You might be a bit crazy.

Cognitive distortion is when what you see might not be true.

Catastrophizing is such a great word, and I have to admit, I do it all the time. As of today, I haven’t had a laptop for two weeks. I keep telling Mark, If I don’t get a laptop by tomorrow, the world is going to end.

Somehow he doesn’t really hear me. I tell him if I don’t have email again soon, I’m going to shave my head. Every day he tells me, you still have your hair.

Mark doesn’t think of everything that goes wrong as catastrophe. He believes that a lot of things can actually be fixed.

Why does one catastrophize instead of thinking rationally? Because it seems rational to you when you’re doing it. When you’re getting crazy, the craziness spins logically for you.

The other cognitive distortion that I’m so fond of is when there is a big gap between how you see yourself and how others see you. You think you’re a loser but everyone else sees a competent person.

You think you’re super important, others don’t quite see that. You think you’re brilliant, others say you’re average.

Of course, along with that is the cognitive distortion where you jump to conclusions.

Let me assure you, all of these cognitive distoritions are what make a character interesting. If you make a character who is completely mentally healthy, who cares? What you need to rock it, is some people who are screwed up.

When you get ready to write your next novel, think cognitive distortion.

Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Alice in Wonderland

We are going to see Alice in Wonderland this Friday at Disney Hall

http://www.laphil.com/tickets/alice-wonderland/2015-02-27

We all have our own Alice memories. We all know the rabbit hole, and writers think they know it best. But really, anyone who has ever done some serious thinking knows about it.

Alice in Wonderland

1. You shouldn’t follow random rabbits rushing about.
2. If you do, you might find yourself somewhere unusual.
3. Once you find yourself shrinking or expanding, you should remember that it’s not real. You are not as important as they say you are. You are not as insignificant as they say you are.
4. If someone seems mad, they probably are.
5. You should try to be on time, but if you are not on time, you probably will still get tea.
6. Making hats used to make people mad. It was because of the toxins in the hat. If you are going to make hats, be careful about the ingredients.
7. Cats cannot be trusted.
8. If someone smiles all the time so that even their grin hangs in the air when they aren’t there, they probably are dishonest.
9. It is fatal not to finish a thing.
10. Dive as deeply as you can into life, get wet, the magic happens in the deep places.

Published in: on February 24, 2015 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Living poetry with grace like Carl Phillips

There are a few people who live their lives with grace, and I like being around those people. I like learning about living with compassion and grace and integrity. I missed Carl Phillips at the Kingsley/Kate Tufts judging. He’s one of those people. He has strong opinions that he states clearly, and he’s both eloquent and wise, but you feel that you are in the presence of someone who also listens to others.

Lots of people think they are smart and know more than you do, and they could be right. But, that’s a different thing from actually being a person who walks around with grace.

Some people are too much of a pushover, and that’s not good either. Being too much of a Buddhist means that people might walk all over you. Of course, the great thing about being all Zen might be that you don’t care if they walk over you, but others might care.

I think that I did learn something from being around Carl. I learned to not be afraid to speak my mind. I learned that what you love in poetry is yours and if someone else doesn’t love it, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. I learned to read the poetry out loud and hear the music. I already knew that in a way, but I needed to hear it again.

If you think you’re better than other people, you’re probably wrong. Someone else might just be a beginner. Wait, listen, all this wisdom is coming towards you.

Published in: on February 23, 2015 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Judging Poetry prize

All day Kingsley/Kate Tufts poetry

What we found when we went there, language, story, dreams, uncoiled imaginative spaces.

Stephen Burt doesn’t think much of people who write blogs.

Poetry is Balkanized. Poetry exists in a subculture. In a tiny world. Almost everyone reads poetry at some time in their life, but reading /collecting books of poetry? Looking forward to the next poetry book by Anne Carson? Well, that means you’re probably a poet or an aspiring poet.

People who write poetry are the main audience for poetry.

We are going to the president of CGU’s house for dinner.

Poetry should never make you feel unimportant; other poets should never make you feel small or ignorant.

You’re carving language in the smoky jazz of your own world of the imagination. There is always someone who thinks they know so much more than you do. They could be right, but it doesn’t matter at all. What matters is that you are looking up. It’s all sky. There is no roof. It’s all sky and stars.

Published in: on February 21, 2015 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’m in Whittier.

One week without a laptop. Without email.

Even unplugged, I can still think. Breathe. Function.

Two tatted gang memebers in the Starbucks waiting for their girlfriends to get coffee.

Reading grad school stories a lot of yesterday. One story about a girl who doesn’t like men with long hair. They seem scary. Really?

