Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mountains and Breezes. And, Oh Yes, an Abyss.

I know, I've been a real slacker lately, only blogging about once a week. I really want to blog daily, but my brain is fried and I can't think of anything amusing or interesting or enlightening to say.

The good news is that after much hand-wringing and furrowing of brow, I think I may actually get all of the gobs, heaps, mountains, oodles, and plethora of reading and writing assignments done prior to attending my MFA residency next week. I've got two more 1-page writing assignment, and 3 more articles to read. I should be able to do that in two days. However, I can nearly guarantee I won't remember much of what I read. But at least I can honestly claim to have done the reading.

The bad news is that my in-laws called and are planning on visiting. It's not bad news in the sense that we don't want to visit them, because we do. The bad news is that A) they'll get here while I'm gone so I'll only see them for a short time when I get back and, more importantly; B) their visit means we have to clean the house.

For any of you who have read my blog consistently, you'll know that we are slobs. It's our natural habitat and although somewhere in my consciousness I don't really like it, and I realize that polite society cleans up more regularly than we do, I just can't muster enough concern to really care. I hate to clean. I only do it when absolutely necessary, and so does everyone else in my family. But, I do realize that when you have company coming to stay for several days, it's only civilized to shovel up a bit.

So on top of finishing my assignments, and packing, I (we) have to do some deep cleaning before I leave on Saturday. Ugh. Just what I need is one more thing piled on top of the rest.

What's the saying? -

God doesn't give us any more than will leave us teetering on the brink of insanity where just a gentle breeze will send us careening into the abyss?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harry Potter Quiz

I went with my family to see the latest Harry Potter flick. My oldest son and I are great fans of the books, having read them a couple of times each. The rest of my family has only seen the movies, which we've all liked.

I won't comment on the movie because I'm sure many people haven't seen it yet. I'll just say that I liked it, but it wasn't my favorite of them all. I am looking forward to the last two, however.

Speaking of which, I ran across a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows quiz which you can take here. I did quite badly on the quiz (only got 3/10 right). I was thinking I need to reread that book before the final movies come out, and this quiz only reinforced that fact for me. The entire series is so dense with characters, events, and symbolism, it's impossible to absorb it all in just one reading. After watching the most recent movie, I feel the need to reread the Half Blood Prince, as well.

So, I guess it's time to go scrounging through all the bookshelves to find those two books. Even if I should be reading the neverending pile I've got to get done before my MFA residency next week.

Take the quiz and see how you do!

Monday, July 20, 2009

MadLib Winner and other Miscellany

Well, I didn't get nearly as much participation in the MadLibs as I had hoped, but thanks to those who did participate! All of your lists were fun and clever, but I chose "Sink" as the winner because I like the whimsy of Mr. McGregor's garden as a lair! This was a fun way to brainstorm ideas with multiple people. If you'll e-mail me your mailing address, Sink, I'll send you your prize (

Now, on to the miscellany. I will be heading off for my MFA residency in less than two weeks. I've signed up for a variety of workshops, the instructors of which have already sent out piles of reading material that needs to be completed before the workshop, as well as a couple of writing assignments that need to be done ahead of time. Needless to say, I'm going to be spending a lot of time from now until then reading and writing. But I'm very excited about beginning the program so, as least for now, I can draw on some of that excitement to keep my enthusiasm up! I'm sure once I'm slogging through reading the enthusiasm will ebb somewhat though. I've always been somewhat of a slacker when it comes to completing reading assignments, but I'm going to try to turn over a new leaf and actually do (most) of this reading.

Miscellany part 2: I'd been doing a lot of hand-wringing over my WIP because I knew the front end of it stunk and needed to be rewritten. I had basically decided to just write it out to the end then loop back and make the changes. Well, I sat down and did a "story board," basically outlining characters and storyline/action starting from the beginning and going all the way through the end of the WIP. The beginning changed so much I couldn't ignore it and just keep writing, so now I've put the story on pause and gone back to the beginning to rewrite the front end. It didn't make sense to keep writing when I was deleting characters and making my main character several years older. In my mind it called for a complete rewrite.

