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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Day 282: What’s That Sound? It’s Inchworm Poop!

Day 282:  What’s That Sound? It’s Inchworm Poop!

YESTERDAY’S STATS:

# of pages written: 15

# of literary mags submitted to: 1

Richmond is currently infested with inchworms. For the past week I’ve been picking them out of my hair and off of my clothes. The other day I found one in my bed, and after a walk in the park, I had to fish one out of my bra.

These inchworms, or cankerworms, as they are properly called, chow down on leaves, often stripping them to the veins. A large population, like the one we’re experiencing now, can defoliate whole trees with their greedy eating. Then, when they’re done gorging, the worms spindle to the ground on silk threads to make their cocoons.

On Saturday, my boyfriend, Paul, and I were trying to take a pleasant walk in the woods, but the pleasantness was impeded by all the worms dangling from the trees.

“Blech,” I said, waving my hands out in front of me at the invisible threads. “I think I just swallowed one.”

“Is there one on me?” Paul asked, rubbing the back of his neck. “I feel like there’s one on me.”

We stopped to examine a cocoon-like structure swaddling the lower part of a skeletonized bush. “Wow, look at that,” Paul said. We then noticed a thread stretching from the cocoon to a nearby tree, and inching across this tightrope was a neon green worm, moving cartoonishly – one scrunch at a time.

“Shh,” I said. “Listen.” In the forest we could hear a faint pattering, like a light rain falling. “I think it’s the sound of all the little worms chomping on the leaves,” I said.

Later, we put down a blanket under a tree and lay on it, watching the worms on their silk threads sway and spin in the breeze. When we got up, the blanket was covered in tiny black pellets. “Do you think it’s inchworm poop?”I asked.

“Probably,” my boyfriend said.

When I got home, I read up on cankerworms. Turns out, their (harmless) excrement is referred to as “frass” (god knows why), and it can fall in such large amounts that it sounds like rain falling on the leaves. So it wasn’t the sound of them eating that I heard. It was the sound of them pooping.

Inchworm (or cankerworm)

Inchworm (or cankerworm)

Speaking of crap and exploding populations, I should mention that after I posted about Rebecca Martinson, the “deranged sorority girl,” I saw an explosion in the number of visitors to my blog. I have to admit, it was exciting, and a part of me wanted to be greedy and start pooping out more blog posts on “trending now” subjects like Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy and that Oklahoma cheerleader, Kelsey, who some people think is “too chunky.”

While I was admiring my site stats the other day, my mother came home from the library, telling me about a book she saw called Sh*t My Dad Says. Apparently it is a book based on a Twitter feed by the same name. “It was junk,” my mom said. “His Twitter feed becomes a book? Come on now. This stuff doesn’t last.”

My site stats after posting about Rebecca Martinson.

My site stats after posting about Rebecca Martinson.

Nothing lasts. Just think, the trees were getting their leaves a few weeks ago, and now their leaves are being consumed by inchworms. And the inchworms won’t last either. In another week they’ll be gone. They’ll emerge in June as ugly gray moths that will fly into porch lights and fry themselves.

Nothing lasts. The TV show based on Sh*t My Dad Says only lasted 18 episodes before it was cancelled. And in a few months, no one will even remember who Rebecca Martinson is.  (Except for Rebecca herself.)

People say “the Internet is forever,” but google status is constantly being updated. It used to be that if you googled “Eva Langston” the first thing that popped up was a truly embarrassing interview I did for my college newspaper. Now, I can’t even find that article. It’s sunk to the bottom of the slush pile that is the Internet.

And besides, the Internet won’t last either. One day it’ll go the way of Walkmans and steam-powered trains. Twitter feeds will be gone forever.

Nothing lasts. Not really. But you know what lasts longer than those greedy leaf-chomping inchworms? The trees they are suspended from. The old, stoic trees that have taken decades to grow. You know what lasts longer than Sh*t My Dad Says? The Divine Comedy. Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The Great Gatsby.

Good stories last. Good writing lasts. Good ideas last. And those things take time. Maybe, every now and again, I’ll write about pop culture, but otherwise, I want my blog to continue to help me grow as a writer and be a place where I can suspend my threads out to connect myself to the world. I hope to one day write a good novel that lasts longer than I do, maybe as long as a strong, healthy tree.

Leaves in a park in Richmond.  Don't worry, the tree can survive this attack.  But it does get a little annoyed.

Leaves in a park in Richmond. Don’t worry, this strong tree can survive this attack. But it does get a little annoyed.

