Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.

*Copyright notice* All photos, writing, and artwork are mine (
© Laura J. Wellner), unless otherwise noted, please be a peach, if you'd like to use my work for a project or you just love it and must have it, message me and we'll work out the details...it's simple...JUST ASK, please.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Summer Spent Editing "Drinking from the Fishbowl"

For a good part of this summer I have been busy editing Fishbowl...Even tho' it isn't finished yet, I'm considering the look of it...the book cover design...the photo above is an idea that is in consideration, I'm confident that my Fred will come up with a beautiful design from some of the things I've floated his way. The plan is to publish by the end of August...that's the plan in my head, because that's  Georgia Sullivan's birthday (one of the main characters.) We'll see if I can pull it off. It is close...very close.

The process seems to be taking forever, and each time through it, I find "something" (it's a bit maddening, obsessive compulsive, and yet terribly FUN! I love editing, and I do love this book, my weird little soap opera about dreams and realities. For the last five years of writing, editing, and going line by line backwards and forwards, the word count and page count expands and contracts...pages, paragraphs, and words are cut...more are put in...

Sometimes I go several days not looking at it at all, or thinking about it...I've written a few poems, a short bit or two... I submitted a poem The Chronic Need for a Magic Bullet to The Sun, I'm waiting for a response...it's about my 7 months on Vicodin for nerve pain from the shingles, a timely piece, a bit rambling...a less refined version is posted on my Wordpress website: https://laurajwryan.wordpress.com/poe-ems-and-other-short-stuff/essays-compositions-pontifications-musings-noise-rants-and-other-what-not/chronic/

Balance. It's about balance.  To do what I do I have to balance life and art...it's never easy...but I manage to do what I gotta do.

 When it's been very hot, I've spent time under the Three Sisters, the pine trees (Norway spruce, I think) in the corner of our acre...it's nice, cool, the crows living there like me because I feed them peanuts every day so my table is not shit on...remarkable. (The Mr. & Mrs. raised another baby, man that is one big cry baby, nigh pitiful, often hilarious...big enough to fly, yet whiny and fussy as can be!)

This bowl of ice cream...yes, it has significance in the plot...it's Georgia Sullivan's favorite flavor...and it must be green, it can't be plain.

 Of course...there are other creative plans rolling around in my head...one having to do with this fuzzy blue friend who was featured in my novel Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story...his name is Distinguished, and he would like me to tell his story some day...I'm thinking a children's book, watercolor illustrations...bright, sweet, a rescue of sorts...
He's a happy fellow isn't he? I resurrected him on Mother's Day weekend after many weeks of acquiring components to recreate the creature from my childhood...he was real, but my parent's dog chewed him up while I was away at college, there was no saving what was left, a sad end for a well-loved friend, part of the pantheon of stuffed animals who resided on my bed. I have no idea where he came from, other than a planet of blue fuzzy critters...I'm inclined to believe he was a homemade church bazaar purchase based on the "I am Slurp" critters who were popular at the time. The original had a permanent greasy smudge from the peanut butter sandwich I tried to share with him on a picnic in the backyard. He's very squeezable, tho' his mouth might fall off...yes, that is a pink hair curler...the best part about that curler, it was one from my mom's bathroom vanity, so it's special. I have promised him not to drop him in a puddle or try to share my peanut butter sandwich...just hugs and outings to watch the world go by...

 My wee donkey, Elizabeth turned 25 on July 7th, I gave her a brand new halter to replace her ratty one that she's probably worn for near that many years (it looks it.) She's precious. (Ears!) She loves hugs too.

 Okay...the politics have gone off the rails on Ozzy's Crazy Train and are careening into fucked up bat crap crazy land so...
Fuck. The VP is the Stove...can't go wrong. Dude, this thing made me laugh. Not much about this year's election is all that funny...well, John Stewart is a bright spot. I do have a political poem brewing...I'm channeling my little folk singer Dusty Waters, of course...she's plinking it out on a ukulele, but keeps stopping to hold her head...to keep it from shaking off her body, she's so disgusted.

Well, that's the news from my acre of the world in Upstate New York...

My thoughts regarding "Ark" by Julian Tepper

…“It’s a waste of time for a genius like me to peddle his art. I say get down to the bloody work, make something the world’s never seen, and when you’re dead perhaps they’ll find out about you—if they’re lucky!”

Oftentimes Ben would stop with his work and draw his hand through the air and say, “You see this? These paintings? These sculptures? They are perfectly meaningless things. And yet in making them I have felt what it feels like to be a king. And that stimulus to my brain, that knowledge of creation which I have gained...that, Jerome, is what all this making is about.” (p. 42)

Ark by Julian Tepper is a highly entertaining dark comedy, the plot is familiar and funny, it clips along at a steady, bite-sized pace—it does require a certain mindset to settle into the saddle for the fictional ride—and as with any book, I had trust in the author to tell the story from his unique vision. I say this because it is squirmy in that neurotic Woody Allen movie/ Seinfeld episode world that makes me roll my eyes—preparing myself for absurdities that are unreal, asking myself, “Who in their right mind behaves like this?” Well, people do act-out inappropriately depending on their circumstances—just open the newspaper on any given day and they are out there. The human condition is a curious state of affairs, like the fascination with disasters, people tie up traffic rubbernecking at car accidents; they peruse the front page of the tabloids at the checkout counter—yes, remarkable, we have a fixation on tragedy and scandal, but there wouldn’t be a story without it. I have to point out here, that there’s something special about New York City—the quirky stories about it and its inhabitants; it’s steeped in the American literary tradition. New York City is this big fabulous place constructed onto this small parcel of real estate, it’s jam packed with the human condition, and complex circumstances that can be unbelievable to some, but absolutely normal to those living it. I’m just a small town girl from Upstate New York, so the place alternately fascinates and puzzles me most of the time.

