progress report

there are zillions of pieces of advice out there on how to write, but the most logical ones boil down to two points.

(1) put your butt in the chair and write.
(2) in order to get better at writing, you have to WRITE.

sure, reading and living a full life are also keys to becoming a better writer (and a better human), but the practicality of practicing writing is too true to ignore, as @fakeeditor (#2) so helpfully explains.

i thought i’d been doing that. i have one completed manuscript under my belt not to mention an MFA degree, and yet, i kept coming up with doubt about the state of my current (finished but unedited) WIP. i wondered why my writing wasn’t getting better. i thought taking some time away from it would help. i thought diving in and doing more research would help. i thought reading it over and over would help. i thought doing some character interviews would help.

it didn’t.

in a fit of distraction, i started to peruse my old blog postings because i couldn’t remember when i had changed from diaryland.com to wordpress.com. that switch, from casual musings to carefully thought out postings, marked the beginning of my attempts to become a writer and i was curious what that actual date was. (7.21.09 for inquiring minds.)  it took longer than i anticipated to find the beginning  and i couldn’t help but read a bunch of the posts as i scrolled my way through. after reading through some highly embarrassing and super revealing and poorly crafted posts, i realized something.

i HAVE made progress. it’s just not the progress i was expecting.

the progress i’ve made has been in the form of emails and blogs because that’s what i’ve been doing daily for years now. sure, it may have been a thing necessitated through work or a premature attempt at building a brand, but it’s been the most consistent form of writing that i’ve been practicing and THAT’S why those types of words come more easily to me.

now hold up, i’m not saying when i open an email or fresh post, the right words march out and lay down in the proper formation, but it’s much easier to twist those words into the desired shape whereas the words in my novel look a bit more like this:

so the point of this was not to direct you to my most remedial writings, but as a note to myself to lighten up in the areas of my manuscripts because i’m still new to the game and my talent still needs time to be cultivated.

now, how to work on being more patient?

how do YOU work at getting better at what you do — whether it’s a hobby, a job, or a career?


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book club

BOOK HUNGRY: divergent

who says you have to be crowded into the living room, kitchen, and/or 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.

this month’s BOOK HUNGRY selection is: 

DIVERGENT by veronica roth

what it’s about from amazon: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

my opinion: in a world (today, now, the present, america) where dystopian novels are abundant, this one rises to the top. well, not above THE HUNGER GAMES or THE GRACELING, but near them. the concept of this story is fascinating, but then again, that’s one of the things i like most about dyptopian novels — seeing how the author has broken down the US and built it back up again — but what i like most is roth’s execution of the concept.

the US she presents is stark and rigid and unforgiving, but the reasons for it to have evolved that way aren’t unbelievable. sure, this society is a bit creepy and a lot unrelenting, but the five different factions make sense. those are all positive qualities to find in a person, but the disturbing part comes in that each faction has to solely commit to the pursuit of one quality (bravery, intelligence, kindness, truthfulness, selflessness) and that’s at the root of the unrest. when a large quantity of people are pigeonholed into acting a certain way at the expense of creativity and individualism, tensions will rise and battles will be fought.

another strong feature is the romance. it’s one of the most natural, realistic, and well paced relationships in YA. the way tris and four interact is charming and awesome and very much on point. their interactions are gritty and honest and lovely and confusing, as they often are when you’re a teen, heck, when you’re an adult too.

a novel of this sort is usually very plot centric, and don’t get me wrong, this is too, but it’s also surprisingly character driven. tris and four are so dynamic and richly detailed and i think it’s a big reason why this book is so successful. it doesn’t rely on the action to move it forward, but rather the characters. that’s an impressive feat for a dystopian novel.

the only weakness (for me) in this book is the ending. it feels too rushed. the pacing of the training (aka, the rest of the book) is perfect, but then the end happens andbigmomentafterbigmomentafterbigmomentplusmoreaction and whew, too much happens in way too short of a time. i’m not usually a fan of major cliffhanger endings, but somehow, i think this book would have benefited from one. (and after a discussion with sister E, we decided DIVERGENT would have been stronger if it ended earlier, though the rest of the book hungry gals loved the book as is.)

but overall, this is a dynamo of a book and YOU should read it.

and next month, we’re picking up kelly’s choice of PARADISE by judith mcnaught.


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convos with strangers

“conversations” with strangers #25

i’m talking to strangers… here’s why.

i was walking down the sidewalk when i noticed a guy approaching along the same path i was. i shifted to the right to avoid running into him at the same time he shifted to the left.

we were still on a direct course for collision.

we both shifted the opposite way.

the space between us was narrowing.

i paused, made eye contact, and let him step in the direction he wanted. we didn’t exchange words, but the combination of my actions spoke volumes and that guy was reading the right one.

oh, the sidewalk tango (come on, we’ve all done it). fortunately this time, it didn’t end up as a sidewalk tangle as we passed by each other without physical harm.

(i can’t say the same for a week ago when i was walking down the hallway with adriana, but that’s another story for another day.)


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water vs. fine literature


“High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water;

but everybody likes water.”

Mark Twain

(please excuse this interruption, but before i go any further, i must admit that i blatantly stole the image and the quote from Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s blog. go ahead, click on the image or the words and it’ll take you to her beautiful website.)

but back to my regularly scheduled post: when i read this quote by mark twain, it triggered a physical response.

i went and got a drink of water.

(ok, for serious now.)

his words eloquently and straightforwardedly (friday’s the day where you can make up new words) state something i’ve felt in varying degrees my whole life. if a stranger looked at my bookshelf, they might degree it full of “water” books and wonder why i’m not reading more “wine”. me and drinking wine are besties, so why don’t i read literature of the same sort? i say i love books and i say i read every day (i do!), so then why haven’t i or why don’t i read more serious literature more often?

probably because the main reason i read is for entertainment.

i want to be carted away from the doldrums of my life and placed in a world that’s shiny and silly and amazing and breathtaking and scary and vivid and different. high literature does have those things (and wine makes me feel those things), but it is too fancy. too convoluted. too proud. it feels like you have to walk on eggshells around big words and important political statements, and you know what? i’m not a big fan of reading delicately.

i like to gulp the words.

i want dive in and splash around in plot twists and sink underneath the surface and let the characters bubble up around me. i want to smash through realizations and bellow about relationships and make the wrong decisions and pick the right guy and figure out how the world around me works. i want to race through chapters so fast i can’t catch my breath and yet lay there quietly nodding in empathy. breathing and reading in and out. in and out. learning and growing and cheering and doing new things in fiction and real life (as a writer, a reader, and a human).

YA books do this for me. other books may do that for you and that’s why there are so many options out there in the world, so we can all be happy within the pages of a book.

so, while MY love goes out to books that may be considered more water than wine, it’s because these books make me laugh and grin and scream and shake my fist and wince and cry and learn and grow, but most importantly, they make me turn the page.


p.s. the irony of the “underage” YA book being marked as water just hit me. even if it was high fa-luting literature, it probably shouldn’t ever be considered wine.


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