D-day

I’m not usually given to poetry, but sometimes the story just wants what it wants. This is how it came out today. Let me know what you think.

—–

Shots pop from all around
Exploding chunks of turf near where I stand
Bullet casings that turn to mortar shells

I dodge and take cover from where I think the enemy is positioned

But then, a grenade to the gut
Bounced off my shelter from somewhere behind
Stunned, I whirl
And blink

Et tu, Brute? Et tu?

Were you the lone sniper all along?

No, it seems there are others
Just as hidden as you
They blast away, even as your grenade shreds my insides,
Rocking the earth with violent spasms

Until my feet have no ground to hold

You had drawn the enemy lines long ago
It seems
And I was on the other side
But did not know it

Mea culpa.
But why?

Now, as I fall
Limp and useless
In agony
Into the void
You despise me for bleeding
And crying

It is strange to see so clearly now

White hot pain
Blinding, searing
Destroying utterly
Completely

What was is no more

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A nod to anonymous bloggers

I started this blog almost six months ago, at the end of September 2012, because I was supposed to. It’s the “writer” thing to do.

For non-fiction writers, a blog is another venue for establishing platform which, in turn, helps sell books. For fiction writers, like me, we don’t really have “platforms” the same way that the non-fics do (despite the title of my blog). But if I can develop a readership for my writing, I can then go to an agent and say, “I’ve written a manuscript…, and oh, btw, I have a blog with X-amount of followers, and I get XX hits a month.” This sets off a light bulb for an agent, because if he likes the manuscript, he knows he has a little something-extra to help sell it to a publisher: blog stats are quantifiable.

Business people (i.e. publishing company execs) love things that are concrete and quantifiable because they can be translated into dollar figures. Publishers know that an author’s good blog-following equals a certain-percentage of already-sold books. (For example, if an author has 3,000 followers and 20,000 hits a month, it’s going to guarantee at least 1,000 books sold. Or something like that.)

So for right now, that’s one of the reasons I’m here. I’m playing around, trying to find my correct blogging niche, which might, one day, help me sell my books. I try to be as real and approachable as possible, but I’m showing you my “public” persona — you know, the one I play at dinner parties or when I volunteer at my kids’ school. Me, but dressed-up and wearing makeup. I actually disclose very little about what goes on behind the silk curtain.

But there are those among us who have not only pulled the curtain aside — they’ve torn it down, shredded it, and thrown it away. They’re walking around the dinner party with no makeup on. And they’re naked.

You know who I’m talking about: the anonymous bloggers.

Some choose the path of anonymity for the complete sense of freedom that it provides — the ability to pour out one’s heart and soul, in whatever manner it comes tumbling forth, without fear of being judged by anyone who knows them. Sometimes writers are afraid of criticism of their work at this stage in the game, or of backlash because their genre would be frowned-upon by family and/or friends. Writing anonymously emboldens them to let the muse out, in whatever form she takes, and to get past their fears.

But many other anonymous blogs are written by people who are not necessarily “writers,” and who are going through difficult, often painful times in their lives. Their blogs read like online diaries — not your average dinner-party chatter. Probably not stuff they can discuss with their co-workers. Maybe not even their neighbors. In some cases, not even their best friend.

Yet I submit to you that it is these blogs, in all of their raw, unedited glory, that are among some of the best writing in the blogosphere.

The authors expose parts of themselves that, perhaps, they are unable to show in any other way. I’ve read post after post on which whole hearts and souls were bled open. The Anonymouses parade their ripped, dirty laundry with unabashed abandon for the whole world to see, holding it up to point out the various stains. “This is the one where I was raped.” “This is where my mom became an alcoholic.”  “This is where my child died and I started doing drugs.” “This is the one from when I cheated on my wife.” “These are the ones from where I’m still cheating on her.” In some cases the authors are proud of themselves. Mostly, though, they express the deepest levels of doubt, anger, fear…. Guilt, shame, humiliation…. Despair…. But the common thread running through all seems to be an elemental quest for answers and meaning. Truth.

Unless they are blogging under a pen name that they intend to use when publishing, there is no business reason (read, “no potential financial incentive”) for them to be doing what they’re doing. It’s all personal. These blogs read like stories, the most intimate glimpses into the darkest corners of the human soul, and I find myself cheering for each and every one who is brave enough to put himself or herself out there in this way. The blogs, themselves, become like giant, interactive diaries, and I’m constantly impressed at the decorum and restraint shown by commenters, whether or not they agree with the actions and ideas of the blog’s author, and the openness with which the authors respond to the different points of view presented to them.

If you haven’t yet discovered the hidden gems of anonymous blogs, you might want to treat yourself to a WordPress search. Just type in a topic of interest, and spend an afternoon with a fascinating real-life read. And who knows? You might even find one that resonates with something inside you.

 

She may as well have been speaking Chinese

Last week I had my first, scheduled, online discussion with “Amy” from Rosetta Stone. When I finished, I wished I knew how to say “Oy vey!” in Mandarin.

