Luis Urrea and the Serendipity of Inspiration–With a Side of Humor and Grace

Have you ever experienced one of those wonderful moments of confluence, when suddenly all the trickling aspects of your life seem to be pouring into the same inspiring river?

Consider these trickles, seemingly unrelated:

  1. I’m teaching myself Spanish for a few years now.
  2. Since the 2016 election, I’ve been listening to podcasts of On Being, with Krista Tippett, on a semi-regular basis, to give me inspiration.
  3. I’ve been contemplating opportunities to bridge our national divide on a local level–whatever that means.
  4. Ursula LeGuin, a writer who felt like more of a teacher than an author to me, died this year.
  5. A friend recommended Luis Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter.

Last week I tuned into my favorite podcast, and found, to my surprise, an interview with Mr. Urrea himself. The topic: “What Borders Are Really About, And What We Do With Them.” I also discovered that Ursula LeGuin had been Urrea’s mentor. She called him Luisito.

Luis Urrea at the Texas Book Festival, 2015 (courtesy Wikipedia)

Urrea knows about borders. He is the son of a woman from Philadelphia and a man from Tijuana. On his website, he sums up, in eerily tidy prose, how he lost his father when he, Luis, was 20:

I won’t belabor it here–many of you know the story already.  But some of it is central to the Ursula story.  In short, my dad had gone to Mexico to retrieve money from his bank to give me a graduation gift.  And on the long drive back to the United States, he fell afoul of some Federales and local cops in Sonora.  He died awfully in their care.  And then they sold me his corpse.  He cost me $750.

The details of those days are ugly.  Suffice it to say that by the time I got home, I had forgotten certain words in English.  My bestie, Rick Elias, was waiting for me at my house.  He couldn’t stop laughing because I had returned with a heavy Tijuana accent, and he thought I was kidding.  Because I was always kidding.  But I wasn’t kidding this time–I was broken.

As I listened to Urrea and Tippett talk–hey, is it cool if I call them Luis & Krista? Yeah? great–the streams of inspiration just kept building. Luis is a teacher, like I was, and here’s what he has to say about bridging divides in his classroom:

As a teacher, I teach in Chicago, and I watch students fear each other. I come into a class, and African-American students are on one side, and white students are on the other side. Or I come into a class, and there’ll be two young ladies with the hijab, and no one will sit near them. There’s an empty arc of seats around them. And so I’m always trying to find ways to stop these things, because it only takes this much, I think, for us to see each other, know each other, and then, love each other. And that’s what’s so dangerous. That’s very dangerous.

So one of my writing rules with my students, which I use all the time — and it’s why the books are so comedic in places — is, I always tell the students that laughter is the virus that infects you with humanity. And if you sit with somebody and laugh — not at them, but laugh with them wholeheartedly, how in the world can you get up from that table and say, “Pssh, those people.” You can’t. And if you’ve laughed with them, you’re going to cry with them too. That laughter is a very dangerous portal for humanity.

Yes, please! I want that infection. Don’t we all?

Luis’s book, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, is itself inspiring, being the fictionalized story of Teresa Urrea, “the Mexican Joan of Arc,” “Saint Teresita”–who happened to have been his real-life, great-great aunt. It’s full of humor, and pathos, and faith, and Spanish. Gaps are bridged all over the place, between races, between theists and non-theists, between men and women. I could not have found a more apt book for this moment in my life, and the life of our nation, if I’d done research.

Speaking of our nation’s moment, Luis also gives the background of his nonfiction book The Devil’s Highway, a look at the path traveled by people crossing the desert to enter the U.S. without papers. That story hit me harder than anything else he said. While researching the Border Patrol–and being essentially hazed by its agents, he had a moment of epiphany:

...the supervisory agent of Welton Station, Kenny Smith, a lovely man, a 30-year veteran of the Border Patrol, while they were basically eating me alive, tearing my sinews off my bones, he came out, and he said, “What’s going on?” They said, “This idiot’s writing this book about the…” And he just looked at me, and it is what I call grace. I don’t know what else to call it. But this moment came, when his eyes focused and he looked at me, and he said, “I sent out the rescue. I sent out that big banzai run.”

