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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Getting a Story Accepted Is Kind of Like Being Asked to Homecoming

Getting a Story Accepted Is Kind of Like Being Asked to Homecoming

When I was a junior in high school, I was asked to the Homecoming Dance by a boy named Jason, although the actual “asking” sounded something like this: “Degra said you need someone to take you to Homecoming, so if you want I guess I can go with you.”

I was momentarily at a loss for what to say. It was true, I did need someone to take me to Homecoming, and apparently my best friend, Degra, was spreading the word around. And Jason was an okay date. He was a friend of mine, or, at least, he was friends with my friends, which was pretty much the same thing. He was taller than me (always a plus in high school), and he wasn’t bad looking, although with his shaved head and trench coat he was a little bit too close to a Travis Bickle look-alike for my tastes. But, all-in-all, he was fine.

The problem was, there were other boys at school who I would have rather gone to Homecoming with. Boys I thought were cuter. Boys I had crushes on. But the likelihood of those boys asking me was slim. One of them had a girlfriend, and the other was not the type to attend school functions. But a girl could always hope…

So there I was with a choice to be made. I could say no to Jason and stay available for one of my dream boys, but I would run the serious risk of not having a date at all.

Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver.  (photo from wikipedia)

Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver — not my date to Homecoming (photo from wikipedia)

I recently had the same sort of situation. I had sent a story of mine to about ten different literary magazines and one contest, and I had already received a handful of rejections. And then, the other day, I got an acceptance email. A new, online literary magazine wanted to publish my story!

But I was still waiting to hear back from Zoetrope, Prairie Schooner, and a contest judged by Kate Bernheimer…. In other words, magazines and editors who I have crushes on.

I wondered what to do. I could decline the nice literary magazine that had accepted me and keep my story available for one of the magazines I was really excited about, but the chances that they were going to accept my story were slim. Zoetrope has rejected everything I’ve ever sent them, and Prairie Schooner is super popular and probably gets approximately a million fiction submissions a year.

I was momentarily at a loss for what to do.

Eva and Jason

Eva and Jason

In the end, I said yes to Jason. I knew he was probably my only option, and really, he was a good option. Yeah, he was sort of a weirdo, but at least he danced with me. And, to be honest, I was a weirdo, too. The night of Homecoming, I discovered I had a large, unsightly pimple on my back, so I covered it up with a temporary tattoo of Medusa. And instead of giving Jason a boutonniere, I gave him a Michael Jackson pin with army men dangling off of it. So…in other words, I think it was the right match for me at the time.

And, in the end, I said yes to the online magazine. After all, my story is kind of a weirdo. It’s about a girl who wakes up one morning to find a second pair of hands sprouting out of her wrists. In other words, I think I’m lucky that it’s getting accepted anywhere at all, and it’s probably the right match for me at the time.  Besides, this magazine is new, so who knows, maybe some day it will become one of the cool, popular lit mags all the girls have crushes on. And I can say that I was featured in Issue #2.

A writer can always hope…

I was not the only one to give my date a weird boutonniere.  Notice what my friend Degra made for her Homecoming date.

I was not the only one to give my date a weird boutonniere. Notice what my friend Degra made for Cory, her Homecoming date.  

Many a Hand Has Scaled the Grand Old Face of the Plateau

Many a Hand Has Scaled the Grand Old Face of the Plateau

*Check out my poem on a postcard at Hoot!*

A few Wednesdays ago I grabbed the old, crappy guitar my boyfriend found in his grandma’s basement and headed out of the house. I didn’t have a case for it, so I walked down the street carrying the guitar like some sort of modern-day minstrel and getting stared at by people who were probably expecting me to begin strumming and break into song at any moment. The joke was on them, though – I had no idea how to play the thing.

I found my guitar teacher’s studio, which is literally on Lake Union, accessed by a floating dock, and surrounded by house boats and places that sell yachts.

“Let’s see this thing,” David said, taking the guitar from my hands. He had long, curly hair and was dressed like a twenty-something dude in a garage band – sloppy shorts, a band t-shirt, a pair of Chuck Taylors – but his middle-aged gut gave him away. David strummed the guitar experimentally. “I’m gonna be honest with you,” he said. “This guitar is terrible.”

