Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spaghetti on the Walls

I am sitting here feeling overwhelmed. You see, I am applying for a title change at the college where I teach and that requires a letter to the Provost detailing the reasons I think I qualify for this title. I am not overwhelmed at the task at hand, in fact, I'd rather communicate this want in a letter, but it's the vast list of possibilities that has me weighed down. So many steps are required to reach so many goals. I read Facebook updates, travel blogs, twitter tweets and feel I'm just not doing enough. This one is a Neiman Fellow while that one won a grant to study art in Florence. Meanwhile this one (me) teaches twice a week, writes, swims and dances. The most recent fellowship I applied for (4 weeks in a castle in France) had me number one on the wait list, so should anyone drop out I'd be next in line. No one dropped out. I look back on my college days and have foggy memories of working at the radio station, interning at a local newspaper, a production company and later planning a trip around Europe, living in London for a year, applying to graduate school. Huh? Who was that energizer bunny who now sighs at the thought of listing all the courses I've created over the past three years? I suppose I've "applied" to the thing I want most, which is the publication of my second book. But as usual, so much is out of my control. As publishing companies downsize, scrutinize, and make choices based on consensus, I can only sit back and wait for news from my agent. It's not all as 'ho hum' as I'm making it sound. I applied for a teaching spot at Esalen and will be heading there in October for my workshop, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the writing process of my third book, a huge departure from the others (think true crime). I suppose living a creative life involves throwing lots of spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. My walls are full of marinara sauce, with a few strands sticking proud.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Latest Addiction

I am so excited about my new television addiction, mostly because it doesn't include the words "Housewives" or "Rehab" in it. No, this addiction is of the healthier kind, the, dare I say, more intellectual kind.

I came across the UCTV station a few months ago. They air programs coming from the University of California system. One show in particular caught my eye: Mini Medical School hosted by UCSF. Each time I've watched it, I've had to grab pen and paper to take notes. The doctors are so informative, so progressive, so damn interesting.

The other night was no exception. Dr. Martin L. Rossman conducted a lecture titled, "Worrying Well: How Your Brain Can Turn Anxiety and Stress into Calmness and Confidence." He spoke a lot about the brain, the different systems within the brain, the effect stress has on the brain (and whole body, for that matter). He spoke of good worry versus bad worry (I can relate to both, as I'm sure most of you can).

One of my favorite parts of this lecture was when he used skiing as an analogy for positive thinking. He said when you ski a challenging hill, you "focus on where you want to go, not where you don't want to go," and the same is true for worry/anxiety/crisis. If you focus your thoughts on where you want the situation to go rather than getting stuck in circular, destructive, OCD, negative thinking, you are going to rid yourself of a lot of stress. My second favorite part was when he took the audience through a guided imagery. I closed my eyes, focused on what he suggested, listened to his calm voice...and when I opened my eyes the show was long over and it was almost midnight. Okay, maybe I was just tired, but this Dr. Rossman is on to something.

Click here to watch for yourself!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I H8 W8N

I loved the license plate I was behind this morning because I hate waiting, too. But wait I must. My book is out and making the rounds and it is s-s-s-low going. I am trusting the process, though, or at least pretending to.

Meanwhile, GCC member Jenny Gardiner has a new book out, a memoir. I love reading memoirs and can't wait to dig my claws into this one.

First, let's see what others are saying:

"As sweet as a song and sharp as a beak, Winging It really soars as a memoir about family - children and husbands, feathers and fur - and our capacity to keep loving though life may occasionally bite." -- Wade Rouse, bestselling author of "At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream", and "Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler".

Now my interview with Jenny:

MC: Which came first, the title or the novel?

JG: Well, in this case it's a memoir, so the memoir came first, definitely. Though I love to play around with words, so I think long and hard about titles.

What other art form inspires you as much as writing?

I have to say writing inspires me the most. But I do appreciate traveling and touring the phenomenal churches of Europe, and museums with Renaissance art. I love Renaissance maps as well--works of art unto themselves

Which comes easier for you - beginnings or endings?

Both are easy. It's the in-between that gets tough!

How many drafts until the final draft?

By the time I submit a book to an editor, I like to have it pretty tight. I'm anal about being sure I'm pretty much typo-free. I read and loop back and re-read each time I start to write so that I can keep the pace. That said, I did have a pretty solid revision to do on this!
What are you reading right now?

Always reading several things at once, but loving The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen (she's fabulous) and HouseHusband by Ad Hudler, and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

For more info. on book and author please visit her website or go here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal

I was so saddened to hear that hip hop legend Guru was in a coma after suffering a heart attack at the tender age of 43. I'm not sure of his prognosis, but apparently he has survived an operation and is in a hospital in NYC.

Guru is from the hip hop band Gang Starr and also produced a series of hip hop/jazz fusion albums called Jazzmatazz. Needless to say, with hip hop and jazz being my favorite genres of music, I was obsessed with these albums and while living in San Francisco had the pleasure of seeing a few of his live shows. I believe I was the first on the dance floor shaking my thang, or at least pretending I knew how.

A few years later, in Los Angeles, I was going to see a movie with some friends when I noticed a line outside the Virgin record store on Sunset. I peeked my head in and saw that it was Guru, signing his new installment of the Jazzmatazz series. I grabbed my friends and jumped in line. As it progressed, I wondered what I was going to say to him, and then when I was finally in front of him I found myself tongue tied. I'm sure I stammered something like, "Oh my God, I love your work. I saw you in SF. You are the best. You are my favorite Your music is brilliant." He didn't really look at me, he was busy signing my CD and a picture of himself, but he was smiling. He returned my loot, shook my hand and sent me on my way.

A few seconds later I thought I heard Guru call out my name. It couldn't be me. There must have been another Melissa that he knew. I heard him call it out a second time. I turned around just to see and indeed he was pointing to me. He waved me over when we made eye contact. "What should I do?" I said under my breath to my friend who was standing next to me. "Go!" she said.

I walked back over.

"Melissa," he said. "I just want to say 'thank you' for all the nice things you just said to me."

"Aw," I said. "I meant every word. Your music means a lot to me."

"And you mean a lot to me," he said. "It's beautiful that my music touches you."

And he stood up to hug me.

I was stunned. And moved. And a bit giddy.

"Peace, Melissa," he said with a wink.

When I rejoined my friends they were cracking up.

Can you imagine that happening with someone like Kanye West? 50 Cent?

I am saying a little prayer that Guru recovers. Meanwhile, I've got all of his CD's in my player right now and my cat is watching curiously as I practice my moves in my living room.