THE BIRD IS THE WORD

Just what is it about birds? Is it their natural beauty and grace as they extend their wings to soar and glide against a backdrop of sky? Perhaps it is their measured lovely notes as they usher in dawn and bid adieu to dusk? Or maybe it is the way they, just through the process of sheer observation, bring the looker closer to the mysteries of the natural world? It could be, though, that in addition to all of these obvious attributes, I am, with all the predictable messy angst of humanhood, simply envious of birds. All birds, everywhere. Why? Well, for one thing, birds accept their particular beauty; their species driven proclivities; their daily routines and tasks, as predetermined…and not due to ignorant submission or lack of will or power, but because of an innate instinctual drive, which exists free (lucky birds!) from the morass of a mere human’s existential grapplings. Ever since Robert McCloskey’s Mallard family made their nest in the Boston Public Garden, and ever since Mrs. Mallard demonstrated the ease with which Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack, fell in an obedient line behind her as they waddled their way through the streets of Boston in search of peanuts, literally just days after they had shaken that off-white keratin covering from their moist wings, my fascination (and jealousy) was established. What, I wondered, did they know–what intuitive knowledge of ebb and flow and rhythm and rhyme and reason–had the birds been graciously granted, that evaded us humans?

By way of contrast, let us peek through the raised blinds of an average human family “nest” on a typical Saturday night (disclaimer: the scene described is fiction; any resemblance to the author’s own life–even if you were an actual witness to the events described–is purely coincidental):

Mom (returning to the nest to feed her young, after a restorative day away from said young, so that she could go winter waterfowl birding without someone needing her gosh darn attention each and every gosh darn minute of the gosh darn day):  “Hi…I am home!  Wow, it is really snowing out there.  Birding was great–just great; I can’t wait to show you the pictures I took of the Snow Geese.  Where is everyone?  Hello…is anyone here?”

Gaggle (well, three- of children):  “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom…hi mom…you are back…how was birding?…the dog peed on the carpet…shhhhh, dad is sleeping….I forgot to tell you, I failed my science test, but it was so unfair….mom, mom. mom, mom…why can’t I play Mortal Combat on the X-Box?  Everyone else plays it, and it is fake blood; the blood is fake…I don’t feel well…uh oh, the dog is peeing on the carpet again; get the dog….”

Dad (from the sofa):  “ZZZZZZZ…….zzzzzzz…….ZZZ….zz…..ZZZZZZZZ……”

Mom (putting her bags down and grabbing some white towels and cleaning spray):  “Didn’t anyone remember to walk the dogs?  How long has your father been asleep?  What’s wrong?  You don’t look so well.”

Dad (disoriented, waking on the sofa, and soon disappearing into the bathroom):  “ZZZZZZZ…what, who, what. where…I’m up…I’m up…hey, mom’s home!  How was the bird thing? Kids were great…just great…wait, I need to go to the bathroom.  Did anyone save me a Ho Ho?”

Mom (on hands and knees cleaning up dog pee, before the puddle starts disappearing under the refrigerator):  “What’s a Ho Ho?  Really (to gaggle), you do not look so well…are you ok?”

Gaggle (cacophony of voices, all speaking at once):  “I think I am going to be sick…me too…the Ho Ho eating contest may not have been a great idea…cupcakes, with cream inside…dad bought us Ho Hos, because we had never had them…I didn’t eat them; too many artificial ingredients…yes you did…just one, because I wanted to remind myself how much I hate artificial ingredients…and he said if we let him nap, we could have a Ho Ho eating contest…which may not have been a great idea…”

Mom (finished cleaning up pee and standing up to efficiently take care of and organize gaggle):  “How many of these Ho Hos did you eat?”

Gaggle:  “Two boxes…I am going to be sick…like now…like right now…I need to get to the bathroom…right now…”

Mom (incredulous):  “Two boxes????  Of cupcakes….???  Are you kidding…???”

Dad (from behind locked bathroom door):  “We had a great day…a really great day!  Did you notice that it’s snowing outside?  I’ll be right out…did you kids save me a Ho Ho?  Tell mom about the Ho Hos….”

