Friday, March 15, 2013

March Madness

Hello Y'all,

Don't take my absence personally (although you in the corner, in the yellow shirt, I do blame you. Jerk.).  March Madness is upon me, only it's not the kind that involves an orange ball and brackets and lanky young men.  Strange, because I live in the heart of basketball country.  No, my madness centers around several annual events that I help organize/attend/completely make a mess of/worry endlessly over/volunteer for, or by which my life and the lives of my family are consumed.  It's actually a short list of activities, but they all converge in a manner of weeks every March.  Hence, the crazy leaking out of my brains.

(When I met my husband, I told him that March was my favorite month because you never know what's going to happen.  One minute it's freezing and snowing - as it was last Saturday in Boston, where I attended the Association of Writing Professionals (AWP) conference - or it might be warm and breezy, like it was also last Saturday in Kentucky, where I returned from the Association of Writing Professionals conference.  Little did I know that March would be a predictable mess of volunteerism, rehearsals, and preparation.  Convergence.)

Let's just say I've been busy and leave it at that.  My poor dogs are a-sufferin'.  Today, I left and came back and left and came back and left and came back.  Charles the Terror was cooped up so long this happened:

Yes, that's Charlie's Positively Puppies graduation diploma that she angrily chewed up with a droplet of poo next to her pissed off face for extra emphasis.
The writing conference was eye-opening and rewarding, but not in the way that you might expect.  Yes, I went to many interesting panels, met one of my current favorite essayists (who signed a book while inconspicuously eyeing my name tag), and learned some great ideas about endings, structure, and publishing a collection of stories or essays.  But, just as in college, most of my learning happened extracurricularly or via social observations and interactions.

Allow me to illustrate:

  • I learned that just because you sit on a panel at a national conference featuring keynotes by two Nobel Prize Winners, you don't necessarily have something to say.  Case in point: the panel I attended about writing the "stealth memoir," or the memoir that appears to be about a person, place or thing (like cod or baseball, for example), but is also a personal journey for the writer.  This panel featured five writers.  The first two had beautifully written presentations that used their own work as examples.  The third reader made me want to hurl spitballs at his glasses as he chronicled his entire work history and began his unprepared monologue by telling us that a.) he used to be an alcoholic and b.) he decided not to tell us the prostitute joke.
  •  12,000 people in one building, granted a very big convention center, is not my bag.  I felt claustrophobic pretty much all weekend and hid in the hotel lounge every night with friends.  At one point, the rooms were so crowded that the Fire Marshall was called in and all exits were manned by police officers.  Crazy!
  • Escalators are excellent people-watching vehicles.  On one ride down, I saw writer Roxanne Gay heading up on the opposite elevator looking all non-challant while I wanted to shout out "Hey Roxanne!  You don't know me, but I think you're awesome!"  I restrained myself.  Another day I saw a man dressed up as a gladiator heading down the escalator, also looking all non-challant.  In case you are not aware that writers like to look artsy, here's what else I saw, although not always on the escalator: a curiously distracting couple (two women, one old enough to be the other's grandmother, but also very masculine-looking in a suit; young woman had long blonde hair and caressed the other woman's back during a panel; older woman had granny earrings and rings.  Fascinating.  No judgments on my part.  I found them intriguing and was sorry when they left early.); hats, capes, funky tights, big hair, big beards, scarves, nerd glasses, spiked hair, and of course tattoo sleeves.
  • I like my writing friends.  Not that I just learned that, but that I'm always inspired after seeing my MFA friends who live in Boston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Houston, Miami, Knoxville, L.A., and Phoenix.  I'm sure I missed a few.  Big love to you all!  
  • Paying for airfare, three meals/day, and hotel rooms may not be worth the expense, the expense being my jangly nerves.  Turns out that travel + 12,000 people kicks my anxiety level up to an 11.   My husband has called me a hothouse flower because I'm so sensitive.
  • You can get a good deal on paperbacks over at the W. W. Norton's table in the book fair!  40% off titles and free shipping.  My books arrived yesterday and I squealed:   
Available at
  •  That burning feeling in my chest and arm actually is hypertension.  See I'm falling apart!  New meds have made me a happy lady who feels incredibly old.

In other news . . . I met my goal and now have 50 FOLLOWERS!!!  Thank you old friends and new!