And at that moment, without knowing it, my life changed. And he took me in, and he began training me. And he took me out and showed me what it means to track people and how to know what time of the morning somebody walked by. It was incredible. I realized, this guy had a Ph.D. in dirt, I say in the book, because he could read a piece of dirt like we read a poem in a lit class; then he was saying things that were blowing my mind.

And there came this moment — the transformational moment, for me, was standing on the Devil’s Highway with him. And there’s nothing there. There’s no fence. There’s no barbed wire. It’s just desert, as far as you can see…

And I am standing there with him, and he says to me — and mind you, I still think they’re evil. He says, “I know what you think of me.” And I remember looking, because he’s got his .40-caliber Glock on his belt, and I thought, oh, man. And he said, “You think I’m a jackbooted thug.” And I was busted. I wasn’t gonna say, “Well, yes, I do.” I just stood there. And he said, “I am your jackbooted thug in shining armor.” And he started talking about his life.

And he told me all this amazing stuff that I couldn’t have imagined in 100 years: how agents park — they live 70 miles, 50 miles away from any station, because it takes that long to get into the game and change the human being you were when you woke up, to the human being that has to go out now. And he said, “And you gotta drive 70 miles home, because you gotta go home and bounce your child on your knee.” And he said to me at one point — it’s a white cowboy. He says, “My daddy was a rancher. I’m a rancher. You know what I do all day? I chase ranchers around this.” He said, “I know they’re my own people.” And he said, “My job is to save innocent civilians dying a terrible death. My job is also to arrest those same civilians.”

I could go on and on with quotes from the interview, not to mention quotes from the novel. (Can’t quote Luis’s other books ’cause I haven’t read ’em yet, but believe me, I’m going to.) But I think I’ve made my point.

Borders. Bridging. Grace. Hope. 

Any questions?

 

 

Placeholder Post: Still Here–Not Sure Why

You may have noticed Wing’s World has gone pretty silent lately. Usually when I’m planning to head off on a trip and ditch the cyber-world I’ll prewrite a few posts, or I’ll make a statement about taking time off.

This time, I just…stopped.

I don’t enjoy reading politically-themed rants, so I sure as hell don’t want to be writing them. But since my tax dollars have started separating little kids from their parents, I’ve haven’t really felt like writing about, oh, I don’t know, Canada geese or raspberries or bluegrass, in my usual random style.

I did consider a post about the joy of picnics. But when I didn’t even bother taking a picture of the rockfish/roasted kale/avocado & brie wraps I made, I knew my heart wasn’t in it.

(The wraps were still delicious.)

So I went on a walk/talk with myself today to consider my lack of posting-verve. Here’s what that sounded like:

I’m a writer. This blog is how I connect with my audience, between books. (Yes, I am working on the next one. No, I don’t want to write about that now.) Could I stop blogging? Of course. Should I? Who gives a shit? Is this the kind of blather anyone wants to read?

But when I got home a package was waiting: the new modem Centurylink had promised, to bump up our wifi speed and make uploading pictures to my blog take less than, well…a century to link. I’ve now hooked it all up, but I need to test it out.

So without further ado, here’s a picture of me at work in Holly B’s Bakery, taken by my photographer friend Robert Harrison.

Photo: Robert Harrison. Pie dough: Holly B’s Bakery.

Oh, MY! That was fast. (You’ll just have to take my word for it.)

Will the thrill of quick uploads be enough to re-ignite my blogging spark? Stay tuned. And stay useful. And kind, people. Please be kind.

Miss Havisham Fights Back: When Literary Women Refuse To Know Their Place

My friend Kathleen Holliday writes poetry that always appeals to me–witty, lean, wry, poignant. But this one, published this week in the online journal SHARK REEF, really strikes me as apropos, in this year of #metoo, #time’sup, Nasty Women, pussy hats and Nevertheless, She Persisted.

Remember Miss Havisham, the creepy old maid in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations? Well, Kathleen has given her a much-needed makeover. Enjoy.

Ms. Havisham

I, too, had great expectations.
		To be or not to be a wife
		defined my life.

		My dowry guaranteed
		 a husband, and I would be
		a mother, helpmeet, nurse.
		Nothing could be worse than 
		that damning epithet:
		old maid.

		Left at the altar – jilted.
		My bouquet wilting,
		I drew my veil down over my face
		and let the yards of lace fall
		dragging through the dust.

