Category Archives: Clarion West


This is my CW class waiting for Chuck Palahnuik’s reading. I had a terrible camera when I was there so I only have a few awful pictures. My advice to CW students: make sure you don’t have a crap camera.

I keep forgetting to post that I’m doing the beg-a-thon again this year.

I’ve sent out a few super-impersonal spams begging for money and I may send a few more.

Meanwhile, here I am doing one of my most unfavorite things: asking people for money.

This is a fundraiser for Clarion West the organization that puts on the writing workshop I did in 2008.

My adventures are here (scroll to the bottom to start at the beginning.)

I think I said my stated goal says 1000 words a week because the workshop starts during World Cup but I’ll probably do more like 3000 a week.

You can sponsor me. I’m going to match donations for the first $100 so if I can get 20 people to sponsor me for $5 (only $5! You can probably find that much on the floor in the car) I will make my goal of donating $200. You can donate more if you want. $20. $100. $1 million. All will be appreciated and if you donate $1 million we can probably arrange to have a building named after you.

If you’ve ever had a dream of donating money to deserving writing nerds, this is your big chance.

My donation page is here. If you like Paypal you can donate with a few clicks.

If you don’t like Paypal you can mail a donation. That information is here. If that’s too much trouble you can mail or give to me. You can throw it at me and I’ll run back and forth with a bucket and try to catch it.

If you don’t want to give it to me there’s a huge long list of other writers you can sponsor.

And if you’re tired of people asking you for money, then you can think good thoughts.

I’ll post a weekly update on how I’m doing.

And huge thanks to everyone who already donated. I really appreciate it.

Posted in Clarion West, doing it wrong | 10 Comments

The Things We Do For Love

Before I tell about my weekend I want to link to this hilarious interview in the NYT with John Waters.
Choice quote:

Q: Is there anyone you would actually kill if you knew you could get away with it?

A: I find it repellent when people do yoga exercises at the gate in airports. I want to kill them.

I have never done yoga exercises in the gate in an airport. But I saw someone this weekend and it didn’t even annoy me.

I went to Madison, Wisconsin this weekend to hang out with Clarion West people. The time there was fantastic but the journey each way was doodoo.

I took a “red eye” there and I put red eye in quotes because you leave Portland at 11pm and arrive in Chicago 3.5 hours later which would be 4:30a with the time change only the pilot managed to get us there at 4am. My hero.

My next flight didn’t leave until O’Hare until 7:30a but the gate was on the other end of the world so I took a long leisurely walk to get there stopping here and there to watch people in line for coffee and look for a comfortable place to read where I wasn’t freezing my ass off.

I got to my hotel by 9am and they let me check-in and I went upstairs and went to sleep for a few hours and managed to feel human for most of the weekend.

The trip home wasn’t the worst trip home of my life but it’s in the top 10.

I was already sad from leaving everyone and I had another 3.5 hour layover at O’Hare. Departing at 8:45 to arrive home at 11pm.

I was one of the last people to board and as I shuffled to my seat in the next to last row of the plane the Captain updated us on our delay which I was hearing about for the first time.

As I understood it they were deep in the innards of the nose cone repairing some critical something with duct tape when they realized there were rubberbands that needed replacing, too, so they had another maintenance guy out looking for rubberbands and the rubberband expert. It would only be a few short minutes.

One third of the people on the plane decided they needed to use the restroom and only one restroom in the back worked because of course the riffraff can’t go use the golden toilet in the front. So for the next “few short minutes” which in airport talk could mean anything I had a series of asses in my face and people shaking my seat because apparently its difficult to walk on a parked plane without grabbing the headrests for support. Finally after an hour the pilot announces that the rubberbands and duct tape have done the trick. We’d be leaving in a few short minutes.

Meanwhile, a man noticed 2 empty seats in the row behind me and decided to change seats and then start a conversation with the woman already sitting there. It was one of those conversations where they talked about stuff that everybody already knows and kept one upping each other with how smart they were. It was like listening to people reenact the world’s most annoying comment thread on the NYT website.

