Category Archives: Pari Noskin Taichert

Easing into the week . . .

It’s another Monday

  • ·         another day of gearing up for the week
  • ·         answering all those emails that I left for today
  • ·          . . . and all the others that somehow appeared in my inbox over the weekend
  • ·         another day of my full-time job, of trying to get my creative writing in, of cooking and cleaning and, well, this week is going to be really really busy and very interesting.

You see, every few months IDEAS in Psychiatry brings in these extraordinary speakers for several events — for health care professionals and for the public. Dr. William S. Breitbart will be our guest this week. I’ve been looking forward to his visit and anticipate it will be one of the most interesting we’ve had. However, it also means I’ll be working a lot of extra hours.  I don’t mind at all, but it’s put me in a mood where I’m not particularly interested in heavy thinking.

Nope.

I want this:

 


Lion Cub Trying To Roar brought to you by Animal Videos

 

And a baby seal on a couch

And cats with thumbs

And pages and pages of pictures of the aurora borealis

Because sometimes you’ve just got to stop the thinkiness for a little while and remember to enjoy life.

So that’s this week’s blog. A vacation of sorts.

Please post cool links that I can visit during my breaks this week. I’m in the mood for amusement and beauty, but please note that I’ll only click if I know you OR if you personalize your message in some way so that I — and all of us at the ‘Rati — know it’s not spam.

 

 

My new name: “Marketing Curmudgeon”

by Pari

When I was first published, I remember how hard I marketed. I went to conventions, posted on blogs, wrote thank you notes, sent emails, wrote and sent newsletters, stayed “in touch” with my “fans” . . . worked on creating buzz by having friends post reviews on online sites (and I returned the favor whenever I could), contacted libraries, sent review copies (often at my own expense) to anyone who’d read my books, participated in the American Bookseller Association’s promotions and on and on.

All that marketing yielded a name in the mystery community  — albeit a smallish name in the pantheon of great and well-known writers — but many folks did know me. I was nominated for two awards which gave me street cred in certain circles. What all that work didn’t yield was a major audience, a NY publishing contract, or enough money to pursue fiction as my main career.

It also put the emphasis squarely on Marketing/PR. And that, my friends, is bass ackwards. Writers need to write. That’s their job. It’s their expertise. The heavy lifting in marketing and PR belongs to Marketing and Public Relations pros.

I actually think that’s at the heart of much of the trouble in the publishing industry today. People forgot their jobs, tried to cut corners or take on what they oughtn’t’ve and now we have a mess.

In regards to Marketing and PR, I have a heightened sensitivity. I’ve worked in the field going on three decades. I can smell tricks and techniques from miles away.  Now every writer I know is a marketer. Every single one is trying to hit me with the latest version of marketing know-how. And here’s what happens: the more I’m hit, the more tricks I perceive, the more diluted the message becomes and  . . .  the less I buy.

Maybe I’m in a subset of audiences that don’t like to feel accosted or badgered. Maybe I just know too many writers. But I’ve become a real curmudgeon.

Some people might claim I’m being a hypocrite. Murderati and my FB pages are Marketing/PR. It’s true they were when I started them, but that’s not what they do for me now. I post blogs because I like the conversations that ensue and that my world includes readers I may never meet but with whom I feel friendships blossoming. The same is true for FB.

This year I plan to self-publish some of my work. You’d think that’d put me back on the Marketing/PR treadmill, that I’d be looking for the latest analytics and techniques to reach the most potential readers.

Nope.

I’m determined to find a new paradigm. I think it’s going to have to do with having a butt-load of product so that if a reader likes one of my works, he or she will look for others — and the works will be there to purchase. If one reader enjoys something, I hope he or she will tell someone else . . .

Simple. No bells or whistles.

And I’ll just keep writing.

My vacation

by Pari

(Hey all, I just noticed that Cornelia posted yesterday; it’s right below this one. It’s a goodbye post. Please don’t miss it.)

Can this really be happening? After nearly one and a half weeks off, I’m going back to work tomorrow? Holy crap!

It seemed like an eternity in the abstract. Hours and hours of only ME time in which I could get so much accomplished . . .

Clean the house — So far, I’ve managed to clear enough space on the floor in my office that I can finally get around the boxes. I also got rid of several bags worth of recyclable paper and plastic. Cleaned a closet or two. Swept up and dusted enough dirt to fill at least one of the raised beds I meant to build during this vacation.

Write — I meant to edit all the work I’ve written since I started this writing-every-day thing more than 18 months ago. While I continued to write daily, I didn’t even look at any of my past work yet. Crapsticks. I’ve got two – three novels, a novella, at least six short stories . . . and I go to work again tomorrow? Crapsticks x 2!

