writing

Eavesdropper #1

I gave up on climbing the corporate ladder with hard work. I just want to get laid now. I’m ready to sleep my way to the top.” he said, leaning back in the red velvet covered, 18th century replica Wing Back and crossing his legs, slowly, foot dangling and wagging ever so slightly.

She looked across the table at him, amazed at his obvious swagger, and thinking she would never say such a thing. Especially so loud and in public. It seemed like a statement best whispered. In the dark. Maybe in a closet and to no one.

“I’ve stumped you, have I?” He chuckled and made a movement to grab his Pal Malls from his jacket pocket, realizing a little too late that they weren’t there. He had quit, again, two days ago after promising his girlfriend to ‘participate in saving his own life.’ He then clicked open his briefcase and found the emergency pack he had tucked in the bottom. Only three left. Lighting up, he coolly looked her up and down. Exhaling a smooth white ribbon he said, “Listen. I’m not going to climb across the table and jump you right here. I just want you to know the option is there. You have something I want and I’m willing to pay you for it.”

The air made its way slowly through a small O her lips had made. A tiny, quiet whistle escaped and mingled with his smoke. Embarrassed, her cheeks and neck warmed and she looked down at her hands folded neatly in her lap. She smoothed the wrinkles in her skirt across her knees and wiped off some of the sweat accumulating in her palms under his scrutiny.

She remembered the time she had driven in the silver convertible with the love of her life to the top of the lookout. Trees covering them overhead, leaves making their dancing way to the damp earth and a breeze blowing, at one point so hard she lost her scarf. The one with the tiny blue flowers and made from fancy silk. The one her love had given her. She had cried out and grabbed for it, just a little too late, but he had laughed and kissed her and told her not to worry, he would get her a new one. It had been almost 8 years now since he’d left her. She hated cancer.

Clearing his throat, he said, “I just notice you’re always alone. I’ve never seen you with anyone the entire time I’ve been with the firm.” Leaning forward and looking at her, just inches from her, he reached out one hand, slowly, carefully, and set it next to hers on the table, just grazing a finger.

She left her hand where it was and contemplated the tingle she felt shoot up her arm. Then she thought about her scarf with the tiny blue flowers. She smiled at him, meeting his eyes and putting on her piercing look. The look she’d practiced for years in the mirror. The look she used with problem clients in her office and with colleagues intent on taking more than they gave. The look she would never, ever use on her daughter. “I thank you for your kind proposition.” she offered, “And I’d love to pick up the tab for our drinks.” She said nothing else and made no move forward or back.

He felt confused after a few minutes had passed, uncomfortable, and leaned back a bit, removing his hand and straightening up in his chair. “Thanks.” He raised his eyebrows almost imperceptibly, but she saw it. She noted the unsure look in his eyes and smiled a bit bigger, showing a few more teeth.

Editor’s note – This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to anyone you know is purely coincidental and kind of cool.

On Writing

I don’t have it all figured out. Far from it. I’ve been on the sending end of about a zillion queries that were carefully thought out and written. Of the handful of responses I’ve received back, only a fraction of those turn into real money so I’m no expert on how to make a living with your writing. I’m only making it because I’ve got a partner that has a steady income from a real job. My handful of articles, interviews and book essays don’t exactly pay the rent. But once you do start making money, how do you be smart about your business?

I occasionally get asked how a person can get published and really my only advice is quantity. i.e. the more queries you send out, the more chances there are that someone will pick up your idea and want you to run with it. And following directions. That is a big one. If they ask for three writing samples, send three, not two. If they want a resume in Word, send it in Word, not something else they can’t open and read.

Joe sent me this article which you may have already read, but just in case, I’m linking it here. Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money covers everything I could think of to tell someone starting out. Scalzi is decidedly on the high end of what a writer makes at over $160K last year but having paid his dues for many years before raking in the dough makes him someone with advice you should be listening to. Section 4, Your income is half of what you think it is, covers what might be the best information in the post along with sections 5 and 6 relating to credit cards and debt.

Just remember that credit cards are not your friends; their entire purpose, from the point of view of the bank that gives them to you, is to make you a consistent and eternal source of income, forever and ever, amen. If you want to be in economic thrall to a bank until the very moment you die, that’s your business, but it’s a pretty dumb way to go about things. Especially if you’re a writer, who doesn’t necessarily have a solid month-to-month income anyway.

