It’s hard to believe that November is already over, even though it vanished in a flash of activity, including a week long trip to the U.K. for work with a couple of days to tour London, a full day of helping my sister move into a new apartment, several events leading up to a lovely wedding for a good friend, and two Thanksgiving dinners combined with a variety of other family on-goings.
In addition to this, I participated in two November challenges — National Blog Posting Month and Nanowrimo.
The goal for National Blog Posting Month was to write a blog post a day during November. I managed to pull off a total of 21 posts over the course of the month. My personal favorites:
Autumn, which incorporates poetry and creative nonfiction
Bluebeard, a flash fiction piece that may or may not lead to more stories or a longer work
I fell short of Nanowrimo’s goal of 50,0000 words, as well, managing around 14,500 words, which is still a hefty chunk for a novel in poems. I’ll post an excerpt and thoughts on my process later.
While I did not reach my set goals for either challenge, the point was to get me writing and, in that, I feel successful. Words have been put on the page and progress made.
The next step is to maintain that progress. So, while my December is likely to be as busy with events as November, I’m planning to write at least three blog posts a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posting) and use what time I can in order to finish draft zero of the novel in poems. That will provide me with plenty of work, I’m sure.
Did you participate in any November challenges? How did they go for you?
I tend to not talk about race and racism on my blog for a number of reasons, in part because I don’t feel I have enough knowledge to be able to address the issues properly and in part because I don’t want to overwrite the voices of POC who speak from personal experience and with more eloquence than I ever could.
As I am white, I get to feel sad and discouraged. I get to not talk about race and racism everyday of my life and can, if I want to, pretend there’s not a problem here. But racism is rampant and I don’t want to be a part of the problem by ignoring the dangers it represents to a significant portion of the American population.
I get to look at my niece and nephew, running around, laughing, and playing and I know that my greatest fear for them does not include the fear that either one of them being shot by a police officer.
I’m going to close up (because there are other voices more important than mine) and say, I hope that those protesting in the Ferguson and around the nation will stay safe tonight and I send my prayers out to all the the people of Ferguson.
Oh, how people love to whisper. The rumors of my husband were rampant as gnats in summer. They speak loathingly of his ugly blue-black beard and how he towers over everyone in a room, thick and tall as an evergreen tree. They say he goes through wives the way wolves tear through rabbits, one after the other. No one knows what becomes of these fine young, innocent ladies, they say. And they wonder at what great wealth he must possess to draw so many new brides into his home.
Sun rises and I pad out from bedroom to loveseat in pajamas, curl up with a thick blanket, let my feet dangle over the seat’s arm. The TV clicks on with an electric beep, noise pours out, full of automated laughter flipping through to reality celebrities bitching flipping to the laser fire of epic space battles. During commercials, the TV falls to mute, and I read, shifting to a more comfortable position. Afternoon light lines the room through the window blinds. Stomach rumbles, bladder complains. I get up, go pee, fix a sandwich, grab an entire bag of chips, return to my perch on the loveseat. Settle in. Words, channels, social media scanning on my phone. I don’t notice the light fading from the sky until I can no longer read the words on the page.
* * *
I sometimes give myself permission to have such lazy empty days. After a particularly stressful week it feels good to regress into the cave of my apartment and disconnect from the outside world.
But it’s easy to overdo it. Too many laze days in row or over the course of a month, and I begin to feel heavy. The emptiness weighs on me. The inner gnat starts nagging me about all I’ve failed to do — writing, laundry, cleaning, writing, running, writing.
Laying in one position watching hours and hours of television can be draining, sucking the life out of the day. It empties the mind but doesn’t necessarily make me feel good in the long run, sometimes making me feel more tired than when I started the day.
A completely lazy day is never as restful as I imagine it to be. Even one act of movement from the couch — a good run, lunch with a friend, a walk to the coffee shop across the street — opens the day up to a greater feeling of restfulness. I find that being active and taking part in fun (though not hectic) activities brings a greater inner stillness than sitting on the couch all day doing nothing.
What do you find most restful? Lazy days doing nothing at home? Or getting out and doing things?
When I was growing up, I saw a movie in which a girl pushes a pin into a map on her wall for every city she’d visited. I don’t remember the name of that movie or TV show, but I remember the longing for my own map and the desire to have so many travels that the map would be stuck so full of pushpins that you could hardly see the lines and designations underneath.
My travel dreams have always been of the large variety — a cross country road trip to visit ever state in the continental United States, trekking from China to India over the Himalayas, flying to the tip of South America and and making my way back up to the U.S. by car, train, bike, boat, or foot alone.
None of these dream trips have manifested as of yet. Life is full of obligations and I have not been good about planning ahead in terms of saving up funds for such a trip, but that has not stopped me from dreaming.
I must also admit that I have immensely lucky and grateful to have landed a job that has allowed me to travel on a smaller scale, such as with my recent trip to London. I may only be able to touch down into some places for a day or two, but it’s a gift to just be there for even that amount of time. I’ve had some beautiful experiences.
Though travel sometimes exhausts me and I always fun myself grateful for the comfort and peace of home, my wanderlust is never doused. Often the act of travel stoked my longing for more worldly wandering. The world is just so full of so many places to see and people to meet.
Where have you traveled and where do you long to go?
When I walk through an art museum, I seek out works that move me, pieces of art that resonate in some way or in some way make me stop in my tracks and consider it further. The art that moves me is not always the most famous or most popular art. It may capture my imagination, sending me off into a story, or it may provide and emotional gut check.
I especially look for this in modern art museums, such as the Tate in London. I’m drawn more to modern art (much of the older art prior to the 18th century can sometimes all look the same to me no matter how beautiful), so local modern art museums are always a must when I travel .
The Tate has many great works of art in a variety of styles, from cubism to minimalism and everything in between. There are a few Picassos there among other well known artists.
Both artists are “paper architects” who created seemingly impossible designs out of paper. I plan to follow up and learn more about both of these artists and their work. But in the meantime, I think I’m going to have to go back to the Tate later this week and buy a print from their Projects series for my wall.
It’s been a busy day in London, visiting Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Tower Bridge Exhibit, and the Tower of London (including just about everything but the armory exhibit in the White Tower); taking Thames River Cruise; walking by Big Ben, Westminster Abby, St. James Park, and the Buckingham Palace; and then finishing up at London Bridge Experience.
My Favorite Bit of the Day: The Globe.
The Globe is as close of a replica to the original Globe theater as possible, considering there is not much beyond the information provided except in the travelogues of visitors. This is actually the third Globe. The first burned down only fifteen years after being built due to the genius idea to fire a cannon out of the attic as part of a special effect, which causes some of the burning cotton to set the roof aflame, though no one died. The second was rebuilt and closed down about 30 years after it opened, when the Puritans finally succeeded in closing all of the theaters.
This, the third Globe was rebuilt by Sam Wanamaker only 200 meters from where the original stood. Before starting the tour, an exhibition provides some background on the history of the Globe and how the replica was built, as well as including modern costumes designed to look like Elizabethan originals and recordings of famous monologues from Shakespeare’s plays.
Standing in front of the stage, learning about the tricks and understanding by being present really enhances how I feel about Shakespeare’s work. As the guide was speaking, just at her normal level, I could hear her voice reverberating off the rafters — the acoustics are amazing. Being there made me want to pick up and read some of his plays that I haven’t read before, or maybe just binge watch some of the movies.
The Globe is a working theater, too, putting on performances in (mostly) the old style with no electrical audio enhancement or special effects. The only lighting used is during evening performances, but it is used merely to allow the stage and audience to be lit to simulate the daytime experience, in which the audience and actors can see each other. In addition to Shakespeare’s plays, modern plays are also performed.
I would LOVE to have been able to see a performance at the Globe, but since it’s an outdoor theater, performances are only in the summer.
Fortunately, as an alternative, there is also the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which is designed to be like an indoor, candle-lit Elizabethan playhouse — where they will be playing John Ford’s Tis a Pity She’s a Whore. Ford is a contemporary of Shakespeare and this is a play I read in college, which makes it doubly exciting. Tis a Pity is a story about incest between a brother and sister, which ends in a terrifically violent and bloody fashion in true Jacobean manner. Should be uncomfortably fun.
The next leg of my travel will be work involved in an industrial city nearby and, thus, in a sense, slightly more mellow. So, I’ll be using the next few days to catch up on my London posts.
I was un prepared for how crowded and busy London was going to be, but it was a good kind of crowed and only certain spots. I mean, I was a pain to maneuver a suitcase or an umbrella down the sidewalk sometimes, but it was also wonderful to be able to listen to the many different languages (French, Spanish, and other languages I couldn’t name).
Tonight when I came out of the National Gallery, the rain was falling heavy. I pulled out my umbrella, but my shoes and pants were still getting wet. I was cold and could feel the water wanting to seep into my shoes, but I stopped worrying about it and just loved the rain. It felt like London blessed me (even though I know it rains here all the time).
Later, as I walked away down quieter streets to the hostel, with the lights reflecting off the wet streets, I was struck again by the absence of people after the earlier rushing crush of bodies.