Organize — What the hell is that supposed to mean anyway? Get little pouches and fill them with coupons? Put my bills somewhere where I’ll pay more attention to them? Figure out what to do with the kids’ artwork? Get rid of things I’m not using. Lose some of the things that have been dragging me down?

Speaking of  .  . . 

Lose Weight — yeah, right.

Here’s what I did do:
Had some really wonderful conversations with friends.
Eat all kinds of special foods that I won’t eat again for a year — hard salami w/guyere cheese, sticky pecan holiday bread from my favorite local bakery, pate and cornichons, champagne . . .
Sleep.
Sleep.
Sleep.
Stay up until one every night streaming foreign films.
Sleep in.
Enjoy being by myself for hours on end.
Think about my life and what I want to do in the coming years . . .

I may not have accomplished even a fraction of what I meant to do, but I certainly did accmomplish a lot.

How about you? What did you do for the holidays? Did you get a vacation? Did you have some down time?

I’d love to know . . . and I’m off today so I can actually respond more than I’ll be able to tomorrow. So send a note my way.

Oh! And Happy New Year! May you be blessed with everything you hope for this year.

Reframing

by Pari

Yesterday, after I took the kids to their father’s house, I spent the first Christmas in 19 years alone.  It was a good day . . . contemplative. On a long walk, under the kind of blue sky that stings it’s so gorgeous and clear, I realized that much of my life has been ruled by obligation. 

How much of yours is too? 

It’s easy to see how this happens. Our various life roles come with obligations: parent, spouse, partner, child, writer, friend, worker, manager and so forth — each is at least moderately defined by the social circles and cultures within which we live. Yesterday, while staring at the bare winter branches against that stunning sky, I wondered what it would be like if I could transform at least ¼ of the should themes in my life into want-to themes. What if I framed my daily writing requirement into a privilege?  What if I looked at exercise as a time for joy?  What if the deep emotional work I’m doing isn’t so much a shedding of the old as an exploration of the unknown?

I first studied reframing intensely in graduate school. There, while training to be a therapist, I saw how powerful it could be. Indeed, much of therapy depends on reframing to be successful for without viewing things anew, a person stays mired in his or her uncomfortable present. In more recent years, my practice of daily gratitude forces me, on occasion, to apply the technique when I most want to pity myself . . . or when I want to blame others for something in my life.

As happens frequently with my walks, I had a small epiphany. I realized that many of my New Year’s resolutions also stemmed from a center of obligation. (Do you see how insidious shoulds can be?) So how could I reframe my heavy sense of have-to around this time of year into can’t-wait-to

Here is the beginning of what will probably take me most of the week to settle into, but I thought I’d share my resolutions so far . . .

In 2012, I can’t wait to

  1. reward myself for trying something new without any thought to success or failure
  2. dance as often as I can
  3. look for an adventure and take it
  4. eat dessert first  
  5. relish days when I don’t have to do anything
  6. play as much as I think while writing
  7. embrace . . .

So what about you?  What New Year’s resolution do you want to stand on its head?

The Simple Act of Showing Up

by Pari

It started as a blog about assumptions. About Christmas and how the dominant culture in our country assumes that everyone is celebrating the same holiday. As I typed, the piece turned into a ponderous post with an overinflated professorial voice.  And who’d want that the week before holiday fever overtakes us all?

Because of the season, the blog then moved to latkes and Hanukkah. I even found this really fun video.

But I’ve written about latkes before (sorry the pix don’t seem to be uploading).

Then it moved to
conversations with adolescents
my old haunts in Ann Arbor
Googling old friends
the joy of looking at Christmas lights . . .

And that, in a nutshell, is the the wasteful, but interesting, side-effect of being a true pantser.  I write to find story — or topic — rather than outlining and finding flaws before making a creative commitment. That means that pages of prose will have traveled from my fingertips onto the computer before I know if an idea that seems good really has legs.

Often, as evidenced by the journey of writing this particular blog, the projects fizzle out quickly. This may have less to do with craft than the fact that when I delve into the meat of the subject, it turns out to be too boring, depressing or weak for more exploration. Sometimes, in the writing, I discover that a thought deserves attention and that I’m not quite in the place to make it come alive yet. I usually put those pieces of stories (or blogs) in a folder for later consideration.

I used to think that writing was almost spiritual in nature. The mental image I carried was of a woman in a 1920s garret in Paris, her hands gloved in scratchy gray wool, an espresso near her fingertips, the heavy smoke of a home-rolled cigarette coloring the darkened room’s air a bluish gray. So rapt in creativity would she be that nothing could distract her from her task. (And, of course, she’d never outline!)

