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Rita Arens
My name is Rita Arens. I like to write. A lot. Many pages.
Recent Activity
I am working, at the moment, with a big black cat who used to be an overly-long-yet-still-skinny black kitten asleep in my lap. He has utterly ruined me for the rest of the cat world. I'm in love with black cats. His fur is silky beyond compare and shines in lamplight. He has tiny tufts of white fur at the epicenter of his little ears. Even his nose is black, so when he closes his eyes and curls up on a black blanket, he disappears. He has the power of invisibility. We were at PetSmart buying ridiculously expensive prescription cat food for this little black cat who almost died last year of urinary blockage (remember that??), and they had four little black kittens of varying sizes in one of those stand-up adoption cages. We swooned. Even Beloved, who says NO every time I ask if we can get Kizzy a friend. (And I don't really argue that hard, because there is peace in my home now and I'm not sure if peace would reign if we challenged Kizzy's ownership of Chateau Travolta.) But the three of us stood for ten minutes before the four little black kittens and poked our fingers through the wire to touch their little furry black toes and fawned over their perfect black noses and noticed how when they curled up on top of each other and closed their eyes, they disappeared into a pillow of silky black fur. I wanted THEM ALL. How cool is it that while all cats are gray in the dark, black cats can actually disappear? Who else among us has such superpowers? Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Surrender, Dorothy
Well, Southwest Airlines has sent me three very nice emails telling me they are thurching and thurching for my writing notebook, but alas, I fear it's gone. Gone, gone, gone, along with all those lovely ideas for chapter beginnings for my new novel. I remember what the device was, just not the embodiments of the device. Going to have to go eavesdrop again. Twenty years ago, this would've been my worst nightmare. Twenty years ago. Before I'd lost entire computers and phones full of information. Before I'd lost jobs. Before I'd lost people. Man, twenty years ago I didn't know shit. Now I'm a little sad but mostly annoyed because there were some good chapter heading ideas in there that took a good three hours to conjure in the car on the way home from Thanksgiving in Iowa. When I got home, I went to my stash of hard-covered, spiral-bound, lined notebooks and picked another one. Then I printed out the brain dump I'd vomited into a Word document in the hotel the night I realized the notebook was gone. Then I pulled out the last notebook from THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES, because there were some notes on the new idea in there, too. I'm still new enough to this novel-writing gig that I don't have a real set process yet. It does seem to be one notebook per book, though. Even if it's not, I may make it so, because it seems clean, and everything else about writing is messy. But I still couldn't start again. I decided I needed a different music line-up, so I made one, and in doing so I realized we've only downloaded about 1/6 of our music collection onto the Mac. It's so tedious, the downloading. Beloved used to be a DJ and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
Sure! It was nice to meet you.
Toggle Commented Dec 8, 2014 on On Robert Plant and Art at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply
I was driving to meet a friend for dinner when I heard a Robert Plant interview on the radio. I've searched in vain to find a transcript; I think it's lost to the winds of change. I grew up on Led Zeppelin, as classic rock lives on in southwest Iowa today as it did in its heydey. Middle America is where time stands still for old-school rock and roll, as it does for mall hair and some forms of acid-wash jeans. There are places deep in the heart of Nebraska where I assume people are still pegging their jeans, similar to the Space Odyssey: a land where time stood still and perhaps the universe ceased to rotate for several decades. That, my friends, is western Nebraska. Anyway, Robert Plant was talking about his creative process. He said if he listened to what people wanted him to be at this point in his career it would all be awful, that he had to create what he is now for himself. As I was driving deeper into Kansas and reflecting on my own tiny writing career, I thought to myself, wow, if Robert Plant has deep existential questions, then I am totally fucked. But that's it, isn't it? This is all there is, for all of us, what we have in this moment. Lay down your swords, boys, this is who you are. Today I worked with Laura Fraser on a session at BlogHer PRO all about putting together a book proposal, which I did for SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK in 2006 or 2007. The book came out in 2008. If I did today what I did in 2008 for SIFTW, I doubt it would have been published. If I did twenty years ago what I did for THE OBVIOUS GAME... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
I will work on it on the plane tomorrow morning!
1 reply
While a lot of my friends were killing it posting every day in November for NaBloPoMo (that's National Blog Posting Month for the uninitiated), I think I set a Surrender, Dorothy record for least amount of posts in a month, ever. A series of events overlapped like a time-sucking eclipse of crazy this month. It won't get much better next week, as I'm leaving tomorrow on a jet plane to go to BlogHer PRO '14 in the Bay area to speak on a panel about book publishing with the awesome Laura Fraser of SheBooks. And that is fun and exciting, and I love to talk about book publishing, but all this moving about isn't conducive to blogging. Here is an incomplete list of things I've been meaning to write about, in no particular order: Robert Plant The World Series of Poker My Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge Black kittens Holiday decor Running Midlife crises The new novel Maybe now I will actually write about those things, since I put them there so they can bother me with their unfinished-y-ness. Right? Here are some things I wrote or co-wrote at BlogHer in November: Mike Brown, #Ferguson & "You Should've Seen This Coming" How to Write a Headline or Teaser Copy That's Impossible to Ignore 5 Ideas for Your Picky Tween (That Aren't a Toy) Have You Seen Kim Kardashian's Golden Globes? 5 Products to Ease Your Travel Stress Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving! Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
Never give up. That is my philosophy. In writing and, it seems, in running. I'm querying THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES and BELLA EATS THE MONSTERS. I just signed up for the Kansas City Marathon's Half-Marathon. It is in OCTOBER. That should be warmer, right? If I just keep trying, I will eventually succeed. Because that is how it works. Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
Yes, they did start to hurt, kind of dull achey.
