Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Books, books, books

I'm reading a self published book at the moment. The story is well revealed and that is why I keep reading it. That and all the mistakes. The big ones. They have me reading in keen interest. The dialog  is too long. For a lot of the scenes the tension is not clear.  At awkward moments, new information surprises the reader. Such are the things that I could learn from. I think this book could be great, if the revision was taken a little further, if author of (un)said book worked a little more to learn some tricks about setting and revealing just enough to make a reader suspicious and then the next event will make more of an aha, than a groan. How come this has become easier to see in someone's writing and has been slow to come in my own?

So, I think this writer could have published this book traditionally with just a little more work. That's my prognosis. But maybe she didn't want to. Maybe that is just me that wants the traditional publishing house. But this is why I think the gateposts that editors provide are a good thing. They force us writers to keep working even when we hoped we are already done.

I am in the middle of Liar. I was totally enjoying it. I have just been busy busy busy. Cooking and cleaning and doing laundry. With five extra people and a couple of them under 5 there is always work to be done. Thank the lord they just keep getting older and more helpful. But boy are they cute. No writing, no blogging, no reading of Liar. Lots of drinking(wine for adults, milk for children), conversation, laughing and putting on of snow-pants and taking off of snow-pants and dishes. Such fun! Such puddles in the entryway! Such red teeth!

Go over to The Rad Librarian to see his book list for 2009. He reads more than I can imagine(It is even condoned at work. Why the heck did I not become a librarian?). He mentions The Highest Tide, which I loved but I have to tell you about my reading experience sometime (Because I think it is terribly interesting--I read half the traditional way and listened to the other half with my family in a car). And Jim Lynch has another book if anyone is interested. I know I am.

I bought my son Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman for the holiday and he has been reading reading reading. That is such a thrill(Go, Son, go!). The boy child has a thing for mythology and especially Norse. And I can't wait to read it myself. Now everyone here wants to and I believe there is now a queue. It is kinda like the library around here. Except louder and hardly anyone is reading.

As Always(trying to keep you posted.),

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Eleven Years Today

The boy child is turning eleven today. Eleven years of being a parent and it always seems to be in a new phase. We bought him a bow and arrow for his birthday and he's walking around the house with his cape and quiver (He doesn't really have a quiver. I just thought it sounded good.). He has entered what I am going to call his Percy Jackson Phase. It is apt just because my son has some serious demons to battle now that prepubescence is upon us and although it is hard for me to watch, he is a beauty. I hope the bow and arrow has some magical properties. That it becomes a manga pen and will return to the spot behind his left ear whenever it's lost(like Percy's Riptide).  And then he could also use it to draw. I hope we have given him what he needs.

As Always(thinking of you, Karlene),

P.S. Times, they are busy. Kids out of school and my house will be full with 2 sisters, 1 niece, 1 nephew, 1 brother in law, 1 mother and 1 Bill, 1 son, 1 daughter and 1 husband. Fun and chaotic and sporadic posting. Maybe I will be here before the end of the year (I hope so), more likely I won't. Wishing you all houses filled with loved ones AND time for writing!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

corrections and writing updates and declarations

So I made a mistake in my last post and called the prefrontal cortex the amygdala. The amygdala is actually a spot in the near center of the brain at the top of the brain stem. It is responsible for emotions, mainly fear, and incites those big reactions fight or flight. As such not appropriate for Queen Amidala(That’s the other thing I did wrong in that last post is I called her a Princess. Probably I was thinking of Princess Laia. Whoops, again. I had googled t to make sure I was spelling it correctly but it seems that I wasn't the only one.). She much more of a prefrontal cortex person. Calm cool and collected, I’d say. And her name does not sound like that at all.

I have been making lots of mistakes lately. I wrote a whole post about this a while back and didn’t publish it. The post started out with me apologizing and then I drifted into the whole idea of blogging personas and me getting a little uppity, taking back my apology and saying that I’m planning on making more mistakes. Hence the not posting. Maybe that was a mistake.

Difficulty making decisions. Hence the reading How to Decide by Jonah Lehrer.

I also just started Liar by Justine Larbalestier.

Writing update:
I tried to read the manuscript last night but the words were ugly and malformed. I put it down by page three. Not the right mindset. So no revisions just yet.

And I have been writing. Just at the beginning of something that I have been thinking about. But I wrote it down, not sure what was next, and it happened sort of of its own accord, an inciting incident and some conflict. A good way to begin a book. Maybe the whole thing will flow out of me easily this time, that first book just the unfortunate attempt of trying to internalize the form. Now that it is internalized everything from here on out will be a piece of cake. That is a declaration.

As Always (oh, why is it always so painful?),

Monday, December 14, 2009

What does Princess Amidala have to do with it?

I only gave out my manuscript to two people for this first round of crits. I don’t know exactly why I have been keeping this a secret. I think I didn’t want them to feel like the burden fell on them quite so much. Maybe it makes me seem vulnerable relying so heavily on just two people. But here was my plan. I was going to send it out to one person who had never read it. And to Andy who has read the whole thing in small pieces. From those two I would find out how it stood up all-together, no one had read it in one fell swoop. But my reader who didn’t know my work, I didn’t know his reading style and still don't. I know the books he likes, ones that I like too, but I don’t know how he reads. And this is critical in a reader. You want to play t peoples strength. You don't want to torture people who are doing a kind thing for you (sorry if I am!). I myself, tend to read for the big swoop. I read for themes and arches and pace but my grad school girlfriends(at least two of them anyway) read for line editing closeness, so I was saving them for after this reading. Perhaps that is also why I was being so private with my reader choices. I’m hording. My strategic plan is suspect. Am I just using this early group? Honestly I’m not sure Rachel and Terri could get past my f—ked up prose. I am a herky-jerky writer at times (have you already noticed?) and that makes the reading uncomfortable. Then, after my line editing readers, I have a couple teen readers and my librarian reader friend offered. And the list goes on (I think).
But, one of my writer-readers got back to me last night. And the short report is the book changes in some critical way around chapter six (I haven’t seen the marked up draft yet. I will by the time my sister comes home. She is the draft passer, like it's some sort of illicit substance that makes its way through the underground to my reader’s doorstep and then back again.) Reader Andy says the manuscript chugs along nicely and then something happens and it becomes too chewy compared to how tenderly it began (those are nearly his words if not exactly his words). And the last two chapters are nice again but because the substance in the middle is so hard to digest, the end loses some of it’s effect.

Okay. I hear that. Since I was really worried about not being able to get the beginning up to snuff, this is feedback I can work with. I’m scared to look at his marked up draft now that I know this. I read last night that too much information can really bog down your amygdala(this word always makes me think of Princess Amidala and it’s kind of nice to picture someone so calm and regal as Natalie Portman at the front of your brain making the decisions). I’m reading/skimming How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. I seriously want to make the hard decisions. Take a slash and burn approach to these words and cut my manuscript into something that works. Make it run like a cheetah (Andy DID say cheetah). I want to read it myself and see how the change feels to my eyes, before getting to the nitty-gritty, of which I am sure there is plenty. I'd like to focus on that simple piece of the equation, changing the big thing that is broke,  maybe it is as simple as cutting out something extraneous. I’m not sure that I can do this well. But thankfully I have had time to get some distance.

As Always (Any advice on reading your own manuscript???),

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I want to welcome Heather Lane as follower 15. She has a beautiful blog where she interviews the most interesting people about their writing achievements and chronicles her own writing process. She really encourages reader interaction by continuing interviews in the comments of her blog and I love the idea of Monday meetings, where she makes a commitment to the work she is going to do for the week.  I may just have to copy her sometimes.

As Always (grateful to you all),

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cruddy by Lynda Barry, also What It Is

Cruddy by Lynda Barry

Just so you know, published in 1999 and I'm pretty sure never classified as YA, despite the fact that the protagonist is 16 in present time and 11 in the back story. Not the book for everyone. In fact most of my bookclub could not palate it. But it is a book for me. Murders, blood, stench, alcohol, smoking, drugs and a little sex. But really, if you can get past all that, what I liked was the character of Roberta. All of the horrible action was interpreted through her eyes and Lynda Barry stayed there with her. Roberta was smart and interesting, sometimes surprising and mostly tough and distant.

