A-to-Z Challenge: Day/Dismissal/Direct

Today was a poor mental health day for me; I didn’t sleep much, and everything seemed overwhelming and oppressive. I managed to do a very, very rough sketch, but I didn’t write a vignette to go along with it. However, the prompts — day, dismissal, direct — have very strong sense memories for me, and the scene I sketched resonates with me quite a bit.

When I was in high school, my school building was, for all intents and purposes, on a riverbank. We were not directly on the banks of the river, I guess, but when the river flooded — which was not uncommon in the spring — our school would have to close, because the parking lot would become unusable, many of the roads in and out would become dangerous to navigate, and some of the basement-level classrooms would flood. This would mean, mid-day sometimes, they’d have to call the day and send us home.

This was in the mid-90s, pre-cell phones, and our school had two office phones and one pay phone off the social studies hallway. The lines, as you can imagine, for a school of about a thousand students, were unbearable. So, for those of us who lived within walking distance, walking was often the less frustrating option.

My best friend and I would usually leave together, heading towards my house; now, while the girl in this sketch is wearing a uniform, that’s sort of a conflation of the experiences of my high school and middle school experiences. My high school had a massive strict dress code, but my middle school had a proper uniform. Given how badly the surrounding streets would flood, we would often be wading in Catholic school khakis and buttons downs through knee-deep water, squelching most of the way through the city, along the flooded park, back to slightly drier land and busier streets. The rule was, because our folks hated us walking home through that much and mess, that if we were to do it, we were to take the most direct route to the house, which was about a twenty, twenty-five minute walk.

So of course we routinely stopped at a bodega to grab snacks and pet their cats.

The bodega I remember the most was almost claustrophobically small. There were bins of tostones and bundles of sugarcane on the counter, shelves of Goya treats and soft drinks in the cooler by the door. The huge, tortoiseshell cat would lay on the understocked shelves, watching you out of his one good eye.

We’d stop on the stoop to unwrap gold foil packs of Maria cookies and pop open cans of tamarind soda and guanabana juice. By the time we got back on my house, our feet would be rubbed raw, the flood water staining our pants stiff.

Flood days are among my fondest memories from high school.

Day Four done! Onwards and upwards to Day Five. I think I have up through “K” planned, but this weekend I’ll have to buckle down and load up the random word generator again.

It’s getting later and I have felt exhausted all day. Stay safe and sane, guys.

A-to-Z Challenge: Correspondence/Craft/Contact

I added a row every time I missed you, it said. Stitch upon stitch upon stitch for every lost kiss, every missed movie night, every meal eaten at a place set for one. There were days I was afraid there wasn’t enough wool stocked in all of Vermont to keep up with how much I missed you.

“Sappy ass,” Victoria muttered, her mouth twitching up at the edges. She looped the scarf around her neck, once, twice, the length of it sweeping her feet, spilling over the edge of her bed as she lay down. She held the letter parallel to the mattress, squinting through the one eye not obscured by her duvet.

By the time you get this, we’ll be on the cusp of Spring, Danielle continued. I thought I should send it to you while you could still make some use of it; and honestly, if I held on to it for any longer, there’s a good chance you’d open the door one morning to find the fraying ends of it encroaching on your doorstep. It’s really in everyone’s best interest that I send this out now.

Victoria closed her eyes, breathed in. The wool smelled faintly of the peppermint tea that it had been packaged with, and the cloying smell of Danielle’s ginger and lemon soap. It smelled of morning coffee, and the cedar logs that she’d burn as she worked on her knitting on the couch, the TV on but turned low, bright colors and a low hum in an elaborate pantomime.

One more term, she ended. One more term, and my life will be mine again, ad your again. Ours again.

Ours again,” Victoria repeated. She closed her eyes, gathered the feet of felted wool in her arms and held tight, imagined the curve of Danielle’s back against her chest, the flutter of a heart beat beneath her pressing hands.


Day Three! And, uh, only one day late! This was a “planned outage,” so to speak, so I’m not exactly upset about it; having Sunday off lends itself to being a make up day.

As a reminder, this month I am generating three words to use as an inspiration for a sketch and a short written vignette. The ones that I like the most will be taken and fleshed out — the sketches turned into proper full digital art pieces, the vignettes fleshed out into proper short stories — in May. I’ve got to be honest, this is the most enthusiastic I’ve been about an A-to-Z in the last several years.

