Sep 29, 2008


During the month of October, I won't be posting anything on this blog. I'll be participating in a frenzy-filled, group writing challenge starting at the stroke of midnight on October 1st and ending at 11:59 on October 31st. This is the third time I've taken the challenge, which is highly influenced by the National Novel Writing Month. The first time was in January of 2007 and I aggressively utilized the No Plot, No Problem kit, which loosened me up and forced me to give my inner editor and critic a much-needed vacation.

I would love to get inspirational, cheesy, and funny notes while I do this with my totally awesome writing group. Feel free to e-mail me at gwendolyn.derosa at gmail dot com


The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sep 25, 2008

Little Miss Student

Classes have started at Northwestern, where I work as a pharmacy tech. This means that I'm actually busy during the day. The phone is ringing. Kids are confused about insurance. How do they pay for stuff without their parents? How did they get here and where are they going? After several long days of smiling and helping students, my immune system crapped out on me. I caught that stupid, "first week of school," head cold. Right before my first class of American Literature, from 1965 to present.

So, steeped in the fog of a sinus headache and overall crummy feeling, I struggled to focus on the first 2 paragraphs of The Crying of Lot 49. I counted the lines that the first sentence took. Seven. Seven lines and each word seemed vitally important. But why? Was Pynchon just playing a game with the reader or is he trying to say something meaningful?

I knew what I had gotten myself into. I'd read a few short stories by Thomas Pynchon. I'd gotten the inside joke on the Simpsons when he played his alter-ego, a cartoon character with a paper bag over his head. I had started the book a week ago, reading it alongside a study guide. I'd almost finished the book by the time class started. But, as the other students brought up some interesting ideas about just the first two paragraphs, I couldn't think of a thing to say.

I had thought it was an introductory class period. You know, when you get the syllabus and scope out the other students and leave way early. This was not to be the case. My head was stuffed full of mucus and I just wanted to curl up in a little ball.

I can make it, I told myself. I was interested, at times even fascinated, during the first hour of lecture about how the culture of the sixties influenced the literature. But 2 hours later, I had lost my grasp on even a fraying string of mental concentration. So I let go and waited for the professor to end class.

Then it happened. My phone rang. I quickly shut it off. I knew it was my dutiful husband, letting me know that he was waiting at the street corner to pick me up. I told him that I was positive class would be out by 9. It was not. And my phone rang again, letting me know that I had a message. I felt my face turn beet red and my heart raced. Oh, god. I hope everyone didn't hear that. But I was sure that they did.

Five minutes later, the phone rang again. Poor David. He has no idea where I am. Why am I not at the corner where I said I would be? But I wasn't thinking of him. I was thinking of myself. Here it is, the first day of class, and I will be known as "the cell phone girl." As the girl who didn't turn off her damn phone before class started.

I tried to breathe. My stomach was churning. The cold chicken wrap that I had scarfed in a hurry was not sitting well. Why had I made myself go to class when I so obviously was not well? Definitely not well enough to discuss Pynchon. Not even well enough to remember to turn off my phone.

Sigh. Next week I'll be prepared. I'll study all the obscure references in The Crying of Lot 49 and I'll say something smart. Something so smart that people will forget that I was "the cell phone girl."

Sep 18, 2008

Let There Be Peace

Sunday, September 21st, is the International Day of Peace.

Recently, I've become very aware that I'm guilty of being consumed by personal frustations and family-related stress. I distract myself by checking my e-mail constantly and getting news updates from NPR, BBC, MSN, etc. My head is often a constant whirlwind of information and lists of things to do and keeping track of my budget. I'm so mentally exhausted at the end of the day that I just want to be entertained by whatever came in the mail from Netflix. I make very little time to simply be. To focus on the moment. To find peace in my world.

My wish is that all of us would take a moment out of everyday, not just tomorrow, to pause and pray for peace. To recognize peace in ourselves and in the people around us and to work toward peace in our world.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.-- Matthew 5:9

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.-- Albert Einstein (1979-1955)

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.-- Mother Theresa (1910-1997)

Sep 17, 2008

A Quote

There's only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that's a writer sitting down to write.

~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

Sep 11, 2008

My First Time

Last night was a lovely summer-like evening. David and Sarah walked with me to The Heartland Cafe. I mentioned that it's a little piece of San Fran. It's not just a cafe with an open mic venue. It's also a bar and a small store selling fair trade items, socialist and feminist books, and handmade jewelry. I adore it.