Lynda Barry has a writing book that I really love called What It Is. Essentially it chronicles her writing life through cartoons and examines what an image is at the same time and experiments with how to find one for yourself. It culminates in a grand writing exercise. For me, it has been really useful, a beautiful resource for writing and teaching. And because Ms. Barry refers to her own childhood in it, it provides some insight into her fiction. Which is perhaps necessary to appreciate Cruddy when everyone around you doesn't like it much. (I myself don't bother to finish reading things when I am not getting much out of them, so I can hardly fault my fellow bookclubbers for not getting past the shock value in this book. But I did respond defensively to their inability to see through it. I have to examine this judgment of mine....)

As a teacher I am interested in writing as a therapeutic exercise particularly where mindfulness is concerned. And as a writer I think mindfulness and creativity go hand in hand. I have uses Lynda Barry's writing exercises with a teen writing group I lead, where we write Natalie Goldberg style (practicing mindfulness) and take turns reading. This is always extremely fun and everyone comes back for more. Listening to each other and resonating with something from their piece is also a practice in mindfulness, an exercise in responding to others' work and I believe it breeds creativity and voice. And perhaps speaks to how Roberta from Cruddy was made.

In Cruddy I felt the dream-state Ms. Barry had entered, a over-the-top world that Roberta responded to with aplomb, humor, and we get a sense of her pain despite her hard exterior. I hope to someday make a character that is so interesting.

As Always(not doing justice to my feelings),

First, business and then The Lost Conspiracy

As is the habit over here (totally copying a Paul Michael Murphy tradition), I want to welcome Davin Malasarn as follower number fourteen. He has two blogs which I recommend highly, The Literary Lab (I've already pointed over there several times in the short time  I have been reading it, totally useful writing advice that apparently strikes a chord with me) and The Triplicate, a blog about science. I'm very curious how MIT harnessed the power of the internet to win the Red Balloon Experiment, if they did. I love when art and science meet. And that makes me think of music: Jeremy Messersmith's song "Scientists", The Flaming Lips' "Race for the Prize". And They Might Be Giants have a whole new album about science (of course I haven't heard it yet). There's another song that I can't quite think of right now, blast it. I'm sure there are a million other songs equally as good. Can you think of any?

The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge

I read this one aloud to my son. It took me a while to get into it. I was frustrated with the world building, I wanted the story to get started. But probably because I was reading it aloud, we stuck with it and eventually the story took us over. I heard about this book first from Betsy Bird at Fusenews. Who wrote about it with such passion that I put it on my list. I am always looking for books to read aloud. Because that way I can be working on two books at once. And because my son likes it. And because then I read middle grade too.

Frances Hardinge writes a complicated narrative about post colonial fantasy world. And she does it by only showing. I think that is why it took so long to get into. Frances Hardinge went out of her way to introduce Gullstruck Island as a personality itself. Because it had grown with these different cultures and knowledge at cross purposes, and come to know themselves only in this way. My son had at one point noticed that the way the culture was unfair to the Lace (the islands indigenous tribe who are being set up in the story). Everyone ready to believe the worst of them. Hardinge's story displays how sources of things get lost, like a song that shows a way through the mountain, and how with it a whole culture can be misunderstood. At one point in her review Betsy Bird articulated that she waited to write about the book, hoping the right words would come to her. And I have also not known what to say about it.  I point you her way if you want to read a better review. The end of the book had my son crying, because although the intense story line is resolved, the world on Gulstruck has totally changed and our heroine(Hathin) has changed with it. There was a lot of loss in the book and not the least of which is life as Hathin knew it. And there is both good and bad to that. The story is complicated in the best ways. Many characters are not truly good or truly bad and even the end is not cut and dried. Wrapping it all up neatly would have done a disservice to Hardinge's portrayal of a complicated situation. When I mentioned this book to My Lovely Librarian Friend, he reminded me of The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap a book he reviewed with similar elements. I've never read this but I  felt I should.

As Always (thanks for visiting),

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Oh, and...

Read this.

Not so many books listed. I haven't read Charles and Emma yet, but that is the only one of Jonathan Hunt's list that I haven't read and I really liked the others. I'll admit that I am intrigued and if it has me reading compulsively, than I'm up for it. I just like that he said, Young Adult Literature has been transformed from the redheaded stepchild of the literary world into one of the most dynamic and exciting niches in publishing. I believe it, but I still kind of like red hair.

As Always (keeping you posted),


My seven year old daughter has never taken to listening to books in the way my son has. I would call her my reluctant reader despite the fact that she clearly has no decoding issues and he has loads of them. I have spent the last few years checking out anything and everything I could think of to grab her attention. Looking for the "gateway book" (I just read that term over at the Literary Lab, very apt) for her. She has always been less then interested and the sole one to complain about listening to books on our car trips. But finally I had given in and not worried about it so much. A week ago I checked out a Felicity American Girl Story on CD because sometimes she falls asleep listening to books and I still try to keep ones around that she may like. So the other night it was on, and as she was listening,  or (I thought) trying to go to sleep, I crawled in next to her.  Felicity was in a finishing class where she was to learn proper manners. She was pouring tea for her friend and holding her pinky out correctly. It seemed to be taking my daughter a long time to fall asleep. Eventually I suggested that we turn the book off.

"No," she said, "I can see the pictures of what they are doing in my head."

And like that, it was as if a light turned on for me, like possibly it has for her. I think it is brilliant how everyone learns things in different order at different times. She had never learned to make the pictures before. Well, we'll see if it changes anything, but it is still cool.

As Always (must finish Cruddy by bookclub tonight),

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

We went to see it yesterday afternoon with the kids. Having sat down all four of together on Friday afternoon making lists of what each of us would have to get done in order to earn the treat of watching the film. It made for an unbelievably pleasent weekend. Mom didn't have to hassle too much. We went into it knowing the schedule and we are starting out Monday, semi-prepared for the week. (Except my daughter, poor thing, was sick in the night and managed to throw up in three different beds, so there's laundry.)

We left the theater giddy. All of us a little in love with Foxy. My husband clicking and whistling in the Foxy trademark. And I was definitely in love with Wes Anderson's brain. I had never known Roald Dahl had a book entitled Fantastic Mr. Fox until I started to hear of the movie. I read that Anderson stayed true only to the middle section of the book and that this movie is more upbeat than Dahl's grim story (I tend to like Dahl's grimness, but I like Wes Anderson's playfulness more). And I guess I don't much care how close to the book he stayed. I'm more concerned with what sparked Anderson's interest and where inspiration took the story. Can't wait to see the movie again. And my kids too (which is a rare treat).

Here's a review if you like.

Plan for the week:
1. Put things back in the closets
2. Sort organize and rearrange
3. Blog

As Always (off to buy foam for the bench),

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lips Touch by Laini Taylor

I have been liking the short form lately and there are three novellas here. Very different worlds. And I thought really well formed. I especially loved the set up of the first story, Goblin Fruit. That character was so perfect and her temptation so compelling. Very rich in a small space.

And the last story, The Changling, dark painful, mysterious, epic storyline. Here there are some similar paranormal elements to Meyer’s vampires. Beauty, coldness, living a long time, no sparkling as far as I can tell. Her deamons do have speed and shapeshifting. In this story I loved how Laini Taylor used structure to build tension, each character's story out of chonological order, the flashback interrupting the present narration.

Also the set of illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo before each novella built tension as well. Sensual and dark.

I love how Laini Taylor is so generous with her writing advice. Now that I have read her lovely prose, I want to go back and reread how she comes up with those worlds of hers.