Alas, in the decades I’ve been writing, I’ve never lived up to anything resembling that woman. In childhood and adolescence, perhaps, the act of penning a short story or poem carried a certain romantic aura. In adulthood, however, my creative life has been about simply showing up.

Today, as I went through the 10-15 ideas for this blog, I realized that while showing up may be more oatmeal than éclair, it works for me. It has forced me to produce and produce some more; it has nourished the commitment necessary to keep going even if inspiration falls flat.

And because I show up daily, I always — eventually — stumble upon something truly worth the effort.

From a different POV

by Pari

One of my favorite movies is Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon. If you haven’t seen it, please do. I don’t want to ruin this piece of art for any of you . . . So I’ll just say, that without any disrespect meant to the great Japanese director, I’d posit that the main gist of the tale is a he-said she-said situation: a horrible event happens and we see it through four POVs. Some tellers of the story are deeply invested in their version of the events, others less so. But each iteration of the story is believable and therein resides one of the beauties of this cinematic study  . . . .

I think I enjoyed Rashomon more than many of my college classmates when I first saw it because I’d already learned that messing with POVs could be fun. When I was in high school, I had a class where I wrote an impassioned paper about why arranged marriage was a stupid idea. I finished the assignment early and the teacher offered me extra credit to write an entirely new paper from the opposite POV. I did. And I loved throwing myself wholeheartedly into the different argument, finding its nuances and defending them as strongly as I’d done the first time round.

It was a good lesson in seeing the world from someone else’s perspective . . .

We all know Dorothy’s Midwestern school-girl take on Oz and we’ve gotten a different perspective in Wicked. But dow did the munchkins perceive this witch-killing giant with the flying house and motley crew of associates?

What would the story have been like if we’d known the true motivation behind the wolf’s attack in the Three Pigs? Maybe his long-time lover had left him and he had a death wish? Maybe those three pigs weren’t the angels we’re lead to believe . . . perhaps they were hoodlums, graffiti artists that had destroyed a bucolic mural the wolf had created the day before the unveiling.

What would Mrs. Rochester have to say about her life with Rochester in the West Indies? About his betrayal with Jane Eyre? About having to spend her life cooped up in a joyless room with the  surly, coarse and frightening Grace Pool? Apparently, Jean Rhys has done it!

What was Helen’s perspective on the Trojan War and why it was really fought?

What would Mrs. Hudson’s story be about her upstairs tenant and his constant companion? Would she speculate about Sherlock Holmes’ sexuality? Would she kvetch about his messiness?

You get the idea.

Today, rather than a question, I’d like to loosen up our collective creativity, get it flowing for the new week. Are you up for it?
Task: Take a favorite story/narrative and give us another character’s POV. Let’s have fun with this!

The Joy of Spam

by Pari

I’m an organic writer; I don’t edit on the first pass. Not a bit. Not even if I’ve got a run of two, three or four sentence fragments. Or a string of double negatives. Not that I don’t pay attention to those later. And that doesn’t mean I don’t adore analyzing language and syntax.

Though I haven’t been editing my work lately, Providence provides. Each week brings a blessed writing sample to my inbox.

Last Tuesday I received this wonderful letter. Please be assured that I haven’t altered a single word or punctuation element; I wouldn’t dare . . .

“Dear Beneficiary,

I am Timothy F. Geithner. The Secretary of the Treasury under the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The executive agency responsible for promoting economic prosperity and ensuring the financial security of the United States.”

Do you see what I mean? What’s not to love about this? First the personal greeting. And just in case I didn’t know who Mr. Geithner was, he spelled it out for me. Even if he hadn’t shown such kindness, I’d read through an entire paragraph of sentence fragments just to see what comes next.

“However, by virtue of my position as Secretary of the Treasury, I have irrevocably instructed the Federal Reserve Bank to approve your fund release via issuance of a CERTIFIED cheque drawn on Standard Chartered Bank california, USA, which is the authourized bank for your fund release.”

Wow. Such big official-sounding words. This must be real, right?

But waitaminiute. What’s that “However” there for? And cheque and california and authourized? Typos and rotten punctuation? Something isn’t right here. Could this letter be a fake? Does not the government want to bestow upon me my due?

“However, as a former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York . . .”

Hold on! Another however? What is this? Doesn’t the man know he had me at “Timothy F. Geithner?”