And that’s about all I have the energy for in this post. I visited the National Gallery and the Tate Museum today, both of which had me thinking thoughts (one particular set of thoughts likely to turn into a very long post), but at the moment, the jet lag and exhaustion have caught up with me.
I am at the airport. Waiting for my flight to London via Chicago.
Will be boarding any second now. Any second.
Excitement is present beneath the tedium. I’ve never been to the UK (Well, actually, I spent three days in Ireland, so that’s not entirely true). First time in Britain.
Since this will be a work trip, I’ll have just a little time to visit and check things out. In the day and a half I have in London, I plan to visit:
– the National Gallery
– the Tate Modern
– Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
– a Thames River Cruise
– the Tower of London
– the Tower Bridge
– the London Bridge Experience (a horror history tour)
– and walk around a whole lot, seeing Buckingham Palace with the changing I the guard, Big Ben, and plenty of other stuff, I’m sure.
I’ll have another half day after the conference, but I haven’t planned that out yet. Expect many London posts over the next week.
So, yeah, still waiting.
I should pull out my laptop and Nano for a bit, because I promised myself I would use the waiting while traveling to write.
Out strolling, I learn how
the ocher yellow birch leaves tremble
against a robin-egg-blue sky. In a fairy tale,
a man finds a grove of trees
with leaves of gold, and here, now,
I believe it to be true. He could have plucked
these very leaves
as proof of the world’s wonder.
* * *
I have lived in Northern California most of my life. There are few birch trees, if any, and few trees that even bother changing color with the coming of Autumn. The seasons are less defined, blending one into the other with little differentiation. The first signs of Fall came only a few weeks ago with a noticeable chill to the morning air, a few sporadic grey-skied days with light rains lasting no longer than a day.
I remember piles of leaves, brown and yellow and golden, covering lawns. The rustle and crunch of them beneath my sneakered feet, sweeping huge piles into the air with one sweep of my feel. I imagine these memories attached to my younger years in Alaska, but more likely it would have been California — making my nostalgia misplaced. Perhaps this is in part due in part to my present longing for a true Autumn, a true Winter, at the very least a week of storms and rain.
* * *
I don’t much care for the hero in the story of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses“, who stalks the ladies down into the forests of gold leaves and silver leaves and then ruins the party.
Though to be honest, no one comes off well in this story. The king is sending men after his sleeping daughters and chopping heads off when they find nothing. The daughters blissfully drug the men, knowing they will die for their failure.
Still, I put my sympathy with the daughters, who seek adventure and dancing and joy. Though the hero brings them home and helps their father tether them to hope, I imagine each girl, one by one, shucking off the cords and wandering away for new adventures. The door to the magic lands may be closed, but their feet are strong and the world is wide. There is enough gold in the sun and silver in the clouds to give them joy, as they discover new shores and ensnare new friends into the freedom of dancing.
* * *
In fairy tales, everything — gifts, tests, friends — come in threes. They say that about deaths, too. When celebrities die, we count them in groups of three, create a grouping of deaths and call the curse down when the third falls. As though folk tale superstition can stop the flow of time, can hold back and make sense of the chaos of daily life. Summer becomes Autumn whether we like it or not, and we all must cross the threshold of Winter to reach the Spring.
* * *
Look what has become
of my heart, the husk of a brown leaf,
hold it in your hand, watch
it crumble to dust
and feed the earth,
in the cold, in the dark,
see the tender shoot
of its feeling
When I was 13ish, my cousin shared the movie My Girl with my younger sister and I. We had no idea what we were in for, the fun and funny coming of age story of a girl coming of age eventually left my sister and I completely destroyed, curled up in a balled weeping mess, hugging each other to hold back the feelings.* I remember it taking some time to calm us down, though my cousin claims innocence and no memory of this incident. Over the years, I’ve watched My Girl dozens of times and I’ve wept every time.
So, when My Girl 2 came out a few years later, I had to see it. It was… okay. Not nearly the amount of heart as I would have hoped.
But that’s not the point.
The point is there was one moment in the sequel I adored — when Veda finally sees a video of her mother and she sings the Charlie Chaplin tribute song “Smile” (the only available version of this scene is this really bad recording). I’m sure I cried, because I’m a big baby at movies. There was something about they way the actress who played Veda’s mom is so casual, singing it acapella, smiling to herself, an slightly embarrassed that captured me.
I loved the words, too. They are simple words, but sweet, speaking of holding to hope through hard times, something I could and still can relate to in the face of struggle. It places this among my favorite songs.
So, after finishing the movie, I immediately rewound the tape so that I could start memorizing it. I still know it by heart to this day.
I’m not a good singer (to be honest, I’m terrible), but if asked, I will sing “Smile,” mimicking the inflections of Veda’s mom. I can almost sound okay singing it, or so I’ve been told by my mom. 😉
The words, as I remember them:
Smile though your heart is aching,
smile even though it’s breaking,
although a tear may be ever so near,
that’s the time, you must keep on trying.
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
if you just light up your face with gladness.
Hide any trace of sadness.
When there are clouds
in the sky, you’ll get by.
Smile through your fear and sorrow,
smile and maybe tomorrow,
you’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
if you just smile.”
One of my personal flaws is my disinclination to engage more in politics. I suppose this is in part due to a sense of helplessness in the face of social and other issues I see within my country and in part due to laziness. Keeping up with politics is often disheartening, time consuming, hard work, and there are so many fun things I’d much rather be doing. Though I do read blogs and watch The Daily Show, I don’t often speak or write about politics.
But I feel I should be able to pull of a basic level of engagement: voting.
I tell myself every time that I miss a chance to vote that next time I will get my mail-in ballot, read up on the candidates and measures, and vote on time. And yet, here I am again. I’ve forgotten about the election, I’ve failed to get it together to vote, and promising myself to do better next time. I hope I can make that happen.
How often do you engage in politics? If you’re in the U.S., did you vote today?
Edited to Add: Just learned about headcount.org, which helps voters to register, find polling places, and provides other resources.
If you know of other such resources to make life easier for voters, let me know and I’ll add it to the list.
Saturday morning, I came to the sudden realization that I was doing Nanowrimo whether I liked it or not. After several hours of denial in which I instituted time-old delay tactics, such as twitter and tumblr, I decided on a story to work with — a novel in poems involving the interweaving and retelling of many fairy tales and myths — and began to dig in.
On Saturday, in between switching out laundry, I wrote. After going for a 4 mile run/walk, I wrote. In the few minutes before I had to leave for the awesome Dia de los Muertos party, hosted my fantastically awesome friend Lise, I wrote.
On Sunday, I woke up early and wrote, because I knew the majority of my day would be given over to helping my sister move from one apartment to another — both apartments were on the second floor. Well, one was on the second and a half floor, because there was a flight of stairs just to get to the second floor, which means my legs are all wibbly wobbly today. While my sister and mom were organizing all the moved-in things, I sat in the living room and wrote some more.
The result: 3,079 words written.
Already, with just that start, I feel better. The poems are more prosey than I’d like, but that’s for editing to fix. The months of feeling stuck and miserable from not writing has slid off my shoulders. This was exactly what I needed. I have a mountain of work ahead of me, but if I continue to be creative with my use of time, then I’m certain I can make it all work.
This is the mountain of things to be done during the rest of November:
1 — Trip to the U.K. for work. I’ll have a day and a half in London to tour the city, which will be action packed
3+ — Bridal party events to attend, including the bachlorette party, the rehearsal, and actual wedding itself.
2-3 — Thanksgiving dinners. The family dynamics are shifting this year and I’m not sure how it’s all going to fall into place.
27 — Blog posts left to be written as part of NaBloPoMo.
46,921 — Words left to be written for Nanowrimo.
Unknown Number — Of books to be read, runs to be run, and hang out time with friends and family have to be fit in.
Are you participating in any November challenges? Have you had a good kick off to the month?
It’s November 1st, and here I am not participating in National Novel Writing month, not even in a modified format. I love Nano and have participated more often than not over the past eight or so years. It’s helped me write words, a lot of words. And even though much of those words were set aside or trashed, I know those words have helped me complete other projects that I’m proud of. I also wouldn’t have many of the friends I have today.
So, I always feel a little sad on those rare Novembers when it participation won’t work for me, for whatever reason. This is one of those Novembers, because I will be traveling for work to the U.K. in a week and will have a slew of other events during the rest of the month.
Also, I’ve been feeling blocked with writing lately and have been trying to dig myself out. I would argue that feeling blocked is an excellent reason FOR doing Nano, rather than not doing it. Nothing to get past a slump like putting down words at a breakneck pace and racing past your inner critic…
freaking, fracking dammit! I can’t do Nano. I won’t.
But it’s occurring to me now — literally, right at this minute as I’m typing, seriously — that participating in Nano might be infinitely helpful to getting me back on tra— NO! I DON”T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!
But if I work on a new project, i.e., not the werewolf novel that has been hovering over my head like a great cloud of doom, then maybe, just maybe I can…
But I swear, I don’t have time for this. I mean, I’ll be traveling, loosing a WHOLE WEEK.
But I could write on the plane.
I swear, I started this post intending to make my excuses for Nanowrimo and announce my participation in NaBloPoMo. But, now, I guess…
After writing 12,900 words on Saturday, November 30th in a desperate attempt to beat the midnight deadline, I found myself with no more brain cells left over. So, I stopped an hour and a half before midnight and was just 3,581 words shy of the 50,000 goal.