		Years later, I still hold the knife:
		May I cut you a slice -
		a corner piece perhaps, with extra frosting?
		Don’t mind the spiders 
		and the mice racing in and out,
		tunnels crumbling behind them.

		Mr. Dickens, I implore you - 
		change mine to a happy ending.
		No funeral pyre,
		no more desires gone up in smoke.
 		Set me in some future time
		when I could say:
		never married,
		never needed to;
		earned a degree, had a job, a car,
		a condo in the city,
		a lover who never strayed.

		I’d celebrate my singular good fortune 
		with a cake - 
		not Mrs. Beeton’s recipe - 
		no butter, no gluten, no nuts.
		I’d clear up after with a cordless vac.
		I’d sweep the ceiling free of spider webs.
		I’d read a novel in one sitting
		then I’d take a nap.

[sorry about the formatting of the first line–it resisted fixing.]

Miss Havisham then…

…and now–fresh from her nap. 🙂 (Both pics courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

OK, you poets and short story writers–let’s hear it. Who else has a revised female archetype to share?

My Guru The Tree

If you look at my books you’ll see my publisher is Madrona Branch Press.

That’s me. All us Indie authors are our own presses. But Madrona Branch, the name? There’s a story there, which I’ve told before.

Don’t have time for the previous blog post? Just look closely at that loopy branch.

Here’s an update.

The other day I was out for a walk and stopped to hug “my” tree as I usually do.

Hello, Beautiful.

Then I stepped back and looked into its upper branches. My eyes found that astounding curl of branch which has become my personal emblem. Then, for the first time, they noticed something new that had always been there:

“I’ve been here all along, y’know.”

See it? Look closer.

“Lean on me…when you’re not strong…”

Not only is that never-say-die branch supporting itself with its own loop, it’s also leaning against an older part of the original tree trunk. A dead part. But not so dead that it can’t lend its bulk to keep “my” branch climbing toward the sunlight.

Excelsior!

So I’ve extended my metaphor. Yes, I accepted the “failure” of not being traditionally published, and supported myself to keep growing upward, into independent publication. But I was never alone in that endeavor. I leaned heavily on my writing group, on my editor, on my book designer, and on countless friends I knew only via internet, who helped me with technology or marketing questions.

Not to say any of those folks are “dead wood.” They are all solidly growing themselves. The “dead” part of that solid trunk is all the authors over time whose work inspired me and taught me. Shakespeare. Zora Neale Hurston. William Carlos Williams. Wallace Stegner. Barbara Kingsolver. Michael Chabon. And on and on and on, a trunk of growth so powerful it will never stop nourishing growth, even when it’s finally broken down into soil.

There’s also something to be learned from a tree which uses its own dead parts as scaffolding, rather than shedding them. That’s US, guys–the community of writers! We are the whole damn tree.

A little further on my walk, I ran into another new favorite tree of mine. But that’s a whole other story, so I’ll save it for my next post.

Any other metaphors strike you from these pictures? Or do you have a Nature metaphor for your own experience? I would love to hear.

Secrets To A Successful Book Launch: Have Fun

Isn’t “have fun” the best advice for nearly everything? Marathons? Weddings?  Even certain kinds of funerals? Okay…childbirth, maybe not so much. But book launches? You betcha.

Here are the ingredients I added to my launch of Altitude this past weekend:

1. Comfy environment—our sweet library’s main room, complete with fireplace

2. Refreshments—cookies and cake and savory nibbles provided by me and some wonderful friends

3. One brief, action-filled chapter read out loud in my most animated set of voices

4. A 15-minute armchair interview by my trusted writing friend Lorna, who asked challenging questions I had not seen in advance

Just readin’ a story to a few dozen friends…

That’s it! The rest was just selling and signing and hugging and thanking.

If you’re an author who happens to be shy, this format gives you some structure to hide behind. If you’re a show-off like me, it gives you a platform to share yourself beyond what your words on the page have done.

And refreshments? They ensure everyone’s goodwill. If your book is not their cup of tea, they can just go have a cup of tea. 🙂

 

…4…3…2…1…Launch That Book! Altitude Takes Flight.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Young Adults and Adults of any age, it is my delight to present to you…Altitude, The Flying Burgowski Book Three.

