A weepy mess

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Over the past months, I have taken part in a flash fiction competition. This past weekend, we just completed the third of a potential four rounds.

The basis of the contest is this, you are assigned a genre, a location and an object and you have 48 hours to write a 1,000 word story. The time pressure and adhering to the assignment make it both difficult and delicious.

Part of what makes this particular flash fiction contest my favorite is that the organizers provide a forum for contestants. Once they have confirmed they have received your entry, you are allowed to post your story and let your fellow writers give you a review.

It takes about a month for the official judges to finish their work, so these peer reviews are so amazing and valuable and certainly help pass the time while we wait for results.

I have read a wide range of stories on the review forum, in a wide range of genres. Genres I might not normally read, actually.

I’ve read well-written stuff, questionable stuff, and downright awful stuff. But this particular group of writers is so supportive and encouraging, that you can post something not-so-good and you’ll get helpful, useful feedback.

I look forward to getting the chance to read these freshly minted stories. At one thousand words a pop, they are quick hits. I’m always startled at how much story we amateur writers can cram into such a tiny space.

This is the second year of the contest, and there is a group of us that have been there from the start. It’s great to watch us grow in our skills.

Today, one of my peers, one who has been there from the first, posted a story of such amazing beauty and so well wrought, that I was left a weepy, sniffling mess here at my desk at work.

I don’t care if the author is professional, rank amateur, or somewhere in between. You know good writing when you read it.

I’m just stunned at the story this person has created. She had exactly the same amount of time I did to write this story and all the same constraints but she has crafted a piece that runs *circles* around my entry.

I am humbled. And you know what, that makes me want to work harder.

I would link to the story, but I don’t have permission. Also, the story may not hit you the same way it did me. Writing is so subjective, what works doesn’t work for everyone.

I guess the point of my post was just to vent out what I’m feeling. Moved. Humbled. Determined.

And resolved to keep working harder at this art that baffles me, drives me nutty and give me passion.

Here I go….

The three books on my bedside table

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Here’s what’s been lingering around my bedside table over the last month. Click the book cover for the link to Amazon for more info.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

This one was a gift from my best friend when she came out to visit about a month back. She is head of the English department where she teaches, and so gets to read a LOT of books to evaluate for use in class. Thus, she’s got really great taste in books. This one was a winner!

The author, Ms. Walls is a freelance writer and sometime contributor to CNN. She writes her real life story in what can only be the definition of non-fiction that reads like fiction. She’s got an amazing writing style and an even more amazing story to tell.

She and her siblings were brought up by nomadic, and in the case of her dad, alcoholic, but well meaning parents. It was an early life raised mostly in poverty and marked by drifting from town to down, or “doing the skedaddle,” when things get tight. There’s also a theme of outrageous parenting decisions.

Ms. Walls has an amazing ability to tell the story with non-judgment and even respect for her parents, who she comes to see almost as children through her adult eyes by the end of the book.

It is a can’t put down read. And if you *ever* thought you might have had some, erm, oddities, in your own growing up. Well. This will put all of that right into perspective. It’s almost unbelievable, it’s so outlandish.

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As They See ‘Em: – A Fan’s Travel in the Land of Umpires by Bruce Weber

The Good Man had heard the author, Bruce Weber, on NPR, and talked about the interview and this book’s concept very excitedly.

TGM and I are both huge baseball fans, and this was a little understood aspect of the game for us.

The concept is that Weber, a baseball fan, and a reporter for the New York Times, was sent to umpire school in order to write a story for the paper. That set off a much larger odyssey to discover what really goes on in the land of professional umpires.

You get two aspects in this book, one, Weber’s own struggle with learning the aspects of umpiring, such as stance, where to go on what plays, how to call a strike, how to yank your mask off without upsetting your hat, and always, always keeping command of the game.

The other aspect was talking to actual big league veteran umpires. Hearing their stories, talking about their history, the big threatened ump walkout in 1999 that adversely affected plenty of men, and so on.

