Will Ferrell is Will Ferrell: Making a Case for Shelving the Fallback Plan

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Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure. –Paulo Coelho

This thing, this calling, chose me. That’s how it feels, anyway. I have tried other things, other somewhat more lucrative things, other somewhat less risky things, but none have really given me more stability, per se. None have been lucrative enough or stable enough (or even stimulating enough) for me to say, “Hey, it’s been so worth it to spend my entire life working on a fallback plan,” but that’s what I have done.

I went to college on a fallback plan. I went to college again on a fallback plan. I finally went to college to focus on that thing, but have used the degree more to build the fallback plan than the actual thing. I even went to college one more time, trying yet again at a fallback plan. The point is, I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find a good fallback plan. In fact, I have spent the better part of the last 26 years trying to find a fallback plan instead of giving that thing the time it deserved, the time it wanted, because in that 26 years, when fallback plan after fallback plan fell apart, that thing was always there. That thing was building and growing and building and growing, because it chose me. It nags and won’t let go, and yet I am happy that it does so. While fallback plan after fallback plan has fallen apart, I have found minutes, scraped together minutes to give to that thing because I had to, because I wanted to so much that I had to. In those scraps of minutes, seeds were planted and gardens have grown. That’s not to say there aren’t moments when no matter how much I think that thing chose me, I doubt it and feel like an imposter. Still, that thing nags at me and won’t let me go.

Sometimes, I wish when it first began to nag me that someone would have said, this may be your thing. Listen to it, but I was told it’s best to have a fallback plan. I am a mom now. My kids have their things, and their things, like my thing, are not things that people readily tell them they should bet their futures on. In fact, I remember sitting in one my daughter’s IEP meetings where her teachers and counselors encouraged her thing, but also told her she should have a fallback plan and she should spend more time thinking about that fallback plan. I get what they meant, but I still should have said no. I didn’t say no. Back then, I was in the midst of trying yet another fallback plan that I didn’t know was destined to fail. That’s not to say I don’t say no now. I know better, I guess. I hear my daughter daily through the vent, in her room playing ukulele, singing, and composing original songs. I have seen my son spend hours reading waves, getting back on his surfboard after a fall, trying again and again because it is his thing. Maybe they will find something else. Maybe the thing will be the thing in some way. I don’t know. It’s really not my business to tell them they need to do it any other way. That I do know for sure.

I recently watched Will Ferrell’s 2017 USC commencement ceremony speech. Say what you will about Will Ferrell (I personally find him funny as hell), through his humor he delivered a profound message, at least that’s the way I heard it. He spoke of darts and in the face of his risky, frightening, “I may never make it” calling he kept throwing darts at the target hoping that one or two might stick. I get that. Only, unlike Will Ferrell, I threw them secretly or stole moments to throw them and really only gave myself the chance to throw relatively few darts. Still, some have stuck, like the one I threw at Finishing Line Press in May 2016, and now I am weeks away from the publication of my first book of poems. I am not going to imagine where I would be now if I just spent the time throwing darts instead of trying and failing to find a good fallback plan. I am just going to start throwing fists full of darts now.

Ultimately, though, we spend a lot of time telling dreamers they need a fallback plan, and they need to spend more time figuring that out that plan than doing that thing. We usually give reasons like “It’s hard to make it doing that” or “Not everyone can be Will Ferrell.” Yes, it’s hard to make it doing a lot of things. I know. Yes, not everyone can be Will Ferrell, but then Will Ferrell was once just an unknown guy who kept throwing dart after dart.

Emerging From the Divide

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No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied-it speaks in silence to the very core of your being. —Ansel Adams
 

I see a lot of mountains. I love mountains. I feel at home near the mountains. Some people feel at home near water. I like water, too, but I love the mountains. They represent so much. They are vast here. They are hard and beautiful. Here it is easy to leave the business of life and hit a trail for a while where there is no chatter. It’s easier to see there are bigger things than us.

There is not good segue from that to this, to discussing the way I have begun to let go and let myself dive into writing again. Maybe the mountains just represent the letting go for me. Maybe this picture of a great divide represents my own divide, or the process of dividing in half the way things were and the way things are now with something new emerging from all of it.