Click here to purchase a copy of Altitude

 

“To thine own self be true…” Yeah, right.

I banked toward the warehouses, skimming the trees. Gotta find some way to USE my power…Reaching the first ratty rooftop, I hovered, quivering. If I could get Vivian back to the sky… put our powers together—What’s THAT?

Not a seagull. This sound was coming from the alley below. A quiet wail—kittens crying. Was that rusty blue shipping container there before? I landed behind the gnarliest warehouse and peeked into the alley. From street level, the giant rusty container towered above me. The kitten-cries were definitely coming from inside. Maybe someone dumped a pregnant cat in there. The box was hinged at one end—a pair of doors belted with a big ol’ rusty chain and padlock. Why lock a cat in?

 “Kitty-kitty-kitty?” I called. “You in there? Poor thing!”

Two syllables floated from the stinking metal monster. A word I recognized from my Mandarin Terms a Traveler Should Know: “Bāng wǒ.” Help.

After a summer of betrayal and heartbreak and an epically rotten year, 16 year-old Jocelyn (The Flying) Burgowski is fleeing family and friends on Dalby Island for school on the mainland. What good is flying if it wrecks relationships? The guy she fell for almost destroyed her power. Now, discovering the ugly underbelly of mainland life, has Joss stumbled upon a fellow Flyer—only to bring her down? Confronting the dual forces of magic and maturity, Joss must face the question: what does “to thine own self be true” really mean?

 

What if you had a superpower…and it wasn’t enough?

Click here to purchase a copy of Altitude

10…9…8…7…6…5: Countdown to Book Launch

The Flying Burgowski asked, “Who hasn’t yearned to fly?”

Book Two, Headlands, asked, “What if someone hated you just for who you were?”

And now, Book Three, Altitude, has this to say: “To thine own self be true? Yeah, right.”

“You can’t pray us down, or keep us in a box. We are queens of infinite space.”

Jocelyn  Burgowski was turning 14 when she first invited me into her (fictional) life. Now she’s 16 (can you tell?). And sure, she can still fly–but nothing else is working. Broken heart, broken trust, tanking attitude, friends MIA, Jocelyn feels herself turning into a female Hamlet.

But now, leaving her tiny island community to attend school on the mainland, Joss is discovering the perspective of altitude. Facing society’s dark underbelly of abuse and human trafficking, Jocelyn must face her powers and ask herself, “What is flying for?

Here’s a scene from Chapter Two, “Bounded in a Nutshell”:

I needed to fly in the worst way.

Literally. The best way is when the energy fizzes through you like your blood has sparkles, and boy you better elevate fast if you don’t want to explode. The worst way—that’s what I was doing. Escape, with eggs and toast turned to cement in my stomach. I launched vertically from the front porch like Ironman—harder than one-two-three takeoff steps, but better than smashing into the trunk of our giant cedar—and rocketed over the woods. I flew at treetop level in fast circles, happy not to live smack in the middle of Dalby Village anymore. But not happy about anything else.

    You thought they wouldn’t find out? C’s are one thing. Skipping an entire Julius Caesar Unit Exam means a big fat F.

Dad thought those disastrous days were over, the year before when Michael and I stumbled through two months of high school on the mainland, trying to live with Mom. Back on Dalby, I’d been a total angel through the rest of ninth grade. Then That Horrible Summer happened. Fourth of July. I got through August by re-reading Harry Potter Book Seven every time I couldn’t unsnag the memories of Whatshisname’s face, or voice, or breath. I know The Deathly Hallows by heart now. Then sophomore year started. And I…

    What do you want to call it, Flygirl? Fell apart? Decided to take over Michael’s role? Started Acting Out?

Anyway, the downhill slide that had started in September was hitting bottom last May, and I needed to get the hell out. So I flew to the edge of the village, landed behind our old store and walked to Louis’s.

Dalby Village was livening up like it always does on Saturdays when spring brings the tourists back. I skirted the Farmers’ Market, turning my head quickly to avoid Mrs. Mac, who would say a lot more than “hi” to her former favorite student. “Mr. Evans tells me you insist on reading Hamlet to yourself instead of Julius Caesar with the rest of the class. Why in the world? You do know you have to pass Sophomore English before you can take my AP class, right?”