As I am trying to build my own, I want to know what comes first, situation, world or character. Here is what Suzanne Collins says: I’ve learned it helps me to work out the key structural points before I begin a story. The inciting incident, acts, breaks, mid-story reversal, crisis, climax, those sorts of things. I’ll know a lot of what fills the spaces between them as well, but I leave some uncharted room for the characters to develop. And if a door opens along the way, and I’m intrigued by where it leads, I’ll definitely go through it. The end of my book kind of came together the way she describes. I kne what was going to happen and what came in between, but I left room also to follow my fancy. And I would like my experience writing the end of that book to influence the writing of the next. Post first book (no mistakes, I'm not done with it yet, it just that now it is what it wants to be. Perhaps I can still fiddle with it and make it work better, but short of totally rewriting it--I've rewritten it several times already--it is what it is) my instinct is to approach it as Scott describes at The Literary Lab, quoting John Gardner's explanation. His post struck a chord with me, both as a reader and a writer. It is a elusive feeling, that writer's dream state. First relying on my imagination to get the world right, and then experiencing that world in my head, and returning to it each time I face the words. But I'm no good at transitions, I fear them and yet isn't that the writers life? Shifting from one world to the next and then having to go back again.

As Always(I have been practicing daydreams. Now if only I could remember my night dreams.),

Saturday, December 5, 2009

the eye(candy) of the beholder

Just now I read  Read Roger comments on the controversy from the recent SLJ cover of librarian bloggers at a bar. As an example of unpredictable complaints folk have, he posted this 2000 cover.

Which garnered this objection.

I kind of had to post it here because I totally feel don't mind having this in my house. He's beautiful.

As Always (must disseminate),

The Diary of Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

My son has been reading this series over the past year or two, but I had never read any until now. My son is incredibly literate when it comes to listening to books. He started paying attention to stories at a very early age and he has an amazing auditory memory. And where that literary dream-state is concerned, he can lose all present time and space as long as he is listening. The world of the book becomes his world. But for him, the decoding is hard. And there are few things that he has sat down and lost himself in without audible help. But Diary of a Wimpy Kid worked. I think it is the density of words on the page. He's able to handle a much denser story but it's too much for his eyes to communicate to his brain. Although Diary of a Wimpy Kid is simple, I think the characterization of Greg Heffley and his interaction with the reader is complicated. I can see what my son likes. Greg Heffley's cluelessness in making friends and gaining popularity is never far from home. And I admired Jeff Kinney's skill in making the reader feel smarter then the protag. That is exactly what preteen boys need(in my opinion anyway), to feel like an expert at something, all the better for it to be sensitivity to fellow wimps.

As Always(in lieu of doing something else),

Friday, December 4, 2009

I don't write easy.

It has been an odd couple weeks for me. Best laid plans, you know. I had expected to foist off my manuscript on the poor people who offered to look at it and then have a relaxing vacation, where I lay in the sun (there is no way to do that in Minnesota in November--I'm prone to delusions), reading novels while they toiled away, reading my broken one. Although, in my mind, reading it would be a breeze. I had fantasies that it would be an easy read, a few problems of course, but easy. And I would have a brief vacation from cruel manuscript, where, not only I would relax but I would whip my chaotic home life into shape and maybe write a few words on the next project.
The fazes since foisting off manuscript:
1. relief and illness = time to read (3 days)
2. dreaminess about the other projects I may start (3 to 5 days, still phleamy)
3. not actually starting said projects, just wandering around the house in a funk, sorting through piles of papers and making those past due phone calls (3 days)
4. finally cleaning the closets and delivering stuff to the thrift store (3 days)
5. insecurity (too much thinking makes Tina a dull girl)

Now, I've come to terms with the fact that I've tortured people that I really like with my inept attempt at fiction. Sorry folks. And my house is still chaotic, and perhaps even messier because the closets are empty and everything is piled all over the house.

So I have been thinking about blogging. Admiring other folks' blogs. I have a few things I want to do in my blog. Make a few friends. Have fun and keep track of things I like: videos, books, internet whatnot. Process some of my process (is that what I'm doing today?). It's time for me to inflict some kind of structure upon myself.

As always (you may ask yourself: does this girl think too much?),

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

OK Go, because I like them.

This is so fun.

OK Go - WTF? from OK Go on Vimeo.

All the beautiful colors!!! Never heard of OK Go before.

Thanks, as always, to Jason Kottke. He has got my number.

You have to go here to see OK Go on treadmills. The treadmill one reminds me of my husband. I am so lucky to be married to him. Oh the beauty and the silliness. My life in a nutshell.

As Always(not counting the chaos and impending chickens in the back yard),

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A list of books.

I really want to know what makes that engine behind the words. The one I can feel right away in the very first paragraph. The one that pushes. It is all fine and dandy when you pick up a book and you start to read and it is fine. But then there are the ones that have an urge from the very first words. Oh, to have that in my own prose.

Here are the books I have finished in the last little bit. In no particular order.
Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge
Looking for Alaska by John Green
When I reach You by Rebecca Stead
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Books in the queue:
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Lips Touch by Laini Taylor
Fly Girl by Sherri L. Smith
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

(I've read first little bits of each book in the queue, in some cases more. Enough to feel what kind of engine that they have for me. I'm reading machine at the moment. Not writing much though.)

As Always(looking for something),

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Data dump of sorts.

Just finished Catching Fire. There are a lot of things that being sick are good for and finishing books in nearly one sitting is one of them. Needless to say, I loved it. Is is needless to say? I'm not sure. I never said it before. So maybe I should say it. Mostly because of the pace. So how do you think Suzanne Collins does that? I suppose having that Reality TV element helps. You can make something terrible happen whenever. But also Suzanne Collins has Katniss turns things in a millisecond. It took me a long time as a writer to realize how pleasing those surprises are as a reader. But each time she has a knee jerk action, pulling the story forward, it is a readers thrill.

I have to find some good way of keeping track of these books I read. I'm not much of a reviewer and I don't want to be. I read as a writer. Reading what I like and picking it apart for what I can use. I'm not much interested in talking a book up just to get it for free and I also do not want to dis my fellow writers when I don't like something because often my likes have to do more with subjective taste and the luck of picking up a book at the right time. Often my likes have to do with particular problems I am trying to figure out in my writing. I have strong opinions and can tell you when I don't think something is working, but I'm more interested in how the internet buzz works in positive ways. The best books I have read lately have not been the ones face out on the bookstore stack(When do I ever go to bookstores. Do I even know what I'm talking about?) They have been the ones my fellow bloggers blog about. So how to report on books is one of the many things that I have to figure out in the next few weeks. And generally this blog needs attention.

Also, I had thought I would participate in some version of Nanowrimo(Can I call it something else? It's like something you do to someone you hate. Perhaps Katnis will perform this procedure on President Snow in the next book.I hope so.) If I did, word count would be greatly reduced. Not only because I'm starting so late but also because I don't seem to be built for that kind of output. So maybe 500 words a day for the rest of the month. Brainstormy story starter kind of stuff. I have the beginnings of two things I am interested in but I feel like I would need to find the ploty points of it before I go forward. Ways to keep it interesting, Suzanne Collins style. So anyway....

As always(I also will need to begin that query thing and designing a class???)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Story of Draft 5

So I finished up. Just last night at about midnight I merged all my chapters into one big manuscript(thanks, Scrivener) and sent it on over to Word to format. I came up with a title finally: Assignment 7: Abandon Hope and that last thing I needed for the end came together. Than I crawled into bed with a splitting headache and woke up this morning with a full-on cold, my nose running like a faucet. It was singularly anticlimactic.

I am calling this version Draft 5. But the only other draft I wrote all the way to the end was draft zero as I learned to call it from Justine Larbalestier. And it was truly a zero, horrible thing. But essentially it built my story and from that came my plot. My second draft only made it half way through. At the time I had some kind of meta narrator who was super self-conscious and a little bit of a pain. I didn't have the skills to pull it off. So I started draft three in the first person. Actually I did the first chapter both in first and third to try it out (third sans annoying narrator). And I chose fist person. That time I got over halfway through and I met my writing partner Andy. Together we started over and gave him Draft 4 a little chunk at a time. He was there with me, holding my hand(not literally) through the worst. Finally the book started to get better. (Thanks, Andy.) For Draft 5, I cut the first two chapters, totally rebuilt the middle, rewrote the new first chapter twice and weaved in all the threads(I hopei. Wrote a new first page several times. Fixed Mother who was a wreak. Fixed Duane and Dwight,for that matter, and as long as I'm making the list, I hope I fixed Heather. Now I'm here, ready to give it away whole. This will be the first time anyone reads a viable version of this book. And I expect that there will still be a lot left to fix. So, alas, no fanfare, no fireworks or champagne. But it is nice to sit on the couch and blog, while just real messy life waits, without messy novel life hanging over my head.