“Yeah… But it was free,” I said.

Then my lesson officially began. I admitted that I knew absolutely nothing about the guitar. David showed me how to hold the pick and which fingers to use on which strings. At the end of the lesson, he gave me a few exercises to practice.

And, I’m proud to say, I practiced every day. I did my “alternate picking” and “the exercise,” which is literally just playing every single note on the guitar one at a time. I memorized the C Major scale and played it over and over again.

“Do you think you might learn some songs at your next lesson?” Paul asked me hopefully, although I must say he was very patient about listening to me practice.

By the time the next Wednesday rolled around, I was excited to show my guitar teacher what I had accomplished. “I can do it without looking at my right hand,” I bragged as I played the C Major scale.

“That’s great,” he said. “You’re ahead of the curve.”

I smiled, pleased with myself for making so much progress.

Lake Union.  photo credit

Lake Union. photo credit

The other day I was working with Sergiy, the Ukrainian man who I’ve been tutoring in English for over a year now. When we first started, Sergiy was nervous and awkward, his speech halted and thickly accented. He would pause after every few words to use the Russian-to-English translator on his i-phone, and he was often frustrated when he couldn’t figure out how to express himself.

But now, after working with me every day for the past fourteen months, he speaks easily, without effort, and although he makes little mistakes here and there, he knows a lot of vocabulary and is confident in his English.

We were reading a section in his ESL book called “Moving Beyond the Plateau.” It explained that when you begin to learn a language, you learn quickly and it’s easy to see your progress, but as you reach the upper intermediate level, your progress naturally slows, and it’s easy to get discouraged or lose motivation.

“I’m still motivated to improve my English,” Sergiy said. “I just have to keep to do it.”

“Keep doing it,” I corrected him. “And you’re right. You are very motivated.” In fact, Sergiy is one of the most motivated people I know.

*  *  *

Sometimes I think I’m stuck on a plateau in my writing. When I first started out, it was easy to feel like I was making progress: the first time I won a writing contest, had a story published, finished a novel. Now I’ve had lots of small pieces published, I’ve written four novels. I’ve been lounging at the upper immediate level for a long time.

Sometimes I worry that this is as far as I’m going to get. The next steps would be to find an agent, publish a novel, go on a book tour, win an award. But it’s hard to get out my climbing gear and start hauling myself up the rest of the mountain.

 *  *  *

I’m still at the beginning stages of learning the guitar. Now I can play the E major and minor chords and the A major and minor chords. I’m still working on D and F major. “Good,” my guitar teacher said, when I first played the E major chord and it sounded like crap. I’m making a lot of progress because I have so far to go.

It’s not so easy with writing. I’m not a beginner any more. It’s time for me to really push myself out of my comfort zone and move beyond the plateau. I am motivated to do it. Being a writer is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a little girl, and I want to have some success and publish something I’m proud of. Like Sergiy says, I have to keep to do it.

Last night, while I was alternately practicing my chords and nursing my poor, throbbing fingers (playing guitar hurts!), I wondered how far I would be in a year, if I kept practicing guitar a little every day. Look at how far Sergiy’s come with his English.  If you do something every day, you can’t help but get better.

And I write almost every day.  So where might my writing be in a year? One thing if for certain – if you keep trying, keep practicing, you will make progress. It may not be as noticeable as it was in the beginning, but I guess even baby steps can get you up the mountain, to the place where you want to be.

Eva attempting to play the guitar

Eva attempting to play the guitar.  Note — the title of this post was taken from the lyrics to “Plateau” by the Meat Puppets (and popularized by Nirvana.)

Barack Obama Follows My Blog! Or, How to Please Your Readers

Barack Obama Follows My Blog! Or, How to Please Your Readers

*Read/hear/buy my poem-on-a-postcard at Hoot!*

I’ve been having a lot of dreams about Obama lately. The other night I dreamed that I was in a play, and when I peeked out from behind the curtains, Barack and Michelle were standing in the audience, off to the side with their secret service men, as if they were going to watch part of the performance and then sneak out to some other important engagement.