I recommend that all writers read this post at least once. Then print out the good parts and write them on cards around the house. Like “You are likely to be surprised at how many things it turns out you don’t really need if you have to wait to get them, and can actually see the mass o’ cash you’re laying out for ‘em. And that’s all to the good for you.” and “Be willing and ready to write anything — but make sure that you’re making the attempt to make more than three cents a word off it. Because I will tell you this: If you only value your work to that amount, that’s the amount you’re going to find yourself getting paid. Over and over again.

Slice Of Americana

The summer I was fifteen was the summer I wasn’t sure if I had a steady boyfriend or not. Teen communication being what it was, his ‘Well, have a good weekend. And summer. I’ll see you around.’ had left me problem solving our togetherness. Sure, I wanted to still be going out with him. He was two years older than me. What was not to like? But if I wasn’t, the summer might be more fun. I decided to just play it by ear.

One afternoon, I took my jean-squared blanket backed with flannel out onto the front lawn. Normally, if I was actually tanning, I would have laid out in the backyard on top of the flat, tarred carport cover. But, not today. I wasn’t actually trying to tan. I was trying to be seen.

I heard that my (still?)(ex?)boyfriend was driving around town, dragging main with some friends. I figured being on the front lawn drinking a 42 ounce Dr. Pepper with lemon and tons of ice, with tanning lotion all over every exposed part of my body, casually painting my toenails or reading a book would look completely normal and it gave me a great vantage point with which to watch for his car coming and going on my block.

I had the orange extension cord coming from under the ivy, which was long, full and very green early in the summer, before the hot end of July hit and made it turn slightly brown. On my boombox was the Top 40 countdown and Boys of Summer came on. I kid you not. It was the part of the show where they play what was hot last year or the year before that. And Don Henley’s voice, with the guitar echoing came out of my speakers right as my boyfriend’s car came around the corner and stopped in front of my house.

He was with a couple of his friends. All so very, very cool. He yelled a hello. I yelled a hello back. His friend punched him in the arm and then he yelled, ‘See you around!’ and they took off. I was underwhelmed. Seriously, after all the effort of getting everything outside and after trying on every item in my closet, picking the plaid shirt with the tiny red lines that I could tie at the waist to show just enough belly and finding the jean skirt that was just short enough to almost give my parents a heart attack but they would allow me to own and popping every zit on my forehead and then covering it up with foundation and applying 5 coats of mascara and heavy eyeliner on my inner lids and searching everywhere in the bathroom drawers for the banana clip that matched my shirt and two hours getting my bangs just right, it wasn’t much of a payback.

I sat there, legs stretched out, fresh pale pink polish named ‘Cotton Candy’ on my toes, musing how unfortunate my life was at the moment when a car stopped in front of the house. A boy from Australia got out, came over and asked me for directions to Denny’s Wigwam. He was cute. Very cute. But more than that, he had an accent. Holy crap, an accent from AUSTRALIA. Only the very best place in the entire world that I wanted to visit more than anything.

I told him how to get there and he thanked me. He started to pull away and then unrolled the window, leaned his head out and said, ‘You’re just about the cutest visual a guy could ask for on a summer afternoon. You’d make a great postcard.’ And then he smiled and drove away. Something about the way he said the word ‘visual’ kind of cracked my heart a little and it made all the effort worthwhile.

But that wasn’t even the best part of the day. No, the best part of the day was later, when I walked downtown with my friend and we strolled past Denny’s Wigwam about 8 times, asking each other important questions like I wonder if that cute boy is still in town? Why was he here in the first place? Who’s car had he been driving? What was his name? Was he really lost or did he just want to stop and talk to me because I was so cute? I relished every second of that evening, the possibilities that could have happened.

I didn’t run into him again. I’ll never know if he really stopped just to talk to me or if he was so blind that he couldn’t find the biggest landmark on the only main street right in the center of town. But I imagine he’ll always think that every small town American girl sat outside on a summer afternoon, painting her toenails on a blanket on the front lawn listening to Casey Kasem and America’s Top 40.

Unfinished

I’ve started and never finished a ton of posts. They sit here in my drafts, lonely. Some of them look so familiar, I swear I’ve completed them already. I used to see them every time I started a new one, but at some point, not sure when, I stopped seeing them. They don’t exist to my every-day-eye. They are destined to live a sad, lonely and unwritten life. And there are some good ones, too!

