Month: January 2010 Page 2 of 3

Working and waiting for dreams

Savannah Day 3 039

The process is all so slow, as dreams are slow, as dreams suspend time like a balloon hung in midair. I want it all to happen now. I want whatever miracle I am party to, to prosper and grow: I want the dimensions of time that have been loosened from their foundations to entwine like a basketful of bright embroidery threads. But it seems that even for dreams, I have to work and wait.

– From Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella

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Living life without a safety net

First, thanks to everyone for your wonderful and supportive comments about the stories/scenes I recently posted! I’m so glad I put them out there, even though I was hesitant because they’re so rough. I have a tendency to blog about writing in general, as opposed to my writing specifically, but reading Kiersten and Natalie’s blogs made me realize that I should probably open up a bit. Because it’s fun to share (like secrets at a slumber party!) and your responses are so encouraging.

To that end, I have a confession to make: I’ve started a new book. I’m excited about it, so if you think it sounds stupid, please don’t tell me.

In a nutshell:

A twenty-something couple seeking adventure in order to revive their stale relationship gets more than they bargained for when they are whisked away to a strange and possibly dangerous other world.

Think Alice in Wonderland meets Princess Bride meets Spirited Away meets real life. Or something like that. I’m only 2,200 words in right now, but I’ve hit my word goal every day this week, so I’m feeling pretty good. I’m also going to employ alpha readers on this project, and it’s the first time I’ve ever had alphas (well, besides my thesis adviser Hilary Masters) so I’ll talk more about that next week.

In other news, my friend Julia has started blogging flash fiction once a week at 52 Tales. Julia is awesome, and a very talented writer! (We met at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop.) Most of her current tales are about Austen Clark, a California lawyer who ran away to Micronesia for some mysterious reason involving a sawed off shotgun. There’s humor and adventure and even (I’m anticipating) a little romance. It’s like LOST, but without plane wrecks or polar bears or time travel or crazy conspiracies! In other words, not very much like LOST at all, except that it’s set on a cool island and is fabulous. Check it out.

Another friend, Mandy, recently blogged about how everyone’s pressuring her to get a backup plan. See, she recently quit her job to do freelance writing full-time, and apparently a lot of people think she’s going to fall on her @$$. What I love about Mandy is that she’s bold, so her response to those people was a big fat SO WHAT?

I don’t want to make a back up plan. I don’t want it to become THE plan as soon as things get tough and I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I want to struggle (a little). I want there to be times where I realize I need to hunker down and crank out some work if I want to pay my student loan. I want to make myself nauseous from the procrastination I’m doing to myself, and I want there to be days when I’m up until 4am finishing up work because I sat around all day reading blogs.

If I have complete security and comfort, which so many of us see as a level of “achievement,” like we’ve all suddenly reached our goals and can sit and be there and stay there, what am I going to get out of it besides the cash? What’s going to teach me, tempt me, freak me out, or make me squirm in discomfort? I know in the end we all want that feeling, but thinking of the day where I sit back and say “yep, this is it. This is where I’m at and how it’s going to be for the rest of like, ever…” makes me realize how I’m not ready to be there.

See? Bold. And brilliant. And totally going to rock the freelance thing.

Me, on the other hand… I compromised. I quit my job to write, but I got a safety net (a part-time job). Granted, it lets me spend a lot more time writing without making me a charity case, but sometimes I wish I were as fearless as Mandy.

(And sometimes I think I still will be… If 2010 isn’t the year, I think I’m going to have some tough decisions to make.)

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Letting myself be silly

As I mentioned last week, I wrote a little story for Natalie Whipple’s contest. What I didn’t mention is that the main characters are a fairy and an elf, and that is SO out of the realm of my normal subject matter.

But I think that was a good thing for me. I approached this abnormality as an exercise and a challenge. To let myself write what I’m not familiar with. To be a little silly. (Which is not to say that all fairy or elf stories are silly, just that I wanted mine to be a little lighter in tone.)

With that in mind, this is the idea that came to me:

Melora (elf) and Linnise (fairy) are Partners. Meaning the Administration has bound them together and given them an assignment. If they don’t complete it, they get incinerated. There is no escaping this. So Linnise would very much like to complete their assignment (which is to find and kill a certain goblin) and then get un-bound and go on her merry way. Melora, on the other hand, would like a puppy.

Okay so… it’s not 100% light. I guess some habits die hard. Anyway, click here if you care to read my short scene. Or click here if you’d rather read the stories that won the contest. The 3rd place entry is hilarious, and the 1st place entry is beautiful.

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Write it simple, write it true

I’m alive, I’m back, and I have no idea why someone searching for “poopy cola” ended up here, but I’m sorry to disappoint!