I’m neither in love with not particularly upset about this entry; I like the quaint idea of writing actually, posted letters to your love; I kept penpals for years as a young adult, and well into adulthood (I was collecting snail mail penpals via LiveJournal well into my 20s), but I feel like no one does that anymore. Which is such a shame. Who doesn’t like getting mail?? Still, of the three I’ve done so far, this is the one I’m least attached to.

Hope everyone is doing well in their challenges. I don’t anticipate this is the only art I will complete this month — I’m currently working on a digital piece, for example — but I’m also not going to force the issue, either, since May is going to be a busy month already, though I’m actually really looking forward to it.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

A-to-Z Challenge: Animal/Arrogant/Aid


That’s your father’s side,” her mother sighed. “Stubborn as an ox, and twice as thick.”
“And strong,” Amara countered. She raised her chin, her head bobbing slightly as Aldwyn adjusted his balance. “Strong, and resilient. Unmoving. There are worse creatures to be compared to.”
Aldwyn cawed; Amara heard her mother drawn in a startled breath. She grinned.
“Adwyn agrees with me,” she said.

We could get you a nurse–“
“I don’t need a nurse,” she sneered. “I don’t need a nanny, or a caretaker, I don’t need fussing about at all hours of the day. I need eyes, for God’s sake. Find me a nurse with better eyes than Aldwyn. Then we can have this conversation.”


Day One! Always exciting to start a new challenge. Let me lay out the parameters again; I’m using a random word generator to generate three words to inspire a rough sketch and a few sentence of a story. The goal for April is idea generation; I will spend May fleshing out my five favorites.

Today was A, and the words were animal, arrogant, and aid. Here we have a young noble named Amara and her faithful, literally eagle-eyed companion, Aldwyn. Amara is blind and quite effectively uses Aldwyn as a service animal, though her mother is not fond of the arrangement.

I find the premise fun and intriguing, though I don’t know if this will be one of the piece I continue in May. I’ve had very mixed experiences illustrating birds, but we’ll see.

On to the next! Stay safe and sane. I’ll be starting my blog hopping tomorrow.

Tidying Up

After much debate, my wife and I decided to bring my in-laws into our quarantine bubble. They’ve been extremely careful and well-isolated, and expanding out to include them in our bubble meant that for the first time, a week and a half ago, I had my first day alone in over four months.

Blessed be.

I got a backlog of cleaning done, stripped the couch and refreshed the apholstery, vacuumed the living room, and got in a lot of podcast listening, YouTube viewing, and mental peace and quiet. This past Ssaturday, they repeated the excursion, this time returning with my sibling-in-law Tenri in tow. Tenri is 24 and Bear is in love with them, and so in the ensuing two days (they leave tomorrow around noon) has been attached at their hip. This has meant, once again, that I had a chance to catch up on my weekly chores, chill out and listen to some of my backlogged podcasts, and work on some creative projects.

Guys, today I wrote two thousand words.

For perspective, in the entire nineteen previous days of july I had written eight hundred, total.

This is big.

Tenri leaves tomorrow, but I feel like I broke through that inertia barrier and I am excited about where this project is going and looking forward to opportunities to work more on it. It did, however, shine light on my desperate need for project organization.

I use Google Docs primarily, with occassional forays into analogue writing in a variety of notebooks when I feel like getting away from a screen would be more conducive to productivity (I find myself falling down YouTube/Twitter/TVTropes/Wikipedia rabbit holes way, way too easily). Google Docs is great for its conveinence, in that I can just navigate to a doc, open it, write what I want and peace out without ever having to worry about losing anything — for someone who lost several thousand words of fiction in the late-90s and early-aughts on Microsoft Word because of random power surges, this is wonderfully freeing.

It does, however, mean that I have about a thousand documents titled “Untitled.” Or titled with the doc’s cryptic first line. Or half a dozen docs that are essentially different parts of the same project, but I got fed up looking for the original doc because it was titled either Untitled or Something Cryptic, so I just created a new doc and then the process repeated itself because I never remember to properly name my docs… anyway, you get the picture.