Even though I didn’t reach the goal, I’m happy with the work I’ve done this month. I have large chunk of the novel now done and I know there ate at least a few of the scenes that I really like (hopefully they’re not the darlings I’ll have to kill later). My hope that I’ll be able to pull off the rest of the novel draft by the end of December, so I can edit in 2014.
With the 13,010 words I wrote pre-NaNo, Under the Midday Moon is now at 59,429 words, which is AWESOME.
New Blog Posts Written: 27
Total Blogging Words: ~15,866
I started to fall off the blog posting toward the end of the month, because all my energy was taken up with trying to finish NaNo. It was an excellent challenge though, and got me thinking about different ways to approach my blog. I’m thinking about doing the challenge again a few times through out the year (probably not when I have other intense challenges going on).
Total New Words (Novel & Blog) Written in November: 62,285
Other Life Stats
Workouts Completed: ~8
I’m not entirely sure of the count, but I made sure to do a minimum of one workout a week, which is vital for my mental, as well as physical health.
Day Job: We went to press on our December issue just before Thanksgiving. This involved me personally writing over 10 full pages of text, proofing every page of the 64 page issue at least three times, and working with authors and companies to get approval and photos. Lots of work.
On the whole it was a very productive month and I can definitely call it an epic win for myself.
1. Thanksgiving yesterday was great, family and food filled fun. Lots of laughing and eating. Turkey and stuffing and salad and twice baked potatoes and candied yams and green beans with bacon, not to mention pecan pies and apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake — all homemade, by the way. Plus lots and lots of champagne.
2. I received a rejection for a poetry chapbook submission, called The Letterbox, sent out many months ago. The rejection included a personal note, thanking me for submitting. The editor said I had a nice narrative arc to my poems and suggested that I submit again. I never take rejections to heart, because they are a part of the process of being a writer, but it’s always great to see that personal touch and get a bit of encouragement.
3. I have no motivation to do anything at all, even though I’m supposed to pull off 18,000 words before midnight tomorrow. *sigh*
4. I’m am enjoying reading Slice of Cheery by Dia Reeves, which has consumed most of my day so far.
5. I’m sure I have enough motivation to seek out more pecan pie, though. Mmmmm, pie. And then a nap.
I bought Eleanor & Park in support of the author due to a censorship controversy that happened, in which parents in Minnesota convinced a local school district, county board, and local library board to cancel Rainbow Rowell’s reading and speaking events, because they believe the book to be obscene.
I am ridiculously glad I bought this book, because it turned out to be one of my favorite books this year. It’s an incredibly funny and sweet love story between two outcast teenagers. The rub for these parents, I suppose, is that Rowell approached the story with honesty, the teenagers are intimate (but not overtly so) and cuss as a direct result of the abuse and bullying they witness. Rowell is an author who doesn’t pull punches, but she does so skillfully to reveal truth and offer hope in bleak circumstances.
Park is something of an outcast. He’s not tormented by the other kids because of being “grandfathered” into the community as one of the locals, but he still doesn’t quite fit in. He doesn’t meet his dad’s standards of being manly or his school’s standards of being cool, so he kind of floats in an in between place of not being friendless while also being rather lonely.
Eleanor moves back in with her mom, brothers, sister, and abusive stepdad after having been kicked out of the house for a year. The loneliness of having been excluded of her family life has left its mark on her and she feels like an outsider in her own home. Desperate to not be abandoned again, she does her best fit within her step father’s rules, while also avoiding him. At school, her sense of exclusion is continued with bullying from the popular kids, who continually call her names and harass her.
Eleanor and Park meet as she climbs the bus for the first time on the way to school. The bus has its own rules and hierarchies, into which Eleanor does not fit and it leaves her standing in the aisle as the bus jolts into motion. Park’s first intention to is to leave her hanging like the rest, but he scoots aside and lets Eleanor sit with him. What starts out as indifference grows into friendship as the two begin sharing and exchanging music and comics, then as their friendship blooms into trust it becomes love.
I loved Rowell’s writing style, which was clean and occasionally poetic. (“His eyes were so green, they could turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.”) And I love how she structured the story, with it being told from both Eleanor and Park’s point of views. This allowed for one part of the conflict to exist in misunderstandings in the way we perceive ourselves and how we think people perceive us. Neither Park nor Eleanor are mind readers and so often presume the negative (he must hate me, she must be embarrassed by my, he must think I’m fat), when the reality is that the thing one is most embarrassed by is one of the things the other loves most.
The way the relationship grows and changes and becomes slowly more intimate throughout the novel is touching and funny and sad. It’s really a great read and one I would recommend to anyone who likes bitter-sweet romance.
It was a slow writing week for me, but I made it up to Chapter 19. My day job has been getting hectic, as we have to go to press by Wednesday and there is a ton of work to do. I didn’t take into account the “day job/going to press will eat all the brains” aspect of November when I decided to do these challenges. So, at this point, I’m not sure that I’ll complete 50,000 words. It’s not IMpossible, but it will be quite a stretch.
I allowed myself to skip Sunday for the NaBloPoMo blogging challenge. I had no ideas and no brain cells to spare. So, I just let myself mentally rest.
Current Project: Under the Midday Moon
(Novel Word Count Before Starting Nanowrimo: 13,010)
Goal: Complete 50,000 New Words and Hopefully the First Draft New Words This Week: 6,266 Total NaNoWriMo Word Count: 29,073
Random Rough Sentences: I don’t remember what woke me that night. I just remember the night was bright with moonlight, illuminating patches of gleaming snow outside my fogged window. The sparse birch trees stood like ghosts in the dark. I remember wanting to be out under the trees, running, skipping, rolling in the mud, diving through bushes, kicking the leftover snow.
Novelling Notes: I’m in another slow spot in the novel, at least slow for me. It’s basically a set of connecting scenes between one dramatic action sequence and another, and I find these scene necessary, but hard to write. They’re emotional scenes, full of angst, while also requiring plot movement and writing them is like pulling teeth.
The other thing I’m noticing is that I have a lot of plot threads cast out there with two romances (no love triangles), the werewolf angle, and the family dynamics story. While I’m writing a scene(s) focused on one aspect, I tend to forget the others entirely. In rewrites, I think I’m going to have to weave them together a bit more coherently.
Things To Be accomplished in the Coming Week:
Miraculously Complete NaNo with 20,927 new words (yikes)
We’re down to the last week of November and unfortunately I’m starting to run out of blog posting ideas, especially as I’m in the process of trying to desperately catch up on my NaNo word count (I have seven days to write 25,000 words!!).
I could write about Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, of course. Every stream on every social network I follow has just about exploded with excitement over this (totally understandable). However, I have not watched the episode as I do not have access to the channel at this time and it’s also unlikely that I’ll see it anytime soon (not that I’m caught up on the past several seasons anyway — I’m a bad Whovian, I guess).
In other news, it’s an hour to midnight and I should probably write another thousand words before then.
Sorry for the throwaway post. Hope you’re all loving life!
Last night, I forgo-ed writing to go to the premiere party for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at The Tech Museum’s Hackworth IMAX Dome (the dome is amazing in and of itself, eight stories tall and astounding to watch movies on). The party was fun with chocolate fondu fountains and a very creepy looking pig-shaped cake. In honor of the movie, a group presented sword and fighting demonstrations, as well as an archery demonstration. Before the movie, the staff also asked trivia questions and offered tee shirts and posters as prizes. (^_^)
Note: Spoilers from the first movie are likely to show up here.
Catching Fire after the first Hunger Games ending, with Katniss and Peeta both as heroes and in a constant state of threat by the government. The tension is present from the beginning, because we know Katniss defied President Snow with her berries trick and he is very pissed off about it. What follows is a political struggle as Katniss and Peeta decide whether to do as they’re told or to fight back.
Jennifer Lawrence was amazing. She can show so much of Katniss’ inner conflict without saying a single word. In fact, everyone in this movie did an amazing job, each one approaching their roles with respect for their characters. The director allows a few brief moments of quiet from time to time, in which the characters can just be themselves and all the worry and fear comes through.
The tension at the beginning is powerful and the action in the games is exciting (one of the game threats gave me chills). Since this is the second book in an ongoing story, things did fully wrap up, but paused in preparation for the third movie to come in 2014.
Catching Fire was a fantastic adaptation of the book and proves once again why book-to-movie adaptation is so fascinating to me. Books being the wordy things they are, tend to have more dialog, longer speeches, more explanation. As a reader seeing a movie of a favorite book, it’s tempting to want every scene and every bit of dialog included in the movie. But movies are different creative creatures entirely, and it’s often better to simplify, strip away a bulk of the words.
I remember reading Catching Fire and wondering how some of the scenes would be pulled off. In the book, the moments were dramatic and powerful and full of dialog and multiple scenes. Yet, the movie managed to pull out the heart of these scenes, make them powerful and moving, and all while having them be shorter. The scenes rely on trusting the actors to pull it off and the cinematographer to find the right distance. It’s fascinating to see this work.
