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College Essay Writing Tip #2 – Remember We Are All Beginners at Some Point

pen and paperThis might be the most important tip that I will share with you because it speaks to confidence. Believing you can write a great essay is the very first step to writing a great essay. Measured confidence can take you pretty far because you won’t be afraid to fail. You’ll just dust yourself off and sharpen your pencil again.

The beauty of the college essay is that it remains hidden until you decide to release it into the world. If you hate what you’ve written, you don’t have to submit it. It’s that simple. So go for it!

You must remember that writing is like anything else. Baseball players don’t show up at The World Series final game without practicing (a ton). Pianist don’t show up at Carnegie Hall without practicing (a ton). Teachers don’t show up to the classroom – Doctors don’t show up for surgery – Magicians don’t show up to the stage – Preachers don’t show up to the pulpit without a ton of preparation.

When you sit down to write your essay, remember that you are very likely a beginner. This means that it might be challenging in ways you didn’t expect. Just keep writing and revising. You will get there!

Here is what Ira Glass has to say about being a beginner…

So trust your writerly instincts and get busy creating that first draft!

P.S. For the full list of college essay writing tips, click here.

Yale Writers’ Conference (part 1)…..

When I decided that I actually am a “for-real” writer, I ordered The New Yorker because in order to be a “for-real” writer one must read The New Yorker. Right? R.I.G.H.T.

Flipping through the pages kind of felt like my 8-year-old-self wearing my mother’s high heeled shoes, mink stole, droopy pearl earrings, and possibly my grandmother’s satin opera gloves. But then I saw it–an ad for the Yale Writers’ Conference. I might have even giggled. It certainly sounded marvelous but I hesitated, thinking “Yale? Who are you kidding?”

Ultimately I thought, “Why not!”

I showed the ad to my husband. When he didn’t laugh, I took it as a sign that the universe was pushing my newly established writer-self out of the nest to test out my pencil wings.

So, I applied with the beginnings of my novel in progress “The Alligator Purse.” While I waited for a response, I reminded myself to breathe. And then I waited and waited, for what seemed like a really long time. Forever really. (That might have been a by-product of the watched in-box never boils syndrome. Maybe. Okay, probably.)

When the email came inviting me to attend, I was beside myself–proud, disbelieving, believing, and more than a little nervous. I mean, it’s Yale. What were they thinking letting me in but thank you Jesus, they let me in!

So if you have any of that self-doubt, erase it now. Right now. The Yale Writers’ Conference is so welcoming. They accept 140 people each year. So that’s 140 chances for them to say yes to you. And please know that you do not have to be an established rock star writer to attend. You do have to submit a quality writing sample that is polished and then re-polished. And then polished five more times. But, there is plenty of room for those who are early in their writing career. Please understand that this doesn’t mean there isn’t talent at the conference – there is and a lot of it! People who invest in their writing generally take honing their craft very seriously. (Remember I said to polish your submission! And then polish it again. And then one five more times.)

Terence Hawkins (with his trusted sidekick Victoria Rinkerman who is nothing short of amazing herself) is the man behind the magic that is the Yale Writers’ Conference. He is a writer himself and is eager to help all of us succeed.

Yale Writers Conf 2014-Jun 08, 2014-12

Here are a few things that are good to know:

The less expensive option is to stay in the dorms. The un-air conditioned dorms. When I was in college, I lived at home so I actually loved staying in the dorms. But they aren’t fancy and if you are used to your own bathroom and A/C, you should know that the dorms do not equal the Ritz Carlton. You should also know, however, that most people stay in the dorms and that it is fun to be there. (So it’s really a positive masquerading as a negative.)

The dorms are gorgeous (from the outside ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

2013_June_15_yale writers workshop_ellenweeren_255And they really aren’t terrible on the inside…

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Session I is ten days. That’s a long time to be away from work and family (possibly another positive masquerading. I guess that depends on your job and family. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Session II is shorter if you really like your family and/or your job.

The rest is all up side.

Did I mention the conference is at Yale? Yes, “the” Yale that you’ve heard so much about. It’s magical to walk the streets of New Haven in the spring.