Some of you writer types out there are probably rolling your eyes and shaking your heads at my naivete. I don't know, maybe you're nodding your heads in sympathy. All I know is that there's really no convention for writing a novel so I'm just going to go for it and do what works for me. I just hate the idea of finishing a draft and then having to rewrite the whole darn thing when I could just rewrite half of it then go forward from there.

Miscellany part 3: I recently got ideas for future projects. I need to write them down so I won't forget them. I don't know about any other writer types, but do you ever have this problem? You're working on your current WIP then suddenly, out of the blue, you're struck with another brilliant idea which immediately seems more attractive than the WIP you're currently struggling and fighting with? Are you tempted to dump your current WIP because you find yourself lusting for the new shiny idea? I'm finding myself turning the new ideas over in my mind, fleshing out characters, etc instead of concentrating on my WIP. Bad me! I need to finish my WIP first. The other stories will wait!

Miscellany part 4: Yesterday my daughter burned her fingers on the iron my husband forgot to unplug when he left for work. The iron was plugged in and stayed there all day and nobody noticed it until my daughter went into the laundry room to do some laundry and was moving the iron. I was in the living room reading and heard a strangled scream then she started bawling. I freaked out because I didn't know what was going on, then instantly jammed her hand under a cold faucet. Turns out she has blisters on all five fingers in a line where she grabbed the iron. Needless to day, both Hubby and daughter learned important lessons yesterday: remember to unplug the iron, and check to see if the iron is plugged in before you grab it. Daughter told her daddy that his punishment is he has to wash her dishes for her until her hand heals.

Okay, that's all the miscellany for today. I have to go finish an essay for one of my residency workshops, then do some reading. *sigh*

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

MadLib Contest

Today, I am going to do a sort of MadLib experiment. Please post a comment with your answers.

After a couple of days I'll announce a winner, based on no specific guidelines other than "oh, that sounds cool."

Winner will receive something nifty.

So, on to the madness.

1. List 3 nefarious or evil mythical or fantasy creatures

2. List 3 superpowers.
3. A business or activity a criminal could use to hide his criminal activities.

4. A violent verb and a nonviolent verb.

5. A color.

6. Favorite form of vengeance/revenge.

7. An emotional handicap.

8. A clever comeback.

9. An ethnic cuisine.

10. The perfect place for a lair.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pity Party Part 2 - Emerging from Darkness

Yesterday I was feeling very sorry for myself. I've never written anything novel length before, so this whole process is like flailing around in the dark.
It's killer on the confidence.

This morning I feel a little better. I think I have some idea at least for the next scene in the WIP, so at least I can limp at least that much further ahead. The good advice of many other writers (thank you!) has been to just keep forging ahead. Get the story down on paper from beginning to end, then go back and rip it to pieces if necessary.

Okay. I'll do that.

So now that I can put that little piece of misery aside (at least temporarily), now I need to focus on how the heck I'm going to pay for my master's program. Since it's a low residency program I won't be on campus so I can't get an assistantship (which would be ideal, of course). I guess I need to dig around and see if I can find any free money (ha!).

Maybe some rich writer would like to sponsor me? Hmmm, too bad I don't know any.

If I weren't married I could find an old geezer and marry him for his money.

Discover sunken and/or buried treasure?

Win the lottery?

Beg on a street corner?

Plan an elaborate bank and/or casino heist with 10, 11, or 12 of my best friends?


I'm out of ideas. Anybody else have any?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pity Party

Okay, so today I'm having a pity party for myself. I'm having a catastrophic crisis of self-confidence. Here's the litany that's jangling in my brain: My WIP sucks, I should trash it and start over, or at the very least I need to cut it in half, or better yet someone else should write it. I'm a crappy writer and shouldn't even try.