Gaggle (opening mouth to answer question put forth by incredulous mom, but, instead, well….):   “sorry…the bathroom door was locked…I couldn’t hold it in….ewwwww….I am so glad I don’t eat artificial ingredients…..I feel so much better now….me too…mom, let me help you clean it up….that’s disgusting….mom, mom, are you ok?”

Dad (finally emerging from the bathroom):  “Did you see the bird?…what a great day, really…what’s that smell…WTF did I just step in….?????”

And so, as I again ponder the enviable ordered existence of birds, recalling–for example–how a colony of western Acorn Woodpeckers works as a single industrious unit to store thousands of acorns in carefully drilled oak tree holes, and how both males and females join together to seamlessly raise several young in a single communal nest, I am again  in awe of the innate understanding of complex social structures these birds demonstrate.  It is most certain that the Acorn Woodpeckers’ instinctual communal living model is free from that dreaded mandate of group habitation, the House Meeting, that I was forced to endure during my tenure as a commune-style living participant in my carefree Berkeley, California college days. The endless, and generally unsatisfying clash of agendas realized as the various house members tried to figure out whose turn it was to wash the dishes; whose job it was that week to empty the garbage bins;  who had allowed the Deadheads to set up camp in our living room, so they could drop–over consecutive days–the last 30 tabs of their acid before heading back East; and who, selfishly and without thought to the feelings and needs of the rest of the house members, replaced the communal pan of premium hash brownies with regular old Duncan Hines.  How trivial these concerns seem (other than the hash brownie conundrum) when juxtaposed with the larger goal of species survival, that is paramount to our avian friends.

Finally, speaking of survival, I would like to extend a world of thanks to the gods for my own personal stash of Goose Island, with which I (pretty much) nightly use to soften the hard edges of my own family nest:

sofiebottle

And thank you to the glorious birds everywhere, flying somewhere, so that we as terrestrial beings may see them….and in our minds follow them….and dream:

IMG_0319 IMG_0321 IMG_0322

(and, yes, these are my actual photos from my non-fictional waterfowl trip:)

BIRTHDAY BURN (BABY, BURN)

Another birthday…yet another year…and as I get older, I become more and more thankful for the one thing I can, without fail, count on, day in and day out, through thick and thin, good times and bad…I, of course, am talking about Facebook, without which I would surely not have the courage–the unwavering conviction–to get up each and every day and face the aging world with the grace and humility that comes with believing…truly believing…that I am more loved and “liked” than I actually, in reality, most likely am.  Perhaps it is with this indomitable sense of self, renewed daily–or hourly–or, sometimes quarter hourly even–through a surreptitious yet almost constant connection to social media that I embark with ease of mind and lightness of step on that end of summer pre-first-day of school scramble, that ritual rite of passage, familiar to suburban moms everywhere:  packing for the week-long trip (no pun intended) deep into the dust of the Nevada desert to attend Burning Man.

Yes, I know I am far from alone.  This convenient way to (ditch my family for a week) embrace my own life, nourish my own heart, understand the self I am, am becoming, will become, was once, then wasn’t, will be again (or something like that; it’s a bit confusing, actually) so that I may return to those who need and depend on me as the very best (albeit unwashed and apparently quite high alkaline sandy) version of myself: recharged, relaxed, and renewed.  If truth be told, I am going more for them than I am for me.  Did I already mention that I will be traveling solo?

In the last month or so, and then again tonight (over a bottle of birthday champagne and a few shots of tequila, but well before the post-Poptarts-and-Lucky Charms-snifter of scotch), I find myself marveling at the vast and varied array of reactions and responses that just the mention of Burning Man inspires. Indulge me, dear reader, on this anniversary of my birth, as I share just a few:

Husband: “Are you going to walk around naked at Burning Man? I mean it’s OK if you do; I want you to enjoy yourself and really let loose, so that this experience is absolutely everything that you want it to be. Of course, most people your age won’t be walking around naked…for obvious reasons…um, very obvious reasons…but this is your time to shine…so whatever you decide, I accept and support you.”