I know I know I KNOW. What a moron—can’t even skip like a normal tenth grader, gotta sit there defiantly reading the play Michael’s struggling with in Senior English. “Why in the world?”

I don’t freakin know, alright? Except…Julius Caesar was a pompous ass. Hamlet was depressed, hemmed in, pissed off. “Denmark’s a prison.”

Hamlet I could relate to. And Louis, I remember thinking grimly, could be like Hamlet’s bud Horatio. Louis would fly with me and help me sort out what to do about Mr. Evans. Or not. Louis isn’t really about advice. But he’d listen like Horatio until I figured it out.

So, what I said in that Louis-email I never sent? It’s true, I don’t remember the last time we flew together. Sure wasn’t that breezy day in May.

“Hey, sweetie!” Shasta, Louis’s mom, sang like she’s done since I started barging into their kitchen at, like, age seven. She was washing dishes while her partner Janice dried. “Is it a party, then, Joss? You guys want to make cookies?

I hugged Shasta. “Party?”Ohhh…Louis has company. My stomach, relaxing from my Shasta-hug, tensed again. “No, that’s okay…”

Louis had been hanging around with Erin a lot—duh, they had practically all their classes together, like freshmen do. But since when did they hang out on weekends?

Can I get something straight? I like Erin. She’s a soccer stud, and she’s pretty much caught up to Savannah in geometry since she bumped up to our math class. She laughs at my jokes. She helps Louis with algebra. And writing. And everything else I used to help him with.

It’s just, I was REALLY hoping to fly with Louis right then.

“Hey!” they said together as I stepped into Louis’s teeny room. They were sitting hip to hip on his bed. “What rhymes with ‘metaphor’? We’re writing Mrs. Mac a birthday card,” Erin added, patting the bed for me to join them—like it was hers. I sat, squinching her and Louis closer together.

“That’s what I ‘said it for,’” I responded automatically. Great, forgot Mrs. Mac’s birthday too. Self-centered moron.

“That works,” Louis grunted. His new, manly voice gave me a little jolt back then. Well, it still kinda does—not that I’ve heard it since I bumped into him at the store a week before leaving. Not that I ever heard it saying, “Have fun at boarding school, Joss, I’ll miss ya.”

     Knock it off, Joss. Tell the story.

“’Sup?” Erin chirped. She was in pigtails, wearing her green softball uniform—yeah, she’s a pitching stud too.

    Me and my Horatio-buddy are NOT up, with you here. “When’s your game?” I countered, looking at their feet parked side-by-side like cars in cozy garage.

“Oh, like, an hour.” Erin stood and stretched her arms, and Louis, on the bed, did the same, as if they were connected by an axel. I knew he’d grown taller and muscley-er because, duh, when a person flies doubles with you for over a year, you get to know their body—damn, that doesn’t sound right. You KNOW what I mean, okay? It’s just, he stopped feeling like the same ol’ shrimpy Louis a few months ago, but that was totally okay because he still WAS his same ol’ self. But last May, I was surprised to see how, like, toned his arms had gotten. He was still getting over the shock of being good at baseball.

“Oh.” I felt like I should offer some reason for being there. But why??? Louis is my oldest friend. So I said, “You sure? On my way over, I thought I saw the team heading for the field.”

“Oh, shoot! Are we playing at nine? Louie, sorry, we’ll finish later. Come watch me, ’kay?” And Erin jetted out of there.

“See ya, Erin,” I called. It’s just—I wasn’t used to it then, okay? Louis and Erin. Erin and Louis. It’s not like I needed to keep on being his only friend, like I was for years and years and years. But jeez, couldn’t he have warned me? And “Louie?” Gimme a break.

“Hey, wanna go fly over their game?” Lying hypocrite. I knew perfectly well there wouldn’t be a game to fly over for another hour, and flying over a crowd is verboten. But Old Louis would have suggested something better, like swoop-overs of Whittier’s Bluff, or experimenting with flying just under the fiercest layer of wind, daring it to flip us, like we’d done in…wow. February?

New Louis gave me an un-Louisy smirk. “Seriously, Joss?” he said and stood up. “Yo, my game’s right after Erin’s, I gotta get dressed.”

A chill reached down my chest, even as I felt my face turn red. “Right,” I said, like sure, I came all the way over here to tell you the game schedule. “Hey, come by my house later if you—you know. Want to go up tonight.” Awkward lying hypocrite. I’d never had trouble inviting Louis to fly before.

