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Dancing with the MS Fairy

May 12, 2011

That is what I am doing this week, in North Carolina. Hopefully, I’ll get back to my country home this weekend.

Such is life, at least mine.

My friends are taking great care of me though, and I couldn’t ask for much more on that front.

Minor Update

April 21, 2011

The Conference on Southern Literature was splendid, and I am sorry I have not provided an acceptable update. I have pages full of quotes and thoughts. I also left the conference with pages full of story ideas, as well as a list of books to read. I’ve been working on those things instead of tending to the blog. Each time I sit down to write about the conference, I get stuck on another idea, and off I go in a different direction.

I updated my Good Reads profile with a few books. But, for now, the blog gets very little love.

Conference on Southern Literature

April 12, 2011

The 16th biennial Conference on Southern Literature, organized in conjunction with the Fellowship of Southern Writers, takes place April 14-16 in Chattanooga, TN, and I will be there.

Being able to count one’s self as a Southern writer, puts one among impressive company: William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Mark Twain, Dorothy Allison, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and Zora Neale Hurston, just to name a few.

I’ll have the pleasure of hearing Dorothy Allison speak twice on Friday. On Thursday morning, they’re showing Landscapes of the Heart: The Elizabeth Spencer Story, a documentary film, named after Spencer’s own memoir. Spencer lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and will speak before the film.

I’m also interested to hear Clyde Edgerton speak, and I must admit it’s because I am friends with his daughter, Catherine, who is one-half of the Durham duo Midtown Dickens.

This weekend, I’ll be sure to report on what an amazing time I had.

Book for Writers

April 11, 2011

75 Books Every Writer Should Read

The site linked above features an excellent list of books for writers. I’ve read a few of them, and a few more were already on my to-read list before I saw the post.

For a look at what I have read lately, visit my tumblr blog.

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

April 11, 2011

By Margaret Atwood

1 Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

2 If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.

3 Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

4 If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.

5 Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.

6 Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates A will bore the pants off B.

7 You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

8 You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.

9 Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

10 Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visual­isation of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.

Source features lists by many well-known fiction writers: Guardian UK

Ten Steps to Publication

April 10, 2011

This evening I thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer Weiner’s blog post, So you want to be a novelist?

The first step is, perhaps, my favorite:

1. The Unhappy Childhood



The big joke in the publishing community is that smart editors shouldn’t waste their time at lunches or conferences, but should instead proceed directly to the local elementary schools. There, they will carefully note the boys picked last in gym class, the girls sitting alone in the cafeteria – all of the outcasts, misfits, geeks, dweebs and weirdos – and give them some kind of small identifying tag (much like wildlife services will tag animals to follow their progress through the years). Twenty years later, the editors should track down the kids they’ve tagged, now hopefully grown to more successful adulthood, and say, “Okay, where’s the book?”

I am ready for step six: Get a Dog. I was already aware of that need.

She does put “Read” at step ten, possibly out of convenience, and I would place it at two or three. I think it’s no less important, as a foundation, than the unhappy childhood and the miserable love life.

 

Writer’s Notebook

April 6, 2011

I have dozens of writing notebooks. From the small ones that I keep in purses to the standard college-ruled variety that litter my home, there is always a notebook within arm’s reach.

The principal object in the epistolary novel I’m working on is a notebook, wherein the protagonist organizes her thoughts before writing overly long, overly personal letters to a select group of loved ones.

Needless to say, I found this blog post fascinating, and I think it’s definitely worth a read-through by every aspiring writer.

Update

April 6, 2011

For now, most of the earlier posts are still hidden, and I haven’t activated the new archive site yet. Truthfully, I’m not quite sure where to go from here. I’m sure I’ll bring at least a bit of the old stuff back. I just need to get the new part of the changes straightened out first. Reading my blog is sometimes a bit too much like being inside my head.

As for new, I’m finally making use of my tumblr, as a place to discuss whatever books I’m reading. Interesting book related tidbits from other tumblr users will also find their way in. I was surprised to find out I had a jessicaland tumblr. I have at least a half-dozen other tumblr blogs, most of them being completely random names no one would connect to me. Apparently, at some point during my frequent, yet inconsistent, episodes of screwing around on tumblr these past few years, I was smart enough to secure the one name that really matters. Go me!

Ben Weasel Broke My Heart

March 21, 2011

After watching of video of this, I feel nauseous, heartbroken and embarrassed to be a fan.

Changing Things . . .

March 18, 2011

. . . around here. It’s been coming for a while, and I’ve put it off. I started moving content around tonight. I should be finished in the next couple of days.

