PARTS OF SPEECH

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN SHELLEY PLETT
“The act of writing is an act of

optimism. You would not take the trouble to do it if you felt it didn’t matter.” -Edward Albee

We all have our vices-bad, good, or somewhere in between. After finally coming to terms with my own obsession, I am proud to be a recovering junkie in control of her problem.

By that I mean a magazine junkie with a subscription problem.

Although he hadn’t complained yet, our mail carrier was hauling quite a few magazines to our front door. I fault the “bill me later” payment option for my excessive ways. The one that breaks down a $16.95 yearly fee into four equal monthly installments. The temptation was just too much and I found myself returning a lot of postage-paid envelopes with a big fat X by that billing choice.

When I finally broke down and went into subscription remission, I limited myself to the necessities: Budget Living and Zoo Books.

Budget Living is a little off-beat with its share of bizarre articles like an “ode to commodes” toilet seat design contest and how to make giant eyeball yard art. But the editorials always make me laugh and it has some more practical ideas about budgeting, recycling, traveling and home decorating.

You would be amazed what can be done with an old boat motor, some yarn and a wheelbarrow.

The Zoo Books actually belong to my daughter, but they are addictive, no less. My junior zoo keeper is an animal lover and has pulled me into her world with these magazines. After all, who wouldn’t want to learn that camels eat thorns?

After sticking to these two publications and even going as far as canceling a couple of old subscriptions, I rewarded myself with just one more. I subscribed to Writer’s Digest on the single-payment plan.

Both the reader and writer in me agree that this is a good magazine. I like to read about writing- more specifically about struggling writers. From what I gather, most authors and maybe artists in general are doing just that-struggling from one piece to the next, trying to create something presentable-and then beating themselves over the head, convinced that it could have been better.

After a couple of issues, I knew I had chosen the right magazine. I can usually find at least one article about how hard it was for someone to complete something. If it makes me feel a little better about my tendency to procrastinate, I’ll take it.

Being published has been a goal of mine for awhile. Since I’m naturally cautious-and paranoid-I opted to just write for myself. This allowed me to say anything I pleased and then pack it away in a notebook.

When the chance to go public arrived, I found out that it’s not so easy to open that notebook again. It’s a vulnerable position to be in, but at the same time, there’s this need to throw it out there. In the end, it comes down to deciding if any imagined risk is worth the chance to pen the “right” words.

The reader in me loves the Writer’s Digest short-story contests. This year’s winner, called “Field of Heads,” was the perfect example of why I simply love to read. Even though it is fiction and based on a Chinese urban legend, it’s eerie and haunting. Just the idea that it could have happened-in some culture, at some time-was disturbing enough.

The point of view is from one child among many who are literally buried to their necks in a bare field, where their working mothers are forced to leave them during the day. It seemed to be set during an ancient era, but the author compared her surreal vision with an isolated parent trying to work and raise a child in the modern world.

The story began in the field…”They brought a new girl to the field today and buried her up to her neck…. As soon as they left, she started to wail, just like everyone did the first time…. Couldn’t she see how peaceful it was, this field of heads, all bending in the same direction like flowers in the sun?…. You will soon develop enough neck muscle to bend just so, or to look beyond the sugar canes for your mother.”

After reading it, I had the sudden urge to hug my kids. That’s what I loved about it. It’s the kind of story you read again and again to pick up the parts you missed the time before. The kind that sticks to your ribs.

The way I see it, if I hadn’t cut back on the useless magazines, I wouldn’t have rewarded myself with the one that gives me these incredible stories to read, along with the motivation to throw my own stories out there.

The fact that mine could always be better is something I’m willing to live with.

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