We are going to a place called Phlight for dinner, a couple professors and me and maybe Red Hen author Jessica Piazza, maybe Douglas Kearney, not sure. I like clever names for restaurants. There’s a bar I like in Long Beach called District Wine. That’s quite clever. If I owned a restaurant, it would have a tequila tasting room, and the place would be called Zorros. I would have the movie Zorro playing above the bar, like the Bubba Gump Shrimp place has Forrest Gump. I wonder if the actors make money every time you buy a shrimp.

If I spend too much time with people, I keep giving myself away and then I’m not sure if I’m still there or if I’m all over the street with tread tires on my back.

I count the days until my next day alone. Then I gather. I write in those slices of creative dreaming space/time like the breakfast air you breathe when you wake and you smell coffee and there’s bacon.

Our yard is buckets of jasmine. The oregano is coming up well. Blood orange blossoms cover the tree. We have a poet’s bench in our yard. The succulent gardens are doing well, but best of all, our roses are blooming.

I’m reading The Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert who I met last summer in Nebraska. There’s how good looking we all need to be to get through our life and then there’s Rebecca, who is kicking it out of the park in the looks department. Like my friend Susie, Rebecca could make a bishop kick in a stained glass window. She’s married too. At the time, I mostly thought that her husband must look at her every day and think, how the hell did I get so lucky? But this book is in fact, quite amazing. My favorite book to date about the jazz era was Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje. I like Rebecca’s book, because you get to walk around and see the mother and the jazz era and Chicago through a child’s eyes and she walks around in the crawlspaces of life, the under porch places, and from there you can always look up and see under people’s skirts, and who doesn’t want that. I like the women leaning into each other and kissing while the music goes on, and then they start making music too.

My legs and ankles hurt, and I can’t wear heels.

I have this dinner to go to.

The trees here in Whittier are blooming pink.

Published in: on February 19, 2015 at 5:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

What kind of love are you looking for? What kind of love are you walking around inside?

What kind of love are you looking for? What kind of love are you walking around inside of?

There’s squirrel love and there’s nut love; there’s small love and there’s big love. There’s ugly love and there’s sweet love.

I love you, she said to me. I do. I love you.

This, I said, indicating strike marks to my neck and shoulders, to my legs and buttocks, this, I say, is not love. I say, this is not love.

I love you, she says, you just don’t see it the way I do. I see love from a different angle. You don’t s see the love I’m seeing.

I don’t see the love you’re seeing.

Love is what you make of it.

Love is a big thing you walk around in.

Listen to me, you think you now all about love, but you don’t. I loved your father for a short while, but long enough to have your sister, then you.

I want a big love to walk around, to play a flute in, to sing a song in, to play the gong in, to dance a jig in, to roll about in, to climb a tree in, I want the kind of love that made the fish come out of the sea, that made us all come down out of the trees and start making love on the beaches.

Who the Lord loves, he punishes.

I’m reinventing love. Look up. Don’t you see? We have no roof. It’s just sky and stars.

Published in: on February 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

What do you do without your devices?

My laptop is in the shop. It’s been out of service for a week, and I miss it. We’re watching Surrogates and it’s reminding me how dependent we are on machines. It’s good to be able to live without email, and without machines. We used to be able live without machines, and we lived very well. Facebook is easy to live without, who needs it? Facebook doesn’t enhance my life or communication, but I count on being able to send and receive email.

It would be great for us as humans to be able to lie without our devices. Real communication is when you actually see someone and have a conversation, maybe a drink, maybe a meal.

On Thursday, I am going a reading at Whittier College. Tomorrow, I have a meeting at USC.

I’m taking a little break from running; but I’ll be back at it by Thursday or Friday. I wnt to Pilates today and the gym and thought about when it became so important for us to all work out all the time. Bette Davis didn’t have to do Pilates. She didn’t work out with weights, and you can bet that Marilyn Monroe didn’t either. I met these two girls today; they told me that they plan to look good in bikinis this summer and they’re planning to do Pilates every day for three months so they can bear to be seen in public. The fact is that all three of them look pretty good now. They were lovely girls, with short skirts and nice legs. One was a bit on the chunky side, but they were fine. Not one of them looked like she have the least bit of trouble having a partner, going dancing, or getting a job. But they all felt they needed something else. I do too. Why can’t we be okay with ourselves?

We live in a world where we’re all not quite good enough. Get your move one, girl. Don’t you want to look wonderful?

Published in: on February 17, 2015 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ran a marathon yesterday, still recovering

Yesterday’s marathon was a bit strenous, but I think I’ll do one again next year. Actually during the whole marathon I kept thinking that maybe this one would be my last marathon.

The jasmine is in a rocket of bloom now.

It really was quite stressful, that marathon. Around mile six, my right knee kind of gave up, I kept going to see what it would feel like at mile eight.