The way things were were tense and serious and hard, not that things shouldn’t be hard. I lived by a book that someone else had written. I learned from that book. Yes, I am talking about writing. I was serious about it. I wrote serious stories about life. My first book, which is in a drawer, is a serious story about a life I once knew, a life I needed to release in some way, maybe that way.

There is no good way to say this, but I the floundered. I floundered after grad school as I tried to figure out what to do with all of that. I jumped from writing group to writing group trying to find a good fit. I tried to find beta readers for stuff that had grown stale a long time ago.

Here, by the mountains, I found a little writing book, Benjamin Percy’s book Thrill Me. I hadn’t read a craft book in a while. I was pretty down on craft, confused about it. Percy gave me permission, permission to go where I wanted to go, to take my serious writing learning and find the holes in reality I was always looking for. That’s what I am doing now with the very real, very big mountains in view.

I’m in the midst of marketing my firs

 

t book of poems, but already my focus is shifting from poems to time and divides and mountains and things that as I write I can’t really explain, and it feels good. It feels right.

Exciting Publishing News

Trapani-Scott_Cristina_COV.jpgThis is the cover of my forthcoming chapbook of poems The Persistence of a Bathing Suit. The getting here has all been kind of crazy. The short of it is in Spring of last year I submitted my manuscript to Finishing Line Press for their New Women’s Voice competition last spring. At the same time my husband and I were in the process of selling our house and moving to Colorado. Flash forward a bunch of months and, on a whim, I happened to look at my submission manager site and noticed the manuscript was accepted, but I had not heard anything. I went to publisher’s website and also didn’t see anything.

As it turns out, I inadvertently opened two Submittable sites, one through the email I always use and one through the “login with Facebook” feature that is connected to my old email I rarely look at. All info on this had gone to my old email. The short of it is that the manuscript was a semi-finalist for the award, and I was offered a contract. Now, I am here looking at a tentative May 2017 release of my first book of poems. Here is the most amazing cover with photo taken by my talented pro photographer brother Paul Trapani and featuring his beautiful wife, my sister-in-law Leeann Berry.

I dig that the publisher has given me the freedom to make my family a part of this project. My family is a huge inspiration for this project. The poems explore what I call the “the in-between space” that for me emerged between surviving breast cancer (being a young survivor) and coming to terms with how to survive breast cancer. Most people think, “Yay, you survived and that’s awesome. Now you can move on.” It is awesome, but it also creates a starkly different space that for me meant a long period of adjustment. The journey is different for everyone. This is my journey and these poems examine the different perspectives of my journey throughout that space.

I am excited that these poems will be out in the world in some small way. Right now, the book can be preordered. The preorder period is key to the book’s release. I do have to sell a minimum of 55 books in presales for the initial press run. If you would like to order the book, you can order it here or by clicking the title of the book above or the link attached to the publisher.

This is the start of an exciting and incredible journey all its own. I’ve been working toward this goal amid all kinds of distractions for the better part of my adult life. I couldn’t have done it without my family and my mentors.

Postcards, Poems, and Peace

I’ve neglected my blog. The stress of adjusting to life in a new place, the stress of holidays, the stress of new jobs, and the stress of what’s going on politically has made it hard to put thoughts into words. For some, that kind of pressure opens something up and they can cleverly put what they are feeling and seeing into words. For me, all this just stops me up, and I can’t seem to see through the fog it all creates.

I want to resist. I want to stand up. I want to do or say something, but I don’t know where to begin. This month, I decided to start at a small place. For the month of February, I am sending poems to people I don’t know, people across America and a few in other counties as well. I figure, if nothing else, it’s a small act of peace, a small act that maybe no one but the person who receives my poem will benefit from, but at least I can start there, start with something I know, and begin to try to sift through the fog, begin to try to gather strength and put everything together in a way that is familiar to me. So, I will put at least three poems in the mail today, three meditations, and move on to the next and the next and see what comes after that. It’s one way. It’s a beginning. It’s all I’ve got right now.IMG_6253[1].JPG

On making the commitment

My husband asked me if I was coming back to bed this morning after I had gotten up ungodly early to take my daughter to work. I told him no, not because I am mad or anything like that, but because I was wide awake, for one, and because I am finally making a commitment to my writing. I told him I went to school for writing, so I want to write and it is about time I make the commitment. So, I spent the morning committing to the act of writing and it felt good.