The third and final book, Mockingjay, will be following the Hollywood trend these days and be split into two movies in order to suck all the money they can out of viewers. I have no idea how this will be pulled off (I never do). It has me a little worries (always does). But based on the first two movies, my hopes are high.
Warning; This is a piece of fiction that has been written in a ridiculously short amount of time. Therefore, there are likely errors and mistakes, so read at your own risk. (~_^)
The clouds released just enough moisture to dampen the cement and make it slick, while cars inched by caught in the snails pace traffic that lead downtown. As soon as the streetlight turned green a car back down the line honked, causing a number of other cars to release a litany of honks in reply.
Fay Fairburn looked up at the sound of the honking, her eyes trailing something that moved over the cars chasing the sound of the honks. What ever this something was, it went unseen to passersby, but Fay noticed and she shook her head with a smirk and went back to weaving together strips of cloth, plastic, and strands of her own hair. The end of the weaving held a coke tab, a small stone, and other objects tied into a ball like charm.
Despite all the dirt under her nails, despite the unbrushed and fading blue hair that has begun to dread, despite the torn jeans and ratty tee shirt and mismatched socks and man’s pin stripe suit jacket five sizes too large, Fay did not give the impression of being homeless or lost. Her entire appearance seemed to be deliberately accidental. She didn’t even seem to remember the battered top hat was sitting in front of her until someone dropped a bit of change into it.
Each time a bit of change clattered into the hat and rattled with the other dimes, quarters, and pennies as though it had at last found its way home, Fay looked up from the charm she was weaving and smiled. It was the kind of smile that made the people suck in their breaths linger for just a moment, as though the mist had broken to reveal a ray of sunny warmth. Even those who tried to deposit money in the hat without actually seeing her somehow found themselves struck by the illumination of that smile.
Her papa shuffled around the corner wringing his hands, not so much from the chill in the air, but from the worry that hovered around him like gnats. His clothing was as rumpled and dirty and torn as Fay’s, but while she encapsulated certainty in herself, her papa looked perpetually and unutterably lost. Even if her were scrubbed clean and placed in the finest clothing and the shiniest shoes, he would never release that sense of displacement, of not belonging to the place or time in which he existed.
Seeing his daughter, he shambled over. “Have you seen my Queen?” he asked. “I’ve been looking for my Queen.”
Fay shook her head. “No, papa, I’m sorry. She’s very far away, remember? We left her in the Otherlands.”
“I miss my Queen.” The people walking by ignored the old man with proper New York zeal.
“I know, papa.” Seeing his hand tightly balled in a fist, she asked. “What did you find?”
Fay held out her hand and her papa stared at her open palm, as thought trying to read the map of its creases outlined with dirt. Slowly he uncurled his own hand and gave her a small silver key.
“I didn’t find it,” he finally said. “It found me. Jumped from someplace high to reach me. Almost landed on my head, which wasn’t nice. But now we’re friends.”
Fay nodded. The key was small and shiny and plain and seemed to belong to nothing and no one. It did not look old, but it also did not look particularly new either.
“It’s a very pretty key,” she said and offered it back to him. Her papa didn’t take it. His expression drooped with sadness.
“I don’t know where it lives.”
Fay looked at the key again, considering. “Well, it’s a key, so likely its home is a lock. Do you want to try to find its home?”
Her papa nodded his head, looking like one of those toys she saw the windows, the ones who’s heads jumped and bobbed up and down in a way that always made her laugh.
“Alright, then.” Fay smiled at her papa and for a moment he didn’t look like a piece of brown paper that had landed in the gutter. He looked like he were home.
* * *
This post comes to you from The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge prompt Characters that Haunt You. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the tale as I intended to today, but upon request I’ll try to finish it up in Saturday’s post.
I’ve kind of burned out a bit over the past week between my day job and writing at home (this has happened past Novembers), so I’ve been avoiding NaNoWriMo. Thus and therefore, this snippet has nothing at all to do with Under the Midday Moon.
The sprite-like Fay Fairburn first appeared as part of a blogging challenge for LiveJournal, called LJ Idol, which involved writing a new post each week based on a specific prompt. For my challenge, I decided to write a fiction piece each week, each one centered around a single character, Fay Fairburn. She came flipping, jumping, and brightly colored into my world and hasn’t left me since. You could definitely say she haunts me, or at least playfully prods me with riddles from time to time, always reminding me that I have more of her stories to tell.
As a writer, point of view (POV) or perspective can have a dramatic impact on how characters are judged by readers and on the overall story. One of the first choices to be made is whether the story should be told from first person, third person, omniscienct, or maybe even the dreaded second person POV. In this regard, Writer’s Digest fortunately has a great post with six tips for choosing POV in a story, so I’ll just turn your attention there for those interested.
Instead, I’d like to talk about other ways perspective can have an effect on characters of the overall story.
How Does Reader/Writer Perspective Alter How A Character is Perceived
Cindy Angell Keeling wrote about visiting Chicago’s famous sculpture, The Bean, which casts shifting reflections back at the view from a variety of angles and perspectives.
“It occurred to me that we writers get to know our characters by viewing them from different angles and perspectives. As we polish them into being, what is reflecting back? From here, Bob seems affable and responsible. From there, we see an angry side with a tendency to shove problems under the rug. From fifty feet away, he’s helping an old lady cross the street. From ten, he’s threatening a neighbor. Standing underneath, we see a scared little boy, bruised and hiding in the closet.” (Source.)
People are multilayered and complicated and contradictory. But from the outside, if you see only one moment, one angle of their lives, it’s easy to make judgements and make assumptions about them based on that limited perspective.
Likewise, readers only have access to the perspectives writers choose to include on the page. If a character is presented from only one side, then the reader will make assumptions based on that information and may begin to see the characters as flat. Therefore, it’s up to the writer to provide multiple
Prompt: Take a look at your characters. Consider them from another angle, maybe as seen from a grocery store clerk, or the neighbor across the street, or their mother. Is there a side to them you haven’t seen yet? Is there an aspect of their lives that will grant greater intimacy or distance?
How Does a Character’s Perspective Alter Events
Years ago I read and loved The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The story is about a missionary who brings his family to the Congo. One of the aspects I loved about the book is that it is told from five different POVs, each with their own distinctive voice. In an interview discussing her book, Kingsolver said that she essentially wrote the entire book five times, once from each POV, which allowed her to consider events from every angle and choose the best perspective for a specific moment in the novel.
“I conceived the structure this way from the very beginning, even though I knew it would be quite difficult to pull off, from the point of view of craft. I spent almost a year just honing the different voices, practicing telling the same scene from all five different angles, until I had differentiated them to the point that the reader would instantly know who was speaking, just from a sentence or two. So yes, it was hard, but it had to be so. The four sisters and Orleanna represent five separate philosophical positions, not just in their family but also in my political examination of the world.” (Source.)
The perspective of each individual character in the story is a really powerful instrument, because each individual sees the world a little bit differently.
My mom is fond of saying, If three people witness a car accident, each one will tell a different story of how it happened. A police officer may describe the scene with precision because his career requires it. A young student may describe it from a place of anger because they had a friend die in such an accident. An old man may tell it from a place of panic because of the shock it caused it. Each of them will have their own stories, memories, experiences, passions, and fears that colors how they view any given moment or event.
Prompt: Write a scene fives times, each time from a different character point of view. See if you can give them each a unique voice of perspective. (This is could be good for trying to add depth to side characters.)
This post was loosely inspired by The Daily Post prompt: Perspective.
I did not quite meet NaNo word goal for the week, as I’ve been skipping writing days during the work week. Things are getting hectic at my day job, since we have to go to press with our December issue before Thanksgiving and there is a lot of work to do.
But I made it through Chapter 16 on the novel and I’m happy with the progress of the story.
On Saturday, I inadvertently skipped a day of Nablopomo. I created the post for Saturday, but saved it as a draft instead of posting it, so it ended up being posted on Sunday instead. Whoops. I’ve made it up by posting two posts today, however.
In the mix of this, I managed to do two of my three workouts last week. I feel good about this. With all the sitting at my computer, though, I can also feel my spin and muscles tightening up, reminding me that I need to get back to doing my morning yoga.
Current Project: Under the Midday Moon
(Novel Word Count Before Starting Nanowrimo: 13,010)
Goal: Complete 50,000 New Words and Hopefully the First Draft New Words This Week: 8,252 Total NaNoWriMo Word Count: 22,807
Random Rough Sentences: Now, the sun was behind the trees and the sky was illuminated with pink, peach, and red, making the snow blush between the elongated shadows of the trees. Mom and I both stood on the porch, watching the sky with the plastic we’d used to cover the broken window flapping slightly behind us.
“I think we should get out of here,” said mom.
Novelling Notes: I don’t have any deep thoughts at this time. I’m pleased with the progress I’m making and how the story is starting to take shape in my mind. Lots of chapters begin and end with “Author’s Notes” pointing out changes I’ll need to make in the editing process.
In October of this year, I traveled to Italy and along the way bought myself a $300 Italian leather jacket. It was a huge expense for me, more money than I probably should have spent. But the jacket was gorgeous and fit me perfectly and came with a wonderful little story, and I didn’t once feel any regret about the purchase.