Stefon Describes New York’s Hottest Poetry & Eva Tries to Analyze a Poem

Stefon Describes New York’s Hottest Poetry & Eva Tries to Analyze a Poem

TODAY’S STATS:

# of pages written: 16

I try to read the poems in literary journals, I really do. But sometimes I feel like poetry is being weird just to be weird. Like the poets are purposefully trying to make me feel stupid. In fact, I might end up describing many modern poems the way Stefon from Saturday Night Live describes New York’s hottest clubs:

Are you looking for inaccessible reading material that makes you feel inadequate? Then look no further! These long-ass poems have everything: foreign languages, goat feet, vague references, Biblical allusions, creepy descriptions of skin and hair. If you liked Ezra Pound’s Cantos, then you’ll love this random collection of words and punctuation!

Stefon from SNL

Stefon from SNL

In case you are unfamiliar with the poetry being published in literary magazines, let me give you an example. I was flipping through Fence the other day, a journal notorious for “experimental” writing, and I read the following:

High Food
by Sophia Dahlin

the basking of a scalloped bloomer
listening on deck:
how the bride belied the groom,
despite his foreknowledge,
unable to desist when damasque’d cheeky
stewardesses had
particular requests.

before the boat could land.
actually on time but nobody kept track–
smacking of what
the blossom overcame –
the passenger all fingers
pleadingly– the trollop squeezed
an apple into sauce.

Eva’s Analysis:

1. WTF?
2. Why so many dashes – ?
3. I like that the trollop squeezed an apple into sauce, but what’s a trollop?
4. Furthermore, what does damasque’d mean?
5. So apparently they’re on a boat… ?
6. I give up.

Eva’s Analysis, Take Two:
1. the basking of a scalloped bloomer: OK, so maybe someone is a late bloomer and he/she is basking in the sun on the deck of the boat. Why scalloped? I was thinking like potatoes, but maybe it means curvy. Or like the scallops in the ocean. Hmm. OK, let’s move on.

2. how the bride belied the groom: I had to look up “belie.” It means to misrepresent or be false. OK. So the bride did the groom wrong, even though he already knew she would, apparently, because of his “foreknowledge.”

3. unable to desist when damasque’d cheeky/stewardesses had/particular requests: Oh! Scandalous! So somebody hooked up with a bunch of stewardesses. I’m not sure whether it was the bride or groom. (Damasque is a patterned fabric, btw – I just looked it up.)

4. smacking of what/the blossom overcame: I got nothing.

5. the passenger all fingers: Are we back to the bloomer basking on the deck? Is he/she the passenger who is apparently “all fingers”? What does that mean, exactly?

6. pleadingly–the trollop/squeezed an apple into sauce: A trollop is a promiscuous woman. So is the trollop the wife? Or one of the cheeky stewardesses? I like that she squeezed an apple into sauce because an apple is often a symbol for seduction, so this is a nice image In fact, I think I’d like this poem better if it was just this one line: the trollop squeezed an apple into sauce. The end.

7. Final conclusion: I still don’t get it. It makes me frustrated. No offense, Sophia Dahlin. I’m sure you’re much smarter than me and I’m just a lame-o. I guess I should just stick with Shel Silverstein.

 

So that poem was kind of a bust, but I’ll keep trying. I’ve been interested in reading poetry lately because I’ve been writing more poetry lately. In fact, I just submitted a poem to The Fairy Tale Review the other day. The poem makes sense, I think. Therefore, they probably won’t publish it.

Apples are a symbol for seduction.  Are you feeling aroused by this poster?

Apples are a symbol for seduction. Are you feeling aroused by this poster?

Day 272: 3 Stories of Jeans, or, Get Out of My Pants!

Day 272:  3 Stories of Jeans, or, Get Out of My Pants!

I promised that my next blog would be about jeans, and I am nothing if not reliable. So here it is: three stories about pairs of jeans.

1. Get Out of My Pants!

When I was in the ninth grade I had a pair of jeans that had belonged to my Aunt Susan in the early seventies. They were bellbottoms with holes in both knees and a large hole at the thigh that had been mended with a yellow and orange mushroom patch. I loved these jeans more than anything.

Although the stores were starting to sell “wide-leg” jeans, it was impossible to get authentic bellbottoms, which was what I thought I looked best in, so I wore my aunt’s jeans at least three times a week. I wore them with a tie-dyed t-shirt or with a seventies leather jacket I’d gotten from a thrift store. I was wearing them when I had my first real kiss, and I was wearing them the day I met Nikki, who would become one of my lifelong friends.

Since the jeans were so old, the fabric was super thin and soft, and soon new holes began to develop. I patched up some of them – like the ones in the butt area – but I just let the knee holes get bigger and bigger. “Air-conditioner pants,” I joked.

