Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Blog Reboot

My Dear Readers,

I have decided to reboot "Swim Against the Grain."  New location, new name, new look.   In other words, it's a new-and-improved version of this blog, only now I'll have my trusty sidekick iggi. Or am I iggi's sidekick...?  No one will ever know.

As graduation from my MFA program creeps closer to the present, I have come to realize that this blog needs more structure, more focus, more direction.  The new blog will feature regular weekly columns including book reviews, tips and news, a weekly writing challenge and more.

Thank you to all my readers for following my adventures and misadventures thus far.  "Swim Against the Grain" will continue to exist on the web, but starting today I will be posting exclusively at the new location.  Please join me at the new site: iggi & gabi.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Ordinary Genius

All writers should read this book, regardless of whether they like poetry.  For a long time I hated poetry, but now I have come to realize that it's not poetry that bothers me, per se, it's bad poetry.  This book is the reason I have fallen back in love with poetry... or at least with the good kind.

This book has given me the courage to try writing a little poetry of my own.  OK, so most of the time, the poems morph into prose, but that's beside the point.  What this book has done is open my eyes to the gracefulness of language, the beauty of gesture.  I have fallen in love with language all over again.

iggi says....

Sunday, April 4, 2010


iggi stands for inner gabi gone insane.

She's the part of me who comes up with all the stories and makes me write them, often at imaginary-gunpoint.  Whenever my mouth gets me into trouble, it's usually because iggi's out of control.  She's the one who decides "today I don't want to write a serious post, I want to write a story about vicious bunnies."  iggi doesn't *do* serious.  Funny and silly... definitely.  Even loopy sometimes.  But not serious.

iggi is a curious creature, one of many moods and temperaments.  Since her writerly inspiration is often tied to her moods, I've come up with a handy-dandy guide.  The iggi-meter at right will let you know which iggi is around today.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy Foolery

April 1, 1992.  Vail, Colorado.
My brother, sister and I were stuck in ski-school for the day with an instructor who was a total dope.  He had no interest in teaching us anything and instead, brought his girlfriend along on the lesson so she could cut to the front of the lift lines with the class.  Even worse, his girlfriend was one of those snow-bunnies who had no clue how to ski so our class had to wait at the lift while our skiing Casanova helped her up when she fell and guided her to the bottom of the run.

At lunch, we lost our patience.  Even though the snow bunny had decided to call it a day and go home, we were still frustrated at having lost a whole morning of good skiing.  So we decided to pull a prank.  While our love-lorn Romeo went into the lodge to get a table, we grabbed his skis and poles and buried them in a snow bank.  When he came out after lunch he went ballistic.

His precious skis!  How could someone steal his amazing-top-of-the-line-super-expensive skis?  He was even on the brink of calling the police to report them stolen.  Worse yet, since the lodge where we had lunch was at the top of the mountain, how was he going to get back down?  And his boss was seriously going to kill him for not finishing our lesson either.

In the end, we caved and gave him back his skis.  We may have lost another half hour on the slopes while he threw the hissy-fit over his skis, but it was so totally worth it.  At the very least, I don't think he ever brought his snow-bunny girlfriend on a lesson again.

In honor of April Fools, I'd like to know... what's the funniest/silliest/SO-most-worth-it prank you've ever pulled?

And in honor of it being the first day of the month: Rabbit rabbit!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Bunny's Tail

From the minute I woke up today, life has been...

All I wanted to do was go back to...

Next, I tried camouflage...

I even tried getting some help from my friends...

But now it looks like I'm going to have to face this day head-on.  Think you can take me, you stupid Day?  Yeah, you and what army?

You don't want to mess with this bunny.
Trust me.

So, dear reader, you were wondering how my day is going?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

God of Carnage

Tonight, I saw God of Carnage, the Tony Award-winning Broadway production.  The cast featured Janet McTeer, Jeff Daniels, Dylan Baker and Lucy Liu and was fantastic.

The play opens and already, the audience wants to know: how long until these characters lose it?  Everyone seems so civil at first, except not.  And then at a pivotal moment (courtesy of Ms. Liu's character Annette) and after that all bets are off.

This play is a great example of plot structure at work.  The first section is restrained, though we know it's only a matter of time before these characters snap.  Then there's the second section, when the civility quickly unravels.  Finally, we get the last segment, where everyone--the characters and even the audience--is gasping for air, like kid retreating after a playground brawl.

One of the other elements I much enjoyed was how the writer (Yasmina Reza) doesn't feel the need to explain every detail.  Annette's perpetual nausea, Michael's refusal to let Veronica have a drink.  The story could have been heavy-handed and explained all these moments, but Reza holds back, and I think the play is stronger for it.

Overall, a great night out and a fabulous performance.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of March

Caesar: [To the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.

Soothsayer: Ay, Caesar, but not gone.
        --Shakespeare (Julius Caesar III.i)

Some may find the Ides of March depressing.  A death-day of sorts.  I, however, find this day empowering, as a day when I can bite my thumb at all the naysayers to my writing life.

I try not to complain about writing or publishing, because generally, there isn't much to complain about.  In Portuguese, there's a saying that roughly translates to: "If you run because you enjoy it, don't complain about being sore."  Writing is sort of the same thing.  If you feel the need to complain about it, then really you should ask yourself: why are you writing in the first place?  If it's such a pain in your backside, why not take up something you like better?  Like basket-weaving or ceramics.

Even the most upbeat and optimistic of writers, though, find themselves up against a wet blanket or worrywart once in a while.  These are the people who pester you with irrelevant questions like: "When do you think you'll actually 'make it' as a writer" or "So, do you think your book could be the next Harry Potter" or, my favorite, "Why don't you stop this silliness and get yourself a real job."

Well, once a year, we writers get a special day when we can turn to these people and say:
 E tu Brute?
Today is that day.  Enjoy it while you can because it only comes around once a year.

And to those writers out there who get soaked by wet blankets and just shake the water off, like a dog does after a bath: keep doing exactly what you're doing.  Write on!