Mediocrity rains

When I hear about the dummying down of America, I want to jump up, raise my hand and squeak, “Me! Me! Call on me!” but by then I’ve already forgotten what I have to say. Here on the blog, I can do about 6 posts with energy and then I want to go, “and blah, blah, blah” and then I tune out. It’s true, we’re sliding. When I just did a web search on mediocrity in America the first two citations up are: NFL playoff hopefuls thriving on mediocrity and Eli Manning rises above mediocrity. I am glad that somebody does rise.

There is a book in me. A good, well written book. The parentheses that proliferate here disappear and the ellipsis are eclipsed by stellar grammar that turns each phrase, just so. I have no idea where it is.

Rich wrote a book a week ago today. Truly, he did. For three years he’s been muttering, “I HAVE to write the book” and then a week ago Wednesday he phoned from work to ask if we had any plans for the weekend. I said not that I knew of, just that we were headed to D.C. Thursday morning early but nothing until then. He said, “Good. I think I’ll write the book.” He came home midday that Friday and went into his office and other than bathroom breaks and three for catnaps, he wrote his book. By Wednesday, before we left for the conference, he had a response from his editor and publisher.

He wrote 28000 words in 3 days and it will be edited and published and sold and then he’ll be asked to speak about it. I know this is true because this is how he wrote his doctoral thesis. While he was going to graduate school in his mid-twenties, he got married, had two children, held two jobs and dealt with family matters and then, in one week, he wrote his thesis about adolescence and the media. It was published and it got him a job teaching at Temple University and with Children’s Television Workshop. A couple years later, he wrote the ESPN Sports Poll, considered the most influential research tool in the industry today. Next, he’ll write the American Leisure Activities Poll. Probably in his office, probably with Sophie napping on the desk and his wife dropping food bundles at the door.

I think my book will be semi-fiction, which already begs the question of whether it could ever be published or not. And my book is actually your book. It is essays on every day life and death, made up of what I like to think of as chapters describing common phenomena. Publishers are not looking for oxymoronic anecdotal, humor with pathos, tales of the human condition. They want The Little Book of How To Go Green, Get Rich and Be Fulfilled in 30 Days. Now, I also find out that publishers basically want you to have the marketing plan in place for your own book before they even take it on. This feels a lot like the accountant wanting you to fill out 70 pages of “tax worksheets” so they can plug it into a program and “do your taxes” for 500.00. I have no marketing plan. If I had a marketing plan I would be selling these very lovely wool felted knitting needle cases by the gross, but I’m not.

Over the last three posts written here, the readability factor of my blog dropped from middle school level to elementary school. This is probably because I made fun of Miz. Mary’s blog but at least I’m now in good company. FC’s blog reads at high school level and while I find him utterly charming, completely edifying and visually stimulating, I can’t quite figure out the great disparity in reading levels. Perhaps I need to go back to throw in some species names of the zoo residents.

For a while there was a monthly blog author contest started by some misogynist I had difficulty stomaching. What was the name of that? Oh. Blogging for Books. I won that two of the four times I entered and received autographed books from published authors who judged the contest but between you and me, I have higher hopes as well as standards for my book, when it gets written. “The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

Just before leaving the house for D.C., I snagged The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway off my bookshelf. It’s one of many books purchased but not read and recently I decided to start making my way through some of these because I did, after all, buy them for a reason. The sales receipt says I bought this in 1989. This is her description of growing up in western outback Australia on a struggling sheep station, plagued by isolation and drought. The writing is simply stunning. She goes on to describe her growing interest in history, her extensive education and her world travels prior to becoming the first woman president of Smith College. (Smith College, the nation’s most distinguished college for women, had six male presidents before Ms. Conway.) This was a good book for me to read these past few days. There’s absolutely nothing mediocre about it. It’s exceptional. In today’s world of literature, an uncommon phenomenon. This book also made for some bittersweet feelings as it reminded me that I have, at odd moments, aspired to write well, study hard, learn much, achieve. I was accepted at Smith for graduate school in social work; at the time it was the world’s best. I stayed at University of Michigan so as to not be separated from a guy. Fortunately, U of M’s School of Social Work is now ranked #1, except, I’m no longer a practicing therapist. Now I have lots of things to do and lots of things to love and a couple things to hope for. One is that I’ll crank out a book.

I re-started writing in the hotel room in Washington. I’m using dead people (and an animal or two) as the vehicle to write a series of true and, in some case, embellished, essays. Deaths and events around deaths have been both very interesting and frankly marked with humor and pathos in my family. That’s what I know about. I was warming up to the task and had gotten as far as, “Chapter One. The Rabbit Was the First to Go. You might say that the rumors of my great uncle Ken’s death on the USS Arizona set my life in motion, but really, there was no sign of The Grim Reaper in my early childhood, until the rabbit met his violent demise.”