I’ll list a few of them, including the contents of the unwritten post, which I suppose are hints as to what I was going to say about the subject. Although, some are just too cryptic for me to figure out.

Mad Lib
remove the words

top 10 my space
oh, sorry. i thought you were just doing myspace
i dont even have a myspace.
well, if you didm youd be in my top 10!

Mother’s Day
Last Mother’s Day (notice that date is 2005. 2 years ago, people.)

Drivers License
http://leahpeah.com/blog/images/drl.jpg

Post # 742
bees out around the car.
we had a pool.

And my favorite:

??
sticks

The Heart Of Rockin'Roll

When I was fifteen my dad sent me to John Birch Society camp. The camp was in Colorado, and a group of people I’d never met before dropped by the house to give me a ride there. They all seemed a little odd but nice, in a granola kind of way. Granola that was extremely patriotic and wore flag shirts. I felt out of place the entire week.

There was a dance almost every night on the deck of the upper level of the main meeting hall. It smelled like trees and fresh and stars and snow, even though there was no snow at that time of year. The DJ, in an effort to not let in any Satan Music, played a lot of Huey Lewis and the News. It was better than the country music they played on the radio back home, so I went with it.

I slept in a cabin with 7 other girls. We all had our own bunks and sleeping bags and trunks that slid under the beds. I didn’t know any of them and most of them knew each other from years before. I was a little on the outside of the group but every time I started feeling sorry for myself I’d think, do I really want to fit in with these people? I’d feel better instantly and then visualize how awesome I’d be when I went home and told all my friends about how cool I was at this camp. In other words, lie.

Every girl in our cabin was full of their own personality quirks. One slightly heavy girl with acne took birth control pills but swore she was still a virgin. I didn’t believe her, but knowing what I know now, I wish I would have pretended to. Another girl, who had super long, dark hair and freckles and carried a Walkman with her everywhere, told lies and told us she told lies. It went something like this:

Her – ‘Hey, you guys. Last summer my parents took us all to Paris and then all around Europe. We ate crepes and frites. Do you even know what crepes and frites are?’
Me – ‘Um, ya, crepes are those thin-‘
Her – ‘Ohmygodyouguys, I lied! I totally lied. We never went to Europe last year.’

or

Her- ‘Once, when I was little, a snake got in our house and they found it in my bed.’
Me – ‘Did it bite you?’
Her – ‘Oh, no. It didn’t bit me. They got it in time. My dad got a gun and shot its head off.’
Some Other Girl – ‘Eww. That is gross. What kind was it?’
Me – ‘Did it make a huge mess and was you-‘
Her – ‘Ohmygodohmygodyouguys, that never happened! I don’t know why I said that. I’ve never even seen a snake!’

And then she would giggle for awhile, looking completely and utterly weird and the rest of us would just start talking about something else.

But the very most awesome girl there was a redheaded girl with natural curls that I was totally jealous of. She would tell us about fights she got into and then exclaim about how she had that redheaded temper. And she wore a red t shirt one day and told us that something about her complexion made it fine for her to wear red, in fact it looked great on her, when other redheaded people couldn’t.

The very first night, after we brushed teeth and got in bed, we all talked for a bit, said our goodnights. I’ve never been a heavy sleeper and I have a hard time going to sleep in the best of conditions. Sleeping in a new location with a bunch of new people, some of whom were mouth-breathers, wasn’t really conducive for my sleeping well. After about half an hour, everyone had fallen asleep but me. I could hear all their deep, heavy and sometimes slightly snoring rhythms and wished I could doze off.

Suddenly, the redheaded girl started talking. And not just kind of talking quietly, or a little bit of mumbling, either. I’m talking about a full-blown one-sided conversation with someone in her dream at regular talking volume. And it wasn’t even an interesting conversation. Something about going shopping and getting ready for school and getting her chores done before watching television. BORRiiing. Where’s the sex and the intrigue? I’d have at least liked a little mystery if I was going to be kept awake.

Eventually, everyone in the cabin was awake and telling her to shut it. But she wouldn’t wake up. She finally reached the next level of sleep and quit talking and everyone else went back to sleep. But it was the same story every night. There was talk of her being possessed by a demon. One of the girls, who’s father was a preacher, said she’d seen him cast out devils who did this kind of thing. I was impressionable then, and I might have believed her, except talking about grocery lists and riding a bike didn’t really sound that satanic.

