I’m Having An Art Exhibit, and You Should Come

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Four years ago, I wrote a blog post about starting to paint again. It was really crazy, actually. I hadn’t painted or drawn or done anything artsy or craftsy in years.

I mean I wasn’t even a Pinterest mom at that point. Blasphemy, I know.

I literally wanted nothing to do with art, and the reason being was that I couldn’t handle the fact that I had given up art and drawing and painting and creating years prior to then when I changed my major in college to something more “realistic.” Only to do nothing with any of it.

A lot of psychological shit going on here.

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So I wrote a blog about it, and I started painting again. And drawing. Then I got involved in my local center for the arts. And joined the board of said center. Somewhere in there I decided to start teaching some classes in drawing and painting. And so when they said at the beginning of this year that they had a vacancy on their calendar, I figured – why not… why not do my own show?

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But I dragged along with my show so much more about who I am. As a reader and a writer. As a philosophy graduate student. As a lover of words. As obsessed with crafts.

The whole thing has turned into this unbelievable event. The show exhibits for the entire month of March, but the opening is this Saturday, March 5th. And because I love crafts but have little patience for them anymore, I invited other vendors to come and sell at my opening.

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Now it’s been in the paper and the local magazine and the city council has picked it up and some professor who loves my idea about sharing the books I love through my artwork is offering extra credit to his students to come and the vendors are selling shit I know I’m going to buy out myself (quilts, scarves, bags, homemade jams, jewelry……) and I’m freaking out because what if no one comes but what if there are so many people that we have to form a line or some shit, I don’t know I’ve never done this before…..

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You guys see I’m freaking out. As a writer and an artist, for all of this to be coming together, is huge.

This is my one and only plea…if you are in or around Southern California, you should consider coming. I would feel humbled if you came. I would highlight you coming on this blog if you came.

Please come.

Please.

Please……?

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There is no room for literacy at my local pub…

Sadly, my local pub is apparently among those that prefer idiocy and ignorance to intelligence and education. Gladly, I don’t care if  anyone’s feelings are hurt that I honestly share my experience in coming to this conclusion. If you’re ever in California, don’t waste your time at Brendan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant (Camarillo, CA) if you think reading is important. Because there is no room for literacy at my local pub…

Some time ago, I was terribly disheartened by my own experience as a writer trying to seek out publication, and as an avid reader desperately searching for like-minded people who love books as much as I do. To say “I love books” is probably understating it. I am obsessed with books. I read all the time. The only thing that I love more than books are words, which always gets weird looks when I tell people this. I think a word is one of the most beautiful things in existence, and no one can ever take them away from you. So when I was disheartened a while back, I did some research and learned some startling statistics, which I reported on this blog. Among the most startling of things I learned when writing that blog was that as many as 33% of people that graduate from high school never read another book again after graduation, with 42% of the remaining never reading past college. Additionally, on a daily basis the Pew Report estimated that Americans spend an average of 4 hours watching television, 3 hours listening to radio or music, and no more than 14 minutes reading (usually in a magazine or news online). Every, single day – no more than 14 minutes. I came to the conclusion that in a world like this, there is no room for good literature.

But then you have a rare event promoting literacy, such as happened today across the country – an event that lifts your spirits and gives you hope amidst all the statistics and stupidity. Last year in Europe a movement began called World Book Night, which spread to the United States this year and created an unprecedented movement of people encouraging others to read. The idea was that the 501(c)3 would get (through contributions from individuals, organizations, and publishing houses) 30 books distributed in large amounts to volunteers who would then give the books away for free to members of the community. You could give them away anywhere – the mall, senior centers, the library, the grocery store, restaurants, bars … whatever you wanted, you just had to give them away for the event, and for free.

So I signed up and got my first choice for books – The Poisonwood Bible. I got twenty copies, specially printed with a letter on the cover about World Book Night and a list of all the contributors that made the event such a success. A book club I’m in had some ladies that were interested in participating as well, so we organized a meet up at the local watering hole to give away the book (and other used ones we had collected) to passers-by.

When I walked in, the hostesses at the front door welcomed me and my box of books with open arms. They each took one and said they were so excited we would be there. We had communicated with the place about the event, so this seemed only natural. The others in our group showed, we ordered drinks, and set out the books on the two tables we occupied. We gave out a few more books. We snapped a photograph. Then I saw our waitress talking to the bartender and looking at us, and as she walked over I knew things were going to go downhill. The conversation went something like this:

Cocktail waitress: “So, what exactly are you guys doing?”

Us: “We’re participating in World Book Night. It’s a national event where we have been given free books to distribute to people in our community at local hang outs.”

Cocktail waitress: “Hmmmmmm… who did you speak to about doing this? Did you talk to Chuck?”

