Ironing Shirts & Writing Novels. What’s the Difference?

I bought a new shirt. It came in a box cause that’s how shirt’s are made these days, right?

It didn’t fit. I sent it back. Didn’t even need a box cause that’s how shipping is done these days, right?

I ordered another shirt. It fit great. I liked it. But it was cottony and wrinkly and I couldn’t go out into public looking like a wrinkled grape. Cause that’s how people think these days, right?

But I decided that the only way to iron out these difficulties was to, indeed, pull out my iron. So I plugged it in and heated it up. I pressed one side smooth only to realize I creased the underside because, obviously, I don’t know how to iron properly.

But I tried anyways, and one ironed-out crease led to two more creases which needed ironing out. It could have been frustrating if I would have been paying attention. But I keep looking at my shirt and thinking how nice it will be when it’s finished. Being ironed out. Which I certainly didn’t know how to do.

But being me, that never stopped me, the not knowing how to do something, that is.

So I pressed on.

And little by little my shirt started to look smooth. Those darn little collars were a beast. And around the buttons were a pain. And I still couldn’t figure out how to reach all those little shoulder spots without creating a new crease underneath. I mean, why does the fabric flip on top of each other like an unwieldy plot hole?

I worked and I learned and by the end of the my ironing session, I was satisfied with the end product and placed it aside. Not carefully, mind you. No, that would have been the smart move. I placed it aside in a clump until I realized I created new wrinkles. Clumping does that.

I put it back on the board and fixed those, and, with a stroke of luck and genius, I hung it on a door knob. Brilliant. No more wrinkles.

Later that morning, I put on my shirt. It wasn’t perfect. There were still some visible wrinkles, but I thought I looked good, and I was proud of the effort. I could have just thrown it on right out of the box, but I took my time and did it the right way–the best I knew how. Next time, my ironing will be much better, even if my shirt arrives in a box.

As I reflected on my ironing experience, I thought, isn’t this exactly the same as writing a novel?

Yes, yes, it is because there are only two ways to do things in this world: you either learn through experience how to best to iron-out all those unsightly creases in your plot line, or you just throw it on right out of the box and pretend everything you do is automatically amazing.

Writers, plug in your irons.

A Summer of Cooking & Writing

Summer has, so far, been a real whirlwind.  It is typically my writing time, and it has been again, to a degree. But it’s also been about family, vacations, travel, and food. Here’s a couple photos to prove the last point. I love cooking, you know, so when family gets together, there’s all kinds of good stuff going on.

Ribs on the 4th of July. How I missed ribs! Oh, and there’s bacon in the baked beans. How I missed bacon!

Cheesecake for my son on birthday. How I missed berries! This is a very simple glaze. Berries, tiny bit of water, sugar. That’s it. I was delighted to find black raspberries and so I thought I’d merry black and red together on one cake. It was a good idea.

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Cherry pie for my dad’s birthday. Full disclosure, my sister made the crust, but I made the filling and I picked the cherries myself. So that counts, I think.

Now that some of the family reunions have subsided, I’m back in full writing mode. Packed away a good 3700 words today on novel 9 and I have a full week of writing ahead of me, so here’s hoping for some great productivity.

Hope you are having a great, productive, and creative summer too!

 

 

Ugly Lucy, Pretty Lucy, & Me

Ugly Lucy, Pretty Lucy, & Me

I spend my summers on the outskirts of Celeron, NY which has the claim to fame of being the hometown of Lucille Ball. Celeron itself is on the outskirts of Jamestown which is part of Chautauqua County of Western NY. Jamestown and the region has been playing up the connection to Lucy for the last couple of decades. And why not? Who doesn’t love Lucy? I’ve watched the entire DVD collection! She set the standard for comedy and Jamestown and Celeron have been sharing the love every since. If you watch the show, listen for the references to Jamestown. They’re there.