Nephew:  “Aunt Leanne is a hippie FREAK.  Oh, sorry, Aunt Leanne.”

Friend:  “So, I looked up Burning Man…I mean are you going to stay in a hotel and drive to that place in the desert every morning?  I mean…have you looked up any Burning Man lodging reviews on Travelocity?”

Another Friend:  “I will be burning right there with you, baby…right there on the beach…by the ocean…my own private Burning Man…”

College Friend:  “too commercialized for me…the end of August, I will be attempting to track down the mostly isolated Sentinelese tribe, who live their righteous unadulterated lives on an Island, between India and Thailand. I plan to learn their hunting and gathering ways, man, and leave this commercialized plugged-in life behind…I mean why watch it if you can live it…you know what I am saying? If I don’t come back, just know that my animal spirit has found its true home, and imagine me as I imagine myself, collecting coconuts and having sex…lots and lots of sex…with the island natives…”

Husband: “You are not really going to walk around naked at Burning Man, are you? I mean, if you do, that is fine…more than fine…it is so totally up to you. The important thing is that you get out of this experience what you need to get out of it…if you can do that fully clothed, well…great! If you need to remove, say, an article of clothing or two, I applaud your boldness…I mean, when in Rome…though the Romans were generally modest in public…I am sure your c-section scar is barely even noticeable at this point, and even if it is noticeable–let’s say very noticeable, for argument’s sake…who cares, right?  You just go girl….”

Husband: “Bring sunscreen. A LOT of sunscreen. I just read a startling statistic concerning skin rarely exposed to the sun, upon first and even minimal exposure…I don’t want to scare you or anything, I just thought I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the, well, frightening fact that I just read…regarding rarely exposed skin…to the sun…especially, it seems, the desert sun…”

Husband: “I will know if you get naked…don’t ask me how–I will just know…”

Billy Bragg:  (who probably summarized the year best:)

“Whoops, there goes another year                                                                               Whoops, there goes another pint of beer”

PUGS JUST WANT TO READ BOOKS…ALL SUMMER LONG…ON A SUNNY AFTERNOON…AND THROUGHOUT UH OH THOSE SUMMER NIGHTS

Pugs by any other name are still, well, pugs..Spoiler Alert:  this post will be about as original as the parental relief felt on the last of school and/or the visceral parental panic experienced after that first schedule-free day of summer…BUT the pictures are cute, and the title is oh so musical, so work with me here, as I have backpacks to empty, boys to feed, books to read, and my pugs-with-books-and-pithy-captions pictures to reblog from Bookporn, where I posted them first.  Enjoy, and happy summer (with–hopefully–lots and lots of books:)

pugpowerandglory

“Hope was an instinct only the reasoning human mind could kill. An animal never knew despair.”                                                                                                                                              —-Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory

 

pug updikeUpdike gets me every time…                                                                                                —–John Updike, The Maple Stories

 

dogandboy

A dog and his BOY…                                                                                                         —-Roald Dahl, Boy

pugpic

 Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage…best summer read EVER!

LAPSED PARENTING

I recently found this essay I had started writing a couple of years ago in response to an editor’s early reading of my manuscript (then entitled The Adulterer’s Notebook) Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage.  “I think,” she had begun, “you need to talk more about being a parent.”  Really???  My reaction now is the same as it was then:  but the book is about the intimate inner life of a woman in her forties; the kids certainly are not at the forefront of that carefully carved out space–right???  They do seem to be at the forefront of just about everything else though, and so, I share this hopefully humorous essay with you, dear reader, that I started oh so long ago, and finished rather recently…

LAPSED PARENTING

“Why should I make my bed,” my oldest son asks, “when you don’t even follow the laws of the Torah?”  The kid’s got a point, though recognizing hypocrisy, whether relevant or not, certainly won’t keep the house tidy.  Of course, I can only blame myself for his pre-teen challenge; he hadn’t asked to go to Jewish Day School, he had been sent.  I had hoped our children’s foray into the world of the observant would fill them with a rich sense of cultural and religious pride, as well as successfully ameliorate our family’s fundamental, not to mention historical, and—at this point—habitual, inability to even light Shabbat candles on Friday nights.  Unfortunately, the reality fell somewhat short of the expectation, as my sons left their two years as Jewish Day School students, with its daily T’fillah, its kosher kitchen, its partial emersion Hebrew, essentially as skeptics who questioned why such a just and forgiving G-d would have unceremoniously and without consult, sentenced them to while away their childhoods in our lax non-observant traiffe-ridden home.

