Archive for October, 2010

reason #32 to stay up past your bedtime

October 29, 2010

GUSTER.

they are one of those bands that blow you away EVERY SINGLE TIME you see them live. and i’ve seen them more times than i can count. they just have this charisma on stage that doesn’t translate to CD. they truly enjoy their fans and that, in turn, makes it even more fun to see them over and over.

and you know what makes a guster concert EVEN MORE FUN than usual? going with two friends, one of whom doesn’t know he’s going.

i’m normally a professional sekrit keeper. i never even let on that i know any information, let alone do the “i know something you don’t know” song and dance. and up until yesterday, this was no exception. in fact, the fall has been going so fast (seriously, we’re only 2 days away from november? huminah, what?) that the guster concert snuck up on me. (read: i forgot about it) but it worked out supremely well because i saw L&N last weekend, and that could have been prime sekrit slipping time.

but nope. N had no clue what L and i were planning. in fact, N didn’t even know i was joining in on the festivities until he saw my sweet ride (shocks. pegs. LUCKY.) driving into the parking lot. i was so excited (and admittedly, a bit hopped up on sugar free red bull) that as i waved hello, slid into the car and heard my phone’s google calendar event reminder, i grabbed my phone, waved it around, and yelled, “GUSTER CONCERT!!!!!!!”

*crickets chirping*

N grinned, but looked over at wifey L to see if he was allowed to know the details of tonight’s event. L sputtered, “but he didn’t know yet.”

oops.

and just like that, i was given the pink slip out of the professional ranks of sekrit keeping.

fortunately, we were now able to have N (a portland, ME local) drive us to a good restaurant and then find us street parking without us having to throw him off the scent. or having to have L drive and me navigate. (we all know what happens when i’m in charge of directions…) and fortunately, the release of the sekrit didn’t detonate any fireworks or tempers or contracts on my life. and seeing guster live (again) was as amazing as we were anticipating. those boys sure put in a lot of practice and it shows in the show. the lights. the sounds. the talking to the audience. brian singing the “50 states” song. the new songs. the old songs. it’s all genius.

i wanted to SHARE some guster with you, but i couldn’t find a proper video of them live (not that it would have done them any justice because a video of them live doesn’t equate to actually being in the same room with them), so instead, here’s a little acoustical lullabye.

you’re welcome.

and next time they’re at a venue near you, stock up on red bull, caffeine, and wave goodbye to your pillow. trust me, it’s worth the lost beauty sleep.

 

oops.

pantser or plotter

October 26, 2010

in a black and white world, there are two kinds of writers: pantsers and plotters. a plotter is one who prepares plots and characters and scenes and outlines before sitting down to write a new manuscript. a pantser is one who writes by the seat of her pants, diving into the story with nary a thought to who, what, when, where, or why.

in a gray world, most writers fall somewhere in between doing a little bit of plotting before beginning and then jumping in with both feet (err, both hands on the keyboard) to see where the characters lead them. some will write a little, stop, assess, outline and write some more.

there is no right way to write, but rather a personal preference. i used to be a plotter, but after spending many years on the same manuscript, i realized i need some distance. in order to get said room, i’ve started working on something new and with that something new, i decided to write in a new way — pantser’s style.

i’m finding it quite difficult, actually. i’m getting so bogged down with the enormity of the lack of direction i have laid out for this story that i’m going way too in depth with scenes because it’s easier to move laterally instead of forward. i find it’s simpler to layer unnecessary detail after irrelevant detail than take a step in the wrong direction.

but is there really such a thing as the wrong direction?

writers, what do you do in this situation? is there a right way? a wrong way? perhaps should i stop trying to increase the word count and make a quick outline? or should i push forward and let my pants lead me? even if my pants have me doing a thriller style dance while a country twang song is on?

non-writers, what do you think you would do in this situation? perhaps your total objectivity will be of a benefit for me. or perhaps there is a mathematical formula that can solve this problem. what if i ran the quadratic formula of “the end” and then took the square root of that? will that place me somewhere in the middle of my story?

everyone, help!

