A few years ago, I was at a bar with some friends and friends of friends “watching” a Spurs game. (I don’t actually watch basketball, not even when it’s the playoffs. Sorry. But I pretended to watch for a while, I promise.) Over beers, I ended up talking to another fake basketball fan, and somehow our conversation turned to the subject of clowns, and she told me that she had once dated one. 😳
Hold your horses. It gets even creepier. She said she met him while he was in makeup and didn’t realize how old he was (much older than she was) until they went out. 😱
Well, you can’t tell a horror writer a thing like that and expect them NOT to write about it. I went home that very night and scribbled the first draft of “Makeup.”
In the fall of 2016, I submitted the final version of the story to a TNT Horror Contest on Wattpad, and it made it into the top 100. It didn’t get enough votes to move on, but soon after, it was accepted by the Tales to Terrify podcast, and a few weeks ago, Danielle Gracie’s voice brought my character to life in a perfect, chilling way.
To listen to “Makeup,” click here. My story starts at 51:58.
(But… if you have a blind date coming up, maybe hold off for a few days.)
As I said in my previous post, “If you wait until you have ‘good stuff’ to write about, your journal may stay closed for months. The truth is, there’s good stuff happening all around us almost every day. Consider this—who’s this journal for? You, right? What will YOU want to look back on in ten years? What you’ll crave are the little things. The tiny little slices of life that you’ve forgotten about. So your job when journaling is to master the mundane.”
It’s true. I’ve been rereading some of my old journals (a favorite summer habit) and want to scream at my college-age self, “Stop babbling about boy troubles, and tell me what’s in your pockets!” (Somewhere, in another universe, college-age me just had a very strange dream.) Really though, there are plenty of pages about my feelings (which are important, yes) but not enough about my world. When I look back on that time, I’m not interested in reliving all my relationship angst. I’d much rather see my former surroundings—where I spent my Thursday afternoons and which t-shirt was my favorite and what I ate for breakfast. Even after college, I still sometimes went through phases of vague melancholy or (worse) vague bliss where I described my deep feelings of unease or contentment without ever really pinpointing where they came from. That’s why I’m thrilled when I stumble upon entries like this one from February 18, 2007:
I am sitting in my purple chair wearing the new jeans I got at Buffalo Exchange tonight (that I love) with the green sweater that I rescued from the Goodwill bag (that I now really like) and the flip flops from Kelley’s wedding and a black head band wrap. I look totally funky stylin’ (in my not so fashionable opinion).
Note #1: Sweater and flip flops in Austin in February sounds about right. Note #2: I am such a hoarder of clothes. I used to be SO BAD about putting things in a bag to take to Goodwill and then “rescuing” them a couple of days later, only to wear them once and then send them back to my closet for another year. I’ve learned my lesson. Now I take the bag to Goodwill immediately. Usually. Note #3: I feel like I was quoting a friend when I used the phrase “funky stylin'” but I don’t remember who. Also, I hope I was being sarcastic.
Or this one from January 31, 2011:
I am sitting in my backyard writing by the light of the campfire I just made for myself (with the help of a firestarter log from HEB). My plan is to sit here and write in my journal and drink some High Life and read Lolita and enjoy the evening for as long as I like, no matter the time. I hear something barking off in the distance– maybe a coyote. Oh, and now I hear the muted but unmistakable caterwauling of Gink…
Note #1: High Life? Seriously? My guess is someone left them at my house. Note #2: High Life and Lolita is a classy combination. Note #3: I just Googled January 31, 2011, and it was a Monday, so I was enjoying this late-night campfire on a school night. How scandalous! Note #4: You have no idea how loud my cat’s caterwauling can be. Someday, when he’s gone, this journal entry will remind me of the crazy sounds he used to make, and it will make me smile.
Those are the kinds of journal entries I can sink my nostalgic teeth into.
So if you’re keeping a journal, and you’re worried that nothing you write is exciting enough, fret not. Some of the most mundane tidbits today may be the lines that give you the biggest smiles ten years from now.
Here’s an entry I wrote based on this format, without taking any of the optional tangents:
See? Until the robot swung the baseball bat and uncovered the hidden scorpion, there was nothing earth-shattering about this entry, but someday I’ll be glad I mentioned how Gabby used to insist on laying in my lap, and I’ll probably laugh about how excited I was over my first Roomba when I see what the robots of the future can do.
So give it a try. Grab a favorite pen and find a comfy spot and write something that future you will enjoy reading. Most importantly, have fun.
One last thing: Don’t ever feel like you have to fill up a whole page. Even short entries can have a lasting effect.
Terrible handwriting aside, that’s quite a nice little nugget. 🙂
It’s been a while since I’ve had any publication news to share, but when it rains, it pours. (Or, as we say here in Texas, when it rains… we run outside and spin around in it, because it feels a little like magic.)
If you’re looking for something to read on a rainy day or on a day too hot to go outside, consider choosing something that includes one of my stories or poems.
Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things
Volume 3, Issue 1 of Ember is now available, and inside you’ll find “Teardrops and Watermelon Seeds.” This magical realism story was first published a few years ago in Spark: A Creative Anthology. It’s about a fourteen-year-old girl who goes through a summer of changes and is holding on to her memories in a unique way. I’m thrilled that E&GJ Little Press decided to publish it again because it’s one of my favorite stories. Plus, this time it’s paired with a beautiful illustration the talented Casey Robin and can be read alongside other stories for YA readers, including a few written by teenagers.
You can order a copy of Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things for yourself, your classroom, or a friend here. There are two print versions, one for $20 and one for $30. This journal is a little pricey, but it’s worth it. (Psst! If you plan on buying one, email me and I’ll give you a discount code for 35% off!)
Texas Poetry Calendar
I have been honored to have poems in the Texas Poetry Calendar eight times since 2009. These useful desk calendars, which have a weekly planner on one side of the page and a poem or two on the other, used to be published by Dos Gatos Press, but are now available through Kallisto Gaia Press. The 2019 volume includes my poem “Yellow,” which is about oak pollen. You can purchase one here. (Psst! I also have a poem in the 2018 calendar, and Dos Gatos Press has a few left. Get one here before the year is over!)
If you don’t need a planner or are low on cash, you can still read one of my recent stories for free! “The Mayor” was published a couple of weeks ago in Entropy’s series titled “The Birds.” “The Mayor” is fiction, but is based on a true story. Read it here.
I have one more story coming out soon. My clown horror story “Makeup,” which was a finalist in a Wattpad contest a couple of years ago, will be available for your listening pleasure on the Tales to Terrify podcast sometime in the next few months. I’ll keep you posted with the details when I know more.
I hope you enjoy perusing my work. Now, it’s time for me to get back to it…
(To see a list of all of my published writing, click here.)