Distant Angst, Catherine Connors

catherine_connors

Catherine Connors
AGE: 18
STORY: I was freshly moved away from home, and dating an ‘older’ boy – twenty – who I had met in a theater group. He had just decided to passionately re-embrace his Catholic roots. He didn’t think that I was virtuous-slash-pious enough, and I (still a virgin, though well-closeted as such) was struggling with how to be a grown-up and how to follow my heart and still be “good enough” for this guy, all at once. I was working out my story, what to say to him, and then lost my own thread when it came to making statements about sexuality and sacrifice. I had no idea what I was talking about.

It embarrasses me – deeply – to read this again. But I’m proud to say this: I never slept with this guy, and not because of some misguided idea of pious sacrifice. I’d moved on and forgotten him by that summer.

catherine_connors_pg1
catherine_connors_pg2

TEXT:

I will give you this.

I open myself to you. I tell you exactly what I feel, knowing that in all likelihood you will still just walk away, just so that you will know, and so that I, finally, will have sacrificed my pride for the sake of honesty. And even though you stand there with a knife with which to pierce my heart, I am not afraid, and venture to say that it would be a valuable wound, because it would not be borne of lies or manipulation. It would be a valuable wound.

I love you. I’m not sure why, simply I love you and am glad that I have experienced you. You haven’t tutored me, you haven’t guided me – you did bring some things to light, you triggered long forgotten musings, ideas. You showed me things. I don’t perceive you as stronger than me – I see you as older, more learned, mature. I don’t see you as a mentor, teacher. You are no better than I am.

I love you, and what I want is for us to try.

I know that on my own I can sacrifice sex, turn my back on temptation. Very easy to do. I ask for God’s forgiveness for my past transgressions and I go forward and sin no more. But it becomes twice as valuable if it is not only for myself and God, but also a sacrifice for someone important to me. It is very easy to embrace celibacy when you have no-one to spurn it with – not so easy when you are with someone.

I wonder how many people there are out there who will not have, or give up, sex before marriage.

Come to a live reading in Los Angeles @ L.A. Angst, in Brooklyn @ Cringe or in Seattle @ Salon of Shame! Want to send in your angst? Email me.

(More Than) Two Things

The latest version of LAB Magazine is up! You can view/download it here. Also, for a beautiful hard copy, order from Lulu here. Joseph Robertson is the bomb and does a really nice job putting it together. Also, my interview with Natalie Zee Drieu is in there!

Speaking of Natalie, she’s coming to Blogher this summer to be on my craft panel. Joining us will be Kristin Roach and Kathy Cano Murillo. Are you going to Blogher this year?

We have a mostly permanent home for LA Angst and LA Bloggers Live! (crowd cheering) I know, I know. It is great because they will be held at the Tangier Lounge, which really rocks and has the perfect ambiance for reading to an audience. So join us for our first Live! on Thursday, June 28th, 6:30pm and the next Angst on Wednesday, July 11th at 6:30pm, won’t you?

And I Was All……

Today I’m wearing a bra that is so great at giving support that I’ve gone through college, medical school and an internship by lunch. The other night I was laying on my back on the couch and Joe said, ‘Your breasts are truly amazing in that bra. They are two proud mountains, erect and waiting for someone to climb and conquer them.’

——-

Ty had a huge school project due today for History Day. He worked on it in drips and drabs over the long weekend but there was no convincing him that he should buckle down and do-er till she gets done. ‘This is how I do it, Mom. I think about it and figure it out in my head and then do the actual work the night before it’s due.’ ‘What about sleeping?’ I asked him. ‘Oh, I don’t sleep.’ This brings us to last night, when he ‘accidentally’ fell asleep (stupid body! sleeping!) and woke up this morning in a panic. Or so I hear since he was at his dad’s last night. But as I sat and waited for him to show up at the brunch* held for all the kids that got Student of the Month over the past school year, knowing he was running late and how much he hates being late, I felt like I should have pushed him harder to get the work done over the weekend in between running back and forth to Santa Barbara for his basketball tournament and after he finished the Grisham novel he also had to finish by today. I thought of many ways we could change his homework habits and had my own report on Applying Homework Skills to Avoid Stress and Sleepless Nights written in my head.