Or, as what’s happening with this current project (and what started to happen with my Camp NaNoWriMo poetry proejct as well), in an effort to keep things together, I have notes, outlines, and the beginnings of an actual coherent piece all together in one document, which, I suppose, certainly keeps things together, but also makes in a slog to weed through and to cross-reference (I need to look something up in my notes after I’ve been writing for an hour? Ok, so, scroll up twenty pages. Ok, now scroll back down twenty pages. Ok, so… now you forgot what it was that you looked up. Also, you forgot where you were in the story, because of course you aren’t even writing the story as one cohesive unit, no, you’re writing it intersperesed between sets of notes and bits of outline because you are a human dumpster fire).

Anyway, as eager as I am to get back into this project, I think I’m going to take some time tonight to organize my Google Docs, create some folders, weed through unneccesary and empty docs (ever create a new Google Doc and realize you don’t need it?? But now it’s sitting there in your Drive? The next time you need a new Google Doc, do you go back to that unused one and utilize it? No, you make another new Google Doc, because you’re a fucking monster). I’m confident and pretty self-assured in how this project is going; I can get a fresh start on it tomorrow and it’ll be a-ok.

Tonight though, I think it’s tea, TV, and some Marie Kondo-style tidying up.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Halfway

So, in news that is surprising to absolutely no one who has ever heard my tales of prior Camp NaNoWriMos, things have not been going so well.

Part of it is that I have put an enormous amount of pressure on myself — it’s been weeks and weeks since I’ve actually been creative, and the project I decided to undertake was both ambitious and highly personal (fifteen narrative poems based around seminal and/or transformative moments in my life; so, yeah, no biggie), and those circumstances are wearing heavily on me.

As a result, little to no writing, as it were, has gotten done.

But!

  1. I am building a YouTube habit out of vlogging my trials and tribulations vis-a-vis NaNoWriMo, and while the videos are nothing special at the moment, the habit is helpful as I work my way up to branching out to other kinds of video (I hope to do speed drawing, writing tips and trick, weekly poems (my own, and old favorites) kid’s books reviews, etc).
  2. I joined a writing Discord for people who were in my Camp NaNo cabin, and I have to say, it is nice to be part of a writing Discord where everyone is there by invitation (it’s never going to cap at more than 30 people, which makes it actually possible for person-to-person interaction), and everyone is over the age of 30.

Also, while no “writing” is getting done on the main project, I am doing a crap ton of outlining, free-writing, and brainstorming for each poem, and have decided that, in order to preserve momentum, I will be bringing in past incomplete NaNo projects to work on when I’m burning out on this one. Words written are words written, and are a net gain, regardless on which work they’re written, right?? They’re still words I wrote, on projects I’m working on, and they still count. They still matter.

Anyway, while I’m not totally disillusioned, I think this may be the last time I attempt Camp for a while. It just never seems to work out for my the way I want it to.

To those other who are participating in Camp this week, I hope you are finding a more traditional brand of success with your own projects.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

Camp NaNoWriMo

First, before I get into the meat of this post, I’m celebrating the fact that my state has just had the first day with zero COVID fatalities since March 21st. All our numbers are down, as well — hospitalizations, intubations, and new diagnoses. We had, in our state of roughly 8 million, 114 new cases today.

For a state that had formerly been a “hot spot,” reporting thousands of new cases and up to 200 deaths per day during the height of it, this is incredibly positive news.

We still have a long, long way to go, but here’s the bright and shining proof that — gasp! — slow reopening with strict restrictions and enforced masking actually works, what a goddamned shocker, right?? It’s like, I don’t know, like Science is Real or something.

Anyway, that all being said, and with me beginning to be able to breathe a little easier (through my mask, which I will continue to wear for the foreseeable future), who is ready to take on Camp NaNoWriMo?

I…. have a very mixed relationship with Camp NaNoWriMo, which you can read a bit about here, in an essay I had originally published in the NaNo publication on Medium (and which needs to be seriously updated). Camp NaNo has a different energy that hasn’t always worked for me, though to be fair, in the last several years, every iteration of Camp had coincided with things going wonky at work, my social life getting turned up to 11, or taking on more than one creative challenge. This is the first time in at least the last four years when Camp has no other real competition for my time, save the rhythms of daily life.

I’ve joined my Cabin, am pantsing my project (which I’m still not 100% on), and readying to launch my YouTube channel (finally!) with some Camp NaNo vlogs. So, it’s on.

