Category Archives: Pari Noskin Taichert

The Blog Short Story Project3

by Pari Noskin Taichert

There’s something going on in the blogosphere. Can you feel it? Fiction is flying hither and yon today thanks to the Blog Short Story Project. The brainchild of Bryon Quertermous and David White, this project is now in its 3rd year.

J.T., Mike, and Paul have short stories on blogs today (just click on their names) and I’ll try to post other links at the end of my story.

The rules for the short story this year are:
1. no more than 1000 words
2. topic must have something to do with blogs or blogging.

I’ve decided to give it a go, though I haven’t completed a short story since high school. I’ll admit I’m feeling a bit like my posterior is hanging out of a car window on this one, but it’s good to stretch as a writer — even if there’s a breeze.

Here’s my tip of the hat to readers who love cat stories and to those who don’t.

The Cat’s Meow

     The one constant pleasure in her drudge of a life consisted of ScreamIt.com. There, she let everything fly: the rape, the anger at men, the affronts, her sucky job. It didn’t matter if anyone commented. She just needed to get it out, to use the real names of the countless people who’d hurt her, to shame them.
    Cinnamon-laced soy milk steamed in the cup by her elbow. Her fingers snicked the keyboard, refining her post. If Rick ever read it, he’d die. Good. He deserved it.
    Pico, the neighbor’s cat, thumped through the pet door. He jumped on the table, purring and nuzzling her angular face. She felt a connection with this scuffy animal, a kind of love. Pushing back her chair, she went to the mini-fridge, opened a bag of grated cheddar — kept especially for him — and put a handful on a plastic plate. Pico curled around her ankle, a thank-you before eating.
    "Are you my knight in shining armor?" She babytalked to him and then mumbled, "What a crock."
    Back to work. A strand of hair cut across her forehead in a black slash while she typed: I used to think still waters ran deep. That is, until I met Rick. His waters run still because there’s nothing there.
    Yeah, that’d be a good hook.
    Some men are blowhards. Some are puffer fish. Rick is krill.
    Got sushi?

    She laughed at the weak joke and clicked on "Publish now."
    Tonight she’d get rid of him. Sayonara. Thank goodness they hadn’t complicated things with sex. After one spitty kiss, she’d said, "Let’s take it slow. Get to know each other."
    He’d bought it. She’d kept him out of her pants.
    She stretched, her thin arms reaching toward the ceiling and then slowly coming down in an arc to the table. The computer’s two-tone signal brought her attention back to the screen.
    One comment already. I’ve dated toads, but your’s sounds like pond scum.
    She didn’t want to respond too fast, sound too desperate. But, why not? This could be fun. He’s worse than that. Pond scum feeds bottom feeders. Rick is like snot . . . no value at all.