Us: “We sent an email and also communicated on your Facebook page.”

Cocktail waitress: “Huh. I’m trying to figure out how to say this without being rude. We really can’t have you approaching people to solicit them.”

Us: “Okay, can we stay seated here with our books on the table?”

Cocktail waitress: “Oh sure, you are welcome to stay and drink but you can’t approach people.”

Us: “Can we move somewhere that more people will see this.”

Cocktail waitress: “I’m really just trying to say this without being rude, but no – you see none of us even know what the book is about, having never read it. If someone walks by and asks what you have on the table, you are welcome to give those away.”

She came back a few minutes later to make it clear that we could still give people the books if they walked by and asked, and when we asked if we could put up a handmade sign she said “no.” That was the end of our World Book Night as we thought it would be. Disappointing, but we had to move on.

After finishing our drinks and getting out of there, we ended up walking around the rest of the mall and distributing the books (mostly) to employees of the other shops and fast food restaurants in the area. Some of them were very appreciative, a few looked like they just wanted us to leave. One guy acted surprised that people were giving out books and actually acknowledged that illiteracy in our country is a big problem that things like this will really help fix. In the end, we successfully got all of our World Book Night books distributed and had a good time, but that really isn’t the point.

Had my local pub not been in a complex with other places, they could have ruined our efforts for the night. I get not wanting people to bother their patrons. I get not knowing what the book is about and being worried we might represent something they don’t believe in. But had they taken the time to look into it, or had they considered even just letting us set the books up in such a way that passers-by could see and inquire, this wouldn’t have made me so mad. Instead of doing that, though, Brendan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant let us show up and order drinks, only to shoot us down. Because the people working tonight had never read the book. Maybe they’ve never read any books, or they don’t believe that reading is as important as making money and discouraging anything but drinking at their establishment. Do I really believe that it was some grand conspiracy theory on the part of the place to actively discourage intellectualism? No. But it still is true that if their patrons decided to read more, they’d likely spend less time glued to the bar stool with their eyes on the many big screen TVs that cover the place.

In the end, it’s just a big disappointment in a locally owned restaurant and bar, and a reminder that for the majority of our present society, there really is no room for good literature. We weren’t selling things. We weren’t trying to convert people to any religious or cult-like groups. We weren’t interrupting people’s meals or breaking up their attempts at love. We just wanted people to see what we had to offer, and to have an opportunity to read and expand their minds.

It’s too bad that there is no room for literacy at my local pub… is there room for literacy anywhere anymore?

Dirty Thirty, Dirty Thirty

You all recall I’ll be turning the big three-OH in less than six months; on April 15th to be precise.  Thirty is a huge deal to me, although it remains to be seen exactly why.

For years I had a huge and overtly unrealistic list of things I wanted to do by the time I turned thirty, of which not one thing on the list was completed.  Not a one.  So for my 100th blog post, I went ahead and recreated my list with some things I thought were a little more realistic.  To review, that list in short was:

1) Finish 40 books for the calendar year 2011 and get a good start on 40 for 2012

2) Go on a date with Wolf Blitzer

3) Prove to myself once and for all that I am going to stop letting what other people say influence me so much

4) Buy a plane ticket to take a trip home in 2012

5) Take a road trip to northern California to visit the John Steinbeck museum

6) Eat sushi

In hindsight, though, faithful blog followers, short of #2 inspiring me to Photoshop a picture of myself with Wolf Blitzer, that list was pretty lame.  There were no typical-Heather crazy times on there.  There was nothing too terribly difficult or lofty.  (I mean, seriously … eat sushi?)  In the end, I think I was just trying to cop out so that I could hit thirty and say that I had actually done the things I wanted to do before turning thirty.  Well, I’m still months out and have accomplished almost all of those things already.  I’ve almost finished my forty books for the calendar year and have stacked up my pile for next year.  I had happy times in Photoshop Land with Wolf.  Recently I decided to ignore the majority of the comments made by a group of writers I previously allowed influence my writing to the last period, thus proving to myself that I actually can overcome uninhibited influence of others.  I ate sushi (albeit just a taste) and I have planned a trip to the Steinbeck museum as well as booked my trip home (in fact, that very trip is happening a few weeks before the dirty thirty hits).

So it’s time for a revision.  Here’s my new list of things to do before I turn thirty on April 15th … this time, please tell me if it’s lame:

Meet an author that actually inspires me

I’m not talking about the people that write that glitter puke crap like Twilight or Harry Potter; I’m talking about a real author.  Someone that has made me cry when I read their poetics, or that has given me the hope and courage to move forward with my own writing.  In graduate school, I always wished I had been in a situation to had the opportunity to meet the likes of Bertrand Russell or Plato; Nietzsche, Sartre, or Simone de Beauvoir.  Now that I spend hours and hours a day reading, I salivate at what it would have been like to meet some of the American greats – many of whom I missed by only a few decades.  So goal #1 is to meet an author alive today that actually inspires me.