“Wow,” I said. “The Obamas are here. I better do a good job and not offend them.”

And then, last night, I dreamed that I went to a Madonna concert, followed by parent-teacher conference night at my old middle school. Obama was there again.

As I was wondering what to say, Barack smiled at me and said, “you know I follow your blog.”

“You do?” I was stunned. My god, the president was reading my blog. I hoped I hadn’t written anything embarrassing.

“I don’t get a chance to read every post, but I try to keep up,” he said.

I was dumb-founded and had trouble thinking of what to say. “Well, I had a dream about you last night,” I told him. “I dreamed I was in a play and you came to it.”

He laughed, but I could tell he felt awkward. “Michelle was there, too,” I added, but he’d already turned and was talking to someone else.

Eva and Madonna (at the wax museum in DC)

Eva and Madonna (at the wax museum in DC)

I’m pretty sure I know where these dreams came from. My ESL student and I were recently analyzing famous people’s signatures, including Obama’s and Madonna’s, which is why they showed up in my unconscious. And my go-to stress dream is always “I’m in a play and I don’t know my lines,” (or, in this case, “I’m in a play and the President is here”).

There’s another reason, too.

The other day, Paul was on the phone with his mom. “Hey, Eva,” he said, “what’s the title of the blog post you wrote about transvestites?”
“Ummm… Hold on, I can tell you.” I searched through my posts. “It’s called Reincarnation, Feminism, and Why We Need Books, or, If Only Everyone Were Transsexual,” I said. “Why?”

Apparently, Paul’s mom, who follows my blog, was sending links to her friends and family of what she thought were my best posts.
“My whole family is dying to meet you,” Paul said when he got off the phone. “They’ve been reading your blog. You’re like a celebrity.”

Oh my God, I thought, Paul’s extended family is reading my blog? I hoped I hadn’t written anything ridiculous. Wait, who was I kidding? I’d written a hundred ridiculous things, at least.

“I better be careful what I write,” I said. I wondered what types of posts Paul’s family would appreciate. I wondered if there was anything that would offend them.

This is probably why I dreamed about Obama reading my blog. I was thinking about who, exactly, is reading my posts.

Eva and the Obamas.  (Yes, they are really that tall!)

Eva and the Obamas. (Yes, they are really that tall!)

Recently I gave the first few chapters of my newly-completed novel first draft to some friends for feedback. Jeni got back to me right away. She liked it so far, but her number one concern was my audience. She said the first chapter seemed appropriate for middle schoolers, and the second chapter seemed more geared towards older teenagers. “Would an adult read this book?” she asked. “Who is the reader?”

And she’s right. I can never decide who I’m writing for. Teenage girls? Adults? Barack and Michelle Obama? I want everyone to like it!

I also heard back from the agent who had originally been interested in the novel. She said the prose was a little too “literary” for her, since she normally deals with commercial fiction. I frowned at that. Can’t it be literary and commercial? Can’t it be marketed towards everyone?

Most of the time I write and post my blog entries with little thought as to who is actually reading them. Over time I’ve learned that my audience includes my grandma, old college friends, ex-boyfriends, and Paul’s entire extended family. It’s a good thing I don’t think much about it. If I spent time worrying about pleasing all my readers, I’d never write anything.

That’s probably true for writing a novel, too. But now I’m in the revising stage. And at this point, I do need to peek out from behind the curtain and consider who is standing in my audience. I can’t please everyone, and if I try, the novel won’t please anyone at all. But if I can decide who my readers are likely to be, I can work on entertaining them to the best of my abilities.

It’s a hard notion for a people-pleaser like me, to admit that not everyone is going to like what I write.  But Obama probably won’t have time to read my novel anyway, so at least I don’t have to worry about pleasing him.

Not Showered, Not Published & Feeling Like My Day Hasn’t Started

Not Showered, Not Published & Feeling Like My Day Hasn’t Started

My normal day goes something like this: I wake up at 6:30, eat breakfast, take a shower, fix my hair. I tutor Ukrainians on Skype from 7:30 to 10:30 then I work on writing until lunch. (Depending on how things go, lunch either comes really early or really late.) After lunch, I might do more writing or work on math curriculum. If I’m feeling stir-crazy, I take a walk or go to the grocery store. At five I finish up my work and head to yoga class, or Paul and I might go for a run around Green Lake. Then it’s time for dinner, guitar practice, reading, relaxing. I’m usually in bed by 10:30.