I came home and showed the jacket off and received positive responses from family and friends, assuring me that it was a great purchase. “It’ll last you forever,” several people said.
Except that today, I discovered that I somehow managed to tear the jacket, a solid two-inch rip in an awkward place just above the right pocket — which just about breaks my heart. I know it’s just a thing, an object I don’t need to hold attachment to, but dammit, between the cost and how much I love wearing, it hurts.
Apparently, there might be a shop near my office that does leather repair, so I’ll take it in and see what they can do to fix it.
At the moment, though, I’m just taking deep breaths and trying not to loose my sh!t.
Miles Scott, a 5 year old boy who’s fighting leukemia, just wanted to be a superhero, specifically, he wanted to be Batman. So, Make-A-Wish Foundation worked to put together a special event, turning San Francisco into Gotham City for a day. Miles as Batkid and accompanied by Batman, was driven through in a “bat-mobile” and was able to partake in a series of death defying rescues, while thousands of people cheered. The miniature hero got ot help nab arch-villains Riddler and the Penguin and save a damsel in distress tied to the city’s famous tram tracks.
The internet exploded with glee at the event, and every Batman, from Adam West to Christian Bale congratulated Miles on his heroism.
I may be freaking out just a little bit. You know, or maybe A LOT.
First, I ha no idea San Francisco had a Cartoon Art Museum, which is awesomeness in and of itself.
Second, it’s a FREAKING M-F-ING Sandman artwork exhibit!!
Sandman is not only among my favorite comic book series, but among my list of favorite books of all time. The myths and tales that Gaiman weaves together combined with compelling characters and amazing artwork is just… so… fantastic I don’t even have eloquent words for it at the moment.
I am ridiculously excited to go to this exhibit.
Of course, I’m still going crazy with NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo and work crazies and other challenges this November, so my visit to the museum will have to wait until December. But when that day comes — GLEE!
As a reader, I can’t help noticing patterns that emerge in the stories I read. Sometimes these stories are spot on, and sometimes I find myself longing for different kinds of stories than what I see on the pages. Here are a few tropes or plots points I would like see occur in more books.*
1. Books That Start with the Characters Already in a Romantic Relationship
So many stories, from romance novels to YA fantasy, begin with two strangers meeting for the first time, having instant attraction, and ultimately finding their way to love. These stories are great, and I enjoy them just as much as the next person.
But these stories seem to stem from the idea the Falling-in-Love aspect is the only interesting or challenging part of a relationship. If our two heroes can just get past these hurdles, then they’ll realize it’s True Love and they’ll be guaranteed their happily ever after.
The reality is that relationships are hard work. It involves day-to-day acts of compassion, understanding, and compromise in order to stay in love.
Staying-in-Love has the potential to be just as compelling and romantic a trope as Falling-in-Love, and would be great to see more stories begin with characters already in a relationship, which they have to hold on to through the storm.
2. Non-Romantic Relationships
Again this is me not so much turning away from romance, but wanting an addendum to it. Many stories, particularly in YA books, focus on the love story to the end that other relationships fade to the background. Sometimes that happens, a person falls in love and is so wrapped up in the feeling, they can’t make the other valuable relationships with friends and family fit in.
But I think life tends to be more multilayered than that and with all the levels of relationships and love — mothers, fathers, siblings, best friends, cousins, etc. — there is a lot of room for emotional complexity. I’m not saying ditch the romance (though I kind of am with my book), but alongside falling in love, lets have some of the other kinds of relationships, too.
I told Miyazaki I love the “gratuitous motion” in his films; instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are.
“We have a word for that in Japanese,” Miyazaki said. “It’s called ma. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally.”
Is that like the “pillow words” that separate phrases in Japanese poetry?
“I don’t think it’s like the pillow word.” He clapped his hands three or four times. “The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness. But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time you just get numb.
Reading this, I thought about how many stories just power through to the ending in one action sequence after another without allowing that space to breathe and feel something.
Placing a quiet, still moment into a story seems easier in a movie, because it’s a visual form. But I think it’s possible to achieve in books, too, and I would like to see more stories, normally rife with action allow a space for the reader to feel about the characters before plunging in again.
What are tropes, plots, ideas that you would like to see appear in more novels?
*And, as I long to see these things, I find myself drawn to writing them in order to fulfill that desire.
* * *
Since this is supposed to be a Friday Five post, here are two more unrelated Things you may be interested in checking out:
“The Man Card concept specifically, however, is insulting to men and women in what it’s saying about our respective roles. Men are supposed be this way, not that way. Do these things, not those things. You’re not a man if you don’t fit society’s (or some section thereof’s) definition of one, and, unfortunately, people who joke this way are denigrating empathy, sympathy, respect for women, honesty, sensitivity, and responsibility. They’re saying real men prize getting their way over cooperating or compromising. Real men don’t care what their girlfriends or wives think. Real men do what they want.
This is dangerous.”
2. Check out Malinda Lo’s Guide to YA. Malinda Lo is the author of a great Cinderella retelling, called Ash, and she’s writing a multitude of posts YA novels, particularly those with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters or issues. If you’re a writer at all interested in writing about GBLTQ characters or issues, then I highly recommend working your way through this reading list.
This is an excerpt from Under the Midday Moon, the novel I’m working on for NaNo. Adam (as mentioned here) is the main character’s best friend.
This bit of the novel was inspired by the prompt “Traces” provided by the The Daily Post. Since it is a first draft, it is likely to contain errors, typos, and other such idiosyncrasies. Read at your own risk. (~_^)
* * * *
From the front, the house looked normal. Snow had settled over the night, layering the roof and ground with an inch of white, softening the edges of things. As the morning sun rose, bringing with it golden light that made the white bark of the birch trees glow, I could almost believe that last night hadn’t happened after all.
Mom sighed, the sound laden with exhaustion and got out of the car. She slammed the door hard enough to rock the car. I followed her into the house.
“Jesus,” mom said. She stood in the middle of wreck of the living room, looking like stunned survivor of a minor apocalyptic event. The couch was overturned and disemboweled, bits of fluff protruding from the rips in its fabric. The coffee table was crushed, wooden legs splintered and splayed, glass top shattered. The book shelf near the fireplace was collapsed in a heap, books and knickknacks and photo frames mounded in a newly formed hilltop. Shards of broken glass and ceramic were scattered around the room, tiny reflections of light like deformed constellations.
Several years ago, I used to spend a ridiculous number of hours watching Inside the Actors’ Studio, hosted by James Lipton. The show had a blend of celebrity, study of craft, and personal exploration, all combined with Lipton’s unique soft-spoken tone, that made it fascinating.
At the end of every episode, he asks ten questions, an adapted version of the Proust Questionnaire. I am always fascinated by the answers given and couldn’t help thinking what I would say should I ever become a director and appear on the show.
Here are my answers to those ten questions as I would give them today.
1. What is your favorite word?
I have many words and phrases at catch my attention and linger. Some due to meanings, some just because of how they sound. At the moment, “indubitably” comes to mind as a favorite. I like the playful way the syllables fall of the tongue. It’s a fun way of saying, “Absolutely. Yes.”
2. What is your least favorite word?
Should. I don’t like the way “should” tends to put me into a state of arguing with reality, which just causes frustration.
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
I’m tempted to say “everything,” though that would be an untrue exaggeration, because not everything can be pleasing or enlightening in life. But every time I take a deep breath and think about the world and all its interconnections, I very much want to believe in the beauty of things.
4. What turns you off?
Humiliation. The feeling that I am being judged negatively by others.
5. What is your favorite curse word?
F*ck. Sometimes it’s the only word that fits, and it’s hands down the best curse word in the English language. Here is evidence.
6. What sound or noise do you love?
My niece’s squealing laugh. The patter of rain on my window. The crunch-pop sound of snow beneath my feet.
7. What sound or noise do you hate?
The screaming of car brakes. Nothing good comes from that.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Explorer. I imagine this in the sense of seeking out new realms as yet unseen (providing the conquer, destroy, and colonize aspect could be taken out of the process), of which there is not much left on Earth. In which case what’s left is space (the final frontier), so maybe a more accurate answer is Astronaut.
9. What profession would you not like to do?
Coal miner. I don’t like the idea of the dirt, grit, or dark.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
I had plans, you know. I had things to do. But no, you had to provide me with the awesome that is Dying is My Business. Now my laundry remains unfolded. Stacks of papers and other detritus continue to clutter my shelves. All the words I planned to write remain unwritten. And I’m can’t seem to rub the glue from my eyes, as I try to recover from the hours of sleep I lost last night in the desperate need to finish reading.
I was absorbed by the story from page one, when Trent wakes from being shot and killed yet again with another dried out husk of a body nearby. The trade off for his return to life is that someone else must die. As an apparent side effect of his condition, Trent has also lost all of his memories beyond one year before. He’s been taken in by Underwood, a twisted and violent crime boss, who exploits his abilities and sends him out to “collect” various things. Trent’s latest assignment to collect a mysterious box quickly leads him into a new understanding of the world, a world that includes magic, gargoyles, and a whole slew of things most people never knew existed.
