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Rita Arens
My name is Rita Arens. I like to write. A lot. Many pages.
Recent Activity
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 4 days ago 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.
1 reply
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
I have them both in Tupperware right now and am headed out to Petco for new supplies as soon as the girl gets home.
Toggle Commented Oct 9, 2014 on Charlie Cries for Help at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply
We have had the hermit crab twins, Charlie and Sebastian, since the little angel turned two. Never in a million years did I think they would live so long. Guess what? If you take care of your hermit crabs properly, they can live up to 40 years in captivity, with an average lifespan of 15 years. Charlie and Sebastian are at least eight and a half. Lord help me, these crabs may live to see the little angel graduate from high school. Unless the mites get them first. I have noticed the mites before, but I didn't realize they are such a big deal. Apparently, left unchecked, they can kill the crabs. This week the little angel and I have noticed Charlie coming out and attempting to scale his way out of the tank when we are in her playroom doing homework. Charlie is not shy, but this is new behavior. I felt kind of bad for a while, like maybe he wanted to run free. I even had an entire inner monologue with him about how he was too far from a temperate zone and even if I released him into the lake he would be toast in a month. I know, I know. I just went over to Beloved and made a plea for a vigourous scrubbing and hermit crab bathing session this evening. He rolled his eyes and said we need new substrate and I bought the wrong kind last time. This does not surprise me, because no matter what I buy on my own, from ripe avocados to hermit substrate to gym socks, I buy the wrong kind in his opinion. It is a running joke. It used to really stress me out, this buying of the wrong kind, then I realized, well, if he is... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
After I get above eight miles, my mind starts to wander. I've discovered while training for half marathons how much your mind can disconnect from what your body is doing. There are times when it's too hot and my legs are too heavy and my lungs are bursting and I feel my mind slamming on the brakes, ready to override my desires with heat exhaustion, if necessary, to make this crazy 40-year-old woman stop running in the heat. There are times when my legs are fine and the euphoria sets in and the air is so awesome to breathe I want to stop and tell other people do you taste this air? Isn't this air unbelievable? Lately the temperature's been dropping. My vision no longer gets swimmy on big hills. I don't have to press pause on Runkeeper and pant like a dog in the shade after a big uphill. And above eight miles, I have all sorts of crazy thoughts. I just read THE INFINITE SEA by Richard Yancy. It's the second in a dystopian end-of-the-world series that does a particularly nice job of being a dystopian end-of-the-world series, in a similar way to Dexter doing a particularly nice job of being a good serial killer. Really entertaining and well paced plot but also gets the job done showing the uglier side of humanity: how we make choices, how we weigh one life against another. Ever since I read UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King, I've been having trouble swatting flies. The metaphors have invaded Missouri. As I run, all the latest books swim together in my head along with the plotlines of my own writing and my own life. I think (in my running-induced euphoria that can sometimes beget delusions of grandeur) that if only I could somehow... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
So glad to hear that. Did you do Maudsley?
1 reply
Yesterday on Twitter, a blogger who had read my Dr. Phil anorexia post tweeted to me. I went over to look at her blog and felt the familiar stomach drop when I read this: A month ago, in Flagstaff, SB had a Subway sandwich for dinner Friday night and at lunch on Saturday she had a few of the sweet potato fries I'd ordered for the table. Yesterday, when it was suggested she needed to drink Gatorade to combat the recent dehydration that led to her fainting twice and being rehydrated in the E.R. this past Sunday, she cried. And said no. As a mother, my stomach drops for the blogger. As a recovered anorexic, my stomach drops with muscle memory. I'm reading THE MATHEMATICIAN'S SHIVA by Stuart Rojstaczer. In a book within a book, the protagonist's mother writes about going with only a tiny bit of food a day in war-torn Russia. Her description of hunger is spot-on: I want you to follow my instructions. Take your eyes off this page when I tell you to do. Look at the room around you. Wherever you are, simply open your eyes adn look, listen, smell and think whatever thoughts come your way ... Then imagine all of your awareness disappearing. Your eyes work, yes, but they don't see anything. Your brain won't let you process such information. The smells, they are gone, too. Your ears, they work simply to warn you of danger. Your thoughts, all of them are so uncomplicated and pure ... All is about the numbness inside you ... You are truly in hibernation. Everything has slowed, because any processing, physical or mental, requires energy, and that, if you are truly nutrient-deprived, is precisely what you don't possess. When I read that, I remembered crying from hunger.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
Hello Everyone! It's that time again. We have less than two weeks until the YA Scavenger Hunt begins. I hope you reserved plenty of time for this one because there isn't just one team or two or even three. This time we have 6, that's right, I said 6 YASH teams which means more prizes, news, and fun for all you readers out there! So let's get started! TEAM RED INCLUDES: TEAM GOLD INCLUDES: TEAM GREEN INCLUDES: TEAM ORANGE INCLUDES: TEAM INDIE INCLUDES: TEAM BLUE INCLUDES: There are so many books here I don't even know where I would begin. I hope you all are as excited as I am! The YA Scavenger Hunt begins at noon pacific time on Thursday, October 2nd and runs through Sunday, October 5th. That means to get through the entire hunt you'll need to go through 1.5 teams per day! Are you going to play? Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
If you're at work, put on headphones. Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
It was a sad ending, but I just felt like I had to tell someone so they could witness the baby bird, too.
