“Has Leah Got a New Web Address?” said No One Ever Because Who Cares?

When you’re a writer, the simple act of announcing that your blog address has changed becomes an unwieldy task. It’s not enough to quickly state the news – news that nobody, not even your mother, is likely to be interested in. Instead, you must devise something clever, self-deprecating perhaps, and entirely encompassing of you as a person, not to mention your sensibilities as a writer. And you’re to do all of this because writing a post about having a new blog address is just the kind of meta-blogging thing you’re supposed to do. It’s a matter of personal branding, dangit.

Well, everybody, I have tortured myself trying to devise something that fits all of those criteria, and also how to make vague yet well-intentioned statements (lies!) about trying to post more in the future, and the only thing I can do to capture my excitement about this fresh new address and look is:

animated-gifs-crabs-024 (1)

Excited crab dance. Yeah! It’s not quite the crab dance I love from Gmail, but it will have to do. So welcome, everyone, to my new blog and my new look. More updates on the writing life, comics on silly things and enraged letters to the editor soon! (Hopefully! Maybe! We’ll see how much time I have and whether or not I can think of anything worthy of posting! Yeah!)

What the Hunger Games Would Look Like if I Were Katniss Everdeen

I don’t know about you, but when I watch movies, I do a lot of thinking. In good movies, thinking is intensely satisfying. In bad movies, thinking is intensely hilarious and probably annoying to everyone around me, as I constantly push pause to offer up a good dose of mockery.

Occasionally, however, I engage in another quiet past time: imagining what the movie would be like if I were the main character. When I say this, I don’t mean that I picture my own face pasted onto, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body, and that suddenly I’m running and jumping and exploding bad guys and governing the crap out of things. I mean that I imagine what I, Leah Kaminsky, the slightly neurotic, still lacking in self-confidence writer would be if I were just deposited into the scene.

This happened again recently when [someone who prefers to go unnamed] and I were watching The Hunger Games (don’t judge). There’s this great scene in which the main character, Katniss, is on her way to the ring, only to be stopped by the words of her mentor, Cinna, who says something along the lines of, “I’m proud of you. If anyone can win it, it’s you.” (I’m butchering it here, but I’m not about to go back to the movie to find the exact line). Katniss, being the strong, silent, badass type, fixes Cinna with a meaningful stare, then nods her head and continues on without speaking a word. Though she faces her imminent death and the nasty task of killing her peers, she is imbued with quiet confidence, and an abundance of strength.

(That’s the trailer, not the moment I was thinking of, but you get the gist of what Katniss is like).

I was really impressed with Katniss at this point, so I tried to think of what I would be like if I were in her shoes. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Lenny Kravitz

2. Leah's Close Up (X2)

3. Leah is Relieved

4. Leah is Getting Worried5. Leah is Getting Worse6. Leah Wraps it up7. Quiet Before the Storm8. Damn You, Lenny Kravitz

That’s a blockbuster right there, or at least an art house flick directed by Woody Allen.

You’re welcome, world.

To the Bright Blue Skies And Away

Continuing the roommate sagas, I’ve just had a piece published in Halfway Down the Stairs that approaches the drama from another angle. That’s right folks, To the Bright Blue Skies And Away isn’t funny, but my hope is that it delves into the complexities of female friendships. This was a story I tried to write for years in about 9 different manifestations, until finally I read Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and suddenly, I had a model of a sentence that could move deftly between inner and relational turmoil. So, Jhumpa Lahiri, this abusive/toxic roommate relationship story is for you, as well as for anybody who has survived graduate school.

This story means a lot to me, and I hope it will mean a lot to you, too. You can find it here.

Trees in Winter

Oh, tree, once so full and green with leaves. How small you look now, with a single squirrel dropping acorn shells from your thinnest branch. How he balances on the lightest end, snatches his treat before it falls and flips back to safety nearer to the trunk, where he can rip that spare meat from its shell, and shed the rest to the ground.

Which is bare, too, you know. Bare and crumpled with dry, winter’s leaves that crunched beneath my feet as I came to you in the way of withered and dying things. At the stoplight, I spotted two faded butterfly wings, folded together like an overlarge purse before a polite departure. By the riverbed, which is always more stone than water, a bird nestled down into its coat, puffed itself into a ball and shivered into the wind. Shaking, I set my things down here, where my numb fingers could safely peck at the keyboard, a small defense against the advancing front.

But now I must leave, tree, as the air is cool and growing colder and it is time for me to slip back into a cave of my own. In the spring, we will both have fresh haircuts and emerge youthful and blushing to embrace the season.

Will this same squirrel join us then, or will he have leapt far away from here in his hunt for survival, ending his journey somewhere unknown to you and me? I cannot answer that, tree. But I look forward to seeing you then, and, too, all the furry rascals that call you home when times are good and the weather is fine and we are all so full of life and cheer.

 

Get Yo’ Debate On, Austin Style @theAustinot

The other day, for one of my many freelance writing gigs, I wrote in an article that businesses should post regularly to their blogs in order to develop the most devoted following. Posting two days in a row and then not for another month or so simply won’t do.

But, after all, I am a writer, and that means I’m great at recommending things in articles and not taking my own advice.

Which is to say, for my second post in two days, I’d like to say, hey! Do you know about the awesome Austin blog, the Austinot? Well you SHOULD because, it’s packed full of delicious info on everything there is to do in Austin, quirky and otherwise. I had the pleasure of meeting the blog owners at a local event here in Austin, and wrote a story on the awesome Austin event, Dionysium, which you should all check out tomorrow if you’re in town and up for some verbal fireworks.

So, without further adieu, I bid you check out the article HERE, explore the Austinot far and wide and get yo’ debate on!

