if its not yummy, then we better make it funny.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Autobiography 101

Last quarter I decided to put a fire underneath myself and make autobiographical writing the focus of my studies at Evergreen. I had naive notions that I could get a chapter written, rough draft per week. One "I dont care what it looks like-just a finished chapter" per week. I started by making a time-line. You should give that a try some day. It's quite a captivating, reflective process. First I brainstormed my better moments, then all kinds of moments. Scenarios wafted up from the murky archives in my mind. After collecting a bunch, I worked them into a chronological sequence. This was trickier than you might think because some spanned a long time and other parts were appliqued over the top. Life isn't that linear.

The dredging up of my experiences was a more time consuming and tumultuous process than I expected (albeit pretty therapeutic). In contrast to my recent fictional works the autobiographical stories had a predetermined outcome and I had more concern whether the stories were moral, worthwhile and compelling, since they were about me. The initial process of putting my life experiences onto a time line and then taking isolated pieces of it didn't work well. I had to force myself to take a more organized approach. For example, if I felt compelled to write about a certain event that happened in my thirties, I would have to speculate what my reader already knew about my life from previous chapters (that have not yet been written). This impacted the writing of the piece and was bound to increase editing work later. I needed a more linear approach.
Eventually, I went back to the beginning, and started again, researching my grandparents lives for the beginning of my story and then my early life and so on. This process filled hours, but not pages. It is clear that I had not been realistic to expect to finish ten chapters in ten weeks.

Nonetheless I managed to write several chapters. I still think about my time-line and ruminate over the project. It has to share my attention with the kids and their needs and curiosities. There are new shoes to buy and then search for and the swimming lessons on Friday afternoons to be on time for. Jordan could use more support also, with his deadlines for observation proposals and his self absorbed scholarly doubts and presentation jitters.

Ill choose a chapter to put on here. I just need to pick out if it will be one prepared for my straight and narrow teacher or a more raw draft that feels more like my voice. Stay tuned I'm still here! I'm teaching sourdough class tonight, though, so it wont be for a couple of days.

Monday, May 04, 2009


My family are dreaming like mad these days. Each morning we venture all over the place relaying our dreams. The sleeping situation is very fluid in our new house. There are three bedrooms but we all end up in the solarium add on room, usually- by breakfast time. The elements are right there! There are big gum trees that dance around when the coastal breezes rise (and they sure do!) The stars are nice these nights with some sparks seen as Haleys whizzes by (or is it us whizzing..?) Ill have to ask my astronomer that one. Off to get Desmond and go to the library and get groceries. I promised we will make a cake. It's design looks to be a round, chocolate, fluffy, but mushy, cake with minted green whipped cream and m and M's. Wow.

Friday, May 01, 2009


The kids and I went for an evening dip in the sea today. It was just the ticket to clear out the cobwebs. The season here, just really plunging into autumn, is spectacular.

Home again home

I'm back from a sojourn to Australia. I saw my favorite thinking person's rock band, The Church. I'm making an effort to have an independent life. When I go away from my role as mother and wife, I resurface. I get perspective about my worth. Being an immigrant, that is to say, leaving all my social network and family was a bushel of stress I never expected. New Zealanders are a hard working lot, god bless them. It takes a lot just to survive here. Being in Australia reminded me of America. Wages are higher, costs are lower. There is a certain bravado, an easier mode of being. It's subtle, but I noticed it. Certainly, one good thing about our New Zealand adventure has been to gain appreciation of the U.S.

On a more positive note... The boys, Steve Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper were a fine pair up there on the stage at the Vanguard in Sydney. The Vanguard is a little supper club with a balcony. It has the feel of an old time show house with red velvet curtains and settees by the powder room. There were about 15 tables down in front of the stage. The menu was Italian, a little dense looking, so I opted for Indian Dosai down the road and just went in for the show. I found one solo seat in the front row that didn't have a reseverd sign on it and I quickly made one and proceded to a red velvet chair to write and pass the 90 minutes before the show began. I'm enjoying The Right to Write by Julia Cameron, (again) Its very inspirational following my recent quarter of writing.

Upon reflection, the last time I was reading that book I was in New York. It was years ago; Nina was 13. We were attending a wedding and I saw The Church in concert at the Bowery Ballroom. It was a wacky night, actually. I must confess that I left Nina in our Hotel room while I went to the show. She knew this was part of the deal and we chose the hotel carefully. Unfortunately, when I returned, she was sleeping like a log and had put the chain lock on the door. Luckily, I could see her foot on the bed through the three inch view I had into the room, so I knew she was in there. I had to sleep in the hallway, waking up every half hour or so to knock on the door. Finally, her sleep cycle lightened up and she heard me and let me in. Nina and I had fun in New York, that time and another time as well.

It's odd, but that is one place that I had so much trepidation about as a teenager, and that is right where I went when I turned 18, straight into the fear. We used to see these movies in school about cities, particularly New York. They were quite terrifying. I need to go now, More later.