Voices in your head- fiction and writing

SO many books and I am struggling with just one.

For months I have been slogging…and I mean slogging…through a YA utopian/dystopian novel. I don’t mean reading one. I mean writing one.  It is my first attempt at long form fiction and it has just about killed me.

I’ll describe to you the plot and you can see the potential…and the difficulty. The novel is set in a near future society where all physical ailments have been cured. A mere 15 years after the cure citizens have to face the reality that their world is screaming towards overpopulation. A ministry is formed to help address the problem and they come up with the simple solution of one life for another. If you are going to have a baby you need to find someone to die for it to be born.

The story is told from the perspective of a 16 year old boy who is going to be an orphan in 40 weeks. His mother is giving her life for his sister to have a baby. His father was the first to do this, giving his life for his other sister to have a baby. Their world celebrates this sacrifice. It is considered the highest honor to die for another to be born. The book open in his classroom where his entire class is watching a replay of the ceremony of his father’s death and cheering. Meanwhile Juneau is hiding his tears.

In the midst of this loss he meets a 16 year old girl. Despite receiving the same treatment at the clinic as all of the other citizens she seems immune to the cure. One slice of her iris is a different color than the others. Yet no one seems to see the evidence of her resistance. When they meet they recognize in each other a rare distrust of the cure and what it means. Beyond their personal suffering they uncover an even darker impact of the cure. Mere miles away from their sunny spacious homes lies a holding camp where the upper class is farming lower class “donors” so ministry families can have babies without having to sacrifice themselves.

The novel is written in trimesters where the first brings the two protagonists together, the second reveals the dark underside of their world and the third helps them overturn the medical reality by going on a quest to find the elder who created immortality, a woman who watched her own daughter die a painful death and wanted to spare other from her suffering. When they find her they realize that she has been shielded from the impacts of her benevolence. Revealing the reality she decides to shut down the mitochondrial clinics and allow the natural balance of life and death to resume.

As I describe the plot of the book currently title “I for an I” it is hard to ignore that I am writing in the passive tense. “The novel is written…” I am writing this novel. Except maybe I am not. Every single minute has been misery. The dialogue is stilted. The plot is even more complicated than I described.

Last night I woke up at three in the morning with someone talking to me. It was a woman. She lived in the present time, she had regular sized problems. She was not battling classism or environmental issues or the ethics of genetic changes. She did not have to go on a quest or solve a planet’s problem. She just needed to water her flower pots, convince herself she could stand on her own and then when she was confident meet a guy. She had the help of a sassy best friend and bizarre controlling parents. She is a trope. She is what I know. She was already talking to me.

So here I am, 30,000 words into a book that is killing me slowly, feeling drawn to the fluffiest of tales. It is confusing. Perhaps like the characters in “I for an I” maybe there needs to be death to make room for more life.

Can anyone relate to this? Has anyone shelved a long project? How do you decide which stories to tell? Seeking advice…

#amnotwriting what about you?

This is a rant for my blogging buddies. The rest of you might want to tune back in when I am writing about bras, or kids, or drugs.

I made myself a desk.

First Steve and I took everything out of the office. The office is a 10×10 room that is clown car full of games and homework and beer posters and clay figures and dead plants. It is home to 6 mismatched chairs and all of the electronics that are somewhere between life and death. (Much closer to death). It has bank statements and tax returns and beer advocate magazines and that office toy with the clicking balls. (Wow does that sound so wrong.) Plus the pencils and sharpies and dead pens. So many of those. For one hour it had none of those things and instead it looked all of its 100 square feet. It was fantastic. So then we returned just the stuff we needed and tried not to look at the disaster we made of our dining room table.

We achieved the impossible. In a corner I have now have a desk.

So obviously I can no longer write.

I am sitting here and trying. This is my fourth attempt at a post this morning. I tried to explore Oliver’s question of whether it is good to be humble but I got tangled into whether imaging that you can determine humility immediately bands you as un-humble. I also tried to write about my toes but those were even more boring than the navel I gaze into so regularly in this blog. Then I wanted to write about having sex when you don’t want to. But I didn’t want to. So here I am writing about not writing.

In the opposing corner of the office Steve works at his standing desk. His rapid keystrokes are taunting me. Clack click clack is the sound of stuff getting done. It is not even as passive as that tense. Steve himself is getting stuff done. Every once in a while he slurps his coffee and gives a sigh of satisfaction. Much more frequently he gives a gigantic sniff. How have I never noticed how much my husband sniffs? So much. So many sniffs. I’m amazed that he still has a nose on his face given the sniffing. It might sound as though I am exaggerating but those of you who write, or try to write know what I mean. Sniffing is the worst. Or whatever your version of sniffing is.