I want to welcome Paul as a follower PMM style. Thanks for signing up! He has a blog with beautiful pictures. A great moose sighting(those don't happen here in Minneapolis) and great writing advice. I went to his blog just now for the URL and it was titled momentum. That word came up in the final edits of my final chapter last night. It was a part of a phrase that I had written early in the writing of the book but it had never made the way in. I discovered I was writing toward it. Process is a crazy thing.

I love thinking about momentum as a writing term. There is power in a moving object!

As Always(but today I will sit still),

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I'm a sucker for anything to do with creative process.

Probably by now everyone has read The Wall Street Journal article How to Write a Great Novel and this is old news, but the piece goes through a long list of writers detailing their process. Riveting. As writing-mate Andy pointed out at the Hoe-Down last night, most writers' rules were a bit superstitious. Which totally makes sense, right? Because writing is magic and the only reason anything good ever comes out is thanks to the lord or little fairies or cute boy muses, because it certainly has nothing to do with me. Except for the fact that I sit down and labor over it until my eyes hurt and my family is crazy. And I keep coming back everyday, and only because, once in awhile, it hurts so good.

As Always (taking a break),

Sunday, October 25, 2009

In which I try (in second person)to describe what reading is to me (yet again).

You know that thing that happens when you feel like there is a engine behind your prose and it runs runs runs for days. The engine seems to run when you do anything. You pick up a book to read and you are driven all the way to the end(or sometimes you only want to read beginnings but you read the beginning of all 20 books you have home from the library). Your eyes eat up the words and they seem to inform something necessary and deeply connected to your prose. It's thrilling. And then one day the engine dies, I mean, it is just completely gone but the only reason you know is because you picked up a book. You held it there in front of your face and you realize you are totally stalled. The words are bumpy. They are in the way instead of pulling you forward. It seems so cruel that that you have to find out like this. You were excited to pick up the book. The writing had gotten hard today and a book sounded like such a treat, a break from the difficulty, a panacea or an opiate(which is better?). It was such a let down to find the words like that. Like a breech in contract. As if they had been cheating on you. And you have to realize once again how integral the reading is to the writing and vice-versa. And that there is no way over under or around this mood, you must go through it.

On a more up-beat note, I wish I had written this book(via Upstart Crow Literary). I have a thing for bears, especially ones that show their true violent and cuddly nature.

As Always(like beating a dead horse),

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I like this.

Probably everybody has seen this by now, but I saw this for the first time today. What am I doing? I know, I know, I totally am goofing off. But this guy would clearly appreciate pioneer punk.

Louis CK He has more good videos. Look him up on YouTube.

As Always(going back to work),

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

thank you, credit, sand art

Okay, time to thank followers because I have a new one--big thanks to Ray Veen for clicking that little button. Over at his blog you can become envious of his productivity and beautiful family. Looking forward to his work in progress update.

The reason I started doing this thank you thing here is because I admired Paul Michael Murphy's way with his reader, he is a blogger to be emulated, nothing but fun over there. Although that is not to say there is not also substance. Most recently writers and sensitivity, look now I'm quoting Nathan Bransford's blog titles too. And also attempting to give credit where credit is due.

Finally, this was on kottke.org and you don't have to watch the whole thing, but you could watch some. Jason Kottke said to watch until at least 1:06. I think it is amazing.

When I'm always going on about gesture drawings and their place in revision, this is what I want. Can you appreciate how impermanent that is? If only I treated my words more like sand. I love how her story is told and changed through these great strokes of sand. Or small little smudges. I need to get myself a back light sand table, clearly.

As Always(thinking of you, xo),

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Annie Dillard and Where The Wild Things Are (in that order)

When I wrote non-fiction, I wanted to be like Annie Dillard. I liked how hard she came down on me as I read. She wrote words with teeth. I felt like I learned a lot from reading her, taking the words apart to see how they worked. I learned to want the surprise and the sharpness, but it is clear I would have learned more from studying with her. Alexander Chee has an essay full of Annie Dillard's teacherly wisdom up at The Morning News(via Editorial Ass). Dillard's verb exercise(she got it from Samuel Johnson) is a bit of brilliance. I like that quote near the end about hard work beating talent alone. Also what she said about not having to be original all the time was pretty reassuring. And I also like the idea of accidents leading the way. I love taking, teaching and thinking about creative writing classes. I went to Chee's blog to to nose around. I found an article by Junot Diaz about the writing of his book(I heard an interview with J.D. on Meet the Writers once that I loved) and the words of Cory Doctorow about the author and Chee's own techniques of applying tarot cards to characters. I could learn much from Alexander Chee too and I never heard about him until today.

I went to see Where the Wild Things Are this weekend. I was struck Max's fear and his sweetness, the things that he doesn’t know but manages to learn, tiny little things that are soo small and almost uneventful and yet so essential. That families are hard and anger is hard and we flit so close to danger all the time, on the verge of something huge. It is a tiny miracle everyday that here we are doing what we do in the intact state that we are in. There is one moment in the film, almost unnoticeable when Max is with the wild things. He has just become king. He and the wild things run through the forest to the edge of a cliff and the view is beautiful and everybody is so happy and excited and they know it will be perfect now that Max is king, everything will be okay. Max stands with Carol at the edge and then from behind comes another wild thing, just as excited and happy. He knocks Max. Max stumbles and just catches himself before falling from the edge. He glances up in fear at this wild thing. The face of Max full of consternation. And there is that moment of disequilibrium, of everything not being okay. But it passes, Max lets it go, everyone is still happy. I personally thought it was a super successful expansion of the book, Eggars and Jonze have my approval, for whatever that is worth. My kids didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I did.

As always (feeling a little like Max today),

Friday, October 16, 2009

Home from School.

My kids are upstairs having a fight, slamming doors and screaming things like, don't ever do that to me again and I didn't mean to. Followed by earsplitting screeches and more doors slamming. Those were the days. My sister, Becka, and I would have some doozies, pulling out fingernail weapons, making crescent imprints in the others' arm. Then the clawed would retaliate by peeling broken skin away and placing it on clothes, bare skin, hair, bed anywhere that seemed to garner the greatest disgust. I feel my blood pressure rising with the noise from up there, its a similar feeling to those childhood fights. I want to introduce the movie, War Games, and its lesson, good things can be learned from the futility of tic-tac-toe. But I suppose if I follow that logic, there are a lot of good things to be learned from a good sibling fight. If there is anything I learned from the rage full, spit raising, blood curdling angst of fights with my sis was the futility of the pay back.

How does this relate to writing?
As always(there is a fair amount of futility in writing and that juicy violence and strong feeling is good fodder),

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's business time!

So I went on vacation without letting you know. I guess I am that sort of girl sometimes. I don't write. I don't call. Avoidant, some people may say. Writerly is what I like to call it. Well, here I am. But not promising anything. I really like you a lot, I just can't commit right now...

Here's the update on the book.
Done through Chapter 16. That is the end. The very end. Wrapped up and satisfactory. It has been commented on by the illustrious Andy. (I would link to his site but there is all sorts of nudity over there.) And I have a plan. Now on to the new beginning and back all they way through again. Argh! (Just kidding--I am actually so looking forward to this I can't wait to start.)

Do you want to see the pictures of my cabbage on my sister's blog-- go here. Scroll down and you'll see it. Isn't it pretty? I know they are too crammed together. I do that. When they are little seedlings I can't imagine that they will grow up and take space. So I pack them in. You should see my tomatoes. It's just another metaphor for the rest of my life. See this is why I can't commit. (If you saw the pictures that follow, the aftermath of the bath, that was at my house too, another good metaphor for my life.)

