Saturday, July 30, 2011

100,000 Miles

The other day my car hit 100,000 miles.

In the past this has usually represented the halfway point of my car's life. I've had my car, a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser, for about three-and-a-half years and it's served me well. I've had very few problems with it, other than the occasional flat tire, and a window that for about two hours did not want to roll up.

I also have another year-and-a-half before it is paid off, so I hope for more continued good luck with my car.

Second Draft

My goal for this thesis semester is to write a second draft of my novel.

I've spent the past couple of days re-reading the first draft and taking some notes. It's a sobering experience. Some chapters are in pretty good shape. There have been a few chapters, though, where I've said to myself, "Wow, this is kinda bad."

Therein lies my challenge for the semester.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Wow, This Was More Than I Expected

Holy crap! I got a ton of requests to post my entire sixth-grade story "The Montana Project". And, by a ton, I mean at least five. But still, all things considered that's pretty good feedback. I'm very flattered and touched.

Right now I'm trying to get in the mode to dive in and work on my thesis. Posting the entire story would mean either taking a lot more photographs for each page of the story, and typing the entire story and posting it here, both of which would take some time -- not a huge amount of time, but I'm still a little exhausted from residency and it would require probably more time than I have the mental capacity for right now.

That said, at some point in the future, if I'm bored or burned out from my novel, I may give it a whirl. I'll keep everyone updated.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Montana Project

As many of you know, I recently moved. When you're packing to move you come across things you didn't realize you still have -- business cards from three jobs ago, old statements from bank accounts you no longer have, etc.

This move was no exception. I was kind of shocked when I was going through a box and found "The Montana Project," a 27-page novella I wrote as a creative writing assignment in the sixth grade (OK, 27 pages probably doesn't constitute a novella, but in the sixth grade it's basically the equivalent of War and Peace).

I'm not a great photographer (I'm getting my MFA in fiction, not photography), and I've never tried to insert photos in a blog before so this is a dicey experiment at best. But I have to admit, I got a little excited about this so here are some snapshots:

Anyway, you probably can't read any of the narrative, but I can assure you that this novella was far from Pulitzer material. For starters, you can see on the cover that, as I mentioned once before, my protagonist looks suspiciously like Snoopy in his World War I flying ace persona. Not super original. Also, as a current MFA candidate, some of the writing made me cringe. To wit:

* p. 8: ""Cute," I said sarcastically." (Oh man, Phil, lay off the adverbs, ESPECIALLY in dialogue attribution.)

* I had a fetish for using the word "chaps" to describe the protagonists' allies. It's in there at least a dozen times.

That said, "The Montana Project" had a little experimental writing in it that I think was ahead of its time. On p. 15 I used some David Foster Wallace-esque footnotes. I sprinkled in some illustrations throughout the novella (which means it's really only 20 pages or so long). The titular character is a robotic Brontosaurus/Apatosaurus -- I know, shocking, SHOCKING that I would write a dinosaur into my fiction.

Anyway, as I work on my thesis this semester, "The Montana Project" is a cute reminder of my infancy as a writer. The evolution is ongoing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Residency Wrapup, Summer 2011

Lost in the fact that this was the best residency ever are a few minor details.

* Last residency I made the mistake of bringing a floss dispenser that had about an inch of floss left in it. I refused to make the same mistake twice. This time, I forgot to bring a floss dispenser at all. After 11 days sans floss, Phil vs. gingivitis will be one of the compelling battles over the rest of the summer.

* Parkinson's Law ("work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion") applies to MFA residencies. We had more free time at this residency than any other, and yet I've never been so sleep-deprived at a residency because we capitalized on the extra time by staying up all night. I never went to bed earlier than 12:45 on any night of this residency -- at every previous residency there were a couple of nights where everyone crashed at 11.

* I lost a pen. It was one of my favorite pens. Let this be a lesson to all of you -- don't try to write while drunk.

* Also, don't blog drunk. I blogged at least twice while completely hammered. Not only do you write things that make no sense, but I also discovered it's really difficult to type while drunk. No matter how hard you concentrate, you always hit the wrong keys, keys that are not even close to each other, and the word "this" comes out as "werd." I kid you not.

