Tuesday, May 25, 2010

By my next birthday, I will be more organized

What a wild and kahrazy birthday weekend!

Here are just a few elements it included, in no particular order.
  • Chocolate spice cake with whipped cream
  • Dancing at the Little Red Hen
  • Teaching two classes at Finding Your Readers in the 21st Century
  • Cleaning the kitchen floor on hands and knees
  • Eating a most delcious "French Dip" sandwich made of field roast at the Georgetown Liquor Company
  • Getting handcrafted birthday cards from my niece and nephew to "Ant Becky"
  • Strolling around the festive Ballard farmer's market
I also went to to two excellent classes at Finding Your Readers in the 21st Century and learned a lot. For example:
  • I give up way too easily with submitting my work. In  the class taught by Priscilla Long, she said she submitted 300 times last year. (Out of those 300 submissions, she got 11 publications).
  •  In the other class, teacher Wendy Call said she submitted her work 100 times.
  • Priscilla l suggested keeping an extensive inventory of everything you've ever written. She pointed out that very productive, famous artists have a habit of doing this, and that it's a way of "respecting" your own work.
  • Wendy tracks all her time down to the last minute and has very concrete writing goals that she sets at the beginning of each year.
  • She plans how she will meet these goals through every month of the year and spends 90 minutes every week just prioritizing to make sure she's on track with those goals.
 Phew. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I learned, essentially, that I could be way more organized than I am. Of course I knew that already but it was nice to get some really concrete tips as to how to do it.

And now...on to the "earning a living" portion of my day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cranberry Chicken revival

Last night I made a chicken dish of my grandmother's. She made it for us all the time when we were kids. For a while it was my favorite dish of all.

When my seventh grade class was polled about our favorite foods, all the other students said "pizza."

I, on the other hand, would say "Cranberry Chicken!"

The recipe is a little...anacronistic.  Here's what the famous cranberry sauce consists of:

-1 envelope dried onion soup
-1 can cranberry sauce
-1 bottle French dressing 

You mix all those ingredients, then throw it on top of some chicken breasts and bake it for two hours (At 325, in case you were wondering - one hour covered, one hour uncovered). Then you throw a whole bunch of bow-tie noodles into the sauce when it's all done.  

It did taste just like Bubby used to make it. And for two hours my kitchen smelled just like ours used to when she cooked for our family and took care of my sister and me (as she often did). Those smells brought back good memories.  

But my modern-day palate has gotten a little jaded. The dish tasted good, but a definite queasiness lingered after I ate it.  So I don't think I'll be making it again.  (Sorry, bubby).

Her brisket recipe, however, is a classic. It's delicious, and similarly 1950s-ish yet not quite so...um...French dressing-y.  I'll be sure to share that recipe in the future, as the brisket time of year approaches.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An oldie but goodie from my tortured twenties

1. In honor of Mimi Smartypants, who, I am happy to see is still blogging after all these years, I am doing today's entry as a numbered list.

2. Pity the poor Hugo House conference attendees who will be attending my classes at Saturday's conference because I have just taught myself how to use animations and sound in Power Point! (Loud sound clip of extended applause here).

3. I forget.

4. This morning, awash in nostalgia, I hunted down the lyrics for a song I wrote in my twenties with galpal Karen S during our brief tenure as a "band" called The Underwear Stains (We never actually performed. Or wrote any other songs. Or played instruments). Herewith I present it to you, published for the FIRST TIME!

Boys in Torn Leather Jackets
[chorus]Boys in torn leather jackets
Want you to think they’ve been around
Turn your life into a cliché
Don’t want you to tie them down

Always drunk or stoned at night
Watching Star Trek when you come over
You’re too real, he just can’t deal
He’s his own one true lover


[chorus]Boys in torn leather jackets
Just wanna play guitar, wanna get stoned
Boys in torn leather jackets
Wanna get laid and left alone

No skin broken, just his jacket
But he says he’s been hurt before
Just an excuse to make excuses
So why does it make you want him more…

[chorus] Boys in torn leather jackets
Want you to think they’ve been around
Turn your life into a cliché
Don’t want you to tie them down

[Insert another loud sound clip of extended applause here plus flashing animation of stadium crowd going wild].

5. The end.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wandering among the ancient lakes

I realize that it is Blog-Every-Day-Month and I haven't blogged for four whole days.

I was backpacking for two of those days without any Internet access but never mind the excuses. I'll tell you about my trip instead.

We went to the Ancient Lakes and Dusty Lakes area  (nearest town: Quincy, Washington). There we wandered among tiny lakes in a sagebrush-scented area sculpted by ancient volcanoes.