“ . . . and being a versatile banker of repute with about 25 years experience in the financial sector, I wish to state categorically that a CERTIFIED cheque of $6,500,000.00 USD drawn on the Standard Chartered Bank will be issued and sent to you via the US Postal Service at no cost to you.“

Well, that’s a relief. I can deal with as many howevers  and categoricallys as he wants to throw at me as long as he’s sending that kind of dough. And even though I don’t understand why he keeps trying to convince me about his credentials and why he’s not sure how long he was in the financial sector and he insists on spelling check a la Britannia . . .  I’ll still go along for the ride.

“Every and all cost associated with the delivery of the cheque has been pre-paid by the U.S. Government.”

Gosh, that’s generous.

“The only cost associated with your fund release is the cost of processing a ‘Fund Clearance Certificate’, which is estimated to the value of $150.00 USD.”

Um, Houston? We seem to have a breakdown here. I’m not quite following . . . perhaps if I read further, I’ll understand how there could be no cost to me but there’s still a cost.

“The ‘Fund Clearance Certificate’ is required in accordance with the U.S. Monetary Policy; and it is the ONLY expenses you will incurr before the cheque will be sent to your mailing address . . .”

O, dashed hope! O, cruel fate! Timothy, how could you?
Alas, I am not destined to a life of bonbons and caviar. For no matter how much I try to pretend it isn’t so, there is a cost to me and, dear friend.

I. Pari Noskin, writer. Of Murderati. And the esteemed writing publisher such as the University of New Mexico Presses.
Simply.
Can not.
Pay it.

Question of the day:

What’s the best spam you’ve received? If you can provide an example of the literary masterpiece, that’d be even better. However NO links, please. I’ll delete them immediately.

 

Let me tell you a story . . .

by Pari Noskin

Almost six years ago, a cheeky New Mexican came up with the idea for a group blog because she knew a lot of wonderful writers and wanted to create a community of some sort. At the time, web logging also seemed like the ultimate marketing wave of the future. And group blogs made incredible sense:  the larger the mix, the more potential for cross-pollination among book buyers.

Hence Murderati was born. There were seven of us in the beginning. We learned, grew, changed, suffered tragedies and celebrated joys, lost a dear friend, saw others leave to dedicate more time to their own projects, found new contributors . . .  Each change made us examine what we wanted and where we were going with this endeavor. Numbers of readers were high at times and low at others. There were occasional squabbles within the group, hurt feelings and frustrations.

But the thing about this little blog is that it endured. And so it will.

When JT told me she needed a hiatus this time (and, believe me, she’d tried to do it before; I’d always pleaded with her to stay — selfishly — because I just couldn’t imagine the ‘Rati without her), my response was incredibly irrational. I figured that it was time to pull the plug.

After all, I reasoned unreasonably, with all the social media options available, blog readership had gone down. The myth that blogs sold massive amounts of fiction had proven false many times over.

Plus, let’s face it, blogging took work (both on and off screen). And with the extraordinary changes in my life and the new job with its demands on my time, I hadn’t been able to dedicate even half as much as I wanted to participate in the community. And I was just plain tired — emotionally, physically, professionally, creatively.

“Screw it,” I said. “If JT is gone for six months, let’s put the whole damn thing to bed and we’ll re-assess in April.”

The others in our group responded with — and I’m putting it nicely here — “Whoa, Nelly! What the hell are you thinking, you dope?”

They were right, too. It was absolutely, totally and completely (am I repeating myself?) the wrong decision. While some ‘Rati decided to leave for good: Tess, Allison, Alafair and Jonathan — all for very good reasons — several of the ‘Rati wanted to stay.

So here’s the new schedule starting today:

Monday:  Pari and Cornelia alternate

Wildcard Tuesday: Who knows what will happen? We might bring back Oldies from the Archives, start a Round Robin discussion, have a guest blogger or two. The only guarantee I can make is that every Tuesday will be different content.

Wednesday: Gar/David

Thursday: Zoë/Phillipa

Friday: Stephen/Alex

And on the weekends, yea verily, we shall rest . . .  
But that doesn’t mean you have to. If you’re hungry for content while we’re sleeping in, go to the Archives and read the absolutely incredible writing that has sustained this blog for years.

Let me tell you . . .
One thing I realized during the last month is that, for me, Murderati has become an astoundingly important part of my life.
You are all my community. The bloggers present and past are my community.
And what an incredible blessing that is.

Murderati is here to stay.

We remain strong and grateful and true.

“Balance” is Bull

by Pari

I used to be so sure of everything.

If I got good grades, I’d go to a good college. If I went to a good college, I’d get a good job. If I got a good job, my life would be great.

If I wrote a good book, I’d find a good agent. If I found a good agent, I’d get a great publishing contract. If I got a great publishing contract, I’d make a living as a novelist.

