Legible (the diary, part 1)

This month I have been thinking about what it takes for something, or someone, to become legible: clear enough to read.

And in thinking about legibility, I thought about grad school. In my first quarter, I had a grad professor whose unenviable job it was to teach us literary theory. We began in summer, actually, with one thousand pages of required reading from a textbook with fragile Bible-paper-thin pages. All this before we started the fall quarter. I think it was a tough class because I was so resistant to the ideas, but also because I was so incredibly resistant to the writing in the course readings.

Literary theory, which we could define very simply for now as a lens (or set of lenses) to read the text, can be painfully dense sometimes. My grad class was not my first class in literary theory, I’m ashamed to say. I say “ashamed” because it was the first theory class that actually “took,” where I actually decided to learn and absorb the material.

I’d taken a theory class during my senior year of college, but (perhaps I shouldn’t admit this?) refused to read very much. One of the biggest obstacles in literary theory—ideas which are supposed to illuminate the very texts they are discussing—is the density of the language. In fact, literary theory felt so dense that it felt like white noise, that raspy shower of ashes that used to come up when televisions still had antennae, before they went digital. When I used to start reading literary theory by someone with particularly difficult writing, my brain would just tune the words out like white noise, or maybe the spaces between radio stations. Take this sentence by the philosopher Jacques Derrida:

“To grasp the operation of creative imagination at the greatest possible proximity to it, one must turn oneself toward the invisible interior of poetic freedom.”

When I would read literary theory, especially by someone like Derrida, it felt something like when you are learning a foreign language and you only know a few basic phrases:

“To grasp the EEEEEE ERRRRRH at the AHHHHH to it, one must ERRRRRRH….”

And so on. It felt like paragraphs and paragraphs and chapters of white noise.
It was enough to make me throw the book against the wall, several times. It was as though some part of my brain decided to shut down deliberately whenever I’d try to read. “What? WHAT? WHAAAAT?” my brain would shout at the text, and I’d give up. Really. I’d reread, and reread, and fight the text the entire way. I really thought that the writers were doing it on purpose, and this really pissed me off.

So in my grad class, one of my professors gave me an interesting lesson in reading comprehension. He suggested that if we were struggling with a writer’s prose, we should take a page of their writing and write it out. We could handwrite it, he said, or retype it. But he wanted us to rewrite that person’s writing in order to understand them better. Only when we’d traveled the same path of commas and compound clauses and conjunctive phrases could we begin to understand how that person was thinking.

As I’ve been transcribing my dad’s diary (really, a diary of five years!), my professor’s lesson in legibility has returned. It’s one of those very old diaries with five years, a page per day, but organized only by the day rather than the year. Each page contains 5 years of the same date: five years of January 11th, on the same page. As a narrative, it makes no sense if you read one entire page and then move to the next. And my dad’s handwriting is so small because the spaces for each entry are so small. Tweet-sized, if you will. So until now, I haven’t actually sat down and read through the entire diary. Instead, as Josh suggested, I’ve been transcribing it.

This means that I’ve been writing my father’s diary in order to read it.

(Unless you’re a historian, how often do you read a long piece of text by writing it out first?)

It’s an amazing experience, an exercise in writerly empathy. And of course, it’s a metaphor for the entire book I’m writing: it makes me wonder what it takes for my father to become legible again. I’ll be taking the next post or two to talk about it.

Thanks to everyone who responded here and privately to the last post. It was very hard to write, and terrifying, but I’m feeling how necessary it was in the book-writing process.

My Father In A Facebook Age

Oh, I think he’d be all over Facebook.
Even if he died before e-mail, before cell phones,
before desktops or laptops,
before dot-coms, before the Web had a capital letter.
Our olive green rotary phone still had a bell. And a cord.
An Orwellian year, we thought, nineteen-eighty-four.
Who knew then what we would want to see?