For ten days, you will talk and learn about writing with some very talented/committed/enthusiastic writers and instructors. You won’t wash any dishes or drive a car. If you pack enough clothes, you won’t have to do laundry. Someone will cook breakfast and lunch for you buffet-style. (Dinner is not included but New Haven has tons of fabulous places to eat.) You might not even watch tv. It’s heavenly. You’ll meet in large sessions to hear amazing guest speakers and you’ll meet in groups of ten to workshop each others writing. You’ll even get to attend one master class workshop with a guest speaker of your choosing (This is why it’s smart to apply early. The earlier you get accepted, the more choices you have.)

You will eat, sleep, and breathe writing for ten days. Ahhhhh.

In effort not to keep you reading this post for hours on end, I’m consolidating my experiences from two years into one post. (I’ve been to Yale for the past two years and the only reason I’m not applying this year is that my son is graduating from high school around the same time as the conference.) That means I won’t be able to tell you every fabulous thing about the conference, but here is some of what I learned…

From Richard Selzer (Mortal Lessons)

  • Don’t be timid: you can say in writing things you would never say aloud.
  • And don’t be afraid to tell lies: they give writing a vivid complexion.

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From Kevin Wilson (The Family Fang)

  • Writing is a muscle you have to exercise and you have to change up your routine to keep it all moving.
  • When building a story, instead of starting with a tree and adding ornaments to it, start with an ornament and build a tree to support it.
  • You might be the worst writer in the world, but if you write, at least you’ll have evidence to attest to that fact.

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From Deborah Treisman (Fiction Editor, The New Yorker)
She was asked “what makes a story stand out.” She answered that you just know it when you see it. She looks at the story’s ambition–what it’s trying to do–and figures out if it’s doing it.

2013_June_12_yale writers workshop_ellenweeren_135From Z. Z. Packer (Drinking Coffee Elsewhere)

  • Give the reader an image to start with. Then you can put that image into action: you can create symbolism with the image.
  • The readers want to see a journey with obstacles that add up to something. What the character wants will give them motivation–look at the “lack” behind that want. What will the want satisfy?
  • If you want to read a terrific article by Z. Z. Packer on writing short stories, click here.

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From Joe McGinniss (who sadly lost his battle with cancer this past year)

  • Especially in non-fiction, you are going to make people angry.
  • However, the worst thing is no reaction at all.

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From Tom Perotta (Nine Inches)
Get the story going before you give backstory.

2013_June_14_yale writers workshop_ellenweeren_209From Susan Orlean (Orchid Thief, Rin Tin Tin)

  • People can be made to care about things that seem ordinary.
  • Ultimately we end up writing to ourselves.

2013_June_18_yale writers workshop_ellenweeren_754From Sybil Baker (Into this World)

  • Short stories are almost always based on desire and characters are often responsible for their own problems.
  • Raise the stakes for your character on her original desire, rather than adding in new desires.
  • Dialogue is more interesting when characters are disagreeing or at least not agreeing.

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From Chuck Klosterman (I Wear the Black Hat)

  • You want the reader to be engaged with the text, themselves, and the world.
  • The first chapter makes an assertion that gets carried through the book. It’s important for the reader to get to know who she’s going to spend the next 250 pages with.

Yale Writers Conf 2014-Jun 10, 2014-12From Rob Spillman (Tin House)

  • When he reads a submission, he wants to forget he’s an editor and remember that he’s a reader.
  • The writer should establish authority in the first 300 words. Writers can do that through language, forward momentum in the story, stakes for the characters, and story questions.

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From Colum McCann (TransAtlantic)

  • Write what you want to know. You do not have to write what you already know.
  • There’s no true distinction between fiction or non-fiction: it’s all story-telling.
  • Beginnings are hard because they can go in so many directions, but the ending should be the one thing that has to happen.
  • Life is deeper than Google: you might have to go to the library.
  • It’s all shit, until it isn’t.

Yale Writers Conf 2014-Jun 12, 2014-4

From Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune, McLaughlin Group)

  • Be courageous and be persistent.
  • Some stories will work: some won’t. So what.
  • There is someone out there waiting for your story.

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From Rick Moody (The Four Fingers of Death: A Novel)

  • Rethink abstraction: it’s better to be fully grounded in things and scenes and people.
  • Use all five senses–remember smell is most closely linked to memory.
  • Read all of your work out loud, to someone else and your mistakes will be more obvious.

