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It’s been a while since I have blogged or written anything of substance. I did write a short story towards the end of last year, but I’ve been dragging my feet on the edits. And boy does it need editing.

I’ve also not written on my weight loss blog for a long time. When I went back to do so, I found that the domain expired. I’ve been trying to work with WordPress to get it back up and running, but it may take a few more days.

I’ve had a pretty rough year and a half. A lot of which centered around a terrible job that I had. I do not usually like to write about my full-time employment online. But that job consumed me. I was working pretty much nonstop in a thankless job with people who had no idea what I did or the work it took to do my job. Plus, my boss was a screamer. I spent much of my time simply trying to avoid confrontation with her. I retreated into myself in order to protect myself, and I was very unhappy. I worked all of the time, pretty much around the clock, for no additional pay.

This took a huge toll on my mental well being and my health overall. I did manage, after searching for about a year and a half, to find a new job. It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but there is a lot of potential there. And it is so much better than my other job. I still work a lot, but the atmosphere is a complete 180.

Nonetheless, it has taken me a while to mentally pick up the pieces and try to reassemble my life. It is amazing how one negative situation can affect every area of your life. I knew that I was stressed and unhappy, but I didn’t realize how much I had let it affect me until I let it go.

So, new things with me…

I have a new cat. Her name is Naomi. I’ve been tweeting about her. I bought a new flat screen tv and she is completely enamored with it. She must think it is a new window, or the people are somehow real, but it’s hilarious to watch her swat at the tv.

Obviously, I have a new job. I really do enjoy it quite a bit. The office is 24/7, so my work schedule can be kind of weird, but for now, its OK.

Nothing too new on the relationship front. I ended a relationship back in November/December with a guy I had been seeing for a little over a year. That relationship had run its course and there was no hope it was every going to turn into anything more, so I broke it off. It was a friendly break-up. We still talk, but there’s no chance I’ll restart that relationship.

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And spring has sprung here in DC. It’s almost 80 today and I took a walk in my neighborhood to get a late lunch. I went to a new restaurant, which was just wonderful. It’s called Palette22. They serve what they call “world street food” on small plates. Kind of like tapas, but better. This is kind of perfect for me. I had gastric by-pass surgery 3 years ago, and going to a normal restaurant where everything is so huge is very stressful for me. I often overeat and end up not feeling well after. Or I take home a ton of food that I never end up eating.

I had the vegan ceviche, which was OMG wonderful. And I had some kind of beef tacos. They were also delicious.

 

They also serve these plantain chips. I’m not a big fan of plantains. And I only tolerate bananas a little. But the plantain chips were fantastic and were a nice side with the vegan ceviche.

Tonight is writer’s group. My attendance over the last year has not been anything even close to regular. I’m trying to resolve that. Because my current work schedule is somewhat erratic, I will not be able to go every week, but I’m definitely going to make more of an effort when I can.

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So, the Oscars start in 20 minutes.  I saw all but one of the movies nominated.  I have not seen Beast of the Southern Dawn, which I am disappointed about.  I really wanted to see that.  So, real quick, here are my predictions for the top 6.

Best Movie: Silver Linings Playbook

Best Female Actor in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Male Actor in a Leading Role: Daniel Day Lewis

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role:  Anne Hathaway

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Robert Di Nero

Best Director: Ben Affleck David O Russell

I saw Les Mis today.  Spectacular movie, but way to freaking long.  It’s not their fault entirely.  Victor Hugo’s original work was over 1600 pages.  But Silver Linings Playbook has just stuck with me.

Anyway, enjoy the show!  Hopefully, I can get some tweets in!  🙂

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What a horrible blogger I am!  I feel like it has been months since I have written on this blog.  I have spent all of my time writing on my self-absorbed weight loss blog talking about myself and my gastric by-pass surgery.  I have completely neglected this blog and my other writing obligations.  Just a quick note, the surgery went well.  I have lost 71 pounds.  I have been writing quite a bit.

I owe my friend Jeff Miller a review of his book, The Bubble Gum Thief.  I need to post my 2013 writing goals.  I also want to talk about some of the other non-diet-blog writing I have been doing.