    At a library in another part of town, Rick sat at his laptop, a hand squeezing painful zits on his chin. Damn her. It’d been funny when she’d done it to other people. But this? Now? He sure wasn’t laughing.
    A few hours later at dinner, he said, "So, what have you been up to?"
    "Not much." They’d both ordered tofu rice bowls, doused them with tamari. She unwrapped the chopsticks and selected a chunk of broccoli.
    "How was work?" He watched her ungenerous mouth.
    "Okay."
    Liar! She hadn’t gone to work; he’d checked. She thought she was so smart. Lies — the online wit, her fake identity. He’d tracked down the truth in minutes. Now, he released another snare. "What do you want to do later?"
    "There’s no later, Rick." Oh, she loathed him, hated the piece of onion clinging to his lower lip. "We’re done."
    "What are you talking about?" The practiced confusion on his face had taken most of today’s lunch break to perfect.
    "After dinner, you’re going to drive me home and . . . then . . . we’re through. Finito. Kaput." She stabbed the tofu, feeling powerful, in control. "Or, I can call a cab right now."
    No! That won’t work. "Please, Claire, don’t run off. I’ll drive you home. It’s no problem." He shook his head, hoping to convey sadness. He wanted sympathy — if she was capable of it — not disgust. "I just need to wrap my head around this . . . I had no idea."
    "I need to go to the bathroom," she said.
    He’d counted on it. The packet of white powder opened easily, its contents dissolving into her green tea.
    Twenty minutes later, she said, "I don’t feel very good."
    "Let’s go." He helped her out of the restaurant. She stumbled near the car. Leaning her against the vehicle, he unlocked it, folded her into the seat and buckled the belt. "Snot, huh?" he said. "We’ll see who’s snot."
    Soft, regular breathing accompanied him into her driveway. Drapes and curtains in the neighborhood hid the good families, eating around happy kitchen tables, unaware of his plans. After finding the key, he slung her over his shoulder and quickly went into the basement apartment.
    So this was where she lived. One room. How pathetic.
    He bent over the dirty futon on the floor and undressed her quietly. Sneering at her tiny breasts, he stepped back to gloat. His foot hit a plastic plate. A strip of orange sprang to the top of his tennis shoe. He knelt to sniff it. "God, you’re such a fake. All this vegan crap and you sneak cheese at home."
    His throat felt scratchy. Probably the dust. He rubbed his eyes and congratulated himself on what he was about to do. Water. He needed a drink. With a cup, he sat in her chair and considered the computer. Tomorrow, she’d be horrified. His throat tightened with excitement. He’d pose her for maximum embarrassment, upload the pictures to as many porn sites as he could. She’d be dealing with it for years.
    God, he itched all over. What the hell? He was breaking out in hives! A cat? She’d never said anything about a cat.
    His throat continued to close. He’d left his EpiPen in his windbreaker. In the car. Running up the stairs and out the door, he made it to the driveway before falling to the ground, eyes bulging, fingers digging into the gravel until they were bloody.
    In the morning, her neighbor screamed.
    She peeked out the window. Rick’s dead eyes stared back. Pico stepped over him on the way to greet her.
   

Here are the links I have so far (don’t forget the ones in the intro paragraph of this blog)

Karen Olson
Stephen D Rogers
Gerald So
Daniel Hatadi
JD Rhoades
Dave White
Anthony Rainone
Patti Abbott
Stephen Allan
Christa Miller
David J. Montgomery
John Rickards
Bill Crider
John Dumand

   

The Heroism Vacuum

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Anna20nicole20smith204Is anyone else sick of the Anna Nicole Smith saga?

Parishiltonsuntzu_1Does Paris Hilton really deserve any of our mental space?

What’s happened to heroes in our culture? Can they only be found in fiction?

Where are the real-life ordinary people who face astounding odds, and prevail, because of innate goodness, strength and a sense of justice?

Okay, maybe I’m feeling grumpy. I’m not unhappy to be older, not really. But every year, on this date, I search for life models, for people to look up to.

0021_1

Right now, I’m not finding much to admire.

Of course there’s always fiction. Heroes aplenty grace the pages in our genre and others. If I were feeling nobler, I might write a post about them. That’d be the self-sacrificing thing to do.

Nah, not today. I want to whine.

You see, this is a real yearning, heartfelt and painful. I want to know — beyond a Pollyanna, pop culture optimism –that real living, talking, breathing heroes walk among us.

I know that certain professions lend themselves to selflessness — community service, law enforcement, medicine, education. If I were in a different mood, I’d be singing the praises of the everyday champions in our lives, of their great hearts and generosity.

But I want something different today. I’m looking for the inspirational oddball; one I can relate to as a regular person. My soul screams for examples of ordinary Joes and Josephines who become epic, who rise above the normal to the extraordinary, without thinking of the potential for a book deal or television movie.

For some reason, in the past, heroes were easier to spot. Two come to mind without effort. Both glimmered during the darkest moments of the Holocaust.

First there were the "righteous gentiles"– non-Jewish people who risked their lives to prevent even more deaths.

Excerpt_sidebar_02_1Couples like Chinue and Yukiko Sugihara sacrificed so much during those same years.

I want to know that these most-admirable people are still being born, that they exist in this crazy world.

These are the real-life heroes I crave to learn about now.