Yale Writers Conf 2014-Jun 14, 2014-10

Okay, I don’t know about you but I’m tired. So, I’ll be back later with more. (You can read Part 2 here.) Come back soon for Yale Part II. And you missed the other workshops I’ve written about, you can read those

Tin House Winter Workshop

Woodbridge Writers Retreat

 

NYC3 – One cupcake at a time………..

You might remember that I recently went to New York City with my hubby. We were celebrating our anniversary.

Neither one of us can completely believe that someone else has put up with either one of us for two decades. So, we decided to celebrate – and celebrations require cake. No, really, it’s written on page 1 of the celebration bible. – right after “find a reason to celebrate”. Next, “find cake”.

Sweets aren’t really my thing and I have not gotten caught up in the whole cupcake craze – at least not until I found out there were carrot cake cupcakes being made in the cupcake wars. I love me some carrot cake. But, can everyone please stop putting raisins in them? Walnuts, yes please. Raisins, oh hell no. Not even the cute little white ones.

Anycake, we didn’t really seek any places out. We just stopped along our way at any place that had a picture of icing on its sign.

The first place was Melissa’s. She apparently can’t be bothered with an entire cupcake and just sells you bites of cupcakes with a tinee, tiny little dab of icing. And she, my cupcake-loving friends, is brilliant. They are delish….

They are so good, in fact, that if you drop one on the street, you seriously might be tempted to pick it up. Not that I would recommend that – but some people might do it. Not me. Other people.

I highly recommend the chocolate chip cookie dough and cinnamon varieties. Melissa’s is near Times Square. Lots of people were buzzing in and out with pre-orders. Large pre-orders. That tells me something. The natives even like them.

The next place was the Magnolia Bakery. It’s around the corner from the Today Show studio and Rockefeller Center. Please don’t ask me which corner – it’s just around the corner. Walk a block each way and you’ll (eventually) find it. Promise.

Their cupcakes look like this….

They are very pretty but this one was a wee bit dry. The shop is adorable and the staff is lovely, so that’s good. But, uhm, it is all about the cupcake.

Then we stopped at Juniors. It’s near the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. I loved the name and the feel of the place. These are the vanilla and reeses cupcakes. They were not so good. Sorry Junior, but the competition is stiff. You gotta step it up. I didn’t like these because they were just so dense and the icing was crisco-y. Not fluffy. I discovered I prefer fluffy. In fact, I roll best with cream cheese fluffiness.

Apparently, Juniors is famous for it’s cheesecake so it might not have been entirely fair to hold them to such a high cupcake standard.

And, just in case, you have never been schooled in the proper way to eat a cupcake. Take notes. Break it in half in the middle and stick the bottom on the top – like a sandwich. Then you can call it lunch. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You will thank me later.

Next was Crumbs. Drum roll please. It’s the the creme-DE-la-creme of cupcakes. Angels might have been singing when we walked in. Maybe it was my stomach growling. I am not entirely sure. But there was line – that’s aย  good sign, right?

And those wicked smarties had carrot cake cupcakes. Finally. And YUM!

Okay, these guys rocked the cupcake competition. They are fabulouso and awesomesauce. Each one was better than the next. Well, except for the mocha caramel one – I don’t do coffee, so mocha anything is a no-go for me. But the rest were so yummy. These were vanilla with chocolate icing, mocha caramel, carrot cake (the grand supreme winner of all things cupcake in New York City), coconut, vanilla with vanilla, and chocolate chip cookie dough.

Even the elevator guy at the hotel recommended Crumbs. And, thank God, they had an elevator operator at our hotel because pushing my own elevator buttons might just have put me over the edge. Seriously, that is a lot of work. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now I understand that you might be concerned that we ate cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that cupcakes might not have been the healthiest of choices for all three meals. But have no fear, we ate real meals – the cupcakes were snacks. Tee hee.

If you go to NYC and have a hankering for a cupcake, go to Crumbs or Melissa’s. And if you want to bring back a little something for the blogger who pointed you in the right cupcake direction, carrot cake please.Oh, and, if you don’t mind, ask them to hold the raisins. Thanks.

NYC2 – The people that you meet…..

Yesterday, I began the story about my trip to NYC. If you want to catch up, you can do that here. And I am back today with more. ๐Ÿ˜‰

When I was blogging about India, I wrote a post about some of the people I would see on the street. I also saw lots of fun/interesting people in NYC so I thought I would revisit that little diddy today.