My iPod battery was dead (dammit!) and I semi-drifted off to sleep to their unpleasant drone while we headed for our runway. After a bunch of driving we stopped.

The Captain says: You might have noticed we’re not in Portland yet. We’ve had reports of a strange noise in the back of the plane and we’re getting it checked out.

We had just done a scenic drive of the airport and returned to where we started.

After another hour or so the pilot says a bunch of stuff about checking the cargo and hatches and some sort of fahrvergnugen and everything looked okay. They also checked the manual and turns out that kind of plane sometimes makes funny noises.

I’m not making that up. The pilot told us they checked the manual. At this point I’m pretty confident that I’m going to die and since I’m in the back of the plane I’m going to be stuck with the tailies and that I’m going to have to haunt a certain person for putting that bad mojo out in the universe.

Then after another “few short minutes” of paperwork we really took off and I fell asleep finally and woke up on descent.

I got on the ground at 1am. My sweetheart was there waiting for me. I was in bed by 2am. All my stuff smells like airplane

It was worth it.

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Read the Title of the Blog

That’s my filing pile being measured by my Star Wars ruler in front of my XFiles poster. I’m not sure if the photo makes the filing look scary enough. That’s a full day and a half’s worth.

I’m not blog posting or novel writing in an national daily participatory fashion this month, in case anyone is wondering. I’m still doing my writing contest with my classmates and I might write more about that some other time.

One of my two steps forward three steps back things involves my retirement plan from the old firm. I wasn’t going to write about it because it seemed bad form to whine about my retirement plan when people don’t have jobs. But then it’s sort-of a joke to call the money I’ve been squirreling away the past 20 years which is now worth only slightly more than if I’d lit it on fire a “retirement plan.”

I left my money in the firm’s plan when I left, intending to move it eventually but it was fine where it was. But the company that held the funds decided to discontinue small business retirement plans. I received a giant blob of papers and instructions that I needed to make a decision right away. So I made the phone calls, did the homework, filled out 37 pages of forms, got my husband’s notarized signature, my firm’s guaranteed signature and mailed it off all in plenty of time.

I phoned the fund company this week to follow up (10 days later): “We’ve no record of your paperwork.”

Now I’m on a deadline so I had to drop everything and start all over and then overnight the paperwork which is what I should have done in the first place. As of today it seems hopeful that this might be resolved. But too early for cartwheels.

Meanwhile, I had a bit of news from last weekend that I never shared. My husband and I are in possession of plane tickets to Amsterdam in March. [LameAss Airlines] was having a killer deal and we’d sorta been talking about it so we made some calls and then bought the tickets right away because it had to be done last weekend.

After I got my confirmation I realized there was a typo in my name. It’s not major but I didn’t want something like that to fubar our plans so I contacted the airline right away and explained the problem and asked if there was something I should do.

This is the [slightly edited] response I got:

Dear Mr. Rentz,

Thank you for contacting us through [out website]. We are sorry for the delay in responding to your message.

Once the tickets are issued, the name on the reservation cannot be changed.

Again, thank you for writing. We appreciate your selection of [our lameass airline] and will always welcome the opportunity to be of service.

First of all, computerbot OR foreign help desk: Pamela is a woman’s name. Try a little harder.

Second, I’m sorry. Did I miss something? Does that response qualify as “be[ing] of service” by any definition of that phrase?

Further research with no help by LameAss Airlines indicates that it probably won’t be an issue but if it is, it will be a ginormous pain-in-the-ass issue. I’m going to be at the airport in a couple of weeks and I’m going to see if I have any luck at the counter. I just don’t want to be prepared to board an international flight and have someone tell me that my ID doesn’t match the name on my ticket and to go home and better luck next time.

Posted in Clarion West, doing it wrong | 3 Comments

Someone Should Invent a Day with More Hours

I’m doing a writing contest with my Clarion West classmates. It started October 1 and goes to the end of the year. I won’t explain all the rules or bore you with my goals. The main idea behind the contest is to get everyone working harder. And I am.

