Book Review: Logical Family

Logical Family by Armistead Maupin is about finding your logical family, the place where you belong, which is not necessarily with who or where you were born. As Maupin puts it in the book:

“Sooner or later … we must join the diaspora, venturing beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense to us.”

Growing up in North Carolina as a boy who thinks he might be gay to a father who longs for the days of the Confederacy, Maupin has a long journey to find his logical family. We see him struggling with his identity, serving in Vietnam, even working for Jessie Helms in his first job, until he takes a job in San Francisco and finds the place and people that feel like home. The book also offers a very personal inside look to the gay rights movement at the time.

We also see Maupin struggling to become a writer. Of his “big break” which eventually led to publishing what would be the beginning of his best known work, his “Tales of the City” first as a newspaper serial he writes:

“Most of us don’t know when our Moment comes. We don’t feel it at all. It’s just a passing whim, … that leads to one thing and another and you end up with a life you would never have had at all if it had not been for that first thing.”

I am always amazed to learn that famous writers once struggled. Maupin struggled both personally and professionally and the memoir provides a touching portrait of a very human man.

I Control the Data

I am counting everything these days:

  • Submissions made to literary journals
  • Agents and publishers that may be a good fit for me
  • Agents I’ve submitted to
  • Twitter followers
  • Blog followers
  • Blog visitors
  • Books read since January
  • Hours written per week

To manage all of this tracking I use Excel, Duotrope, Sumittable, Twitter, Hootsuite, WordPress, Goodreads, Rescuetime, and my head.

I track all of this because it makes me feel like I’m in control. It makes me feel as if I’m making progress. It makes me feel like I’m doing something to get closer to becoming a full-time writer and finding a home for my book.

Because the truth is, I can’t control anything outside of my tracking. I can’t make people follow me, accept or read my writing. All I can do is write, track and hope it will all come together.

If I don’t like what my data tells me I can adjust. I realize I sound a little obsessive, but it is still a bit of a revelation to see how much I rely on data. I never thought I was a left-brained person, but it sure looks like my right brain likes my left brain’s help.

I’ll have to find one of those quizzes that will tell me how left-brained versus right brained I am. More data for my pile.

What makes you feel in control? What do you track?

Are You a Leader or a Follower?

I’m a born follower. The last of my parents’ nine children, I don’t know how I could be anything but. When it was time for me to go to college, I applied at exactly two, one where my brother went and the other in the city where another would soon move. I knew exactly precious little about either schools and it didn’t really matter since I didn’t really have a plan for what I wanted to study.

When I was accepted and enrolled at UW Madison, I asked my brother what I should be. He surveyed me on my interests and I told him I liked psychology, mostly because of the cool teacher who taught it in high school. He was studying Occupational Therapy and suggested I do the same, with an emphasis in psychology, if I had an interest there.

Done. I signed up for the mostly science classes, including zoology and chemistry, and found that I may have made the wrong choice. Science had never been my thing and these classes weren’t either. It also didn’t help that I often skipped the 500-person lecture because no one would miss me. Even the psychology class — which I did go to — was harder. I only found one class easy and that was Freshman Literature. I loved it and my passionate, young and attractive professor.

So that’s how I became an English major. Like most parents, mine didn’t exactly see the road to riches ahead for me, since I didn’t really have any idea what I might use such a degree for. But finally, I was doing well in my classes, and going to my classes, so that was something.

Since college, I’ve worked in public relations, copywriting, marketing, event planning, and everything in between. I love what I do, love to write, and see how I use the skills I learned in college and that I’ve learned from others and my experiences along the way.Luckily about the same time, another brother met and married a woman who worked in publicity. I watched and was impressed that the types of things she did could be considered work. She helped me find an internship and shared her contacts with me. I added a few public relations, advertising, marketing, and news writing courses to my load and suddenly I was a lot more employable.

Being a follower helped me get to where I am, but I’m not the same person I once was. Being a follower is good when there are good people in front of you, but eventually, you have to set off on your own path. Hopefully, in life, we learn to be both a leader and a follower.

Rehydrating During The Last Dreadful Days of February

This time of the year really gets me down. Everything seems so brown and monochromatic, I start to feel like I’m living in a black and white photo. And to make things worse, it seems as if no one has cleaned up their dog poop all winter. As the snow melts, it’s like the tide receding on the worst kind of jetsam.

At the same time it’s as if I’m drying up. I turned while I was doing the laundry the other week and  my back seized and cracked. Luckily I had a massage scheduled through my insurance a few days later. Though it felt good to have her work on my back, I could tell I needed more adjustment. As she touched me, it almost felt like my ribs were broken. She said she could see that my shoulder blade was out of whack and suggested I see a chiropractor.

I wasn’t able to get in for another week, so I scheduled an appointment at a flotation tank in the meantime. If you’ve never done this, you float in a tank of water with enough Epsom salt so your body floats.

Doing so takes pressure off your body, muscles and joints. The water is at skin temperature and it can be a very relaxing experience. To me it feels like floating in a cloud in the tropics and eventually my mind drifts to a place that feels almost like sleep. According to literature about floating, this is the theta state, a type of brain wave that happens just before falling asleep or waking up.

It is similar to the feeling I get during some massages when I feel very relaxed. After floating, my back felt relaxed, but went back to creaky when I was subject to gravity again. So I was still glad to visit my chiropractor the next week. She is different from other chiropractors I’ve used who only use the table to manipulate my spine. She uses her hands to crack and adjust my back, and by the time she was done my back felt limber again.