On the other hand, hiiiiiii to all the lovely people coming from Kiersten White’s blog. No, I didn’t pay her to say any of those nice things about me. But maybe I should send her some Dr. Pepper as a thank you. Being called “good strange” by Kiersten totally made my day.

Anyhoot, I spent this past weekend in Houston for my sister Alex’s wedding. I admit that going in I was quite nervous about being Maid of Honor. Would I look good? Would I walk right? More importantly, would I still be able to function after 10 hours of cropping and sorting photos for the slideshow? I had my doubts.

But the big day came and went without a hitch. In fact, it wasn’t just okay — it was perfect. My parents were on-time, I didn’t fall while walking down the aisle (although I did stumble), and oh yeah, MY SISTER GOT MARRIED.

(On a boat. Hee!)

For me the biggest hurdle (besides the thing I tripped over) was my Maid of Honor toast. I’d been stressing about it for weeks, and every time I tried to write it, I started to cry. Part of it was that I didn’t know how to describe everything I felt about Alex and her getting married, and part of it was the pressure. For some reason, when you tell people you’re a writer, they expect you to be able to write things well. Things like speeches. Weird.

I finally got my emotions under control and wrote a crappy first draft about 5 days before the wedding. Andy told me to sleep on it, and I did. But when I woke up the next day, it was still crappy, plus now it was wrinkled.

My mom’s advice was to make it funny. Unfortunately, I’m not a very funny person naturally. (See previous paragraph.) Still, I tried adding some jokes, including one about the groom speaking Klingon. After listening to me read my revised speech aloud, Andy politely vetoed the jokes. Thank God.

With about 12 hours left before the wedding, I sat down and said, This is it. I have to do it. I have to write it down, and I have to write it in the simplest, truest way possible.

And you know what? It worked. My toast was heartfelt, captured everything I wanted to say to/about Alex and Paul, and even made people laugh. (And not just because I accidentally congratulated Paul as my new sister instead of brother — whoops! I hadn’t even had the champagne yet!)

So what’s the point of all this? (Besides the fact that HOLY COW MY SISTER GOT MARRIED.) It’s that sometimes when a speech, or a scene, or a story isn’t working, it’s a sign that we’re not writing in our own voice. Yes, the elusive “voice” that everyone in the publishing industry talks about. That voice. That’s what I was lacking, and that’s what I feel like I finally understand, thanks to this speech.

The Maid of Honor toast is nothing new, but my MOH toast was completely original, because I finally wrote it in the way that came most naturally to me. If you and 3 friends go out to dinner, and some guy in a crocodile costume comes by and steals your food, you’re each going to tell the cops a different version of the same story. (The cops will probably laugh at all 4 of you, because come on? Guy in a crocodile suit? Seriously?) But what I’m saying is, everyone has a unique perspective and way of expressing it. So your historical family saga or dystopian sci-fi thriller might not be the first of its kind, but if you write it in your voice, it will be fresh. If it means something to you, it will mean something to readers too.

And that’s the key to good writing: making people care.

(Also, contrary to what this post might have you believe, I realize that my sister’s wedding is in fact about her, not me. I was only writing about one small element of the event, an element that I thought might be relevant to this blog. It was by no means the most important. In fact, it wasn’t important at all. Aren’t you glad you wasted your time reading this? :P)

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Word math

So. Snow. We’re supposedly getting a lot of it in Cincinnati today. This is Not Good. Normally it would be Okay, but today I need to fly to Houston for my almost-sister’s wedding. Snow + Roads and Snow + Planes both = Bad, apparently. Bad = Not Good.

Sigh.

In an attempt not to think (i.e., stress) about the snow, I’m going to work on a little story for Natalie’s contest. As much as I love her, I wasn’t sure I was going to participate, until Sonja brought up that I could think of both Natalie and Nathan’s contests as writing exercises and then post them here, like I did for my Kenyon Review workshop pieces. Since “exercises” are much less scary than “contest entries,” that’s what I’m going to do!

First up, my entry to Nathan’s contest:

Dear Diary,

Two minutes never felt so long.

While I sit on the toilet to wait (with the lid down, of course) I can’t help thinking of all the ways my life could be ended by a mere mathematical symbol. In two minutes, I’ll either see a plus or a minus. Suddenly tomorrow’s calculus test doesn’t seem so intimidating…

Read the rest of “Plus or minus” here.

Also, I recently had the honor of guest blogging on the Guide to Literary Agents website. My post “New Adult – What Is It?” went live yesterday, if you care to check that out. And greetings to any new readers who came here via there! New Readers = Fabulous.

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