Finish my manuscript, once and for all

A few months ago, I finished the manuscript of my first book only to turn myself around a few weeks later and start the entire thing over from pieces of the original.  Since then, I have thrown away more writing than I have ever thrown away – in all of my years writing professionally as well as academically.  I have learned so much about myself during this time, mainly that I have self-confidence issues when it comes to my writing, that I let myself get caught up in what others want rather than what I know is good, quality writing, and that I lack the focus to stay on track sometimes.  So you see, in meeting this goal by dirty thirty I will have done a lot of other personal growth in the process.

Go for a full week without dropping the f bomb

… or the s bomb, the d bomb, the GD bomb … you get the point.  I swear a lot.  I know, I know, faithful blog followers – perhaps I’m being too hard on myself.  But seriously, I curse worse than some of the sailors I know.  I am sure I can go for a day or two without dropping any of the bombs mentioned above, but a whole week?  That is quite a challenge.  This isn’t to say that after the week is over I will swear less, just that it would be nice (I’m sure) for the people around me to not have to hear my potty mouth for a week.

Finally get up the courage to delete dysfunctional family from Facebook

We all have at least a couple dysfunctional family members – many of us have more than a few.  The difference between you and me, though, is that I can admit that they are dysfunctional and I also know that no line of blood, nor obligations of “contributing to my existence,” require me to associate with them when they’re that messed up.  The first step to mentally freeing myself from the psychological discord that accompanies every family holiday?  Deleting those psychos from my Facebook friends list.  I’ve hemmed and hawed over this one for months, it’s time to give them the ax.

Begin turning my cell phone off for three hours every day, and stick with it

I feel overly connected.  Everyone can reach me at all times – be it over email, cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, you name it.  It’s frustrating because with such accessibility it seems that people now expect to get a response immediately.  This really hit home for me last week when a woman I met at a conference called me to ask a question about Facebook, then called me three more times and emailed me twice upset because I had not returned her phone call right away.  Effective immediately, my phone is going off from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm PST.  Let’s see how long it lasts…

Start a new trend like owling, planking, or tebowing, only with some sort of a purpose or message.  You know planking was so stupid and had no message.  Then owling and tebowing – both stupid.  But there’s also something to be said for the impact of an Internet sensation and the potential to actually carry a message.  So I want to start a new Internet trend with a purpose.  Sure, probably five people will participate … but five is better than none.

So, faithful blog followers – do you think I can do it all?


People I Would Have an Affair With

It’s possible, faithful blog followers, that I might delete this post shortly after putting it out there – the idea of it winding up as evidence in divorce court ala Kim Kardashian-style marital values is frightening.  That said, I would never be in a position to even consider or think about or weigh the possibility of having an affair with any of these people, nor would it even be an option, so really we can all chalk this up to crazy old Heather just being silly …

Right …

A couple weeks ago I blogged about people I have had a secret crush on for years.  Included on that list was Conan O’Brien and the young priests on EWTN (I know, I know – I’m going to hell).  I also mentioned in my post about Tom Skilling that I am insanely in love with Wolf Blitzer.  I have no idea what it is, but I get hot flashes when he comes on the TV.  I’m getting them right now, actually.  Anyway, today I was at a book fair participating on a panel about how authors can promote their books and shortly after the talk, I meandered into the book expo that was going on next to the area where all the panel discussions were being held.  To my surprise, a lot of the books were these women’s lib-type, self-helpish books about acknowledging your inner self, your truest desires, and overcoming social boundaries (like marriage).

So I thought it would be fun to take it even one step further with my crushes and my obsessive desire for Wolf Blitzer’s aging body and express my truest desires by making a list of People I Would Have an Affair With, with reasoning why.  I think the ‘why’ is important because you will note my reasoning is much different than just my weird crushes (which one blogger noted seems consistent with a beard fetish).  Social boundaries be damned, I’m sharing my list:

People I Would Have an Affair With

#1 Any dead philosopher circa 1700 – 2000, also Plato

This includes, but is not limited to:  David Hume, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell (I have a hard on for him right now), and Richard Rorty.  This has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than my extreme mental and intellectual needs, which I am positive an affair with any or all dead philosophers would satiate.  That said, look at that intelligent, bald head on Plato … how can anyone be expected to control themselves around that?

#2 Any dead writer from the Lost Generation

Yes, I’m talking about Fitz, Hem, and that crazy Ezra Pound.  Any of those guys that ran in the circle of artists in Paris just after the war get me so hot and bothered I have to take a cold shower.  Right now I’m reading “Flappers and Philosophers” by F. Scott Fitzgerald; the pages of description literally make me drool.  Again, though, you will note that this is a mental-sexual attraction I have, which is completely irrespective of logic, time, or physical appearance.