However writing is non negotiable so I pause on the blog and open up a new word doc. Not actually word but Pages because I am all apple but using the word Word seems more inclusive. But less productive. A word is not so impressive. A page is something. But a page comes about one word at a time.

See that? See above right there? That is the sort of shit that is in my word doc. Or Pages. AAAAAARGH.

Usually I start my morning checking in on my “writers” list on twitter. In the past I have enjoyed reading other blogs and make a point to comment and share. Yet recently I have slipped away from social media because it is full of links to articles and posts and books. I try to feel pure happiness for my online friends but instead other people’s success only highlights my lack of words. And pages. Twitter is filled with the hashtag #amwriting. I feel double judgement when I see that hashtag. 1. You #arenotwriting when you are tweeting. 2. I #amnotwriting while I am reading your tweet. Instead I #amjudging.

Oh my god. I thought Steve’s sniffing was bad but know he is yell-talking about some sort of super secret chip. Which is not made of potato. I’m feeling a bit pessimistic about my desk/corner/writing set up. “They need to have versions of these modules that can support leaded columns like the old ceramic parts.” I am trying not to listen but his volume is too loud. Its like when I drive the kids in the car with friends and they can’t keep themselves from yelling. There have been times when I reach for the volume on the dash board to try to turn them down. It doesn’t work.

So I #amjudging my work and lack thereof, Steve’s work, and my friends’ success.

I will say this.

At least I am getting a lot more done than these two.


I might have to get myself some of these. Sniff.

What about you? Are you writing?





In Denver there is sunshine and crunchy leaves. We have candy for breakfast and hot tea in thick mugs at night. Tomorrow we celebrate 13 years of marriage with dinner in a renowned restaurant. I will see a friends play and watch Oliver eat pizza to celebrate the end of his brother’s soccer season. We will canvass to get out the vote and watch the election returns with popcorn on the big bed. Still the kids tumble past blooming roses wearing shorts to school but soon there will be sweaters.

We will host a close friend on a stop of her families’ year long road trip. We will take them to museums and parks and bakeries. We will issue humble brags about how we have one car. We will head to LA to battle traffic and be tourists.  Steve will have a work trip and the boys and I will eat dinner with our fingers while reading Harry Potter. When it is the four of us their will be games in front of the fire. We dig our toes into the white sand of the Gulf of Mexico and brave Thanksgiving airport misery to visit my mom and her siblings for turkey and pifecta in NYC. We will go to Central Park and hunt Pokemon. When we get home we will only have a thin wisp of November left. Not really much at all. Just enough to squeeze in a lunch outdoors where 95% of our conversation is expressing amazement about the Denver weather.

November…It looks good, it sounds good, it even smells good…it just doesn’t deliver good work time.

It’s early to write off a whole month of writing but I think I am up for the challenge. I am going to be too busy. Things are going to be too fragmented. I am going to host and guest and fly and drive. I am going to meet and eat and probably something like greet as well. Whatever these things are they will get in the way of my mornings with my computer. I know they will.

I am telling myself that my life is too full to write but I have a sneaking suspicion that writing has left me before I left it.

Steve has tinnitus. The ringing in his ears is a result of hearing loss. His brain is missing out on sounds, so it creates its own. He says it sucks. This is what my brain is doing as well. Where I usually have opening sentences and strands of quotes that I can grab hold of and ride to some sort of story I instead have PTSA websites and grocery lists. It is my own version of ringing, and it too is pretty damn annoying.

November is telling me No. Or I am telling November no. Neither of us are admitting that the words left before the calendar changed.

It is easier to blame the on No-vember.

You might not see me around here for a while. I will be in California and Florida and New York. I will be in the middle school cafeteria. I will be ringing doorbells and building websites. I will being doing everything except writing.

See you in December. I hear that is a great month for words.



Totally off limits

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.22.51 AMI often think I have no filter.

There was the time I told my two year old about Hitler and he decided not to be Jewish. There was that other time I told my friend that her outfit wasn’t flattering and had six months of misery trying to sort that out. I wrote about my semi step father’s toe nails and almost alienated him. Whoops I might have done it again. I talk about money and sex. I told a friend about her boyfriend cheating and almost wiped out a 5 year relationship. The list goes on.

There is one subject that shows that I have a filter. I have not written about my husband’s family.

I am also not writing about them today.

When I read books on writing they all recommend pretending your family doesn’t read your work. I always interpreted that as allowing sex and drugs and bad language to fill your page if it wants to. Many people from my daily life and show up in my writing. Sometimes they are disguised, sometimes they gleam with the unique characteristics that make them easily identifiable. It is the hazard of befriending a writer.