We arrived way too early. The website said it started at 9pm, which I thought was pretty late. Especially since I had to get up around 6am this morning. It didn't start until 10pm. A few new friends stopped by and we talked over hard ciders, but they had to leave before it was my turn. They didn't call my name until after 11pm. That's a long time for the nerves to build tension. By ten-thirty, I had a mild buzz, I was sleepy, and my insides were doing cartwheels.

Sarah had selected a short chapter for me to read. She thought it encapsulated much of what the book is about, without giving too much away. David thought I should talk a little about it and my website. I didn't know what to say. There were bright lights and a microphone. From the stage, I couldn't even see the audience. I really wanted to run for it. (But I knew David wasn't going to let me chicken out.)

So, I just dove into the story. I read slowly. I had practiced a few times and had it practically memorized. I said thank you when I finished and tried not to run back to my seat. I think there was applause.

Sarah and David said I did quite well and the audience seemed to like it. They said the clapping was genuine and not just polite. I couldn't tell.

Walking back home after 12:30am, I started breathing normally again. Sarah asked me how I felt. I didn't know.

Today, I've had a huge Vitamin Water energy drink just to make it through the workday. Maybe I'll do this again. I just need to find an open mic that starts earlier. Maybe on a Friday or Saturday night when I can sleep in the next morning. We'll see.

Thanks for all of the lovely messages and mental thumbs-up that you've sent. I really felt all of you there with me. :)

A Nymph Named Joanna Newsom

"We sailed away on a winter's day
with fate as malleable as clay;
but ships are fallible, I say,
and the nautical, like all things, fades.

And I can recall our caravel:
a little wicker beetle shell
with four fine masts and lateen sails,
its bearing on Cair Paravel."

Sep 10, 2008

What's Your Favorite?

Author Laurel Snyder asked of the blogosphere, "What is your favorite book from childhood?"

The dearest book in the whole, wide world to me is "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis. By age eleven, I was proud to say that I had read it eleven times. I love that children never tire of good things, like songs and games and stories.

I also loved "On Beyond Zebra" by Dr. Seuss, "Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," and "Too Much Noise."

The Friendly Forces

"What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are."

-Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

Sep 2, 2008

A Smashing Good Time

I love Roger's Park! Seriously. We met so many intriguing people who make bags out of t-shirts, and lovable, stuffed "monsters" and jewelry artists at the Glenwood Arts Festival. Thanks to all of you that stopped by our booth. It was a beautifully successful weekend. David sold lots of prints, a drawing, and drew crowds of people with his bright personality. Although on Saturday we became hot puddles of sweat, Sunday brought the threat of rain and, thankfully, a much cooler temperature. Sarah and I received lovely ten-minute massages. We watched a little puppet show in a colorful booth, which was connected to the back of a bicycle. (It felt a little bit like SF.)

I was asked several times if I was doing any readings anywhere, so this is my next task. If I can muster up the courage, I'll be participating in the open mic night next Wednesday (9/10) at The Heartland Cafe.

In other news, the artist/intellectual commune has been buzzing at the DeRosa home. Jacqui (my unofficial editor and good friend) flew in from NYC, and then left...much too quickly. We packed as much fun as we could into every day. We've been enjoying amazing, homemade mojitos, warm sunshine, and quite a bit of luck from the transportation gods.

My brother, Jason, flew in on Sunday and we promptly put him to work carrying heavy bags of groceries and such. :) David succeeded in making fire (with Sarah's assistance) and fed us some mean hamburgers and sausages off of a tiny grill. The guys splashed in Lake Michigan until the lifeguard yelled that they were too far away. Apparently, you can only go into the lake up to your waist. Any further and you get yelled at.

We went on The Untouchables "Gangster" Tour on Monday and experienced the gritty side of Chicago. We discovered the Ragstock in Wicker Park, which is an extremely cheap and totally awesome clothing store. We wandered into Myobic Books, which would have delighted me except it was far too hot in the store. Then, we took the Blue Line to the Red Line to the parked car to get home. (For those of you who don't live in Chicago, it's an exhilarating adventure just to get around the city. Especially if your trip involves the Downtown.)

Jason's here until Thursday. I'm trying to figure out how much caffeine I'll need in order to stay up late for another couple of nights. (I'd be worried that I was becoming an old lady, but I've always been this way. In fact, I think I'm getting more and more playful as I age. But I'll save that thought for another time.)

Here's to old friends and brothers and new connections and living life to the fullest!