#3 King Arthur as played by Sean Connery in First Knight

Note:  not King Arthur as played by anyone else in any other movie about Sir Lancelot.  Note further:  not Sean Connery in any other movie but this one.  Note:  not Richard Geer.  I have no idea why, but the silent pain on the face of King Arthur when he catches whats-her-face with the gerbil-lover is hot.

#4 Wolf Blitzer

See previous blogs, particularly My Crush on Conan O’Brien, and Others, Why I Hate Tom Skilling, and Magic 100, or Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 30.

#5 Anyone high up in the Russian government

For some reason, whenever I see Vladimir Putin I get excited.  Something about that stolid, austere demeanor makes me go wild.  I’m also a fan of accents, almost as much as I am a fan of beards.

#6 Dog the Bounty Hunter

I think that danger and the quality of being a badass is exciting to me.  Dog the Bounty Hunter is a complete hillbilly, and yet something about him fascinates me.

#7 Almost anyone in the NBA, with the exception of Kobe Bryant

This is self-explanatory as to why.  Not self-explanatory, though, is my hatred of Kobe Bryant.  Not only do I hate Kobe because he is an illiterate rapist who cheats on his wife and cannot form a complete sentence without sounding like a fifth grader, but he’s a homophobe and egotistical.  But everyone else in the NBA, well come on – who wouldn’t have an affair with a pro-basketball player?

#8 Chris O’Dowd

Here is a real celebrity that is not only in one, particular position; nor that represents a group of people rather than just himself, who also happens to be objectively attractive and within a reasonable age range.  I love Chris O’Dowd – no idea why, except that whole accent thing really drives me nuts.  The other day I watched Bridesmaids and while I was relatively disappointed with the film, itself (so NOT the female version of The Hangover), on the whole his continued presence in the movie saved it for me.  Chris O’Dowd is to me what Mel Gibson is to our moms and Carry Grant was to our grandmas.

#9 Lars Von Trier

If you know anything about me, you know that I cannot stand Lars Von Trier movies.  He’s a complete misogynist, demeaning to women in every way possible, and somewhat talentless in his direction.  That said, he is weird.  Weird, weird, weird, faithful blog followers.  Something about that makes me wonder…

#10 Ross Perot

Is Ross Perot even still alive?  I can’t even attempt to explain this one.  A free B(itch)Log t-shirt to anyone that can…

Okay, so maybe most of the people listed here are dead or of intrigue to me for reasons no one will ever understand; or maybe inside I’m really a skank.  In any event, there’s my list and I’m sticking to it – Kardashian-style divorce filings or not.

There Is No Room For Good Literature

Today I received an email rejection for a short story I submitted to the New England Review.  Like all of the other rejections I have received for my writing, it was form (“Dear Author…”); it went on about the high level of subjectivity in the business of publishing; and, of course, wished me the best of luck in placing my short story elsewhere.  Rejection is something writers of all kinds have to get used to – it is probably the most quintessential part of being creative.  But on the heels of this rejection, which seems to have bothered me the most of all those I have yet received, I wonder if it’s time for us to finally accept that there is no room for good literature anymore.

I’m not suggesting that my writing is brilliant or anything, but I know that I can write well (unless everyone that has read my writing is just humoring me).  And, in fact, there are tons of writers that I have encountered that could be called brilliant in their writing, and yet they too face the same rejection foes as I have faced.  While masterful works are passed up by the dozen, hackneyed books like A Partisan’s Daughter, Snow Day, and (dare I suggest) the Harry Potter series are hitting the best seller lists.  While groundbreaking books are sent rejection after rejection, after rejection, books that don’t even make sense like A Visit From the Goon Squad are winning prizes by the barrel-ful.  And while a lot of people may love some of these books, especially the most commercial ones, it is wholly undeniable that something is awry in the industry of publishing.

Let’s look at some statistics, compiled by Humorwriters.org :

  • Only 53% of books now purchased are fiction, with only 4% of that considered literary or upmarket;
  • 57% of books are not read to completion;
  • 33% of high school graduates never read another book  again for the rest of their lives;
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book again for the rest of their lives either;
  • 70% of adults in the U.S. have not stepped foot in a book store in at least five years;
  • 80% of U.S. families did not purchase or read any sort of book in the 2010 calendar year; and, perhaps the most disturbing of the statistics,
  • Daily, Americans spend 4 hours watching television, 3 hours listening to radio or music, and no more than 14 minutes reading magazines or news online

So, what do you think faithful blog followers?  You think there’s room for good literature anymore?  The answer to that is quite obvious, what is not so much is in trying to figure out just what we are to do about that.