I will file these lessons away for my graduation residency in December/January.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Driver's-side Rear Window

On my way home from my MFA program, I drove one of my classmates to T. F. Green Airport outside of Providence. I drive by Green to get home, so it wasn't taking me out of my way.

As we hopped on the highway, I heard thwumping sounds coming from the back of my car. My first instinct was, Shit, a flat tire. Luckily it wasn't that. But my driver's-side rear window was down.

This is odd. I've owned my car for 3 1/2 years and haven't rolled the back-seat windows down once. And when I tried to roll it back up (my car only has roll-up buttons and not the old-fashioned rollers), it wouldn't budge. My classmate even got out of the car and tried to force it up as I hit the button, without success.

So it made for a loud ride home, as the wind made that thwumping sound whipping through the car. I dropped off my classmate and drove home. I occasionally tried the button again. Still no luck.

I got home, dropped off my bags and tried to nap for a few minutes. But the window thing was bothering me and preventing me from sleeping. So I got in the car and was about to head out to see if someone could fix the window when I hit the button one last time.


Now I was really nervous. I wondered if the window rolled off the track once we hopped onto I-95, and if that would happen every time I got on the highway. So, since I still had my security deposit from my old landlord, I figured this was a great time to hop on the highway and to my bank to deposit it in person.

No problems with the windshield.

I just got back from a fun but also long and rigorous residency. I really wish my car wouldn't fuck with me like this.


Just wanted to dust off a quick blog to let everybody know I'm home, safe and sound -- though my driver's side back window is open and won't roll up. I was thinking it's off it's track or something, but I'll have to get it checked out this afternoon.

So much for the post-residency nap.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Graduation, July 2011

The new cohort of graduates was crowned last night in a great ceremony that had it all -- terrific speeches, tears, two great lines from each graduate and a cell phone that went off in the middle of a speech.

There's really not that much else I can say, and it's their night anyway. Congratulations to the second cohort, and best wishes for a regularly published future. You will be missed.


I lost a bet.

At the request of my friend Linsey, I inserted the phrase "GTFO" in my second-half workshop sample. I didn't think people would understand that GTFO is short for "get the fuck out."

This morning I was workshopped, and five of the six people in my workshop said they understood what it meant.

I lost the bet, but I also gained better understanding of my readers. I'm willing to make the tradeoff.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Talent Show

Hi all, sorry it took me so long to post. It's been crazy-busy (whatever happened to more free time at this residency?) and wireless Internet has been a little funky today.

Anyway, last night I participated in two sketches for the FUMFA talent show. The first was duet with my friend Linsey, a reboot of an old John Denver hit entitled "Take Me Home, Mason's Road." This seemed to be a big hit.

The second one was a skit with Colin and Abby and AJ and Trueblood, in which I played my most challenging acting role yet - that of my mentor last semester, Porochista Khakpour. I dressed up in a dark-haired wig, big glasses, a shawl and bracelets.

I'm susprised pictures of this aren't up yet (at least to my knowledge).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Security Deposit

Today was our free day at the MFA residency. As such, I will take a break from writing about writing.

As is my custom, I go home on the free day. It's not a long ride (an hour and 15 minutes) and it's a good opportunity for me to do laundry and catch up on mail. (It used to be a good opportunity for me to catch up on email as well, but thanks to my new laptop with wireless Internet that's no longer necessary.)

After I threw my laundry in the washing machine I sorted through the mail, and found an envelope from my old landlord. My relationship with him soured at the end of my time in Worcester after my battle with him over fixing the front doorknob. So I knew this envelope contained either really good news or really bad news.

I opened the envelope...and found a treasurer's check made out to me for the amount of my security deposit (plus applicable interest, required under Massachusetts law).

I'm glad my battle with him is won.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Student Reading Introduction

This morning my roommate Cisco gave the 20-minute student reading all the MFA candidates are required to give in order to graduate.

