Publication.

So, I have my first publication up at Hobart. Currently it’s sitting on the home page (!) but its permalink is here.

Of course, I’m super excited. I love Hobart! I’m finally published! These are amazing things to consider.

I wanted to write a few words about my name. Those of you who know me in real life know my last name isn’t Capet. I will be publishing under the name Lauren Capet. For a whole host of reasons, it’s not right for me to publish under my other last name. Let’s just say, a different name affords some anonymity and some distance between real (complicated) life and the things I write. I’m sure my children will thank me.

If you’re wondering where Capet came from, it’s the name French revolutionaries gave to Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI when they were stripped of their royal titles. (For those of you who don’t know: I’ve got somewhat of a Marie Antoinette obsession.)

But anyway, visit (and support) Hobart — it’s a great site and a fantastic print journal. I’m honored to be there.

Harvest.

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Tiny currant tomatoes!
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On our way to becoming pickles!

There is always so much to do in the fall. We’ve dug potatoes, we’ve harvested the beans we let dry on the stalks. We used the last of the grass clippings to mulch in the surviving cabbages. We processed our apples for days. Our apple cider is amazing! I’ve got five gallons of hard cider brewing now, too. It’s bubbling away happily in its giant bucket.

But possibly my favorite harvesting chore this fall was making these awesome pickled tomatoes. These currant tomatoes just re-seed themselves all over the garden, so they’re all over the place. We had so many this year. They’re fussy to pick, but they’re so sweet and good — I just couldn’t let the harvest go to waste. I found a recipe to pickle them, but it called for rosemary and we didn’t have any in the garden. (This is  my fault; I thought I was buying little rosemary plants, but I bought lavender instead. Oops.) Thankfully, though, the very awesome Breezy Hill Farms just up the road from us had rosemary — they picked a bunch especially for me! So I got home, put the tomatoes in jars with garlic and the rosemary and vinegar and processed them in the boiling water bath. It was super easy. I can’t wait to taste them!

Lola.

Almost a year ago, Molly and I decided it was time to think about getting a dog. Knowing there are so many pitbulls who need homes, we decided we would rescue a pitbull from the awesome Northeast Ohio rescue group Live Love Rescue. (I can’t say enough: They are completely great. Support them. If you live in the area, get your next dog from them. There are so many dogs — pitbulls, especially — in need of homes!)

Lola was five months old when Live Love Rescue got a hold of her. She was rescued with her siblings from a house in Columbus. Cops had arrested her “owner” in a drug bust of some kind, and when they saw five pups in a cage, fighting over food that was apparently just dumped on their heads from outside the cage, they called Animal Control. Animal Control didn’t want to euthanize these pups, so they began reaching out to rescue groups. None of the groups in Columbus could handle five pitbulls, so they reached out to Cleveland groups and LLR sent a volunteer to get the dogs.

Molly and I were early in our dog search. We wanted to meet some people from LLR and see what kinds of dogs they might have, so we took my daughter Rose to an adoption event LLR was having. We met lots of cute dogs. We played for a while with Lola’s brother Blue, who was really cute but far too “couch dog” for our tastes. We saw Lola’s sister Apple, who was sweet, but still not for us.

And then we saw Lola. Lola was not with her foster mom or dad like most other dogs were. She was too rambunctious for a leash. She was chained to a tree under a shade tent. She kept using her chain to nearly topple the tent. When volunteers let her play with other dogs, she was uncontrollable. She was within sight of a porta-potty (we were at an orchard), and every time somebody used the potty, she would potty-shame them, calling attention to them by barking. (I found this hilarious.) She was not a settled, composed dog.

Molly, Rose and I went inside the orchard store to discuss the dogs. We unanimously agreed we all liked Lola best. We wanted a high-energy dog, and Lola was most definitely that. We began the adoption process, and a few days later, we had Lola at our house.

At first she seemed unsure. She definitely did not know how to be socialized in a family of people. (And cats!) But she learned quickly. During her year with us, she has become a sweet, smart, funny, playful, obedient, helpful, loveable girl. We adore her. I cannot imagine life without her.

Below: Lola, (almost) a year with us, in pictures.

Garden.

Molly and I are about to leave for an extended getaway, and so we’re in a rush to get the garden ready for our absence. Molly planted beets, Chinese cabbage, daikon radishes, kale and broccoli so we’d have a winter garden to come home to. The peas we’d harvested earlier have re-seeded themselves, we discovered, so we’ll have a second crop of those in late fall if we are lucky.

We are sad to see our tomatoes aren’t quite ripe yet. Looks like they’ll mostly ripen while we’re away. We hope we’ll have enough to make some pasta sauce and my favorite canned tomatoes when we get back. We’ve harvested onions, garlic, zucchini and cucumbers recently, but our tomato crop just isn’t cooperating with our schedule…

Enjoy the pictures, and enjoy what’s left of summer! It goes so fast.

