Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stepping Up My Game

Been quite awhile since I’ve had a dose of culture. I am known for buying books (especially in advance of summer beach time) that wrestle with Life’s Big Questions. Whether spiritual tomes or great literature, it always strikes me that I should be reading it all (and all at once), and I never have enough time during most of the year. Never mind that by late July my beach reads ALWAYS skew towards the lighter side of chick-lit —every year I resolve again to use the dog days to better myself!
Same goes for theatre, concerts, museums and the like. Prices are up, for sure, which often puts a damper on my plans, but why can’t I even make it to a good foreign film these days?  Instead, most evenings I find myself sprawled on the sofa watching  reruns of “Modern Family” or (worse)”The Real Housewives of New York City”.  The only “bettering myself” that occurs at these times is the vague sense that at least I am better than the Real Housewife who screams at everyone at that party in Aruba.

So when my girls invited me to visit them in Brooklyn earlier this month, I anticipated lots of gabbing, ordering in pizza and getting our nails done (all of which occurred, all of which was  
Manicure Girls!
wonderful). I steeled myself for multiple subway hops here and there (my blasé New Yorker daughters didn’t bat an eye when two energetic young men got on, cranked up a boom box and proceeded to break dance in the aisle as the train lurched down the track. I pretended to be unaffected by this spectacle, even as I clutched my purse, stared straight ahead, and willed them to get off at the next stop).

But I hadn’t figured that Julie had plans, cultural plans, for us. The second day of my trip, she announced that we were going to the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, followed by dinner and the ballet at Lincoln Center. A native Manhattanite, I had never been to the Guggenheim, only knew it from the outside as an iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building. Ascending the spiral walkway through the museum, marveling at the incredible, thought provoking exhibits of modern art, I chided myself for avoiding this gem for so long. Later, we delighted in the sheer beauty of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” danced by the American Ballet Theatre.  

I returned home to Oreland at least 10 IQ points smarter, I’m sure.  And the question is: will I lose ground from here on out? Will I revert to the path of least intellectual resistance and pick up the Real Housewives where I left off? Or, instead, will I pick up a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, or tickets to a mentally stimulating play? 

The choice is mine, I know that. 

So may this be the year of Mahler and Dostoyevski. May I exercise that long-neglected muscle called my brain much more, and give thanks for the intellect I do have.

Proof I was there!

Happy summer, everyone!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Writes Well With Others? Not Me!

Ellen and Joyce, The Word Mavens
My friends Ellen and Joyce write essays and blog as a team (The Word Mavens). They work together to create some really funny stuff about family, current events and trends, and their Jewish heritage. I have no idea how they manage, but manage they do. Their work appears frequently in various publications, most recently, The Writer magazine (topic? How to write together. Guess other people have no idea how either). Their friendship has withstood years of back-and-forth (as I imagine it: Here’s an idea! I don’t like that idea! But it’s a great idea! It actually stinks!)  and I just don’t think I could be nearly as collaborative as they are. 

My friends Robin and Lini get together regularly to write for several hours.  Lini is working on adult fiction; Robin, young adult fiction. When they meet, they work on their different projects, but enjoy sharing resources and holding each other accountable to finish what they began. Sounds like a wonderful idea, and it sure seems to work for them. I don’t know that I could write in the room with another writer either. I’m afraid the clack-clack of someone else’s computer keys would remind me of how slowly I was going.

Does this make me seem like a reclusive curmudgeon? I hope not! I don’t require special pens, lighting or music. No silence? No problem! I just can’t stand anyone else focusing on my writing while it’s in progress. It makes me too nervous. The kids can play catch over my head when I’m in the zone and it doesn’t phase me a bit, but let someone look over my shoulder with a comment, positive or negative, and I am most definitely phased.

It’s not that I can’t take criticism, I’ve had lots of that in my life (and not only about my writing either. After 31 years I think I retain the title of Meanest Mommy in the World).  I just want my manuscript to be between me and myself until at least a draft of it is finished.

Now my latest book, Everyday Matters has just been published and the first shipment of books has arrived. I am very excited to get my new paper-and-ink baby out into the world. And this one has been a kind of collaboration: Rose has formatted, designed the cover, etc. Sheridan has carefully proofread and edited. I am deeply indebted to both of them. But their input occurred after the book was completely written, and while they made suggestions, they didn’t actually write any of it themselves. Whether it’s good or bad, Everyday Matters is all me.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to have a writing buddy, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to alternate paragraphs with. But I know myself too well. I have a style, and, alas, I’m not that adaptable to the styles of others.

So go teams! I cheer your joint efforts and the inspiration and support you give to one another. I’ll be over here in the corner, going it alone.

**Everyday Matters is available through www.eliseseyfried.com for $15. A portion of all proceeds benefits Lutheran World Relief.