The Boring Part

March 16, 2011

In terms of this blog, I guess that’s what we’ve come to. This is the part where:

  • I’m writing but won’t tell you what I’m working on.
  • I’m more private and secretly holed up in the country.

First Post of 2011, Part 2

January 7, 2011

Here’s the rest of the list I was working on yesterday.

  1. One of my dearest friends, Dan Kinney, played his first solo show in December. He recorded the performance, but I haven’t received a copy yet. If you follow the link provided above,  you can check out a couple of sample songs from his performance at the Nighlight in Chapel Hill, as well as a few demo tunes. I am excited for, and proud of, him.
  2. Speaking of Dan, this past week he informed me that he’s working with The Future Kings of Nowhere (FKoN) again. Both Shayne Miel and Dan were the driving forces behind the first FKoN album. I am somewhat obsessed FKoN; they are amazing friends and my favorite band of the 21st century so far. Shayne has been battling cancer for the past year, and I was very happy to hear that he’s working on music again. The demo ep released last year was wonderful, in all its pared down glory, and I’m hoping those tunes are laid down in the studio.
  3. New experiences, and the literary inspiration they provide, are my driving force for the next year. Last month, I took a trip to Aspen to visit a new friend. The town was lovely and I enjoyed being there. I had some unbelievably awesome food during the trip. But I learned something about myself that I would not have known without visiting: high altitudes do not agree with me. I was fine the first two days, but the constant driving up and down mountains started to make me queasy by the third day; not fun. If I hadn’t taken the trip, I wouldn’t have known. That, in and of itself, has spurred some interesting new short stories that I wouldn’t be able to write with authority otherwise.
  4. Yes, I am writing more. However, not being in my new house, and staying with others, has made it difficult to get too deep into anything. I’m writing my short stories and a bit of porn. I finally started working on my idea for a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but it, unfortunately, coincided with my big move. So I haven’t gotten too far into that idea. On the short story front, I trying my best to garner new experiences to breathe life into new characters and ideas. As a result, I have a new-found appreciation for my repeated heartaches and related false starts.
  5. Another dear friend of mine, Dr. Melissa Ditmore, released two books in 2010: Prostitution and Sex Work and Sex Work Matters,  a collection of “pioneering essays on the economics and sociology of sex work.” I bought Sex Work Matters last year, but I haven’t gotten Prostitution and Sex Work yet. I was lucky to see an early copy of Prostitution and Sex Work,”a historic overview of this controversial topic” and I think it’s one of the best books on the subject that I have ever read. Anyone with even the slightest interest in the issue should read, and own, Prostitution and Sex Work.

Thus concludes another list edition. (I have yet to proofread both Part 1 and Part 2; we all know I’m lazy on the blog proofreading front.)

First Post of 2011, Part 1

January 5, 2011

And, of course, it’s a list! (I know this isn’t my first post, but the previous one was really intended for the named individual. This is the first substantive post of 2011.)

I’ve been away for so long it’s hard not to start the year off with a list. Okay, I haven’t actually been “away”, I just haven’t been posting.

I’m still waiting to hear from Ant. I know he was bummed that there wasn’t a 12/17 post, but even more so that I haven’t been posting at all. (For the record, I did my International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers posting on 12/17 via Twitter. Why? Because I’ve been internet lazy while I’m real life busy. Okay, okay. So I haven’t really been “internet lazy”, I’ve just been using my internet energy for financially rewarding pursuits.)

The order is somewhat arbitrary, which means I switched the order a dozen times.

