1st day at my “job”

Yesterday I spent the day at HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher), a program at Wayne State founded to help homeless college students. The office is in an incredible mansion, beautiful woodwork and a grand staircase. At first I was OK, even though I had to watch umpteen videos about making videos. I got signed up to follow most of the program’s social media platforms, except Instagram. I got bored when I got to Instagram. Then a little chica led me around the office demonstrating the copier, the laminator, the binder (but not the coffee machine, which would have been helpful) and gave me a scolding because I declined to be checked out on the various cameras. She said, very seriously, that if the official videographer weren’t in the office and something came up, I might be sent to make a video.

Maybe if the zombie apocalypse came — no, I’d be too busy running away. But she was cute.

Anyway, after that I started to hate the job. I knew that would happen: I’ve hated and wanted to go home from every job I’ve ever started. Probably going back to my Burger King experience. There’s always a point during the day when I want to leave.

Then in the afternoon I was asked to check one of the students’ writing. I felt like myself again. Constant mistakes. I actually had to stop and ask her what one word meant. (She was trying to write “co-align,” which I don’t think is a word.) I did a lot of work on two pieces of writing and could have done a lot more. I don’t know, was I meant to rewrite the entire thing? I opted not to.

None of the social media posts were recent. Maybe they use Instagram for most of their posting, because there isn’t much anywhere else, not even the blog. I wonder what the kids are doing. It’s important for the program to spread its news as far as possible. I’ll look into it a little more tomorrow.

It’s what I wanted: a nice office where I can wear my office clothes and never work nights, weekends or holidays. I work 9-5, which means rush hour, but you be patient (and pee before you leave). I JUST WISH THEY WERE PAYING ME!!!

Trench with water up to knees
Great War British soldiers in a flooded trench.

This is not the job I want.

Today I had a guy come and finish the bookshelves. It turns out that Buster and I could never have finished them ourselves. They had to be glued and hammered together. Anyway, now I can clean up some of the piles of books that are presently on the floor and the dining room chairs. The living room should look positively airy without all these books.

My writing group meets tonight, my Meetup group. I submitted the first half of “Wendy.” The first comment I got came from a guy who didn’t understand the structure or the setting and suggested that the story come with an explanation in the form of an introduction. Thanks, dude, but it has to stand or fall on its own. And you just didn’t get it. Hopefully someone else will. They are all very bad writers, but that doesn’t meant they won’t be helpful critiquers.

I sort of wish I weren’t going there.

Next week I start working out with my new trainers Tues. and Thurs. So, that makes four days I have a reason to get out of bed. On Fridays, I will have to make up something. Buster was coming here every two weekends. We agreed that once a month would be good enough, but that means another Sat.-Sun. I have to find something to do. I will miss him terribly. Last Sunday I wrote seven pages of “Tin Soldiers.” I sent my critique group — the good one — the original 2-1/2 pages of what, apparently, was a second draft. I don’t remember writing a second draft. I think I should print out the entire version I gave to the novel seminar I went to, the one where my poor novel was shredded. And deservedly so, which is why it hurts so much.

The central questions remain: Why does Emmy run off? That’s obvious to me. She has nowhere else to go. She can stay and be a servant at her present landlady’s, or she can go into the convent and take the veil. Why does she pretend to be Edwina? Because she’s not old enough to go to be a VAD as herself. WHY DOES SHE WANT TO BE A VAD??

And what hospital does she go to? That $150 book I ordered got canceled. Turns out they didn’t have it in stock… The things are rare as hen’s teeth, so they just plain sold the single copy they ever laid their hands on. I can get one for $300 — do I dare? Is this novel worth that amount of money? If I don’t get a job, I will be living on a dime. No money for tickets, no money to travel. Right now I have that money, though I would be smarter to save all the extra. I am saving some. But I want this book very badly.

If only I could find a job. I’m hoping that I make enough of an impression on the president’s wife who founded HIGH that she will find me a campus job… Well, it could happen! Meanwhile, the ineffectual hunt goes on. When I get back from Roanoke, I will throw myself into the hunt more vigorously, and maybe I will even dare to try for a copy writing job. Go to Kelly Services. Anywhere.

Maybe, maybe.

 

Triumph and slumber

I read the first three pages of “Tin Soldiers” to my critique group last night and got raves! I was so excited and proud. It’s a completely different beginning from the first draft — instead of being told that her sister has drowned, Emmy jumps into the river and tries to save her. There was a little choreography that puzzled everybody, but I’ll try to fix it. Otherwise, I got lots of positive feedback, and I’m very happy.

One negative thing: I missed brunch with my best friend Esther, because I couldn’t wake up. I got up at 12:30, in time to go to the gym (where I found that my new trainer was absent). I do get to see Esther on Saturday, so all is not lost.

I wish I didn’t have to sleep so much. I try to time my night meds to put me to sleep at a decent hour and wear off at a decent hour, but that’s not how it works out sometimes. I hate being a person who needs so much sleep.

