Things I May or May Not Miss

Okay, so I have about a little less than two weeks before I move into the new house and so I'm contemplating the things that I might miss about this place. Hmm...The first thing I think about missing is also the thing I can't wait to get away from, namely, the stray cats I've been feeding and looking out for over the last two years. The little orange mommy cat who I captured twice before succeeding in getting her fixed. She appears almost every morning, and now lets me pet her. Usually, her tom cat buddy follows, this formidable cat who is often bleeding somewhere--either from his ear, or his nose, or his back. He frequently shows up with burrs in his tail too, which I can pick out sometimes. He lets me pet him fully and has only lashed out maybe once when Ernesto agitated him. I don't know what will happen to them after I leave. Will anyone feed them? Will they wonder where I've gone and feel betrayed? Probably not, but I worry about how they will survive the winter. I guess I will also miss the neighbor girls, these Mexican children who always want to pet my cats and yell, "Let us see your cats!" if they see me returning from work.

Won't miss:

*Tons of garbage on the streets
*Smell of cat pee emanating from the back patio
*Yelling from the back yard neighbors and their torturing of the cats they seldom feed
*Drop ceilings on the second floor
*Tiny bathroom with cruise ship sized sink
*Having no closet space
*Lack of washer/dryer
*Going to the bank at the first of every month to get a money order for rent.

I think I'm learning that I'm glad to be moving. There's not anything I will really miss. That seems a little sad to me. That I would live in a house for almost three years that has more things wrong with it than things I will miss. Still, this house has been good for me in lots of ways. It's really cheap rent, has a full basement to accommodate the 17 litter boxes I need for the numerous cats. The street has never been a problem; no loud partiers or incessantly barking dogs. The worst of the noise is the occasional spilling of loud Mexican music from a car dropping off neighbors.

The universe has answered one of my biggest and most specific requests. On Friday, when I was leaving for work, I noticed that someone at the end of my street had left out this elaborate, three story cat scratching post/kitty jungle gym. It's torn up, but not too bad, and it's exactly what I was asking Lisa Marie and John to make for me as a house-warming gift. I dragged it down the street, trying not to worry about what the neighbors might think, and somehow managed to wrangle it up the steps. It weighs about 100 pounds. The cats immediately took to it, especially Ernesto who behaved like a very good cat and started scratching it immediately. Since I'm leaving my icky sofa behind and planning to buy a nice leather one that doesn't accumulate tons of cat hair, I will need some cat-scratching alternative. LM has agreed to recover it as a gift. It's still going to look hideous in the living room, but maybe we can try to make it look cool. No, it will never look cool.

Spoke on a panel at the Philadelphia Stories sponsored "Push to Publish" conference held at Rosemont College this weekend and learned a few things from the fellow panelists--things I need to remember to tell my writing students on Monday:

1. In the first draft of you story, your initial beginning is probably not the real beginning. It's the beginning you needed to find your way into the story. Oftentimes, the real start occurs near the end of the story, sometimes even in the last line.

2. Don't write about the day that nothing happened. Write about the day that something really changed.

3. Not all real life stories translate well into fiction. In fact, they often don't. You might say, "But that's how it really happened," as a defense to the piece and even if this is so, it still doesn't mean it's a good fiction piece. We don't go to newspapers to get our stories--don't dictate exactly what happened on page 5 of the local news and expect it to work.

4. Before you can go off and write a meta-narrative or a story that flaunts convention in some radical way, you have to first understand the form and structure of what makes a good short story. Even avaunt garde artists and abstract artists first learn how to draw a human figure. You need to know how it's done well before you veer off into uncharted territory.

And then there was an NPR story on Fresh Air the other day, an interview with Michael Chabon where he says that he knows he's writing something of significance if it makes him uncomfortable. So, rule #5, Write what makes you squirm. It probably means you're getting somewhere close to the truth of something important.

Comments

Vicki said…
I love, love, love all those writing tidbits. In fact, I wish I had students to teach so I could say them out loud to someone.
Aimee said…
I know. I really love giving concrete suggestions--they're especially effective if they don't come directly from me.

a

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