I like it. It’s a good schedule.

Which is why Friday was a mistake. On Friday I got the crazy notion that I would go to yoga at noon in order to try out a different instructor. This led me to make the choice of not showering. I figured I’d get sweaty at yoga and could shower after class.

It was a logical decision, but when I don’t take a shower, I feel disgusting. And so all morning, I sat at my computer, trying revise my novel, but I kept getting distracted by my greasy hair and face.  My eyes felt heavy, my body was tired. Taking a shower is the way I wake up in the morning, and without one, I felt like my day hadn’t really started.

I tried to tell myself it wasn’t a big deal. There were people in my yoga classes who hadn’t showered in weeks. I didn’t need to be clean to have a good, productive day. But still, I didn’t get much work done, and I felt like I was wasting time.

I left for yoga with relief, already looking forward to it being over. I entered the studio, rolled out my mat, and waited. After this, I thought, I can go home and shower and eat lunch, and then I’ll really be able to get some writing done.

“Let’s get started,” the yoga teacher said. “Today I want you to promise yourself that you are going to be really present in your body, really present in your practice.”

But that instruction was lost on me. For the entire class, my mind kept zooming ahead to when yoga would be over, when I would get to go home and shower and start my day.

Finally we lay back in shivasana, and I was glad. This meant class was almost over. A minute went by, then another, then another. Oh my god, I thought, this class has been going on for forever!  

Class let out, and I hurried to my car. When I got in, I stared at the clock. It was 1:45. The class had run thirty minutes over! I felt sick with annoyance. By the time I got back home and took a shower and ate lunch it would be 2:45 in the afternoon. I was pissed at the yoga teacher for wasting my time and ruining my day.

But deep down I knew it wasn’t his fault. It was my fault for placing so much importance on one little thing. As if my entire day hinged on a shower.

Eva doing yoga by the James River in Richmond, VA

Eva doing yoga by the James River in Richmond, VA

For many years now I’ve had this idea that I have to get a novel published as soon as possible because until that happens I’m not going to be a “real” writer. Getting a book published will be the start of my career, of my life.

And so I keep churning out novels. I’ve now written four of them, two in the past 12 months alone. But none of them are very good. Maybe because I’ve been writing them with the mind-set of getting them over with. Instead of enjoying the process of writing a novel, instead of being present with my characters and the developing plot, my mind is always zooming ahead to how I need to finish the novel, so I can get it published and get started with my life.

As if my entire life hinges on publishing a book.

Yes, it’s something I want to do, and yes, I will feel more like a real writer when it happens. But I want the book I publish to be something I’m proud of. Not something I slopped together just for the sake of getting it done.

I need to stop feeling disgusting because I haven’t published a book yet. It’s something I want to do eventually, yes, but I should enjoy the process of writing, and not worry so much about feeling a little greasy.

Whether I feel like it or not, my life has already started.

Cross Country Trip 111

The Equinox, Nik Wallenda, and a Mobile Balance of Life

The Equinox, Nik Wallenda, and a Mobile Balance of Life

*Read my new Buzzfeed List!*

Tomorrow is the equinox. The Earth will be tilted neither towards nor away from the sun, meaning that day and night will be equal – exactly twelve hours each.

Of course, I’ve always had a vague idea of what the equinox is, but I’d never really thought about it until recently. How can it be true, I wondered, that one the same day everywhere in the entire world will be balanced evenly between night and day? It hardly seems possible. After all, I’m up here in Seattle where, in the height of the summer, we were having nearly sixteen hours of daylight, and come wintertime we’ll get a measly eight and a half. How can it be that on September 22nd Seattle will have the same length day as places much more south than here– and much more north?

As crazy as it seems, it’s true. For two amazing days each year (the other equinox is March 20th), the earth is positioned such that every single spot on the globe gets equal light and dark. Of course, after the equinox is over, northern places like Seattle start losing daylight hours at a much quicker rate than places in the south, and the days and nights become uneven once again.