Is anyone else participating? Hit me up on Twitter (@rarelytidytweet) or on the official @rarelytidywriting)!

(Also, no worries, art isn’t off the table, but rather than force as I’ve been doing, I’m going to work on more lighthearted design stuff (I have some hopes/ideas for merch!), practicing anatomy/perspective, and collecting ideas. Art will be back full-force second week of August (why second week? I’ll tell you when we get there)).

Stay safe and sane, guys — and go out. Enjoy the summer weather.

Just mask up, keep your distance, wash your hands, and follow local guidelines. Come on, guys. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

Throwing in the Towel (NaPoWriMo/A-to-Z)

Ah, I hate to do it.  But I think it’s for the best.

I am proud to have made it to April 20th; given the momentous shift my life (our lives) has taken in the last month and a half, I am incredibly and sincerely proud of anyone who has continued to create, especially for themselves, for the sheer purpose of creating, and I include myself in that; I’ve not produced the greatest work of my life during the past twenty days, but I’ve created something every day, and I have a lot of raw material to work and rework and build off of.

All this to say, I’m dropping both challenges, both A-to-Z and NaPoWriMo.

I’m planning on continuing drawing, painting, and writing, but I’ve opted to also take on several other projects that, with the addition of parenting/homeschooling and maintaining a household, is making the challenges a burden rather than a fun creative exercise.  I still have several ideas I’d brainstormed for upcoming songs (from A-to-Z) that I want to follow through with — it just won’t be on the work-a-day schedule.

Good luck to those still seeing this through, and I wish you all a successful final ten days.

 

NaPoWriMo: Day 19

Left Behind

The night after the funeral, I walked
Still naked and damp from the shower
Through the hallways of my house.

I lingered in the doorways like a ghost,
Shadows settling like dust in the corners
And crevices of each room.

I moved through darkened rooms by touch,
Trailing my fingers along planes and angles,
The familiar geometry of my life,

Stopping to trace the curves
of my mother’s mantel clock,
The strange organic prickle of succulents,

The skin-soft leather of our old loveseat
Where she sat, heartbeat-warm, alive,
Less than a week ago;

The sweet peach note of her perfume
Lingers like a sharp exhale
Every time I fluff the pillows.

My fingers twitch instinctively
Against the cool ivory keys of the piano,
Striking one lingering, discordant note.

It’s strange how much the same
This world remains, I think,
Without her in it.

Her fingerprints still mark the edge
Of the glass-topped coffee table;
Her slippers tucked under her chair.

These are the remnants of a life,
This is what we leave behind. I wander,
A ghost. An orphan in my own home.


Prompt Day Nineteen:  Based loosely on the idea given by the prompt of a “walking archive.”

NaPoWriMo: Day 18

Coffee

It was ritual;
Rising long before the sun,
Winter sky still dark;

Color diffusing
(Black to purple to pink)
Until golden light

Flooded the kitchen.
There was magic in the first sip,
Sitting cross-legged

On the kitchen bench,
The newsprint, dark and pungent,
Staining my fingers black.

The smell of coffee
Like a promise to myself;
“Today will be okay.”


Prompt Day Eighteen:  As ode to something mundane; an example given was a cup of coffee, so here we are.

NaPoWriMo: Day 17

Heart Flowers

Inside your heart, he says
Are flowers, one for each person
You love.

I imagine his heart is a grove
Alight with blossoms;
Every stranger on the street
A seedling.
I have never known someone
So eager to love,
His soul a fertile landscape,
Thriving.

Sometimes I think the soil
Of my heart is deficient;
How many buds, drooping,
How many leaves curling in
Upon themselves.

But somewhere in my heart
rooted deep and stretching
It’s magnificent inflorescence
To be warmed by the sun
Is a flower the exact shade of aster
As my son’s eyes.

I think no flower
Has ever known a more attentive gardener,
Has ever been more well-loved,
More well-tended,
Or more beautiful.


Day Seventeen:  I asked my son, again, what I should write about.

“LOVE!”
“That’s broad.  What kind of love?”
“FAMILY LOVE!!”

The idea of heart flowers is actually something he came up with when he was four; I absolutely love the idea, and this is not really a worthy use of the concept, I don’t think, but I hope to return to it sometime.