At lunch, a few days ago, a friend said that today’s heroes are working behind the scenes, secretly, just as those from WWII did. She might be right.

Maybe I’m not looking in the right places for these true stars of humanity.

Or, it’s possible I should just stop watching the news for a couple of months . . . The quiet selflessness of heroism often doesn’t lend itself to speedy soundbites or sexy visuals.

Maybe this kind of courage isn’t required in the world at the moment.

I don’t know.

However, on this last Monday in February, I want to hear about heroes —
if there are any toBirthdaycakes1_3 celebrate nowadays.
I want to grow up to be like them.

Do you know any? Are you willing to share their stories here?

That’d be the best birthday present of all. 

Shameless LCC Photos Pt. 2

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Welcome to another edition of LCC 2007 as seen through the food-poisoned eyes of your intrepid convention goer. I won’t bother with pre-picture narrative; you can find that on last Friday’s post.

Ready . . . set . . . GO!

P1010014_1 Michael "The Saint" Kovacs. You’ll see why I included this gem by himself when you look at the next photo. Michael is one half of the Kovacs team that helps moderate and maintain DorothyL.

P1010015 On the right is Diane Kovacs, one of the Fan GofHs. I’m sad I didn’t get a snap of Kara Robinson.  If you google either woman, you’ll find a wealth of info on them and their specialties. Right now, I just want to say, "thank you."

P1010016 l — the legendary St. Martin’s editor Ruth Cavin 
r — Barbara Franchi of Reviewing the Evidence fame.

P1010017_1 Michael Siverling and Elaine Flinn guffaw in the bar. I met Michael for the first time at LCC. I hope our paths cross more often now. BTW: I have another photo of Evil E and Guyot, but plan to use it for blackmail.

P1010018 l to r
Hailey Lind, Leanne Sweeney, Deborah Donnelly, Susan Slater

Along with moderator Claire Matturo, these ladies came to the conclusion that the protags in chick lit have evolved from bubble-headed, fashion-obsessed ditzes to smart women who have senses of humor and can do more than worry about love. Why has there never been as much made of dick lit?

P1010020 Lee Killough is one of the best — and, appallingly, least noticed — writers I know. Her KILLER KARMA is one of my favorite books of all time. Her ability to world build and to make us believe her characters no matter what their form, well, it’s nothing short of astounding.

At LCC, she gave an individual workshop that should have been attended by every writer and would-be writer at the con.

P1010023_1

This is one of those cases where a panel shot just doesn’t convey the fun of the experience. l to r : moderator David Corbett, Troy Cook, Kate Flora, Eric Stone and Colin Campbell

The panel topic about real life vs fiction provided many jumping points for fascinating descriptions of these fine writers’ actual experiences and their struggles to ensure that nothing becomes trivalized or overwrought in their fiction. Great discussion.

P1010025 Gillian Roberts (aka Judy Greber) at dinner at Wild Ginger. Yep. This was the meal I’d been dreaming of  — before going to Seattle.

P1010026 This may not be the most flattering picture of Susan Dunlap, but it does capture a tad of her intelligence. What it doesn’t show is her equally fine, wry wit.

P1010027Now, this is a decent picture of Louise Ure. I also have a blackmail photo of her. Contact me privately . . . 

P1010028Back in the bar . . .

Brian Wiprud with Jenifer Nightingale-Ethier

After four full days of conventioning, they both look amazingly fresh. No?

P1010032_1 This really irks me . . . I don’t know the name of the man in this photo. If anyone does, will you please post it in the comments??

l to r:  Mystery man, Deni Dietz, Christine Kling

I was on my way out of the bar for the first time that night when I shot this photo.

P1010033 Mary Saums and Merlot. I’m sad not to have hung out with the 4MA group this time around. Well, I’ll have to remedy that in Denver.

So concludes the pictures for LCC. I hope you enjoyed them. As always, I wish I’d taken more — and that those I clicked had been of better quality.

cheers,

Pari

Shameless LCC Photos Pt 1

by Pari Noskin Taichert  (J.T. took my Monday this week. I’m returning the favor now.)