But I can see him now.
He’d post pictures of his granddaughters,
narrate his online travel slide shows,
review The King’s Speech,
tell you about books he’d been reading,
rejoice over the latest Giants or Niners win.
I can see him writing status updates,
searching Epicurious for his dinner parties,
asking me about Twitter.
He’d still be playing all-night chess games
with my cousin, just on Facebook.
(A show tunes guy at heart, yes:
he might even DVR Glee.)

Before Dad died
he bought one of the first VCR’s,
the remote control still
attached to the silver machine
with a long black cable.
Over decades of photography
he took rolls of black-and-white photos,
carousels of color slides,
albums upon albums of Polaroids.

The film changed, but not
his love of holding on to the moment.
Dinners were for eating together,
houses were for gathering the family.

So I think he’d know what to connect, and how,
and why.
I think he’d know what all this noise is about.


(A bit of fun here, while I’m working on the introduction to the book. More on next steps in the next post.)

My own private MFA: the final project proposal

Thanks for all your responses, here and elsewhere, to the last post about beauty. I loved reading what everyone had to say. I’m trying to hold onto that momentum, and trying to remember how lovely the trees were last fall (see that picture above?). It’s been a bit gray here lately.

Coming into Year 3 of this private MFA and the second anniversary of this space, I’ve been thinking about the Final Project. Yes, I’m on the 3-year program. Tortoises, represent.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading still, which is lovely. I still find myself itching to get things when I’m in bookstores, but I no longer feel the rush to buy the latest must-read or bestseller when I’m there. Instead, I find myself making lists of things to place on hold at the bookstore. Now, I know that writers need to make a living (boy, do I know), but it’s also gratifying to know that the books I really want to buy now are the books that I want to keep around forever.

I’ve been drafting pieces of my book project all along, here on this blog, as well as in a separate document that I call “Book journal.” But the other day, I realized that I haven’t really laid out what the project will be for you, here in this space.

So it’s a good time to describe the final project of my private MFA to you. I want to tell you more about it, to give the project some needed rejuvenation, to kickstart me back into action (remember, go) and to bring some narrative flow back to this space (for you non-lit types out there, some “what’s going to happen next?” action).

I’ve been thinking about it for so long, I can’t believe I haven’t explained it to you properly. I wrote about an earlier version of it in a writing contest, almost 2 years ago. Over the last year I’ve been reorienting myself to life outside the academy, rethinking myself into writer identity, and looking for a job. But lately I’ve been talking about the project to a few people, and I can feel some energy coming back. And I’ve found that two things motivate me: 1) making lists, and 2) making promises to other people.

Here’s the project. And aaaaah, I can feel the fear creeping up as I type, so I better type fast. I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain the book, and I’m going to keep figuring it out over the course of the project. So this is not my elevator pitch, or my NPR “Fresh Air” draft, but another draft of my explanation to you.

I’m writing a memoir.

It’s a memoir about the aftermath of two—no, three—major events which have affected my life. The first event is my father’s death. He died when I was 10 years old. The second event is the Japanese American incarceration of World War II, which affected my father’s life and continues to affect my own. The third event, the one that made me turn to writing this project at all, is the loss of my job and my return to the writing life.

Here’s another way to explain it: it’s a triple-voice memoir, one that intertwines my writing, my sister’s artwork, and the voice of our father, who died when we were very young (10 and 6 years old, respectively). We have our father’s voice in many things, but perhaps most concretely, we have it in an unpublished memoir manuscript that he wrote about his incarceration experience. I plan to intertwine parts of my father’s manuscript, some of my sister’s artwork about memorials and memory, and my own musings about the aftermath of death, as well as the aftershocks of camp history. For right now, I want to organize the book into chapters using different forms of documentation, and writing about the different forms of memory that they evoke. For example, there will be a chapter about a family recipe, a chapter on the albums of Polaroids that he took of me when I was a baby, a chapter on his diary when he was in the military, well before I was born. There will be a chapter, or a series of chapters, about my dad’s typewritten book manuscript itself. I hadn’t seen the manuscript in twenty-five years, until I reread it a couple of summers ago. And when I began to read, I realized just how much I hadn’t worked through my feelings about his death.