Paso Robles is a nice town; there are a lot of nice restaurants and I like the town square.

By mile fourteen, it felt much worse, but Mark met me at the end with ice for it and the ice helped the swelling.

We stayed at the Paso Robles Inn which has large trees with arms reaching for the sky.

The champagne after the marathon helped deaden the pain and then our hotel had a sulfur bath which was great, and Mark got us tacos. I really think tacos are the perfect post marathon dinner.

My legs are sore; they feel like they’ve been run over.

Tomorrow I’m having breakfast with Percival Everett and today I’m finishng a piece for The Guardian, and I’m looking forward meeting the woman who assigned me this piece when we go to London for the Book Fair.

This weekend is the Kingsley Tufts judging. Always good to have a day for a poetry swarm.

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Valentine’s Day

Our jasmine is in nearly full bloom, all white snow against the shelf of the garden,

pouring down into the garden too, but there are also many buds getting ready to open, they are like slender pink fingers.  The jasmine is aggressively taking over many parts of our garden, it’s climbing the trees and fences.  It darts everywhere there is light.  We have a wisteria climbing our schefflera into the sky.  I got some gardening done today after I went for a run.  I’m starting on the tea garden, the greens garden, the herb garden and finally, and it may be a little early for this, the salsa garden.  I started off with some peppers from Cuba.  We’ll see how the Cuban peppers do here in California.  Similar climate but it may not be wet enough.  Thai peppers I’ll put in later.  We do very well with Bolivian peppers.

The tea garden has several kinds of mint and lemon grass.  I have to work on some chamomile.  We have cat grass going too.  There is a lot of concern at our house over our kittens.  A lot of controversy.  The kittens want to scratch the furniture which is fairly new.  There is a debate over whether we care about the furniture, and apparently some of us, especially the one of us who bought said furniture does care.  It’s a shame because we had lots of kittens and no furniture for so many years and now our kittens are locked up and we can only remember the good old days when we all sat around the floor and the kittens played in the heat. There are also blinds which the kittens climb.  That causes controversy. It’s all very silly.  What if we lived in another country where furniture was irrelevant or where we just built it all out of wood we found on the beach and we didn’t care what the kittens did to it.  That would be a good country. Or what if we lived on the moon and we sat on moon rocks.  That would be amazing.  I want to move to the moon, with my kittens and cat grass.

Our blood orange tree has orange blossoms everywhere, it is blooming. The whole yard smells sweet, and the blossoms blow into the corner fountain.  Our succulents are having baby succulents.   Spring is coming, it’s already on top of us.  We’re swimming in it.  Mark and I are in Paso Robles; we went out for Italian food for Valentine’s Day.  We only eat Italian food once a year usually, so now it’s twice.  We never eat Italian at home, so the ravioli was good.  For dessert, we went to the candy shop.  I bought Mark some chili chocolate and I got myself a bit of licorice.  it’s very warm here.

Published in: on February 14, 2015 at 8:25 pm  Comments (1)  

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day

Go through the pear gates.

When you get to the inside of the pear, eat the seeds too.

Pears are thick like eating grainy pieces of the moon.

You can’t get strangled on a pear.

Movies worth seeing on Valentine’s Day. I would recommend Stranger than Fiction, but most people have a romantic movie they like.

If you haven’t gotten anything yet, there is always time for leaves, petals, candles, calligraphy paper and pen, chocolate.

My daugbter and her girlfriend are going to celebrate in China Town.

I rememmber one of the first things I owned was a jar of penny nails. I got them after I left the Farm.

Then I bought a hammer. With my hammer and penny nails I figured I could fix anything that broke around me.

I used them to hang posters. Tacks would have been easier. But I liked my penny nails. In my jar.

When I moved from place to place which I did very often, I took the jar with me.

I also wanted to be able to defend myself when I slept in my car or lived alone.

For that, I bought a pen knife.

Naturally, I wanted to prepare for the inevitable. For what might happen.

I bought a red pup tent, a rope in case I was under water and needed to climb out, a roll of duct tape, a grappling hook, in case I needed to grapple, scotch tape in case someone was talking to much and I needed to stop the words especially if I didn’t understand the words.

I had a flashlight that could go underwater.

Also a can of broccoli.

All of these things are worth thinking about getting for yourloved one for Valentine’s Day.

In my car I had built in a bookshelf. Anna Karenina. I had a pair of scissors for cutting my own hair and other one for cutting other things like duct tape. I had a typewriter and a blanket. The kind with rippon around the edges. It was a soft green blanket. No pillow. I used clothes.

What do you like to have that makes you feel at home?
For Valentine’s Day go for something that makes the person feel special. Flowers are not a bad idea.

People usually don’t complain about flowers.

Published in: on February 13, 2015 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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