Toggle Commented Sep 18, 2014 on The Day I Found a Baby Bird at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply
The noise was incessant. I mentioned it to my husband, who was working from home. "What is up with that BIRD?" We noticed Kizzy staring intently at something just outside the window. It was a baby bird. A fledgling goldfinch, fat as a tennis ball with tiny little legs. And it was cheeping its heart out. At first I laughed at Kizzy's interest, knowing he couldn't reach the bird. Then I worried. I called the nature center. They said no biggie, the parents are feeding it. It's just learning to fly. I googled some things. The Internet said leave it alone. I had lunch. I took some calls. I worked. The cheeping continued. My maternal instincts said something was wrong. I moved outside to see if any parent birds were coming. They were not. I wondered how many hours the fledgling had been alone without food. The baby bird tried to hop. He fell over. I called the nature center again. I said, "There are no parents." She said, "Are you sure he's a fledgling? It's late for that." I said, "Yes. I'm positive." She said, "Bring him in." I went and got a shoe box and lined it with an old tshirt. I put on a garden glove and picked up the baby bird, who cheeped at me. I put him in the box. I drove to the nature center. I talked to the baby bird the whole way there. I told him it would be okay. When I got there, I opened the box. The first thing I saw were his hooked little feet. Hooked in a way they should not be hooked. His eyes were closed. "Oh, no!" I gasped. The nature center worker took the box, barely glancing at it. She patted my arm. "I'm so... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
Today I'm over at Fiction Reboot|Daily Dose talking about how hard it is to write a believable teen character. Read it here. Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
I had this friend who died almost two years ago at the age of 41 teaching people to body surf in the ocean. I had this friend who made fun of me even as I sat in the hospital with cat bite fever. He sent me a bouquet of flowers. The card read: "Suck it up." I had this friend who lived life so large it scared me sometimes, because I am small. He has been gone for nearly two years, and part of my young adulthood died with him. I had this friend, and I will not forget him. May we all live such a life that leaves a mark on everyone we touch. Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
Thank you, Addy.
Toggle Commented Sep 11, 2014 on More Than Two at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply
Welcome to my inner monologue!
1 reply
Thanks, Jenna.
Toggle Commented Sep 9, 2014 on The First Cool Night at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply
Ani DiFranco was wrong to try to host a gathering in a Southern plantation, but she also taught me a lot about life as a writer. "I am struck by the mediocrity of my finest hour." "I don't know why red fades before blue, it just does." These two sentiments have colored my career as a writer. I struggle to be taken seriously, mostly in my own head. The anger I feel always fades before the shame that I am not better. The knowledge that we all die alone doesn't stop me from wishing someone would remember what I said before I went. And then there is the horror that I care. Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
It is the first cool night of fall, and always, I remember how much I feared the cold when I was starving myself. When I was eighteen, and my boyfriend went off to college and there were no texts or cell phones, and all I had was a Jimmy Buffet CD and letters to warm me. When I was nineteen, I got a tattoo of the sun on my inner heel to warm me. I was still starving myself. My grandfather rendered the sun in copper, and now I own it but don't know where to hang it. I don't fear winter in the same way, because I am not that girl anymore. I know how the story plays out, at least as far as the second act. I know the protagonist is no longer starving. But there is still fear. That I won't be relevant. That I won't be heard. That I'm what I fear: Just another small life on the rock that burns and then flames out for the sake of warming the planet for one second in an ocean of years. It gets colder and the rock turns, but at least I am better equipped to face the turn. Because I have grown. And I am no longer starving myself. Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2014 at Surrender, Dorothy
I know.
Toggle Commented Sep 3, 2014 on More Than Two at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply
I almost heard you saying that ...
Toggle Commented Sep 3, 2014 on More Than Two at Surrender, Dorothy
1 reply