In fact much of what the boys took away from this experience proved counter to what I had hoped:  “We learn the importance of diversity and giving to the poor in our homogenous expensive private school,” my youngest son proudly explained, when asked about how his private school education differed from his public school one, “AND,” he had continued excitedly, “there are so many Jewish holidays right at the beginning of the school year—most of them my parents have never even heard of—that we get to go to school for only a handful of days before it is time for Thanksgiving break!”

Of course the boys’ congenital contrarianism couldn’t be fully sublimated into the rigors of daily prayer and davening.  Our middle son, especially, never met an assignment he couldn’t subvert, a rule he couldn’t rewrite, a fact I was painstakingly made aware of at my first parent-teacher conference.  “The directions clearly state to find one path for the apple to reach the honey,” Jared’s nonplussed second grade teacher told me disapprovingly as she showed me the offending Rosh Hashanah maze.  “Your son,” she spit out, as though my progeny were venom, “thought it would be clever to figure out three possible paths.”

She then treated me to an example of what I have since coined–to describe the degree to which my middle son could just not be bothered–“Jared’s red rule.”   “This week we have spent completing various activities designed to reinforce the students’ understanding of the adjective.  And Jared, it seems, thinks this joke-worthy,” she complained, producing her piece-de-resistance, a packet of no less than eight pages of adjective work sheets, the last four of which had the word “red” scribbled in as the answer for each of the 20 or so questions per page.  It seemed “red baby,” “red house,” “red mountain,” and “red siren wail,” were not adequate demonstrations of adjective proficiency.

Where had I gone wrong? I wondered, shaking my head, as I shamefully left the school building, stunned with the knowledge that not only was our home a kasher-free zone, but I had parented a child who could at once condemn his parents’ non-observance and flout his disregard for his teacher’s directions through assignment non-compliance.  Of course, I was to blame. I would be better, I vowed; I would light candles, attend services, scrub our home before Passover, clear every last bit of shrimp from the fridge.  I did wonder, however, whether the freezer was exempt from such a harsh directive…

“Dammit,” I exclaimed, “do as I say not as I do, just won’t cut it with these boys.”  I wanted more for them; I wanted their take-away from their childhood to resonate with purpose and personal identity. And then it hit me—unlikely as the sight of a burning bush in the wilderness—so much of who they are, who they are becoming, is what has happened while I wasn’t even trying (and thank goodness for that, because not trying is my parenting strong suit).  For example, my boys’ absolute reverence for books rivals only, well, my own.  Every one of them is not only a voracious reader, but a book collector, a book-by-the-bed stacker, a bookstore prowler, a family-reading-party regular, a true believer in the transformative power of the printed word. I taught them that, not by intention but by example.

Just a couple of months ago, my oldest son, now 14, texted me from a library used book sale. “Look, just look, what I got for only three dollars!”  The attached picture showed no less than eight gently loved books, including James Patterson, Harper Lee, and Erica Jong (Fear of Flying??? OK…we will have to have a discussion about that one) “Dad,” his text continued, “said not to buy so many, but I knew you would get it…”

And I think, well, they really are their mother’s sons, these independent, outspoken, funny, well-read boys, and I only hope, expect actually, that they will find something bigger than themselves—perhaps even a rule or two by which to live, or the clever antics of a lovable character (even one who may be a bit  hypocritical) to whom to relate—between the dusty covers of a well-loved, heartily devoured book…maybe even one recommended by their mom.