I was starting to feel like the tin man after the was oil poured in all the right spots. But I had one more treatment planned. My husband bought me a spa gift card a few months ago and I was glad to find out the facility offered a mud and steam shower. During this treatment, you basically rub mud — clean and wonderfully scented, not like the stuff outside my window — on your skin and sit in a steamy shower at the same time.

It was the last bit of hydration I needed to make it through the rest of winter. It’s almost like taking a garden hose and washing away winter’s remnants. There are less than 30 days until spring. This week it’s going to be 50 degrees. Soon the grass will grow, the poop will fade and all will be colorful again.


A Fortune Cookie for Procrastination

I started to write something yesterday and the day before, but when I was done, it didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted it to. It wasn’t exactly writer’s block, more like procrastination.

I knew it had to be when I found myself Googling Blog Post Idea Generators. After I did a few, coming up with such gems as 8 Things About Memoirs Your Kids Don’t Want You to Know and Top 10 Must Haves for Writing, I started to think about other bad ways to write an essay. pexels-photo-806421.jpeg

That’s how I ended up on a site that will actually write an essay for you. I had heard that there were places to buy papers, but I didn’t think they would be so blatant about it. I thought I would have to go on the dark web I’d heard so much about to see something like this. After seeing the kind of work it does, I don’t think anyone has to worry about anyone getting away with it.

To hook you, you can put the topic of your essay in, the word requirement, how much research you want to be done, how many keywords you need, and if you need a bibliography or images. You can also choose to have the sentences shuffled so the essay will pass plagiarism checks.

Then you actually have to check a box to let the generator know you are not a robot (even though it seems to be) and it spits back the first few lines of your essay. To see the whole essay, you need to subscribe, whatever that entails.

The first search term I entered “Why Procrastination is Bad” returned an article with a byline from The Atlantic. I’m not sure if this is because I left the shuffle sentence off, but I’m pretty sure that anyone would recognize that as plagiarism and would not recommend turning that in for your term paper.

For my second try, I turned on the shuffle sentences and received something that was so unintelligible I thought I might be having a stroke. This sentence appeared in the middle of the second paragraph “Subscribe By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy and European users agree to the data transfer policy” which didn’t seem to have anything to do with procrastination and obviously came from whatever website the content was stolen from.

Finally, I entered the words What Does it Take to Be a Good Writer? and the generator returned this:

If you enjoy writing but can’t always express yourself well, keep practicing. You can try to acquire some of those soft skills. Pay attention to the questions people ask you at conferences, in email, and during dinner conversations for clues to what people want to know. Sometimes we do this unconsciously, as we juggle words, then choose, delete, and choose again. Don’t get overly caught up in grammar. You must be creative…

Well, then. My own little fortune cookie. Sometimes ideas come from the strangest places.

Sending a Message

A little girl stuck her tongue out at me yesterday at the grocery store. She was a pretty little blond girl in a pink coat. I had just picked up a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. When I turned around she was hanging from the bottom of her cart and her tongue was sticking out. It was not a mistake. The tip was hooked behind her teeth and the rest was pushed out wide and aggressively through her teeth and pursed lips. My cheeks burned like I had rubbed them with adobo sauce.

I wasn’t sure if I was embarrassed for myself or for her, or if that was even the right emotion. I felt like I was taking an emotional IQ test where I was supposed to identify an emotion by looking at a still photo of a person. Was the person expressing embarrassment or anger? I wasn’t sure.

A few weeks earlier a capuchin monkey had done the same thing to my husband. The monkey hadn’t stuck out its tongue, but the emotion seemed the same.  While were vacationing in Costa Rica we walked to an island at low tide. After making our way back to the beach, we sat eating a snack and looking out at the water.

We heard rustling in the trees behind us that stopped every time we turned around. We assumed it was a man working, but after investigating we found a pasture with horses, cows and finally a group of capuchins.  I had been to Costa Rica before and told my husband you couldn’t throw a stick without hitting a monkey, but having been there a few days and not seeing any he was sure I was telling tales. Now, we moved toward the trees to get a closer look and some pictures.

At first, we were snapping pictures, zooming in indiscriminately and mostly taking extreme close-ups of the leaves. After few minutes, our aim got better and then one of the monkeys hopped down on a tree in the clearing. My husband started whistling to get the capuchin to look at us, as you might to a dog.

The monkey finally did look, and as I took a picture, it flashed its teeth at me. We laughed, knowing that he wasn’t smiling, but registering his annoyance with us. Just then another monkey jumped down on the branch in front of the other and flashed his teeth, doubling the message and resulting in twice the laughter. We got the message and decided to leave them alone, heading down the beach, happy with our pictures.

I suppose that’s why I felt embarrassed after seeing the girl stick her tongue out at me in the grocery store. I even quickened my step as I headed down the aisle past her.  It didn’t really matter whether I deserved her aggression or not. She sent a message and I got it.

That’s how monkeys and girls figure out what works. I suppose this won’t be the first time she’ll stick her tongue out at someone in the store. She might do it every time she feels a bit crabby. If I see her again, I think I’ll flash her my biggest smile. That’s how you send a message.


Review “Good Things Happen Slowly”

Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life in and Out of JazzGood Things Happen Slowly: A Life in and Out of Jazz by Fred Hersch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know nothing about jazz, but wanted to read this book because of Hersch’s medical story. I ended up learning more about jazz and liking that part of the book. I also enjoyed his perspective on the AIDS/HIV crisis in the early 80s and what it was like to come out as a gay jazz musician. The medical areas of the book are quite slim, but still interesting. I also enjoyed reading about the creative process behind some of his work.

All in all this is an honest and thoughtful memoir.

View all my reviews