Seattle skyline at dusk.  Taken from a park near my house.

Seattle skyline at dusk. Taken from a park near my house.

Maybe the equinox is a good time to think about balance, and how hard it is to achieve. Unless you live smack dab on the equator, there are only two days a year when you find this perfect, ying-yang balance between night and day. And similarly, unless you have learned the secrets of the universe, (and I doubt you have), you probably live a less-than-balanced life.

There are so many things to try to balance! I am always trying to figure out how much I should save and how much I should splurge, for example.  And I constantly struggle over how to balance my time between work, writing, and all the other things I do (volunteer, exercise, clean, and, now, guitar lessons). As if that’s not enough, I also have to work on a balance with my writing activities. How much time do I spend revising my novel versus working on a new one? How much time do I spend writing blog posts versus submitting short stories versus reading what others have written?  Which of these deserve more time, or should I be giving them all equal attention?

Nik Wallenda crossing the Grand Canyon.  photo credit.

Nik Wallenda crossing the Grand Canyon. photo credit.

Speaking of balancing acts, my grandmother is obsessed with the famous family of tight-rope walkers, the Wallendas. She remembers, as a little girl, going to see Karl and the Flying Wallendas at Madison Square Gardens, and she has this convoluted story she likes to tell about how her great aunt used to be the Wallenda’s lawyer. Recently she called me, bubbling with excitement over Nik Wallenda’s latest insane venture: walking across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope with no harness or safety net.

“You have to watch it,” she told me. “It will take your breath away.”

No joke. Nik Wallenda toes his way across an impossibly thin wire over the freaking Grand Canyon. Towards the middle of his journey, thirty mile-per-hour winds kick up, the rope starts to sway, and he has to crouch down to keep from falling. He finally gets up and keeps going, and then, he runs – runs – the last few feet along the wire and into the open arms of his wife and young sons. How they could stand there and watch those twenty-two minutes of torture, I’ll never know.

Nik Wallenda takes balance to the extreme. It’s great for him, I’m sure, but I don’t think he’s the best role model for the rest of us.  We need a more sane way of staying balanced.

We should look to another balancing act (one that isn’t quite so terrifying):  the hanging mobile. It’s perfectly in balance, and yet, not exactly equal. In the example above, there are more items hanging from one side of then mobile than the other. Yet it’s still finds a way to stay straight. With a bit of planning and consideration, even the most seemingly lopsided of mobiles can hang in perfect balance.

It’s a lot like our lives. We’re never going to be able to spend an equal amount of time on everything we need to do, and, in fact, we wouldn’t want to. Our lives may seem too heavy on one side or the other, but if we pay attention and plan and make the proper arrangements, we can still find a way to balance.

I’m not sure I’d want to live at the equator with the same season all year round.  I like the way the days get shorter in the fall (it’s cozy) and longer in the spring (it’s exciting).  Being in balance doesn’t always have to mean equal.

And, you know, maybe there is something we can learn from Nik Wallenda after all. When the wind whips up, life begins to overwhelm you, and it seems like you might fall:  stop a minute. Wait, pray, reestablish balance. Then stand up and continue on your way.

RELATED READING/WATCHING/LISTENING:

Nik Wallenda is the special guest on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me

Video, article, and pictures about Nik Wallenda’s Grand Canyon crossing

How to Create a Balanced Life

The Neurotic & The Character Disordered in Literature and in Life

The Neurotic & The Character Disordered in Literature and in Life

One night a few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to stay in and watch a movie. I suggested The Hunger Games since he hadn’t seen it and the new one is coming out soon. He seemed less than thrilled with the suggestion, but I pushed, saying it was on Netflix instant streaming, so we wouldn’t even have to go to the video store. Eventually he agreed. We were only fifteen minutes into the movie when he said, “I don’t think I can watch this.”

“What? Why?”

“The camera is jumping around too much. It’s making me sick.” Paul gets motion sick easily. He can’t ride backwards on the subway or watch I-Max movies. He had to leave the movie theater during Inception, and The Blair Witch Project would probably make him puke his guts out.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “Do you want to watch something else?”

