Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Memoir

May 24, 2011

All my life, people have told me I should write a book.

My first short stories were potboilers about cheating dogs and doggie love triangles. No, really. My first short story, at 8, was about a trio of German Shepherds named King, Queenie & Jackie, with Queenie and Jackie vying for King’s affections. This is what happens when a chubby girl with an overactive imagination combines her love of the family pet with stories overheard from gossipy neighbors. 

In college, my Anecdotal Writing professor told me I had book material and even offered to work with me to shape it into a memoir. I thought he was crazy. Those were just some stories about my crazy family. But everyone’s got a crazy family. Why would anyone want to read about mine?

Besides, no one was writing “memoir” back then. It was called “autobiography” and only famous people wrote them.

When I began blogging about parenting and started my own self- titled blog, people said, “I enjoy your writing. So where’s the book?”

So after 20+ years of hearing, “you should write a book,” I decided, “You know? They’re right!”

And I had all these great stories about my family and kids and ex-boyfriends already written. All I’d have to do is flesh out the family life, add a bit about the awful marriage, end on a happy note with newfound love, and I’d be done.

Then people started opting out of my life story.

The first was my sister. She had been one of the most vocal proponents of “you should write a book” until I wrote a post that mentioned, in passing, something about her. Some moment where our experiences crossed.

“Don’t write about my life,” was the terse private message I received after that post.

I didn’t write about her life. I wrote about my life. Except…I do have five siblings. Three brothers and two sisters. Writing about my childhood will be a bit challenging if I don’t get to mention at least something about being the youngest of six.

I don’t have to tell you about the paths their lives have taken. Those are not my stories to tell.

But if I’m telling a story about riding the Bob-Lo Boat to Bob-Lo Island as a child, it’ll be hard to tell that story without mentioning who I was on the boat with. Perhaps I should only mention the stories where my sister looks really smart and I’m just the dumb little sister. That might work.

Next was…well, I can’t tell you that. I’m not supposed to mention anything about my current r___________. What’s a r___________? I can’t tell you, but this video may give you a clue:

But I can’t talk about it. Not on my blog. Not in my memoir. So much for ending on a happy note.

So it seems the only relationships I can discuss in the book are the failed ones: the marriage and the high – or low – lights of those that preceded it.

And I’ve got some great failed relationship stories.

A friend suggested I avoid complaints from the subjects of those great stories by saying each one of them had a small penis.

I was thinking the opposite. I should give them all large penises. Maybe if I Super Size all my exes, they’ll be so flattered they won’t complain about whatever else it is I might have to say about them.

But I guess I’ll have to allude to the happy ending by way of lessons learned.

Which may not be such a bad thing. A lot can happen between writing and publication. And perhaps it’s best not to write about anyone until they’ve been a part of my life for a minimum of ten years.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here, trying to figure out how to tell the story of my life in isolation. Wish me luck.

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Cameran’s Camera: The Pearl Talk Show Script

April 10, 2010

My daughter read John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” for her 7th Grade ELA class, and was assigned to write a talk show script that identified the book’s central conflict.  She got a perfect score on the assignment.  I thought the work was so good, I decided to share it with you.  So, from my guest poster, Cameran: here’s the Cameran’s Camera script.

Cameran’s Camera

Me: Hello fans, and welcome to my show! My name is Cameran, and this is Cameran’s Camera!

Theme song plays

Me: Today we are doing a special segment on the world’s favorite piece of green paper: money, and how it can make people do the most unbelievable things. The show will be called “When Money Turns Other Types of Issues Green.” Here on the show with me today are various characters from the book The Pearl. Right now, I am going to bring out Kino, and he knows better than anyone how money can ruin your life. So here he is ladies and gentleman, Kino!

Crowd claps

Kino walks on stage

Me: Kino! Hi, how are you today?

Kino: Very well, thank you for having me.

Me: No problem, have a seat.

Kino sits

Me: So let’s cut to the chase, shall we? You know better than most people how badly you can screw up your life when money gets involved in the picture don’t you?