First, let me say that if you are a complete whackadoo and want to find a place to fit in, NYC is the place for you. I am not going to post any pictures of the absolute nutcases I saw because I don’t want to make fun of anyone, but I’m just sayin’ there are some crazies in the big apple! Happy and comfortable, but craZy!

The numero uno whackadoo hubby I spent my weekend with was this guy. He does not like his picture being taken so this was the best I could do. And by the by, if you are thinking about going on a getaway with a special someone, consider driving. You can have wonderful conversations without interruptions and you only have to take your shoes off if you want to. No long security lines to wait in. No children crying. No crappy snacks that cost $15. No middle seat next to someone who doesn’t quite fit in his/her coveted aisle seat. Think about it.

The play Wicked was on Broadway, so I guess this guy thought he could capitalize on the show being in town. I don’t know if he is an actor in the actual production, but my guess would be probably absolutely not. ๐Ÿ™‚ And, although the real tin man would talk, this guy was apparently a mime tin man. Taking the role to a whole new level, I reckon.

Okay, I lied. I am going to share one picture of a person that I thought was a little not so fabulous. But only to save young (and not so young) ladies from themselves. Ladies, this is what this skirt looks like from the back. It is too short. I know it looks great from the front. And this chickadee is adorable. But she is showing off too many of her assets. Tee hee. Get it? Ass-ets.

I do have to say I was very surprised at the footwear in NYC. Most of the women I saw were wearing practical, comfortable (albeit very cute) shoes. I would like to thank them all for that. It made me feel a little less country mouse-ish. Especially since the last thing my daughter said to me before we left was “nice shoes” and not in a OMG-those-are-the-most-amazing-shoes-ever-and-I-am totally-borrowing-those kind of way.

It would be so fun to be able to tell you that this is a picture of my new BFF. But, since I only “met” him through the glass window of the studio, I guess I can’t declare BFF status. He is just as cute in person as through the eyes of the camera. Introducing George Stephanopoulos… And, yes, I do think he looks like he is trying to figure out how to get out of the interview so he can come outside and meet us.

I got a tad closer to these beautimous people.They send their best wishes. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love me some Today Show with Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and Savannah Guthrie. I am not sure where Ann Curry was.

These are some of the policeman who stand watch over the 9/11 Memorial. I cannot imagine doing this everyday.

This guy walks around with a cat on his head and his hand out. I asked him if I could take a picture and he answered, “if you could help me out with my endeavor to find food.” And then he said, “thank you for giving me the courtesy of asking first. That was nice of you.” Okay, then. You are most certainly welcome.

What this guy doesn’t know is that my daughter walks around like this…

Who knew the competition for walking around with your cat on your head would be so tough. That guy better watch out – he has given Angel something to aspire to.

These folks didn’t talk either. #Mime must be trending in NYC. So they could neither confirm nor deny their role in a Broadway production. I did find out later that they are part of an a capella group called Voca People.

My hubby shies away from bothering celebrities. Unless, of course, it is Mike Shanahan – the Washington Redskins head coach. This guy was absolutely delightful. Asked me my name, promised me a better season, and let us take pictures. Love him even more now.

And if you were a teenager in the 80’s, you know this guy as Bueller. Ferris Bueller. Love him too. We took this picture because after the first picture, he said, “I don’t think we got it. You might have turned your head too early.”

And he was right. If Matthew Broderick wasn’t such a sweety, this is the picture I would have been left with. Yikes. Thank you! And if you get the chance to see Nice Work If You Can Get It, it’s supposed to be fabulouso.

These guys made me promise not to tell anyone they let me pet their horses. I told them I had a blog and they said, “of course you do Oh, that’s fine.”

My hubby swore I was Livin’ La Vida Loca when I waited over half an hour to get this photo of Ricky Martin who was starring in Evita.

And for the grand finale……..dum ta da dum…..The Naked Cowboy. Thank God he is not actually naked. Brace yourself, this is not for the faint of heart.

It was tons ‘o fun just walking down the street!

Country Mouse in the Big Apple……

This weekend, Number One Hubby and I snuck away to NYC. We scrunched a lot ofย  stuff into a little bit of time but it was awesome.

Of course, I started out by making some new friends. New York City’s finest really are the finest. The police presence is everywhere and they are delightful.