  1. Since I’ m no longer working a standard job confined to an office or a specific building, I’ve realized that I no longer any need to waste time on Facebook. It doesn’t really serve any purpose for me now that all of my time is mine to do with as I wish. But I do spend more time on Twitter now than I ever did before. It’s almost as if the Twitter just replaced the Facebook.  There are all kinds of book people to network with on Twitter, and I can justify that as time well-spent.  You can follow me @jessicaland.
  2. On the Twitter topic: My grandmother is now on Twitter. Over Christmas, a couple of her friends, all her age, mentioned that they had tried to find her on Twitter, and as a joke I sat with her and created an account. She does not actually use the account. But I use it to post funny stuff that comes out of her mouth. You can follow her @bettyswisdom.
  3. This holiday season was the first since my grandfather passed away this past Spring. For that reason, it hasn’t been the easiest Christmas. I’ve been staying with my grandmother and helping out while my house renovations drag on. To deal with this, I have been steadily drinking up all the liquor in the house. I cleared out most of what was already here before Christmas, and then quickly went through what we purchased for Christmas. My current tolerance is almost embarrassing. I’m usually a straight whiskey, bourbon, wine, champagne or beer kind of gal, but anything with an alcohol content has been fair game, including rum, vodka, and gin; none of which are high on my list of preferred alcoholic beverage. In fact, I can’t stand gin, but that hasn’t really mattered.
  4. By far one of the best gifts I got for the holidays this year was a book from, and by, my friend Zack called Thoughts. Written especially for me, it contains many of my favorite jokes from his stand-up routine. It was also printed on a recycled book, and by recycled I mean he took a book of poetry, marked out the cover, then wrote over some of the pages and marked out others. It’s priceless. I keep it in my purse.
  5. I did not make it to the Phish New Year’s shows at MSG. Many of my lovely friends did, and, of course, I heard nothing but positive reviews. Even though I couldn’t be there, I spent some time reflecting on my Phish journey on NYE. My first show was the New Year’s show at MSG in 2002/2003. I had resisted even listening to Phish for many years, starting in high school around 1995. By that time, I was deep into punk rock and Phish was everything I wasn’t. But my amazing college sweetheart formally introduced me to the band over many nights spent in his dorm room. I wasn’t very moved by the music then, until I heard “Wading in the Velvet Sea”, and I was hooked. Because the band was on dreaded hiatus, I didn’t get a chance to see them until that NYE show at MSG, which was also the official return from hiatus. (I had, by that time, seen Trey Anastasio Band nearly a dozen times.) Like magic, they performed “Wading in the Velvet Sea” that first night at MSG.  I felt like it was just for me. I haven’t seen Phish since Summer 2009 at Bonnaroo, where they also performed “Wading in the Velvet Sex” during their late night performance. When they played it, as I stood alone, by choice, in the middle of my big empty dance space, I cried. I cried for all the things I hadn’t let myself cry for in the preceding years, and I said goodbye to those things and the associated feelings. It was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. I also decided then that if that was my last Phish show, then I was totally ok with it. For that reason, I’m not terribly disappointed that I missed this last four night run at MSG.

I have another five things on my list to write about, but I think I am going to end this post on that last note. I’ll give you Part 2 tomorrow. (I did not proofread this post. I’ll do that tomorrow and edit accordingly.)

Vacillating

October 2, 2010

First off, I love the word vacillate.

After much consideration and debate with myself over the past week, I have reached the conclusion that I am not going to be able to effectively separate all of my projects. Ultimately, I just need to keep the one separate and just say, “fuck it” when it comes to the other. I have to learn to be ok with that. Truth is, I am a little anxious about this aspect of the business. I need to learn to not care what other people think; it doesn’t get me anywhere. But it isn’t an easy thing to do. I am also still pursuing available options to keep things compartmentalized, even though it seems a bit unrealistic.

I’ve been so on-point with some things the past two weeks and such a mess with others. If I wanted to hash it out here, which I don’t, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

I’m slowly molding into the long-retired writer I once was. It’s rather amusing to me. I keep odd hours. I mumble to myself and stare blankly into space at times, while in public. I am perpetually attached to a notebook. This behavior was much easier to get away with in nyc. It’s not really that unusual in that environment.The only real negative about this is that I’ve picked up smoking again. I started back briefly, after two months of success, when I had the steroid treatment. However, it is now in full swing again, as if it is the natural partner of late nights, long hours, and the creative process. The good thing is that I bought three months worth of smoking cessation products when I was trying to spend down my health care reimbursement account. My goal is to be off the cigarettes by the time I move at the end of the month. I am not proud of this relapse, but I’m not giving up.

I should start the packing process soon. I stopped putting things away a month ago. So, there are piles of stuff all over the place; at least it’s somewhat organized by pile. In my current house, I have a huge attic, and thankfully I saved all of the boxes from my chapel hill to durham move. I’ve actually already packed five or six boxes. Because all of the boxes are in the attic, and it’s somewhat treacherous to try to carry them down the ladder, I have taken to carelessly hurling them down the steps. So far, that’s the best part of the packing process.

I submitted my Phish ticket request this morning. Seeing as the deadline was 11:59am today, I waited until the last-minute, obviously. In my experience, it doesn’t really make a difference how soon or late you submit your lottery request. I only requested tickets for the NYE show and the 1/1/11 show, and I have no intention of paying to see more shows than just those two. Phishy pholk, however, know the firm decision to see a limited number of shows usually falls away when the chance to easily buy a ticket for face presents its self.