Kino: Umm…Well…I guess I do…

Me: Oh c’mon! Tell us the story!

Kino: Umm…Well it all started when my wife and I were fishing on the Gulf, and found the Pearl of the World.

Me: The Pearl of the World? That sounds intense, explain what you mean by that.

Kino: It is what we called it, because it was the largest pearl I had ever seen in my life. It was about the size of an ostrich egg. The pearl was also the most beautiful one too…I loved that pearl…

Kino sighs

Me: You keep talking about this in the past tense, what happened to you and this pearl?

Kino: That thing destroyed my life! It hurt my family, it hurt me, and it killed my baby! In the end, there was nothing left to do except throw it back into the sea where it belonged.

Me: The pearl could not have killed your baby and ruined your family itself…

Kino: Don’t be stupid, of course it did not do all of this itself. I became its slave. I did all those things to my family because I was trying to save the pearl so that I could give my family a better life.

Me: Wow, kind of ironic huh? You destroy your family by protecting the thing you think is going to save you, and then you end up just throwing it away in the end.

Kino: I know…and now my own wife will not even talk to me! As soon as we got back to our village, she left me! She said that I needed to know what I wanted before she could consider being with me again. She said that I needed to learn what was important in my life.

Me: If you could speak to her again, what would you say?

Kino: I would apologize for what happened to our son, I would tell her I loved her!

Me: Well today is your lucky day because tonight, I have her here, backstage in the studio, waiting to talk to you. Come on out Juana!

The crowd claps

Juana walks out

Me: Hello Juana, have a seat!

Juana sits

Juana: This is a waste of my time.

Juana rolls her eyes/crosses her arms

Me: Okay then…Kino, why don’t you say to Juana what you said to me just now.

Kino: Well…Umm, I—

Juana: Save it, do not waste your breath. There is nothing you can say to me now that will change my decision about leaving you!

Kino: But Juana, I love you!

Juana: How could you?! Why did you do what you did?! How could you!?

Kino: I only did it to save us! I thought that by doing whatever necessary to save the pearl, it would prove to you and to myself that I was worth it, and that we all deserved it!

Juana: But you know that I do not need all the material possessions to make me happy Kino! Why do you not understand that? I loved you Kino, and I still do, but you have always wanted so much more than what is right in front of you…Why couldn’t you just accept what we had?

Kino: We had nothing Juana! We barely had enough for the both of us, let alone…Coyotito…I am a man! And as a man, it is my job to make sure my family has everything!

Juana: Do you still not understand?! We did have everything, we had each other! But since you felt the need to have everything, we lost everything we had before. We lost our son, our house, our friends, our town, our pride…our marriage…

Me: Wow, this is intense…if you do not mind me asking, why can’t you just go back to the way things were before?

Juana: I cannot just go back to the way things were!!!!!! Do you know what it is like to want to lose so much when all you wanted is a little more??

Me: I know what it is like to want, and not get it…and that is what happened to you guys right?

Kino and Juana nod simultaneously

Me: To slightly alter the topic, I hear that there were some other people involved with the pearl. Is that true?

Kino and Juana: Ummm…

Me: So I take that as a yes right?

Kino: Sort of. The doctor “cured” Coyotito right after he found out we had the pearl, and said we could repay him when we got the money from it.

Me: That’s funny, because I have the doctor with me right now! Come on out doctor!

The doctor walks on stage

Crowd claps

Me: Hello doctor, why don’t you take a seat?

Doctor: Okay

Doctor sits

Me: You do remember the Pearl of the World right?

Doctor: Of course I do!  I was supposed to receive some of the money that was made from it, but Kino still cannot pay me back for my duties.

Kino: I could not sell the pearl, and I could not continue living with the evil it brought to my family and me.

Doctor: Not to worry, it is still the most prized possession in the village.

Me: Still? I thought Kino and Juana disposed of it?

Doctor smiles

Doctor: They may have thrown it back into the water, but they did not get rid of it. It only took a few weeks for the word to spread that you two were no longer in the possession of the pearl, and it only took a few more weeks after that for me to find where it was.