We walked several blocks and then decided to hop on the subway (when we realized we had about 6 miles to go). The stations are a bit grimy but I was surprised that the trains weren’t super crowded. Hubby didn’t really want me taking pictures on the train and drawing attention to us for being tourists, but I don’t always listen so well. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And, besides, I am not exactly sure what it is about this look that screams, “tourist”.

I don’t like to fly and I am not a fan of crowded spaces, so the idea of a helicopter ride wasn’t exactly appealing to me. Hubby really wanted to do it, so I put on my big girl life vest and climbed in.

What I learned about helicopters right away is that they tilt forward when they take off. It kind of feels like you are going to slide off your seat right in to the deep, cold, dark water below. Not fabulous.

But our sweet pilot straightened us out quickly and we flew past the Statue of Liberty first. She is just beautiful. In all her welcoming glory.

Amazing. Really. Amazing.

And then we flew over Ground Zero (which I will write more about in a later post) and over the skyline of the city. We saw the new building that will tower over the terror that struck two buildings down on 9/11. We saw the Yankees Stadium and Times Square and Central Park and Rikers Island and the Brooklyn Bridge.

I can’t believe I am saying this but I highly recommend the helicopter tour if you have time.

When we were leaving the heliport, we saw these guys dancing. Welcome to New York, baby. They were lots of fun.

We ended the night with dinner at The View restaurant – a rotating restaurant atop the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square – and a show at Caroline’s Comedy Club.

Did I take a picture with the headliner John Witherspoon? Now, that is a silly question.

And please notice I am wearing cute tops the entire trip. I spared my poor hubby the sweat pants/white t-shirt fashion mishap I usually don. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

I have lots more to share and will write more tomorrow.

The New Year with all its hope and promise…………

I have been struggling to write down some resolutions this year – not that there isn’t more than plenty that I need to work on – but which ones? How do I narrow it all down to ensure success?

Let’s look at the clear front runners…

Lose weight – yeah – okay – but that’s been on the list for at least a decade.Past results are beginning to look strangely like a predictor of future non-success. ๐Ÿ™

Get published – a new addition to the list but it comes with a ton ‘o pressure.

Be nicer – but the grumpy people on the planet are making this one harder and harder.

Be a better parent/spouse – I really am doing the best I can here folks. No, really, I am. At least most of the time.

See what I mean? I might really be doomed.

So, I decided to put a new twist on an old favorite. I am simply going to believe in myself more – in all things. That sounds good, right?

And with the help of Twitter, I found these little inspirational diddies…

1. Obvious to me, maybe – but to others, maybe not..

2. 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing – there is some language not preferred by most in this post – but once you skip past it – the message is good – and by the by, it’s a lot easier to stop doing things than to start doing things, right? Just nod in agreement please.

3. And if all else fails, I can simply wait to enjoy the spoils of my flexible self in my retirement years – Professional Women and a Secure Retirement.

Maybe things are looking up for 2012 – and, apparently, beyond.

Throw Away Society…………….

One of the biggest challenges I have faced with moving back to the land o’ plenty is just how much trash we (continue to) generate. Everything seems to be disposable.

In Twisted Sister, I wrote that an old bra strap might become a shoelace in India. Many, many people asked me if that was really true. It kind of is. The poor people in India don’t waste much.

So when I consistently win the trash award for having the most trash on our street, I often think “shame on me”.

This week has been no exception. We want, we waste. Augh. Well, there has been a big exception. We have a tv that would only sporadically turn on. It is in the room I exercise in, so I would really like it to work. It wasn’t working so I wasn’t working out. Augh again.

The easiest thing to do would have been to trash the tv and just buy a new one. I am sure that would have been to the tune of about $1,000. Yikes.

So, number one hubby googled our tv’s make/model and actually figured out what the problem seemed to be. And then the solution. It required some soldering and a new part. We don’t exactly know how to do that or where to buy a tv part.

After some more googling, Hubby found an electrical repair shop. We drove there with component in hand. And, yes, I am impressed he was able to take the tv apart, find the component, and eventually put it all back – and even in the right place.

The repair shop was closed. Not just for lunch. But forever. Dang. I guess we aren’t the only ones who have been throwing things away instead of getting them fixed.

But there was a second repair “shop” listed. In a residential neighborhood. Hmmm.

We called to hear what sounded like an Indian accent. Small world. He seemed to know what we were talking about. He seemed to know what he was talking about. He was close by. We decided it was probably worth a shot.