In this post, I am going to talk about my 2013 writing goals and about some of my other writing.  You see, my writer’s group asks each of us to create goals for the new year and to be specific.  We cannot just say, “write more,”  we have to set specific goals to show what “writing more” looks like.  The only thing I did not finish last year was to finish my children’s novel.  I am giving myself to Chinese New Year’s though, so I could still make it.  (see what I did there?)

Writing Goals for 2013:

  • Submit writing, short stories, essays, etc to four contests or other publications.
  • Finish children’s novel, which is almost done and hanging in limbo.
  • Write, finish, edit 12 personal essays.
  • Blog on both writing blog and weight loss blog 4 or more times a week.
  • Begin editing children’s novel and submit to my writer’s group for review and revision.
  • Join SCBWI and attend one of their conferences.

Lofty, I know, but I have to set lofty goals to guilt myself into doing something about it.

Current Writing Projects

A couple of the girls in my writer’s group formed a separate group that is dedicated to personal essays and/or creative nonfiction.  I have been attending that group as well.  Because the group is small, about seven of us I think, we are much more demanding about making each other submit their work.  As a result, I have written several personal essays and semi-true short stories.  I also have many more ideas on future personal essays.  I would like to put together a collection of essays.  I am not sure if I will turn it into a book or not, but I first want to get them together and see what I have.

I plan to dedicate my next post to the book review of The Bubble Gum Thief.  I will also post my review on Amazon.

That is pretty much what I have been up to.  I hope to spend more time on this blog and sharing all of my writing ups and downs throughout the year!  Happy writing in 2013!

 

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As I have mentioned several times in the previous posts, I am in favor of reading the book before seeing the movie.  That said, I did see the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby many years ago before ever reading the book.

I know.  I’m so ashamed.  

In my defense, I was still in high school I think, and I really only watched it because I totally love Robert Redford.  I was just a little girl when the movie was made, but by the time I was in high school, he was already way too old for me.  Nonetheless, I had total teen fan-girl crush on him.  Now, I know that is no reason to watch a movie based on a book that critiques the social mores of the 1920s, but hey, I was a shallow teenage girl once upon a time ago.

I have to admit that I do not remember much about the 1974 film, except that I did not like Mia Farrow.  I thought her portrayal of Daisy Buchanan was just terrible.  She was flighty and flakey and no depth whatsoever.  I felt she just flitted about, dancing and singing whenever someone talked to her and basically acted like an airhead.  Not to mention that she totally broke Robert Redf…er I mean Jay Gatsby’s heart twice.  Oh, and yeah, I do intend to completely ruin the plot, so if you have not read the book or seen the 1974 version of the movie and know nothing of the story, you might want to stop reading this until after December.

Having read the book, my opinion of Daisy Buchanan has not improved at all, but I am even more unhappy about Mia Farrow’s performance.  Daisy Buchanan is an utterly shallow person.  She is selfish, unaccountable, obtuse, and dishonest, traits which are hidden by her beauty and overwhelming wealth.  To play her as a flighty airhead who is just too confused by love and trapped in an unhappy marriage and  just doesn’t really know what to do about it, I think unfairly downplays the complexity of her character.

Now, I can understand why she married Tom Buchanan instead of Gatsby.  In the movie, it is clear she did not marry Gatsby because he was poor.  In the book, it is unclear what she knew of his financial standings.  He tried everything he could to cover up his poverty and let her think he was wealthy.  Then he left town and went to Europe, leaving Daisy alone and broken-hearted.  Granted, he went to war, but when the war was over, he did not return to the US, but instead went to Oxford where he apparently did not attend the college.  Jay had not made his fortune yet and did not want to return to Daisy a pauper.  In his absence, Daisy met Tom Buchanan and probably any number of endless suitors.  Tom was handsome, rugged, confident, rich, and most importantly, present.  While he may have been a bit of a brute, a racist, and an all around jerk, he did love Daisy.

Daisy was a young girl, probably just out of her teens, naive, anxious to fall in love and get married.  Tom Buchanan, in his youth, was everything a young girl in her situation could hope for.  Gatsby was, quite frankly, not around to marry.