Doctor takes out package

Doctor opens package

Crowd gasps

Juana, Kino, and I gasp as well

Me: Is that…

Juana: Is that…??

Kino: THE PEARL

Doctor: Yes, now I have the Pearl of the World, and all the wealth will finally be mine! I will be getting what I deserve…

Juana: How…I do not understand, how could you have found it!?

Doctor rolls his eyes

Doctor: I have already explained this to you, I had my men search for it.

Kino: Why have you brought this to me!? Why have you brought back the evil to us!?

Doctor: What is so evil about a little extra money? I have brought it because I got an offer at the capital, and I believe you will find the price extremely reasonable

Doctor whispers in Kino’s ear

Kino’s eyes widen

Doctor: I am willing to split the money with you and your family, if you agree to come back to the village and be my personal pearl diver. You and your family would be able to stay in my mansion, and live the very luxurious life that I have. What do you think?

Kino: Oh. My. God.  Juana! We can—

Juana: NO! Absolutely NOT! There is no way I am having anything to do with that pearl Kino! Let him have it, let him live in hell until he gets rid of it, and realizes that no amount of money in the world is worth sacrificing sanity.

Kino hesitates

Doctor: I think Kino does not fully agree with you Juana, look at him! He is eyeing the pearl the way starving children admire food.

Juana looks back at Kino

Juana: Kino…

Kino:…

Juana: No, Kino!!!! NO!! This is exactly what I was talking about Kino, you always want more, ALWAYS! You are willing to give up being with me just so you can have a little extra money!

Kino: You could come—

Juana shakes her head

Juana: No Kino, You know that is not possible. It is either the money and the pearl, or me!

Kino buries his hands in his face

Kino: I need my brother! I need him to tell me what to do!

Me: Well you’re in luck, because he is here with us today! Come on out Juan Thomás!

Crowd claps

Juan Thomás walks on stage

Kino: BOTHER!!! Oh how I miss you!

Me: Hello! Why don’t you have a seat right next to Kino.

Juan Thomás sits

Me: If you have been tuning in to our show this past hour, many things have been going on. Now Kino has a decision to make, and he wants you to tell him what to do.

Juan Thomás: Kino, I cannot tell you what to do with your life, for in the end, you are the one making the decision. However, before you leave for wealth and riches, take a look at the people here with you today. Your old friends, old townspeople, fellow pearl divers, they are all here tonight to support you! Is the money worth giving up all of this?

Kino: But I don’t want to give it up! I want to have both! Why can I not have both?

Juan Thomás: Kino, you know that is not possible. The last time you tried to have both, you lost everything. You lost your son, Kino. If there is any reason for you not to go, it should be for him! Don’t do it for Coyotito!

Kino cries

Kino: You are right! I cannot do this, there is too much that could go wrong, and I cannot leave the people I love. I am doing this for Coyotito, and hopefully my again-soon-to-be-wife

Doctor: Fine! I was offering you wealth and happiness, but if you don’t want it, more for me! Go back to being poor and worthless!

Kino: Doctor, you are mistaken. I am not poor, nor was I ever poor, because I have all the wealth and worth I could ever ask for right here, in my family.

Kino hugs Juana and Juan Thomás

Crowd screams (in happiness)

Me: Well that concludes our time for today, so be here next time for our special surprise guest! Bye!

Audience leaves

Juana, Juan Thomás, the doctor, and Kino all exit

I smile as I leave, knowing that I have just changed someone’s life forever.

Zen and the Art of Blackberry Poker

April 8, 2009

 

A couple of years ago, I attended a poker night for professional women – an educational, networking and team-building event sponsored by a friend’s law firm.  The event was based on the theory that poker teaches essential business skills that can be difficult for women to master – such as reading the competition, being aggressive and learning how to take risk at the appropriate time.  We were given poker lessons by a leading professional woman poker player, received a stack of chips, and played rounds of poker for fun.