And, welcomes!!! Welcome to follower 10, Christy Raedeke of Juveneacence. You can see her new book cover over there. Doesn't it look spectacular?
And follower 11, Ron Smith. I have to read The Magicians because of him.

I'll be back (just not saying when).

As always(if only my husband read the blog, he'd be all over the Flight of the Conchords reference),

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I’m literally at the very end.

Within five pages? I have the text mostly written and I'm just working on the nit-picky-ness of order. There is a lot happening all at once. I like to imagine that it is like the final scene of A Confederacy of Dunces. Although it has been so long since I read that book, I only have the impression of the scene I’m thinking of and I’m not quite sure it actually is at the end. But the characters in my book are lining up to create an action-packed, slapstick-y sequence. I have to find my way through some natural feeling explanations, let the readers have a little aha here and there, and get to a satisfactory end. Right about now(read that as: I am at a total loss as to what to do next) is when I like to make lists and draw and go to the co op and cook. I want to yell at my kids and throw away all my husband’s grandmother’s tea cups and wander in the garden and sit on the couch and read and have a snack and blog and re-read my manuscript and take a walk by the lake and vacuum all at the same time.
As always(gonna try and write it out),

Monday, September 21, 2009

Follower Nine and yoga

Thank you, Elise Murphy, follower number nine. She visited and followed me after I found her via Jacqui's Room. I loved her post on plot(I love the idea of writing a review for my WIP) that led me to Lev Grossman's Wall Street Journal article, where he says authors are making novels entertaining again. Her blog also led me to Pen Tales where, Ron Smith talks about Lev Grossman's novel The Magicians, according to Smith, Grossman provides a novel that is hard to put down(the likes of which books of the 21st century will be all about according to Grossman). I love blogs that spark your imagination and lead you all over.

I'm looking forward to reading The Magician. But right now Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl is waiting for me at the library and I haven't quite finished Kelly Link's Pretty Monsters.

On a totally separate note, I spent the weekend doing hardcore yoga(11 hours of it). I indulged in a retreat entitled Personal Transformation Training. Yoga Sculpt, circuit training and heated yoga along with meditation. I love meditation exercises that call to your subconscious. The symbol of my transformation involved a huge white storybook bear that hovered above me, made me feel small and protected. He also smelled a bit musky, which made sense. The room was decidedly moist with sweat. Not just mine.

I took this class because of a teacher that I loved. I realized I love her because of her music selection and her repetition of symbolic poses; hands at heart center, sun salutations, chair pose which leaves you prostrate and reaching to something above until you can't stand it anymore. In her class, I almost regularly get into flow, where I dripping and dancing and I feel as if I could do it forever. I guess that is what I look for in yoga, that connection a thing beyond myself that feeds the world within myself. That's where my ideas seem the brightest.

I am reminded yet again of Elizabeth Gilbert and her TED speech about artists finding that thing outside ourselves to blame our success or lack of success on.

So many other people there needed much baser transformations: a woman who was experiencing the anniversaries of her husband and son's death(on the same day, years apart); another woman cried every time she spoke, who only told us something devastating had happened to her this past year; another woman had not felt anything since returning from Iraq two years ago. In comparison my story seemed shallow. But if I have learned anything, I know I shouldn't diminish it. I need that thing like faith to keep me operating despite an unfinished book, shyness at conferences, and other disruptions(It really is very shallow).

As always(no bright ideas today),

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Sorry about the lack of posts. I haven't had the energy or the time to write a post from beginning to end. I have started a whole lot of them but never quite finished.

I attended the local SCWBI this past weekend. Enjoyed it.

Spent time talking with Steve Brezenoff. Nice to get advice from someone more experienced and wise than I. Also, he gave me book recommendations and so far he's not steered me wrong. And an introduction to Kurtis Scaletta. (Thanks, Steve.) I look forward to Steve's book next year and maybe seeing him at more conferences. I got to hear about Kurtis's many works, published, unpublished and in-process. Check out his book, Mudville(nice review, huh?). They were both kind to a semi-lost SCWBI conferencer. I think I salvaged my day because of them.

I have this fantasy of creating some kind of local kid-lit society where we meet for drinks once a month(not that I ever go out) and have each others' backs in a pinch(you know reading each others' books and recommending them). The place to start that kind of thing would be at SCWBI (or does it already exist because of SCWBI and I just don't pay enough attention?), but I did a miserable job of making friends. (Can you tell I have regrets?) Let's just say that in true writer form, I didn't try to interact nearly hard enough. I had put everything into a new draft of chapter one(Previously the end of chapter 2. I am throwing out the beginning.) and didn't have anything left for friend-making. I did have a wonderful Manuscript Review with Dara Dokas which should help me with round two of the new chapter one.

I really enjoyed Donna Jo Napoli. Now, she is a woman to admire just for her conference manner. She was not stifled by an audience and I liked that(I'm afraid I would be). She said what she needed to say. Both the cheer-leading and, unexpectedly, specific responses to first pages(awesome). Unfortunately my first page was at the bottom of the pile(vacation made me hand it in very late) and there wasn't time for feedback from those that be. The aforementioned Steve said(in full admiration of Donna Jo) that she should be my critique partner and, yeah, I would like that... Although Andy is a dream and I would not change my current situation for all the tea in China.

As Always(slow to post),

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Watch me try to pitch novel number one.

My title is still in process—the working title borrows too much from John Irving—The World According to Jude. See what I mean? How about Heather and Her Adventures Above Ground? Too much borrowing? They both work more than the original ones I have come up with though. Still working on it.

Heather's mother has dragged her(and her little brother Michael) from her stepfather and her hometown with barely more than the clothes on her back(and a leather bag slung over her shoulder containing The Complete Works of Jane Austen, the largest book she could grab). It was the bravest thing her mother had ever done, but now she worries that her mother has exchanged one devil for another. Jude, the charismatic director of the shelter, sends her and her brother on an adventure to the biggest indoor amusement park in America with twenty dollars in her pocket and a ticket to all the rides she wants, it should be too good to be true. Instead of enjoying herself, she finds herself chasing(literally) a strange boy(and saving him from a familiar policeman). As she gets wound up in the boy's exploits(art project), she discovers he's the teacher she has been looking for. But Heather will need to face the part of herself that she fears the most.

This is a coming of age story told in first person through the eyes of Heather. Her family lives in a homeless shelter in Minneapolis, where it is clear that not everything is as it appears. As she encounters the characters of her new reality, Heather has to face the part of herself that she has been desperately trying to stifle.

Can you help me with this? What do you want more of? Less of? Where am I too vague? Too wordy? I would love to hear your response.

As Always(please help me make it better),

Monday, July 27, 2009

About Me(always in process).

It's about time that I spend time on this(Thanks to Tess who asked).

I am working really hard on a young adult novel. It has everything it needs to make it work and now I just have to clean it up. Which sounds easier to me than all the creating stuff I have been doing for the last two years. But I don't know. I can feel that things are right as I wind it up. That is not to say that it is great, it's just to say that it's what is supposed to be and now I just have to find that rightness in the beginning.

I have two other novels that have begun to grow in Scrivener(you got to love Scrivener). These are coming to me very differently than the first. In bits of scenes, much more like reading a book than writing it. They feel as if they are being revealed by my subconscious in tiny little snatches. I'm not sure if that can carry itself the whole way through(My current novel has been draft after draft so I have always known what happens next. Now that the subtext is there, the book is way more interesting to me. But these new books seem to be complicated by subtext before they even start. Is that faith in the process? Is that a brain that has been through ten thousand hours of this stuff? Am I delusional?). Does anyone out there know about writing that way?

One of the new novels seems like Middle Grade. The other a dystopian, futuristic, post apocalyptic story. At least as far as I can tell.

I have a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. Where I learned how to write well(technically speaking). I had a teaching assistantship there and through trial by fire I learned to teach(teaching is like writing and I am still learning forever and ever). I also had an infant son during that time(who is now at sleepover camp, so big!). I'm surprised that I survived.