Many of my Phunky Bitches avoid the PT “penis party” completely, but when I am trying for tickets or they announce the upcoming tour, I always venture over to Phantasy Tour. Looking at My Phantasy just brings all those old memories and experiences flooding back. After all, I’ve been using PT for years and “going to PT” was the way to track your stats. (Yes, I am well aware that Phish has incorporated some of the set-list functionality into the Phish 2.0 site, but I still thirst for those old memories from time to time.) The Phunkies took over the community aspect for me a long time ago. For that reason, I never visit the PT forums, and that’s the only part of PT that I find distasteful.

Yay for Phish!

Boo for my, seemingly never-ending, fuck-ups!

Another List Edition

September 27, 2010

It has been awhile since I posted a list. So today I present to you a list of random things that have been on my mind recently, in no particular order.

  • Ever since I posted a comment about my friend Larry’s upcoming show in Brooklyn and added that all the cool kids would be there, I haven’t been able to get Screeching Weasel’s “Cool Kids” out of my head:

  • There’s now less than one month before Saw VII, aka Saw 3D, opens. Lion’s Gate has confirmed that Cary Elwes will be back to reprise the role of Dr. Gordon. I marked the one month milestone by indulging in a marathon of I through III, which is always a clear-cut sign that a new Saw is approaching. You can watch the trailer here. (Cary Fucking Elwes! I can’t help but wonder though, is it just going to be a flashback, à la Amanda returning in new scenes in all the Saw films following her death in Saw III? )
  • Last week I picked up my new glasses. I pretty much always wear contacts, so I only get new glasses every five to ten years. I ended up having to spend a large sum of money to max out my health care reimbursement account contributions when I left my job, and I planned to use it, in part, for new glasses. For once, price could not hold me back. I took D. with me to help pick them out, as he’s a good adviser on these matters. Unfortunately, the pair of glasses we both liked the best weren’t even close to the most expensive, which was upsetting because it still left me with a bunch of money in the account. I worked through some of that by having them do every awesome thing possible to the lenses themselves. Anyhow, I have my new glasses. They are totally cute, and very geek chic. I love them, and have considered wearing glasses in public more often.

  • Phish finally announced plans for this year’s new year’s run, beginning with the fact that there will be a new year’s run and confirming the venue to be Madison Square Garden, as largely speculated among Phish fans. MSG was the site of my first Phish show. I am seriously considering making the trip, but I’m hoping that I can score a 12/31 ticket and forgo the other dates. However, for the first time in Phish history, they are playing a show on 1/1, and I’m questioning whether I should just hit that one too, since it’s a first, and it’s on the ones: 1/1/11. I’m praying for lottery, as always but especially this time around. I really can’t take another heart-racing Phish challenge against the masses during public on-sale.
  • I finally figured out why I picked up the old writing project I talked about a few days ago. I watched The Hours last week, which loosely inspired the story. It’s a fantastic film that I highly recommend; a must-see for any Virginia Woolf fan. (The Hours was the original title of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.)

Edit:

Good Old War performing “Coney Island” on If You Make It‘s Pink Couch Sessions:



Love This

September 25, 2010

“Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feelings, inventions, moods, [there are] no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.” — Anais Nin, from a letter, reprinted in her diary, to the man paying her one dollar a page to write erotic stories

A Daily Dose of Awesome

September 23, 2010

I’ve been rather productive the past couple of days. I’ve done some writing, but much more conceptualizing. Unfortunately, it was for a project I didn’t intend to work on at all. Its something I started last summer/fall that sort of just fell aside with the new year, which was most likely a good thing; I needed to put it away for a bit. For whatever reason, it re-entered my mind and demanded effort. The story is a long one, and fairly advanced. It needs a lot of attention though, and I’m not sure how I feel about using my time and effort on this older project. It has real potential though, I think.

Other than that, I read a book, did some planning on the packing ordeal, and researched a number of things. One of those things, being the reason for this post: Cell Stories. (I linked it, but have no idea what you see when accessing it from a computer. I know I’ve done it, just ages ago. I’m also posting this using the WP Blackberry app, which is not great at many things, including properly formatted quoting, as evidenced by the italicized text below, which is an excerpt from Cell Stories’ About page.)

Why CellStories?
Because we still think the best place for something wonderful to read is in the palm of your hand and, when you combine the amazing technology of modern web-enabled phones and mobile devices with some of the best short-form writing around, something incredible can happen. Like this!

Why can’t I read these stories from my computer?
Because why would you want to read something amazing while sitting at a desk? Instead, grab a beer and sprawl out on the couch, or take your lunchbreak under a shady tree, and then read. Much better, right? We think so too.