 

As an attorney, I consider myself to be a tough negotiator who is good at reading a competitive situation. That night, I bet small, folded often, and lost all my chips fairly early in the evening.  I had neither the stamina nor the interest to keep playing round after round until there was a final winner.  But I refused to believe this was due to some innate deficiency I had as a woman.  I chalked it up to an abundance of good wine and good sushi, and a complete lack of knowledge about poker.

 

Still, the idea that most women are not naturally aggressive, calculated risk-takers stuck with me.  So when I saw that my new Blackberry came with a Texas Hold ‘Em game, I was determined to test out the theory and prove it wrong.

 

The first few games were meaningless – I lost money while I familiarized myself once again with the basic rules of poker, learning the hard way that a flush beats a straight, a high straight beats a low one.  Once I got that down, it wasn’t too hard to figure out, at the margins, when to hold and when to fold. 

 

When to bet and how much to bet, was a bigger challenge.  Frequently, I would find myself with great cards, but the courage to bet only a small amount.  I was constantly afraid of losing all my money, although it wasn’t real money.  Sometimes, my ego would trap me into staying in the game, even when I knew I had no chance of winning.

 

Unconsciously, I found myself replaying patterns that played themselves out in my life as well.  Lacking the courage to take bigger risks, staying in a bad situation because I was already in it. . . . I played round after round, losing it all over and over again, with increased frustration because I just couldn’t seem to figure it out.

 

My daughter showed no interest in my new poker fascination, but my son took to it instantly.  He watched me play a couple of hands and then offered some advice.

 

“Mom, what you should do, is bet a lot of money sometimes, to scare them off.”

 

My son is 7.  He had never played poker before seeing my Blackberry game. But his instincts was dead-on.  I was amazed that he seemed to have an intuitive sense of the game, and knew what I needed to do to prevail.

 

The gender theories were being proven right in front of me.  My son had suggested that I bluff, make aggressive moves and take risks as strategies to succeed.  I hadn’t even attempted to bluff.  I strictly played the cards, and lost hand after hand, round after round.  My son got bored watching me and went back to playing his Nintendo DS games, where he could be much more of a risk-taker than his Mom was willing to be.

 

I learned that the poker instructor really had been right – the cards were not the end point; they were the starting point to figuring out what you needed to do.  The cards merely informed your decision.  Each time, you had to take a chance that either your cards would either beat everyone else’s cards, or your betting would intimidate people with better cards into making unwise choices, like folding instead of holding.  Sometimes, a perfectly rational decision resulted in a loss; other times, a riskier decision resulted in a huge win. The subtleties of when to stay in the game and when to get out were a lot tougher to master than the broad strokes of understanding that three of a kind beats two pairs.

 

Finally, I had a breakthrough.  I was in a battle, with $14,000 to my virtual opponent’s $2,500.  I had a hand that I knew should be a winner, but I nearly convinced myself to fold.  I worried that I would be down by a substantial amount if I lost — despite the fact that I would still enjoy a huge advantage over my virtual opponent.  And yes, I actually worried about this – to the point I had to shut down the game and walk away from it for a couple of hours.

  

I told myself I was being ridiculous.  I kept reminding myself it wasn’t real money.  It was a stupid Blackberry game.  In real life, I would be no poorer either way (except for the time lost spent playing Blackberry poker). 

 

I had to close my eyes to place the bet.  When I opened them, I discovered I had won.  The game told me I needed to go to a higher stakes table.  I felt as if I had actually won nearly $20,000.

 

I am hardly a poker master now, but I am now sitting on a bankroll of $32,000 virtual dollars.  I draw it down in $500 increments, and I use the game to practice bluffing and taking calculated risks.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I take none of it personally. 

 

I don’t think I would be able to stomach playing poker with real money – I would wind up thinking of each pot lost in terms of my kids’ college fund.  But learning not to be afraid to take calculated risks, and to keep on trying if I lose, are important real-life lessons.  If a silly Blackberry game can improve my ability to do both, it will have been well worth my time.

 

A version of this post was originally published on NYC Moms Blog.