squash this

October 22, 2010

if you put the word SQUASH into a google image search, you come up with pictures like these.

they’re all squash-ed in.

that’s exactly what i look like (except for the whole, “i’m a girl and he’s not” thing). what i mean to say is that i project the same badassery that he does. obviously.

so the real point here is why was i searching the word squash and why did i just subject you to those pictures? well, it’s relevant this time of year because it’s autumn and farmers are harvesting their fruits and vegetables AND i’m learning how to play squash. i had my first match on wednesday, during lunch.

why am i learning how to play squash? it’s part of this whole life upgrade thing. and the whole, i’m trying to get in tip top shape for the big 3-0 in january. the gym is boring. this spices things up a bit. especially when you consider the fact that i’ve never played before and i’m entering into a highly competitive trio of dudes. i’m a highly competitive chick, so this isn’t intimidating as much as frustrating. i don’t like to lose. but i’m starting at the bottom and playing against guys who’ve been playing for years, if not decades. let’s hope i’m good with a steep learning curve.

the trick to squash (aside from learning how to use your wrist. tee hee.) is watching your opponent and knowing his/her weaknesses. yes, this is how most games are played, but this is a fast game (true story) and by the time you’ve figured out your opponent’s weaknesses, you’re already down 2 games to none. (maybe that’s just me. it was my first time, cut me some slack.) i think this whole “observe and conquer” will suit me well as i embark into my 30s.

*cackles evilly* yeah, i’ll let you figure that one out yourself.

AND hey, i just realized, i’ve already had a brief and lovely encounter with squash. with joan bauer’s squash to be precise. if you haven’t read her work, you really should. she’s a master at humor. and creating awesomely strong female leads.

and p.s. i realize there are a lot of links in this post, so to keep things interesting, ONE of them (no, i’m not telling which) leads to a special surprise. happy clicking!

(TWSS)

BOOK HUNGRY: beauty

October 21, 2010

who says you have to be crowded into the living room/kitchen/dining room to hold a book club? we are ladies of the 21st century. we don’t need no stinkin’ couches. so pull up a blog and join in the conversation.

the members of the BOOK HUNGRY are (alphabetically): patty blount, kelly breakey, karla nellenbach, vanessa noble, alyson peterson, cynthia reese, elizabeth ryann, and myself. here’s the deal. we pick a book to read. we discuss via email. we post a review on our individual blogs on the same day (3rd thursday of the month). we link to each other. done. i know, genius. click on each one of their names (above) and it’ll take you to their review. browse. enjoy.

side note to all readers: if you’ve read the book, jump in on the conversation. comment away. if you haven’t read the book, go out and buy a copy, you ninny. and then come back and comment. if you’d like to become a full time BOOK HUNGRY member, contact one of us and we’ll get you set up. no need to have a blog. we can post for you. it couldn’t be easier. and it couldn’t be more fun.

this month’s BOOK HUNGRY selection is:

BEAUTY by Robin McKinley

some books are boosted by lightning fast plots. you turn the pages so quick, you’re in danger of getting a paper cut. other books are charming in a more subtle way with the characters whispering their secrets to you. certain books grip you from the first page to the very end. others require a bit more dedication and perspiration to get through. some books you love and re-read multiple times. others you’re happy to return to the library.

all of these books deserve our attention.

this book, BEAUTY, is a re-telling of a very famous tale, which i’m sure you’ve already guessed — beauty and the beast. i happen to have the lyrics of every song from that disney movie memorized (yes, it’s been decades since i first saw it. don’t judge), so you could say i had a certain preconception when i picked up this book. i was wrong. all wrong. (wait, am i ever right?) while there are no singing dishes or giggling armoires or talking tea cups, there IS magic within these pages. it takes some time to show up, but once it does, the reward is worth the wait.

as a reader, this book won’t be hitting my “favorites list”, but there were portions i really liked. (side note:  i use a post-it note as a bookmark and when i reach a part that makes me go “oooh,” i rip the post-it note and use the smaller portion to mark the passage.) in BEAUTY, i didn’t mark any passages until the third section, but then there were so many parts i enjoyed that i needed more post-it notes, however, i was on plane and didn’t have access to any, so i resorted to writing the page numbers on the small scrap i had left. i can be resourceful, no?