I guess I had to lay it out for him, because I tend to be the one to put everything and everyone else before my craft. Even with an MFA in writing I have never felt good enough. I felt more the perpetual fangirl than a peer to the writers I admire. There are a couple of women in my life whose encouragement I am finally taking to heart, one who I know and another who I do not know personally, but her words are sinking in.  Delia De Santis told me a long time ago that I should believe in my poems. She published three of them in the collection Sweet Lemons 2: International Writings With a Sicilian Accent, an anthology she coedited with Venera Fazio. I was definitely fangirling because my poems were printed alongside the work of so many writers I admire. She told me I deserved to be there. Admittedly, I took it with a grain of salt–like I always do. It’s a fluke, I told myself. Recently, I read Diane di Prima’s latest book of poems. I know I’ve already blogged about finding it and reading it, but what I came away from reading that book with is the way she described how unapologetically she committed herself to her poetry writing and how pretty early on she unabashedly saw herself as a peer to fellow writers of the time. These bits of truth sit as bookends to the many other signs and bits that I have collected along the way from writers like Haruki Murakami, who also just simply committed himself to the craft, and Grace Paley, who when asked at a lecture she gave at Howard Community College in 1988 why she writes the stories she does simply said that there were very few stories of women when she began writing and she felt that those were stories that needed to be told and heard.

It has been easy to believe that my stories have no merit. It is easy to believe that because they don’t pull in six figures or any figures they are somehow less important than other things I do. I can’t blame anyone for making me believe that. No one made me believe that but myself. I chose to see myself as a fan girl rather than a peer for a long time.

Now, I am choosing to commit. I am choosing to see myself as a peer. I am choosing the process and my work and as di Prima noted in her book, the rest will have to work itself out.

 

The Quest for Re-Inspiration or the Importance of Stopping the Quest and filling the Well

img_5769I suppose I have been on a quest of sorts. It has been a while since I have felt the connection I used to feel to the world of words. It has been a while since I have had the time, space, etc., to fill the well. I take the blame for that. I have spent a better part of the past many years wanting, wanting to be a writer, wanting not to have screwed up my undergrad experience, wanting to have a career that offers some kind of stability, wanting, wanting, wanting. I used to feel like I was treading water, biking up a steep, steep hill, whatever the overused metaphor, perhaps you get the idea. I internalized the stress of thinking I needed to be something other than what I was or what I am, and I ended up in some kind of endless cycle of doing all these things I felt I should do to meet an end that was abstract at best. Of course my creative suffered. I shoved it aside with the thinking that I could create the perfect scenario to be able to create.

Not so long ago my husband and I did something nothing short of crazy. He being the Trekkie that he is would call it blowing up the Enterprise, and I would agree that it was a blowing up the Enterprise of sorts. We quit our jobs. We sold, donated, or tossed out nearly three quarters of our stuff, sold our home in Michigan, and crammed what remained of our belongings into two U-Haul trailers that we hauled across three states to Colorado.

Here I am. I finally have space. I have some job prospects, but I am learning (not so naturally) to embrace the space and time. I am using it to write again. I started this blog as one step, and I have been engaging in some writing-related activities in my new home. Bit-by-bit I am connecting with writers in my new home state. I even took time to take a real vacation, one where I could explore and be inspired. I visited San Francisco to hand out with family and to explore the city that has such a storied literary tradition.

I came away with the understanding that what I really want is to embrace the process now rather than to push it away. Part of that is due to the trip, but part of that is also because of the time I am taking to read more than I was able to before, at least read the things I want to read. The trip, though, is where I found The Poetry Deal by Diane di Prima, a book I read cover-to-cover while on the plane ride home. Some books appear at the very time I need them and this book is one those and it did appear. Out of all the books I could have come away from City Lights Bookstore with it was the one I needed most. Her inaugural address for her term as San Francisco Poet Laureate, her subsequent poems, should be read out loud everywhere right now. Something in all the poems touched me. Maybe because she dared to do so much of what I was afraid to do. She dared to be her strong, amazing self. She dared to commit to the poems and not much else except for her children.  “Memorial Day, 2003” is one poem that comes to mind with lines like “Remember it’s not a safe time & all the more reason/To do whole-heartedly what you have to do” and “remember/that all you need to remember is what you love/Remember to Marry the World.”