As an adult, Daisy was rash, careless, shallow, and above all, rich.  She carries on an affair with Gatsby leading him to believe she never loved Tom.  She always loved Gatsby.  And though she promises to leave Tom for Gatsby, I don’t think it’s clear whether she would actually follow through with that promise.

Tom in turn, treats Daisy like she is a child, is a bit of a brute, carries on lurid affairs not even trying to conceal his infidelities from his wife.  Yet, when he finds out about Daisy’s affair, he sort of loses his mind.    In addition, he’s a small-minded bigot who is callously indifferent to the suffering of other people and the problems he creates for them.

The story is told through the eyes of one of Daisy’s distant relatives, Nick Carraway.  He is obviously from a family of means.  He’s a Yale graduate, a veteran of The Great War, and is a bond salesman.  He does not live the life of a wealthy man, but as a somewhat  above average working man.  He lives in West Egg New York and is Gatsby’s next door neighbor.  He is pulled into Gatsby’s world through his friendship with Gatsby and his relation to Daisy.

At the beginning of the book, there is a lot of mystery around Gatsby.  He throws lavish parties that all the best people attend, but he almost never makes an appearance himself.  There is no shortage rumors about who he is and how he made his wealth.  The rich and important people who attend his parties and enjoy the fruits of his supposed ill-gotten gains have no qualms about disparaging him at every turn.  Tom Buchanan is no exception.  In fact, as the story progresses, Tom makes it his goal to expose Gatsby for a fraud, probably because he rightly suspects his wife of having an affair with Gatsby.

Nonetheless, it becomes clear through the course of the novel that no matter how wealthy, Gatsby will never be able to really touch the inner circle of acceptability among the truly wealthy.  At one point in the novel, Nick refers to Gatsby as a Trimalchio.  This is a term I actually had to look up.  It is from the Satyricon by Petronius.  I read the Satyricon on college and one would think I know this word. Sadly, I did not recognize it.  The word means a freedman who has worked his way to wealth and success by the fruit of his own labor.  Among the truly wealthy, this means Jay will really never fit in with them.  This is fine with Gatsby for the most part because the only person he cares about reaching is Daisy.  But the distinction is important to Daisy.  Tom may be a brute.  She may be trapped in an unhappy marriage.  She may even really love Jay Gatsby.  She may really want to leave Tom.  She does not, however, want to leave the comfortable trappings of a respectably wealthy society.  Regardless of what happens at the end of the book, it is my belief that she never would have left Tom for Gatsby.

The real story in the book is not the love affair with Jay and Daisy.  The real story is the excesses of the super rich; their careless indifference to the world around them; the exclusivity of their inner circles that cannot be penetrated by the newly rich and other impostors; and their unaccountability to their crimes and the lives they destroy in the wake of their fun and drama.  The romance between Gatsby and Daisy and Tom’s affair with Myrtle are merely the best example of this.

The two victims in this book are Jay Gatsby and Myrtle Wilson.  They were both trying to enter this exclusive world by two different paths.  Both failed miserably.  The hero, if one can be found here, is Nick Carraway.   The story is told from his perspective.  He illuminates this crazy lopsided world for us and tries to make some sort of sense of it while offering his own sort of commentary.

I am really looking forward to Baz Lurhmann’s version of this story.  The novel is lax in lavish description of Gatsby’s parties and the rest of the world the wealthy embody.  This lack of description can leave a director a great deal of latitude to make things as wild and as crazy as they like.  After watching his version of Romeo and Juliette and Moulin Rouge, I know Lurhmann is up to the task. I just hope he does no just turn the movie into just a tragic romance, but can also capture the social critique that comes through in the novel.  We shall see.

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A few months ago, I submitted a short story to Glimmer Train for their “Family Issues” contest.  For this contest, I took an actual family event from my own life and I created fictional characters, changed a couple of things, and wrote a short story.  I never heard from Glimmer Train and I apparently did not win.  I was disappointed, of course, but rejection is part of the writing process.

