• Dear Rapists and Mute Onlookers,

    My rage consumes me. There are no words powerful enough to gauge my reaction to the 2 1/2 hour gang rape of a 15 year-old girl outside of her high school homecoming dance while ten or more looked on and did nothing.


    They found her barely conscious and medflighted her away where, they say, she's gone from critical to stable condition.

    Stable Condition. I don't think so. There's not enough money in the universe nor jailtime extant to erase those 2 1/2 hours. Her condition will never be stable again.

    The rapists will be tried as juveniles if they're young. A couple are old enough to learn about rape themselves behind bars, which they certainly will. Nothing will happen to those who chose to watch and keep silent.

    I understand a few even recorded the event on their cell phones. A few pictures of the homecoming dance, a few more of the gang rape just outside. Just another Saturday night.


    The news cycle is thick with various explanations of gang mentality and brain development in teens and I say bullshit. Bullshit. Our young people don't need excuses, they need consequences. The girl in the hospital, she deserves justice.

    That is all.


  • My glowing post on the fine gathering of Conway NaNoWriMo scribblers has been preempted for breaking news straight from the Log Cabin Democrat. This is certainly the mother of all hijacks, and it happened in my own backyard. Practically.

    Two shipping containers full of Kotex and baby wipes and whatnot, whisked away by feminine hygiene pirates in the dark of night. Local police feel certain they were stolen for the shipping containers alone, as it's unlikely they'll fence the goods. As one official noted, "It isn't like a trailer load of flatscreen TVs."

    Do tell.

    I'd prefer to imagine a whole band of young mothers, desperate in these tough times, clipping padlocks and absconding with the goods. Gals sitting around the dinette table in some double-wide, drinking box-wine and splitting up the loot - that sort of thing.

    Five days before the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, this is a gift indeed.

  • I'm well into a string of six-day work weeks and no end in sight until mid December. How did I over-extend myself this way? It sneaks up on me. One week I'm working at a steady, relaxed pace, then one Sunday night I flip the organizer book over to the next page and it looks like Armageddon.

    I bring this on myself. Please tell me I'm not alone.

    There are a gazillion commitments this week - everything from throwing a NaNoWriMo plotting workshop to advising the November online issue of the Vortex. In the next two days I'll rake in around 80 freshman essays that need grading, I've got a novel rewrite due, judges for a freshman comp essay contest to wrangle, and the 2nd Edition of the Easy Street Carnival of Writing and Art to judge and post.

    Halloween is coming and I have no candy.

    So is NaNoWriMo and I have no plot.

    Clearly I'm suffering from Sunday Night Panic. Just so you know, the antidote is writing this blog post. Short of knocking myself in the head this seems to be working fairly well. Mainly because I just put blogging on my to-do list so I could check it off with a flourish.

    Ta-da, y'all.
  • I'm not entirely sure what to do with these tidbits from the Log Cabin Democrat's Police Beat, but I'm unable to keep them to myself.
    "Residential burglary at [deleted] Highway 89 South (about a mile northeast of Mayflower). Victim reported on Thursday that someone had broken into a residence and stolen a water hose and water hose reel, a Marlboro bag, a box with 500 magazines in it, some camping supplies and some iodine."

    Sounds like someone's on the lam. Because it creeps me clean out to think otherwise, I'm going to assume that box held back issues of Field and Stream. Regardless, that's one heavy box to tote around and I'm surprised the thief didn't take a little Bengay with that iodine.

    And this typographical house-guest mystery:
    "Theft of property at [deleted]block of South Boulevard. Victim reported that at some point between 11 p.m. Sunday and 9:30 a.m. Monday, as the victim slept, someone stole an ACER computer. The victim told police that a guest known to her only as “E” had stayed at the apartment on that night, and was gone before she woke the next morning. The letter “U” was reported to be missing from the computer’s keyboard."
    The point is, anyone looking for NaNoWriMo material need look no further than this fascinating link. God bless the Log Cabin Democrat and all who scribble there.

    I just shake my head.

  • I
    t caught me by surprise, what with all this National Day on Writing and classes and broken elevators and hugging The Perfect Grandson and such. In fact, I almost missed it.

    Today's my second blogiversary.

    Celebrating such a thing publicly is odd. I don't want to be that person in the office who walks around telling everyone it's her birthday. What exactly are you supposed to do after such an announcement? Prompted congratulations are thin at best. Besides, I'm sure there are several dozen Southern etiquette violations involved, and we all know you go straight to hell for breaking those.

    You're the ones who deserve something, not me. So I've got a little something here for you.