I am still for all practical purposes a stay at home mom. Although this provides me plenty of opportunity and flexibility to write, it also adds insult to the injury of writing. Not just because the stay at home mom thing is all-consuming and there's always something more to do, just like writing. Nor because neither earn me any money, or make me feel productive in any kind of way(can you say Sisyphus). It's because both those things require the push and pull of discipline and fun in order to make them/me work properly. And as this blog will tell you, if you look even a tiny bit into it, I am always trying to figure out that delicate push and pull. Makes me think of A River Runs Through It and fly fishing. Can you picture the line dancing out over the water trying to tease trout/whatever out of there? That's my life in a nutshell. Pretty, totally beautiful really, but always at attention, teasing and working whatever little bit I can pull from it.

As Always(feedback welcome),

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This has no shape. Not that I can see anyway.

I know I have written about this before but it really made an impression on me. In an interview, Junot Diaz once described the way he could see sections of his work as shapes. As a result, he could visually see how two parts would fit together. A geometric approach to structuring his novel. It sounds so orderly. He spent some time saying how weird it was blah, blah, blah. I totally want his brain.

My work comes out with all the paragraphs all over the place, some stuff here, other stuff there, and for the life of me I cannot see how it fits together. It like this, like each my novel is made up of threads, there is the Officer Jeremy thread which gets intertwined with the Sandy thread which gets wound up with Duane and his freak out. Okay, my novel is the back of a head of long hair and I am french braiding it. I grab a little of Sister Ashley there, grab Irene and Mother here and there's a frog and there's a storm. Oh my, I have never been very good as french braiding, messy and uneven and I leave out whole chunks and other pieces get tied in knots and after I put in the binder whole pieces unravel.

Can I use the word ravel? Because that is what I feel as if I am doing now. I am raveling the end together, the big fat braid, trying to bundle it all up into that neat rubber band. It must be a word, the spell check has not indicated it's not. Perfect.

Littlest sis Rachel signed on as follower number 7. Thank you for reading. I can't wait until you come back home and advise me on my color selection as I macrame my novel together.

As always(Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here plays over and over in my mind--how appropriate),

(listen, so you can have it in your head too)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Too Much Structure Gets Me Down

I mentioned that I went to the Cemetery the other day. A nice summer evening. Thursday June 25th to be exact. It was a little unsatisfying to be sure. What do you expect from a cemetery tour? Darkness and access to mouldy old crypts? Well it was more of the who's who of the old and moneyed Minneapolis. Thanks to them we have this very thoughtfully laid out and preserved park space with giant monoliths honoring names such as Lowery and Pillsbury and Guthrie, you know the ones. We stood about under various of these a craned our necks to see the tops, they had(and probably still have) a lot of money and their family plot is nothing to be ashamed of.

Natalie (usually a food eating friend, but this time we walked over the decomposing bodies of dead folk), who knows quite a bit about the landscape planning business besides just being terribly interesting, speculated about the infrastructure required to deal with the run off resulting from decay. Now that was the kind of tour I wanted.

I wanted to see secret spots. We WERE shown a cluster of graves marked by headstones that looked like tree stumps and piles of chopped wood. Apparently there was some kind of ode-to-logging movement in grave marking, I'd like to know a little more about that--that is the kind of information that would be on my tour. Have there been other grave marking movements.

Natalie and I devised a future dinner club plan: first tour the cemetery(we can get there by way of Lake Harriet's historic trolley, just a few blocks from our house and a short old fashioned ride over to Lakewood) and then a different hors d'oeuvre designed by each guest and inspired by inhabitants(is that what we call it, perhaps resident is more apt, there must be a right word) of the cemetery.

The gesture drawing approach to a dinner club tour: A quick jog through the whole place, done fast but with intense attention to get a feel for it. We would run through in the basic order of development over the years. How about oldest to newest? And then go back to the most interesting parts. Following our nose to wherever it leads us.

As Always(making plans),

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Parasitic Monsters

I'm terribly sorry for my negligence. It is summer and there are living things everywhere. Blond skinny ones running through my house, pounding up and down the stairs, removing things from closets and leaving them on the floor. Green thirsty ones surrounding me on all sides, wilting or producing fruit by turns. Even the black and white and furry one trips me in his fear (wind makes him crazy). And my novel lives, breathes and demands attention. Unlike those other ones, it has no color. Clear for the most part, except for all the themes and characters that are trapped within it, obscuring a view to the other side. It just sort of floats in front me making everything sort of difficult to accomplish.

As Always (hoping you understand),

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bad Attitude

I find that blogging requires me to perform periodic attitude adjustments. I don't know why that is. But I guess novel writing is that way too. I find that I'm a good writer if I sit down in my chair, pick a word out of the pretty box I keep near by, put on a timer and type...until I'm not.  I'm a good writer if I sit and re-read everything I wrote the day before and then write from there... until I can't.

Blogging seems to go through similar phases. Initially it was a writing exercise a day. That's back when all I wanted was to produce writing. And for a while it was the fruits of my practice. Then it was going to be a gratitude blog, where I gave thanks to all my influences. Then it was going to be book reviews, but I found that my reading whims change with my writing process. I decided I was unreliable, so I gave up on that. Finally, I was going to write on Wednesdays. And I guess today is Wednesday and, what do you know, I am blogging. Is that really enough of a philosophy?

I cleaned the yoga studio today; don't know what is for dinner yet, but I do have cabbage in the refrigerator; wrote a synopsis for chapter fifteen that was sort of clarifying; and I will go on a cemetery tour tonight.

As Always (Thanks to Becka, who reads and gives me Facebook feedback.),

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This(writing) and That(blogging)

I've finally finished chapter fourteen. It was much shorter than expected. I have also been incredibly busy in the garden. And now I turn my attentions on chapter fifteen and woodchips.

At this point in the writing process I have a whole bunch of written words that are loosely in order. Most are relatively new. The oldest being the very end, but I have to find my narrator's lens in order to make it work. She's there somewhat already but not entirely. I sometimes lose her way. She loses her way too. She tells a story much like I would. Getting lost in the details and being overly concerned about how much the reader needs to know. Where does she end and I begin? Who is the writer here? It makes me want to take some action and whip Heather into shape (now I am behaving just like her mother).

I must thank JulieAnn for becoming follower number four. JulieAnn and I met way back in 2008 at The Big Sir Writer's Workshop (a lovely, lovely event). She provided my initial blogging education and I am eternally grateful. She is also incredibly hardworking at the writing and the life (she is a great role model).

Becoming a follower seems so generous in nature. I am a little bit struck by that. I am not a good blogger. Too many things pull me in too many directions, not the least of which is insecurity that I will write anything people are interested in. As of late I have been much more sure that my book will be worth reading but my blog.... Thanks you all for tuning in. I suppose I must expect this to ebb and flow just like the book.

As Always (off to clean the yoga studio),

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Today on Galleycat there a story that Dave Eggers is going to have the novel version of Where the while Things Are coming out at the same time as the movie. Working on the screenplay inspired him to write long.

I am inspired to write something new. Wouldn't it be liberating to just pick a new project and scrap 14? All that work for the past two years, all these characters that are so constrained by all the words I've already written, throw them out and start something else. Sounds nice.

Oh, this is what I was going to tell you. One of my various groups includes a writing group with teens and adult ladies like myself. We write Natalie Goldberg style, with a timer and a subject, moving our pens constantly until time runs out and then read out loud. It really makes you appreciate brains, your own and the others at the table. And whatever it is behind the brains, I picture a big windy vortex of space where all the stories float fully formed and you have to be sitting just right, holding your pen a certain way, writing just fast enough for them to escape the stormy vacuum. Well, luckily this practice, the fast imperfect stormy writing trains my body to become a conductor, some sort of conduit for the floating stuff back there. I tried out another group like this recently with my friend Diana,a great writing role model. Everything was aligned that night and all these unplanned things came out of my vortex. New characters. Lots of boy ones. If only I could invite them over to play.

As Always(I think perhaps both my characters and I need to misbehave),

p.s. Thanks to Steve Brezenoff at Exile in Goyville for being follower number three! In the short time I've known him he has been my reading role model (perhaps reviewing role model is more accurate).

