Some Stories Are Different

Five titles:

1. Befriending Giants

2. Things to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say But Don’t Want to Stay Silent

3. The Summer of Finches

4. The Madcap Man on Wimpole Street

5. Building a Chair

Five first sentences:

1. Catherine didn’t know how she was going to do it, but she’d made up her mind and there was no turning back now.

2. In a small chest, half-buried in sand, deep down in the darkest corner of the ocean, lies a piece of my heart with a gold thread wrapped around it.

3. Sometimes you don’t feel like going to work; it’s a thing.

4. She looked at me and laughed the sweetest laugh I’d ever heard, and I realized finally that she reminded me of my mother.

5. The highway patrolman spat on the ground and looked at his watch; his shift was far from over.

Five fictional quotes:

1. “I wouldn’t touch the balloon if I were you. It’s unsafe, you know.”

2. “Me? Freak out? I so did not freak out. I may have gotten giddy. Just a little bit. But I seriously did not freak out, okay?”

3. “Dickens didn’t write an autobiography. He wrote David Copperfield instead. What does that tell us about the book? Should we treat it as an autobiography? As a novel? As a mix of the two? Come on, people, you’d think I was the only one in this room. Talk to me!”

4. “There are some things you just don’t say. If I ever had any respect for you, it would have dissipated right around now.”

5. “Ready… Set… FLY!”

Five emotions:

1. Anger

2. Confusion

3. Anguish

4. Elation

5. Tenderness

Five last sentences:

1. She died that day, and though I knew that it was a sticky, humid morning, I couldn’t help picturing it as a perfect autumn afternoon.

2. He freed his hair from its restraining cap and shook out his long curls for all the world to see them one last time.

3. An eagle let out a cry and the party below all looked up and shaded their eyes to watch the majestic creature swoop.

4. The coffee cup stayed in the sink for months before anyone dared wash it out again.

5. No one picked up the phone, so I left a message, but the machine cut me off before I finished speaking.

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Big Apple, Small Room

It took me a while to convince my mother that our apartment wasn’t twenty-five square feet. I needed to remind her that if it was, that would mean it was the size of my aunts’ terrace.

Nevertheless, the space is small, the bed slopes, the internet is having issues, the shower-curtain smells suspiciously of new plastic (was there blood on the previous one? Is that why it was changed so recently) and the air-conditioning not so much hums as grunts and complains loudly that its back is hurting. We shut the poor thing off and slept with the windows open.

Does it sound like I’m complaining? Oh, dear me, no! Part of life in the big city is the itty-bitty one room apartments that make up those jigsaw puzzles of lights-in-windows that can be seen anywhere, always, because it never goes completely dark here. I heard something about some legendary blackout that happened sometime, but I can’t imagine it. How would people so addicted to their machines function?

Friends, good food, and fun awaits. Oh, yeah, and then school starts in a couple days. But until then, I’m going to make the most of this place.*

*By that, of course, I mean I’m going to go with my mom to read at the Highline park. But hey, that’s pretty dang adventurous for me!

Links [Overheard]

“So if your friends hadn’t taken a course with my friend-”

“And you hadn’t come to play board-games with us that one night-”

“Then you never would have talked to me at the party and-”

“You never would have asked me out-”

“And we wouldn’t have known each other at all.”

“Exactly.”

“Huh.”

“Indeed. Life and stuff.”

“Funny how that works out.”

“Yeah. Funny.”

Five Words

I’m currently reading Stephen Fry’s Moab is My Washpot, which is the first part of his autobiography. I have admired Mr. Fry for some years now as an actor and writer, and I fell more deeply in awe of him when I listened to the Harry Potter audiobooks that he narrates because of his incredible range of voices, accents and tones. His regular speaking voice is, in itself, impressive as well.

What strikes me most about him when reading his autobiography is his love of language. He loves words for the sheer look of them, the sound they make, the way the tongue feels as it moves to create a consonant in the mouth. Inspired by him, I spent an hour happily reading aloud the titles of books I was vacuuming dust off of – I especially enjoyed titles like The World According to Garp, Smiley’s People, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas because of “Garp,” “People,” and “Vegas,” all words that are fun to say. Go ahead, try them out.

The second thing that Mr. Fry has inspired me to do is read the dictionary. I know, aren’t I exciting? But seriously, I look up words online more often than not, and I never get to see an odd word or two that way. So, in order to kick-start myself, I’ve decided to find five new (to me, that is) words in my big copy of the OED, and use them in sentences:

1. Stephen Fry didn’t suffer from dyslalia when he was young, because there was nothing wrong with his speech organs – he eventually learned to articulate his speech properly so that others could understand him.

2. There was a point in time when I thought my eating disorder was insuperable, but I’m doing much better now.

3. Many politicians are perfidious.

4. The gems in animated films are always so exaggeratedly rutilant. I doubt that real precious stones are every quite so twinkly and red.

5. On the road to Jerusalem, there’s one clough that always reminds me of the valleys by my grandparents’ house in Los Angeles.

___

And that, boys and girls, was probably enough of that for now.

Fun (Recent) Facts

1. I officially finished the first draft of my very first novel, which is, as of yet, untitled. I’m extremely happy to have been able to do it, even though I think it sucks. For now, I’m taking a few days away from it, since I’ve been working on it almost every single day since the end of June. The distance will hopefully allow me to see it with fresh eyes when I go back to it and start working on the re-write.