Right now I need to eat, but that’s another story. I actually threw away some chocolate. It didn’t taste that good and I knew I would eat it, anyway, and be disappointed, so I just pitched it. I have never done such a thing before: I have enough chocolate in the house to withstand a nuclear winter, but I could never have imagined that I would discard any of it. I’m actually sort of proud of myself. I’m trying to clear the house of things someone else would want and I never use. I’m following the Tidying Up rules: If it doesn’t give you joy, get rid of it. If it does give you joy, keep it no matter what it is. I threw away half my clothes when I first read “The Life-Changing Magic.” After clothes comes books, and I have plenty I could get rid of, but where? My library doesn’t want them. The last time I gave them any, they were very rude. I actually didn’t set foot in the place for YEARS, not till I got outsourced and needed someplace bright to go. Someplace where I wouldn’t spend money — I could sit for hours in a coffeehouse.

Anyway, I discovered that some of the books I’ve saved for years because I love the authors are books I don’t really want to keep. I wonder what proportion of my library would disappear if I got rid of everything I no longer want… I used to keep a list of what I read at LibraryThing.com, but I fell behind when I started bringing home mysteries — like, every book an author wrote, all in a big stack. I suppose I should enter my books at Goodreads.com, and write little reviews of them so clever that I would build up a following, but I swallow books so fast, that would only annoy me.

Believe in your work

 

Last night I wrote four pages of “Tin Soldiers.” That makes nine pages this week, but I’m not confident of them. I might have to rewrite my second draft as I go. I started to waver last night, thinking this is too much of a goal and I’ll never make it. I did some research and realized my understanding of the war on the home front is pretty shallow. I can buy some resources that include newspaper articles of the time for each city in a Great War project in Britain, but do I want to spend the money? And which cities do I want the details of? And should I get the Kindle versions, just so I don’t have more books lying around? The war shelves are overflowing as it is. I have too many books about the American Army that I don’t even want.

www.amazon.com/wishlist/war

I gave in and purchased a $150 book about VADs. Can’t send it back. I felt a little sick, like I was jumping into a river, just like Emmy, only I was trying to rescue myself.

“Believe in your work.” That’s what I tell other writers. Never stop trying to make it better, and never stop. You’re not a loser if you decide to set one project aside and go on with another. Just go on.

This is the only project I want to go on with. “Egypt” is what it is. I’m showing “Wendy” to my other group. And I’m showing my memoir to no one, not right now.

I have to set my heart on “Tin Soldiers.”

101-0167_IMG

Night Soldiers — what?

The title of my book is not “Night Soldiers”! I gave that up years ago, when the heroine was Polly and she was a nurse, then a maid, then a nurse again.

It’s “Tin Soldiers”! “TIN”! Mary Margaret (Emmy) Leary runs off after her sister drowns to become a volunteer nurse aide, known as a V.A.D., in World War I England.

I figured out that if I wrote 10 pages a week, by my birthday, June 27, I should have 200 pages, and one of them should include “The End.” It’s a second draft. It has to go faster than the first draft. I just have to factor in time for research. I made some stuff up the first time that was not all accurate to period. There’s a limit to how close I can get to reality from this side of the pond, but I’ll do my best. I just needed more books, which I’d rather not buy … but there’s no place I can borrow them. The Detroit Public Library system doesn’t happen to have anything on Britain on the home front during the Great War.

10 pages a week should be doable, right? The big question I have to answer is: Why does she run off impersonating her sister?

Why would she do something like that? It’s the sort of thing I wish I would do myself, but I’m much too shy. I could never make myself walk onto a ward of wounded soldiers — I wouldn’t even be able to speak to the nurses. It takes me a while to warm up to people. Emmy doesn’t have that kind of time, she jumps into the deep end of the pool — sorry, bad taste, considering her sister drowned — and has to swim no matter what.

Connie is her advocate, but why? What is it about Emmy that draws Connie to her from the outset?

So, there are two big questions and then lots of little ones, all of them starting with “Why?” If I can’t make sense of these things, the reader will never believe me.

Helmet girl
Here I am in my tin hat in Romagne, France, near the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial.

10 pages a week. I can do it. I’ve carried this book next to my heart for years now. It came to me after my first three trips to the Front, after I got over my sex novel. Everyone should write a sex novel. Then destroy it.

Buster weekend

Buster is here. We spent about eight hours watching a dystopian kids show from Britain. I told him it scared me when the bad guys show up, but we just kept watching. I finally sent him to bed at nearly midnight.

We got the new printer. Epson, on sale for $59, but the ink is shocking, of course. We got it set up together, but the wireless network isn’t working. Guess we’ll have to connect it manually, or use a cable. I’m sure it will be great once it’s going. Adding hardware is always a pain. Nothing ever works without requiring you to screw around for half a day. I’m glad I don’t need it for anything, though I do want it. In other irritations, the dishwasher leaked all over the floor and now has nearly 3 inches of stinking water in the bottom. Perhaps it’s merely clogged? I found a description of how to unclog a dishwasher, followed by how to clean a dishwasher. That will give us a project for tomorrow.