but it was as a writer that i truly appreciated reading BEAUTY. it’s a solid story with some amazing passages. if i hadn’t HAD to read the book, i wouldn’t have learned that a slowly paced plot is something i want to avoid in my writing, but for this book, the pacing fit. and i would have miss out on the McKinley’s third section. the magic is literally palpable. that portion was its own course in creative writing. my point being, it’s necessary to read books you LOVE and books you don’t because it’s not always easy to pick out what you like, but it is easy to figure out what you didn’t. and then once you’ve learned what you like and don’t like, you can go ahead and incorporate it (or not) into your own work.

as elizabeth ryann said, “This book is like the literary equivalent of getting into a really hot jacuzzi. You kind of ease into it slowly, going at your own pace, and each muscle relaxes as you do. You can’t just plop down and feel more relaxed. It’s the [slow paced] process that gets you where you want to end up.” the girl has a point. the beginning (and umm, middle) parts are slow going and while i didn’t love that feature, it did get me to the end, which was entirely adorable and magical and sweet and satisfying. the end result wouldn’t have felt the same if we, the readers, had gotten there faster. also, ER had another brilliant point. the book is titled BEAUTY, not beauty and the beast. this is her story. and her life is a bit dull and we need to know that so we can fully appreciate what she gains when she joins the beast and how she changes once she’s there.

my diagnosis: read this book. read it on a quiet afternoon or on a day when it’s nothing but hectic around you or on a sunny day or on a rainy day. it’s not going to cause lightning and thunder in your brain, but it will enchant you. and who doesn’t want some magic in their life?

thanks for challenging us with your choice, elizabeth. my writerly and readerly sides bow down to you.

//

inspiration + perspiration

October 19, 2010

it started in my childhood, what with my parents and older siblings reading books to me before i could read on my own. it continued as i read everything on my shelf and begged sister J to pick up more books for me at the library. (she had good taste. plus, i wanted to be just like her. even if i didn’t understand the high school references of sweet valley high.) it was furthered when i would see my dad sitting on the couch reading, sister J in her room on her bed reading, my mom standing at the kitchen counter reading a quick magazine article before starting dinner, and brother G? he reads now, but my memories of him revolve around him playing nintendo or shooting hoops outside. and from the point when little E was born, the only time you could get her to put a book down is when she was done and putting it down to pick up another one.

anyways, my point is that in my family, reading is genetic. everyone reads and so it was inevitable i would too.

but it wasn’t until JK Rowling and Harry Potter came along (i picked up the series right after book 4 was published) that my flights of fancy of writing a kids book solidified. suddenly, it was okay to want to write for kids, tweens, and teens. and suddenly, it was okay that i was READING those books. (though it did take me until a few years ago to publicly admit i was reading YA and MG books because i LIKE them, not just because i was doing RESEARCH.)

Jo was recently on Oprah. it’s an amazing and rare interview, so i wanted to share it with you all. it’s broken up into 6 parts, so you don’t have to watch all at once.  click here. also, i had a huge run of luck in 2008 and i managed to score tickets to harvard university’s graduation, which featured one JK Rowling as the keynote speaker. that phenomenal speech about the power of failure is here.

so, i’ve got my (10%) inspiration (and you’ve got some too) which means that according to thomas edison, it’s now time to get down to the (90%) perspiration part. and, oh me oh my, i can do that with the best of them. i just have to make sure it stems from slaving over the keyboard…

also, i just came across this post by victoria schwab. not only are the pictures beautiful, but (umm, this is embarrassing to admit) the idea that you can use outside pictures and songs to inspire your creative juices is a REALLY good one. i guess i’ve been a bit too hard on myself by thinking i had to come up with everything on my own. and that? well, it dries up the juices quite quick. (that’s what she said). but now that i know i can (and should) have a few key things to get me into the proper story writing space, to get me into the minds of my characters, I’M ON IT.

what’s your inspiration? or, rather, how do you find it? and do you perspire literally or figuratively when doing something creative?