“No, it’s OK. You can keep watching. I’ll just close my eyes.”

“I feel bad,” I said.

“It’s OK.” Paul laid down on the couch, and I kept watching the movie. “What’s happening?” he’d ask every now and again, and I would tell him.

“This movie is weird,” he said. “Is it really about kids killing kids?”

“Well…yeah. But it’s also a commentary on modern media and reality TV.”

“I don’t know if I can watch this,” he said for the second time. “There are enough upsetting things in the world. I don’t want to think about kids killing kids.”

“Oh.” I reached over and turned off the movie. “I’m sorry.”

I felt guilty. After all, I had suggested The Hunger Games and pushed for it even though Paul had seemed hesitant. I felt as if I were to blame for the entire Hunger Games movie, from the disturbing (and stolen) plot to the overly-dramatic dialogue to the camera work that had made Paul sick.

“This is all my fault,” I said. I had ruined the evening.

Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) of The Hunger Games www.thegaurdian.com

Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) of The Hunger Games http://www.thegaurdian.com

At my friend Nikki’s suggestion, I’m reading the classic psychotherapy book The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck. So far it seems to be mostly common sense, but I was interested in the section on “Neuroses and Character Disorder.” Dr. Peck says that most people who see a psychiatrist are suffering from one or the other.

When neurotics have a conflict with the world, they automatically assume everything is their fault, whereas a person with a character disorder assumes that the world is at fault. People with character disorders avoid responsibility. They blame their parents, children, bosses, the government, or “society” for their problems and end up feeling angry or cheated. Neurotics, on the other hand, assume too much responsibility and end up feeling guilty and overwhelmed.

Dr. Peck says that most of us have at least some neurotic or character disorder tendencies, and we may have both at different times in our lives, or in different situations. I certainly know which side I lean towards. I should have a swear jar, except instead of putting money in for saying cuss words, I have to put a quarter in every time I say “I’m sorry” or “I feel bad.” Oh, that’s another thing about neurotics: we’re always using the phrase “I should.”

Of course, I don’t think it’s that easy to divide people up into two clear categories: the neurotics and the character disordered, however, it’s fun to think about your family and friends and ex-boyfriends – which camp do they belong in? I even started psychoanalyzing fictional characters. Sal Paradise from On the Road and Holden from The Catcher in the Rye have character disorders. Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen (speaking of the Hunger Games) are neurotics.

It’s also interesting to think along these lines when creating characters. In the novel I’m now brainstorming for, do my main characters have neuroses or character disorders? How does this impact the conflict among them?

And what about you? Which side do you lean towards? Can you think of any great examples of neurotics or disordered-characters from history or literature or movies?

RELATED READING:

10 Fictional Characters People Need to Stop Idolizing

 

Toilets, Commas, & Random Ridiculousness

Toilets, Commas, & Random Ridiculousness

I have a tiny toilet collection, in case you didn’t know. Many people do know this, actually, but most don’t know why. So I will tell you.

It all started when I was in high school. I used to make the grand statement that the “only” thing I could draw was a toilet and would then proceed to demonstrate by drawing the following:

photo (25)

Eventually, this became my logo, of sorts, and I drew it whenever I had the opportunity. Perhaps it was a symbol of my angsty frustration with the world and feelings that things were crappy, but more than likely, I think, it was because I enjoyed the random ridiculousness of drawing toilets everywhere. Teenagers are weird like that.

And so, when I went away to college, my friends, Cory and Melissa, who had their own weird logos, presented me with a tiny metal toilet that doubled as a pencil sharpener. It was adorable, and I loved it. Later, they bought me a toilet-shaped cigarette lighter, of which I was also enamored. These items sat on my desk in college and provoked a lot of curiosity from my hallmates, who wondered why I had a “thing” for toilets.

“They’re cute,” I said.

This baffled my friend Bob, who couldn’t understand how a toilet could be cute. I told him that pretty much anything in miniature is cute. Mini muffins? Cute. Baby iguanas? Cute. Tiny tape measure? Cute. I thought that my toilets were especially cute because something functional and inherently unattractive was made decorative and adorable. I was making a statement…of some kind.

