Have I made it clear how I feel about people who always look on the bright side of life?
Mind if I talk for a minute about things?
After living in a big old house in the northeastern Pennsylvania countryside for 32 years (also known as my whole life), my parents are moving to Audubon, New Jersey to be closer to family and civilization and to take on a more manageable property. This is a really good thing for them. Nonetheless, all this goodness didn’t stop me from bursting into tears this past weekend when my Dad picked me up at the Philly airport and told me they’d finally gotten an offer on the old house.
So, the other day my sister Dac (who does not need a pseudonym, on account of she doesn’t try to trick God the way Cordelia does) asked me something along the lines of, “What are foreign rights, anyway? What do these deals mean?” So I thought I’d explain it briefly, as well as a person can when she isn’t entirely sure of the answer herself.
So, a little over a week ago I blogged a lot of big words about how spelling bees don’t scare me. Frankly, I was a little obnoxious about it. There was bragging. Even gloating. I issued a public challenge.
And then what happened that very same day? I tootled off to my volunteer work at the Jacksonville Public Library and learned that the library was looking for participants for the first annual Jacksonville Public Library Spelling Bee. And I thought to myself, Rats. Now not only do I have to compete in this spelling bee (on account of publicly announcing that spelling bees don’t scare me, which I now realize was a lie), but I have to WIN this spelling bee (on account of the gloating). And I’m NOT going to win this spelling bee. There are a million words I don’t know how to spell, like staphylococcus and Rumpelstiltskin, and karma is going to throw one of those words at me because I bragged. There was hubris, and now karma is arranging for my tragic fall.
What followed was a week of grim preparation to meet my doom. Frankly, the other competitors in my household weren’t in much better shape:
Cordelia: Oh, I feel ill. Why did I agree to this? What if they ask me to spell epchelon?
Me: That’s not a word.
Joe: If they ask me to spell taco cat, I’m going to say, ‘Would you like me to spell that forwards or backwards?’
Cordelia: What if they ask me to spell farmiphrenoxmdqrstuvwxyz?
Joe: We need to practice our reactions for when we get knocked out. What if I jump in the air and act surprised and then throw my hat on the ground and stamp on it?
Anyway. This past Saturday, the sun finally dawned on the Jacksonville Public Library Spelling Bee. I knew what karma had in store for me: I was going to arrive at the bee only to discover that the competitors were me, Joe, Cordelia, and seven autistic savants. I was going to lose, and then eat humble pie for days.
But: I spelled nuisance. I spelled whippoorwill. I spelled numismatist, xanthic, and vituperative. I spelled lachrymose. I won the spelling bee! The prize was fifty bucks! I BIT KARMA’S ASS!
And then I came home and tried to turn on my computer and it wouldn’t turn on. No power, no juice: kaput. (From the German: K-A-P-U-T.)
I spent my spelling bee winnings on a new power supply for my computer. It’s coming sometime this week and I have to figure out how to install it and if it turns out that that’s not what’s wrong then I need to buy a new computer fast because have I mentioned that my job is writing? I need my computer. I NEED MY COMPUTER. WHY DID KARMA HAVE TO TAKE MY COMPUTER?! WHY COULDN’T I HAVE JUST DROPPED TOOTHPASTE ON MY SHIRT OR EATEN A BAD MUSSEL OR, I DON’T KNOW, HERE’S AN IDEA, LOST THE STUPID SPELLING BEE??!!
I just finished Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and am now prepared to issue a formal apology to the Graceling copyeditor for my comma and semi-colon use. While reading Bronte I suddenly realized that my punctuation teachers in life were the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, E.M. Forster, and Theodore Dreiser, to name a few. In other words, people from long ago whose writing styles (and bodies) are now dead.
No wonder, dear copyeditor, that you and I drove each other crazy last fall!
As I revise Fire, I’m trying to do better.
But! Keep your dastardly red pencil sharp, because I still love commas way more than other people do, and though my entire team of critics is wearing me down, I still have plenty of fight left. Like Aragorn, Gandalf, Arwen, and most of all, my husband Eomer, I am the protector of small, misplaced creatures. (Commas. Not hobbits.)
In other news, last week the Italian publisher De Agostini gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Thank you to my mother’s motherland. Viva Italia!
P.S. If you know from whence I stole the title of this post, o/! We are reading companions. And perhaps you have trouble with your punctuation, too?
My sister (let’s give her an assumed name, Cordelia, so as not to blow her cover) is determined to go to heaven. To that effect, Cordelia only sins when she’s under an umbrella (so God won’t see). When she senses God is listening, she makes loud announcements about her plans to bake cookies for priests; and on Sunday mornings she hides under her covers so God won’t be able to see that she’s in bed instead of at Mass. (God can see through clouds and bedroom ceilings, you see, but not through umbrellas or blankets. You learn these things if you’re brought up in a godly manner.)