He tossed his uniform onto the bed. “Whyn’t you fly with your mom?”

“She’s not really into it these days,” I said, flattening the curling edge of Louis’s Seattle Mariners poster. He never used to have such boy-stuff in his room.

“Beth? Not into flying?” Louis’s frown disappeared as he struggled out of that “Visualize Whirled Peas” T-shirt I’d given him for his thirteenth birthday. “I Saw her yesterday over the Spit. Maybe she just doesn’t want to fly with you.” He turned his back, letting the shirt drop to the floor.

“Well,” I said, because “Why yes, you’re absolutely right, that is the problem” would make me start crying, and “Damn, when did you start hiding your bod from me?”—who says that to their buddy? “Mom’s, like, totally independent these days,” I added. “And I guess flying with me—”

“—reminds her of when she wasn’t? Or Fourth of July, almost gettin’ grounded? Yeah, I get that,” said Louis. His bright hair reappeared through his green jersey like a woodpecker in a bush, and my heart cracked a little: You always get it. But turning around, he was still frowning. “Hey,” he nodded toward his baseball pants.

“Right, see ya.” All I got was a grunt. So much for Horatio.

Shasta and Janice offered me tea on my way out. I declined with a smile and head-shake, not trusting my voice. I walked back into the village. My stupid eyes were burning. My flight-urge felt as dead as my oldest friendship.

But no way was I going home after that ominous phone call. I decided to go browse the half-price shelf at the bookstore.

Where I bumped into the last person I wanted to see, after Dad and Lorraine.

Bushy eyebrows appeared around the side of the mystery section. “Well, look who’s here,” said Mr. Evans.

 

To: Nevans@dalby.k12.wa.us

Dear Mr. Evans,

I was just writing about you in my journal, but I got too bummed so I decided to address you directly. I wish to extend my thanks.

Thank you for calling my house so much last year and turning my parents into Homework Vultures. Thank you for setting up all those conferences, especially that last one in May. Thank you for your witty use of Hamlet quotes to sum up my attitude about school: “Jocelyn seems to feel herself ‘bounded in a nutshell,’ and finding her classes, ‘stale, flat and unprofitable.’”

(You were wrong about that, you know. It wasn’t just my classes I was “finding” that way—it was the whole freakin year.)

Thank you for saying, “Jocelyn needs to have her mind blown, or she’s going to drop out next year.” Thank you for saying, “What if she moved to where no one knows she’s a Flyer, where she can be a normal teenager for once?” And suggesting The Horizon Academy and Early Start at Coastal U. And helping to get me in. Hey, my guy Hamlet went away to school too, right? The thought of that escape literally saved my sophomore year—and yes, I know I mean “figuratively,” not “literally.” Put your red pen down. I’m actually being sincere now. Yes, I know I don’t need to say “actually.” I’m here at Horizon now, making new friends—it’s going to be great. As long as I can find a place to fly.

Oh yeah—thanks for not freaking out when I showed you about flying, last fall. And for understanding about the enemies of flying, and how stupid and betrayed they can make you feel. Thanks for telling me I could talk to you about That Awful Summer and Standers and Whatshisname, if I needed to. It’s just kinda awkward when you stand there handing me tissues while I babble about how flying isn’t the problem. And talking to teachers isn’t the solution. I’m sixteen. I’m supposed to have someone of my OWN to listen to me.

Right. I’m not freakin sending this. What kind of a loser ditches her own diary to email a teacher?  I’m going flying. I just

—–Are you sure you want to delete this message?—–

 

Thanks for visiting Wing’s World! See my next post for another peek inside Altitude.

This Is Your Brain On Proofs: Why Proofreading Is–Or Isn’t–Like Making Bread

Ever wonder what someone’s brain sounds like after ten straight hours of proofreading proofs?

 

Exactly what it says.

“Proof. Poof. Why do they sound so similar?”

“‘The proof is in the pudding!’ Shouldn’t that be, ‘The proof is in taking a BITE of the pudding?’ I mean, plenty of pudding LOOKS great, but don’t judge a pudding by its looks, right? That would be like judging a book by its cover. Which people shouldn’t do. Which is why I’m currently proofreading these proofs.”