2. I signed up for NaNoWriMo, a very fun project that I learned about this year even though it’s been around for quite a while. The confusing name, for those who haven’t heard of it, stands for National Novel Writing Month. During the month of December, there is a sort of challenge to write a novel (which, they stipulate, means 50,000 words or more.) Kit, at Goggle and Lace, is also participating (and, in fact, has a very cool job in her region and she’s a fabulous writer, so go check her out!) so I have one buddy so far! Anyone else participating? If so, my author name is “Ilana” so feel free to add me.

3. The last couple of days I didn’t write at all, almost, and I have to say that I’m extremely pleased by how much I missed it! My biggest fear is that writing will become too much of a chore for me, because I do try to have a schedule with it as much as I can. But no, writing is still a joy, even when it’s rough, and even when it pressures me. I’m always pleased with having written for a while, even if I’m not happy with the results.

4. I’ve had this blog for more than two years… I didn’t celebrate my anniversary or anything! Oh, well, I guess I’ll wait until next year and celebrate my three-year anniversary then.

5. I actually don’t have another significant fact that I can think of, so… I’m reading “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. It’s the first of the classic Russian novels I’ve ever read, and I’m enjoying it immensely – more than Charles Dickens, if I may say so (don’t string me up, please!)

Samantha and Frank

It was on a bright day in the middle of January that Samantha realized that her cat, Frank, had taken over her life. On that day, Samantha was driving her old Honda to her mindless office job. She was looking forward to work in a vague sort of way, mostly because she wanted to hear Roseann’s latest dramatic episode in her relationship with her ex-husband-current-sometimes-boyfriend. Samantha enjoyed those stories immensely, since Roseann was an intelligent woman who had the charming quality of being able to make fun of herself, and Samantha felt the need for a laugh.

The old car had no CD player, and of course no connection for her iPod – which was good, since it was on the fritz and was working only sporadically – so Samantha spent the drive to work listening to the radio. That morning, in January, she happened upon a talk-show, one of the many that featured uproariously funny hosts (at least, in their own minds) who spoke very fast. She realized soon that the host’s project that morning was dissing people with pets. He was talking to someone who rescued animals on the street and made various mean-spirited jokes about the subject until the guest thanked him sarcastically and finished the interview. Samantha had laughed – this particular show was one she enjoyed, because the host was funny sometimes – but she stopped abruptly when he started reading off a fax he’d gotten.

“Well, ladies and gentlemen,” he drawled, his voice fizzing in and out of the old speakers. “I have here a fax by Miss Mary K. P. and she’s written a very nice list here. So, get out your pens, all of you pet owners out there, and let’s see if your pet has taken over your life! Miss Mary K. P., as promised, you’ll be getting a free t-shirt from the network. Let’s go.”

Samantha smiled indulgently as she wondered how many of the items on the list would fit her profile, but soon she began to frown in concern. Soon after that she began to laugh uncomfortably, and, finally, she wore a fake expression of calm as she pulled into the office parking lot and decided that she had to get out more.

“First,” the talk show host had said. “If you feed your pet before you feed yourself – it’s taking over your life. Second, if you talk to it more than you talk on the phone – it’s taking over your life. Third, if you talk to it as if it’s a human being who understands your every word – it’s taking over your life. Fourth, if you hug it more than five times a day – it’s taking over your life. Fifth, if you live vicariously through other people’s stories, but interact with your pet more than with other people outside your home – it’s taking over your life.”

The list had gone on, and Samantha realized that yes, Frank had taken over her life. The problem was that even though she knew that she should do something about it… She really didn’t feel like it.

A Small and Rewarding Moment

I used to work at T.N.S. International, a survey company. It wasn’t fun. I got hung up on, I got yelled at, I had to deal with elderly men and women who didn’t understand the questions and hung up in the middle of conversations, I got to hear tirades about the questions I asked and their irrelevance. The single, and only, interesting survey I ever conducted was one that had to do with the elections for Prime Minister which had been counted and the results announced the night before.

Just now, I got a call from another survey company – Shiluv. I’ve heard of it before and I know that it was based pretty near where I used to work. The man on the line asked if I could please answer a few questions in regards to many different subjects, and he promised – lying through his teeth – that it would be interesting for me. It wasn’t, since it dealt with a TV show I don’t watch, cigarettes, and ice-cream. There was a little bit of interest when I got to diss the Israeli army by saying I believe it was 10 (“How corrupt is the Israeli army, from 1 to 10?). Other than that, the survey itself didn’t give me kicks.

At the end of every survey, there are questions that are “purely for statistical purposes,” as I remember saying so often – age, family status, income, health insurance etc. When I finished answering the questions quickly and succinctly, I asked again what survey firm my friendly caller was from. He told me, and I revealed the fact that I’d worked at another one.

And there, right there, was my small and rewarding moment. I could hear him smile through the phone as he said “Ah! That’s why you answered so well and quickly! You know how it is here!” and I told him that I hoped he’d have an easy day and that he wouldn’t get hung-up on too many times and he wished me a happy new year.

I remember being so happy when someone helped make my horrible job just a little bit easier, and it’s fun being able to return the favor by giving this guy another check-mark to add to his number-of-surveys-an-hour page as well as an easy and quick five minutes that I know are more fun than dialing number after number and getting angry responses in return.

It’s the little things that make a day, or an hour or a minute, just a little bit more special.