Month: March 2013

Stuff worth reading

“Ang Lee: A Never-Ending Dream” tranlated by Irene Shih

Recalling earlier times, my wife confessed, “I’ve always believed that you only need one gift. Your gift is making films. There are so many people studying computers already, they don’t need an Ang Lee to do that. If you want that golden statue, you have to commit to the dream.”

“Why I Will No Longer Treat Writing Like a ‘Job'” by John M. Cusick

Stephen King said come to the page however you want, but do not come lightly. There’s a difference between every day and everyday. Make space. Make a space. Make it count.

“Creative People Say No” by Kevin Ashton

Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.

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Of monsters and men in Steubenville

This is not usually a space for politics, but the Steubenville rape case has hit the YA community hard, and I have thoughts.

(Note: I did blog about this previously, though not as directly as I’m about to.)

When the verdict came down yesterday, I was not happy. I was not pleased. I did not feel that justice was served or that anybody had won. I believe it was the correct decision, but I do not believe it was a victory or a cause for celebration.

Because nothing can truly right such a wrong as this.

Twitter had some strong opinions. Apparently no one is allowed to feel sympathy for the two boys whose lives have been forever altered. Apparently the girl is a slut and deserved what she got — was asking for it, even. Apparently it’s a conspiracy and the whole world is against one small town in Ohio. Apparently this is really about alcohol, or football, or privacy in the digital age.*

Sometimes Twitter is stupid.

I worry that for most of America, this will be the end of the Steubenville case. I worry that the wave of righteous indignation will crest and then ebb, and we will go back to whatever else we were doing before. I worry, because this should be just the beginning. The beginning of an important nationwide discussion — and a million smaller conversations in homes, in offices, in schools. This should start a movement to understand and educate one another.

That would be the only silver lining to this overwhelmingly sad situation.

If I’m being honest, I do feel sorry for the two boys. What they did was reprehensible and inexcusable, hence the verdict and the sentences. But what now? Do we wash our hands of them, let them “rot in jail”?

I find that attitude particularly abhorrent coming from the YA community. We, who immerse ourselves in teen stories, should know better. We understand exactly how mature teens can be, and at the same time we recognize how young they still are. We know the tremendous power and turmoil of coming-of-age, and we believe in the opportunity for growth and redemption. We know that life is not about picking sides like a dodgeball game. When it comes to improving teen lives, we are all supposed to be playing on the same team.

What I’m saying is, people are not born monsters. Monsters are created. I hope that these two boys will not be sent farther and faster down the path to monster-hood. I hope we will do everything in our power, over these next few years, to find them, turn them around, and bring them back here with us where they belong.

The survivor, too, must learn and grow. (I think it’s possible to express concerns over her decision-making without saying she caused or deserved her rape.) In my training as a sexual assault advisor in college, I learned that we call them survivors, not victims, because of the strength they show in dealing with and hopefully overcoming their assaults. This girl has endured much more than anyone should have to, and I hope she will continue to draw from whatever well of courage has gotten her this far. But of her I also ask, What now? Will she try to put this behind her and return to her “normal” life? Or will she perhaps find an even better course to pursue from here on forward?

Those are the questions that I hope everyone involved will be asking themselves. The other partygoers who saw and said/did nothing. The parents. The teachers. The town.

Indeed, those are the questions we should all be asking, as I said earlier.

And to those who say, “They’ll never change,” I say in reply, “They sure won’t if we never try.”

*As an aside, I know a lot of people worry about the younger generations and how they use social media, how they view privacy or lack thereof. Frankly, I’m starting to wonder if maybe it’s not such a bad thing for their lives to be open books. Yes, their mistakes will haunt them — but maybe then they’ll learn to make fewer and smaller mistakes as they mature. At the very least they may not be able to hide things as easily, and that leaves the door open for people older and wiser to keep an eye on them, and step in when needed.

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February in photos

Curled up. Gong xi fa cai! Happy Year of the Snake, y'all.
Raindrops keep falling on my head... #whpumbrellas Winter buds.
Happy Fat Tuesday! Woof
Neighbor of the feline variety. Offshoots.
Happy Valentine's Day! :) Riley's #1 love? Kibbles.
2-17 032 lock bridge 2 2-17 039 orsay 3
2-18 034 mona lisa 2 2-19 007 eiffel
Fortune cookie wisdom.

