In Defense of Canned Cranberry Sauce

cannedMy sister Laura is hosting her first-ever Thanksgiving dinner today, in her awesome new house, and we discussed what all we were to bring, I reminded her of the two most essential pieces of a Cudmore Family Thanksgiving: Brown & Serve rolls, and canned cranberry sauce.

My understanding and celebration of the Thanksgiving dinner is based entirely on how my grandmother, Cora Cudmore, made it for my sisters, my dad and I.  My parents were divorced, so we had an early dinner with my grandma and then went for a second, later dinner at my grandmother Rivkah’s house.  I was usually still full, so I just had dessert.

But oh, the classic American spread Grandma put forth!  It was like something out of a vintage Good Housekeeping.  We started with Chicken in Biskit crackers on a fancy silver tray, with port wine cheese spread and olives, which I never ate because olives are gross.  She pulled out her good dishes for the holidays, a brown and tan set that she got every piece of — including the gravy boat and pitcher — with grocery store stamps.  As a kid, I thought those dishes were ugly, but now I would give away every beautiful pot and pan and gadget in my kitchen to see them on the table again.

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Idiot Box: ‘Turning Japanese’

Turning Japanese

I was a girl you splashed with water.  He spoke only in signs and subtitles.  We kissed on his bed under a blue and pink horizon of cigarette smoke.  Outside his window there were fireflies.  Inside his walls there were infomercials.  I carried a sword too big for my fragile hands, he drifted aimlessly in space, always out of gas, always out of luck. 

In our cartoon world, we can pull costumes out of back pockets.  In the ordinary world, all the roses he gave me were already half-black. On a melting sidewalk I intertwined our names like DNA.  He only called at 2 a.m. when The Boss couldn’t hear. 

The cat still says his name aloud.  I only have the red half of our locket.  I hold the summer’s last firefly in my hand outstretched.  Really, I say.  Really, it was nothing.

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The Joy of the Second Draft

...and I do

…and I do

Over birthday sushi, my friend and fellow writer Mike and I began discussing his newest short story.  Mike’s ultimate goal is to win Writers of the Future; it’s his pinot noir, if you want to go Sideways about it, and every few years he presents me with a new short sci-fi story to read in anticipation of the next contest.

His story “Double Tap” grew out of conversations we had.  When I was asked to submit a “supernatural crime” story to an anthology, I pitched a few ideas to friends, and in the back-and-forth, he came up with an idea he spun off on his own.  On his lunch break he’d get 250 or 500 words on the page; some mornings I’d wake up to a joyous email because he’d spent the night writing and gotten four or so pages done.

So a week ago, he handed me the first final draft for my thoughts. I sat down with a cup of coffee and read through. It was good, needed the kind of work all first drafts do — tightening, strengthening the characters, a few cuts for pace.  Given the way the inspiration sparked, it was only natural that we’d end up back at the dinner table, discussing story and craft.

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Unmoored

There’s very little that feels as good as finishing a story.  It’s just the absolute best in the whole world, this rush of euphoria and giddiness and dizziness and the sheer accomplishment of the whole thing.  Champagne and potato chips.  Fireworks.  Cake.Picture 6

But that next day, oh fuck, that next day.  Not quite a hangover, just an emptiness. What next?  You wander the halls.  You pay some bills.  And late in the afternoon, that panic sets in.  What if I can never write again?

Yeah, that’s where I am.  And it kinda sucks.

At about 1:14 in the afternoon on Wednesday, I finished edits on my debut novel, No Awkward Goodbyes.  My editor, Chelsey, is a saint of words, guiding me through what was, at times, an overwhelming and daunting process.  She also bought me a grilled cheese with short ribs, which makes her my favorite person ever.  It was a task filled with a lot of pacing and a lot of fretting and a lot of coffee, but I did it, and I learned that doing the dishes helps me work out scenes that I’m struggling with, which I’m sure is something Ian appreciates, even if I do it while I talk to myself.

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