Archive for November, 2011

conversations with strangers #14

November 15, 2011

talk to strangers? yes, indeed.

i was checking my mailbox when a neighbor walked into the apartment lobby. (this is a rare occasion because even though i have a very normal working schedule, it appears none of my neighbors do. i’ve probably run into two people the entire six months i’ve been here.) my initial reaction was to keep to myself and not bug her with any questions, but then my blog popped into my mind. i’ve been conversing with strangers (okay, fine, so what if they’re usually service people and they have to talk to me) for months now, this is it! time to take the training wheels off!

me: hi, have you lived here long? (*thinks to self* “hmm, slightly creepy opening. remedy it quick.”)

me again: i’m abby. i’ve been here since may.

her: *smiles* i’m [name redacted to protect the innocent]. i moved here in september.

me: i’m apartment [redacted].

her: i’m number [redacted].

me: oh, we must share a wall or something.

her: i bet we do. you’re very quiet. i never hear anything.

me: let me know if you do!

her: likewise.

the rest of the conversation revolved around our landlord, his response time when dealing with issues, and the things we did/didn’t like about our new places. i highly doubt my landlord or neighbor would ever read this, but just in case, it’s probably in my best interest to keep things vague.

and the real point here is that i did it!!! i initiated a conversation with a true stranger and the world didn’t end. nothing bad happened. in fact, good things came out of it. i met my neighbor. she was very nice.

and now the apartment building feels a teensy tiny wee bit more like home.

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guest post: grandpa

November 11, 2011

my dad’s dad is a whiz with a computer. he probably knows and can do more than i can, but the thing i appreciate the most is that he’s a diligent reader of my blog. on the days i post, he either comments on the actual post (sometimes with a history lesson) or he’ll email me a quote he’s found that relates to the topic i’ve written about or because it’s something that reminded him of me. (all together now, awwwwww.) and now i present to you some of the awesomeness my grandfather shared with me:

There are a thousand thoughts lying within a woman that she does not know till she takes up a pen to write.
-William Makepeace Thackeray, novelist (1811-1863)

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or a new thing in an old way.
-Richard Harding Davis, journalist and author (1864-1916)

‘I learned her name was Proverb’ by Denise Levertov

And the secret names
of all we meet who lead us deeper
into our labyrinth
of valleys and mountains, twisting valleys
and steeper mountains-
their hidden names are always,
like Proverb, promises:
Rune, Omen, Fable, Parable,
those we meet for only
one crucial moment, gaze to gaze,
or for years know and don’t recognize

but of whom later a word
sings back to us
as if from high among leaves
still near but beyond sight

drawing us from tree to tree
towards the time and the unknown place
where we shall know
what it is to arrive.

thanks for unwittingly writing a guest post for me, grandpa!

keep ’em coming.

the words that shaped me

November 8, 2011

i read this post a few weeks ago and it stuck with me because whatever your chosen profession or hobby, it’s interesting to step back and think about how you got started and what is was that motivated you to begin and how it all shaped you.

these are the books that set me on my current path.

HARRY POTTER series by j.k. rowling.  i found this series when i was in college right as the third book was about to be released and it made me thank my lucky stars that Sister E was so much younger because it gave me an excuse to read YA. but as i kept reading, i realized rowling had broken down the barriers and made it okay to write YA and admit you loved the YA genre. her attention to detail, her fully developed characters, her humor, and the magic. these books are a tour de force and she deserves every single penny she’s earned.

HUNGER GAMES by suzanne collins. i’m not talking about the series here, i’m just talking about the first book. this book made me forget i was reading and i never remembered turning the pages; i was just there side by side with katniss as she forged her way forward. she’s a tough, solid, resourceful character and not one prone to romance, in short, she’s refreshingly different from most of the other YA heroines. only suzanne collins could turn a premise as grisly as this into a book that’s beloved by all. this is one book i can (and have) confidently recommend(ed) to anyone.