    I started this hayride for a reason. Two years ago I found myself telling my writing students to scribble incessantly, fearlessly, and then I went home after classes were over and realized I hadn't written two creative words together in months. Months. My personal writing had taken a backseat to my everyday duties and became that thing I planned to do after the grading/laundry/phone calls/paperwork/planning/meeting/___________.

    I wasn't writing at all. Worse than that, I'd made the very thing I enjoy most into a dangling carrot I'd never quite reach. So I started this blog and decided to make myself get to the page on a regular basis. Absence did not make the heart grow fonder, it made me articulately weak and stumbly. For a couple of weeks I wrote in someone else's voice - in fact, I channeled a whole slew of mysterious voices.

    More than a few times, the frustration of my misplaced voice made me angry enough to quit altogether. Remembering the old days when making words was effortless only compounded the issue. How had I slipped into such a state?

    Eventually, it became easier. I added what I now call my Scribbling Hour into my day - an appointment with myself to sit down somewhere and just make words. It's the only appointment I never break. Between that and this blog, I healed enough to slam out a novel in thirty days last year. I am Writer, hear me roar and all that.

    The thing is, I started walking the talk and things turned around. This blog was a big part of that and I'm thrilled I can share this with you. Writer's block? Hell no. I don't believe in that boogeyman. Self denial is real, though, and so is procrastination. Neither one can hide under that rock and call itself something swanky. Do I still have crappy writing moments? All the time, but they pass and even the worst of days can leave me a line, a name, a gesture that turns into something stunning later.

    So in honor of the National Day on Writing, and as a present to yourself, go write something. It doesn't matter if it's awful or tragic or otherwise unsightly. Just do it anyway. If you really hate it when you're done, then delete the mess or throw pages in the fire or whatever makes you feel better. Then open the same present again tomorrow. Keep doing it until your voice loses the rust and awkward pitch, because it will.

    Everyone has something that needs telling. Go tell it.

  • October 20th is the National Day on Writing. Didn't know? Well, now that you do I suggest finding a fast pen, a few sheets of paper, and a little quiet time during the day. Not all celebrations require fireworks. Everyone everywhere should be scribbling, typing, scratching, slamming out a few words tomorrow.

    The best part is that you don't have to be a spectator. The Gallery of Writing wants everyone to participate by posting their writing. Don't get hinky about putting your words out there - the site wants daily kinds of writing. Here, I'll let them tell you.
    "Whether we call it texting, IMing, jotting a note, writing a letter, posting an email, blogging, making a video, building an electronic presentation, composing a memo, keeping a diary, or just pulling together a report, Americans are writing like never before. Recent research suggests that writing, in its many forms, has become a daily practice for millions of Americans. It may be the quintessential 21st century skill. By collecting a cross-section of everyday writing through a National Gallery of Writing, we will better understand what matters to writers today—and when writing really counts."
    While you can post writing on the Gallery through May, the site goes live tomorrow. Go ahead, browse the writing and post something of your own. Scribble in your piece of this historical project. I'd love to read what you dream up, so leave a link to your little corner of the gallery here in the comments.

    (Do be patient, though - the "curators" of each gallery have to hit the acceptance button to make sure no one's leaving nasty business on the site. You understand.)
  • ...in the hoosegow. The one-two punch of midterm papers coupled with the sweet release of Fall Break has me a little shell-shocked. Especially since I spent the first day of the break wringing a tissue and running from computer to television over Falcon the Balloon Boy.

    I still don't precisely know how I feel about that whole business, but I'm crystal clear on a few things: I'm glad he's safe. I want to know why he wasn't in school. I want five minutes alone with tornado-daddy to discuss the finer points of parenting.

    Don't get me started.

    At the beginning of this four-day Fall Break, I made a list of all the delicious, non-academic things I would do. Didn't do any of them. I clearly accomplish more when I'm up to my eyeballs in too much work - something to do with forward motion and deceleration. A little free time and I languish.

    Enough of that.
  • Photobucket

    orty days and forty nights, or thereabouts. A break here and there doesn't really matter, because the rain only eases to lure me outside so it can begin again.

    And it's cold. Well, plenty cold for Arkansas. It's in the 60's here and all of us are scrambling for winter coats and portable heaters. It's like living Portland. Or London.

    I'm guessing that neither place smells as bad as this, though. In the spring, we generally have quite a bit of nasty weather, but the temperature is lifting, greenness is poking out of the ground, and everything takes on a sort of sweet respiration. In the mack-daddy steam of the summer when temps hover in the 100s and 110s, the rain makes a sort of sizzling hot-tar smell. It goes away though, and on the worst days going out smells a little it's raining tadpoles.

