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Friday, July 23, 2010

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A blogger is a person in your neighborhood.



But they were already well out of earshot, having split the second I uttered, "okay...," to their request to visit the adult pool, not waiting for the instructions that were coming with my next breath, taking the six-year-old with them, and leaving me to carry all the wet towels and crocs, as I hobbled after them, alternately yelling their full names and cursing under my breath. I was between yells when someone walked up beside me.

"You're kind of famous, huh?"

One of the teenage lifeguards.

"We saw you and your kids on the cover of the magazine by the front door," she said. "So, what's that about?"

I'm a representative of the simple joys of motherhood, I thought. And I'll tell you all about it as soon I get through screaming at my horrible children.

"I'm a writer," I told her. "And a blogger."


"Thanks," I said, managing to give her a sincere smile. "It really is."

And it is, though lately I feel more conspicuous than ever, with the boys' faces and mine shining out at us everywhere we go this month: the supermarket, the library, the gym, people's coffee tables and pool loungers. Now, Little Rock is a small town at heart, and every one here is conspicuous to some degree, but I'm lately experiencing more than the usual level of checkout lane regret, wishing I had at least put lipstick on, or thought to brush the kids' hair.

But I meant what I said to the lifeguard, and I hope she (and you) received it as gratitude, and not complacency, or worse, a boast. It's all incredibly, unbelievably cool. My manuscript is about to be typeset, and the mighty rudder of book marketing has begun to swing toward me with all its mysterious, thrumming, awesome power. It seems crazy to think that that people are scheduling meetings about me that aren't taking place in a principal's office. I'm probably driving my editor and agent nuts with all my greenhorn golly-gee goofiness.

Now that the book is done, I've got new things in the works with Good Housekeeping, which makes me very happy. There's lots to love about that gig, but my favorite has to be the emails I get from people who picked up an article or essay of mine in a waiting room, and were touched by it in some way. Enough to take note of my name, and google it, hours or days after they've finally seen the mechanic or doctor. Listen, I don't care how nicely decorated a waiting room is, or how big the plasma tv, they are horrible, soul-less places. To think that anything I wrote can offset the suction in some small measure, that's a great feeling. What writer doesn't live for that, to shine a little light into the dead zones?

(And then I paused in drafting this, and took the kids to the craft store, where I got cranky because I didn't get my way, and cashed in all my karmic reward points on making some poor cashier's day a little more sucktastic. I'm all about balance, see?)

Anyway, my point is, it's all good. And it's all relative.

I'm pretty sure I write some variation on this theme every six months, but the relativity of achievement is something I keep having occasion to revisit, like when I read this post by Fawn, about working through her feelings on not being included in the "13 Bloggers You Should Read" list that accompanied the Little Rock Family article. I know that she wasn't only local blogger who felt left out. It's inevitable with that kind of thing that someone will be. Actually, it's inevitable with nearly every kind of thing.

I know that feeling so well. Not from way-back-when. I know it today. At every level of accomplishment, lurking behind every wild dream come true, there is always a list I didn't make, a party I wasn't invited to, a person I wish would be my friend but won't, a trip that left me behind, an opportunity I wasn't offered. There is always a reason to ask, why not me? It always feels crappy. If anything, I get my feelings hurt more often, because my exposure is greater. I'm left out of better parties, more exciting trips, more prestigious lists.

What changes, what gets better with all this torture valuable practice, is that I've gotten pretty good at letting go of both the question and the crappy feeling. As Fawn concluded so wisely and bravely, it's not helpful. It's the opposite of helpful. It's quicksand. You've got to learn to get out of that shit as fast as you possibly can, because, believe me, you are going to be continually stepping into it.

I've been tied up the past week or so with the Author's Questionnaire, which is some kind of publicist's intake form (and is way more fun if you administer it to yourself in the manner of James Lipton). When asked to list my literary influences, I had to credit poet Gary Snyder, with something he said in a Q&A period after a reading of his I attended years so. I've absorbed it so completely, I no longer have the original words, only the transubstantiated thought, which is that it's an honorable and important thing to write for your own community, whether that happens to be a few people, or a few million. I believe he used the words "sacred" and "tribe," because Gary Snyder is a buddha ninja wizard or something, and can get away with talking like that.

That truth entered my being and never left it. Writing is a service vocation. It's not about serving my ambitions or ego, though I possess plenty of both. It's not about the blog traffic, circulation numbers or the Amazon sales rank, though I am far from above those concerns. It's not about convincing people "out there" to notice me, applaud me, love me, though I crave all that. It's about adding something to one person's day: what author Dan Pink calls "leaving an imprint." It's about giving somebody something to smile about as they drink their morning coffee, or something to ponder in the car pool line. It's about illuminating the waiting rooms.

The beautiful thing--the sling-and-arrow-proof part of it--is that you don't have to wait on anyone else's okay to accomplish that. If you have a blog, and you have even a few regular readers, embrace them as your tribe. Write for the people who've already given you the honor of their attention. As if they were the most important, influential readership you'll ever have. As if it were sacred. They are. It is.

And enjoy anonymously yelling at your children and wearing no lipstick in public while you still can.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

We are Family

I'll admit, picking up a national magazine in the checkout lane or at an airport newsstand, and seeing my name in it is pretty cool. But there's something extra special about being recognized in my own community. My kids think so too. They shrug every time I show them a photo of themselves that happens to be lying around a doctor's waiting room, but they almost knocked me down to grab the first copies of this months's Little Rock Family magazine out of my arms. The article that accompanies my cover boys' shot begins on page 20. The uncut version of my tips for bloggers can be read here. Bonus feature: every time you catch me contradicting one of them, take a drink.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

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Uh-oh, Po!

Crime Scene: Outside the main bathroom door, July 7, 2010, 0900 hours.


Suspect: Big brown eyes, excessive facial hair. Does ridiculously cute thing with one ear. A person of interest in several shoe heists and Webkinz kidnappings.


Victim: Former television celebrity. British citizen. Cult member. Scooter aficionado.

(Warning: the following evidence may be too graphic for some viewers)



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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

Say Hello to His Little Friend


For eleven years, my eldest son has lived under a benevolent, but totalitarian, regime that would not recognize his Second Amendment rights. Then, certain interfering foreign powers (his Canadian grandmother) sent him a little money as an end-of-school gift, and a requisition for a Nerf gun was rashly approved, because--hey, how much damage can you do with foam bullets?

Thanks to an international network of Nerf insurrectionists, posting tutorials like this one to YouTube, we're about to find out.


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