I asked if he would mind switching to once a month. He carefully said: If that’s OK with you. Probably he’s not disappointed, but I wasn’t sure. Still, asked the question, got an answer. I can’t start pressuring him to reply in another way. That’s as bad as asking him: What are you thinking?, which I think I have done twice in 13 years, so feeling pretty good about that.

He says school is going well. I never ask him about his grades. He knows Alix tells me. Sometimes I have given him lectures about them, but I try to be the quiet place, a place set apart from his daily life, where no one yells at him. Not that I never yell at him. I have a terrible temper.

Just not as bad as Alix’s.

Busy Bee came over for a few hours this afternoon to drop him off. I have done a good job of choosing toys and books for her. Also, I let her get into the Nutella, so Nana’s is a house worth visiting. We did watch TV, but she is a TV girl, comes from a TV household, and I can hardly criticized when I’ve just watched eight hours straight with Buster.

No work on “Soldiers” today. After the first three pages came out so well and so easily, I got kind of scared. Maybe I can’t really improve upon it the way I hope. Maybe my goals are not realistic. Too soon to give up.

This is Saturday. I have to keep reminding myself. Tomorrow we are having a good breakfast, fixing the printer, fixing the dishwasher and loading the car for Goodwill. I need to get a lot of stuff out of here — every one of the jigsaw puzzles, for instance. There’s not much chance I will ever work another one, unless Busy gets into it, and then I can always buy her a new one.

 

Back to WWI

Hand

I decided to rewrite “Night Soldiers,” getting more accurate to the period and putting more emphasis on the mystery. I started with a much more detailed description of the drowning. I want to try for a more original use of language in descriptions, better similes and so forth. When I get stuck, I’ll pretend to be Hemingway and rewrite the last sentence again and again. I don’t know that he actually did this, but it sounds like a good idea, anyway.

My nails are too long for typing — a stupid problem, but troublesome all the same. Now I’m started, I don’t want to stop and cut them.

Maureen recommended printing the manuscript out again and re reading it. I can only remember the big set pieces, none of which satisfies me. Maybe the in-between parts are better than I can recall.

Unfortunately, the printer has stopped working. For some reason, the computer no longer recognizes it. I had to go to Kinko’s on Tuesday to print out pages for my Meetup writing group (Good Lord, are they ever terrible).

I think I’ll take Buster with me to buy a new one. He can help get it connected. Or I’ll get him to do it himself. It will be a good learning experience.

I’m going to stop expecting him to come over every other weekend and propose that we just get together once a month. I don’t know what Alix will say, but I bet he will be pleased.

I woke up depressed this morning after last night when I felt so positive and hopeful — unfortunately that was mania, not real life. I’m keeping to my decision to hire a trainer. I think it will make a huge difference in terms of energy, focus and just to have the company. I want to go six weeks; that’s how long it take to get into a habit. My mother used to say, “You can stand on your head for six weeks if you have to.” I’m not sure how that was meant to be helpful

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. Starting with a trainer should help me reverse my sleep cycle so that I can get up and blog or work on “Night Soldiers” instead of staying up till 3 and waking up, slowly, at noon. I need to eat now. I did have breakfast at 10, then I went back to bed. So that was a long time ago, food wise.

I bought a fancy Here-are-the-ingredients-and-instructions-ready-set-GO meal. It serves two so I will have to eat it twice, even if it sucks.

I got Kathy some raspberries, but I’m not sure when I can see her. Maybe Monday? I need to get a locksmith and take Mocha to the vet — I think his ears are infected again.

And I need a handyman. I just need light bulbs for him to install and smoke detectors, and then I can hire someone. I miss Roger.

I wonder what all I will have to do this house in order to move out of it. I can’t imagine how I will be able to sell it to make enough money to buy another house, but I don’t want to rent for the next 20 years.

Now what?

Act I: Growing up, college, marriage, children.

Act II: 30 years of copy editing at the Detroit Free Press while children grew up, went off to college, got married and so forth. I have twins who, between the two of them, have supplied me with two sons-in-law and two grandchildren.

Act III: Now that I’ve left the Free Press, I sort of have to figure out what to do with myself. I would like to work in a nice office in my office clothes and always have nights, weekends and holidays off. This is my quantifiable goal.

But it isn’t what I really want. I want to be a published writer.

Over the past two years, I’ve written a short story, a children’s story, a picture book, a memoir, a novella and a bad novel. None of them has ever been rejected… because none of them has ever made it past a critique group. My comrades praise my work, I make the tweaks they suggest (though there’s no tweaking that novel), and then I leave hard copies, flash drives and computer files lying around everywhere, waiting for the submissions fairy to come.

I want to be like Liane Moriarty and Emma Donoghue. I want to have written “The War That Saved My Life” and “The War I Finally Won.” When I wish on a star, which is the principal reason I walk out with my dog at night, I say, “I wish I could write something really good that makes a lot of money, but is really good.” Kirkus and cash and the NY Times.

I wish I could. Meanwhile, I can’t think of one word. Not one.