Month: August 2012 Page 2 of 3

Writerly Wednesday

Reminder: Comment on the August giveaway post to win THE HYPNOTIST by M.J. Rose and/or ON MAGGIE’S WATCH by Ann Wertz Garvin.

First, Jeff at Boys Don’t Read tells it like it is (although with more humor and stronger language than I would probably use): “Rejection: UCLA Didn’t Want Me.”

Guess what, Legion of Curious Assholes: Never ask a writer how their book deal/fellowship application/agent search is going. EVER. We have fragile egos. When we have ANYTHING going for us, we will tell you within two minutes of shaking your hand, or our spouse will bring it up to save us the trouble.

And in case you’re wondering, the worst place to get rejected from film school is Iowa. There you are, rejected, and also in fucking Iowa.

Then, Keith Cronin at Writer Unboxed gives some good advice: “The Rejection Reaction.”

I’m going to call on you to do something else:

Remember that it wasn’t fatal. Remember that you got over it.

Last, in unrelated news, Autumn rants about a certain double standard: “On hating female characters.”

I’d like it if people would, when finding themselves disliking a female character, step back and ask themselves why, and if they would still dislike this character if she were male.

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August giveaway

Haven’t done one of these in a while… (Almost a year!)

Well, same rules as usual: Please leave a comment below and let me know which of these books you’re interested in. If you’re interested in more than one, that’s fine. You have until Labor Day to enter, and then I’ll draw names at random and announce the winners on Tues, Sept 4th. Must have US mailing address — sorry, international friends!

Images and descriptions courtesy of GoodReads.

The Hypnotist (Reincarnationist, #3) THE HYPNOTIST by M.J. Rose

Haunted by his inability to stop the murder of a beautiful young painter twenty years ago, Lucian Glass keeps his demons at bay through his fascinating work with the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Investigating a crazed collector who’s begun destroying prized masterworks, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation — dedicated to the science of past-life study. There, to maintain his cover, he submits to the treatment of a hypnotist. Under hypnosis, Glass travels from ancient Greece to nineteenth-century Persia, while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie capital of the world. These journeys will change his very understanding of reality, lead him to question his own sanity and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history: a fifteen-hundred-year-old sculpture the nation of Iran will do anything to recover.

On Maggie's WatchON MAGGIE’S WATCH by Ann Wertz Garvin

Maggie Finley has returned with her husband from the big city to her Wisconsin hometown, where she reunites with her best friend and awaits the any-minute-now birth of her baby. She’s determined to create a safe haven on Hemlock Road, a neighborhood that has always meant security, community, and love. One way to do that: resurrect the defunct Neighborhood Watch program.

The Watch folks are mostly concerned with dog poop and litterbugs. But Maggie’s done some digging and discovered a potential threat living just around the corner — a threat that must be eradicated. And the more Maggie tries to take control, the more out of control she gets…

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A tiny beautiful dream

I keep having dreams about driving. When I say “keep,” I mean that the dreams are recurring over several years, although not with great frequency. In high school and college, they were usually about not knowing how to drive, or driving too fast and losing control, or driving down the wrong side of the road. Lately, they’ve been about driving into water.

Often the dream starts with me already falling off the road, helplessly buckled into the driver’s seat as my vehicle nosedives into a river. (Or lake, or sea.) I always manage to get out well before drowning, but then I can only watch the water slowly rise, flooding the engine, ruining the car.

Obviously these dreams are metaphors. My subconscious’s way of speaking to me, of digging out some kind of psychological splinter. Is it about my life? My relationships? My writing? This particular manuscript? Or is it broader than all of that — maybe a general sense of unease or uncertainty that’s running through me like a secret undercurrent?

The exact meaning might always be a mystery. Fortunately these dreams don’t trouble me. They aren’t nightmares, merely scenes. Scenes from a larger story that I don’t yet understand, and possibly never will.

Recently, however, the scene has changed.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear SugarEarlier this week, I stayed up late to read a new book. I bought it after browsing through several books at random in the store, because within a few pages, this one had me in tears. TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS is the collected writings of Dear Sugar on TheRumpus.net, an “anonymous” advice column about love, grief, and everything in between. (“Anonymous” because just a few months ago, Sugar revealed herself to be Cheryl Strayed whose new memoir WILD is sitting comfortably on several bestseller lists.)

I had heard of Sugar once or twice in the past, most notably through her popular advice to “write like a motherfucker,” but I was already subscribed to plenty of writing blogs. I didn’t need another.

If only I had known that Dear Sugar wasn’t a writing blog at all. Well, it IS a blog of beautiful writing — but not like any other. It is equal parts advice and memoir, full of heart and grace and hard truths and simplicity and profundity and courage and… well, just about everything I aspire to, in both myself and my work. Sugar has a way of really seeing the letters that are sent to her — not through them or underneath them, but not just the surface of them either. She sees them like someone staring directly into the sun without squinting or blinking or going blind. Somehow she can do that. Somehow she sees that light, touches it, then radiates her own back into it.

