Friday, November 8, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Telling Dad

There were only my parents left to tell. I rolled up to the house and found Dad on the porch. An extension cord ran through the window to power a fan that blew into his face while he smoked his pipe. Maybe that’s why he was smiling. It was a rare event.

My bowels tightened as I approached, but it was probably better to catch him in a good mood for this.

"Hey Dad," I said. "Can we talk a minute? I have something to tell you."

"Is it that you're going to pay back-rent for the eighteen years I raised you?"

“You don’t have the legal grounds for that, Dad.”

“You going to pay me back for sending you to law school, then?”

I smiled into my sleeve, not wanting to show him too much positive reinforcement. Dad took encouragement like others took alcohol, and he was an abusive drunk.

“You know how I’ve had the same roommate for three years?”

“How is that lease?”

And down we went. Sucked directly into an inferno of topics on his mind. I bided my time, weathering complaints about the Dodgers’ line-up and the Republicans' concessions to Obama. There was a pause around what we were going to do for Memorial Day. Charcoal was a tenuous issue for him.

Charcoal is not how most people come out, but it was a break. I jumped in.

"Dad. I need you to know: I'm gay. Danny isn’t just my roommate. We’ve been together for almost a year."

He studied the handrail of the steps. I put my hand on it, and he studied another part of it. There was this big opening, and honestly I didn’t know how to fill it. Then Dad looked up, lower lip puckered.

"Okay," he said. "I tongued your mother's asshole last night."

My mouth fell open a little.

"You... what?"

"Kind of makes you want to throw up, eh?" His lip wasn't quivering anymore. "But you're not going to stop me. So what are we doing for the grill?"

And that was it. He even helped me break it to Mom, which was nice because it was another week before I could look her in the eye.

I swear he's a good man.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bats, Dollars and Freezing Children

"Hello, this is Missouri Byrne. I’m staying with the Hopscot Family Refuge, which I’m learning has been without heat for two weeks because of an outstanding bill for twenty-one thousand dollars. Perhaps you don’t understand that nine mothers, two fathers and twenty-eight children sleep here because they have nowhere else. Perhaps twenty-one thousand dollars seems more important to you. I’m mostly calling to discover whether or not your business knows there will be a blizzard tonight.

"I have twenty-four thousand dollars and a baseball bat on my person. I don’t need to be in a place like this, but I am, and that’s all you need to know. I also have plenty of money in my checking account if you’d like to call me back and settle the matter by phone. If you can’t, but can send a truck immediately, then whoever comes can bring twenty-one thousand dollars of fuel and leave with twenty-four thousand dollars. They can keep the difference. I don’t care so long as they’re here in the next two hours.

"If they arrive two hours and one minute from now, I will beat them senseless with this bat. It’s aluminum.

"If you don’t send anyone and these families are cold again tonight, I will be on your doorstep at the opening of business tomorrow to make you feel as uncomfortable as a nine-year-old wrapped in five blankets during a blizzard. It will be a rough estimate. It will be as fair as I can make it."

Monday, November 4, 2013

#NaNoWriMo Fails

We're a few days into November which means, like every year, that thousands of aspiring writers are sweating with dread. As NaNoWriMo ended last year I had to console multiple people in outright hysterics - just as I finished comforting one, the next IM’d me. After three hours, I think I ran out of patience. It’s for such things that I'm writing this again this year, to reminded you that National Novel Writing Month is imaginary and you’ll all be fine no matter how it ends.

There are a few dozen professional authors with whom I speak regularly. None of them are currently doing #NaNoWriMo the way it’s intended. Most aren't doing it at all; I'm not, either. A few are using the community aspects and inspirational messages to psych themselves into getting as many words as they can for their projects – most of which, I think, are going to finish at double or more the 50,000-word goal line whenever they do finish. Novels are how they pay their bills, and they just wanted progress on hard projects.

I frame this in terms of what they do to ask you something simple: what do you want out of this thing?

Do you want a publishable book? Bullshit! Almost no one in the history of almost everywhere has ever written a decent novel in one month. Maybe Stephen King, maybe once, out of a career headed for triple digits.

Are you doing it for camaraderie with other writers? Then enjoy the bonds you're forming. And good news: those people will still be around in December, so you can still talk to them, encourage them, and share your work with them.

Are you trying to start writing again? Then you did, and if this art form expressed something from within you that nothing else reaches, you probably ought to keep going. Maybe writing this, maybe something different, maybe something shorter. You've got a lot of November left to experiment, and if it doesn't work, then maybe December is your National Short Story Writing Month, where you nail a smaller thing that squirmed out of the novel, to feel that you can conquer an idea. Or maybe you just keep pace until this novel itself has an end.

Is the high demand stressing you out, wrecking your outline, or otherwise leaving you unable to work effectively? Then start over with a more generous time table. There are eleven months before the next NaNo, and many talented people will be writing during those, including every single professional author I know. It is actually legal to keep writing today. You have my permission.

Look: today's word count doesn’t make you a novelist. Unless you were contracted to someone for a manuscript by today, you haven’t failed at jack shit. You will only fail if you don’t embrace what you wanted out of this before you die.

Also, take it for granted that if you die, there’ll be greater concerns than word count.
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