No matter where you’re from, or how wealthy you are (or not) the best of families can disintegrate into petty squabble-fests over things and money in a heartbeat (because someone’s heart ceased to beat)—blood is thicker than water, and then there’s familial shit slinging. The book immediately careens away from Ben’s peaceful and quirky morning routine, which until I viewed Ben from another perspective a few pages later, it was sad to see him differently than how he perceives himself. We’re all guilty of that—there are some days the mirror is unforgiving. Anyway, the true circumstances of the story immediately comes in the form of Ben’s wife, Eliza, as the broader issue of money and needing to acquire money to pay the bills. She suggests going to the Russian to sell diamonds—the suggestion made my core clench—this can only go badly in some form—the human condition bomb is ticking. At times, as I’ve gotten older, I look around me and wonder what I have to sell should things go financially south—I don’t have a clutch of diamonds. Writing books? Nah, no money in that (she laughs.) I do have a ton of artwork that I made, but I know no one will pay what I think it’s worth, so I’m a miser and hang on to most of them, when I’ve sold certain ones I always regret it. I have antiques, lots of bits of this and that from my mother’s house—one massive auction might solve things only if the prices are right—typically, not. I have my house, it’s paid for, but I intend to die here some day in a far off date in the future, so that’s not for sale. See, the magic of books is simply amazing—they get ya thinkin’ about stuff—generating empathy for the characters—so from that point, I was in. Ben and Eliza, the diamonds, the acquisition of funds—the story dominos were properly set up, then the telephone rang within another page, that’s when they all started the rapid clicking fall to the inevitable chaos of a thing called life with the Arkin family. Life can be ugly once the details unfold, family dynamics, damage done—who did what to who, when—the mystery of the human condition bomb, wired up, the timer winding down, ready to blow. The imposition of anxiety pulses through the narrative going from bad to worse, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does. It was relentless.

Serenity now! (*wink*)

I like to immerse myself into a book, live there, experience it, so when I finished Ark, I was glad it was over—not in a bad way—I needed time. Look at it like this, I’m  the awkward little introvert at a party populated by extroverts, all I want to do is sit in a corner drinking wine while playing with the host’s cat, absorbing everything going on around me, waiting for the right time to leave, not wanting to be the first person out the door. If the cat and I are having fun interacting in the corner, I’ll be the last person out the door, tipsy, grinning foolishly at the host and telling them, “I had a wonderful time.” In this book, the cat and I had our brief quality time, but the cat ran off to hide under the bed because someone’s allergy to cats kicked in and the host was trying to catch it. I was ready to leave so I could digest all that I observed while people watching—I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t sleepy either, I was overwhelmed, which is easy when the story has so much in so few pages, very little room to breathe. My little Upstate brain and I needed to take a turn sitting on the beach with a bottle of wine, tuning out everyone—if Ben and Eliza’s granddaughter, Rebecca, showed up, I’d kindly tell her to go find her own patch of beach. This is mine.

When I finish reading a book, I retrace my steps within a day or two. I return to the parts that I think about or do a random drop in to reread a paragraph or two, sometimes more. I typically dog-ear pages or in the case of e-books bookmark, highlight, and I write notes. Where did I go? I revisited Jerome—he was the cat in the corner. I have to admire Jerome for his genuine concern, his patience, and especially his diligence to finish Ben’s last work of art—it was the most touching interlude because he still had hope—even if it was unpromising and a bit foolhardy—he still possessed enough unscathed innocence to hope. When Rebecca saw what he had been working on in Ben’s studio, she was impressed, Jerome was high on the energy that comes from creation, but she was too punch-drunk from the emotional battery to care about anything more than self-preservation. She did warn him to run, but he had his own vision to make Ben famous. This would mean becoming entangled in the Arkin family war, the fragmented clamoring hoard of the Arkin family goes on—life goes on after the book is done, as it should. It’s a tidy little package, I must say, even with the spite and spit of the bitter family feud.

“…I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again…these are just meaningless objects. It’s the experience of making the work. That’s the thing!” …“Yes, I was there for the creation,” Ben continued. “That’s what it’s about, Jerome. The rest…the rest is all a lot of bullshit.” (p.47)

Ark by Julian Tepper
Dzanc Books
Publication Date: September 2016
Hardcover: 224 pages
ISBN: 978-1-941088-29-6

[Synopsis: Ben Arkin, patriarch of the family, is an artist who has never sold a piece. His children, Sondra, Doris, and Oliver run a record label that has never produced a hit, and that Ben and his wife have bankrolled. When Doris strikes out to form her own label, Sondra sues the entire Arkin family, setting about a series of events that ultimately lead to their demise. The story is told primarily from the perspective of Oliver’s daughter, Rebecca, an attorney who might be the only redeeming member of the Arkin family. Rebecca attempts to keep the family from collapsing, while trying desperately to extricate herself from their grasp.]