IF I STAY by gayle forman. this book ripped my heart out and then stitched it back together and i never saw it coming. i’d heard about this book, but the original jacket didn’t catch my attention, so never gave it a second thought. i’d browsed through it at the bookstore before, but i always put it back. it wasn’t until about a year later (at the commanding of a librarian friend) that i finally picked it up. i didn’t put it down until i’d finished it + a box of tissues.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by jandy nelson. this book is one of the most gorgeous things i’ve ever read. it’s sad and heartbreakingly funny and inappropriate and relatable and awesome. jandy takes normal, everyday language and makes it lush and evocative. this is exactly the kind of writing i want to do.

THE SCORPIO RACES by maggie stiefvater. this is the most recent addition to the list, but it’s a welcome one. this book drips with emotion — good, bad, and ugly — and is stunning in its starkness. at the end of the day, this book is hopeful, which is the best we can ask of ourselves and our lives.

what book or decision or moment set YOU on your way?

conversations with strangers #13

November 4, 2011

you shouldn’t talk to strangers. here’s why i’m going against what my mom taught me.

me: can i have a decaf, non-fat mocha?

him: you sure can. *rings in order*

me: *looks through purse for wallet*

him: how are you today?

me: *oblivious to the fact the question is directed at me*

him: *repeats question*

me: *looks behind to confirm he is talking to me*

him: *laughs* you are all *imitates my startled face*

me: i don’t know why i didn’t realize you were talking to me. i’m doing well, thanks. and you?

him: maybe we should switch that order to caffeinated?

me: valid point, but my stomach prefers the decaf.  (*thinks to self* self, did you just admit too much?)

him: have a good day.

me: you too.

and as i waited for my drink to be made, i pondered my confusion. was it the fact he asked me how i was doing after he took my order? was it my level of tiredness? why didn’t i realize he was talking to me? have you ever revealed too much information to a stranger? have you ever been a part of a conversation you didn’t realize was taking place?

FWIS: the beginning

November 2, 2011

there are these two ladies:

jessica corra

bria quinlan

and they are awesome. we all connected on twitter, but since then, i’ve met bria in real life because we’re both in the great state of massachusetts. we’re working on getting jessica up here for a visit, but until that time, we’ve settled into a nice little routine of google chatting, emails and of course, twitter-ing.

we’re all writers, but we’re each in a very different stage of the publishing process (jessica’s book AFTER YOU comes out from Dial Books For Young Readers (an imprint of Penguin) in spring 2013, bria is agented, and i’m at the bottom of the curve), so it got us thinking — what does the world look like from from where we each stand?

and thus, a monthly column was born. we each write about a topic from our unique perspectives.

today’s topic: how we got to where we stand today.

*waves* i am at the beginning. *waves more*

despite having my MFA in creative writing and having one finished MS under my belt (and locked securely in a drawer where no one will ever read it again), i didn’t truly get serious about obtaining the holy grail of getting published until recently. for the first time in my life, i had trouble sticking to deadlines because i was the only one who knew about them. there was no accountability. no one to push me. no one to read my work.

i had to press pause while i evaluated this goal i’d always dreamed of.

i have such amazing memories of reading throughout my childhood that i’ve always wanted to return the favor. i wanted to pass along that reading experience to generations younger than me, but was i cut out for it? did i have a story to tell? characters to breathe life into? did i have the right motivation? did my words work?

after a month long pause, i decided that YES, i did want this, but i was going to have to start from scratch. first came alexis and her critiquing skills. then came bria and her disaster drafting. and deadlines. and accountability. then came the epiphany. and another one. and here i am, today.

at the starting line.

my main goal is to finish the manuscript i’m working on now. that’s it. to start and end a manuscript. to know i can. i officially started work on this manuscript in september 2010, but really, truly began in earnest in september of this year. i’ve got 35K words and lots of good habits and my next (more specific) goal is to finish this by the end of november. then i’ll let it marinate before i go back to flesh it out and revise and edit and revise and revise and revise.

depending upon what shape it’s in then, i may turn to the next step — looking for an agent — or, most likely, this manuscript will end up next to my other one locked away in a drawer. i believe this MS is here for practice. like all things in life, in order to get good-er, you have to practice. and the only way to practice writing is to write.

i plan on doing just that.

so as i stand here the beginning, i’m filled with excitement (at the possibility of reaching my goal) and a touch of frustration (at how difficult, how far, how tough that goal is), but ultimately, this is a hopeful place to be in because the only direction from here, the bottom, is UP.