JAMMIN JO

So many wonderful things have happened since the publication, almost one year ago, of Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage, not the least of which is the way that when one publishes a book–especially a book which deals with a somewhat taboo topic–long missed friends appear, figuratively,  out of thin air (or at least out of Facebook:)!  My friend, Jo, a vibrant (and apparently vibrating) blast from my Berkeley past, shared with me her hysterically funny take on a wife’s life, after recognizing in Lauren (BH’s protagonist) a kindred spirit.  Of course Jo, in her inimitable way, outdoes Lauren in her frustrating quest for sexual gratification and takes matters, literally, into her own hands!

Thank you, Jo (happy mother of two, miserable wife of one, lover of running, bourbon, and sex), for sharing your funny and authentic voice with this blog’s readers!

A RUNNER’S QUANDARY

To run before or after the blast, that is the question…

I have spent the past year and a half out of love with my marriage and in love with Angelo, my purple  “pocket rocket,” as a very dear friend calls him.

Angelo is the most magnificent, vibrant color of purple, almost neon but not quite.  He has a slight curve and a little clit tickler and though he is magical, he is not a rabbit.  Angelo has four buttons, which can be daunting early on in the love bubble.  However, once all of those buttons have been pushed, it’s pure mind-blowing, thigh quivering ecstasy.  What’s more, Angelo can go on and on, no Viagra needed.  This works perfectly for me because, somehow, in my mid forties, I am insatiable.  Perhaps it is because I have been sexually dormant for years as an unhappily married woman or perhaps it is the strange concoction of hormones that rage through a woman’s body at my age? A combination of both?  This, however, is a topic for another blog…

Since Angelo came into my life, and quite frankly before he was even around, I have found myself getting my groove on and on and on and on… Why blog about it?  Well for the cathartic experience, I suppose… But let’s be honest peeps, shall we? There is no fucking way that I am the only unhappily married, stay at home (mostly) mother of two, with way too much time on her hands, who has discovered sexting, pornhub and other mobile porn sites that can whet anyone’s appetite (if they would really fess up to actually enjoying a little porn), who loves blasting herself day in and day out, sometimes three or four times a day, right??  Whew, that was descriptive, huh?

Don’t get me wrong; I have always loved sex, lots of it… and masturbation too.  But this place I am at right now in my life?  This is the apogee of fucking oneself… This love affair, not only with Angelo but also with rocking the fuck out of (or maybe into?) my own world, is consuming at times.  There are times when my pussy is just plain worn out.  Still, I think to myself, “Why haven’t I been doing this religiously for the past eight years (one has to recover from childbirth and crying babies, etc)??

Before I became an ardent sex fiend these past 18 months, I was a mostly once in a while husband-fucking tried and true runner.  I have been running marathons for the past seven years, but now, I often find  myself in a bit of a quandary… I wonder whether to run before my date with Angelo or after?  I have decided there are pros and cons to both.  While a good blast really gets those endorphins running rampant throughout the body and makes for a great run, there is also the issue of a sore pussy and sometimes ass… There, I said it… Deal with it…

Any runner will tell you that with running comes chafing… They are partners for life, they will be together longer than most marriages I know of…  It’s not enough that my right inner thigh (only the right) is chafed from my shorts but my pussy is now chafed too??   I will say that before Angelo’s namesake insisted I needed a pussy of a much younger girl, I had a little landing strip to protect my lovely hills and valleys… However, I have grown to love my bare little twat, it’s hot.  A HOT TWAT.  But with that hot twat comes a little more care than back in the days of bush and I don’t mean GW.  I haven’t tried my anti-chafing creams; I am afraid to set that hot twat into a tailspin.  What if she runs and hides and I can’t fuck myself silly every day???  So that’s when I think, run first, shower and then get at it.  Because that run will get those endorphins flowing as well, and I won’t feel the swell of a well worked over pussy during my run.  But it’s so nice to send those kids off to school and get after it while my bed is still warm.