Mystery conventions are always exhausting.

Even more so when you get food poisoning.

Almost my entire experience of this year’s LCC had a flattening haze born of tainted hotel Cioppino. I don’t know if the scallops or the fish got to me, but something sure did. Though I recovered enough to function, the edge of exhaustion and dis-ease never completely lifted.

Of course, everyone knows that alcohol will kill any nasty microorganisms and I made sure to assist the process by parking myself in the hotel bar most evenings. Hence the pix below will not be the most flattering of my subjects — but they convey a bit of the joy of seeing old friends, making new acquaintances, and reveling in the conviviality of our mystery community.

A few seminal moments weren’t digitized: meeting Barry Eisler (and having him mispronounce my name), getting to really know my ‘rati pals much better, eating breakfast with a wonderful group of women called the Mystery Babes, hanging out with the incomparable Craig Johnson and his wife, the magnificent signing at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop . . .  Meeting Gabriella Herkert — her book will be available from NAL this fall.

A couple things DIDN’T happen — I didn’t get to see half of the people I intended to see, didn’t get to meet half of the people I’d hoped to meet, didn’t get to go to an eighth of the panels I’d hoped to attend . . .

My gratitude to the convention organizers, volunteers and attendees who gave this LCC its distinctive flavor and character. I just wish I’d followed Naomi Hirahara’s lead and not finished my damn bowl of tepid soup that first night.

P1010002_1 Ohhhhhhh, it’s sooooooo dark. See what I mean about lousy photos? Well, if you look very hard, you’ll find Phil Hawley and the gorgeous Alex Sokoloff. Of course this photo does neither one of them justice.

While praying to the porcelain gods after this dinner, I consoled myself with the knowledge that Dr. Hawley could probably help me if the food poisoning progressed much further.

P1010003 Could Simon Wood be any cuter? Yeah, I know he doesn’t have red eyes . . . but they’re kind of becoming. No?P1010004

The lovely, Edgar-nominated Naomi Hirahara and her quiet, magnificent hubby Wes.

P1010007 In the forefront is Sam Reaves, an unassuming novelist of many accomplishments. In the background is Keith Raffel. I met Keith in Austin at Con Misterio and have followed his writing career with much admiration. He’s another extremely smart guy who has achieved astounding success in one career and plans to translate it to another. He brought his daughter to LCC and she’s obviously going to continue to make both of her parents very proud.P1010008 

Why does Troy Cook always take such good photos? Damn him.

P1010011 From l to r
The marvelous Mary Saums, miracle worker Margery Flax from MWA, and Sheila Lowe. I adore each of these women in different ways. Mary is a fine writer and staunch defender of cozies. Margery is an incredible mystery enthusiast who now brings such class and order to our professional organization. I met Sheila years ago when she dreamed of being a published novelist. Now, it’s happened. How cool is that? (Sorry about the layout of the text here . . . I still am flummoxed by Typepad’s "text wrap" at times.)

P1010013 Okay, I lied. I spent some time out of the bar. Among the happy eating experiences in Seattle was one at Jasmine. Here, the lighting was better, too.

l — Deborah Donnelly, great author and even better friend.

r — Carola Dunn, great author and witty lunch companion.

Several more photos await this blog, but I’ll hold off on them until Monday when I begin posting at my regular time.

See you then . . .

Angst Envy

by Pari Noskin Taichert

My dear friend Sandra Cline sent me an article about Matthieu Richard a.k.a. "the happiest man in the world."

My first thought?
"He must not be a writer."

As we saw last week in Louise Ure’s brilliant post — and the subsequent comments — many of us ink-stained wretches suffer from insecurities about our craft. You’d think we actually lived the life of those stereotypic souls who huddled in Parisian garrets, their desks covered with empty espresso cups, ashtrays overflowing with spent Gauloises, and only a single candle to provide warmth on freezing nights.

But, wait a minute . . .