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Los últimos (the last of the Spain sketches)

The subway isn’t too crowded at mid-afternoon, but it’s busy enough that there are no free seats. We all shuffle around the metal posts, angling for a handhold. Our bodies sway as one whenever the car stops and starts.

At Antón Martín, a white-haired couple comes on, looks around, and settles for leaning against the wall. A woman in her 30s notices them and stands, offering her chair. When the older woman shakes her head, the younger woman gestures to insist. The older woman declines once more, this time with a wave of her hand. Her husband smiles at the younger woman, who nods and retakes her seat.

Courtesy, pride. Youth, maturity. All of this passes in a matter of seconds. Then it’s on to the next stop. We shuffle and sway.

10-27 Templo de Debod 001

We wait in line to enter the small Egyptian temple that sits in the middle of Madrid. (A gift from one country to another, says the official story. A pity purchase during poor economic times, says the rumor mill.) Beside us, sandstone arches rise out of the water. Scattered around the pond, a group of students sketches.

Inside the temple, there’s more waiting. The old passageways are so narrow, only a few people can pass at a time. In line behind us is an American family with a Midwestern accent. “Meep,” says the older son. “Meep,” echoes the younger son. “Meep. Meep. Meep, meep. Meep, meep. Meep meep meepmeep MEEEEEEP!”

The parents scowl and tell the kids to hush. Andy and I turn to each other and share a silent laugh.

10-27 Retiro 026

An autumn stroll through Buen Retiro park. It’s a quiet way to close out our trip. My choice. My favorite place.

We walk past the lake, through the twisting green paths, down to the Palacio de Cristal. There’s barely enough sun — but barely enough is better than none — and dim rainbows glisten off every pane of glass. We circle the pond, stepping around teenagers who hang about as confidently and unconcerned as the cats.

From here we will go back. Back to the subway, to the hotel, to the States. But for now, the leaves are changing, and the air is cool and damp. I’ve never seen Retiro like this before. I wish I knew it better. I wish I knew it year-round.

But barely enough is better than none. I soak it in.

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Meant to write, or not meant to write? That isn’t really the question

Most of the time, it feels like I simply wasn’t built to be a writer. I have a hard time focusing and sitting still. I’m impatient. I crave praise. I’m not super observant. I’m not all that original. I’m smart but not clever or witty. I’m kind of lazy. I obsess over words and sentences for hours. I’m not the best plotter. I’m easily distracted by the internet. My wrists ache all the time.

Surely if I were meant to be a writer, this would be easier, right? My personality would be better suited for it?

Well, after years of lamenting my poor compatibility with this thing I love so much, I realized the other day that I never stop to think about — to appreciate — the ways I might actually be a good fit for writing.

• I can stick with something for a long time, well beyond what most reasonable people would tolerate. For example, I ate the same 2 kinds of Lunchables for 5 school years in a row. That’s a LOT of little crackers, circular ham (or turkey), and square cheese.

• I constantly imagine “What if?” What if aliens came and wanted to eat us? What if I could talk to animals? What if a bunch of teens had to fight to death on reality TV? (Okay fine, that last idea wasn’t mine.)

• I constantly wonder how people are feeling about the things that happen to them. The guy on the news who lost his arm to an alligator attack. The family that’s living in a van due to the bad economy. The mother of the con artist who scammed people out of millions of dollars. I want to understand them, their stories. (Truth be told, I want to live their lives, if only for a little while, if only in my head and heart. I want to live a million lives.)

• I process through words. Whether pondering the questions above, or getting through my own personal bind, writing it out helps me understand myself better. Helps me figure out exactly what I’m thinking and feeling, and how to best convey those thoughts and emotions to someone else if needed. Sometimes just the physical act of writing — pressing ink to paper, or pushing characters onto a screen — is therapy enough.

• I love books. The shape of them. The feel of them. The places they take me. The things they teach me. The way they make laugh or cry or both.

• I love words. The sound of them. The look of them. The flow of them. They are truly beautiful to me.

• I have the support. Of family and friends. Of time and circumstances and (for the most part) finances.

• I can be quite the homebody. Sitting at the same desk in the same room of the same house day after day doesn’t faze me.

I’m open to feedback, I type quickly, etc… There is probably more, but I think this post is plenty long enough to accomplish its objective. To inspire me to celebrate and build on my strengths, instead of always only lamenting my weaknesses.

I encourage you to do the same.

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