A “scheduled online discussion” in Rosetta World means that for thirty minutes you get to talk to someone who is a native speaker of the language. I was excited, because I had a lot of questions about syntax, and I really needed some help. At the designated time I logged on with my pre-prepped microphone headset and waited. Soon Amy’s voice called out.

Nǐ hǎo, Dawn!”

Nǐ hǎo,” I responded. My stomach quivered a bit; I’m not comfortable wrapping my tongue around this language yet, and even the “hello” set me off. But this was all part of the famous Rosetta Stone process. I needed to do it, and I was ready to go with Amy, who is a native Mandarin-speaker.

What I didn’t realize is that it was the only language she would use in our chat.

I knew that she was going to stick to words I’d learned two lessons earlier. At the time, I’d been on Unit 1, Lesson 4. Amy was quizzing me on stuff from Unit 1, Lesson 2. Should have been a piece of cake. It was more like a piece of mud pie. I couldn’t even remember the word for “milk” (niú nǎi).  I felt like a clueless two year-old.

Except that a two-year old Chinese kid would know the word for milk.

I should be better at this, I screamed in my head. I’m a writer, for Pete’s sake! I have a better-than-average command of the English language! I manipulate words on a regular basis!

Making things worse, during the chat it became clear that Amy also had an excellent command of the English language. (And she pronounced my name as though she was American.) But she stuck to speaking in Mandarin. She’s probably supposed to do that, however on-the-verge-of-tears the Rosetta Stone customer is. Maybe it’s some Tiger-Teacher philosophy.

She was patient with me. “Tǐng hǎo!” she would encourage when I got things right… which was usually after she’d had to type the answer on the screen. A few times I broke down and had to use English to explain that I didn’t know something. Or that I didn’t understand what Amy was asking me to say, like when she asked if I had a cat, as she pointed to a photo of a cat. (It was only an “Oh, duh!” after I understood what she was asking. Then I couldn’t remember the word for “no,” which, it turns out, isn’t “no.” Because “no” means no, except in Mandarin.)

It was the longest half-hour of my life. I literally breathed a sigh of relief when she said our time was up. “Zài jiàn, Dawn.” Zài jiàn, Amy!

I’m still going forward with the course. I want to learn this language. Eventually, I’ll even schedule my next chat session. But am I looking forward to it?

Bù shì!

Entering social media as me… for the first time!

Squeak! My gut feels like it’s shoved tight up against my diaphragm. There is a peculiar, not-comfortable, constricted sensation running from the top of my stomach, up my sternum, all the way to my neck. And I have to focus if I want my breaths to be any more profound than the edge of a zero-depth pool. This is me, Mouse, entering not just the blogosphere, but the entire realm of social media as myself, for the first time.

To clarify: I’ve had a website before. For about two seconds. It was back in the stone ages, even before MySpace. I used it to post pictures of my kids, and I’m pretty sure the only people who visited it were family members, so it felt pretty safe. I’ve also joined discussion boards in the past. Four times, to be exact. But never using my real name, so that felt safe, too. (Also, I don’t post on those sites anymore, for reasons I will probably never discuss here.) However, it is my goal this week to change all of that, and in the process change my life. (Hey, it ain’t gonna change itself.) Two days ago I joined Good Reads. As myself. Today, I’m writing my first blog post. As me. By the end of the week, I am going to get up the nerve to create a Facebook account.

I’ve frowned on social media for a long time. I’m an aspiring writer, butI don’t think my life is interesting enough that people would want to read about my mundanities. I write fiction for a reason. And I have no desire to cultivate farm animals or have people throw penguins at me or whatever. So I’ve shrugged it off. Avoided it like it’s a food allergy. But I’ve come to realized I’ve been lying to myself.

The reason I haven’t put myself out there is because I’m scared.

First off, I’m afraid of rejection. As I mentioned, I’m an aspiring writer, and I deal with rejection all the time. But I’m not very good at it. Every rejection letter from every agent cuts me to the bone, no matter how nice they try to be. Because I let it. I have to get over that. And I have got to get over my fear of putting myself out there, because the self-doubt is crippling me. (Not to mention, I can’t go crying to my good friend Bourbon every time someone turns me down….)

Then there’s Facebook. Facebook terrifies me. (So much so that I can’t even type “Facebook” properly: I’ve had to redo it three times now for typos.) Facebook presents the possibility of people rejecting me not just for my fiction, but for the reality of who I am. I don’t want to admit to the world that I’m not at all successful or where-I-want-to-be with my life. Also, there’s the paralytic thought that someone will find me who I don’t want to find me. Yeah, there’s a specific someone like that for me (again, something I will probably never discuss on this blog), but I have to get over my fears!

Otherwise I might as well go live in a closet.

I don’t expect anyone else to read this post, since it’s my first and I have no idea how to publicize it. But if anyone does, I’d be curious to know how you got past your fears (whatever they were), and how you deal with rejection.