So, what’s a woman to do?  I think Angelo and I, and sometimes Baby Angelo (a tiny blue vibrating bullet that will make you feel like you rubbed coke all over your hot twat), do the most amazing job either way.  And often times, I am a before AND after girl… I think I will keep it that way…

DAILY AFFIRMATION

Aside

The last two weeks have been pretty terrific (and not just because I am watching Season Five of The Big Bang Theory–love you Sheldon Cooper!–in its entirety).  Being asked to be a part of not one, but two, awesome writer gigs has made me feel, well, to properly express the intended sentiment, I will borrow the words of that oft quoted, carefully coiffed, nineties self help guru, Stuart Smalley:  “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”  Kidding aside, participating in the local author event, which challenged a handful of writers to present their work to the audience in an enticing way in just three minutes (part of the JCCNV Jewish Book Festival), at One More Page Books, was super fun!  If you have not been yet, please take a moment to check out this independently owned gem (books, wine, and chocolate, oh my:) right here in Northern Virginia.

http://www.onemorepagebooks.com

For those of you who are curious how I presented Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage in the allotted time, I am sharing the Andy Rooney quote with which I began:

“Yes, we praise women over 40 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize. For all those men who say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”, here’s an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it’s not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!”― Andy Rooney

A bit of (not so) kosher humor for the JCC crowd:)

The second gig was being featured in an author interview (included below) on the brilliant blog, Tipsy Lit (featuring all that is right (write?) with the world:  you know, reading, writing, and drinking:) For a diverse community committed to supporting writers, readers, AND drinkers, providing tons of accessible and relevant how-to information, and offering a fun-filled romp through the literate world, please check them out:

http://tipsylit.com

New post on Tipsy Lit

Author Interview: Leanne Tankel

by Ericka Clay

Leanne TankelWhere do you write?  When at home, I either write at the kitchen table or, if it is warm/cool enough, on the screened-in porch.  I generally have music playing (Tom Waits, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan are all conducive to word flow for me:) and a pug or two curled up next to me, on top of me, or on the kitchen table (I know–ewww:) behind my computer screen.  Cafes and dark bars also work for me, when I can’t find a quiet place in the cacophonous activity of my house.  When I was a student at UC Berkeley, completing school work, etc. in the glut of cafes around the campus was part of the culture, so I very much enjoy reliving that experience.  Finally, I have been known to lock myself in the bathroom when I am desperate to complete something, but I am required to be supervising others at home…

Tell us about your book.   Broken Hallelujah:  notes from a marriage can be described as an unflinching gaze through the keyhole of a mercurial middle class suburban marriage.  Whether bartering her body for chore completion duties or surreptitiously finding satisfaction in the many innuendo laden “relationships” she cultivates with the men with whom she comes into contact, the protagonist, Lauren, through a series of linked essays—some of which are laugh-out-loud funny and some of which are heartbreaking—explores her current reality in the context of the countless sublimated desires that marriage, by its very definition, demands.  Broken Hallelujah:  notes from a marriage (originally titled The Adulterer’s Notebook), was a 2011 short-list finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Awards program.  Also, the book has been a best selling eBook in Romania (four months in the top ten) for most of the time since its Romanian translation.

What was your publishing experience like?  My publishing experience could not have been better!  I decided early on that the query letter process was just too daunting and time consuming, so I targeted a few contests that had book publication as a prize.  Assuming that this was also somewhat of a shot in the dark, I put the entire process out of my mind after the manuscripts had been sent.  Imagine my surprise (not to mention delight) when I remembered that the notification time frame had passed for the first contest I had entered and, after logging onto the site for the Santa Fe Literary Awards 2011, I saw my name listed on the long list of finalists.  Following the link to the short list, I saw my name there as well.  I was one of 20 out of something like 750 entries, so I was quite psyched.  While I didn’t win, that experience afforded me the confidence to think that my book had at least some merit.  A short time later, my family was vacationing in Vermont, and my husband and I met two young men from Romania who were just getting their book publishing venture off the ground.  They were smart and knowledgeable about the publishing process, book marketing, etc.  As luck would have it, I had my manuscript with me in my computer bag.  After reading it, they offered to publish it as both an ebook and paperback.  Meeting them just seemed to be a sign of sorts that this was the right path for my book.  Both men, Constantin and Raul, worked with me through the editing, cover designing, printing, and marketing processes, making the realization of my book the very best experience it could be!  When they returned to Romania for several months, they had the book translated into Romanian, marketed it, and enjoyed watching it become a top ten ebook in Romania, right along with the wildly popular Fifty Shades and Hunger Games trilogies.  They continue to support my efforts almost one year later, and I hope they will consider my next book, once I finish writing it:)