And yet here’s another way to explain it. No one knows everything about the lives of their parents. When they leave us, they leave so many unanswered questions. I wanted to look at one particular stretch of time when I know the least about my father’s life: the time after his memoir, after his wartime incarceration, and before he married my mother.

Writing has helped me to clarify and discover and process what I’ve learned about my father’s death, and myself, and memory, over the last two years. So it’s a book about a writer’s (and visual artist’s) struggle between loss and memory, the ways that we memorialize our dead in an age where so much information is “in the cloud.” In some ways, it’s a present for my daughters, who never got to meet their grandfather.

Over the next few months I’ll share pieces with you, some revisions of blog posts, and updates about the writing and publication process. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about the project in process, and I look forward to sharing the journey with you. I’ll continue to post intermittent musings like these, so it won’t all be about the book. But I need to move forward, to keep writing, and to keep moving towards this bigger goal. Comments mean a great deal to me, even a quick line or two, so please don’t be shy. I promise to respond, too. Thanks.

Where I start

I know I’m in trouble mentioning the word “miracle” during the holidays. I’m beyond saving if I add the word “family” to the same sentence. But I want to tell you about my family miracle.

Around 10AM on every New Year’s Day of my life, I have had breakfast with my extended family: all five of my dad’s siblings, plus my cousins and their families.  We all eat. Then we go home and cook. We return for dinner: more eating. Unlike other family reunions I’ve heard about, we don’t have T-shirts, we don’t travel anywhere exotic, and we don’t rent out a restaurant.

Longevity is part of the miracle. As far as I know, New Year’s has never been cancelled in over five decades; one year, my grandfather sold his wedding ring to make New Year’s happen. Maybe it’s because my father died over twenty-five years ago, and in some families that would mean that my link to his family died, too. Maybe I’m more aware of longevity now that I have two daughters to bring to the table.

Part of the miracle is also what I get to eat. At breakfast we’ll sip ozoni and eat its mochi, along with its shiitake mushroom, nori and shungiku. We’ll eat my uncle’s sabazushi with pickled mackerel. I can’t wait for my cousins’ carefully timed barbequed teriyaki ventolin inhaler albuterol chicken. At dinnertime we always start by lining up for Auntie Nesan’s chow mein. Another auntie brings arroz con gandules from her husband’s Puerto Rico. My Filipina mom will make lumpia; I’ll make sukiyaki using my dad’s recipe. My cousins and aunties will stuff the inari zushi and roll the maki zushi. There will be teriyaki Spam musubi, oden, crab legs, hijiki, tai, char siu, and umani. Dessert has its own table: fruit salad, pies, finger jello, multiple flavors of leche flans.

As well as we eat, I don’t want this piece to be a “savor the ethnic traditions” one. I’m also resisting the predictable family potluck cliché, about every contribution being valuable.

Yet New Year’s is miraculous: an annual family table. It is my touchstone, and what I think of first when I think of family. The meals are a staggering amount of work, the day has evolved over decades, and it will not always stay the same. Nevertheless, I’m a fairly sane and grounded person…and if anyone asks, New Year’s is where I start to tell the story of my sanity.

(I submitted this piece to a publication–they asked for a 400-word piece about “family” or “holidays.” It wasn’t published, so I get to publish it here! Happy holidays to everyone, and thanks for reading. Back in the New Year, if not before.)

An interlude

My mom’s visiting this week, and she brought more papers and objects from the archive, also known as her garage. And though I haven’t even finished writing about my dad’s manuscript, I’ve got a whole new set of documents to feed the book project. A letter from his chess-playing friend, along with a sheaf of computer chess score sheets. My dad’s old 5-year diary, from the early-to-mid 1950s. The diary itself will take a while: each whole day compressed into about an inch of space. Each page has five years of the same day. In some ways it reminds me of a Twitter feed, a Facebook status update. Perhaps the technology of documenting our days isn’t so different.