I had my memoir writing group look at the story, but not before I had a chance to submit it to the contest.  They gave me great feedback.  They loved the dialogue, enjoyed the interaction between the two kids in the story, but they thought the emotion at the end of the story needed to have a bigger punch.  There were a couple of other comments, but pretty good feedback overall.

I then submitted it to the Arlington Writer’s Group.  I have been with AWG for a couple of  years now.  AWG is a very large writers group.  Almost 200 members, and we can get 30 people plus at any given meeting.  Receiving feedback can sometimes be overwhelming and the conversations can very easily veer off course.

We have worked very hard over the years too keep the feedback process focused and make sure people give a useful critique.  That can be a daunting task for whomever is leading the group when you have 30 or so people giving their opinions. 

I have to say, I’m very lucky with both of my writers groups.  Wonderfully thoughtful people in both groups.

So, last night I had my story critiqued by AWG.  I don’t want to describe it too much as I want to try to get te story published.  Basically, it is a story about one girl’s broken dreams.

Just like my other writers group, AWGers liked the dialogue, the interaction, between the sisters, and the story overall.  But they did pick out some major holes in my plot and made great suggestions.  I have a lot of work to do, but I think the story will be a lot better once I’m done. Then I can enter it into a couple more contests.

On another note, this is what my day has been like.  Everything I do seems to run into some kind of complication.  It’s really too bad too because I would have enjoyed discovering alternate uses for lederhosen while I wait for train schedules to appear on my screen.

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I have been doing a lot of writing recently, which is part of the reason I have not blogged quite as much.  I submitted a short story to the Washington Post Humor contest and I have written another short story.  I have also been working on my children’s novel.

One of my goals was to finish the first draft of my children’s novel before my surgery.  Well, the date for my surgery has now been set for September 26, 2012.  That is a tentative date pending final approval from the insurance company and pending the other stuff I need to get done before surgery (surgery related stuff…not writing goals).

I am mostly done with the first draft, which is good because I only have a month to get that done.  After surgery, I am going to do a complete read through and take notes.  Then the editing process will begin.  Once I’m recovered from surgery, I will be heading up to New Castle, PA to get pictures of the park I use in the novel.

I am excited about finishing the first draft.  It will be good to have that done.  It has been a bit more difficult to write than I thought it would.  Also, there were some changes from the original vision I had for the novel, but I think those ideas only made it better. 

Right now it’s crap and kind of all over the place.  But after I do the editing and more editing and even more editing, I’m sure it will be a little better.   🙂

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Several years ago, while I was living in Phoenix, my sister and I drove from Phoenix to California to site-see.  We had a list of things we wanted to see:

  • The Hollywood Sign
  • Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
  • The Stars on Hollywood Boulevard
  • Disneyland
  • The Duran Duran Star in front of Capitol Records
  • The Pacific Ocean

The Duran Duran Star was really the only thing my sister absolutely had to see.  She was happy to see the rest of the sites, but seeing the Duran Duran star was #1 with a bullet on her list.  It was all she talked about during the drive to California for 5 hours and the entire time we were in LA seeing other things.  She was so excited to have the chance to see the star.  She is a huge Duran Duran fan, but I’m sure that much is clear by now.

Since I was driving, we did the saw Grauman’s theatre and the other stars on Hollywood Boulevard first.  The Duran Duran star was not on Hollywood Boulevard, but in front of Capitol Records on Vine Street which crosses Hollywood Boulevard.

We drove down Hollywood Boulevard towards Vine.  There was a parking lot on the right, so my sister jumped out of the car so that I could park and she ran up Vine Street towards Capitol Records.

I park the car and start walking up Vine Street when I see her walking back towards me with her head hanging low looking sad and dejected.  When we meet up, she says to me, “Let’s just go home!”

“What?  What happened?”  I asked confused.

“There’s construction in front of Capitol Records!”  She tells me barely holding back the tears.  “All I wanted to do today was see the Duran Duran star!”

“Oh my God!  Was it gone?”

Without saying a word, she pulls out her digital camera and shows me this picture:

After that, we drove back to Phoenix in silence.

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