The real point of my story is to talk about how all this writing productivity is ruining my TV watching. I now have 1 hour or less a day to watch TV. And the DVR is filling up faster than that.

I gave up on Flash Forward. I didn’t love it but normally would have given it a few more episodes but I thought I better quit before I got invested. I wanted to watch Three Rivers but only because it was staring that hot vampire guy from Moonlight. I gave it 15 minutes before I deleted and I didn’t hate it but didn’t understand how it wasn’t like all the other hospital shows out there.

Does anyone even have to invent shows anymore? It seems like almost every show involves solving cases or hospitals or someone/something with powers. Or reality shows which barely have to be invented. Is there a giant automator and you plug in a few characteristics and a show is kicked out the other side?

Which reminds me: why isn’t Sons of Anarchy the most popular show on TV? It’s an awesome show with motorcycles and violence and this season Henry Rollins is a special guest star and a total evil badass. Plus there was scene with Jax getting out of the shower. I think I lost consciousness for a minute when I saw it.

I don’t know what to do about Stargate Universe because it looks like the kind of scifi geek show that I would love. But I’m not invested yet, I could walk away right now because I haven’t had time to watch even one.

I’m not making a list of all my shows because most of them are embarrassing. I think there are seven plus Mad Men which I watch with Bob. Poor me and my problems.

I have a crazy busy week coming up including a couple days out of town for work. I will barely be online if at all for the next couple of days.

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Clarion West Begathon Final Wrap Up

Vancouver, WA, Franklin Park looking towards the Columbia River.

Words this week: 3296
Total for 6 weeks: 22,148
Submissions this week: 2
Total for 6 weeks: 4 *

*When I made this goal my intention was to submit two brand new things that had never been submitted before. However, during the 6 week period I ended up revising two different things to be resubmitted. So technically I submitted 4 things. But I only submitted one brand new thing never submitted before and I actually did that about 15 minutes ago which is being pretty generous with the cut off since the workshop ended yesterday. But at my house the week started on Sundays which means the last day of the week would be Saturday. Yeah, I like to make my own rules. That’s why I want to be in charge of everything.

Thanks again to everyone who supported the cause. That URL one more time is

I re-read my post from yesterday and it’s nearly incoherent. Like my revised Beg-A-Thon Rules.

More photos from the new pocket camera:

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Clarion West Begathon Week #5 Progress Report

Words this week: 3900
Submissions: 0 (I’ve done 1 of 2 I pledged)

Previous updates: Week #4, Week#3, Week#2 and Week #1

I had a whole list of stuff I was going to write about today but I never got around to it and now it’s late and I’m ready for bed.

Here’s the short version:

Torchwood = awesome. However, I thought the soundtrack was distractingly over-the-top in several extended scenes.

The Awl is my new favorite website. This week they ran part 8 of 14 of Managed Expectations: Staying Positive in Portland. This is the only part I read but it’s especially hilarious to me.

Sample quote:

Do you think I could be a stripper? I mean, I would be a subversive one because I would only dance to, like, Belle and Sebastian and Bikini Kill and I would probably try to organize a union.” Nicole stopped the waitress and asked for agave for her yerba mate.

Bob rented Wise Blood from Netflix. The disk includes an audio recording of Flannery O’Connor reading “A Good Man is Hard to Find” which is one of my favorite shorts stories of all time. I’d be surprised if the clip isn’t online somewhere but you’re going to have to dig around yourself otherwise rent the movie. It’s worth tracking down.

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Clarion West Begathon Week #4 Progress Report

Word Count: 4069
Submission: 1 (see? I’m going to come through)

Previous updates: Week#3, Week#2 and Week #1

About once a year I put together a list and buy a big bunch of spices from Penzey’s. I just got my order this week. Anyone who’s known me for 5 minutes will know that I veer toward the thrifty. Co-worker was making fun of me last week for washing the plastic forks after lunch.

I am a big fan of bay leaves but I’ve had this bag for at least 2 years, probably longer. I figured it was time to just toss these and get some new ones. You can see I’ve barely made a dent in my 1 oz. bag.