I found this book hard going through a lot of it. Though I loved the concept, I thought Weber labored the point an awful lot. I get it. Umps are the goats of the game. No one likes them. They are treated crappy. When they do their job right, they are ignored, and when they make a mistake, they are yelled at, name called and in some cases physically threatened.

But, to be fair, I also learned a lot from this book. I watch the umps a little more closely now to see how they do their job and I give them quite a bit more leeway in making tough calls in a game.

It was sort of strange timing, but just as I was reading this book, I witnessed three of the worst umpired games I’ve ever seen in the many, many years I’ve been watching baseball. There were egregious bad calls, and try as I could, with a new outlook from reading Weber’s book, I couldn’t accept the terrible calls.

But, as Weber is quick to point out, those kind of situations are not the norm, and truly, umps are the metronome that keeps baseball playing in perfect rhythm.

An essential part of the game.

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And currently, I’m about halfway into a Michael Crichton book called Timeline.

I haven’t read a Crichton in quite a while and I always did love his style.

Ok, to be fair, this isn’t great American literature. This is a good, easy summer read. The first 100 pages were deadly boring, but as Crichton always does, soon after, he hooked me right in.

And now, I’m in for the ride. I don’t care of his explanations are based on shaky science, I’m BOUGHT in baby!

This is a classic time travel book. A group of research assistants are sent back to Medieval times to rescue their professor who’s gotten himself stuck back there. Only, the home base necessary to get them back home, the evil labs that sent them, has just experienced a massive explosion.

This book has the added bonus that the evil labs, makers of the time travel devices are located in…wait for it….New Mexico! Over by Gallup.

So okay!

TGM read this book on the plane when we traveled in May, and I read snippets over his shoulder, so I’m happy to dive in. So far, so good.

There you go, that’s what I’m up to.

What are you reading these days?

Juvenile Humor = On

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“…watchers are flocking to Conchas Lake State Park near Tucumcari after the first confirmed sighting of a…booby in New Mexico.”

Well I’m sure it’s not the *first* time people have gone booby watching at Conchas Lake. But whatever.

Don’t you just love ellipses? They can do so much to change the tenor of reporting.

I feel like a true media denizen now!

Ok, ok, here’s the real quote from this ABQJournal story:

“Bird-watchers are flocking to Conchas Lake State Park near Tucumcari after the first confirmed sighting of a blue-footed booby in New Mexico.”

I guess it’s rather a big deal!

>

Alternately intrigued and repulsed

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Hanging in the ladies room at a restaurant where The Good Man and I eat quite a bit is the below:

It is “Gli Italiani si Voltano – Milano – 1954” by Gianni de Biasi.

The title means, according to BabelFish, “The Italians turn themselves”.

Here’s the poster (click for a large version)

I am utterly fascinated by this photograph. I first started looking at it closer, because my best friend and I are talking about a girl’s trip to Italy next year.

We’ve all heard the stories, right? Is this what Italy is all about?

I have no idea the story behind this photograph, but along with being totally can’t-take-my-eyes-off it intrigued, it also scares the hell out of me.

It’s so…visceral. The look on the faces of all the men… You are pretty sure you know what they are thinking. And she, dressed in white, little Red Riding Hood plunges, fearlessly, into the pit of wolves.

The guy to her left, with his bottom lip tucked into his teeth TOTALLY thinks he’s got a chance. I mean, that dude is pretty sure he’s going to score. Which makes me hate him.

The guy to her right on the scooter looks skeptical. Perplexed. Dare I say, scholarly? For that reason, he’s the one I’m into. I’d choose him.

I have no idea who the woman is or what she looks like from the front, but my god, that kind of male attention is both craved and rejected by women.

How can she be so confident walking into that? Does she possess the certainty of a truly beautiful woman? Is she actually terrified but hides it well? Is she an Italian woman and thus used to ignoring this kind of stuff?

It conflicts me. I’m not a feminist. It doesn’t make me angry like “she deserves more respect!”

But I’m also not an old fashioned gal either of the “boys will be boys” fey sort of excuse making.

I can’t quite cipher out what it is that gets to me about this photograph. But oh, it gets to me.