When he came in the door of the multi-purpose room, hair still damp from the shower, carrying a poster with glued rectangles of green over white containing text about Joseph Smith, my little speech left my brain. He looked harried and tired and still so handsome all freshly washed that I simply said, ‘I don’t think your way is working for you, Ty.’ He sighed. And then he ate part of a bagel and some fruit. I think it was more than enough, as talks go.

*When did Brunch start including 8am breakfasts?

——-

When the kids walk out the door I become a pillar of slow moving sludge on the couch. I sit as if a statue, doing various internetty things of no consequence which expend as little energy as possible and still be alive. I forget to eat. I forget to hydrate. I almost forget to relieve my bladder. My fingers clicking the keys are the only way one might know my heart is beating.

And then, when the kids walk through the door, I’m suddenly careening back into the movement of life, staggering on legs that have fallen asleep and smacking the dust out of the corners in my brain with the palm of my right hand against my forehead. As my engine revs up, I continue going faster until I’m almost going normal speed – going normal speed – attempting to pass on the right and then finally, breaking the speed limit and accidentally knocking the side view mirror off by hitting the mailbox. I’m doing the dishes. I’m folding the laundry. I’m looking at the vacuum and thinking really hard about getting it out. I’m straightening the cupboard. I’m putting the whites in the washer. I’m fluffing the pillows on the couch. I’m fixing a snack for Alex. I’m looking at the vacuum again. I’m sorting through mail. I’m fixing a snack for the boys. I’m slamming the garage door shut so I don’t have to look at the vacuum anymore. And most of all, I’m not thinking. I’m just doing. And very most of all, I’m not feeling. Alex is telling me about so-and-so and I’m um-humming, but I’m not feeling anything. I’m marinating steaks and cutting brussels sprouts into quarters and listening to what Dev tells me about the wonderful qualities of the Hookah and I’m nodding and occasionally rolling my eyes but not feeling anything beyond very mild sarcasm. I’m wiping counters and putting in a new trash liner and giving Tony advice on older women but I’m not feeling anything. I’m cutting up tomatoes for the Pico and Ty walks in, taps my shoulder from behind on the right, then sidles quietly to my left, waiting for me to turn and see no one so he can smile at me. And I think, ‘I sure wish I could feel something. This would be the moment to feel something. Right now.’ But I don’t, so I smile and hope he can’t tell.

And then they leave and go to their dad’s home. And I sit down on the couch to do my best impression of Timpanogos.

——-

Devon, aged 18, says, ‘You should try Disarono. It’s kind of cherry tasting. It’s very good.’ And damned if he wasn’t right.

——-

I’m not going to write about moving or moving boxes or the not unpacking of said moving boxes anymore. Because seriously, who cares? I’m bored and I live here. There are more important things to worry about. Like, why my underage sons knows what Disarono tastes like.

——-

Alex puts on the blue shirt with white polka dots and the white sweater. She takes it off and puts on the black tank top with the white sweater. She takes it off and puts the blue shirt with the white polka dots on over the black tank top. Then she adds the white sweater. ‘Mom, which of these looks better?’ ‘What are you trying to say? Friends or Flirty?’ ‘Um, probably mostly friends with a little bit of flirty.’ ‘I like the blue with polka dots and the white sweater. It says: You like me but I don’t want to date you so don’t ask me out or I’ll have to say no and then we can’t be friends anymore since we’ll both feel weird.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Awesome.’

——-

The bird with no name sits on my shoulder and nibbles my ear. He nestles up under my chin. He makes tiny chirping noises and puts his beak by my lips, craning his neck so I will scratch his head. He makes soft kissy noises of love. Then he shits on me.

2 of 2 New Projects

Remember the 1st one? Well, we already have 16 members, including one that looks like George Clooney, so yes, I think gangbusters applies.

And, here is #2. LA Angst.

Based on Cringe and Salon of Shame, LA Angst wants more than anything to laugh (with you) at your most embarrassing moments. Do you live in the Los Angeles area? Are you coming to visit and want to read? Email me and I’ll sign you up.

LA Angst is a monthly reading series hosted by Leah Peterson in the greater Los Angeles area on the first Thursday of each month. We gather together to read our most embarrassing, humiliating, angst ridden and otherwise absolutely wonderful writing from our youth. Every month, selected readers comb through their middle school and high school writing and pick something that represents how completely impossible it is to grow up without looking back in shame. Join us for some entertaining, therapeutic and hysterical fun!

I’ve noticed that most people feel drawn to either one group or the other. Is it weird that I love both?

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