Translating Frances Mayes

One of my favorite writers is Frances Mayes, and I recently finished her book Under the Tuscan Sun. Her books take me awhile to finish because they’re so detailed. Also, most of her prose, like Under the Tuscan Sun, is travel writing; I’m a terrible armchair traveler because I get too envious.

I was recently asked to write a post about the following: If your favorite piece were translated into another language, what would be the most important aspect you would like to remain consistent between languages? I’m not great at picking “my favorite” anything, but I saw Mayes at the Virginia Festival of the Book, so I was inspired. I think she’s also a good choice because the language of her book is so rich. She’s a poet first, so of course the language is important. She has delicious sentences like:
“Growing such a plethora of herbs induces me to squander them.”


The biggest distraction: television

It never fails: I get home from work, put together something to eat (sometimes leftovers, sometimes a cooked meal, sometimes just a bowl of cereal) and sit down to relax on the couch. Even without thinking, my hand grabs the remote and turns on the TV. It'll just bit for a little bit, I tell myself, and then several hours later, I've watched half a dozen sitcom episodes and it's time for bed.

I used to say I wasn't much of a TV person, but I really can't say that anymore. It's so easy to get sucked in. I'll just take a quick mental break. I just want something on in the background. I have something new on my DVR. I spend so many evenings sitting in the same room as my husband, but we're on our respective electronic devices, a show on the in background, not interacting in any way. And, despite the fact that I may be thinking of the things I want to do when I get home, as soon as that light box turns on, none of them get done.

This Wednesday, Lent begins. Similar to New Years, I like that Lent offers a time to reset, to rethink. It's a chance to be a better person. This year, for the first time, I'm giving up television. I'm actually excited about all the things I'll get to do when I don't have TV in the way, things like I like to do, especially reading and writing (which helps my new year's resolutions too).

The one foreseeable challenge is that my husband also likes to watch TV, so I'll either have to choose to spend time without him (which will sometimes happen) or convince him to do other things with me. But here is another opportunity to help me grow. My husband loves games, and he used to ask me if I wanted to play a game almost every night. But since I kept saying "no," he stopped asking. But wouldn't our evening be more pleasant if we spent time playing a game together rather than sitting on our butts, plugged into our electronics?

I will probably do some binge-watching after Easter, but for now, I'm looking forward to rediscovering all the time I have.


Resolution update

Having Presidents Day off has been good for my New Years resolutions. Here's what I've been up to.

Writing: I'd been scribbling down a few scraps of poems here and there, plus looking at old (like, almost a decade old) poems that may be salvageable (although it's always interesting to read poems from adolescence). Today gave me the chance to work some more on these new poems. I'm in a local poets' group and our next readaround is coming up in a few weeks -- I need to have new material!

Space to write: The office is getting rid of old furniture in preparation for an upcoming move, so I scored a desk lamp and desk chair. Today I did a bit of tidying up. All the boxes are in the closet and all the stuff on top of the desk went into another box, all to be sorted later, but that made the room look a lot less intimidating. The empty cardboard boxes got tossed in the recycling. The carpet is now vacuumed. Debating how I should paint the walls -- paint accent wall? paint three walls and leave an accent wall? paint all four walls 3/4 of the way up? paint accent ceiling? Realized that I don't have to wait until the room is completely decorated before I can start using it, now that I have a place to sit and space on top of my desk. Sorting will come slowly over the next few months.

Literary citizenship: In the middle of Edan Lepucki's California -- I have only met her through an online writers community, but I'm loving her book. Also, had the chance to attend an event celebrating Barrelhouse last week, which was fun. Got one rejection from a literary journal and countered with another submission (to a different journal).


New year's resolutions

Photo by K B on Flickr
I love that the new year gives the perfect opportunity to reevaluate and create some new goals. Last year, I wrote up a list of goals to achieve throughout the year, and I broke them down into categories to help. I didn't fulfill all of them, but it was nice to check things off throughout the year (I taped it to my wall next to my calendar). I haven't done the same thing yet (mostly because I try to remind myself that they should be goals for the whole year, and I keep thinking of things I only want to do RIGHT NOW), but being a better writer is always in the front of my mind. So here are my writing goals for 2015:


My 2014 book roundup

It’s been a great year for reading. This year, two things influenced my reading: 1) being part of a book club and 2) #readwomen2014. When I’ve had a choice, I’ve chosen female authors this year; most of the exceptions are male grad school classmates (and my book club read male authors as well). I've also been making a more conscious effort to read non-Western or POC writers. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it’s not in any particular order, but here’s what I curled up with this year (I confess that a few of these are unfinished – I won’t tell you which ones haha):

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey
Mapping the Stars by Rachel Wooley