 This is a landscape you couldn't find in lush, rainy, Western Washington. It was pure desert - filled with coulees, striking basalt columns of rock, endless sunshine, and very little shade. Plus rattlesnakes, naturellement.  And raptors, who soared above the jagged rock in lazy circles.

I haven't felt that much warmth since I was in Mexico in January. It was so hot, in fact, that a few of us jumped in Dusty Lake (pictured to the left), despite the rumor that these waters are tainted with irrigation runoff. (People fish there, and eat the fish, so water can't be that contaminated, right?)

We did carry in all our own water, just in case - no easy feat. But worth it to spend time in this sun-dazzled, geological wonderland so different from my urban, rainy home. And to feel like I was  experiencing actual summer, complete with a symphony of singing bugs and birds in the warm night air.

Anyway, now it's back to the real world after the sunshine and peace of eastern Washington. I start a new editing project today, which is a good thing for ye olde wallet. But it also means I must go groom myself presently. So toodaloo!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Off to the hills

I waited until too late in the day to blog and now my mind is blank. Abosolutely devoid of the slightest bit of creativity. Nada. Zilch.

So, instead, here is a photo the Ancient Lakes area, where I'll be leading a backpacking trip this weekend. It's in Central Washington, where it's all dry, and desert-y, and oh-so-different than lush green Western Washington. I hope to see lots of wildflowers. The only bummer about this hike is you have to pack in all your water because these lovely lakes are tainted by irrigation run-off. 

On the bright side, the hike is flat. And short. So maybe ten pounds of water won't be so bad.

These photos are from 2008. I don't expect it's changed much. Except this time I'm going earlier in the year so hopefully it will be cooler and there will be even more flowers than last time.

In that picture there is Mary Rohlman, also a hike leader for the Seattle Mountaineers. She has a great Web site with tons of photos of all the Northwest hikes she does. You can definitely get some ideas from her about where to go hiking in Washington.

Oh, and just for fun, here's a picture of me and my sister backpacking in the good old days. Bet you can't guess which one of us is which.

Hint: I am the more stylish one.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Celebrity obsessed author hard at work

I clearly have an obsession with celebrity.

For one, my favorite Web site is Go Fug Yourself. Next, since BreakupBabe, I've written drafts or partial drafts of at least six other novels, and four of those are celebrity-themed in some way.

There is, for example, the story of two adolescent girls and best friends who are in a rock band together. The experience, naturally, tests the limit of their friendship (2006). There's the one about the woman who has a son with a guy who later becomes a famous rock star and the rock star comes back to meet his son fifteen years later (though the son has no idea who is father is) (2008).

Oh yes, and let's not forget the one about the barista with the cute stoner musician boyfriend who become an "accidental" celebrity when she stars in an ad campaign put on by her mega-Starbucks-like coffee (2007).

There's more where that came from too.

As you can see I've been quite busy since the publication of my roman a clef. It's not like I've stopped writing or anything. Au contraire.

It's just that...well...I can't explain how my own writing process works. One of these days the right celebrity-themed story will come along again, and so will the right way to tell it - as long as I keep sitting myself in this chair day after day.

If not, I will just have to console myself with being another Harper Lee or Ralph Ellison or other such genius who produced only one perfect book in their career. Wink wink. (I am winking so you understand that I understand that To Kill a Mockingbird will, of course, never quite compare to the sweep and literary perfection of BreakupBabe.)

Anyhow, I know I missed Day 10 of Blog Every Day Month and for that I profusely apologize to all two of you who might be keeping track.

Happy birthday BB!

I just realized we're coming up on BreakupBabe: A Novel's  fourth birthday. A celebration of some sort is in order I think! Hmm...what should it be? It needs be special for my only child and should definitely involve hot but inappropriate guys. (HBIBs).

I'll have to see what I can come up with. Maybe a party in which we get all Breakup Babe's HBIBs together. Silent But Deadly Boy, Alt Country Boy, Indie Rock Dad, Cute Train Boy, The Charming Canadian, The Doctor, The Propagandist...(and so many more).

Where are they all now, I wonder? At least four of the above are married now. At least two of the married ones have kids, or so I hear.

But I'm sure they look back with fondness from their diaper-filled domestic bliss on their days as Breakup Babe's muse. When the music played, the good times rolled, the cocktails were drunk.

And, of course, when the secret blog entries were written: celebrating their commitment-phobia, mocking their manhood, drooling over their dashing good looks...and so on.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 8 sees me wondering if I really should be blogging every day

It's that time of year when flowers are blooming everywhere and people are going crazy in their gardens. Even moi, who has not had a garden in eight years joined the hordes of people at Home Depot yesterday.