Normally a faculty member introduces the student. But he grabbed me right before his reading and said, "Hey can you introduce me?"

I said, "Umm."

He said, "All of my mentors are either no longer in the program or not here until the second half of the residency."

Made sense. But I wasn't really sure what to say. I hate it when I have to give a speech on short notice. Luckily Cisco is a laid-back guy.

So on his request I strode up to the podium and said, "Yeah, this is Cisco. He's my roommate."

He was pleased. Now he is playing guitar about 10 feet away from me and is about 72 hours from graduation. I'm glad I could play a small role in that.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Based on last night's post, I've determined that I can't spell when I'm drunk.

Also, I seem to embellish things. I have a surprise coming for the talent show but it's no grea shakes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Randon Thoughts

Some random thoughts while hoping the Red Sox can eke out a win over the Rays.

* I have wireless Internet in my room!

* I apologize for the legions of people whom I told earlier tonight (or last night) that every problem in the world today can be traced back to the British Empire (though I continue to believe there's some truth to that).

* I would like to play a game of Risk at some point during the residency, though I also want to watch the movie Carnosaur at some point and these two goals may conflict.

* I have a surprise in store for the talent show.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Today my first novel excerpt for this residency was workshopped.

Workshop is always a little nerve-wracking. You never know how your piece will be received. You have to sit there for 30 to 45 minutes in silence while your workshop-mates critique it. Generally they start with compliments on something you did well, but once it turns to criticism it stays there for the duration. And that's fine. I want to know what people feel isn't working, and most people are tactful and offer suggestions constructively, but every once in awhile someone decides to be mean-spirited, and not all workshop leaders are good at quashing that.

This time, my workshop sample was well received. There was some criticism but it was on finer points, which to me is an indication that my sample is in relatively good shape (and my workshop mates and the faculty leader argued for a good 30 minutes about whether my use of "holla" in dialogue as opposed to "holler" is appropriate).

And someone gave me a piece of incredibly flattering praise (I don't want to retell it here for certain reasons, but trust me, it was one of the highest compliments I've ever received).

So I feel like I'm in good shape. Now we'll see how the second workshop goes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

First Night Of Residency

I have wireless! And there are a few changes for this residency:

* The doors to the rooms swing closed now. I can't leave the door open now because it will slam shut.

* We have a tent outside that is taking the place of The Drinking Room. Quieter for the people who room near the TDR. Works at least for this semester since it's summer. A great idea.

* We're spending a lot of time discussing which authors, past or present, would we like to sleep with. A surprisingly interesting decision.

* Major-league debate between capitalism and socialism. This is huge. I love debate.

I'm Here

I have arrived at Enders Island, with WIRELESS FREAKIN' INTERNET.

I don't know how long the wireless internet'll last (from what the techies who always bring their laptops tell me it's always sketchy here), and I'm really just posting the let people know I got the Enders safely, but WIRELESS FREAKIN' INTERNET. Such a deal!

The problem with the night before residency is that I get no sleep. I'm too anxious and excited.

So this morning I will try to go to the gym and work out and then that will give me the adrenalin boost I need.

And then we're off.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Residency

My MFA residency is hard work, but it's always a blast. Good people and good times in a great location, an island off the coast of Connecticut.

It will be a little bittersweet this time, though. This will be my last summer residency. I'm scheduled to graduate in the upcoming winter residency. It's been a long, hard road, and it'll be great to have an MFA, but I will miss these semiannual 10-day getaways to Connecticut to learn and socialize. I've never been to anything like them before and probably will never do anything like them again.

So I feel like I'm under a lot of pressure to make this final summer residency count. For example, I really want wireless Internet to work down there, even though it's on a remote island and my classmates have told me in the past that it barely works in one room on the island and so my wireless, if I can even get it, will be sketchy at best. I also really hope my workshop samples are well received, even though I know that I'll get good advice either way.

The excitement is turning into angst, and I have to calm myself down. Looks like it may be time to pack to take my mind off of the anxiety.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I'm not on many people's A-list. I don't get invites to swanky balls or sold-out shows. Heck, I couldn't even swing an invite to the mysterious new Google+.