Who’s behind this idea?
CellStories was conceived and built by Daniel Sinker, who was the founding editor of Punk Planet magazine in another life. Thankfully, the death of print meant discovering something much more valuable: mobile publishing. But that previous life also meant that he met a great number of authors, publishers, and other Really Interesting People, many of whom were kind enough to supply some of the great pieces you’ve read.

Having all this free time, I leisurely sat down with my phone today, and immersed myself in Dan Sinker’s mobile short-story project. I call it research and it was truly delightful. It only takes 10-15 minutes to read a single story. So you’ve got no excuse not to give it a try, if you have any interest in the project.

Aside: I also spent most of the day fairly hungover. The drinking and the conceptualizing, at least for the story discussed here, go together nicely. My desire to remain horizontal for most of the day certainly aided the book and short-story reading, as well as some less-than productive twittering.

Letter to Change.org's Judith Meskill

September 22, 2010

Below is the full text of a letter to Change.org’s Executive Editor, Judith Meskill, from sex workers, sex worker allies, and harm reduction service providers. You can find this letter posted an ever-growing number of places online.
——————————————————

Dear Ms. Meskill,

We were disheartened to hear about your recent campaign which has targeted Craigslist, and about your contribution to removing one of the safest avenues for consensual sex workers to advertise legitimate, and often legal, services. I am writing you today to stand with sex workers, sex worker allies, and harm reduction advocates who all recognize that the closing of Craigslist’s Adult Services section will only cause additional harm, and will not decrease the rate of child sex trafficking. While we applaud much of the work being done by Change.org, this campaign based on misinformation and inappropriate responses was a sincere disappointment. For the following reasons, we hope you will consider some of your tactics for the future.

All sex workers are not victims of trafficking. The misconception that all sex workers are exploited is one of the greatest fights facing sex workers and sex worker allies, and it is a misconception which has been perpetuated by your campaign. Trafficking is a crime of force, fraud, or coercion for work which is exploitative. Defining all sex workers as survivors of trafficking assumes both that they are working for an exploitive employer, and that they are not making a mindful decision to engage in this work. This assumption is not only factually erroneous, but also demeaning to many of the individuals who engage in sex work.

Efforts such as these will only do further harm to consensual, adult sex workers. Studies around the world have shown that the more sex workers are criminalized and pushed underground, the higher the prevalence of violence and transmission of sexually transmitted infections. Closing Craigslist and Backpages will not decrease the prevalence of prostitution, but will merely push it further underground. This means less time for negotiation of safe sex and physical limitations. The result is not a smaller industry, but an industry of people facing greater physical risk and displacement.

Closing Craigslist, or any other advertising websites for adult services, will not hinder child sextrafficking. Child sex trafficking is not a crime which is dissuaded by a lack of advertising mechanisms. Craigslist was in full compliance with law enforcement, employing numerous techniques to assist in stopping underage trafficking on their site. Further, Craigslist employed attorneys to read each ad posted on Adult Services, minimizing the likelihood that an advertisement exploiting children would be posted. Now, because there is no set section for these ads and no credit card information being collected, law enforcement will have a harder time tracking down perpetrators who are dispersed throughout Craigslist and other internet sites. This decision by Craigslist will ultimately make it that much more difficult to end underage trafficking on the internet.

The models which have internationally been accepted as best practice models for addressing child trafficking center around working with sex workers, not further criminalizing the work. We hope that you will seek out more representative, balanced information as you pursue your work on human trafficking. We have enclosed below several resources which may be able to better inform your work on the subject, and present a more holistic picture of the sex industry. While we applaud much of your work, this recent development has only promoted misinformation which could lead to serious harm for many sex workers.

Thank you for your time,

The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA)
http://www.swopusa.org/
http://www.swopusa.org/en/contact

Best Practices Policy Project
http://www.bestpracticespolicy.org/
info2005@bestpracticespolicy.org

Different Avenues
1419 V Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202)829-2103
http://www.differentavenues.org/
DA@differentavenues.org

“Even Tho”

September 16, 2010

Joseph Arthur performing “Even Tho” at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 11/27/09

Pretty much sums up how I’ve felt lately: “Even tho I’m here, you know I’m already gone”

Fastest Internet In The Nation

September 14, 2010

It’s hard to believe: Chattanooga claims the fastest internet in the US.

At one-gigabit per second, Chattanooga’s new high-speed internet is 250 times the average internet speed in the nation.

Note that Mayor Ron Littlefield won’t be switching to the service in his home. With a $350 per month price tag, when he’s currently paying $60 per month, who can blame him?