I’m not a religious person, but TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS is probably the closest thing I have to a personal Bible, in the sense that it is a collection of stories that exposes the many facets of humanity, validates them, accepts them, allows me to recognize them within myself, guides me toward the ones I want to nurture, and inspires me to let go of the ones I don’t.

So. For obvious reasons, the book was hard to put down, and I found myself pushing my bedtime further and further until at last, the beautiful, bittersweet ending came. I had read all there was of Sugar, both in the book and online. There was nothing left to do but sleep. Absorb. And dream.

That night, I dreamt of driving. Driving into a large indoor pool, falling into gleaming blue-green water, splashing into cold and sweet. I swam out of the car as it sank, watched as it was swallowed inch by inch. For a moment I stood there bewildered, waist-deep in the water, wondering what I could do now, how I could keep going without a vehicle to carry me.

Then I thought, “Who says this one can’t?”

Reaching forward, I pulled the car out of the water. I carried its body, wet and shriveled like a rag, and lay it out piece by piece, ministering to each part with a blow dryer, the way you would with a cell phone rescued from a puddle. When I was done and the car was as dry as it would ever be, I put the key in the ignition, took a deep breath, and turned my hand.

The car sputtered to life.

In that moment, I felt the amazement of someone who both completely disbelieved and yet also knew all along that things would work out. I hadn’t ruined it after all. Or maybe I had, but then I had worked hard to save it and I’d succeeded. Achieved the impossible. Un-drowned the engine.

Like I said, there’s no way to know exactly what these dreams mean, but regardless, I believe this was a good sign. I think my subconscious sees something new in me. A spark, a light, a sun.

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A few delightful things

Max-and-Stevie-008 macaroons-002
baseball-day-and-night
sarah and ing at steak n shake steph at steak n shake

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Writerly Wednesday: Olympics edition

Quick note: I’ve been published! My triptych of triptychs about the Galapagos (first seen right here on the blog) was accepted by Sugar Mule for their 41st issue. Yay! Please click to check out many great stories and poems about “women and place.”

So, it’s the Olympics. Unless you live in a cave (and maybe even then) you know this already. You’ve heard all about the Opening Ceremonies, NBC’s commentators, their selective editing, and the tape delays. (SPOILER ALERT: you’ll survive.) Don’t worry I’m not going to talk about any of that.

All I want to do is share a few thoughts inspired by the Olympic spirit. This first one is mine.

• “Pressure makes us”

Rewind to about a year ago, and the US women’s national soccer team and I were in roughly the same place we are today. Them: On the verge of winning gold in a major international competition. Me: Awed and inspired.

It’s uncanny how much of what I wrote back then applies again now — including the dramatic late-in-the-game goals…

The US’s mind-blowing comeback win not only revved me up for the rest of the night, it also reminded me that pressure can be a good thing. Sure, sometimes it’s intimidating, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. But sometimes it pushes us to work harder than ever before. Sometimes it brings out our best. Sometimes it makes us who we are.

• “Lessons from Olympians” by T.S. Bazelli

Comparisons between Olympians and writers are inevitable, and not only does Tessa cover the similarities well, but she also brings up a couple new points that I think are invaluable for us to keep in mind.

In gymnastics and diving, the degree of difficulty is sometimes the determining factor in winning. When it comes to writing, are you taking risks and trying things that make you uncomfortable?

• “The Power and Glory of Sportswriting” by Nicholas Dawidoff

I’ve often thought that I would love to be a sportswriter or athlete profiler. These two quotes, combined with my deep appreciation of “the game,” might help to explain why.

When writing about sports, you have to learn to navigate an odd literary predicament: Your audience often already knows the outcome before it starts reading. An editor at Sports Illustrated once advised me that the art of the work rested in telling people who already know what happened a story so compelling that they forget everything and, at the end, wish they’d been there.

Where too much recent American literature is less concerned with any search for meaning than the preening desire to be admired, really good sportswriting is grounded in curiosity and revelation, an enthusiast’s notes. And while few authors can compete with the reality, a writer can deepen it, preserve what happened and then mine it for the deeper human qualities at play that are the essence of lasting writing.

• “Going for Gold” by Shari Cylinder

On that note, here’s a great summary of what the Olympics — and all sports, really — mean to me.

It’s not about winning gold, silver, or bronze. It’s not about getting the highest score. It’s about the diligence, dedication, and devotion the athletes put in for so many years. It’s about the way they motivate us to do the same — whether we’re swimming the backstroke, writing a book, studying our way through med school, choreographing dances to the music in our hearts, anything. No matter what, these people inspire us to push our limits. To dream further. To dream more. It’s about teamwork between people — like the golden women’s gymnastics team and the rockstar volleyball duo of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor — and about teamwork between nations. It’s about sportsmanship, unity, and love.

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