Friday, June 5, 2009

I got no time this week but I do want to share David Lynch's Interview Project. A new interview every 2 days or so. I don't know where I heard of it from, I'm sure one blog or another. Everything is a blur. But the first one posted June 1st and so far I watched three. The third was Sean Freebourn. I love the gritty real people. Most of the people in my life lack that grittiness. Or perhaps they are fantastically gritty, it is just not particularly novel to me, and therefore I need to branch out in order to recognize it.

At the end of the school year, I begin to panic that I will not have any time to write once summer begins but I should really panic a few weeks prior to that because the events switch up to high gear and I can barely breathe. (Question: What am I doing watching gritty people on the internet, even if David Lynch has something to do with it?)

Thanks to Tracy Edward Wymer for becoming my second follower. Tracy posted "droodles" on his blog yesterday and I like them and the name of such things. I believe heavily in their usefulness, but have no proof. I followed him right back.

Paul Michael Murphy (follower number one) did a thank you on his blog when I became a follower of him, and I liked it so I'm copying.

As Always (still looking for the way through fourteen),

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ways of Seeing

I’m writing chapter fourteen. This could possible be the last chapter in my novel. It could be the second to the last. I have the very end written in various places, so I know where I am writing to, but I’m a little lost in the meantime. I tend to wonder if I’m pushing hard enough, or perhaps my dithering is an important part of the process.

I have the urge to see my novel in different ways. I want to draw it on a long parchment and color it with a beautiful palate. I’m thinking grays and browns and maroons. I think some blues in there too. Warm ones.

Or I want to see it in macramé, each piece of yarn representing a plot thread, each knot the point where they intertwine and become one. At the bottom the threads tangle into knots, the weaver not sure where one ends and the other begins.

Or I want to go out onto the black of our newly sealed driveway with very white chalk and mind map the novel in enormous circles(really I have never found mind-mapping to work for me), great gestures(I think I have written about this before) of my novel that just capture the shape and the feel of it and somehow those long strokes would pull all my thoughts together into the rest of chapter fourteen which I believe is about what everyone doesn’t know(including the novelist).

In the past writing the synopsis worked. Somehow tracing my way in words from the very beginning helped find everybody in the present moment.

As Always(off to see the Wizard),

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In Praise of Cabbage-- and other great things.

I’m forty now. Determined to think that this will be my best decade, despite the wrinkly skin and pounds that are harder to take off. Here are the things that I have going for me:

1.Two wonderful children. I always wanted to be a parent. I embraced the parenting wholeheartedly and regret nothing. And now they are big and life is grand partly because they are grand kids and partly because I can be their parent and…

2. Write. Almost as much as I wanted to have babies, did I also wanted to make up books. And by make them, I guess I meant gestate them until full-term(so much longer than you have to do then with those human zygotes). And then labor them out into the world(also maybe more mentally painful, if not as physically miraculous). Like being a parent, I have wanted to make those wordy worlds since I was just a little reader. And now I nearly have a fledgling book of my own. I have to thank…

3. Josh. Not only does he support me in this (financially among all the other ways), but without him I would still be trapped in a lot of bad old habits that would have me insecure and not writing and I probably would never have found…

4. The yoga. Thank god for that(it is religious to me after all). Without yoga, the kids would drive me nuts, the ego would keep me crossing out words and I wouldn’t be able to stand on my head(something I could never do before 40—I literally just started this past week).

5. Cabbage. (I didn’t know how to connect this with the above). I live close to the co op so I have access to all the organic purple cabbage I could possibly eat. Its color looks good in any meal, next to any meal, and on the counter. It’s excellent cooked or raw. Great in Asian, Mexican and Irish, and a bunch of other cultural foods of my own invention. It lasts a long time in the refrigerator. It is so fresh and crunchy on a hike. It is reasonably cheap and extremely healthy. I'm sure it will keep me happy well into my fifties.

As Always(I had a massage today),

Friday, May 15, 2009

Why do I think this is so funny?

I guess it is the seriousness that makes me laugh. I love it.

As Always(I turn 40 tomorrow),

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Today was the final round of The Battle of the Kids' Books. Lois Lowry chimed in with a hysterical account of her decision and just as good is to read the ensuing star studded comments, Anderson praising Katniss and Suzanne Collins answering back, with her own praise of MT, and Jane Yolen and John Green and Sarah Miller. They banter and pat each other on the back and say smart things just as we all expect they do when we are not watching. Just the reason why I want to be in the club. Is it a club?
I have loved, loved loved the battle.(Can it really be done?)

Also, kottke.org did a survey of bad reviews of the wire from Amazon(I also loved the link to the you can't please everyone series--what do you think? Do those reviewers really not know Spinal Tap is made up?). I always find the things he does to be interesting. And often timely to me. We just watched the first three shows of The Wire the other night. I have been hearing all the hype, that even Obama loved the show, so finally I succumbed to television. (That is what it has come to-succumbing to television, I'm not even bragging, just terribly behind the times.) And I have to admit I was struck by the characterization. That already I care about Jimmy McNulty, not only is he attractive but I've seen him falling down drunk a couple of times and laughing at himself when he's foolish. So charming. Even the fact that this whole detail evolved from him, makes him seem either too honest to follow the "rules" of the Baltimore Police Force or too messed up to do so. And somehow I want to know which. That seems like a good way to start out the show--and also letting me watch in hour intervals(half hour would be even better--considering how behind I am).

As Always(perhaps it's just as well that I am behind, otherwise kottke.org would never have struck a chord),

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Flux's new podcast

I don't know if you know that I had a thing last summer for Steve Bertrand who interviews authors on Meet the Writers for barnesandnoble.com. How could I help it? He was so present with each of his interviewees, making the conversations so friendly and natural. Do you hear how I'm speaking of him in past tense? Perhaps because I have already replaced Steve Bertrand with Brian Farrey. I listened to his first podcast today. I will take Brian out with me this summer while weed the garden. He had just as nice a tone(he interviewed Susan Fine, writer of upcoming book INITIATION and Lucienne Diver, author of VAMPED) as Steve Bertrand. And YA all the time! Yay!

As Always (I can still listen to Steve Bertrand too),

Friday, April 24, 2009

Question 2: from The Loft's Festival

Who will be a local Betsy Bird?

I went to hear the editors talk, Brian Farrey from Flux and Andrew Karre from Carolrhoda and, of course, the talk went to blogging and the web 2.0 of book/author publicity. Which, as you may or may not know, I have been trying to teach myself and, in the year since Big Sur, have read a whole lot of blogs(and I have made my book exceedingly better, if not finished). I have done some blogging, but mostly I became a reader of each of the blogs that Andrew Karre mentioned. He asked, who is going to be the Betsy Bird of Minneapolis? Who is going to organizing the local kid-lit-o-sphere. In fact he challenged us.

I mentioned it to Josh when I got home, what if I could do that? and he said, we are not up to that kind of socializing. Isn’t that the truth? I really love the couch, our new Roku, and the stack of books I came home with from the festival. I can barely keep up with the neighborhood, let alone a bunch of literary shut-ins like myself.

Maybe the answer is The Loft itself. It has blogs coming soon. Those could be Betsy and if someone else took it on, dyanu.

But to begin with, let’s get some locals commenting on each others blogs. For all I know everybody is out there already doing that. Comment on mine so I can find you. I already found Steve (at the festival). Yea! Let’s help each other out.

Speaking of organizing and being seen at literary events, there is a Raking Through Books Happy Hour at Kieran’s Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis tonight to feature the nominees and publishers of the Minnesota Book Awards. (I saw this on Andrew Karre’s blog and in The Loft’s newsletter.)

As Always(going to yoga),

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Auto-tune my day!

Thanks to kottke.org.

As Always (wasting time),
Have you been following The Battle of the Books?

I don't know what it is but it has been thrilling for me. I love the format of it. The comparisons. I'm not sure that any of the books that have gone head to head were both ones I had read. But reading a comparison between one I had read, to one I hadn't has been so concrete and ultimately so interesting. Today Kistin Cashore's Graceling which I read and liked got beat by The Lincolns which I haven't read. Although my criticisms of Graceling were different, the judge justified the win for me and I am now dying to read The Lincolns.