1 reply
OMG, it was so cold. Our car thermometer read 27 degrees when Beloved and the little angel dropped me off. I made my way down to the corrals, where we had to wait an extra 15 minutes or so because the traffic jam coming into the single entry-point was backed waaaay up. I was not happy with the delay, as that meant I spent my time stamping my feet and jumping up and down, wasting valuable energy. I had some layer issues. When I did my shake-out run the day before, it was 18 degrees and windy, and one pair of running tights just wasn't enough. So to this half-marathon, I wore: 2 pair of socks (one compression, one wool) 1 pair of compression shorts 2 pair of running tights (one normal, one fleecy) 1 running tank bra 2 wicking long-sleeved shirts, one with a hood 1 long-sleeved tee 1 thin waterproof windbreaker for when it started snowing 1 neck gaiter 1 hat 1 pair of thick running gloves 1 water bottle (I always carry my own water) I was okay except for my feet in the corrals. My right foot toes started to go numb before they released us, which was troubling. Then FINALLY we started. As we were taking off out of that single entry point, I saw swarms of unhappy runners walking in from the line of cars still waiting to turn in. I don't know if those guys went ahead and ran or not, but they probably did because a) it was a chip race, so the only thing that mattered was when your chip crossed the lines and b) I saw some incredibly fit-looking people finishing a half hour after I did. As I ran, I felt happy I was not one of those late... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
I lived! Update coming soon.
Toggle Commented Nov 17, 2014 on I'm Scared at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply
Thanks, Jenny!
Toggle Commented Nov 14, 2014 on I'm Scared at Surrender, Dorothy
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I have a ski turtle gaiter thing that I am planning to use along with a hat. See you there!
Toggle Commented Nov 14, 2014 on I'm Scared at Surrender, Dorothy
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Toggle Commented Nov 14, 2014 on I'm Scared at Surrender, Dorothy
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The week after I got back from BlogHer '14, I started training for the Longview Half-Marathon. Which is tomorrow. And tomorrow there is this: JACKSON: ...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM SATURDAY TO MIDNIGHT CST SATURDAY NIGHT... THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN KANSAS CITY/PLEASANT HILL HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR ACCUMULATING SNOW... WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM SATURDAY TO MIDNIGHT CST SATURDAY NIGHT. * LOCATION...ALL OF NORTH-CENTRAL MISSOURI AND NORTHEASTERN KANSAS. * TIMING... SNOW WILL OVERSPREAD THE REGION AFTER DAYBREAK ON SATURDAY. SNOW WILL THEN CONTINUE THROUGH MUCH OF THE DAY BEFORE TAPERING OFF BY LATE AFTERNOON OR EARLY EVENING. * SNOW ACCUMULATIONS...A GENERAL 1 TO 3 INCHES OF SNOW IS EXPECTED ACROSS THE REGION. ISOLATED HIGHER AMOUNTS MAY BE POSSIBLE ALONG AND SOUTH OF THE MISSOURI RIVER. * IMPACTS...ACCUMULATING SNOW AND REDUCED VISIBILITIES WILL RESULT IN HAZARDOUS TRAVEL ACROSS THE REGION THROUGH MUCH OF THE DAY. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW...SLEET...OR FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES...AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING. And I really, really, really hate being cold. However. I followed a for-me really hard training program for four months. I only missed one of the training runs in all that time. I ran thirteen miles twice. I ran fourteen miles twice. I ran tempo runs. I ran sprint intervals. I ran up the hills and down the hills, and dammit, I am running 13.1 miles tomorrow come hell or high water (which, you know, could happen). My plan is to pretend to be Rocky training in Russia. The little angel advised me to wear a lot of lotion. The polar vortex was supposed to wait until November 16 to start. It did not listen. So, um, wish... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
I read WE ARE NOT OURSELVES a few weeks ago and loved, loved, loved that, too. Agree on the influences. That book had so many layers it blew my mind.
Toggle Commented Nov 11, 2014 on Flayed at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply
Thanks, Angela.