My mom did not like the pants. She thought they were too old and ratty, and perhaps that I looked like a street urchin. One day, I couldn’t find my jeans. I went into my mom’s room to look for them and saw them in the trash can. I quickly snatched them out, brushed them off, and put them on.

One day, I was wearing my jeans in English class when we had to push our desks into groups of four to work on a project. Rob J., the boy sitting across from me, stretched out his legs under the desks, and his foot went directly into the giant hole in the knee of my jeans.

“Ahh!” I yelled. “Get out of my pants!”

“Oh, sorry.” He tried to withdraw his leg, and I heard the sound of fabric ripping.

“Stop!” I yelled! “Your ripping it!”

Everyone in the room was staring at us.

“Eva?” the teacher asked. “What’s going on?”

“Rob’s foot is stuck in my pants,” I said, trying to remain calm.

Rob’s face had turned the color of a tomato.

“Just pull it out gently,” I told him.

Rob turned his ankle to one side and managed to shimmy his foot out of my jeans.

That’s how one of the knee holes got even bigger.
2. Wide Legs

At some point I finally had to stop wearing the holey jeans because they were becoming more patch than pant. I gave them to my brother and asked him to make me a skirt using pieces of the old jeans. My brother happens to be an excellent seamster (I guess that’s what you say instead of seamstress), but he never did make me the skirt because Deven doesn’t like it when other people tell him what to do.

Around the time that I was falling in love with my aunt’s seventies jeans, Deven was falling in love with JNCO Jeans, the extremely wide-legged and impractical skater pants. He was in the sixth grade, and my mother had bought him one pair. When he asked for another, she put her foot down. Not only were they expensive, she said, they looked incredibly stupid.

But, just like me, my brother was not going to let my mother get in the way of his fashion. He pulled out some fabric from my mom’s craft box and set up the old sewing machine. He had never used it before, but he was good with machines and had soon figured it out on his own. Then he studied his one pair of JNCO’s carefully, cut out a pattern, and sewed himself some wide-legged pants.
The first pair was pretty rough, but Deven made himself another pair, and then another. He started to get good at making pants. He asked for a sewing machine for Christmas and denim fabric for his birthday. Our grandmothers were both elated. I had never really latched onto sewing, so now they could bond with Deven about threads and bobbins. (I don’t even know what bobbins are, but I know they have something to do with sewing.)

Deven started making himself some pretty decent jeans. They were like JNCO’s, with the absurdly wide legs and large back pockets. (Deven used to like to brag that he could fit his head in the bottom opening of his jeans.) He embroidered his own label on the back pockets and called them “Dublin” jeans. He also started working at a silk-screen shop and silk-screened his own t-shirts with designs he’d drawn, so by the time he was in the eighth grade, my brother’s wardrobe consisted of entirely his own handmade clothing.

Deven also started selling his jeans online, and he had a few buyers. In fact, I googled Dublin jeans today and found that it is still listed as a company, with our old home address as the company location. Deven made me a pair of black Dublin jeans that I wore to school sometimes, when I wasn’t wearing my aunt’s holey jeans.

My family and I all thought that Deven was going to become a fashion designer. But, when he got into high school, he stopped sewing jeans. Just like that. He had a job and could buy his own wide-leg jeans at the store. The homemade jeans phase had been, apparently, a necessity and not a passion.

Jean skirt?  No.  This is a pair of JNCO jeans.

Jean skirt? No. This is a pair of JNCO jeans.

3. Crotch-Patch

Deven is not the only man in my life who knows his way around a sewing machine.  The other day my boyfriend, Paul, got out  grandmother’s ancient, hundred-pound German sewing machine to sew a patch onto his jeans.  He has been wearing the same pair of jeans at least four times a week ever since I met him. They are completely falling apart, and yet he will not buy another pair – out of weirdness, laziness, cheapness, or some combination of all three.

I don’t mind this, of course. I understand that we all have strange connections to our favorite pair of jeans. I can’t fault him for wearing a pair of jeans that are becoming more patch than pants.

But it should be noted that the majority of the patches are in the butt and crotch area, which looks a little weird.

Anyway, I was half-watching Paul sew on the patch.  The thread kept bunching up into knots, and he kept cursing under his breathe and adjusting things on the sewing machine. (Perhaps the bobbins?)

Finally, the patch was on. “Ta-dah!” he said. “Do you like how I patched my pants?”

“That’s wonderful,” I said. “But do you maybe want to go buy some new ones sometime?”

“No, these are fine,” he said.

He tried to step into one leg. But he couldn’t. Because as he’d sewn the patch into the crotch, he’d also accidentally sewn one of the legs together.