Hubby knocked on the door. The electrician (who was actually from Pakistan) fixed the component. For only $40. Hubby reinstalled it. For Free. And wahlah. Our oldish tv once again works.

Now I have no real excuse not to exercise and our bank account does not need a band-aid.

The saddest part of this post is that for a brief moment I was so proud of us for choosing repair over replace. But now I think I will make that my motto. It is as it should be – fix when you can – or at least give it a shot. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And if you live in NoVa and need a tv repaired (or other malfunctioning electric device) Farooq just might be your guy. 703.407.2702. Or email service@fhtvservice.com. Let’s start a repair revolution!

Thoughts for a New Year………

I am doing alright so far on my Thanksgiving resolution to not have an opinion about flippin’ everything.ย 

Okay, the reality of it is, I still very much have an opinion, but I am (doing a better job of) exercising constraint about when it is necessary to actually express it.

So, rather than being over-ambitious and trying to take on too many promises, I am going to offer a prayer that I hope to remember throughout the year.

I pray mostly for perspective, patience, peace, and a sense of humor.

Beyond that I pray that, as humans, we remember that this home of ours called earth is a gift and that we will learn to exist in it and not simply rule over it.

I hope to be more compassionate and generous, especially when it is hard.

I pray to care about myself enough to take care of myself.

I hope to make the most of my talents and share them graciously whenever possible.

I pray to forgive more and to need to be forgiven less.

I hope to celebrate the beauty in imperfection.

I want to do a better job of appreciating those who appreciate me and spend less energy on those who do not.

And I pray that I will continuously count my blessings and overcome my challenges and that I will do it with laughter, intelligence, and sincerity.

Lastly, I pray that those who are less fortunate or alone or scared will find comfort and it will be gladly given by those who have much to share.

Happy 2011.

Thanksgiving Resolutions…………

Happy (almost) Turkey Day! Gobble Gobble.

Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. I heart Thanksgiving!

I love that the menu is the same as last year. I love that the Macy’s Day Parade is on t.v. I love that football follows the parade. I love that it is cold outside and I get to stay inside. I love the food. I love spending the day with family and that they are willing to come here to share in thankfulness. I love that the leaves crunch under their feet when they walk in the front door. I love it that my kids have started to help with the cooking. I love that there are yummy scrummy leftovers. I love it a.l.l. d.a.y. l.o.n.g.

This year, I decided to make my resolutions at Thanksgiving rather than New Years. I ain’t so great at resolutions anywho. I am usually way too ambitious. I don’t like to write it all down because that seems too big of a commitment (maybe I am missing the point here). And then I simply forget what I promised myself. So I figured why not make those pesky promises at the beginning of the holidays – when I am still full of the joy of the season and not yet exhausted by it all? That way I can start over at New Years if it all turns out to be a big fail. ๐Ÿ˜Ž There have to be mulligans in New Years resolutions, right?

Therefore and hitherto – I promise to try to stop having opinions about flippin’ everything. We all do it – “why is she wearing that” or “does he really think that makes sense”? We are all very wise to the world when it comes to what other people are doing as compared to what we know well they should be doing. Full of opinions *read criticisms* we are of what other people have got going on.

Let’s stop the madness – yes, dear reader, I am dragging you along with my Thanksgiving Resolution Revolution – and give everyone a break.

Oh yea, and where we can, let’s try to be a little more generous with sharing our time, talents, and patience.

I donated some food to a local food bank yesterday and boy, that felt good. Just knowing that another mother will have the opportunity to struggle to get her children to eat green beans tomorrow did my heart good. Lots of food is on sale right now (and you are likely to be in a grocery store at least 50 times in the next few weeks), food banks are really hurting, and it’s an easy peasy way to help out.

So anyturkey, that’s it. I am going to try to say to myself “why do I need to have an opinion about this” before I open my big fat mouth and share exactly what I am thinking. And if you know me, add me to your prayer list and wish me luck! This won’t be easy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Outsourced……….blech…..

I was so excited for the premiere of the new tv show Outsourced and was absolutely bummed when my son’s back to school night was scheduled for the same night. Honestly, you would think the school administration would be a little more sensitive to my tv viewing preferences and be a little more careful to not create conflicts between my parenting and entertainment priorities. But no – they weren’tย  – Outsourced aired right in the middle of my session of 8th grade math. Hpmf.