The point is that if the Man Keeping Score doesn’t know that Catherine, I mean Cordelia, has sinned, well then, she hasn’t sinned.
Now, I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in the authority of librarians. And I also got a big dose of the “sin” mentality growing up, and I have to say, it shows in my library behavior. I know how to break all the rules in the library and never get caught. I have an exemplary library record, I am going to library heaven, but do you have any idea how many sandwiches I ate and how many thermoses of tea I drank in the library yesterday?
Frankly, it’s a stupid rule. No eating in the library? Nothing comforting and comfortable should be prohibited in a library (unless it makes loud noises). And besides, the idea behind the no-food rule is to keep the carpets and the furniture clean, and I gotta tell you, the dumb furniture would stay a whole lot cleaner if I didn’t have to shove my sandwich into the crevices of this armchair to hide it every time a librarian looks at me.
(That being said, I don’t blame that one librarian for getting a bit peeved the time he discovered me pouring Multi-Grain Cheerios and blueberries into an enormous vat of yogurt and stirring it up with a huge spoon. But I was off my game that day. I should’ve been using an umbrella.)
This random post is brought to you by the life philosophy of my friend Anastasia, aged 5: “I love life because I love sugar and I love everything on my hands!” (This philosophy is particularly applicable while eating a messy pizza bagel.)
I’m afraid of so many silly things. I’m afraid of yellow curry. I’m afraid of my career. I’m afraid that that sharp twinge in my lower right quadrant is my appendix bursting. I was afraid of losing my revision when my house burned down, so I bought a fire-proof safe. Now I’m afraid of robbers, because when the robbers come, what’s the first thing they’re going to go for? That shiny new safe, of course. Duh.
I am tired of feeling like a scared little nobody. And so today’s post is going to be a celebration of things that DON’T SCARE ME!
Things That Don’t Scare Me
- Thunder, heights, spiders, mice, earthworms, and the vast majority of bugs DO NOT SCARE ME.
- Hard work does not scare me.
- Flying in small zippy airplanes does not scare me.
- Solitude does not scare me, and neither does silence.
- Spelling bees? Spelling bees do not scare me. I competed in the National Spelling Bee twice, thank you very much. My dad competed in the National Spelling Bee. My aunt competed in the National Spelling Bee. My uncle WON the National Spelling Bee. If I can’t spell it, I know someone who can. SO JUST BRING IT ON, YOU BASTARDS!!
- Fat (in food, in people, in me, in reality, in concept) does not scare me.
- The dentist does not scare me.
- Gray hairs, growing out of my head, signaling my deterioration, heralding my doom, do not scare me.
- Picking up a used surgical glove that I found behind the hospital and carrying it barehanded to the trash in order to protect the manatees in the river does not scare me. (I’m not saying I’m not dumb. Just not scared.) (I washed my hands after. Lots.)
- Tears do not scare me.
- I do not scare me.
What scares you? What doesn’t scare you?
Today, I worked on my couch for most of the day and then decided to finish up my work at the beach.
I was tooling down Atlantic Boulevard when a lady in a Hummer with a Jesus bumper sticker cut me off. A few minutes later, when a guy in a souped-up pickup truck with a Jesus bumper sticker cut me off and threw his cigarette butt out the window, I found myself wondering. What would Jesus do?
For example, let’s say Jesus lived in a city with no dirt roads and no hills and had $35,000 to spend on a car. Would Jesus buy a 4-ton menace that gets 12 miles per gallon? Would Jesus drive with a sense of entitlement? Would Jesus tailgate and honk at people who took too long at red lights? Would Jesus neglect to use his turn signals? Is Jesus an asshole?
By the time I got to the beach I’m sorry to say I had the mean reds.
But! The beach! The surf was high and there were pelicans, and I pulled my beach chair out and sat down with my revision and every fifteen minutes pulled on another layer for warmth. I worked for about an hour and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to proceed until I took a good careful look at every instance in the novel of a certain character being mentioned. That got me worried, because I became convinced that there was an unsolvable problem with this character and the revision was doomed.
But by then, the sun was setting and it was time for my official Beach Sunset Walk with Music. I bundled up in hat and coat and gloves and headphones and took off my shoes and rolled up my jeans and walked along the beach singing along to Sinead O’Connor’s album “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” at the top of my lungs. I had the beach practically to myself except for the surfers. My pants got completely soaked despite my precautions, and Sinead O’Connor passed the test of “inspiring music good to sing at the top of your lungs when the surf is high and the surfers can’t hear you” with flying colors. The moon was rising over the water and the sun was setting in front of the water, turning the surf pink and orange. Big boats were sparkling on the horizon. Oh, it was so beautiful! And I decided that it was okay that I felt like my revision was doomed, because sometimes part of revising a book is feeling like the revision is doomed, and I bet I’ll feel differently tomorrow.
I believe in loud waves and loud singing and wet jeans and solitary walks and believing its okay to feel doomed.
What do you believe in?