A while back, the waterfront park in Celeron became home to a statue commemorating their favorite daughter. There’s one problem though. Take a look. That’s me and, wait, is that Lucy?

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Ugly Lucy. Not sure what happened, but this sculpture doesn’t quite catch the essence of the First Lady of Comedy. This sculpture received so much negative feedback that eventually a new statue was commissioned and you can see the results here.

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Much better. I’ll be using this park this summer to do some of my writing, and I will look fondly on both Lucy’s. Face it, we all have bad days and don’t quite look like ourselves. I may even have a bad writing day where I’ll be staring at a metaphorical statue of ugly Mark. But never fear, a wrong turn can always be made right.

In some ways, I wish the ugly Lucy was the only one in the park. I think that Lucy herself would have gotten a laugh out of it. Statues are rather pretentious. Ugly statues, on the other hand, might just strike the chord of authenticity better than a ravishing work of glam and glory. But it’s pretty cool that our local park has two statues of our local comedic heroine.

Here’s to you, Lucy.

Summer Writing & Smiles

Summer Writing & Smiles

I smiled today. It was nearly involuntary. It emanated like a ray of light piercing through a small hole. That smile was summer.

I’m finishing up my second year of living in Saudi Arabia and a whole two-month writing bonanza stares me in the face. Oh sure, there’ll be family and barbecues and fresh berries and cherries. There will be baseball games and fireworks and long bike rides through the forest. And there will be writing.

Summer is when I become a ‘full-time’ writer. It’s when my brain can focus for long periods of time on items I’ve been itching to get at for an indefinite amount of time.  It begins in five days.

I’ve accomplished a lot this past school year. I’ve produced two original shows which I wrote, and I’m very happy with how they turned out. I finished the editing and publishing process for book three of my trilogy. I’ve written four or five short plays. A couple of which have already been produced. A couple more will be part of next year shows. I’ve even made some series in-roads into my 9th novel — some 10,000+ words already on its way.

So as I sit on my back deck, sipping a cold beverage, with my laptop in front of me, I’m smiling at what I hope to be able to accomplish this summer.

Finish novel #9 – It’s my first novel set in Malaysia. It is also looking like my first YA novel with four of the five main characters being teenagers.  This novel premise wasn’t even on my radar until about 6 weeks ago when a curious phrase popped through my mind. That’s how novels germinate for me. Usually a phrase, followed by an image, which grows into an idea worthy of long-format writing.  Then I develop the characters and let the story loose to see where it will go. This one is flowing, so I hope a good month of steady writing will produce a solid first draft.  Maybe by mid-July? Let’s see.

Start novel #10 – Actually, I already have. This idea I’ve been playing with for over a year and a half. I even wrote the first chapter already and I know where it’s going. But it requires a little research, so it will take some more time. I hope to have a solid start to this novel by the end of August. How about half-written? Nice goal.

Play-writing – I never discount play-writing because that’s the form that comes the most naturally to me. I have a show I wrote last year called Crazy Love, but I want to add one or two more pieces to it, so when the muse strikes, I set aside my novels for the afternoon.

Excited for summer? I hope you are at least half-excited as I am, and if you are, you’re plenty excited.

When was the last time you … ?

Think. What do you love to do but haven’t done it for a long time?

I know. There are reasons why you haven’t done it. Everyone has excuses.

I’ve done something this past week that I haven’t done in about a year and it’s been real enjoyable: guitar playing and song composing.

I won’t go into all the ridiculous reasons that my guitar was packed away awaiting a move that never happened for a year, but I can attest that it really has been a year without playing it.  And I missed it.

And it struck me how that cliched comment about “it’s like riding a bike”  came to the forefront of my mind when I put the fretboard in my hand for the first time in 12 months. My brain and fingers remembered everything. It’s pretty remarkable. I forget stuff all the time, but all the chords and finger positionings came naturally like I never stopped playing.