Having an amnesiac main character can potentially be annoying, if not handled well. But Trent as a character is spot on. His loss of self and personal history has caused him to be cynical and fatalistic in understandable ways. He longs for the truth about his past without becoming tedious or whiny, and it’s easy to see how Underwood could have drawn him in by promising those truths. Trent is sometimes protagonist, sometimes antagonist, and sometimes both. He carries a great level of guilt for the lives he’s taken and the crimes he’s committed, making for a conflicted and fascinating character.
Now, can I just take a moment express my love for Bethany? This diminutive, spright-like young woman with a passion for the rules, a troubled past, and vest full of charms that will lay you on your ass has won my heart. She is hard edged, intelligent, honest, and kind. She is, in a phrase, many kinds of awesome.
And then there is poor, poor Thompson Thornton (Whoops. Knew I was getting it wrong). My heart is all asunder from his hopeful bravery and ability to crack jokes in the face of his tragedy.
I have love for all the characters really, even the nasty ones. Underwood and his cronies are cruel and unsettling in the most delightful ways. The Black Knight is destructive, powerful, and greedy for power. I shiver at the thought of ever meeting anyone of them in a dark alley.
Last night, I could not stop reading. I turned page after page, ignoring the episodes of Big Bang Theory my roommate turned on and loosing — as I mentioned — much sleep. I continued reading even as my friend began to turn of all the lights in the house, leaving only a single lamp behind my head to illuminate the pages.
Upon finally reaching the end, I began to flail. “No!” I cried, waking my roommate from her deep slumber. “Why?! Why is it over? I need more book! Why isn’t there more book?!”
You’re ending gave me chills, and I find myself awash with feels, saddened and maddened that it’s over. How can it be over, when I want so much to keep reading, to know what happens next, to know the fates of the characters I’ve come to love?
Why would you do this to me, Mr. Kaufmann? What am I supposed to do with my life now?
This had better be the beginning of a series with the second book to come in the near future. Because if I do not have the sequel soon, I will be forced find a way to flay you in a manner that would make Underwood grin.
Along with two strength training workouts and a couple of walks with my sisters and niece, progress continues on the novel. I fell behind on the word count after skipping a couple of days, and so have been playing catch up over the weekend. Now, I’m just about on target again. I would prefer to be ahead of the game, but really it doesn’t matter, because I’ve written more words in this week than I’ve done in months. I have high hopes that I might actually be able to finish the entire draft by the end of the year, if not in November.
Current Project: Under the Midday Moon
(Novel Word Count Before Starting Nanowrimo: 13,010)
Goal: Complete 50,000 New Words and Hopefully the First Draft New Words This Week: 6,920 Total NaNoWriMo Word Count: 14,555
Random Rough Sentences: The cold was soothing. The sky was black, stars hidden by clouds that smelled like coming snow. The trees beyond the porch light were full of shadows and it would be easy to imagine some creature hiding out there, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting teenagers. But all I could smell was mud and dead leaves and the leavings of a moose that must have passed by hours ago.
Novelling Notes: Ever since I decided to make a massive plot change to my story, I’ve been seeing a domino effect going through scenes both before and after the plot point that was changed. I was just thinking back to a scene in Chapter Two, which I was particularly fond of, and realized it would have to go, because now it that scene impossible.
I feel like things are progressing well though, even with all the rewriting I’ll have to do, I is a wonderful, wonderful thing to see the story coming together and taking a kind of shape I can work with.
Sophie Masson wrote a lovely post about a home she grew up in, which seemed to possess the soul of a good fairy. It was a home of secrete histories and ghosts and wild places to explore (and I recommend reading it, rather than taking it at my sparse description).
Her post immediately reminded me of the park and little woods in Anchorage, Alaska, where I used to live when I was a kid (seven-ish). The park across the street looked out over Cook Inlet, the water grey and, in the summer sun, sparkling. Two sides of the park were framed with little woods, patches of trees that separated the park from other peoples homes. I remember running through those woods and believing them huge, giant forests almost filled with wonders and strange creatures. I remembered looking up at the tall trees and feeling very far from home. I remember stepping only a few feet inside the little woods and feeling as though I could become utterly lost.
As kids exploring the little woods, we once stumbled upon a tree house — just a platform, really — that sat perched at what seemed to be the tippy top of a tree, which we were never brave enough to climb. But we imagined the kind of strange, brave person who would live at such heights.
Another time we discovered a cement slab (something industrial) hidden in the trees. It became the framework for an invisible house in which we pretended to live. It became a stage upon which we pranced and gave our bows. It became the home of an evil man who kidnapped good children and hid them away. It became so many things.
A few years ago, I was remembering the little wood and wondered what would happen, if such a small wood, the kind it was impossible to become lost in, actually hid in its heart an older, much greater wood — the kind one might never return from. That idea inspired a a short story, called “The Witch of the Little Wood,” grew into a novella, which transformed into part one of an unfinished novel that I plan to finish eventually.
My life inspires my writing quite a lot, usually in unusual ways. “The Witch of the Little Wood” makes use of several moments from my life, all unconnected. A phrase shouted at me by my sister during the middle of a fight (which made us laugh at the time) becomes barbed cruelty tossed at our MC by a bully. The awkward feelings of junior high, in which several people whom I thought were friends suddenly changed and became bitter enemies, makes it into the story. Bits of life here and there, hurts and loves and joys, travel through me and become new unrecognizable scenes in my characters lives. Bits of myself show up in everyone, from the heroes to the villains.
Writing is a fascinating process that way. Reading is, too. How you can look at a story just discovered and realize, oh, this is me, this is my life, here is everything I love and hate and need and feel all right there on display.
When you write or read do you often discover yourself in the stories? Does it surprise you?
For those who are not aware, I am participating in both National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)* and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) this November. If this sounds like madness to you, that’s because it is, my lovelies, it is.
I’m finding the dual challenge fun, at least in these early days of the month. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far.
1. Exceed the Daily Minimum.
I kind of knew this one from the previous years I’ve done Nano and it feels like it should be obvious, but I feel like it’s something I always end up learning all over again. If you just meet the minimum requirements of the challenge, then you can get in trouble if life gets in the way latter down the road.
I try to at least get a few hundred words over the 1667 minimum required for Nano, that way I’m not stressed if I don’t feel like writing one day.
For the blogging challenge, this sometimes means I’m writing two blog posts a day, one for the day I’m on and one in preparation for the day after. It’s the same amount of words, but helps me have all my bases covered. In some cases this has resulted in two posts in the same day, because something new and relevant has come up. So, at the end of the month, I may have more than the minimum 30 blog posts (way cool).
2. Write First. Life Second.
Simple, and something I’ve known for a long time. Get the work done that needs getting done first and use the time left over for cleaning your room, chores, errands, watching TV, reading, friends, family, etc.I think this works best for the craziness of these writing challenges, since it only has to be sustained for this short period of time. During the rest of the year family and friends are the priority; cleaning, errands and chores end up on fairly even keel with my writing activities; and play (i.e. TV and movies and such) should be lowest, but isn’t always.
For day to day life, I won’t be able to keep this manic energy up, but I can set aside specific days where I come home from work and make writing my priority.
This work first attitude is also helping to build a habit of getting stuff done, which I’m hoping will carry over after the November challenges are completed.
3. Get Out and Do Things.
Once the day’s goals have been met and exceeded, get out, get away from the chair, go do something. It’s kind of like a reward for the hard work done that day, but it’s also a way of maintaining mental order.
Last weekend was perfect. I got up early (but not too early), had some tea and toast while doing my Nano Novelling, and then went out and took walks with my baby niece and sisters, went to the farmers market, played with the baby, watched some movies. I
I have also been keeping up with my exercises, which helps keep me physically capable of sitting there and writing without feeling like I’m going to fall apart at the seams. And it also helps clear my head and exorcises stress.
These kinds of challenges require a lot of endurance, especially if you are combining them with full time jobs or education activities (and btw, parenting counts as a full time job, for realz). With the combination of work, life, family, friends, and the challenge, I’ve experienced serious Burn Out before, where I realize I’ve taken on too much with the result that I start to get physically sick or I get to the point where I don’t even want to look at a computer. Maintaining a sense of balance by stepping away from the challenge, taking a break, is a good way of surviving the month.
4. Don’t Be Afraid of Going for the Gut.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I discovered over the course of this week that I’d been taking the easy way out in regards to my novel, playing it safe for both me and my characters. But it’s so much exciting for both readers and the writer to go for the gut and take risks. It can be scary, but it has the potential for better writing.
Taking part in NaBloPoMo has had me reading more blog posts this month than I normally would, and I’ve been struck by the honesty and courage of my favorite posts. I haven’t managed this much in my blog, as I tend to avoid writing posts that could be the least bit controversial or argumentative. I’m trying to put more personality into my posts and would like to get into more creative nonfiction, adding stories from my life in (hopefully) interesting and creative ways. It’s something for me to work on.
5. Work Breeds Inspiration.
I rediscover this every time I find myself enmeshed in a big project or doing a lot of writing or a combination of writing and other creative things. The more I write, the more I feel inspired to write, the more easily new ideas and words come, the more quickly I can get those words on the page.
