Month: June 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

Linky Wednesday

I finally got the right day, but this time my links aren’t writing-focused! Ah well…

Reminder: Tomorrow is the last day to enter my June giveaway of BEE SEASON by Myla Goldberg and THE BOAT by Nam Le. Free books, people!

Also: The baby deer showed up again, and I got video this time! They are adorably awkward, and they run around like typical kiddunks*. I want to keep them and snuggle them and train them to play with Riley. And in my imagination, I will totally do so.

*I stole that word from Sarah.

NYTimes bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch has been branching out with some short personal essays. Two went live this week, and I really enjoyed them both.

I think reading these was also the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been itching to write some personal nonfic of my own, and last night I was finally struck with the first line of an essay that’s been swirling in my mind for weeks. From there things flowed, and I ended up staying up past midnight to work on it. The piece isn’t finished, but it’s a solid start. A chink in the dam, I hope.

Author and speaker Sarah Sentilles wrote an interesting piece called “Breaking up with God.”

And last but not least (this one IS writing-related) author Ellery Adams gives real numbers from her career. Advances, word counts, income, etc. It’s just one person’s experience, but it gives you an idea. I applaud her honesty.

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My weekend in haiku

1.

Slow afternoon hike
Four women, five kids, two dogs
Cupcakes at the end

2.

Lazy morning golf
Peekaboo with the sunshine
A fox startled out

3.

Two baby deer chase
Each other in our yard, then
Food, laughter with friends

Cincinnati Nature Center 066 Cincinnati Nature Center 084
baby deer 005

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Inspired by Jose Antonio Vargas

This is going to sound more self-deprecating than I intend, but lately I’ve been struggling to write anything personal. I start a piece and then I wonder, What’s the point? Who does this help? What good does this do the world?

Objectively, I think “There is none,” “no one,” and “it doesn’t” are all perfectly valid answers to those questions. Writing doesn’t have to “accomplish” anything to be of value. It’s art, a form of expression. Existing is enough.

So what’s my problem? I think mostly it’s a fear of opening up. Of exposing certain parts of myself to be read and judged. And not just myself, but parts of my family or friends that affect me, but that aren’t strictly “mine” to write about.

Objectively, I don’t think that’s fair pressure for any writer to put on him/herself. Just like we should all dance like no one’s watching, sing like no one’s listening, and love like we’ve never been hurt, we should also write like no one’s reading.

But of course, it’s easy to be objective in theory, much more difficult in practice.

So what inspires me, what makes me feel empowered and brave, is reading things like this: “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” In six quick pages, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outs himself (in multiple ways). I was amazed by his life story, his work ethic, and his writing.

‎”Maintaining a deception for so long distorts your sense of self. You start wondering who you’ve become, and why.”

I’m not deceiving anyone, but I am in a sort of mental/emotional hiding. Fiction is my greatest passion, but I would like to write personal essays sometimes too. Now whenever I hesitate, I will try to remind myself of Vargas’s piece, of his courage, of his heart.

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June giveaway

Same rules as usual: Please leave a comment below and let me know which of these 2 books you’re interested in. (If you’re interested in both, that’s fine.) You have until the end of this month to enter, and then I’ll draw names at random and announce the winners on Fri, Jul 1st. (Must have US mailing address — sorry, international friends!)

(Images and descriptions courtesy of GoodReads and Amazon)

Bee SeasonBee Season
by Myla Goldberg

Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable nine-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidact father, Saul, absorbed in his study of Jewish mysticism; her brother, Aaron, the vessel of his father’s spiritual ambitions; and her brilliant but distant lawyer-mom, Miriam. But when Eliza sweeps her school and district spelling bees in quick succession, Saul takes it as a sign that she is destined for greatness. In this altered reality, Saul inducts her into his hallowed study and lavishes upon her the attention previously reserved for Aaron, who in his displacement embarks upon a lone quest for spiritual fulfillment. When Miriam’s secret life triggers a familial explosion, it is Eliza who must order the chaos.

Not merely a coming-of-age story, Goldberg’s first novel delicately examines the unraveling fabric of one family. The outcome of this tale is as startling and unconventional as her prose, which wields its metaphors sharply and rings with maturity.

The BoatThe Boat
by Nam Le

A stunningly inventive, deeply moving fiction debut: stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a tiny fishing village in Australia to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea, in a masterly display of literary virtuosity and feeling.

In the magnificent opening story, “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice,” a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father’s experiences in Vietnam — and what seems at first a satire of turning one’s life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of homeland, and the ties between father and son. “Cartagena” provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a fourteen-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test. In “Meeting Elise,” an aging New York painter mourns his body’s decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. And with graceful symmetry, the final, title story returns to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees, where a young woman’s bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a shattering decision.

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Writerly Thursday

Sorry, I ruined the alliteration by not posting this yesterday. To make up for it, here is a List of Literary Links that have been Languishing in my deLicious account. Like?

“7 Things I’ve Learned So Far” by Rebecca Serle

7 Things is a recurring column over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, but this is one of my favorites of all-time. It’s so very… me! For example, her first point:

“You don’t write a book. You write a sentence and then a paragraph and then a page and then a chapter.”

First you think, “Duh.” Then you think, “Oh yeah! Thank you for reminding me!” Because it’s easy to get so caught up with the finish line that you start to miss the mile markers.

“Writing 9/11” by Terrence Chang

I just liked what this guy had to stay about tackling a monumental and sensitive topic.

At first I didn’t want to write this story because of 9/11. I didn’t feel up to it, was afraid I would do an injustice to our history, and to those whose wounds from that day will never truly heal. Then I realized this was not a story about 9/11, but about a man and his family and how they would or would not survive. And this, not 9/11, is what made the story ultimately worth writing.

We writers shouldn’t shy away from the hard stuff, if the hard stuff is what’s calling us. Because obviously we need to write it, and we never know who might need to read it.

“Trading Stories (Notes from a literary apprenticeship)” by Jhumpa Lahiri

This — she — is really too hard to excerpt. It’s all brilliant, and quietly woven into a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts. I love Lahiri’s writing, and I identify so much with the experiences she describes.

The writer in me wanted to edit myself.

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