How have you balanced your online author platform with writing?  “Balance” is definitely the operative word here!  Not being particularly adept on the computer has certainly made the balancing more difficult.  Initially, and somewhat still, I relied/rely on my publishers to help me out with this, and they have been great!  In addition to managing my book’s Facebook page, they set up a WordPress blog for me and continue to look for and suggest online opportunities to help readers find my book.  I have found one of the most satisfying aspects of my online platform is maintaining my blog, as I thoroughly enjoy completing the pieces I post there.  But I do find that a day spent completing and posting a post is a day that I don’t get to complete any work on the project on which I am currently working…balance, yes!  Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that one fabulous byproduct of being online as a writer is discovering other writers, other sites, and awesome blogs like Tipsy Lit:)

Do you work with a writing partner?  Like running and drinking, writing is very much a solitary activity for me (OK, I am joking about the drinking but not about the running and writing:).  Of course, if the project were right for me, I would consider whatever terms were offered/recommended.  Also, when I had completed the manuscript which would ultimately become Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage, I relied on my best friend and editor, W, for her invaluable input, insight, and suggestions.

What have you found to be the best places to promote your work online?  Because I can easily get overwhelmed managing online promotion, I try to limit what I do to a few sites where I feel most comfortable.  Facebook, Twitter, and my WordPress blog are the main places where I post information and updates regarding my book and my writing life.  Also, the guest blogging opportunities I have had have proven to be both fun and rewarding!

Tell us about your writing process:  I begin in a notebook, and when I have enough notes or ideas down, I move to the computer to see where the actual writing will go…One thing I always do:  stop a writing session with a direction in mind for where I will go the next time I write, as I find my mind continues to sort things out and develop ideas during my non-writing activities (supervising homework, running, making dinner, etc.).  Doing this makes the process of returning to the writing project on which I am working a lot less daunting! I know I am finished a given piece, when I read it over and experience an amorphous sense of completeness…then the editing begins!

What online sites/resources do you use when writing?  Not many.  Although, I definitely rely on Wikipedia for fact checking and various dictionary sites for definitions, if I want to double check the exact meaning of a word I want to use.

Did you go to school for writing or learn along the way?  As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I was very involved in poetry writing and took all the classes I could, especially those taught by Thom Gunn who I considered both a mentor and an all around awesome human being.  For graduate school, I continued my focus on poetry and followed Robert Pinsky–who was leaving Berkeley to run the graduate poetry writing program at Boston University–to Boston, where I was lucky enough to be offered a teaching fellowship.  My prose writing started much later and really was a result of hearing reactions from friends to my protracted email communications telling me I “really should write…your stories are hysterical,” etc.  Honestly, it took quite a bit of distance from the formal academic setting of college and graduate school to find a voice I consider authentic.  Along with the uncovering of that voice came a kind of confidence and resolve that I really think was/is only possible–for me at least–with age:)

Any advice for our readers?  Read a lot (I know, the usual…but super important!); write as much as you can, even when you don’t feel like it; and BE FLEXIBLE AND OPEN, meaning don’t get stuck on one idea of how you will reach your writing goal; what you least expect may be the very thing that allows you to realize the vision you have of yourself as a writer…>

Leanne Tankel studied poetry writing as a UC Berkeley undergraduate and was fortunate enough to work with the inimitable Thom Gunn.   She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing at Boston University, where she held a teaching fellowship. Currently, she is writing prose, and her manuscript, Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage  (originally titled, The Adulterer’s Notebook), was a 2011 short-list finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Awards program. Leanne lives with her husband, three sons, and two pugs in Northern Virginia.