I plucked out some chords to the melody I created that matched some lyrics I made which are related to a new novel I’m writing. Yeah, a bunch of strange connections there.

But the point it this: I enjoy playing guitar. I enjoy writing lyrics. I enjoy composing songs on the guitar, and it felt great to do it again.

What about you? What do you love to do that you haven’t done in a long time? Try it out again. It’s been far too long.

I’ll leave you with some of the lyrics to my untitled new song.

RANDOM UNTITLED SONG LYRICS

Part of me is reaching, to set upon the stars

To grasp a piece of heaven, to lunge to places far,

       Part of me is crying out, to reach inside your heart,

  But I hold no ill will.

           No, I hold no ill will.

Part of me is trying. To understand this world.

Untangle all the colors that blindness tends to swirl

And form the ground beneath our feet that heaven’s gate unfurls

But I hold no ill will.

Yes, I hold no ill will.

The past it paints its canvas black with speckled sparks of light,

Glimpses to remind me of where I’ve been,

 The future holds the promises of many well-fought fights,

But I’ll never turn away from where I’ve been.

                 Cause I’ve seen the poorest soul be trampled to the ground,

 And I cannot turn away from where I’ve been,

        And I’ve seen the lights of fame adorning all around

Yet even more, it grips my breast, and hold it tight onto my chest

               All the places, good or bad, I’ve ever been

(copyright 2019 Mark W Sasse)

A Blissful Week of Cooking

I got to take a break from my drama teaching, directing, and producing hats this weekend and cook!

I organized a Week Without Walls cooking experience called Hot, Spicy, & Sasse. Yeah, I like the name too. I had twelve students, most of which had never cooked before, and I helped them build their cooking skills and techniques over the course of the week. It was a blast, and we ate a ton of good food.

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Here’s a look at our set-up. We had four booths installed in our loading dock. They were wired for lots of small hot plates, an oven, refrigerator, and, of course, rice cooker. Then I started with a demonstration and let them go at it, walking around to give them guidance as needed.

It was fun to see students who had never cooked before gain some experience, and more importantly, confidence that they don’t have to rely on anyone else for delicious food. They have the power! And now the skills.

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Here are two students making our final dish of the week: garlic butter stuffed crust pizza. Yeah, it was phenomenal.

Here’s the menu boards of ingredients we used for the week. I hope to do it again next year.

 

 

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Boh on Bose, Tea & Music

I have concluded this: Boh Tea is my favorite in the world.

Boh is grown in the lush Malaysian Cameron Highlands, and I started drinking it when I lived in Penang.  I eventually was hooked on unsweetened Boh black tea.  Smooth and flavorful.

I really started missing Boh tea when I moved to Saudi Arabia. I tried a wide variety of teas and eventually settled on a brand name Ahmad tea based out of London. I liked it, and I was happy.

One day, I discovered on Amazon that they sell Boh tea. I was ecstatic and told my kids that’s what I wanted for Christmas. So, sure enough, I unwrapped a bunch of Boh tea boxes which were under the Christmas tree.  I ended up bringing back 16 boxes of Boh tea.

The first thing I did was a taste test – Ahmad Tea beside Boh Tea.

I tried Ahmad. “Okay, that’s good.”

And then I tried the Boh again for the first time. “Wow! Oh my goodness. Throw out the Ahmad!”

Boh blew it away. Flavor – rich & smooth with hints of green tea – so much flavor and I finally remembered why I liked it so much.

The smooth rich flavors of the tea mix so perfectly well with the smooth rich sounds of the Bose, so whether I’m punching out words on my computer or cooking in the kitchen, the Boh and Bose tandem are there to keep me company.

If you are a tea lover, give Boh a try. I am not a paid endorser. I buy the stuff by the Boht load.

So here they are, the perfect pair:

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Boh Sitting on Top its Buddy Bose

 

 

And here’s a photo I took of the Boh plantation in Malaysia when I visited a few years back.

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Enjoy!