But the techno gods have been generous and blessed us with tivo capabilities. So, all is in sync in the parenting and hollywood worlds.

Last night, I finally got to see Outsourced – the new NBC comedy about an American manager running a call center in India. Frankly, they should have outsourced the production, writing, and editing. Blech. Let’s remember that I did offer my assistance. They should have taken me up on it. Who knows, maybe they still will. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The Executive Producers are Robert Borden, Ken Kwapis, Victor Nelli, Jr., Tom Gorai, and David Skinner – just in case you are reading along fellows, you can contact me at AReasonToWrite (at) gmail (dot) com.

There wasn’t much about it that was realistic – even worse, there wasn’t much that was funny. And yes, I understand you are supposed to suspend reality and just laugh. But I just spent the past year and a half of my life living it and there is a lot that has laugh potential without being insulting. A lot. There is the line at the post office and the puja and oh, so much more.

I am not always great with chronology so I might not get my complaints in exact order but it doesn’t really matter.

The first big misstep was that the American manager went to work in a rickshaw. Beyond the fact that the rickshaw scene was very poorly done, an outsourced manager in India would very likely be driven to work by a driver. They just ruled out about 3 hilarious episodes by leaving out the driver and his very real side (splitting) story. Having a driver in India is part of the experience and it adds a whole new dimension to life abroad. It is so foreign to the way most Americans navigate through their day in the U.S. Maybe the manager should have tried to drive himself somewhere – now that would be funny. Very funny. Or try to communicate with a driver whose English is not exactly up to snuff – like here. Or try to find the zoo – like here.

However, my biggest criticism is the Outsourced character of the big Sikh guy who just looks intimidating and totally ticked off. Too easy. It’s (horrible) stereotyping. It’s ridiculous. And based on the Sikhs I met, it’s largely inaccurate. Many are actually gentle giants in many respects. Their temples all have kitchens and they feed absolutely anyone in need for free. I wrote about the Golden Temple here, where they feed over 100,000 people a day.

And then a cow appeared in the front office window. Really? A cow? That’s all you’ve got? Sure, cows roam the streets – but really? Again, way too easy. They should have at least made it a monkey (more realistic in front of an office window) or a camel or an elephant. At least that would have been unexpected. And not to be nit-picky but the cow in the window was way too fat.

On to the minor inaccuracies. All the desks are lovely, spread out, and nicely decorated with picture frames. Yeah. Not gonna happen. Call centers operate on shifts. And for obvious reasons, they try to get as many people in a room as they can (just like in U.S. offices). In the real world, two to three workers would rotate sitting at a desk during a 24-hour period. So there would be no personalizing your workspace. And it is highly unlikely that the boss would be sitting in the same room as the call center employees.

The Indian manager was wearing suspenders. I don’t think I ever saw an Indian man in India in a set of suspenders – I am not saying it didn’t happen – but I call malarkey. Or at least bad editing.

The company in the tv show sells novelty items – some of which are a bit risque. My experience with Indians is that they are very modest people. At one point in the show, the American manager is explaining the “value” of a mistletoe belt to the staff at the call center. How it works – why you would put mistletoe on a belt. Yeah, that would be totally inappropriate and awkward. Later in the episode, he shows the staff a plaque with a replica of a woman’s chest (read boobs) on it that jingles when a song is played. Maybe it was called Jingle Boobs – I had mostly tuned out at that point, so I probably didn’t get the name right. But please. A female employee at the call center laughs at the novelty item. I just really have a hard time believing that would be a typical response. Even most American women would not exactly be amused.

If it was Al and Peggy Bundy get Outsourced, it might have been chuckle-worthy. But it wasn’t about Married with Children hits India and it wasn’t funny.

The one thing that was funny was the food in the cafeteria but only because they made another (way too) easy joke about what we used to call Delhi Belly. When you are not used to spicy foods, you do have to be careful what you eat – and of course that is true of anywhere – not just in India. And some Indian food is super spicy and it can upset your belly. And it can be funny – when it happens to someone else – and someone else who knows better and laughs when they put it in his/her mouth and jokes “what’s the worst that can happen?”. That is what I call “famous last words”. Which are often followed by Montezuma’s Revenge and a quick re-enactment of the fabled Murphy’s Law.

So, for what it’s worth (and I realize that is nothing), I was left very unimpressed. I do, however, remain very willing to offer ideas and suggestions. ๐Ÿ˜‰