Defended!

I just successfully defended my thesis.

Yes, it’s really true. My thesis is done, I passed my defense, and I’m going to graduate.

In the end, as always, I got it together. I wrote. I set aside the angst and obsessing and the panic and the fear, and I wrote. I was able to hand a workable thesis to my committee. No, I’m not happy with it, and no, as a novel, it is most definitely not finished. (It’s not even a complete first draft.) There are parts of it that totally suck. But it’s the biggest project I’ve ever attempted. It’s 150-some pages of fiction that I actually wrote. And I don’t hate it. (Well, I don’t hate it all the time, and that’s progress.)

Until my committee brought me back into the room to tell me I passed, I didn’t believe I would. But I did, and I’m going to graduate.

It was actually one of the best afternoons of my life — to sit in a room with my committee (and Molly, of course, my spectator-supporter) and talk about my writing, to engage with a community of writers about my own work — it was pretty incredible. It felt really good. The defense was a perfect capstone to my MFA years. It was a total rush.

Afterward I got to have lunch with awesome Amy — who also graduated this summer, and who defended her thesis yesterday, too — and Molly, at Newdle! A celebratory drink never tasted so good.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my thesis committee: Chris Barzak, Eric Wasserman and Catherine Wing. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are awesome.

San Fran.

Myself and Molly at the DOMA decision day rally in the Castro!
Myself and Molly at the DOMA decision day rally in the Castro!

Molly and I just got back from ten days in San Fransisco. She was teaching at an LGBT summer institute held at the California Institute of Integral Studies. I was able to attend the institute and get inspired to be the best Intro to LGBT Studies instructor I can be — which was nice, since I am teaching Intro to LGBT Studies online right now, and I was teaching it during the trip. (Online teaching is amazing.) Robyn Ochs led a really transformative workshop on identity that has already led me to change how I teach my students about the supposed gay-straight dichotomy.

It turns out we were in San Fransisco — staying in an apartment in the Castro — the day the DOMA decision and Prop 8 were struck down. There was a rally in the streets that night, and the energy was amazing. I’ll never forget it. A couple days later we marched in the San Fransisco Pride parade, part of the Bradley Manning contingent. It felt great to engage in a little bit of activism. I made signs!

We managed to squeeze in some relaxation, shopping, incredible meals, socializing and some city park hiking during the trip. And, of course, my thesis was a presence, too, always being thought about or tweaked or obsessed over. Writing in a cafe on Church Street on a sunny afternoon was a pretty great experience.

Now it’s back home, kitties, the dog, the overgrown thicket that is our garden, and, of course, that thesis deadline looms…

Thesis?

I’m trying to finish writing my goddamned thesis.

I say trying, but I really mean, not writing. I’m avoiding. I’m stressing out.

I’ve done a lot of thinking, over the years, about “writer’s block” — more specifically, about my own specific brand of it, my own inability to write. I am not sure this thing called “writer’s block” even is a thing that exists, but I’ve done a lot of reading, over the years, about other writers’ processes. I’ve read more books about writing than I can count. I think about this issue every darned day. I’ve puzzled over my slow pace, my lack of productivity. And I’ve beaten myself up about it for years. Boy, can I be hard on myself. You don’t even know.

Inside my complicated head are two simultaneous ways of thinking. One:

You should write, and look at how much other writers manage to write, and why aren’t you writing? What’s wrong with you? You’re lazy.

And then, two:

You do not have permission to write. You aren’t supposed to be a writer. Writers cause trouble. Writers tell the truth. You suck, anyway. You couldn’t ‘tell the truth’ if you tried. Stop it. Who do you think you are?

In books about writing, many authors say they owe their success to discipline. They get up in the morning and they sit down and they write. I do not mean to make light of that discipline — nor do I mean to suggest it’s easy for those writers. I know it’s not easy for anybody. But I possess an amazing amount of discipline when it comes to other things. I am by no means a lazy person. Yet I cannot sit down and write as a daily habit. There is something bigger than “discipline” or “habit” standing between me and writing. My inability to write is a lot harder to untangle than those “butt in chair” proponents would have me believe.

Although, on the other hand, it is true: my butt is not in the chair, and if it were, I might be writing.

I’ve long described myself as a writer who does not write. I’m a writer — that is who I am, who I have always been. “Writer” is part of my identity. I think about writing every single day. When I am falling asleep, I am writing stories or poems in my head. When I am running or stuck in traffic or folding laundry I am stringing together sentences. This is how I live. I have a writer’s brain, for sure. But I so rarely sit down to write.

It comes back to that permission thing. Why do I feel like I’m not allowed to write? Of course, I know that permission isn’t out there somewhere, it’s not external. It’s somewhere inside my crazy writer head. It needs to come from me.

I just wish I could figure out how to unlock that, how to tell myself: It’s okay. You can write. Go. Finish that thesis.