slideshow of photos chronicling our childhood: old letters we'd sent each other from camp and vacations and college and beyond, our yearbook wishes to each other in 8th grade, our awkward middle school yearbook pics. I have to admit--it was sweet. It was our version of "Galentines Day," and this was indeed a celebration of friendship. Here's to 30 more years, and more!

See? Another scarf.

I'll post the three pieces I read throughout the Spring. 

March 22, 2016

Does This Show Make My Blog Look Thin?

Rochester's first-ever LTYM cast, 2015. This stage bow
was the culmination of months and months of work.

I'm noticing that I'm becoming a seasonal blogger, and for what it's worth, I'm okay with it. My writing life during the school year gets a jolt once a month for my Writers' Circle, for which I'll either write something new or revive and edit something old, and then comes back full force during the summer, when all the essays have been graded and my classroom plants come home for eight weeks.

Last year, our inaugural production of LTYM here had me funneling most of my creative energy toward the show itself. This blog got a little dusty.

This year, though, I'm not only directing our local production, but I'm also a cast member: which means I'm also writing.

Which means I'm up late. (I love to be up late writing.)

The LTYM Rochester ladies in 2015
Which means that I have to resist pulling up my drafts during class to edit them, and I have to resist the urge to read my stuff out loud to people I know are too nice to tell me they've got better things to do. Plus, I have to resist asking the people in my office for words that haven't been invented yet, such as the part of the body to which knees and elbows belong. (Try it: if fingers are digits and arms and legs are limbs, what are elbows and knees? Don't say 'joints,' because joints are just what make them bend.)

So, while occasionally I'll post some creative non-fiction here and there, you'll find that I'm posting about writing for Listen To Your Mother, writing posts for our local blog, and the journeys that working on the show presents me.