Are we really being honest with ourselves when we dive into the depths of despond about our crappy prose? Is it possible we’re actually enjoying ourselves a little, benefitting from the divine pleasure born of an image of necessary torture for our art? Aren’t we noble, grand?

I won’t speak for you — though I hope you speak for yourselves in the comments section — but I certainly relate to this William Carlos Williams poem:

Danse Russe

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees, —
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself
"I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades, —

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

We writers write for an audience. In truth, I think we’re a rather egotistical lot. This is neither good nor bad . . . just an observation. I mean, we write our stories and expect people to spend their time and money reading them.

Doesn’t that strike you as a bit confident, even cocky?

I don’t question our sincerity when the tremors of "ittotallysucksitis" shake our bodies. The breast-beating we do because our fiction is tripe, is real. And, we’d better step up to the responsibility of making sure our work is as good as it can possibly be.

I’m just saying that we might enjoy the angst more than we’d like to admit.

Here’s a fun last thought:
In one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons, down-on-his-luck bartender Moe ends up at a writers’ conference that resembles the famous Bread Loaf. The fictional WordLoaf has such luminaries as Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, Gore Vidal and Thomas Pynchon (the elusive writer appears with a paper bag over his head).

When Moe first joins a cocktail party with these literary giants, he pauses, a smile of awe on his ungodly face, and says (verbatim from my sieve of a memory), "Here I am, surrounded by the happiest people on earth  . . . writers."

Maybe there’s something to that.

Writers: What say you?
Readers: What’s your image of the stereotypic writer?

_________________________________________________________________________________

Program notes:
Next Monday, Feb. 5, I’ll be on my way to the New Mexico Chile Pepper Conference. J.T. will take that day for me (thanks, J.T.!). I’ll take hers on Friday, Feb. 9 with a LCC 2007 wrap-up. The next week everything will be back on normal schedule.

Goodbye Barbara Seranella

For those of you who don’t know by now, the mystery community has lost a beautiful, clear and strong light.

Barbara Seranella, author of the acclaimed Munch Mancini series, died yesterday — Jan. 21, 2007 — while awaiting a liver transplant.

Though we were not close friends, I remember her with great fondness.

I met Barbara at Left Coast Crime in Pasadena. After my first-ever mystery panel, she made a point of telling me I’d done well. Later, while we stood in line for dinner, I commented on the supportive quality of the mystery community. Barbara cited statistics about the phenomenal amount of books most mystery fans read annually.

Then she said, "Why wouldn’t I support and promote you? By supporting you, I’m supporting the mystery genre."

That idea made so much sense; I’ve held it close ever since.

The last contact I had with Barbara was toward the end of November — right before she went to Ohio. She sent a group email to those of us who served on an Edgars judging committee together. She requested that we keep the possible surgery quiet.

She didn’t want to be known for her liver disease.

So, let’s not remember her for that.

Let’s celebrate her astounding literary contribution and her magnificent personal character . . . 

Death X 2

by Pari Noskin Taichert

In grad school, I had an internship at a small rural hospice in Michigan. There, I learned the importance — and effect — of anniversaries. The date of a death can affect families, friends, and communities for years.

I know it’s worked that way for me.

A few days after the glee of the New Year, thoughts of
deprivation,
unwanted change,
passing time,
and becoming an orphan,
shove aside my natural optimism.

Among the most important anniversaries I mark are:
January 6, 1978. That’s when my stepfather died. My sense of invincibility died that day, too.
February 11, 1999. My mother died. Nothing prepared us for her quick demise. The shock of it left me reeling, unsure I could depend upon anything fully again.

I’m writing about this today because of wonderful recent entries on the blog NakedAuthors. There, Patricia Smiley and James Grippando wrote personal essays about their aging parents.

In reading their posts, I realized, yet again, the slender line we mystery writers tread. Most of us touch upon deaths frequently in our work. But ours are exciting versions, not the thick sadnesses that envelope hearts when the reality of those losses hit anew. For people who write with humor that line squiggles upon itself and tangles in unexpected ways.

Often, I find myself feeling like I’m walking on a balance beam made of gelatin. How can I respect the gravity of death, of murder, while grinning at the amusing ways Sasha unravels the clues?