“Oh crap,” he said. He shoved his foot into the pant-leg, much like Rob J. had shoved his foot into my pants oh-so-many years ago. Again, there was the sound of ripping fabric.

And then his leg was in the jeans, and there was another large hole in the thigh of his pants, below the front pocket.

“Are you going to wear those to brunch?” I asked.

“Yep,” he said proudly.

He’s probably going to wear them for forever.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t come between people and their jeans.

Paul and Eva, both wearing jeans.

Paul and Eva, both wearing jeans.

Day 270: An Open Letter to My Cat, or, Gangnam Style Kitty

Day 270:  An Open Letter to My Cat, or, Gangnam Style Kitty

YESTERDAY’S STATS:

# of pages written: 7

# of literary mags submitted to: 2

People seemed to really like my “Open Letter to the Levi’s Jean Company.” I’m not sure if they liked the open letter format, or if they liked reading about jeans, but I aim to please, so today I will post an open letter, and soon I will post something about jeans. Then I will determine which one most pleased the masses.

AN OPEN LETTER TO MY CAT:

My Dearest Kitty*,

I love you a lot. I love the way you stretch out on the floor with me when I’m doing yoga, and the way you snuggle in my lap, purring like a motor, when I’m on the couch reading. I love to pet you, and I apologize about that time I was stroking your fluffy belly and thought I detected a tick but it was really one of your nipples. I promise not to violate you like that again.

Anyway, I’m very impressed with you as a cat. You’ve killed two voles in the past two weeks and left them for us on our porch, which was quite thoughtful. You always win staring contests with the neighborhood cats, and despite your treks around the yard, you somehow manage to keep the pink pads of your feet soft and clean. (How do you do it? My feet get callused and dirty just from walking around the house.)

But we need to talk about how beggy you’ve gotten lately. It all started when the vet said you were a pound or two overweight. Now, I don’t want you to feel bad about that, because I think you are beautiful just the way you are. I love your tummy and the way it swaggers from side to side when you walk. You are a sassy, gorgeous cat. But, I also want you to be healthy, which is why I started measuring out your food: one third of a cup twice a day.

I know you weren’t happy about that.

And then, last week, my mom bought you that diet cat food, and I guess it must be low calorie, because you seem hungry all the time. You’re constantly meowing at me and looking towards your food dish pitifully. You come around whenever anyone is eating anything, and then you go up on your hind legs and put out your front paws in what my mom describes as “Gangnam Style Kitty.”

Gangram Style Kitty!

Gangnam Style Kitty!

At first it was cute.

But on Sunday, when we were eating Chinese food on the deck, you got up on your hind legs to beg then dug your claws into the side of my thigh. And I don’t even think you like sweet and sour shrimp. You also clawed my grandpa the next morning when he was eating some toast, and he really can’t take that kind of abuse. Then yesterday, when I was eating a quesadilla, you jumped onto the table and tried to snatch it off my plate. That was unacceptable. Nobody steals Eva’s quesadilla, and I thought you knew better than that.

I guess you’re really hungry.

The thing I don’t understand is, if you’re so hungry, why don’t you catch a vole and eat that? You can obviously catch them, and my mom says once last year she watched you eat and entire vole – bones and all. So this is something that is definitely in your power. I guess it’s easier to beg for food from me than to go out into the yard and catch your own. Maybe this is a matter of motivation.

Kitty, I know it’s hard to motivate yourself. Especially when you have this hope that there might be an easier way. I’m always thinking, gosh, wouldn’t it be great if someone just handed me a job where I got to write daily blogs about whatever I wanted and get paid for them? But you know what, Kitty, that’s probably not going to happen, no matter how much I beg the universe. So I have to find my own ways to write every day and still make a living. I have to motivate myself to get up early every morning and work on my novel even though no one is paying me to do so. In the same way, Kitty, no one’s going to give you an extra scoop of food. You might have to go out into the yard and find some food on your own.

And, speaking of finding things, I used to think that by this time in my life I’d have found my own family and house and career, and written a best-selling novel. But I don’t have any of those things. And you know what, Kitty, I’m OK with that. Sometimes we have to be satisfied with what we have.  Oh, yes, Kitty, you’re right, I am hungry for these things, but it’s not always bad to feel hungry. It keeps you motivated. I’m sure if I get a family, house, career, and novel, I will become hungry for other things. In life, we are never completely satiated.

My darling Kitty, I understand why you beg. We all beg from life. Please, give us what we want!  And that’s fine. Because sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the oil.  But sometimes we have to go out and hunt for the things we want.  At the same time, we need to get comfortable with our hunger, because that’s a feeling that will never really go away.