At that point, Rich climbed on the bed and did an imitation of McCloud begging for attention because he wanted me to listen to a run through of his conference keynote and I did. Probably, just as well.


16 responses to “Mediocrity rains

  1. Ah yes, the train of thought derailed by the attention-seeking husband. I know that phenomenon very well, and it is the main reason why I don’t think I’ll get that much done once the nest is empty: the husband will still be here. He doesn’t mean to do it, or even know he’s doing it, so I can’t really blame him… but still. There it is.

  2. Can I get an autographed copy when it comes out? I am in awe of you and your writing.

  3. I never know what I’m going to write about until my fingers touch the keyboard.

    I’ll buy your book. I know you, and anything you have to say is worth reading about. I want it autographed, too. With an inscription. And a picture.

    In fact, I can’t WAIT to read your book. I know it’s going to be fantastic.

  4. What Mamacita said!! Times Two!!

    I used to think I would grow up and write the great American novel, but I have finally realized it ain’t gonna’ happen, and an attention-seeking husband will not be the reason. I am simply not good enough to write fiction; I report on happenings and that is that.

  5. Popping back in to say – tag, you’re it! Haha. Also, Ignatz was three, so no, not alone, but parenting alone.

    As for the armadillo socks, the pattern is: knit some socks. Purl a row every so often. Voilà. Here are the original armadillos.

  6. That Rich could probably write every other paragraph of your book without knowing what it’s about. But that’s Rich….

  7. I am leaving you the same advice I left FC, compliments of Anne LaMott. She teaches in her book, Bird By Bird, that writing a novel is just a process of getting one inch at a time. When I was writing my novel (which is taking much longer to edit than it took to create), I kept a picture frame nearby with a one inch square in it. Just one inch is all you have to write, then, one more inch. It will be wonderful when you are done and we will all rush right out and buy it.

  8. In awe of Rich’s ability to crank out quality writing in a short span of time … but I’m always in awe of your writing here at the Wallmark too.
    (Thanks for the kind words too)
    Weird about the reading level scores … I can’t explain it … wait, maybe they’re wrong.

    I can’t decide on taking my story the young reader route, an audience I know well, or going adult.
    I like Cathy S’s advice too.

  9. Fine. Just kick my lazy, mediocre butt. Will you understand if I tell you that I think I hate your husband? I agree with you about the dumbing down of America — and I think it’s been going on a very, very long time.

  10. So, Rich is the Big Papa of sports research and you are his muse?

    Rest assured, you are a gifted writer, as well. Look how cleverly you sneaked into this post the fact that U of M has the best sociology department in the world!

    SPARTANS use sneaked,
    Wolverines, snuck.
    MSU produces grammarians
    U of M=WTF?!

    P.S. Have you read Madeleine L’Engle’s THE SUMMER OF THE GREAT-GRANDMOTHER? It is from her Crosswicks Journal Trilogy. Methinks you would love all three books!


  11. I had to take the test….Genius, I’m not sure that is positive. At any rate, I long to write a book also, but wonder if I could handle the rejection of agents and publishers along the road to actual completion. I think sometimes, the book is much better in my head.

  12. My Mom wanted me to go to Smith College (she was from Boston), but I was having none of that all-girl stuff. Lo these many years later I regret that decision. I think I would have had a much better college experience than the one I had at a very large Big Ten university where I was lost. So I’m now trying to convince Megan to consider small colleges and I mentioned Smith. Guess what her response was? Pretty funny (and surreal) to hear my response come out of her mouth almost 30 years later. : )

  13. Book is a 4 letter word.

    And Bonnie… so is YOGA. Hee…

  14. Whatever you write, make sure you show some creativity and imagination. Not that you don’t now, but I’ve been a volunteer reader of fiction wannabe writers lately (something wrong with the phrasing there but I don’t have time to fix it) and I’m surprised at the lack of inspiration. So write what inspires you.

  15. I did the blog rating thingy. It came back as College level – Undergrad. So, yeah, I put it on my sidebar. Snort.

    I still say we all have books in us. We just need the courage and time to put it all out there.

  16. Vicki's sister, Betsy

    Yay for Rich! After being in the PhD program in Rhetoric & Tech Communication at Michigan Tech for 10+ years, I wrote the dissertation that had been perking in my head for most of those years in 1.5 weeks, simultaneously with starting my new job at Western Michigan University. When it’s done perking, it can come pretty quick.

    Is that my bunny, Peter Rabbit (real original, but I was five), whose demise you’re recalling?

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