To keep my promise, here is the drawing I said I would post when I reached 50 followers.  Please note that I drew this in 1984 and ADD, while not diagnosed definitely had settled into my brain.  I was a fool for Duran Duran, but not fool enough to finish the damn drawing.

Happy Weekend, Everyone!


  1. I can totally relate to this. I don't do well in big crowds either. I used to work in higher ed as a director of a disabilities center. As a result, I attended a lot of professional conferences for disability services. It was always a very enlightening and learning experience for me. Many people who work in this are do so because they too have a disability. Thousands of people converged on a hotel who were blind, in wheelchairs, deaf, etc. There were seeing eye dogs everywhere. While it was a lovely experience and like you I made many good friends. I would go home exhausted from stimulus-overload, information-overload, and needing to suck my thumb in a corner to recover for a few days.

    1. Julie, that sounds like incredibly poor planning. I'm glad you're out of the rat race. My husband has a conference to attend and he's complaining because the whole thing is at a resort . . . where he's trapped and forced to eat overpriced food. He keeps saying, "and at the conference I'll be eating $15 sandwiches," and then grumping off.

    2. Well it was part of the conference-- people in disability services are often in that area because they have disabilities, so it was just the nature of the conference. It was a lot to take in the first couple of times I went-- a big learning curve on etiquette. I'm glad I went-- I grew in tolerance, understanding, compassion and respect, but I would go home exhausted from the vast acclimation it required and the pure people exposure of it all!

    3. That's wonderful. I'm glad you got so much out of it. I'm with you on feeling depleted afterwards. Still struggling to catch up on sleep.

  2. Couple points:

    1. I wanted to attend the Stealth Memoir panel, but my eyes turned out to be bigger than my ambition. I'm glad to hear that my world won't end from having missed it. Overall, I felt the panels were a really mixed bag.

    2. You and me both on the number of people in attendance. I'm glad I went, but I don't think I'll be making it an annual affair.

    3. Did you see the woman in the bunny ears? She was in at least two of my panels (on two different days). Maybe I would have had more fun if I'd dressed up?!

    1. Ah Bunny Ears, how could I forgot her? Some writers need attention more than others.

  3. You forgot the woman wearing bunny ears!

    Ok, so a couple of things:

    1. I LOVE your drawing. What prize will you give us when you reach 100 followers? Because I'm very goal-oriented. It's just who I am.
    2. I had post-AWP anxiety. I think I was fine when I was there because I was running on straight adrenaline. But I had a minor panic attack in the airport when they made me check my bag and then again when they lost it. (All was well. William personally delivered it.)
    3. Charlie is a naughty, naughty girl. I think Lola needs to discipline her - doodle style. ...which would involve Lola carrying Charlie around in her mouth, eating all her food, and not letting her play with any of the toys.

    1. Thanks! I may put a call out for what I should reward you all with when I reach 100.

      Sorry about the luggage incident. I would have fallen on the floor in a puddle of tears.

      Charlie is beyond naughty, but I'm to blame for not being home enough and giving her daily walks. Bad mommy.

  4. Replies
    1. Nope. Just I needed to approve it.

  5. i'm glad you're back safe and sound. you, going all over the place like the rock stars you so artistically capture in your drawing. congrats on 50 followers. would you do my portrait when you reach 100?

    1. Bev, I'd gladly do your portrait, only I have no clue what you look like, Mysterious Lady. Btw, I took your advice and began watching Call the Midwives. That's some good televised viewing. Also firmly ensconced in Sherlock. I'm such a BBC snob.

  6. Awesome drawing! Between you and Kate, I am totally terrified about ever attending AWP. I'm rethinking my plans for Seattle next year. On another note, thanks for letting me know that I'm not the only one who thinks March is a crazy month. Leave it to say that I now have a stress crick in my neck which makes me look like Quasimodo :) Thanks for your posts, they're always a delight to read.

    1. Thanks so much, Kristi! Sorry about the stress crick. Breathing normally seemed to help me :)

      Will I see you in Ireland this summer?

    2. Yes you will see me in Ireland! I'm so excited. As for the stress and crick...this too shall pass. Thanks, I will breathe normally and maybe chant- Om

    3. I think we're going to have a great group! Sounds like a few people who I already thought graduated are coming.

      Breathe and think of rolling green meadows overlooking dramatic cliffs.


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