You can learn more about Leanne at the following websites: 

Virgo eBooks: http://virgoebooks.com/broken-hallelujah.html
Blog: https://brokenhallelujahbook.wordpress.com

Ericka Clay | November 21, 2013 at 6:00 am

WAX AND WHINE

We have all been there–those of us who have muddled through the vicissitudes of a multi-year marriage; we have all experienced that familiar balancing act, worked through the push and pull of completely disparate, though oddly compelling, desires:  should I initiate intimacy, offer myself sexually, unselfishly, completely–both body and soul–to my husband tonight, or should I, instead, stick an old sock in his mouth, to muffle his snores while he sleeps?  Of course–as many of us remember–Lauren, wife and mother extraordinaire from Broken Hallelujah:  notes from a marriage, grappled with this very issue and several similar ones as well.  And I think I can safely say that at times her heart (as well as her vagina) was in the right place.  Let’s take a look at one of her selfless offerings detailed in the book:

“….BUT, in the interest of maintaining, if not the mad lust of the early dating days, the semblance or feel of a physical and emotional connection with one’s spouse, I have found it absolutely essential, especially after kids and the endless demands and chores produced, if not by them then by the very fact of adulthood, to, at least on occasion, “spice things up.”  It was with this mindset that for my husband’s fortieth birthday I bought myself my first ever Brazilian bikini wax.

When I emerged from what I hope was a sound proof room at the expensive salon I had carefully chosen for this feat of daring, there was not one part of my privates that had not been thoroughly hot waxed and, what felt like, shredded.  Although, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw reflected back to me in the mirror dutifully handed to me after the “procedure.”  About four inches below the fading seam of my c-sections scar, was an area as smooth as the tender bark of a young birch tree.  Indeed, I almost looked virginal, if that is possible, and the only remnants of the preamble which remained was a trimmed plush line directly in the center, coyly referred to as “the landing strip.”  To maintain this well-groomed look, I was informed that I only had to return to the tortuous confines of the waxing chamber every three months.  That was too much to think about right then, but I preferred to believe that, just as in the labor leading up to childbirth, the memory of the pain would dull quickly, so that I could even consider reinvigorating my gift.  My husband, for his part, played his “kid in the candy shop” role well, revisiting his birthday offering eagerly and often; his sweet tooth reawakened through novelty.”

Trying to follow a book character’s example is never easy (unless, of course, the book “character” is Chelsea Handler), but I was determined to show my husband (as well as, apparently, the gaggle of neighbors and passers-by who I now know have a full and unobstructed view of my bedroom thanks to the damn feng shui decorator and her insistence on maximizing the moon’s healing energy, by allowing its light to flow unobstructed by shades through our upstairs windows) that I could be similarly committed to his artistic and erotic sensibilities.  And so, in an almost unprecedented (for me, at least) altruistic gesture, I decided to enter that storied chamber of hot wax and horrors and offer up my vagina (and perineum and that small but not insignificant place dangerously close to one’s anus) to the merciless gods of rip and raze.

When I made the appointment at the highly rated (at least on Yelp) salon, the helpful receptionist informed me that I would be ready for the ritual removal when my hair reached the length of a grain of rice, so in I went, to face the fire (so to speak), with my fully flourishing rice field.  In hindsight, I think a bit of advanced planning would most certainly have proven useful to make the procedure if not more productive, then more tolerable.  For example, I have one friend who swears that talking on the telephone during the waxing helps both the pain to wane and the mind to meander.  I can’t help but imagine that for me the conversation might go something like this:

Waxee:  “Hi, J, I….motherfucker damn bitch slap holy crap…”

Friend:  “OMG, do you have Tourette’s?  What can I do?  How can I help???”

Waxee:  “No, I just called to…Christ almighty shit damn to hell what the fuck…”

Friend:  “Don’t move…I am coming immediately…we’ll get through this…together…just breathe, breathe until I get there…”

Waxee:  “Not necessary, really, I am…dammit cocksucker holy shit #?*!…”

Friend:  “I am on my way…”

Next time I plan to wax, I most definitely will wax and (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin) wine…lots and lots  of wine…