I hope this makes sense to you. I know these are deep thoughts, but you are a very clever cat. Maybe, if you are very good today, I will give you the leftover milk from my cereal bowl.

Most Sincerely,
Eva

*I know this sounds like an Anne Frank diary entry, but in fact, this is an actual letter to an actual cat.

Gangram Style

Gangnam Style

Gangram Style Kitty!

Gangnam Style Kitty!

Day 268: How to Describe Your Characters: Flannery, Fitzgerald, & Fitch

Day 268:  How to Describe Your Characters:  Flannery, Fitzgerald, & Fitch

TODAY’S STATS:

# of pages written: 13

# of literary mags submitted to: 0

As a kid I devoured all those girly series like Sweet Valley and Baby-sitter’s Club. In Sweet Valley High, the twins were always described as having blond hair, “Pacific blue eyes,” and “perfect size six figures.” The Baby-sitter’s books would usually spend a good part of the first chapter describing the characters: Claudia was Japanese with long, jet-black hair; Kristy was a tom-boy with light brown hair pulled into a messy ponytail.

Don’t get me wrong — I loved those books — and the descriptions are fine if you’re writing series paperbacks for middle-schoolers. But that’s not what I want to write. I’m not trying for a Pulitzer or anything, but I do want to write the best and most sophisticated novel(s) and stories that I can manage. Unfortunately, I often find myself describing my characters like I’m a ghost-writer for Sweet Valley High.

She had shoulder-length, mousy brown hair and gray eyes… Boring.
He had dark hair, blue eyes, and a strong jaw… Blah.
She was a short blonde with big boobs… Ick.

It’s a habit to define my characters by height, hair color, eye color, and body shape. After all, that’s how we tend to describe people in real-life. But in fiction these generic descriptions get boring. They sound immature. They don’t really help the reader picture your characters.

So how are you supposed to describe your characters? I say, learn from the masters. Here are examples of non-generic, spot-on character descriptions from Flannery O’Conner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Janet Fitch.

HOW TO DESCRIBE CHARACTERS:

1. You don’t always have to be specific.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsy, the reader never really learns the color of Daisy’s hair and eyes, but does it matter? We can still picture her in our minds:    Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth.

2. Use figurative language
I … easily spotted her blond hair like a white flame… The edge of her white kimono flapped open in the wind and I could see breast, low and full. Her beauty was like the edge of a very sharp knife.   -Description of Ingrid in White Oleander by Janet Fitch

3. Describe the way characters carry themselves
She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her gray sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming, discontented face.   -Description of Jordan in The Great Gatsby

4. Describe facial expressions
Besides the neutral expression that she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings. Her forward expression was steady and driving like the advance of a heavy truck. Her eyes never swerved to left or right but turned as the story turned as if they followed a yellow line down the center of it.  -From “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Conner

5. Scatter your descriptions throughout the prose.
In The Great Gatsby, when Nick first sees Jordan he describes:  She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall.  Later he gives us the “erect carriage” description from #3, and then later still he says:  Miss Baker [yawned], sitting down at the table as if she were getting into bed.

7. Use physical descriptions that shows personality.
As she signed her books she wore her customary half-smile, more internal than outward, having a private joke while she thanked everybody for coming.  -Description of Ingrid in White Oleander

..he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner, two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward.   -Description of Tom in The Great Gatsby

8. Have the narrator make judgments and assesments about a character’s appearance.

The sister, Catherine, was a slender, worldly girl of about thirty, with a solid, sticky bob of red hair, and a complexion powdered milky white. Her eye-brows had been plucked and then drawn on again at a more rakish angle, but the efforts of nature toward the restoration of the old alignment gave a blurred air to her face.    -Description from The Great Gatsby

9. Describe clothing.
He was not a bad-looking young man though he had on a bright blue suit and yellow socks that were not pulled up far enough. He had prominent face bones and a streak of sticky-looking brown hair falling across his forehead.  -Description of the salesman in “Good Country People.”

10. Remember that a little description can go a long way.

I think this might be the most important.  You don’t have to describe a character from head to toe and constantly keep reminding the reader of what they look like.  Just an introductory description and then few well-placed clues scattered throughout the prose will probably be enough to help us form and keep a picture in our mind.

P.S.  How ironic, everybody has been sharing this video from Dove on facebook today, which is about how we physically describe ourselves and others.  Good food for thought when deciding how your narrator might describe him/herself

What do you think?  Does Carey Mulligan look the way you imagined Daisy?

What do you think? Does Carey Mulligan look the way you imagined Daisy?