    In the fall, it rains mud-bottom river catfish everywhere. It's thick, I tell you, like the clouds just sucked up the worst parts of the Arkansas River and dumped it on your new shoes. If you stand still long enough in this weather, you'll smell like you've fallen off a river barge. Musty. Mudcat-fishy.

    This afternoon I trudged across campus in the mist and landed in a classroom that had the air off, the windows down tight, and the fifth class in a row of twenty or so students dripping catfish-rain all over the industrial carpeting. Ten minutes in, the smell was unbearable.

    The Weather Channel - which is unfailingly incorrect most of the time - says we'll be out of this mudcat-smelling hell by Friday. We get the weekend off, it seems. Monday it's supposed to throw down again and last for days.

    I'm actually looking forward to the ice storms.
  • Dear Forgetfuls,

    Our duly elected President has won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Congratulate him. Those of you who are Americans, the honor is reflective. Be proud.

    Off and on all day I've read comments written by those who 1) somehow think the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose Obama because he is black, 2) believe the Norwegian Nobel Committee watched too much MSM news on CNN and were brainwashed, and 3) insist he nominated himself. I even read one blog on FOX News where several posters referred to our President as "Buckwheat." Inexcusable.

    The Nobel prizes are international awards. If Those Who Are Forgetful would like to read more about the selection committee and the process, the official Nobel website is a good place to begin. I would also like to remind the Forgetful to brush up on their world view, as well as the way the world views us. We seem to be living in a time of tunnel vision and backyard-centric confusion. Main Street is important, but it is not the center of the universe. It never will be again.

    The world is a large place, and every nation carries its own historical baggage into the international discussion. Civility is not optional. Someone else's incivility is no excuse for your own. Ever.

    Forgetfuls, go congratulate the first sitting U.S. President since Woodrow Wilson to win the Nobel Peace Prize. It's an enormous honor and responsibility, and President Obama deserves the respect due regardless of your political leanings.

    As my mama always said, mind your manners.


  • If I were any sexier it would put your eyes out. I've waited a long, hot Arkansas summer to slip into something a little more comfortable, and I found it at Land's End. The price? Completely ridiculous.

    Flannel, baby. The granny nightgown of your dreams.

    In fact, I'm so crazy in love with this evening wear, that I may just loll around all weekend in this or the kicky solid-red number that came with it. The only thing better than one flannel nightgown is two. You know it's true.

    The wind is howling cool and the leaves are dropping. Finally. All I need now is a good soup recipe and Big Fat Novel.

  • Hey, I was willing to overlook the one baby snake we found last month. It could have been some wayward copperhead that never read the homeowner's association memo. Illiterate, lost, whatever, Em used the business end of a new shovel to send the nasty thing to it's reward. One snake, one bad Sunday morning, over and done.

    Or so I thought.

    On my way to work this morning I saw my sweet neighbor-lady pinching dead roses off her bushes. 7:30 in the morning and there she was bent over a few plants, wearing an open housecoat over some sweats. She was positively intent over those little bushes, deadheading away like a woman possessed. I decided to be neighborly - something I don't do often around here since a little casual conversation in the yard usually ends up with someone calling somebody the Antichrist and making me sit through an hour of Bible verses offered as proof. It's risky.

    So I cruised up in the Avalon, rolled down the window and said good morning. Your roses are lovely, ma'am. We'll have to trade cuttings in the spring. Like that.

    She rose up out of that bush and waddled down to the curb to get a better look at me. I'll be pleased to, she says, in fact, if I find one more copperhead in my beds you can have the whole house.

    Not only has she found three (three!) baby snakes in her flowers, she also found one in her living room caught fast on one of those sticky bug pads. A snake. In the house. She refused to pick the thing up, and three days later when the bug man came by, she showed it to him.

    That's a baby copperhead, ma'am, he said, and it's still alive. She walked out to the garage, grabbed an axe, and diced that snake it right there on the living room floor with the bug man looking on.

    I wasn't there, but I imagine that bug fella took a step or two back. An old woman with an axe makes a powerful impression.

    If you add in the roadkill snake we found up the street, that puts the official Copperhead Count at six. That's too many to ignore. We only have the one shovel, and while it was the right tool for the job before, I feel certain it's time to bulk up the arsenal.

    It's Home Depot time.

    Dandy sign via txt2pic.com, where there are entirely too many ways to waste time and create lasting art.
  • But I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month again this year. 50,000 words in thirty days, ladies and gentlemen. Don't you dare scoff, because last year I managed to write over 50k words and have the best writing experience of my life. Seriously, by Day 25 I heard the angels singing my name.