Until yesterday.

I got an invite via email, which I treated like gold. I went in and tried to figure out what the hell Google+ even is.

I'm not super smart (as my computer skills demonstrate) and for all I know Google+ could be a new Italian restaurant. I played around with it, though, and it seems like it's Google's answer to Facebook.

This will be interesting. My big complaint thus far is that it won't let me put random pictures for my profile the way I do with Facebook. I tried putting Cheburashka as my profile pic and it wouldn't let me.

So I'm a little skeptical. But we'll see.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wireless Internet

Those who are acquainted with me know that I'm a complete moron. There are a lot of things that I'm utterly clueless about -- rocket science, brain surgery, how to turn on a computer.

For example, I've always used wired Internet connections with my old Computer-sauruses. Having just bought a new laptop, I was acutely aware that it would feature wireless Internet capabilities. But I had no clue how switch it to wireless use. A few friends who know a lot more about computers than me promised they'd help me, and I've been biding my time with the trusty blue ethernet cord in my new place while I prepped for my coming residency (where I will see many of these friends and where I will have to have wireless if I want any Internet at all), trying not to think about what a colossal undertaking this would be.

Suddenly, a few hours ago, HP Wireless Assistant magically appeared on my screen. I don't know what I did to make this happen.

After about 5 minutes of playing around, my laptop reported the following:

Wireless Assistant Device Options, Combo Device: ON
"This device is working properly"

Wireless LAN Adapter: ENABLED
"This device is working properly"

Wireless WAN Adapter: ENABLED
"This device is working properly"

Then I was asked to choose between a list of connections, and to choose what I wanted to share with the other computer in the household (really, nothing), and then suddenly...

Voila. Apparently I am now blogging to you on a wireless Internet connection.

I can't tell you how simultaenously exhilarating and frustrating this is. I'm thrilled to have wireless Internet, but I have no clue how I did it. I'm also worried that maybe I did something wrong and cops will burst down the door, pin me to the carpet and haul me to jail for violating some sort of Internet provision of the PATRIOT Act.

And even if what I did is totally on the up-and-up, I also hate it when I'm smart enough to do something, but not smart enough to understand WHAT exactly I did or HOW I did it.

Oh well. I can only hope wireless is still around when I wake up tomorrow morning.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Marriage Ref

Many people shouldn't be married. Some of these people get to star in the reality TV show The Marriage Ref .

The show, now entering its second season, is mildly entertaining in an let's-make-fun-of-the-contestants sort of way. Apparently at least one couple divorced after the show aired, and the husband claimed that appearance was the major reason (I heard this on a recent episode of Inside Edition, therefore it must be true).

I guess my biggest complaint is the panelists. In the two seasons the show has been on, there have been guests such as Alec Baldwin, Larry David, Madonna, Tracy Morgan and Kathy Griffin, all of whom have been through more than their share of marital strife. They have little in their resume to suggest they can arbitrate marital disputes. Basically they're on the show to pile on and rip on the contestants themselves, and probably feel a little better about their own relationship failures. The host, Tom Papa, is a glorified straight man, and the show was conceived by Jerry Seinfeld, who has the cache to get a network to instantly greenlight a series and book celebrity guests, but that alone hasn't made this a good series.

There are some new wrinkles this season -- an audience vote determines the rightest of the right, and that winner gets a billboard in their hometown proclaiming their rightness, which is kinda cool.

That said, despite an occasional funny moment here and there The Marriage Ref isn't must-see TV. I think Sunday night at 10 is becoming a good time to take advantage of shorter lines at Wal-Mart.

The First Review of My Novel

As my next residency approaches, I've submitted a couple of chapters of my novel for my fellow classmates to workshop.

The other day I got a really nice compliment on it from Brooke, who writes the blog Books Distilled.

(By the way if you read books at all you should be reading her blog.)

The interesting part about it was, she complemented it on Twitter. Holy shit! This is essentially the first review of my novel! And it was positive!