Bob told me I was crazy, but one day he fashioned me a tiny toilet out of Play-Doh. Now I had three tiny toilets. Enough to be called a collection.

And, as will happen when you collect something, people jumped on board, happy to have something specific to buy me. Although, as it turns out, tiny toilets are not so easy to come by. It’s taken over a decade to amass the seventeen tiny toilets I proudly own today. And out of these, I have only bought one for myself. The rest were either given to me or made for me. (The first gift my boyfriend, Paul, ever gave me was a tiny toilet he carved out of plaster.)

My tiny toilet collection.

My tiny toilet collection.

The funny thing about having a tiny toilet collection is that it makes people think you are interested in everything having to do with toilets and bathrooms and poop in general. Over the years, Bob has sent me links to articles about “Gothic” toilet paper, a building shaped like a toilet, and a toilet-themed restaurant. (Although, I have to say, I wasn’t sorry that he sent any of them. Just like anything in miniature is cute, anything toilet-themed is amusing.)

Recently, my friend Meghan sent me a link about a toilet in New Orleans, and just yesterday my friend Chris sent me a link to a charming website called Shitsenders. “Thought you’d like this,” he said.

The idea of Shitsenders is simple. You can mail a quart of animal poop (gorilla, cow, or elephant varities) to someone who’s done you wrong. It arrives anonymously, and there’s even a gallon option for people who have really pissed you off. (Paul is already making a list.)

The thing is, I would never actually send anyone a bucket of poop. (They’re quite pricey, and I’m not convinced it’s legal.) Besides the fact that for all my talk about poop and toilets, I don’t actually like either one. I find going to the bathroom to be an unpleasant time-waster, toilets are often yucky, and I poop is smelly and gross. I wouldn’t send it to my worst enemies, were I to have any.

The whole point of my tiny toilet collection, I think, is that I’m taking something inherently unpleasant and making it charming.  I guess that’s what I’m always trying to do, with everything.  When it comes down to it, I’m rather prissy.

Take the other day, for example, when Paul said jokingly that someone should “eat shit and die,”

“That’s terrible,” I said.  “Don’t say that.”

“You don’t think it’s kind of funny?” he asked.

“No. It’s awful to say someone should eat shit,” I told him. “Yuck. I don’t think it’s funny at all.”

He looked at me, baffled with my logic, just like Bob. Why such prudishness from the girl with a tiny toilet collection and not one, but two blog posts about pooping animals? (1 and 2.)  What can I say? I’m weird like that.

I chased this toilet girl down one Mardi Gras, but she wasn't tiny enough to become part of my collection.

I chased this toilet girl down one Mardi Gras, but she wasn’t tiny enough to become part of my collection.

After sending me the toilet article, Meghan sent me another article about writing. “I thought of you when I read this today,” she wrote. “See, not everything that makes me think of you is toilet-related!”

I read the article – “My Little Bag of Writing Tricks” by Rachel Toor, which has a lot of great tips for writers about the revising and editing process. She discusses grammar as well as structure, and my favorite tip is the recommended reading your manuscript in a larger font – like the size of a children’s book. Mistakes that were skimmed over before are hard to miss when they’re (literally) so large. (In fact, I used to do this with my math proofs in college when I couldn’t find my mistakes.)

So I guess that when people think of me, they think, not only of toilets and shit, they also think of writing. So that’s good to know.  And on pondering grammar, I suddenly had a thought.

“Hey Paul,” I asked as we were falling asleep.  My face was in the pillow and my voice came out muffled.  “Does the phrase ‘eat shit and die’ have any commas? Like, could it be ‘eat, comma, shit, comma, and die?”

“No,” he said. “I think it pretty much means to eat shit.”

“Oh. It’s nicer with the commas, though. I like Oxford commas anyway,” I said dreamily.  Eat, shit, and die.  In a way, it was profound. Wasn’t that life, in a nutshell?  I was glad that simple commas had taken something I found unpleasant and transformed it into something a little more charming.  Grammar is weird like that.

I don’t really have a point for today except that toilets are funny, commas are important, and I often enjoy the random ridiculousness of writing a blog.

from 19 Joke Only Grammar Nerds Will Understand

from www.theindiepedant.com