    For those of you willing to jump in the deep end with a laptop strapped to your ankle, this figures out to roughly 1,666 words a day. I tell you, it's doable. You can't ache and whine over every line, you can't edit as you go. You need a devil-may-care daily slam with no going back. It's delicious and freeing and there are, of course, the angels near the end.

    Just so you know, my slam-it-out daily prayer produced what may be some of the best writing I've ever put together. By the end of Week One I was able to write my quota in a little over an hour, typos a'plenty. You can't care about those either, and that in itself is gift enough for a gal like me.

    Join me in November. If 50,000 words sounds like a mountain too high, then make your goal 25,000. If that's too much, then just keep visiting here and cheerlead. I plan to sling out bits and pieces of my daily slam here and there - some of which I plan to write on a manual typewriter.

    You heard me.

    It'll be like Houdini in the glass tank, without the water. My wrists tied snugly with typewriter ribbon, I'm going to run out the clock and reach 50,000 words. Novel in a month.

    Who's in?

  • I look a lot like our gal Medusa right now. I'm not kidding.

    Forget worrying about H1N1. At this point I think it's a smoke screen for all the other menaces a few thousand freshman students can sling at you in the close proximity of the classroom. I've spent the last three days captive to some bug or other that's nothing like The Swine. The germ-throwers caught me looking the other way and gave me a very uncomfortable stomach flu.

    That's okay. I'm felling better tonight and now I've got my head on a swivel for all their non-Swine health bombs. What's next - strep? staph? mono? pink-eye? No matter. I'm onto their game now.

    Tomorrow I'm going into class in an antibacterial Cloak of Invisibility. If anyone pokes fun, I'll shoot 'em with Lysol and turn them to stone.
  • I gave my students a writing prompt today that bubbled up little pockets of angst here and there. Nothing wrong with that. In eighteen year-olds, frowning end-of-the-world moods tend to mean they're actually thinking about something other than what to post on Facebook. I call that a win. The prompt was simple: Imagine yourself five years from now. What are you doing and who is around you? Five years from today, right now this minute, who ARE you?

    The results were fascinating. Oh, to be young in a world full of possibility! Strangely enough, most of the young women saw themselves married at 23. Clearly they're all snagging older men, though, because the gentlemen in my classes overwhelmingly said no to that sort of thing. They're all waiting until they're thirty-ish to marry. Probably a good idea, that.

    Four classes of writing students - most of whom haven't yet chosen a major - told me they will be gainfully employed and driving nice cars. A few wise ones said they'd still be in school, graduate school, and eating ramen noodles for another few years. Most anticipate careers that involve a minimal work for maximum cash, bless their hearts. I hope it all comes true for them.

    It's important to note that not one student mentioned anything about worrying themselves bald over paying off college loans. I guess it's a lot like giving birth - you don't believe the negative hype until someone tells you to push.

    Of course, I wrote with them. Always do. In five years I'll be fif...forty...um...six. I've been going backwards for a few years now and the math's starting to confuse me. No matter.

    There's officially a lottery here in Arkansas now, and I've decided I'm going to win the Powerball. That's the first thing. A gal needs a little pocket change to make it into her declining years without eating catfood, especially if she teaches for a living. The Powerball prize need not be in the ridiculous millions, either. I'll be happy with 25 or so.

    Five years from today I might very well roll the speedometer on the 2001 Avalon past the 80,000 marker. This may take a few extra trips to Little Rock between now and then because right now I'm on the cusp of rolling it over to 40k and it's been a while. No, I won't buy a fancy new ride with my Powerball money. I'm confident the Avalon is good for another ten years, easy.

    If I wait long enough, maybe those flying Jetson cars will finally hover the showroom floors. I'm hopeful.

    The Perfect Grandson will be in second grade in five years. I figure I can either shower him with gifts and sports camp money until he graduates, or hand him 10 million for four years of college. It's likely I'll do both while making a geriatric pest of myself in Em's daily life. I can multitask.

    Despite being flush, I'll probably still teach. Can't imagine not doing that, although all that grading might eat into my book tour. I wonder if I'll be the first one to grade essays in Oprah's Green Room? Guess we'll find out.

    There are some other things I wrote down about doing yoga and being thin, but that made me almost as angsty as my students, so I'll stop there.

    I told my classes that imagining themselves in a future place is the only way to actually get there. Making throw-away lists and having drunken epiphanies are unproductive and sometimes lead to a life in mom and dad's basement. Several of them nodded, so I guess they must have uncles I went to school with.

    Yes, it's a hell of a curve-ball to throw the future at them this close to a Friday night. That's fine. Like any coach, I plan to throw a few more until they're swinging clean from pure muscle memory. In writing and in life, that's the way it should be.
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