There I bought window boxes to hang on the railing of my teeny-tiny deck. It is not actually a deck because it is so small and there is probably some technical term for a teeny-tiny deck but I do not know what it is so I will just call it a teeny-tiny deck

Anyway, last time I had a garden I lived with You-Know-Who. I had a lovely container garden that I cherished and fawned over. Then when things went haywire between us, I went to stay elsewhere for a while and he let my flowers die. That's when my heart really broke.

I wrote about it very eloquently (IMHO) on Breakup Babe, and since I am all out of ideas for *fresh* things to write, I'll recycle that flowery prose here. I'm realizing belatedly, that I should write something about my mother, it being mother's day and all, but maybe I'll do that later this week. Mom will understand.

SCRATCH THAT. I cannot seem to find that erstwhile entry in my cobwebbed-covered Breakup Babe archives.

Now I've really failed to produce a worthwhile blog entry but at least I've produced something, which maybe, in this case, is NOT better than nothing.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Breakup Babe in illustrious company

The Victory Review - an online magazine about the Seattle acoustic music scene - featured an article a a few months ago that mentioned my Breakup Babe blog.

The article is called "I Can't Stand the Rain, " and it's all about artists and musicians who've been inspired by the rain. Here Breakup Babe and I are mentioned in such illustrious company as Janis Joplin, Gary Snyder, and Glenn Gould.

We were very flattered!

This article was written by my old coworker Hank Davis, with whom I shared one of those windowless cells at ye olde Empire Corporation. See what Hank had to say below and definitely and check out his article too! It's fun to see how he weaves all his thoughts about music and the rain together. His mention of BB a tiny part of a much longer piece.

A pair of contrasting rainy days from 2005 and 2006 turn up on the "Breakup Babe" blog. For a brief while, I shared a cramped writer's room at a software company with blogger and author Rebecca Agiewich, who converted her blog into the popular book Breakup Babe. (No one quite so earnest as a hungry writer with literary aspirations and a Web site.) She likes the rain:

Wednesday, March 16, 2005 (5:33 PM)

[Rebecca] It rained. Finally! ...Do you remember the days that playing in the rain was just something you did? Running around with your friends, splashing through the gutters, getting as wet as can be? Without a care for what it might do to your hair, your clothes...
On the other hand, the rain doesn't always like her. When she heard Australian country singer Kasey Chambers sing that the rain was useful for washing away tears, this happened:

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 (8:58 AM)

[Rebecca] All through this overly sunny week, the Kasey Chambers song "On a Bad Day" has been running through my head:

Every time my tears

have ever fallen
I've kept 'em in my pocket
for a rainy day.

So when it's pouring

I take them outside
I let the rain start washing
my tears away.

[Rebecca] Then it poured down rain yesterday and instead of

washing all my tears away, it just got me really, really wet

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 7 of Blog Every Day Month a a bit slow. Yawn.

So it's Blog Every Day Month and I am out of things to stay.

So without further ado check out one of my favorite  videos. Don't worry it's only about five seconds long. And no, this is not my pug, though he is equally dramatic.  (Be sure to have your sound on; it's the music that makes this video).

This video apparently has a long and distinguished history; it hails from the even more famous Dramatic Chipmunk,which I will not subject you to. (But which is worth watching in moments of boredom.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The jailbird and the hummingbird

I was out walking the dog a while ago on my peaceful urban street. I'd noticed two police cars on the street as we walked to the park, and then forgot about them.

But as we sauntered home, I saw a cop leading a guy in handcuffs to one of the cruisers. Neither of them spoke a word.

Without meaning to, I caught a good glimpse of the handcuffed man. He was youngish and white, with a scruffy beard and a baseball cap. Unremarkable looking.

Except for his expression. Fear and regret wrote themselves all over his pale face and wide-open eyes. He looked doomed.

It struck me that I'd never seen anyone get arrested before except on television. It's much more jarring in real life, on a tranquil street, when just a moment before you'd been enjoying a shady park where a grandfather fed his little granddaughter with tender care.

I felt so sad, suddenly, for that guy, even if he had done something bad. So sorry for whatever hard circumstances in his life led to him this humiliating and frightening moment.

Just after the cop car pulled away, a flash of green caught my eye. I saw a hummingbird hovering over a nearby bush. I'd never seen a hummingbird in the neighborhood either. The bird flitted about, shimmering and free.

And suddenly I felt even worse for the poor doomed guy in the cop car, and for all of us who are held by shackles of any kind.

I watched the hummingbird for just a few seconds before it disappeared, upward into the lightening sky.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What does it say about me that...

...despite being an obsessive reader, that I have never mastered the art of using a bookmark?

Sure, sometimes I turn the corner of the page down (if I'm not reading a library book, which I often am).

Most often though I waste valuable minutes trying to find my place even though the simple act of using a bookmark would save me this agony.