There are difficult documents in this batch: a copy of my dad’s death certificate, which means that I can now request his military records. A copy of the first and last Father’s Day poem that I wrote for my dad; he died in June. Hard. And harder still: the poem’s folded inside a copy of the eulogy that my uncle delivered at the funeral. A small gift from the eulogy: according to my uncle, my dad was conscious enough to read my poem before he died.

These are papers that I haven’t seen in years, if at all.

I’ve been thinking about my family archives: all those garages, all those places where we’ve kept paper traces of our lives. I’ve got my own archive growing a life of its own in my basement. “Nimuras,” my grandfather once mused, with some disgust, “are notorious pack rats.” What if we took that pack-rat tendency into historical ventolin inhaler usa context, with the Depression, with the dispossession of internment? (And, yes: am I just excusing our love for clutter?) I wonder how long it takes my family to go back through those boxes, if at all.

In fact, a couple of nights ago, I woke up wondering about my own pack-rat tendency to keep everything, but rarely look back at it all. Why has it taken me so long to begin this book project, to go back through the family archive? The metaphor may be too obvious: put everything into a box, and imagine that the keeping will be enough. But as most historians and librarians would probably tell you, an archive’s almost no good until somebody processes it, makes sense of it, organizes it. The literary critic in me would add: and makes it into narrative.

Can memory work the same way as archives? Can you bury memories desperately, leave them untouched for years, and return to them intact? And if not, is this one reason why we need physical archives?

What draws me back to this archive, this set of memories about my dad, is something I can only describe as an insistent tug. I don’t think that nostalgia is drawing me back, if nostalgia means the desire to look back, relive, find pleasure in the bittersweetness of the loss.

It’s more like the reason you might press a bruise. Yes, that’s still there. Yes, it still hurts. But maybe your fingers want to return to that mark, precisely because it’s a visible sign that you have hit something hard and survived. You press it, and wonder if it’s healed yet.

Desert chrysanthemums

Thus far, one of the best things that my dad’s book has given me is my grandfather.

Although there are pictures of me with my dad’s mother, I never got to meet my grandfather; he died before I was born. And my maternal grandfather actually died the year I was born, a few months before my birth in December. So I never had a biological grandfather, growing up.

But my grandfather, my dad’s father, is all over the manuscript.

He was a dancer. There’s an entire chapter devoted to a folk dance that my grandfather used to perform, and even performed in camp, a fisherman’s dance. As a granddaughter, it’s lovely to know that he was a dancer; as an editor, I am not sure why the chapter is there. But that’s a conversation I’ll have with the manuscript another time.

He was a rabble-rouser, a speech-maker. Contrary to what I used to think about our family history, my dad and his siblings were not sent to Tule Lake initially because of my grandfather’s “troublemaker” behavior. While at Tule Lake, my grandfather made a series of fiery speeches against the military recruitment policies in camp. For that series of speeches, he was taken away to New Mexico. I say this with pride.

He cared about his community. Upon his return from New Mexico, when asked what he would like to do, he answered, “I would like to serve the people of this camp.”

He was a man with a sense of history. When he learned that World War II had ended, he sighed, and said “From this day on, I will become an American Indian.” How did he know what it was to be an American Indian, to associate his own experience of dispossession with theirs?

In other words, the manuscript is shot through with a young boy’s hero-worship of his father. (I realize that’s something I’ll need to think about for my own book.) It makes a certain amount of sense: my dad was writing about the time from when he was 10 to when he was 14. Not long after that, I believe, he was no longer living at home, working in various jobs. (I’ll have to find out more about this gap.) For all I know at this moment, actually, my father was writing about and through the loss of his own father.

In my dad’s buy ventolin with no prescription manuscript, the loss is so palpable that even after my grandfather returns to camp from imprisonment in New Mexico, my dad thinks hard about what his father’s absence meant. “What is a family without a father?” he asks himself.

My father’s response to his own question stuns me: “Not much of anything.”