The only problem is, it can only go downhill from here. Oh, well I will savor this.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Two In One Night

I've been to birthday parties before. One thing I've never been to, though, is a party that is for one person's birthday until midnight, and then after midnight is for another person's birthday.

That is, until last night/this morning.

It was a very interesting and fun time, hopping from one bar to another in Worcester (see, Worcester, I told you I'd be back at some point)., and then going back to one of the birthday recipients' houses for some goofing off.

That said, two birthdays in one night is pretty exhausting. Now that I'm back home, it's time for bed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Writer's Group

June was a long month. I searched long and hard for a new place to live. I didn't do much writing. I had to put off reading my MFA classmates' writing samples for the upcoming residency. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup, and while that's most certainly a beautiful thing, and much more fun than moving, it was nonetheless emotionally exhausting and took a lot out of me.

Last night for the first time in a month I attended one of my writers' groups. It was a welcome relief from the chaos of packing, moving, unpacking and hockey.

I hadn't been as in touch with some of my writer friends as I'd like in June, and it was great to critique my friends' fiction and hopefully give them some advice that will help them as they revise.

It was great to get back into the swing of things.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Laptop

In my continued attempts to acquire 21st-century technology, I purchased a new computer -- an HP Pavilion.

My old computer lasted me for five years and it had a hell of a run. But it was time. It was slow. It still ran on Windows XP (at least I bypassed the whole Vista fiasco). It was slow. If I watched too much YouTube it would run out of memory and shut down. And it was really freakin' slow. Seriously, once I finished my daily blog it would take me like 10 minutes to post it on Twitter, Gmail and Facebook.

I got this new guy at Best Buy on sale.

I've been using this new bad boy for about a week and (knock on wood) thus far I really like it. I'm still getting used to the new keyboard and, as such, I've been spelling everything wrong when I type (one thing I did like about my old Dell was the keyboard, but keyboards aren't quite as useful when the computer is slow) Also, the built-in mouse is a little stiff, but I've had that problem with every laptop I've owned.

Now if I can just figure out how to do wireless Internet, I'll be golden.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


As many of you know I recently got a new cell phone and Bluetooth headset.

Yes, I've entered the 21st century. Now I can talk on the phone in the car without risking life and limb. It's actually kind of cool.

And the other day the Bluetooth battery died, and my phone instantly reverted back to normal mode, where I talk into the receiver. This was a great development. I can now charge the Bluetooth and have the peace of mind to know that I will still have cell phone access.

Ah, technology. Next I may try that new Internet thing.

Fourth of July

My Fourth of July plans had been simple -- a cookout at a friend's house. These plans took a dramatic change when my friend's father, who is in his 80s, fell at home and had to be rushed to the emergency room.

There are many reasons to celebrate the Independence Day that don't involve cooking out or fireworks. It celebrates our declaring independence from a British Empire that at the time was oppressively infringing upon our civil liberties and taxing us without representation. Still, it sucks when your plans fall through.

Luckily, my mom called to ask how I was adjusting to my new place. She lives in Boston in a high-rise and has a great view of downtown. I mentioned to her that my plans fell through and she invited me over. This was still easier said than done, since she is right off Storrow Drive, a key route of the festivities, and also a Red Sox game was taking place yesterday afternoon.

In one of those miracle of miracles, I don't think I've ever hit less traffic in Boston. Either people were scared off by the prospect of driving in or I went in early enough in the day to avoid the mass traffic. We had pizza and chips and soda and watched the fireworks on TV and from out my mom's window.

Plan B's really come through in a pinch.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Back To Normal

Things are more or less back to normal again. I'm moved in. I'm back online. I'm unpacked (I have a few things that need to be moved here or there, but again, more or less).

I still feel anxious, though. June was a whirlwind month and I think it will take some time to come down from the heightened sense or urgency. Also, I have residency coming up soon, a novel to continue to work on, and just the usual odds and ends of adjusting to the new place.

Basically what I'm saying is, I'm still a little keyed up. Even though things are returning to business as usual, it will take me some time to really feel like it.