No cover-judging!

“And you know when they say ‘pudding,’ they mean dessert, right? Those ol’ British Commonwealth types, they actually ask their mums, ‘What’s for pudding, then?'”

“Hope they get their just desserts. I mean puddings.”

“You know what else proofs? Bread. Or anything with yeast in it. That’s what we bakers call the rising part: proofing. Isn’t that the OPPOSITE of what I’m doing now? I’m poking holes in my own prose, deflating its presumptions of quality.”

Proof of bread proofing.

“Or am I? I mean, proofing my proofs IS helping their overall quality rise in the long run, right? Well, yeah…but only after I make all those corrections. So the proofs have to flatten themselves in humiliation before they can rise. What’s the bread equivalent of proofreading?”

All THESE corrections.

“Did you know that the German word for ‘test’ is ‘PRÜFUNG’? So guess where ‘proofing’ comes from? And, yup…’proving.’ All these words have to pass their test. Just like the bread does.”

Proof of croissants proofing.

“If I quit proofing these proofs too soon, will they go ‘poof’ and prove me a fool?”

“And don’t even start me on loafing puns.”

Making Lemonade Out Of Mighty Sweet Lemons, Or, Book Launch Reschedule = First World Problem

I admit to more than a little stress when I realized how few days remained between what I thought was my manuscript’s final upload and my November 18 book launch. But I told myself, with my usual fierce optimism, that the MS would be approved in time for me to press that magic “publish” button in time to order multiple copies of Altitude (Flying Burgowski Book Three) in time for said book launch.

I admit to more than a little swearing when my optimism was not, for once, rewarded.

The expected approval email did not appear. When notification arrived, it wasn’t good news: a glitch in the MS required a second upload. The nice CreateSpace rep I spoke with assured me that, assuming the second upload went through, the absolute earliest I could receive my books was…November 20.

I admit to more than a little self-pity at realizing my book’s long-awaited debut was going to have to be a little more-awaited.

But all it took for me to extricate myself from the Swamp of Stressed-out Self-Recrimination was a half-hour drive, during which I thought about…

…a friend of mine who’s going blind

…another friend whose son, a dad in his 40s, is dying of leukemia

…a colleague who pretty much lives paycheck to paycheck

…the family of Philando Castile

…the families of those killed at the Texas church, the South Carolina church, the Las Vegas concert, Sandy Hook elementary…and on, and, sadly, on…

You get the idea. My launch date postponement is the poster child of a First World Problem. I got home, got to work on setting a new date and notifying the people who helped me get this far with my book. 

Want to know how blessed I am? The friend who designed my original poster was emailing me the revised version within five minutes of receiving my news.

It was done before I’d even asked for it!

Sweet, sweet lemons indeed. 

Is “So” is the New “Well”? Fun Trends in Verbal Throat-Clearing

So have you noticed that no one on the news can begin a sentence without the word “so”?

So this has been happening with such frequency on TV and radio news, from anchors to reporters to people-on-the-street-answering-questions, it has me wondering: where did this habit come from?

So they do it in a way that pays no attention to the meaning of the word, as in “thus” or “for that reason”. So they’re just saying “so” as a kind of motivational noise, like the grunt we older people make when rising from a sofa.

So there’s no comma. So it’s not, “So, what I mean is…” So it’s more like: “I am starting to speak now.”

So it’s also not just newsy people priming their sentences with “so.” So it’s regular people, friends of mine…even, to my bemusement, myself!

(So if I hear The Mate say, “So I’ll be working on the gutters this morning,” I will consider that as a sign of impending Apocalypse.)

So it’s also showing up now in print, like on Facebook and blogs. So I’d give an example, but I don’t want to embarrass anyone. So keep an eye out for it, and you’ll soon see what I mean.

So, when did this start? (So did you notice–that time I actually used the word properly, logically, as in, “Okay, people, let’s think about this”?)

(Orig. photo by Abigail Porter)

So I’m also wondering, is this just an American thing? So you folks in other countries, are you prefacing your English sentences with “so”?

So another question: what did we use as sentence skid-greasers before “so”? So was it “well”?

So I think it was “Well.” So it might also have been “Um,” or “ah.” So maybe in Ireland it was “sure.” So maybe it still is. So you go, Ireland!

So what do you think?