And here I can begin to write back to my father. After age 10, I grew up without a father. And while we missed him terribly—what he said about a father’s absence? It’s just not true. Or at least, it’s not true for everyone. It wasn’t true for us, for my sister and my mother and I, and our larger extended family (who never abandoned us, even though their brother had died). For my sister and me, the youngest of our generation of 13 cousins, it has been a family existence rich with love.

Before opening the manuscript envelope, there were so many questions that I wanted answered. I think that I went to the manuscript not just to find my father, but to find fathering: to find advice, support, strength. How does one endure terrible, difficult times?

And I have to confess that in this respect, the manuscript feels incomplete. Why? My friend B put it best, I think. I told her that I’d looked for a father in the manuscript, but didn’t find him, and she nodded with understanding. “You went to find your father—but what you found was another kid.”

So it’s unexpected and wondrous, painful and lovely, that while the fathering I wanted wasn’t in my dad’s book, the grandfathering was. “You must have the capacities to bounce back,” he said to my father, “no matter what the adversities are.”

I like to think that my grandfather learned that lesson from the gardens that they grew in camp. I didn’t know that families could grow anything in Tule Lake. But my father describes growing flowers and vegetables in his manuscript. “The flowers brightened the area,” my father says, “and the sense of desolation was removed.” Few people can talk about the power of endurance and regeneration like farmers can.

You see, all this time I thought that I love chrysanthemums because my father loved them. I didn’t know he inherited this love from my grandfather.

They grew chrysanthemums in camp, too.

Findings in fractions

Music Scores at the Seattle Central Public Library

Here’s a paradox to consider. I’ve got a lot to think about, so you’ll have to look past the academic scaffolding.

First premise: There are very few traces of my dad on the Internet.

You can Google “Taku Nimura,” or “Taku Frank Nimura,” and there isn’t very much connected to him, or who he was. I have active e-mail accounts, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a SheWrites.com page… and as a new daughter of this digital age, it makes me sad that you can’t Google my dad*, for lack of a better term. You can’t find his obituary, the most stripped-down version of a life outline (except for the tombstone inscription), in online newspaper archives.

(Maybe I will create a Wikipedia page about him, but there’s still so much that I need to know. And one wonders: if what makes someone “historic” is debatable, what makes someone Wikipedia-page-worthy?)

And so I wonder about the countless individuals who do not have an online presence, even now; I wonder about the connection between the Internet and identity. I’m not saying that Google should be the only way to find out information, but it’s the first stop for so many, for so much. I wonder about the impact technology will have on my daughters, and the impact it’s had so far. I wonder about them finding out more about their grandfather, in an age where they can’t find him, through search engines that mark their findings in fractions of a second.

Second premise: And yet, Internet technology gave me these things:

1. Pictures I’d never seen before of my dad, from a long-lost friend of his on Facebook. “Are those his granddaughters I’m looking at in your profile picture?” she asks. And that’s a relationship I had not yet connected with my father: he would be a grandfather, my daughters would be his granddaughters.

2. A blog comment here, from someone who knew my dad—during a time when I know so little about his life. I’m not sure we would have found each other without the Internet. I’m so excited to find out more.

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to realize this next thought, and my ten-year-old self would have resisted this, I’m sure. But here goes: my dad never belonged just to me, or just to my family. He also ventolin usa belonged to his friends, and other communities I’d never known or seen. The memoir that my sister and I are writing, then, may not be just a “dual” or “triple” memoir; it may also be something like a community memoir. I want to ask more people what they remember about him.

3. His Masters thesis in Public Administration and a bibliography that he wrote about Japanese in the United States. (Coming soon from Interlibrary loan, more Internet: cross your fingers!)

4. And this page from the California State Sacramento Library catalog, which makes me so happy. Taking my cue from my wonderful university reference librarians, I know that Google does not see everything. There is, however, a great deal of less-Google-able information, available from libraries.

5. A bookstore in Sacramento selling a poetry anthology; one of the poets is my dad.

Last part of the paradox: what does it mean?