To me, writing kind of like having a big round stone in the middle of a field. You know you want to roll the stone over to the other side of the field. As you stare at the stone sitting there, the idea of moving is looks daunting. The stone is too heavy. It’s too much work. Then, you start pushing the stone and it’s hard, but slowly it starts moving. As it starts moving, it starts to pick up momentum and that momentum makes it easier. If you stop, the momentum stops; you have to start the hard part over again. But if you keep the stone rolling until you reach the end of the project, then the momentum makes the work so much easier.
Nano-ing and other such challenges are huge massive heaps of potential and momentum. They start a pace, which the writer can either keep going or not.
For me that momentum is invaluable. It gets me going and keeps me going, and the sheer act of writing is what keeps my inspired.
Since we’re on the subject, my lovelies. Are you doing any personal challenges this month? What have you learned in the process?
Some writers avoid talking about what they’re working on with anyone, and my understanding is that this is because they feel they loose the excitement of discovering and writing the story when they tell it.
I personally find the opposite is true. While I’m writing, especially in the first draft stage, talking out the story can be incredibly helpful, helping me to plan out where I’m going. Of course, whomever I’m talking to often has many ideas of where they think I should take the story (most of them not right), but even hearing the wrong ideas can help me weed out the right ones.
During lunch yesterday, I was talking the story with a coworker and telling them what I had planned. One if my characters is attacked, and my coworker leapt to an assumption about the identity of the “villain”.
I explained that I had originally planned to write it that way, but had changed to another option. “But I’ve been thinking of changing it back,” I said. “Because I feel like I’ve been pulling my punches do it this way. That I’ve been playing it safe.”
“You are,” she said. “Just hearing the first version was compelling.”
“Yeah,” I said, and thought to myself, well, fuuuuuuuuuuu—.
Because damn it, she was right.
Of course, now all the planning I’ve done has to be tossed out the window and I have no ideas of how to finish this novel. I’m also going to have to make changes in the beginning sections to make these changes work. And the first scenes I ever wrote for this thing before I knew it was going to be a novel, the ones that kicked it all off, will just about have to be trashed entirely. (“Kill your darlings,” the wisdom goes.)
But I’m grateful to have figured this out now. Actually, I’m right at the pivot point in writing the current draft where this change would have to occur. Instead of turning left, I just have to turn right in the plotting. This will save me tones of time during revisions.
Of course taking this plot turn is scary, and that’s how I know it’s probably right. I’m not sure I’m good enough to pull it off, not sure I can make readers believe, not sure I’ll be able to do that much damage to my main character. I don’t really want to twist the knife (metaphorically speaking) once I’ve jammed it into her belly, but I’m gonna have to.
Right now, I’m trying not to flail.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening mentally working out how to make the change work, and allowed myself a break from writing. I think I’ve got some of it worked out, but have no idea how to end it. I guess I’ll discover that when I get there.
When you’re writing do you talk the story out? Or do you keep it to yourself until the draft is finished?
Alternatively, have you ever caught yourself pulling your punches while writing a story? Or do you always go for the guts?
The Daily Post has a great blog up called, “Should You Let the Cats Out of the Bag? Blogging About Family and Friends,“ which deals with privacy and the internet, how much you should share and not share, especially in regards to the lives of friends and family. It has some great questions to ask yourself before posting and some tips on how to handle the sharing of private information in a respectful way.
This is an excerpt from Under the Midday Moon, the novel I’m working on for Nano. This bit of the novel was inspired by the prompt “Moved by Music” provided by the The Daily Post. Since it is a first draft, it is likely to contain errors, typos, and other such idiosyncrasies, so read at your own risk. (~_^)
* * * *
Outside tiny tufts of snow flakes drifted, most in a downward direction, but some alighted in drafts of wind, spiraling sideways or even beck up to the grey sky they fell from.
When I was a little girl, my dad and I used to run outside every time fresh snow fell. Not the half rain slush that came down sometimes, but real snow, the light white flakes that floated in and out of the porch light in flurries and drifts. We ran out in whatever we were wearing, pajamas or Sunday dress or, once, wrapped in a towel fresh out of the bath, and stopped only long enough to pull galoshes onto our feet. We would stand out under the cold sky, whether night or day, and let the snow catch in our hair and kiss our eyelashes. We laughed and danced and we stuck out our tongues in the hopes of tasting fresh snow, the cold nothing flavor of winter that was just so perfect.
But those days eventually melted away like snow in Spring as dad’s Black Days took more and more of a toll. He seemed to be more and more tired every year and for more and more days of the month. Sometimes after the moons, it would take him up to a week to recover now. He moved slowly through the house on those days, shifting from room to room, like a scrap of paper kicked up again and again, unable to come to rest. When he finally settled in a chair or collapsed onto the couch, he would just sit there, sometimes for an hour or more, just staring off at an empty spot on the wall.
“This retreat has been designed for women writers of all levels, from beginning poets to well published. Sessions on creativity, generating work, publication, a Master Class workshop, and one-on-one mentoring are included as well as morning yoga.”
I learned about this retreat last year and loved the idea of going. I spent several weeks trying to plot out the time and money it would take for me to go, but the finances just didn’t work for me.
I’m considering it again for 2014, but I know I have at least two trips planned next year, which will eat up much of my traveling funds. I’m still hoping to make it work, but we’ll see.
I think it’s a fabulous retreat, though, and I hope some of my fellow female poets get the opportunity to go — even if I can’t join them this year.
Things are going well in Nano land and I’ve met and even exceeded (with the exception of Monday) all my daily word count goals. Over the weekend, I managed this by making writing my priority when I first get up in the morning. Then, once I’ve met my minimum I allow myself to get out of the house and go do something fun. For example, on Saturday I went and played with my niece at the park (a cuter child never existed!) and on Sunday I walked around the farmer’s market with my sister. All good things.
I intended to come back from the fun times and get back to writing, but found I didn’t have it in me to do any more writing those days. Since I had already met my daily word goals, I just let myself relax — something I really needed.
Current Project: Under the Midday Moon
(Novel Word Count Before Starting Nanowrimo: 13,010) Goal: Complete 50,000 New Words and Hopefully the First Draft New Words: 7,635 Total NaNoWriMo Word Count: 7,635 Random Rough Sentences: N/A (laptop got left at home and I don’t have access to my drafts at the moment).
Novelling Notes: I’m still having trouble balancing all the little threads of plot and relationships. When two characters are alone in a room together, everything else just disappears. For some scenes that’s okay. For others, I think it makes it so that people forget everything else that is supposed to be going on. Though maybe that’s just my impression, and readers might have a different experience. Now I’m trying to get a better balance of the people and their concern for one another into the scenes.
I’m also getting a better feel for the relationships themselves, which in previous chapters had come off as a bit flat. I’m hoping the relationships seem more interconnected and messy and multidimensional now, but until I get feedback, it’s kind of hard for me to tell.
Advice for Nano-ers:
Try to push past the daily minimum in order to build up a word count cushion. That way, if you have to miss a day later in the month, then it’s not such a big deal.
Get the writing done first, then allow yourself to get outside and play, or even just relax. I find that mental breaks from all the writing helps me be more focused when I return to the work.
Things To Be accomplished in the Coming Week:
Write a minimum of 10,000 words
Do three workouts (1/3)
Good Reading: Over at The Bell Jar is a lovely post called “Learning to Love My Nose,” which talks about body perception. It’s a fantastic read, and one that made me want to try to love myself more and judge others less.
Due to a crossing the Atlantic forth and back last month, this list is a bit longer than usual. (^_^)
1. Taxi Driver (1976)
2. White House Down (2013)
3. Blancanieves / Snow White (Spain, 2012)
4. Tteu-Geoun Ann-Yeong / Rockin On Heaven’s Door (South Korea, 2013)
5. Duck Soup (1933)
6. Now You See Me (2013)
7. Stoker (2013)
8. The Monster Squad (1987)
9. The Conjuring (2013)
10. Insidious (2010)
1. In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer’s Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road, by Allan Weisbecker (***1/2)
2. Zone One (audio book), by Colson Whitehead (****)
3. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes (****)
4. Day Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko (***1/2)
5. Alice in Wonderland: A Color Primer, by Jennifer Adams, art by Alison Oliver (*****)
6. The War of the Worlds, by HG Wells (***1/2)
7. A Stir of Echoes, by Richard Matheson (****)
8. The Eye Book, by Dr. Seuss (writing as Theo LeSieg) (****)
9. American Elsewhere, by Robert Jackson Bennett (*****)
I’ve seen several posts that have their list of things they consider badwritingadvice, some of which I agree with and others I don’t.* Like most writers, I’ve received various bits of bad advice. Here are a few moments or pieces of advice that stand out most for me.
(PS. I did not intend this to be so dang long. Sorry.)
1. Forget King
Sitting in the college councilor’s office, a small cramps space with a too large desk covered in stacks of marked up pages, I asked about what it would take to major in Creative Writing. My transferring to the UC had complicated the matter, because some of the classes I took at community weren’t applicable at university.
The councilor told me about my options and asked, “Who are your favorite authors.”
I grinned and said, “Toni Morrison, Amy Tan, and Stephen King.”**
She blinked and then wrote something down in her notes. “I wouldn’t mention that last one.”