Steve’s family didn’t choose me.  They didn’t choose to be revealed through my eyes, in my words. It is difficult to keep them off the page. I have done it for 12 years and I will do it for 12 more. Sometimes the window is open to observe all that goes on in another person’s life. And sometimes the window is shuttered and covered with vines. I’m not sure I have the tools to open it up and shed light into that room.

What about you fellow writers? Is there anything that is TOTALLY off limits? What do you think of my small slice of filter?

The perils of a life without night vision.

Driving at night- nightblindnessI’m reading advice on writing and life by Anne Lamott. She writes the way I do, surrounded by her idiosyncrasies and mental oddities who at first try to keep quiet and then get restless and angry and fill her mind with their own mishegoss. I should probably say that I write like she does, as she is a renowned and well paid author, but first and forever I am me so forever I will put myself first. At least on the page.

In any case she is sharing everything she has ever learned about writing in her book bird by bird (lowercase hers…or her cover designer) and I am reading the first bit of it. I stop after just a chapter and a half because this is what I can handle, and also, I think, what she would want. She describes a one inch by one inch picture frame that she keeps on her desk to remind her that each novel is written scene by scene and sentence by sentence. It reminds me of the architectural drawing class that I took in rural Vermont surrounded by the smell of wood being worked and rich and root vegetarian cuisine. I wasn’t there long enough to have to cook or clean, just imagine that I might be the sort of person who could learn permaculture or making my own wooden canoe. The fact that I was in the same dorm room as the person that I imagined I might be added a sort of circular logic that made things feel both as small as the one inch picture frame and also unimaginably large.

The next morning when we got back to drawing the instructors told us that everything was easier to draw in a frame and had us actually create frames with special cardboard and exacto blades and I only cut myself once. Inside the frame we made a grid of string, making even the part of the world we had chosen to see smaller still. Only when things were the size of a matchbook could we draw them. It did make it much easier to draw. But I found it made it harder to see.

What I was missing was that I didn’t have to stop at one frame, if I had just gone on to the next and the one after that I would be continuing to see things, the one frame would just be part of the story, like cells of animation, to turn a frame into an entire movie.

Right after I have finished thinking about the way I will animate life through a series of frames I am deflated when I remember that I dislike animation. I haven’t seen frozen, and suffer through other disney classics. I know that means I don’t have a heart, yet somehow blood still moves through my body.

The very next paragraph leaves me hopeful as Anne Lamott offers what she says is “right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, (she has) ever heard.” It is from EL Doctorow who says that writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I feel a little thrilled by this. I don’t need to be an animator or even watch cartoons to understand this comforting thought. We don’t need to see it all to live it. We don’t need know our ending to write it. For a moment I feel liberated as, I expect, both authors intended.

Then I remember.

I don’t drive at night.

I have to find another metaphor for this universal and universally difficult idea of taking one step at a time. Before you even suggest it…I don’t eat elephant.

What is your 1×1 picture frame? How do you keep from getting ahead of yourself?

It feels like someone is watching me

In addition to cranking out 7 articles a week I am trying to keep plugging away at my book. It is slow going these days…I’ve got my neck pain and the circular family stomach bug to contend with. More than that I have my family.

My book is primarily about my twenties before I was medicated for mental illness and I acted out my highs and lows every day. I wanted to write about this because I am finally in a place where I am confident that that lifestyle is firmly in my past and I can capture it in narrative form.  Which means both to bring it into the open and to lock it down…in the past on the page.

The working title of the book is Slut: Spit AND swallow…which is descriptive of my actions and also my varied moods.

In part I picked this topic because it is my story alone. Well, except for a few late nights. I have been writing about Steve for Good Men Project almost daily…and although he is an incredibly good sport it is not the topic that either of us want to make up my body of work. I write about my boys for a few other sites. I find myself hiding the screen from them. So I chose a chapter from my past for my long form topic. I figured I wouldn’t be mining my family for material. Just people I have long since lost track of.

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]But the past and the present inevitably intertwine. http://annarosenblumpalmer.com[/Tweet] But the past and the present inevitably intertwine. Last night Oliver asked me if I would ever write a book. I told him I hoped so. He gave me a huge and a three dimpled smile and said. “I am so glad to hear that…I can’t wait to read it, and to show it to all of my friends.”

So there it is. It might be my story, but it continues the trouble of inspiration and audience. There always seems to be someone reading, watching and listening. Which is what we want as writers. But there is a downside.

My son will know I was a slut.

OK writers…how do you navigate the fact that your audience may be your subject…or you son?