Perhaps more obviously, search engines can erase (or obscure) an identity, but it can also restore an identity, in completely unexpected ways.

In the project I want to think more about what that means about humanity’s urges to record, document, remember. Google might not get me a quick answer about my dad, and I’m not sure I want it to do that, anyway. But I can still find him—or fractions of him—through these vast oceans of time and memory.

Despite our rapid technological changes, I think he would have loved our here and now. He wrote so many letters to friends and family. (My first copyediting job, by the way: proofreading those typewritten letters.) I think he’d have an active Facebook account, to share pictures of his granddaughters. And I can almost see him writing witty status updates. Like me, I think he’d share anecdotes about his family, menus of evening dinners, pictures from his travels.

Librarians, writers, readers: our human urge is to connect.

In the book I’ll be writing more about each of these artifacts. For now, I’m remembering that writing the book is one way to put my father’s presence back in the world.

The paradox rephrased: I’m writing both through, and despite, a technology and history that might otherwise erase my father.

*The dystopic novel I’m reading right now–set in the “not so distant future” describes such a person as “ITP” (Impossible To Preserve).

This picture says a lot about where, how, and why I’m traveling, taken at the Seattle Central Public Library:

Opening the envelope

I could tell you that it smelled yellow. Not in a diseased, Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman way. Not in an inscrutable, exotic, “Oriental” way.  It smelled like Northern California summer sunlight coming through shoji screen paper.

I could tell you that it smelled, predictably, like aging paper. But that might only tell you so much. If you haunt used bookstores like I do, you’d probably recognize the smell. You’d also know it if you’ve done a lot of research in the archives, or shelving in the library stacks. This week we took a family walk down the spiral stacks at the Seattle Central Public Library, and as we rounded a corner, something like that smell greeted me.

The envelope smelled, as my husband Josh pointed out to me, like my childhood house. When I was growing up, we had touches of Japanese décor around the house: a few kokeshi dolls, a noren that fluttered in the main entrance to the hallway, even a tokonoma with a bright red painting. But for me it’s the shoji screens over our windows and glass doors that quietly say home. That’s the smell: the yellow, the paper, the light.

Since I love paper with a cocooning fervor that would make a silkworm blush (another post, another time), you’d think that the feel of the paper would be my first sensory hit. I’ve had this envelope for years now, and it’s been at my mom’s house for a couple of decades before that, probably unopened.

But at first, I was too tentative to rub the paper between my fingers. I even did some writing before I opened the envelope; I wrote down the questions that I wanted to ask. During internment, how did you and our family deal with loss? How did you deal with the loss of your possessions, of your house, of your family papers and baby pictures? And the difficult, near-impossible questions: How have I dealt, or not dealt, with your loss? How do we endure?

It took me a week to think about those questions. I haven’t read the manuscript since I was eight or nine years buy ventolin without prescription old: almost twenty-five years ago. Then a week later, I wrote down why I was so afraid of opening the envelope. I’m scared that it’s going to make me cry and realize his loss all over again. I hate crying. I hate having lost him.

On my computer desktop, I opened up and looked at an old photo of my father. I wanted to say something like a prayer, but I didn’t know what to ask for. I don’t really pray, if we’re being very honest here.

I couldn’t think, didn’t say, probably felt: please.

Then I opened the envelope. Lately I’ve been worried that the manuscript inside the envelope has been deteriorating. But I noticed that though the first and last pages are a bit tattered, the bond paper’s doing its very best to stand up to the manual typewriter. In an age of slick laser printouts, there’s something engraved, almost letterpressed, about these typewritten pages.

And at the bottom of the very first page, he left me an unexpected gift.

Taku Frank Nimura

December, 1973

Out of the two-hundred plus manuscript pages, it’s this one that I just might cherish the most. He wrote this book—or at least this page—during the month and year that I was born. He died eleven years later.