Go see for yourself.

As Always(spending too much time on the internet),

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Question 1: from The Loft's Festival last weekend

1. As print media becomes obsolete, what will book publicity look like and how can I influence it?

Writers and educators, who have access to young people who read, how are they a part of the book buzz? I have no answers, just gut feelings.

I have realized it needs to be a conversation, where I am open to and want to be as influenced as I want to influence. I was initially going to ask, how can writers/educators influence what young people read, but I don’t mean that. It's too intentional. And forceful. As artists it would be unlike us force ourselves on others, right? Instead we respond and contribute.

I was driven to the internet to try to understand how to market myself and a future book, but I also have genuine interest in technology, how youth use it, how other writers use it. The consequence of my reading and responding to blogs is exposure to books and writers. I have become the recipient of the buzz. I don't think I can say my blog has become part of the buzz, but personally I have(currently my neighborhood book club is reading Tender Morsels and that is completely because of my hearing and seeing it on the internet). I'm not sure where teens are in my equation yet. I have a writer's group with teens and we talk books. But I am not fooled by how it works, I need even more exposure.

As I watch my librarian friend do it in Saint Paul. He is a resource for teens, holding his arms open, saying, I an here for you. Tell me what you want. He gives away books for free and reads an amazing amount. And the teens come.

Only semi related is that my husband and I have a joke about that texting application on cell phones. Is it called "t-9", where the phone guesses the rest of the word so you don't have to type the whole thing? I think it is. I'm guessing our joke started from some snide comment between my sister and I about t-9ing, isn't that foreplay? And Josh stepped up to the joke saying, yeah, it's like when you're anticipating your partner. This comment he made with a smoochy, suggestive move. And we continue the joke to this day, so that it has now become a part of foreplay.

But if I look at the way the joke evolved, it required that each of us meet the other partway, meeting each jest with yes and taking it farther. So however I got there I guess I think the answer relates to the t-9 application on your cell phone, allowing yourself to text a little faster and the rules of improv which always makes your partner look good.

So how are you a part of the equation? How can I be?

As Always(not sure if I make any sense),

Monday, April 20, 2009

Loft's Children's Literature Festival

Went to the conference this weekend. Loved the talk by Pete Hautman. Bought Godless but I haven’t read it yet. The list gets longer and longer(just started The Order of Odd-Fish, love the beginning and Korsekov's digestion).

Anyway. Pete told us a list of "bumps" that he needed to have to make him a published writer. He started by joking about how some of his epiphanies were small ones(like the spelling of separate), which was extra funny to me because last week I had had an epiphany that felt as if I were about to change the world, I felt taller and lighter and all the epiphany boiled down to was, I was making this writing thing harder than it needed to be. After I realized what a tiny epiphany it really was I, of course, thought I'd blog about it.

But, instead I will blog about Pete Hautman's larger ones, they seem more worthy. Some of his realizations, I’m just learning myself. He spent a long time talking about trusting the reader and had this cool exercise where he told a story and then asked questions about it. I perhaps will have to steal it someday (give him credit of course) but it was a great teaching tool for how mind fills in the gaps. When I first started my WIP, I was always so worked up about getting the reader places. In the first draft, there are so many scenes without necessary oomf. It causes such pain just for me to look at all those unnecessary words. Because I didn't know that the reader knew this already. How come it takes so long to learn this stuff?

Another thing Pete talked about was point of view. He told a story about watching his dog hunting voles in the back yard, how in each part of the action, there were different perspectives to take, depending on what was at stake. Oh, point of view! Did Pete say that it was the most important part of the novel or did someone else say that to me recently? I certainly believe it.

More about the festival later.

As always(looking for the crux of things),

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reading as Writer

I have been reading the beginnings of things. Once in a while my reading appetite becomes fierce and insatiable. It is like a vitamin deficiency for words in a particular arrangement. Earlier this year it was about pacing, I craved books that I could power through and I read them as if I had been empty for way too long. Putting word after word, book after book into my head in its entirety, but lately it has been just the beginnings. I start them, read first chapters, get stuck in second chapters, loose my impetus. But I keep picking up the books voraciously. It is telling that when I write, bits and pieces of the first chapter are coming out(a revision of it) and I guess that is what I am working on now. It is so uncanny that it is my reading appetite that knows before the rest of me. It is done so instinctively, not as I was taught to it in grad school, it is more like a gesture, as I was taught to do in a drawing class. I’ve been trying to write in gestures as well as just reading or drawing that way. Big sweeping imperfect strokes of words that work to capture a feeling of something. Sometimes it works and sometimes I feel hurky-jerky, my thoughts running ahead of my fingers, getting me lost until my eyes come halting back to try and find the thrust of it. But sometimes I go back and still make out a graceful line that strikes through the prose. It is important to find its shape, it is important to find a shadow in it, because that will be what the rest is built around.
But it is work it is to get into the sketching frame of mind. Finding loose and easy is sometimes harder than any other place in the world. But then to have the eyes to see your way through, now that is hard too. On the days when I cannot find either either what do I do? Perhaps that is then that I need to read things convulsively. That is when my eyes fall across the page, outlining, sketching it invisibly on my brain. Yes, I think so.

As Always(thanks, Julie Schumacher)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Writing Groups

I got a novel group that shares chapters every other week. I pile the work on them and they diligently plug away at it. Their feedback on my narrator and other aspects of the novel has been invaluable.

I got a productive group--we, Rapid Writers, get together and do timed writings and then read them out loud. It has been immensely helpful in the process aspect of writing. We are a mixed crew of teens and adults. Great fun and industry.

I got a writing group that is left over from my grad school days. Lovely women, we do lots of career commiserating and looking forward to someday helping each other out with the writing.

I got an artist's group which has fallen off the weekly meeting wagon, but our creative support of each other has been priceless. I look forward to seeing where these ladies' brilliance will take them.

I am prolific as far a groups go, shall I tell you of others? Two book clubs (one which reads, the other read, then quilted, now reminisces about our reading days--we started in the nineties, my oldest group by far), a chavurah, and my foodie club(which I just made up, they exist but we have never labeled ourselves as such) who meets to eat and drink once a month.

As Always (in between gigs),

Monday, March 16, 2009

Zahrah the Windseeker

I've finished. Actually it's been a bit ago. I'm delayed because I have been writing up a storm. It's good for the novel, but doesn't get the blog written.

Here it is:

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

Zarah is born with the distinctive dada locks, vines that grow throughout her hair. People born like this are said to have special powers but so far Zarah only feels different. Her only friend is Dari, a boy with boundless curiosity. After Zarah gets her first period, she begins to change, against her will she floats above her bed. It scares her. She keeps it secret from everyone until finally she tells Dari. And he encourages her to begin to explore her gift. The two set off on an adventure for Zarah to practice and learn her gift. They discover "windseekers" in a library and also a book about the Greeny Jungle, they break the rules to go pursue a Windseeker named Nsibidi in the Dark Market, it leads them to do the unthinkable and go into the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. It is when Dari is bit by a war snake and succumbs to a coma Zarah has to face the jungle to save him and in the process face her own scary abilities.

The world that Okorafor-Mbachu creates along with the characters and their strengths are compelling, the story was infused with a flavor of folk tales through names, settings and the way the animals teach Zahrah things along her journey. I loved the way technology and nature are intertwined, and that ultimately the technology is nothing without the nature.

I was very excited to read this book. A fantasy book with the above cover. And many things about the book didn't disappoint me. I liked Zarah very much, even cared what happened to her. For all that I found the above compelling, I did not push through it with excitement and gusto. There was no sense of discovery for me. Each adventure seemed contrived from ideas instead of character. (I do it turns out read for character). There were a lot of details left unexplored. Why Nsibidi cuts her dada locks, for example. Also, the greeny Gorillas and their shunning of technology. Various other animals of the mysterious jungle. Zahrah's own resistance to her gift. Next time I hope Okorafor-Mbachu goes a little deeper into some of the themes that seemed so integral to her interesting ideas.

As always(so there it is, sorry it took so long),

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