So, I’ve learned from di Prima and from blowing up the Enterprise that the quest is not important, the journey is. Now, I just need to keep remembering that.

We Are Here, Here being City Lights Bookstore

Yesterday was exhausting in all of the best possible ways. It was just me and my mom, though having my siblings along would also have been fun. We decided to hit North Beach because that is where the Italian section of the city is and that is where City Lights img_5685Bookstore is, but that all sort of comes a bit later in this post. This post really begins at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture.

Our intention was to be dropped off somewhere near Fisherman’s Wharf, but we saw a sign on the way that read something about an Italian American Museum. My mom had been telling me there was a museum. I wanted to check it out, but the sign was small and it was a bit hard to tell that Fort Mason was anything but a giant series of warehouses on a pier that jutted out into the bay. We had to check it out, so we explored and found that the warehouses did in fact contain some pretty cool cultural things that included the Italian American Museum, an art space that features works by Italian American artists and offers cultural events such as lectures and Italian classes. If that wasn’t enough, next door was the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library Bookstore, where I scored books on wet felting, something I’ve dabbled in and want to explore further, and for my mom there was a wonderful art supply store that carried all the paints she uses for her work.

That was the first part of our day. We had a great bit of lunch at the Goody Café, which is adjacent to the library bookstore. After lunch we made the long haul by foot to Columbus img_5697Ave. and then all the way down following the lampposts painted with the colors of the Italian flag. On the way, I saw a trolley, the first an only trolley I’ve seen while here, though I have ridden quite a few busses. My mother wanted to show me the Italian part of town, because she knew I’d love seeing it and she knew I’d want to see City Lights Bookstore, which is right there as well. We walked a long way. We were pretty beat by the time we reached the Italian section. We stopped at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Café for an espresso and a short rest before moving on to the candy shop and the deli where my mom bought salami for sandwiches we ate later that night.

The last stop was City Lights Bookstore, the place I couldn’t wait to see, though by then I’d blown my book budget at the other three bookstores I’d already been to in my jaunts around the city with my mom and sister. Really, the store came upon us more than we came upon it, and there was a man in a white beard standing casually out front kind of chuckling at us as we realized we were there. “This is it,” my mom said. “Oh, this is it,” I img_8096said. “This is it,” the man said. In my exhausted, overwhelmed delirium, I knew on some level I recognized the man, but in that moment I admit it didn’t register that it was Lawrence Ferlinghetti talking to me. I said to him, “This is all there has to be.” He sort of chuckled and we walked into the store. Inside, I was still overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to begin, especially with the vast poetry collection upstairs. Ultimately, in a relatively short amount of time, I found a new collection of poems by Diane di Prima. I knew I’d likely never find it anywhere else, and I thought it fitting that I buy her book of new poems at City Lights, so I did and that was our day, exhausting, fun, even a brief moment with Ferlinghetti. I won’t soon forget any of it.

 

Back to the Blog (but New and Not Necessarily Improved)

img_5649I’m blogging again. I’m blogging out of want and kind of out of necessity. I’m blogging because this is the real me and the other Cristina Trapani-Scott blog is not the real me, so no I don’t write about the benefits of Acai or whatever. I write about writing and about change. Yes, I said change. I have been through some lately, like changing from lifelong Michigan resident to Colorado resident. I could say change is scary, but change is always happening. Nothing is static and that is for the most part good. Yes, there has been change, like changing from being a steady working chick to dropping everything and having no job. That’s change. That’s scary change. I’m getting used to it, sort of. I’m not planning on making that permanent. Still, right now I’m using the free time to hang out here in San Francisco where I am visiting family and riding buses and running on the beach, or in the ocean as Map My Run likes to show. Really I’m here to find myself as a writer. I guess I lost that part of myself for a while. It has been hard to find in some ways, or maybe like everything else that part of me has changed and grown a bit as well. I am not the writing child anymore. I am the brooding writing teenager, growing pains and all. Well, I have said all I have to say for today. I will be heading to North Beach tomorrow, the Italian section of San Francisco. I am sure I’ll find inspiration there. Maybe the ghosts will speak. I will be listening. img_5672