In the wake of a recent loss, private for now, I am beginning to write my own book. It’s a book that speaks to my father, that will interweave his voice with the voice and artwork of my sister. I don’t know where this project will take us, but I know it’s about memory, family, technology, loss, and home. And it’s about the precariously shifting aftermath of history, or what I’ve come to think of as the wake.

The wake? Stand near the back of a ferry boat, and watch the waters below. As the boat engine starts, the waters will seem to hum. All that unseen energy will churn itself into a thick, gorgeous procession of rippling upheaval. We know the procession will eventually disappear. And so we treasure the wake because we are always leaving it behind.

Revision of Assignment #1 (Tell a story in lists)

On Becoming a Writer (Again): A Progress Report of Habits

Clean desk.
Hours to complete: about 4.

Renew library card. Check out library books.

First checkout from the library: 2 books. Second checkout from the library: 1 book. Latest checkout from the library: about 14 books.

Read more fiction for pleasure.

  • Read Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist, a few stories from Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You. Laughed over one, puzzled over the other (perhaps am not hip enough? a high probability).
  • Tried to read Sonya Chung’s Long for this World, but had to return it to the library. Want other people to read this book—it looks like it will be important, transnational, historically relevant. But early in the book, had this terrible feeling that a feverish child was going to die. Couldn’t go on.

Read nonfiction writing.
Just finished Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France. An inspiration.

Resurrect the quote journal for inspiration.
Taste these from My Life in France:
• “the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite” (302)
• “how lovely life can be if one takes time to be friendly” (66)
• “I was thirty-seven years old and still discovering who I was.” (67)

Carry several notebooks and pens around with you.

  • Saw my writer friend R’s clothbound journal a few weeks ago: the cover soft, lovely, well-worn like an heirloom quilt. Want my notebook to be like that: used, not reserved for special occasions, like fancy china behind glass cabinet doors.
  • Using one of those hardbound blank journals that had been a Christmas gift. Having that notebook is like having a camera: not only are moments and thoughts that much easier to document, but having the journal is itself a lens and a mandate.

Read books on writing.

  • Started Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It’s been recommended reading for writers, but all can think about, at least in this early part of the memoir, is “No wonder he writes horror novels.”
  • Started worrying about some of the different neuroses associated with writers: the sullen solitary, the competitive wit, the narcissistic venom, the icicle-forming insecurity. (Note to self: do not confuse writers with anonymous YouTube or newspaper commenters.) Thought about the writer who reads other writers and always loses in self-judged beauty writing contests. Always the bikini round, not the interview, that wins the day.
  • Wondered if this worrying about worrying is a writer’s characteristic.


  • Blog posts: 19
  • Status updates on Facebook and Twitter: probably too many.
  • Typed letter to a friend: 1


  • Posted first drafts on the blog, then second and third and fourth drafts.
  • Reflected more on earlier entries, such as the one about the act of loaning out and returning library books. Although still struggling to love abundantly, wonder if my love of owning books may be actually less about generosity and more about the idea of hoarding something. You hoard something that you love because you worry that it will be taken away from you.
  • Tried to remove as many “I”’s from this post as possible.

1. Collaged the lists, wrote, revised the first assignment into a linear story.

2. Oldest daughter commandeered one notebook from my purse, while we were waiting at the airport. She’s started to write and illustrate her first narrative book.

3. Opened my dad’s manuscript; had been scared to reread it; haven’t read it in over 25 years.

4. Woke up with a filmic ending of a story. Had never met the boy and girl characters, though had seen that particular off-ramp to downtown Seattle many times over. Two balloon releases. Not sure why. Wanted to know how the characters got to that image. Started to dream in fiction.

And the envelope, please

From the About page:

“And sometime this year I am going to reopen the manila envelope with my dad’s book manuscript, which I haven’t read since I was in fifth grade, some twenty-odd years ago. “

So: this week, I did it. I opened the envelope. I can’t ventolin tabs wait to tell you all about it. I’m only 40 pages into reading the manuscript. However, I think the very act exhausted me. And–I promised you no more death this week. Please, stay tuned. I’ve already found one unexpected gift on the very first page.