Yeah! You Twine That Algae!

Most of the time, the story of how a story is made is boring. The Great Story Birthing often takes one of the two following forms:

  1. The Hollywood Version: I, THE GENIUS, shout EUREKA! while I’m in the middle of a shower, abandon the tub for my study and a pad of paper, and, shower still running, pen an entire story in one sitting.
  2. The More Often Version: I, THE GENIUS, shout EUREKA! while I’m in the middle of my shower, abandon the tub for my study and a pad of paper, remember that I most often write on a laptop, eagerly tap out five brilliant lines, go eat a slice of an entire box of pizza, forget about the story, return to it a week later, try again, hate myself for not being a better writer, eat an entire box of pizza, and repeat this cycle for several years until something finally manages to reach a somewhat conclusive ending, oftentimes because my house is at that point flooded and I have other things to take care of.

Sometimes, though, a story is something you carry with you throughout your life — something that grows as you grow, both personally and as a writer who goes from thinking ALL SENTENCES ARE COOL to knowing the precise rhythm and feel that make her heart sing.

And that, friends, is the story of the story I’ve just had published on InfectiveInk.com, And How the Algae Twines!

The first time I wrote this story, I was a sophomore in college, staring out my dorm window at the shifting snow drifts howling across the campus quad, thinking of another time when the world was also made of snow and I could feel my first real relationship reaching its zenith and beginning its long, slow descent into the frozen ground. The result: a creative short essay, and the feeling that I wasn’t done.

The second time I wrote this story, I was mored on the shores of a criticism-ridden grad school workshop, trying to be a better writer than I felt I could be. Somehow, I stumbled upon this old essay, languishing in an ancient Word file, and found myself horrified at my use of language, yet intrigued by the thoughts, images and emotions that lay behind it. I returned to my keyboard, and tried to remember what it was to feel. The result: a thirty page behemoth, with ten pages of striking imagery, ten pages of a writer reaching for a moral, and ten pages of a 24-year-old woman, demanding her true experiences find an outlet. And a workshop with an excess of praise and an excess of criticism that would change my writing forever.

The third time I wrote this story, I had been torn down to my core. There were no safe places left — not for me, not for my work. Everything I did was wrong. There was no warm hearth upon which I could nestle. After so many years of fighting for independence, I was on my own and barely able to breathe. Left with the few words that meant something to me. The few words that wouldn’t leave me alone.

It’s been three years since the third time. Three years, and this story has won awards, and finally found publication. The joy of finally seeing this story in print…well, I can’t quite put that into words. Nor can I promise I won’t write this story a fourth time, as I navigate the shriveled climes of my very non-snowy setting. But I can say that the story of this story — this story that began nine years ago and continues on — is one I will carry with me, wherever I go. This story has not left me.

You can read And How the Algae Twines at InfectiveInk.com.

Can’t Finish What I Started

I’m not sure if you know this about me, but I’m a master of beginnings. As in, my MFA really stands for, “Master of First Attempts.” But middles? Ends? Yeah, not so much. Let’s just say if my hard drive is a vast desert, story beginnings bounce like tumbleweeds over the horizon. And there I am, dragging my parched, sunburned body along the sand, just trying to capture one of them — any of them — in my maniacal story web. How’s that for dramatic imagery?

Rather than attempting to give this post an end here, I’ll toss you over to Write By Night, who have been kind enough to publish my musings on the subject of beginnings that have no end. Here’s the article. Voila! Go forth! Complete something for once!

Garbage Cans on the Streets of Suburbia

Huzzah! I’ve got another piece up on Citizen Brooklyn. It’s all about suburbia. Specifically, garbage cans on the streets of suburbia, which is why I decided to title it, Garbage Cans on the Streets of Suburbia. Oh sure, it’s about love and life and children all that good stuff too, but those things don’t make for a good title.

Check ‘er out here. And thanks to Citizen Brooklyn!

How I Feel When Salespeople Call

Sure, we all get sales calls. But if you’re a business owner, you really get sales calls. For every one expert blogpost I’ve run for my business so far, I’ve gotten one sales call a day. And the thing is, they use all of these tactics that just play right into all of my weaknesses, namely my tendency to muse things over aloud, rather than just saying, “No/yes, I will/will not do this,” as well as my willingness to open up to anyone when they ask empathetic questions, even if they’re obviously BS. I just cannot tell you how much I hate these calls. They’re so manipulative that it’s impossible to tell if something actually is valuable to me, and, while I’m listening to them blather on without pausing, all I can think about is that I should be writing right now.

So, I’ve put a little comic together, just for you, salespeople who call me when I’m trying to write or get other things done…

The Beauty in the…HOLY CRAP!

The other night, I stopped at the gas station after a long, hard day. As I was waiting for the tank to fill, I stared up at the moon, so sharp and bright in the cloudless sky, and I tried to appreciate the beauty of the world. My eyes fell to a lamp post, where kamikaze bugs slammed against the plastic, fell toward the ground, turned around, and tried their luck again. So eager and determined in their futility.

I tried to write a poem in my mind, to feel the world like I used to when life was slower. Find pleasure at least in words if not in the dry, cracked ground, in the sweat staining continents into my t-shirt. I tried to see the Seattle green in the wrinkled leaves, to see the mountains thrusting jagged snow-capped peaks into the gray sky. The cool of the lake against my skin. Quietude beyond rain-smeared panes.

The gas pumped on, and I began to feel at one with the earth.

And then a MASSIVE cricket the length of my finger and as thick as an OTHERWORLDLY BEAST dropped hard onto my neck and chirped triumphantly.

I dropped the pump, shouted “HOLY CRAP!” and flailed from one end of my car to the other.

And that was the end of that.