I continued to smile and nodded, even though my skin went cold and embarrassment began to make me blush. It would be impossible for me to forget Stephen King as an influence on me as a reader and a writer. I spent too many hours in high school, curled up, pages deep in the blood drenched and horrifying worlds he created. Reading his books was like an obsession.
But the councilor’s message was clear: If you’re going to be a writer, you need to be a serious writer and read serious things.***
I remember walking out of that office feeling conflicted. Why shouldn’t I talk about something that meant so much to me?
The conclusion I came to — Screw it. My love of genre (scifi, fantasy, horror) ran deep, and I wasn’t going to let that go just because I was told it wasn’t good enough. I was going to write what I wanted to write.
Whether stories, poems, scripts, whatever, a writer usually writes their best when writing stories that mean something to them instead of trying to write what someone else thinks they should write.
My recommendation: Move toward your passion. Write what moves you to write.
(Ultimately, I did not get a degree in Creative Writing, though this was more due to time constraints than to my reaction to the councilor’s advice.)
2a. Join the Bandwagon
My dad has always been encouraging of my desire to be a writer, for which I’m grateful. However, he also comes at this encouragement from the perspective that I will eventually be a best selling author of the sort to be able to live in a giant mansion and buy my dad a Cessna airplane (he used to be a bush pilot in Alaska). Goddess love him, he wants his little girl to have oodles and oodles of money so she never has to worry every again.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had that went something (sort of) like this:
Me: Yeah, so I’m working on this project that I’m really excited about! *describes story*
My Dad: That’s great! I love that idea! I’m so proud of you!
My Dad: But you know you should do is check out what these famous authors did. You know, Stephen Kind and James Patterson. Just copy what they do, and you’ll be able to make a lot of money.
Me: Um, it doesn’t work that way, dad. *tries to explain publishing* So, you see, only a tiny percentage of writers actually become rich and famous.
My Dad: Well, I don’t know about that. I know! How about you write a vampire novel! I know they’re really popular and you could sell a lot of books!
Me: That’s not going to happen, dad.
My Dad: Why not?
Me: Because, I don’t want to write a vampire novel. I don’t feel moved to write a vampire novel. When I do, I’ll write one, but right now? No. Nope. Not going to happen.
My Dad: But…
From there, the conversation would usually loop for a long while with the result that either I got frustrated or we both started laughing.
Doing what everyone else is doing will not guarantee fame or riches any more than writing what you love. Plus, it tends to lead toward weaker writing in my experience.
Creating stuff is hard work. Especially if there is not guarantee that there is a reward when you’re done making it. So, I figure, write what you’re dying to write, what’s overflowing from yourself, or simply what amuses you.
2b. Selling Out is Bad
On the opposite side of Bad Advice #2 is the concept that “selling out” and it being an evil, evil thing that only bad people do. This is based on the common idea that true artists are starving and/or suffering, and that artists or writers or musicians who make lots of money have sold their souls for profit, sending the quality of their works into the fiery pits of hell.
And, as I mentioned in #2a, creating stuff is hard work.
It’s not always easy to get paid for that work for a whole lot of reasons, but there is nothing wrong with mild compromises, or taking jobs for the money, or doing what you need to do as a writer to keep going.
Making money is not a bad thing. In fact I like making money. It puts food on the table and lets me do things, like buy books and go to the movies.
(In fact, if Kim Kardashian were to walk up to me and offer to pay me thousands of dollars to ghost writer her memoir, I would do it in a heart beat.**** Because those bucks will help me pay bills and keep writing all the other things I love writing.)
The key, I believe, is to keep a balance from doing work that you love and find inspiring, while also obtaining an income that you and your loved ones can live off. (If you’re going to say that that’s easier said than done, I will agree with you. I’m still trying to get there myself.)
3. Almost Anything Involving the Word “Should”
(or “must” or “have to” or any variation that implies “this way is the only way”)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that once you declare yourself to be a writer, someone will tell you what you should be doing to be to be successful. Or at least, it’s something I’ve seen happen a lot to writers and have had happen to me.
Though, I admit that I have been guilty of offering this kind of advice. Once (or twice) during a Writing Gang meeting, I’ve thrown my hand in the air and said to my fellow comrade in writing, “Why aren’t you submitting your work? You should! You work is good! I insist you submit your work!”
But the thing is, she has no interest in submitting her work for professional publication. When another member of our group asked her when she was going to submit one of her novels, she said, “Never.”
What she’s done is self publish them online (you can find links on her GoodReads profile), and then spends exactly no time marketing them. She has no website, no blog, and does no self promotion. For her it seems, just writing the novels and posting them is what she wants. It makes her happy. Who am I to tell her she should do it any different?
Writing and developing a writing career is a strangely exploratory act. There is no clear map that can lead you from point A (beginning) to point B (success). No clear definition of what success even is.
For me, advice is great and wonderful. I’m happy to take in advice by the bucketfuls. I dig through it, sift it, and eventually through experimentation find something that works. At least for this story or this poem.
The next story or next poem might require a different method, the absorption of different advice.
Anyway, that’s it. Hopefully I didn’t accidentally slip in some bad advice while talking to you about bad advice. 😉
What advice have you received as a writer that you found to be bad or not work for you?
Good Reads: Deborah Lee Luskin gives some excellent advice about the importance of word order in her post, “The English Language On Word Order Depends.” Something I think every one forgets or mixes up and is good to be reminded of.
Call for Submissions:Kaleidoscope is an anthology of contemporary YA science fiction and fantasy with a focus on diverse perspectives. “We hope to fill with a variety of exciting tales, happy and sad, adventurous and meditative. We’re not simply looking for cookie-cutter vampire or urban fantasy stories, but for things that transport us and subvert our expectations.” Payment: 5 cents per word (USD). Deadline: Decemberr 31, 2013. Click for more info.
*In most cases, the advice isn’t necessarily “bad,” but tends to assume it is right in every case without taking into account that for every piece of advice that works wonderfully for the adviser, there is a writer out there who would offer the exact opposite advice. For example, “write everyday” is perfectly good advice; it works for many people. Except when it doesn’t; then, it becomes bad advice.
**This was my stock answer throughout much of college. Now, my current list looks of favorites would look quite different, and is actually be quite long. Toni Morrison is still a favorite, but Neil Gaiman now sits perched at the precarious top of that list. They are joined by Pablo Neruda, Charles de Lint, Ron Padgett, Jeff Smith, Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen, Mary Roach, and others.
***The believe that “literature” is better than genre is old and much debated. I don’t really want to get into that battle, since it seems pointless to me. Many works of what is considered literature are genius; many are also complete crap. Same goes for genre of all kinds.
****Plus, some dark part of my soul secretly want to find out what deep dark secrets she might have. What?
While I love National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and will be participating again this year, it isn’t for everybody. But the idea of challenging oneself to stretch personal boundaries of what you think is possible is a great thing. So, I thought I’d share a few different challenges that you could do this November instead of trying to pound out 50,000 word of a novel.
National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) — Challenge yourself to write one blog post every day this month, which I discovered through The Daily Post. It seems like a simple enough challenge, but since I’ve never posted 30 days straight in my life, I’m sure it would be tougher than I think. I’m planning to go a head and try this (today makes day one!), since I’ll be posting word updates and such anyway this month.
November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge — Found at Writer’s Digest, this challenge asks writes to take the prompts posted and writes a poem a day for the month of November, THEN to take those poems and turn them into a chapbook in December, which can then be submitted to the associated chapbook contest. Very cool.
Submission Bonanza! — The blogger at Lighting Droplets came up with a personal challenge to send out 30 submissions in 31 days (they did it in the month of July), but it could be done in November, too. The idea is to rack up rejections (and hopefully an acceptance or two). This sounds like an awesome challenge and one I’ll be trying at a later date.
The 30 Day Vlog Challenge— This is for Youtube and involves creating a new vlog post (at least 1 minute long) everyday for 30 days. I need to do something like this to get back into the habit of vlogging, but it will probably be a while.
I’m sure there are dozens of other such challenges out there, and if you know of any that I should add to the list, please let me know in the comments.
Edited to Add:
National Comic Drawing Month (NaCoDrawMo) — Draw one strip or one page of a longer manga/webcomic every day for a month. Submitted by ingridsykora.
Since today marks the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — that delightful challenge to complete a ridiculous 50,000 words in a single month — I thought I would pull out an old video for today’s Friday Five.
Don’t Delete Anything
Dares and Prompts
Plot Ninjas Are Your Friends
While I will be attempting to write 50,000 words this month, I will not technically be doing Nano because I will be working on an old project (the rules of Nano say that it should be a new project). I will be attempting to finish draft one of Under the Midday Moon, so that I can use 2014 to edit it.
The key to Nano, really, is the community and that you are not in this alone. I really appreciate that a lot, especially at moments like now, when I haven’t been feeling very motivated.
For those like me, not technically following the Nano rules, but still wanting to participate in some form, you can do an anti-Nano project. Set your own goal and then post updates on your blog, or if you’re on livejournal join the squidathon and post updates there (they do check-ins on Mondays and Fridays).
I will, however, be updating my progress on the Nano website, under my username blythe025. You are welcome to join me there, if you’d like.
Are you participating in Nano this year? What will you be working on?