If I networked enough, I’d meet a lot of people. If I met a lot of people, I’d be able to market my work to them. If I marketed my work to enough people, they’d tell other people. My career would be made.

If I truly found love, I’d get married. If I got married, everything else would fall into place. If times got rough, love would conquer all.

And the biggest myth of all?

The Balance Paradigm:  If I could just find the sweet spot, I’d be able to: work, write, get enough exercise, sleep, eat well, stay in touch with friends, be supportive to people I care about, be a good mom, find fulfillment  — and it’d all flow beautifully.

Forever.

Well . . . with apologies to my Buddhist and Taoist friends . . . I now think the Balance myth is unproductive bullshit. You know that yin-yang symbol? It’s a snapshot; it’s not static. It CAN’T be.

Balance, for more than a moment, is impossible for any living creature. Do you hear me, people? It. Doesn’t. Exist. Tell me when you last met a person  — other than the Dalai Lama — who achieved that perfect midpoint on the seesaw of his or her life.

Everything is in flux. So all the ifs we tell ourselves about trying to wrangle the numerous areas of our lives into some kind of blissful constant center is useless and emotionally exhausting.

Why do we do it?

The reason the Balance Paradigm continues to play such a large role in our collective mindset is that to admit it doesn’t exist is to admit that there’s never really going to be a time of rest – at least not until we die. This doesn’t exclude our ability to be satisfied or calm during certain moments in our lives, it just means that we have to give up the idea of “doing it all.” Because doing everything we want to do — all the time in perfect balance — is about as possible as perfectly singing the Queen of the Night’s aria from the Magic Flute with our mouths full of crackers.

So what can we strive for – what new paradigm is more useful – if we can’t manage to balance absolutely everything in our lives all at once in a perfect harmony?

Here are some ideas:

The Contentment Can Happen for Large Swaths of Life Paradigm

The Change Needn’t be Feared Paradigm (AKA  The Stasis is Death Paradigm)

The You Can’t Do It All But You Can Do A Lot Paradigm

The Life Evolves and So Can You Paradigm

Hmmm.

What do you think?
1.  Can people really find balance in their lives?
2.  Is balance really the goal or has it caused us to shoot for a goal that, by its very impossibility, makes us miserable?

The Unexpected Value of Saying Yes

by Pari

I’m not sure if this is a truism, but it seems the older many people get, the more closed and self-protective they become. I get it. I really do. Life has a way knocking the impetuosity out of a soul. You get the wind slugged out of you a few times and more fool you if you step into the storm again without so much as a raincoat or umbrella.

So how to reconcile that natural tendency with the very essence of creativity, the stepping out onto the ledge with one foot in mid air because, let’s face it, we have to put it there?

The business of living life and surviving challenges often forces us to curl in like a morning glory at the sun’s zenith. And yet, we writers are collectors of experiences. If we don’t have them, we can’t then process them through our particular sieves into whatever mush we are compelled to produce.

For those of you who have been walking my journey with me through the prickly landscape of the dissolution of my marriage, it will come as no surprise that I’m realizing now how many times I’ve said, “no,” without intending to during the last 18 years. Being first part of a couple and then a parent, I found myself putting on the protective layers of those identities to the detriment of allowing myself to be open to the unexpected.  As with much of my current realizations, there is no blame in this – no regret or finger pointing – just a curious fascination with the process and the results.

And in this case, I’ve noticed the nos in my life and have decided to intentionally shift the balance back to a more interesting center.

In short, I’ve begun saying yes again. 

When I re-read the above statement, a stereotypic image comes to mind:  A woman standing on a large boulder in the middle of a gorgeous lake, a gentle breeze blowing her long auburn hair and gossamer blue and white gown. Ah, there she is, a symbol of freedom with her arms outstretched – embracing all that life has to offer  . . . .

Nah. That’s not quite what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about little yeses . . . yeslets — the allowing oneself to let go of the no in small ways — to invite tiny but welcome experiences in like going to the Draft Horse Pull at the New Mexico State Fair with a group of friends. It’s something I’ve never done before and might not have done if I hadn’t decided to say “yes” more. Another yes: hanging out with a friend with no purpose other than to hang out and talk. Another yes? Going to the Albuquerque Youth Symphony concert on Sunday just because I wanted to experience — and support — young people who through hard work can make something truly beautiful.

With each of these small yeses, my creativity grows in energy and dimension.

Simply put, I didn’t know it would happen, but I’m enjoying my writing, my forays into visual art, and my life more because I’ve let yes back into my life.

 

Today let’s talk about yeses.

When was the last time you said yes to something you wouldn’t have before?
What was it to?
What was the result of that yes on your life/perspective/creativity?

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