joni abilene

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Month: March, 2012

New ideas

I’ve been writing a vignette style book about a man and woman who travel the Midwest in a Cimarron camper. He’s a photographer with some backstory: got married young, took his baby bride and new Cimarron out for a honeymoon way back when. She broke his heart and he’s been a lonely drifter ever since. This last trip he’s joined by a fleer of domestic abuse. I don’t know yet if I’m going to have them come together romantically, but I do know they will have some deep conversations (or at whatever my feeble brain come come up with that sounds deep). They’ll meet other people at campsites, towns, bars, etc. His backstory winds through the book: marriage, Vietnam, loves—both failed and bittersweet—as well as her backstory of abuse. And in between that, I’ll try to describe the landscapes that he sees through his camera viewfinder. But yeah, it’s all vignette style. I hope I’m not killing it by talking about it right now. That would suck.

It’s raining so much!!!!! I love the rain, but geez, enough already!

Think I’ll go to the store and get my kids some markers so we can make some beautiful art after they get home from school. Then it’s spaghetti night. Ciao! (Okay, that was totally corny. I’m not even Italian)



Okay, so these last few days I have been reading voraciously to infer my own MFA program. I’m calling it, My Fucking Answer to being a better writer. Let’s hope it works. Maybe I’ll even print off a diploma when I’m done. So, I read tons, and steadily write my next book (my thesis) and then edit the sucker to perfection.

So I read The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers on Friday night. I’d already read it, but I wanted to go through it again. Then I read a short story by Chekhov—The Bet, a short by Catherine Ann Porter—Rope, a little bit of Midnight Cowboy (one of my favorite books) . . . I wish I had some Vonnegut, because I’m in the mood for him today. One book I wish I had around is Terms of Endearment, I just need something to fall into today. Might have to go to the bookstore.

And that’s it. Time to make breakfast.


1979 is the year I’m totally obsessed with, perhaps because it was before John Lennon died. But I think it has more to do with the way the world changed after 1979: music, society, everything seemed to rush forward into a new way of thinking. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best thinking, if you ask me. It was an organic, sensual world that went to cold-shouldered egoism. I read a lot of old advertisements in vintage magazines, and there was a sort of innocence and humor that is no longer present these days. There’s something beautiful about a society that is allowed to not know what cool really is. We’re so painfully aware of perfection; we’re so adult; we’re so all knowing. And yet, we have an increasingly violent society, as if knowing all has depleted our temperance for kindness. All the growing room is gone, and the only thing left to do is to act out. I’m not suggesting we all become sheep, but I would suggest we let go of our keen awareness of everything rigidly perfect. Be children, hold on to innocence, hold on to your sense of humor, play once in a while, do silly things, invest your heart in something that doesn’t guarantee a return. Just be a human.

So anyway, that’s one reason why I love the 70’s, because they held much more simplicity than today. But from an artistic viewpoint, I just love the style. It was kind of surreal, kind of sexy. I like things with scratches and flaws–like vinyl records. There was also an honesty that I love–that whole who am I? generation.

There are other reasons, and I could list them all, but I need some coffee.

Too ADD for MFA

I was thinking about how much I’d love to go for an MFA, but at the same time I think, dear God no. See, here’s my long, complicated problem: I wrote a book of interconnected shorts stories (as I’ve mentioned before). They’re good stories, very down-to-earth, dust and breath, meat and potato stories. Maybe slightly abstract, laced with satire. But anyway, if I had an MFA I would be that much closer to being a pro at this thing. I’d get some respect (said in best Rodney Dangerfield voice). However, would an MFA guarantee me being a better writer? I’m not so sure. Perhaps technically better. But you can’t buy voice and style and instinct. What if I went and all that stuff was squeezed out of me and there’s no more of my curiosity for small towns and quirky people? What if I end up writing beautiful vignettes with no humor? What if ? What if? The real problem is I don’t (read: currently want to give up) have the money or time. And I’m a little bit ADD.

But anyway the problem is if no one publishes my stories, then no one will publish my book. I’m screwed. Here’s my solution. I’m going to read a lot. And write a lot. And submit a lot. And wait.

*Hey, the sun just came out. Yay!*

I still take a lot of pride in the fact that one of my stories opens with the word ‘clitoris.’ No one else can say that. No one would be proud about it, but hey, it’s the little things (har har).

Keep on Smilin’

As usual, I don’t have much to say. But I did want to post this song because I can’t get it out of my head. It has such a great feel about it. It’s one of those songs that would be great to listen to while driving down an old country road, goin’ nowhere, windows wide open.


I’ve written about four thousand words on the new book, but it’s not looking too great just yet. I do like some parts so I guess I’ll keep going, but I do have that sort of itchy feeling like “this is crap” “this makes no sense” “a monkey could write better than this.” Trudge on. If anything, it’s good to be writing something longer than a short story. It’s kind of freeing to sit down and write and not have to worry about cramming the whole plot into a few pages. Though I could stand to ramble less, make it dense, keep the intensity in, remember deatil, don’t get lost on moving from scene to scene just because I can.

That’s about it. Spring Break is next week and the weather looks to be gorgeous so I probably won’t get much writing done. Well, we’ll see.


I started a new book, but am also submitting stories from Woodsocket ’79  in the hopes that one will get published (which would help the book itself). Because, unless I get lucky and find a great opportunity, I think selling the stories first is the path to success. The book I just started is about a housewife in the 1970’s who gets hold of The Hite Report and, after reading, changes her opinion on everything she ever knew about being a woman and a wife. With her new feministic views, she counters a town full of angry people, loses her husband—and child—but instead of reverting back to the safe haven of gender-learned submission, she fights for her rights as a human being. There is of course, love and sex and craziness and all that 70’s stuff I seem to be obsessed with. But most of all it’s a human story. And timely, right? Who would have thought that in 2012 women would begin to lose the right to their own bodies, that society would revert back to its fear-based cavemen thinking, that radio personalities would say such nasty things, objectifying young women in such horrible ways? I never would’ve. But here it is, and here we are. So, in a way, I feel like I must write a book about feminism. My first thought was to write a biography about Shere Hite herself, but I found out she was penning her own screenplay so I gave up on the idea (at least, temporarily). And anyway, I do love the freedom of fiction.

So that’s it for now. It’s a cloudy, windy day here in Kansas. It always makes me feel so alone.