It’s during these first two months of the year that I stumble most, feel least sure.

During Malice Domestic last year, I was on a panel with guest of honor Robert Barnard. During the discussion, I said something about not thinking one could make death funny (Yeah, yeah, I know it can be done; I was going for a deeper point). Later, Barnard took me aside and said, "Young lady, you can make anything funny."

The problem is, right now, I’m not laughing. I don’t want to make death funny. To me, it’s not. It’s real, difficult, and empty.

Meet Katherine MacGilvray Pt 2

by Pari Noskin Taichert

A few weeks ago, you met Kat MacGilvray who now works as the bookings coordinator for the University of New Mexico Press. In that first interview, she focused primarily on her experiences as a bookseller at an independent store. This concluding part of the interview emphasizes her work with a publisher.

What are bookstores looking for when they schedule an event? Have you noticed any changes since you started in the biz?
It really varies. When I scheduled events for the bookstore, our goal was to provide a venue for the community — both our customers and local authors. That meant hosting a variety of events each month. There’s a philosophy behind it that a lot of independents hold — you compete with chains and online retailers by supporting your community and providing a voice for its artisans. Often that goes beyond having author events to hosting Girl Scout meetings or knitting groups.

Having worked in an independent bookstore for so long, I became pretty biased — I developed an assumption that chain stores only want to host big name authors. But in the last year at UNM Press, I’ve really been turned around. It all depends on the individual store, whether it’s Corporate Mogul Books or Mom & Pop. Our chain stores in Albuquerque have been tremendous champions of local and regional authors. Similarly, I’ve encountered a lot of independent bookstores that arrange events based entirely on co-op money. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding out a bookstore wants $150 to host a local author.

Now that you’re on the other side of the computer, how important do you think brick and mortar bookstores are to sales?
Oooooh. I’ll support brick and mortar bookstores until paper is outlawed. You simply cannot replace the enthusiastic promotion and handselling that comes from booksellers. It’s important to understand that people who work in bookstores are special folk; they’re putting themselves through school, or they’ve got loans to pay off, and they could easily make more money selling their plasma or something, but they workthere because they LOVE it. Those are the people you want selling your book.

Always make friends with booksellers.

What do you wish authors knew about booksignings? How about the bookstores? What do you wish they’d do?
Authors: Don’t lose hope in small groups.
Bookstores: Treat authors as you would a guest in your home.

Repetitive Virginity

By Pari Noskin Taichert

My favorite time-stealing, attention-sucking, procrastination-aiding computer game is Tumblebugs. After each round, a humorous saying pops up as a kind of reward. My favorite is, "Confidence is what you feel before you understand the situation."

Ah, Dear Grasshopper, it’s true.

A few years ago, I was in full swing, agonizing about being a small-press author. Should I wait to see if BELEN would sell to a big NYC publisher? Would I doom myself to a tiny career by staying with the University of New Mexico Press? Oh, hell, what should I have for breakfast?

I’m sure most writers often succumb to this weird desire to try to predict the future. We’re victims of the feeling that a wrong move can cast us, and our works, into oblivion quicker than snow melting on a sunny sidewalk.

One of the people from whom I sought perspective was Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen Bookstore and PP Press fame.

She said, "Pari, you’re only a book virgin once."

Alas, my publishing cherry had already been popped.

Peters is right, though. Debut authors (Hey, J.T. and Alex, what do you think?) only have one chance to be fresh and new–without the outward expectations that come from a more established career.

However, I find it a tad inaccurate for those of us who have been at this profession a little longer.

Without lapsing into too much grooviness, I’d like you to look at this link. Here, you see THE FOOL in a traditional tarot deck. (I have a much prettier deck and might be persuaded to bring it to LCC or Malice this year — and do some readings — if enticed abundantly. But I digress . . . )

If you look at the card, you’ll see a youth, haversack on his back, dreamy and joyous expression on his innocent face. Look a little closer and you’ll notice he’s about to step off a cliff.