I placed my order assuming I was buying the smallest bag which is why I was shocked when I opened the box to find this. It’s 4 oz. in case you can’t tell.

If you know me in the real world, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I will arrive at your door shortly with some fresh bay leaves. Also everything in this house from chai to tacos will be made with bay leaves.

When are the tomatoes going to be ready? I’m so impatient. I check them every day. I also have some sort of squash that volunteered. Three times. That’s the wonder of compost, no doubt. I still can’t be sure what shape they are. They look like green ones shaped like hearts.

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Clarion West Write-A-Thon Week 1 Progress Report

Here’s the biggest tomato

(My spellcheck wants to correct it to: write-a-ton. ha!)

Info about the Write-a-Thon here and Clarion West Writeathon Page.

My goal is 3000 words a week and 2 story submissions during the six weeks as in sending something finished to a market. Week one really ended yesterday and this is my progress as of then.

Word count: 3655
Stories submitted: 0 (not to panic, still lots of time)

If you still want to contribute, it’s not too late. My donation page is here or there’s an address to send checks at the URL above or you can contact me and I’ll help you out.

I have an incredibly busy week coming up and won’t make it home before 7pm except for the night I don’t make it home before 9pm.

I’m scanning some stuff from the party book for short posts. The whole book is so awesome, it’s tough to choose.

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View downriver from the access road to Dolans Bar, Klamath River, Orleans, California

I’m on my way out town (as soon as I bathe, pack, make lunch, put away laundry, burn some CDs for the car, go to Trader Joes, the bank, Toyota, and Edelweiss German Deli) for a long weekend and I almost completely forgot to post about the Clarion West Writeathon that starts on Sunday.

I sent out a notice but if you didn’t get one and feel bad that no one asked you for money, here’s your big chance to sponsor me for a very good cause. And if you already donated: super huge thank you!

Last summer I attended the workshop. You can read all my adventures here.

The organization that puts on the workshop is Clarion West (non-profit – tons of people donate all kinds of time and energy to make this happen).

My goals for the 6 weeks are to write 3000 words a week and to submit two stories for publication. I’ve been a big fat chicken about submitting so two stories in six weeks might not sound like much but it’s a lot for me. Charlene challenged me to double the words but it’s summer dang it. I already work hard, I don’t want to spend all my spare summer moments hunched over the keyboard.

I’m asking for sponsorship during the event. I’m going to match donations for the first $200 so if I can get 20 people to sponsor me for $10 (only $10!) I will make my goal of donating $400. And I think I’m close.

If you’ve ever had a dream of donating money to nerds, this is your big chance. Here’s my donation page. If you want to avoid Paypal there are alternate instructions here and if you don’t like me there’s a huge long list of other writers you can sponsor. Any and all donations are welcome. Even $1. Seriously. This organization thrives on micro-donations. And if you have no money, then nice thoughts are perfectly acceptable.

I’ll post weekly reports on what I’ve been doing.

Huge thanks to everybody everywhere for everything. Have a good weekend.

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 Madison’s Happiest Corner

For the benefit of my three loyal readers who have no clue what I’m up to: I was in Madison, Wisconsin for Wiscon for the weekend. It was really just an excuse to reunite with a bunch of Clarion West friends.

I knew I was going to be getting home late last night so I took today off which was a good thing because I was so tired I would have been worthless.

But I’d expected to get all kinds of stuff done like unpacking and organizing photos and writing a kickass blog post and these things barely happened. What did happen is I had an epic two-hour, underneath-the-covers nap. Often when I nap I do it on the couch. When I do nap on the bed, it’s only on top of the covers.

I’m not sure where these rules originated. I think at one point I had a theory about making sure my body didn’t get confused between sleeping and napping. Regardless, I started dragging around 11:30am so I crawled back in bed and it was brilliant. If I was a hobbit, I’d write a song about it to sing when I went on long adventures.

I might do a better Wiscon post later. I have tons of photos. I waited too long and don’t have time to do anything better than this tonight.

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