There is some parallel with my life here but I am not quite caffeinated enough to articulate it.

In other news, I recently met Ray Pompon, with whom I'll be speaking at Richard Hugo House's upcoming writer's conference.

He did a very cool, inspiring thing, which was to take a novel he'd written and turn it into a well-written, page-turner of a web comic - basically teaching himself to draw in the process. Check out his site!

OK back to the business of making a living, which today involves writing gazillions of blurbs about watches.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Computer problems and snoring pugs

Oops. It's Blog-Every-Day Month and I forgot to blog yesterday.

I have an excuse, which is that I was having computer problems last night. My $%(ing laptop, sole source of all my income, wouldn't charge.

(This is after spending way to much on a power cable for it a couple months ago AND getting it a pricey"check-up" at Office Depot.)

Time to bring it back to PC Doctor, that rather disreputable-looking little place under a brothel on Aurora Way with the nerdy tech who talks endlessly.

Pug Alarm Clock
In other scintillating news, here's  how my morning has gone so far:

6:20 a.m. - Dog starts caterwauling in his crate because he wants to get out / have breakfast / come on our bed.

6:30 - I give up on the hope that he'll stop the racket. I get up, give him breakfast, and put him on the bed.

6:33 - The dog commences to groom himself vociferously, with much smacking of lips.

6:40- Dog stops grooming himself and walks over me to the side of the bed, where he lies down in the six inches of space between me and the edge. He will fall off if I make the slightest movement. I pick up up and put him back in the middle of the bed.

6:45 - Repeat.

6:50 - I have momentarily dropped off to sleep when dog starts licking his lips loudly. Then he rolls around enthusiastically on his back.

6:57 - After dog at last quiets down, I make heroic effort to go back to sleep. Try not to dwell on the million things I have to do and the fact that I really should have gotten up at 6:20 when he woke me up in the first place.

7:00 - Drop off to sleep.

7:01 - Dog starts snoring loudly.

7:05 - Dog is still snoring.

7:09 - Dog is still snoring.

7:10 - Get up.

So there you have it.  A morning in the life of a spoiled pug owner.

P.S. I recently watched On the Waterfront for the first time in my life. Whoa - what a great movie! If only I could come up with a plot like that. You know how, with some older movies, you immediately feel their age when you start watching them? Not so with this one. The story and the characters instantly grip you. I didn't even notice it was in black and white until close to the end.

Yours truly,
Rebecca "Two Thumbs Up" Agiewich

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Happy New Backpack Day

Yesterday I bought a new backpack.

This was momentous because it is the first new backpack I've had in 15 years. It's also the first one I bought without my dad's direct input. Last time around, he informed me that I should buy the Osprey Isis (after researching it extensively in various outdoor magazines), and took me to Marmot Mountain Works, where he supervised while I tried it on.

I insisted it "leaned to the left" but he didn't believe me. "It fits you perfectly," he said.

He was wrong. It never fit right. But I bought it anyway and have doggedly used it for the last 15 years, bringing memories of my dad with my each time. In fact, that's the very pack I'm wearing in my profile picture to the right, where I'm smiling on the High Divide trail in the Olympics. (That pack got to see a lot of great stuff before it retired).

He bought me the Arc'Teryx daypack I own too - more than 10 years ago. I love that pack and use constantly, even though a buckle is broken and it probably weighs at least three more pounds than all the new packs out their on the market.

So yesterday I took a big step in buying my own pack. I did no research, whatsoever, of course, except to ask my friend Fredd (who works for REI) which pack to buy. He recommended the REI XT, which didn't fit me quite right. After twenty more minutes, I'd tried on two more packs and decided on the Gregory Jade (pictured above).

Hopefully the new pack will be more comfortable than the old one. But it certainly won't be as special as that old Osprey.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 1 of Blog Every Day Month

Since I decreed May to be Blog-Every-Day-Month, here I go.

May is also the month of my birth, did you know that? One the one hand, I love my birthday and start talking about it months beforehand so that those around me can start planning wonderful surprises and gifts.

Then again, the rapid rate at which my age is increasing is frightening.

Then AGAIN,  I am  no older than Jennifer Aniston and Halle Berry and they're looking pretty good, don't you think?

But enough about me.

If you ever get in a self-pitying mood about, silly things how old you are and maybe how your arms aren't quite as toned as Jennifer Aniston's, then check out the movie War Dance. It wil simultaneously break your heart and uplift it like any good piece of art should.

Oh - there is another birthday this month! On May 5, two years ago, I adopted my pug, Snuffy. I don't know his actual birthday of course, but May 5 is the day he began his new life, bringing much flatulence and joy into my life.

Happy birthday Snuffy!