Yep. I think that’s a marvelous metaphor for how I’m feeling right now (and why the saying from Tumblebugs might be more apt).

Book #3 is at the publisher; I got the 13-digit ISBN on Friday. Rather than feeling the ennui of the initiated, I’m incredibly optimistic.

I’m not the only one who isn’t jaded, though experience might tempt many a writer to focus only on the negatives. Most novelists I know think that this, their next novel, might be the one that breaks out, that establishes unequivocally a career, that makes enough that they can relinquish half of their promotional responsibilities, or earns at least the dollars necessary for their children’s first year at a state university.

Indeed, I think many of us become blithering optimists with each new release AND with each project begun.

We become book virgins again and again and again . . .

What say you, fellow writers?
Do you feel this way? Or, do you exercise caution in your heart, know not to expect too much?

What say you, fellow readers?
Is there anything comparable in other fields? Heck, do you feel this way, too, each time one of your favorite authors comes out with a new book?

BTW:  A moment of gratitude and silence to honor MLK today. And, when you’re through with the quiet, go to this site and listen.

Mental Space: The Final Frontier

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Remember the storm I so rhapsodized last week? Well, it lost its charm.

After many a liqueur-laden snowshake, the reality hit. My kids’ more than two-week vacation was extended. The Albuquerque Public School system couldn’t handle the white stuff and cancelled three — yes, three — extra days of classes. Sure, the snowfall was an unprecedented event, but, hey, I NEED TO THINK!

I have wonderful children. They are not the problem.

It’s all in me.

When my kids are home (or my hubby, for that matter), even if they’re sitting quietly reading, my ears are cocked to listen for potential crises. Maybe it’s a mom thing. I don’t know.

What I do know is that it’s very difficult to pal around with the Muse when kids ask for snacks, the house is adrift in strewn toys, and the theme song from Arthur wafts through the air yet again. Yeah, I can close the office door, but that only lasts for so long. My kids are still in the conversation-through-the-bathroom-door stage.

Paul Guyot and others in our community have written marvelous pieces on self-discipline. Some people I know get up at 4 am to work. I’ve done it myself. But, when my kids are home, I need to be coherent. I need enough of my iffy sleep to respond to fights, broken dishes, and the ups and downs of home life.

I need to be able to drive to the store without hallucinating.

Frankly, if I got up consistently at 4 am, I’d need to go to bed at 8. Ladies and gentlemen — that’s simply not going to happen. Writer though I be, my family comes first. I can’t be a recluse, though sometimes I dream of doing just that.

Plus, I tried the 4 am technique to slam out THE SOCORRO BLAST. You know what happened? That first draft had the creativity of a chunk of stucco. That’s why I had to rewrite the whole damn thing.

So, it’s not productivity  . . . it’s the product. What I need is mental privacy, an empty house, a time when I’m not responsible for anyone or anything but my imagination.

Don’t get me wrong. I am writing every day.  I am showing up at the computer and slogging through pages of text. But, this forcing isn’t nurturing the story I need to tell.

How can I find a way to create a cocoon of mental quiet to allow myself the clarity and freedom to think?

Organization isn’t the issue here. It’s something more elusive.

I need a shroud of impenetrability, of undisturbed psychic space, to let the story unfold in my mind. This isn’t a question of being precious about my craft; it’s about finding a way to nourish creativity.

I know this is only a temporary set-back . . . sort of. The kids should be in school soon. But, I’ve been writing through motherhood long enough to know: Life intrudes. My spouse works full time out of the house. I’m the go-to person for all family events.

I AM NOT complaining.

I AM NOT looking for suggestions on scheduling.

What I want to know is:

How do you create, nurture and maintain the mental space for your imagination to thrive — especially if you’re stretched between demanding realities?

Any advice?

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Prepare to be amused by book biz definitions:

part 1


part 2

New blog:  Join me in congratulating Jeff Cohen and Deni Dietz — two Murderati alums — who have put together a new blog that opens its virtual doors today. Stop by http://www.heydeadguy.typepad.com and say, "Hi."