Toggle Commented Nov 11, 2014 on The Run at Surrender, Dorothy
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I've been reading. I just finished WE WERE LIARS. It caught me in between the belly scales. I'm upset. I'm fascinated. I wish I could write a book like that. Hat off, E. Lockhart, my brim brushes the dust. Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
I spent last night at the Lawrence watch event for Paul Davis/Jill Docking's Kansas governor's run. I've known Paul since he married my best friend, and their daughter is my girl's unofficial little sister. So of course I wanted him to win. Beyond that, Paul's politics mirror my own almost exactly, only he is calm under pressure and I am not. He would've been a great governor. Kansas, I'm sorry. You're missing out. I probably offended a room full of people when I said after the call had been made and the speech presented that I felt like I did when the Royals lost the World Series last month. That I would compare baseball to politics is probably uncool, but what I meant is this: Both were underdogs, both had worked very hard for years to get to the big stage, the nation was focused on both events, and I had spent months emotionally engaged in the events that unfolded before the big event. And in both scenarios, it was really close. There was no blowout. It got called late. As I drove back to my hotel, I felt shell-shocked, amazed that he could've possibly lost. This morning, though, I spent the hour-long drive back home thinking about how dangerous and how satisfying it is to care, to hope. I know what it's like to come really close with something and have it denied you. THE OBVIOUS GAME came thisclose to being picked up by a big publisher. In the immediate aftermath, it felt so awful I asked myself over and over why I was doing it to myself. Why bother trying to make a mark, share yourself in some way other than a Facebook status update? Why try when so many people live happy, productive, meaningful lives without putting... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
I'm in the writing valley right now, shopping some projects to agents, wondering what will happen next. I've been in this place of a different sort of work for about a month now, grinding along, sending out queries, sticking my nose weekly into my color-coded Google doc of victory and rejection. I haven't been writing at all except very sporadically here and of course for my day job. I've been reading and training for a half-marathon and watching the World Series and lying in my hammock soaking up the last rays of this unseasonably warm October. A few nights ago, I had one of those television dreams accompanied by smell and sound and touch. When I woke up, I had the seed of a new story. I wrote the elevator pitch in my writing notebook. I write ideas for books in there all the time, but this time was different. This wasn't just a phrase or a scene -- it was a story. I haven't done any plotting yet. I haven't written down anything but those three sentences. I'm not ready. My head is still in the projects I'm querying. When my agent was shopping THE OBVIOUS GAME, I forced myself to start THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES to distract myself from the waiting and watching and panic attacks, not because I really knew where I was going with it. PARKER CLEAVES started as a feeling I wanted to capture, and I hope my story wove around the feeling well enough to do its job as a vehicle. THE OBVIOUS GAME started as a series of stand-alone scenes I wanted to link together in a meaningful way to shed light on anorexia and bring hope for recovery. My process felt sort of Rubiksonian each time. This story idea ... this... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
Why, thank you!
Toggle Commented Oct 22, 2014 on What It Takes to Reclaim Wood at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply
When I was younger, there were several outbuildings alongside my parents' driveway. One of them was a corn crib for hogs that became where we stored my horse Cutter's hay and grain. One of them was a hog shed that became Cutter's barn and my tack room. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still smell the inside of those buildings. They've since been torn down as they outlived their useful lives, but my father kept the wood. I don't remember how it came up, but Pa offered to let Beloved and I have this wood if we would come help plane it down. Chateau Travolta's deck has a large footprint, and the wood appears to be near original. We patched it a little last summer, but it's getting really rotted. We're going to use the corn crib cypress wood to resurface the deck next spring. Here's what the wood looked like before we started. It's pretty rough and still has a little bit of old white paint clinging to it. Pa bought a secondhand planer and we bought some blades for it. Pa and Beloved gave me permission to use this pic of them and the planer. I was the catcher, so to speak. I would grab the boards as they came though the business end of the planer and help them through. Sometimes this was just holding and sometimes this meant leaning with all my strength when they got kind of ... stuck. Each board took a minimum of one and usually more like two or three passes. First pass. Second pass. Getting closer. You could tell things were rocking when the big shavings started to come out. So pretty! I lost track of how many boards we did. I would guess somewhere in the neighborhood... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
"He's in the forest. Behind my house." Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
I've got something bubbling below the surface, too. I keep hoping it will flush out with the running, but I suspect I'm a blown expectation away from a howler myself.
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The text came at 7 am, but I didn't see it until right before my girl and my husband were about to leave. "Dear parents," it began, and I knew what it was going to say. The rain outside poured down so hard it sounded angry: field trip cancelled. Just a normal Monday. Nothing to look forward to. I met her eyes. She crumpled before me. As I listened to the frustration, disappointment and rage pour out of her, I thought how much I've wanted to do that in the past few weeks. Nothing in particular has happened, just the culmination of several mountains that won't move no matter how hard I hurl myself against them. My husband told her about two field trips when he was a kid that were cancelled due to inclement weather. I told her about "All Summer in a Day," one of the first Ray Bradbury short stories I ever loved because of the moment the children realize what they've done to Margot, even though they really didn't mean to. I read it around my daughter's age. It was the beginning of my awareness that people can do awful things without meaning to, and they don't get a pass because they didn't mean to. You can mean to do all the good things and still screw up. And if you do, it's still your fault. And if it's your fault, but you're trying to be a good person, then maybe that means you have to cut everyone some slack. And the world gets way more complicated. She rested her head on my shoulder and I patted her silky red hair, wishing I could take away the rain and give her the gift of a school-free, field-trippy day, but I am not God. I don't control... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
Just watch it. You have time. You'll have a way better weekend if you do. Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy