Jun 30 2015

YA Thrills & Chills

On Monday night I attended YA Thrills & Chills at Books Inc. in Palo Alto, where three fabulous women writers — Nova Ren Suma, Lauren Saft, and Katie Coyle — gave wonderful readings of their newly released books and talked about why they write YA and their writing process, and what books they’ve enjoyed lately.

Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us

Book Description (from Goodreads): On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

“I think it’s such a great compliment when people are scared,” Nova Ren said, explaining that she was too close to the process while writing the book to feel fear of what she was writing herself.

I attending this event because of my love for Nova Ren’s past novels, most notable Imaginary Girls, which I still obsess over from time to time. So, I was freaking out a little (read: a lot) to be able to meet her in person and it was fascinating to hear how she approaches the writing process, which she described as part pantsing, part outlining. Nova Ren said the opening was important for her. “I need a way in. To find the right voice.” For the The Walls Around Us, she explained, she spent several months of a writing retreat just working on the right paragraph, trying to find the right voice. Once she found that, act one of the story flowed out fairly quickly. Then, after completing the first 50 pages or so, she would outline the rest of the book heavily in order to work it to completion.

Book Recommendation: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Lauren SaftThose Girls

Book Description (from Goodreads): Some girls will always have your back, and some girls can’t help but stab you in it.

Junior year, the suburbs of Philadelphia. Alex, Mollie and Veronica are those girls: they’re the best of friends and the party girls of the school. But how well does everybody know them–and really, how well do they know one another? Alex is secretly in love with the boy next door and has joined a band–without telling anyone. Mollie suffers from a popular (and possibly sociopathic) boyfriend, as well as a serious mean streak. And Veronica just wants to be loved–literally, figuratively, physically….she’s not particular. Will this be the year that bonds them forever….or tears them apart for good?

One of the fascinating things about Those Girls is that Lauren Saft wanted to step away from the good girls who tend to populate YA novels and instead focused on the party girls, the ones who drink and smoke and have sex and get into trouble, the ones who are most often get painted as the villain in stories. But they have their own stories, Lauren explained, they have their own insecurities and dreams. Although I ran out of funds and, thus, could not buy a copy of Those Girls, it’s gone on my TBR list to read at a future date, because I’m fascinated by those kinds of characters, too.

Lauren Saft said her writing of Those Girls started with the characters. She had a clear understanding of those girls, their voices, their relationships, and she was really clear on who they were. She mentioned that writing has been described as driving down the road in which you can only see so many feet ahead of you. “I didn’t really outline this book. I just sort of put my foot on the gas and drove,” she said, explaining that she was surprised when it all worked out by the end.

Book Recommendation: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Katie CoyleVivian Apple At the End of the World

Book Description (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

“I did what nobody should ever do,” Katie Coyle said about writing Vivian Apple At the End of the World, explaining that she join a writing contest, to which she submitted the first chapter of the book and a detailed synopsis. At which point, she proceeded to do nothing with it, assuming she wouldn’t advance any further. But lo and behold, the contest representatives called up and told her she was a finalist and the completed novel had to be submitted in three weeks — which she did. Another eight months of editing resulted in the novel I now have sitting on my bookshelf. Based on her reading from the first chapter, it’ll be quite good. As a fan of apocalyptic stories, I don’t often see rapture tales, so I’m excited to see where this goes.

Book Recommendations: The Metamorphosis Trilogy by Kate Oliver and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


May 18 2015

Amazing poets reading words

I attended two awesome lit events last week. On Wednesday, I visited a friend’s college classroom with Lorenz Dumuk, where we read poetry and listened to the students read poetry. It was awesome to see a younger generation take an interest. 

On Thursday, I attended friend Allie Marini Batts’ chapbook release party. She read from Before Fire: Divorce Poems and Pictures from the Center of the Universe, as well as some new works. It was no surprise to me that she was awesome. 

Joining Allie on the stage, were a handful of other amazing poets — B. Deep, Cassandra Dallett, Daphne Gottlieb, Joshua Merchant, and Jaz Sufi — each one with their own powerful and unique voice. 

 

Allie Marini Batts reading at the Octopus Literary Salon.

 
 

Me and the awesome.

 

What I’m Reading

I’m focusing on Don Quixote (in the midst of my short story reading) and am hoping to finish it by the end of the month. Part II is dragging a lot more than the first half did for me, so it feels like hard work at the moment.

Also still reading Everyone I Love Is a Stranger to Someone, poetry by Annelyse Gelman.

What I’m Writing

Ummmmm…. yeah… so…

I need to come up with a new routine that involves me going to a coffee shop or library in order to get actual work done, because as soon as I get home after work I slip into relaxation mode. This week’s plan is to bring my laptop to work on Tuesday and Thursday for just that purpose.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish off poem inspired by the Arabian Nights for submission to Nonbinary Review. Submit the chapbook to a few more publishers.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Poets! Hearing poets read, both newbies in the classroom and professionals at the Octopus Literary Salon, had me reaching for my pen, wanting to scribble words onto the page. At one point, I even got so distracted in writing that I missed my metro stop and ended far from where I intended to go.


Apr 2 2015

Nights of Words and Discourse

Meant to post this on Monday, but I got sick this week, which knocked me flat for several days. Since I’m starting to feel better, I’m posting it now.

* * * 

Last Thursday night I attended the fantastic Cito.FAME.Us Women’s History Month open mic, which featured the amazing folk duo Q&A and yours truly. I’ve been a fan of Q&A ever since I first heard them and so it was a great honor to have been paired with them for my first feature performance. I made a video of one of their new songs and hopefully I’ll be able to upload and share it soon.

Q&A includes Quynh and Alice

  

I also attended the Her Story to Call Her Own open mic, which was a wonderful grounding experience, full of many beautiful women singing or speaking many beautiful words.

What I’m Reading

I just finished Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick, which was beautiful and not at all what I expected. 

 
Blue by George Elliott Clarke, which is a powerful collection of poetry. 

 Still enjoying my slow read of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

What I’m Writing

I made it halfway through a chapbook submission, which I’m starting to feel fairly solid about. I’ve got some more work to do on it, some cleaning up of some of the poems and than I should be able to send it out.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish and submit chapbook.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Amazing women and artists who live in this South Bay community and who open up their voices to share.

Linky Goodness

I think I’ll just leave you with From Tank Girl to Mad Max: The 10 Most Stylish Apocalypse Movies.


Mar 23 2015

Feeling the Beautiful

My sister and I rocked the She is Beautiful 10K, both of us running the entire course for the first time.

I ran the She is Beautiful 5K last year, which was an amazing and moving experience. I just loved being surrounded by so many different women, of all shapes and sizes and abilities and ages — and all beautiful.

This year I decided to up my game and challenged myself by signing up for the 10K. Life has been hectic this month, so I haven’t been properly training over these last few weeks as I originally intended. I didn’t think I’d be able to run the entire event, but was joyful to just be there.

Mile One: The morning was misty, but not overly cold. My sister and I danced through the starting line and started into a stable, steady pace as we weaved through the crowds of walkers.

Mile Two: We smiled at our fellow runners. I felt strong, moving with this massive wave of women through the streets of Santa Cruz. My sister moves out ahead and I urge her on to run at her own faster pace.

Mile Three: The crowds thin out as the 5K runners and walkers head back to the finish line, leaving the rest of us to continue the journey. I wipe sweat and mist from my forehead and smile.

Mile Four: The tiredness started to set in and my pace slowed. But I pumped my arms and cheered as I past the mile four marker. I made it that far; might as well keep going.

Mile Five: As I rounded a corner and started into the only downhill section of the run, my legs got wibbly wobbly and my knees started to ache sharply. It’s important to respect signals from your body, so I slowed down to a walk. As soon as the ground flattened out again, I pushed back into a run and chugged up a long uphill stretch before the final mile.

Mile Six: Slow, so slow. Exhaustion sat my chest, urging me to stop. My legs felt numb. My hips ached. I churned my body forward at a tortoise-paced jog, watching the grey rolling ocean and the horizon beyond. I put one foot after another. One foot. Another.

Finish Line: I wore a mad smiled and shifted into a higher gear, finishing the race with every ounce of run I had left, with my sister cheering and joy in every fiber of my aching body. My sister and I were so proud of each other, both having run a 10K in its entirety for the first time.

What I’m Reading

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, which is intriguing and thrilling. A group of colonists living on another planet (I think) were infected with a disease that killed all the women and has made it so everyone can hear everyone’s thoughts in a constant stream of Noise. I’m finding it to be a page turner.

I’ve also started a slow read of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The story is quite funny at some points with a surprising amount of toilet humor. Since a lot of the humor is based on the book’s satire of courtly romances featuring errant knights and damsels and other such things, it helps that I’ve done some reading of the classic Arthurian tales, which provides good context.

What I’m Writing

Half of my week was taken up with traveling to Orlando for a work conference, so I didn’t get around to actually putting words on the page.

However, I spent several hours this weekend beginning the process of organizing my writing life. The system I developed should work — mostly. Paper drafts of all my poetry is problematic, since it would be ridiculous to have an individual file for each poem, so I’m still trying to work that out (and likely it will be best to keep poetry primarily on my laptop rather than in print). Works great for fiction, scripts, and nonfiction, though. I’m planning to post about the system sometime this week.

Goal(s) for this week: Finish organization. Edit and prep poetry for reading on Thursday. Prep poetry chapbook for submission.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Accomplishing my goal of running six miles on Sunday was amazing and has me feeling that I can accomplish all sorts of things at the moment. I’m hoping that feeling will linger.

Where I’ll Be

March 26: I’ll be a featured performer at Cito.FAME.us at Iguanas in San Jose. The open mic begins at 9 pm and I’ll be opening, so come early, if you want to see me perform.

Linky Goodness

21 Ways to Break Out of a Slump provides a list of simple measures to switch things up, like heading out to the farmers market or do a cell phone detox. I particularly liked its link to a 30 Day Spring Cleaning Challenge, which would be a challenge indeed, but represents an awesome approach to something I’ve been meaning to do.

The 2014 Best of the Net Anthology has been released for those looking for some good fiction, poetry, and nonfiction reading.


Mar 13 2015

Huzzah! and things

Thing One: The printer works! It actually works! Honestly and for real! Huzzah!

Thing Two: Last nights Cito.FAME.us open mic was mellow and lovely. Performers had to rock without the mic, so a lot of fantastic acapella. Khaliah shinned with joy as she shared her Dance of Peace and Ang Whee read and sang some beautiful words. Everyone was wonderful.

Since there were only a few people signed up, so I was able to read a number of poems, rather than just one — a nice warm up for March 26th, when I’ll be featuring.

Thing Three: I’m off on a work trip to Orlando tomorrow, where I’ll be through Wednesday. Therefore, there will likely be little to no blog posting next week, unless I get a gumption.