Plus I found out I won't be getting any grant money for my MFA program because I didn't get my FAFSA in early enough (I was waiting until I had my taxes done so I'd have accurate financials), so my only option is to go into monumental debt to pay for the first year of my master's program.

Between these two problems, I feel physically ill with anxiety. There's a pain in my chest, I feel like I want to barf, and I really just want to jam my head in a pillow and scream at the top of my lungs then cry until I'm dehydrated. If I drank, I would be, but I don't. Thankfully there's no chocolate in the house or my hips would spread another couple of inches.


Instead I'm going to wallow in self-pity the rest of the night and try to sleep it off. I got some advice from another writer to whom I also bemoaned my WIP-loathing and she told me the important thing is to FINISH IT. Don't go back and read it, don't question yourself, just get it on paper then go back and slash it to bits and rewrite it.

I will allow myself the luxury of being a blubbering fool tonight, then tomorrow I will square my shoulders and continue to put words to page, only looking forward, trying to improve as I go, and not worry about perfection until I'm on the thrid or fourth rewrite/edit/revision.

Now all I have to hope for is that I can find a benevolent philanthropic sponsor to pay for my MFA program....

Monday, July 6, 2009

To Prologue or not to Prologue, That is the Question

I had an interesting discussion with Hubby this weekend. I've been working diligently on my WIP, which includes a prologue. I finished a revision of said prologue and proudly announced it to Hubby, whose response was, "Prologues are for sissies."

This comes from a man who has read exactly two books in the 23 years I've known him.

His comment, of course, started a heated debate. I asked him if instead of calling it "proglogue" I called it "chapter one" if he would feel differently. He said that you should be able to incorporate the info you put into a prologue into the rest of the book and do away with the prologue. I told him he doesn't know what he's talking about because the prologue sets up the story, or may give information that is not easily told throughout the rest of the book. He adamantly refused to reconsider his stance.

So, I polled my oldest son. He's 16 years old and reads voraciously, as do I. I asked him what he thought about prologues. He said he likes them because they set up the story.

I gave my Hubby a self-satisfied look, but he was unmoved. The man who never reads stood by his statement that prologues are for sissies.

I, of course, still disagree with him. And to aggravate me even further, the contents of the prologue I added to my WIP (which didn't previously have a prologue), was Hubby's idea. After we had talked about the story, characters, plot, etc, he had suggested adding something at the beginning of the book which would give some insight into the previous conflict that led to where the characters are now.

Sort of like setting up the story?!

So even after incorporating his suggestion, because I named it "prologue" he suddenly doesn't like it. Well, too bad for him. I'm keeping the prologue, whether he likes it or not. He'll probably never read the book anyway.

So what do you think about prologues? Like them? Don't like them? Don't care?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

For Readers and Writers

This is just a brief post, but I ran across these articles today and thought I'd share them with you.

Both articles are from Newsweek. The first is an author's roundtable, called "The Write Stuff" and talks to six different authors about the nuts and bolts of writing, and other interesting issues. It's definitely worth reading.

The second is called "What to Read Now. And Why." It is a list of 50 books for our times, as recommended by Newsweek. I found it fascinating. I've read very few of them, but after reading the blurbs about each, my "to-read" list suddenly got a lot longer.

I intend to spend the next couple of days going back through my work in progress and working on some editing before I forge ahead. There have been some niggling story problems I want to address before I go on.

Hope you enjoy the articles!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day

I'm not much of a patriot, so I'm not going to wax sentimental about all things American, wave a giant American flag, and cry zealous nationalistic crocodile tears.

Sure, America's a great place to live, but there are lots of great places to live. And sure, the founding fathers were awesome dudes with a vision, but honestly, when they wrote the preamble and said "all men are created equal" they really meant "all rich white guys are created equal." Thankfully they left it vague enough so that it could be reinterpreted to suit evolving cultural sensibilities and the term "men" could be generalized to mean "people" (i.e., to include women and everyone of color).

I'm happy that in recent decades America seems to be coming to better terms with some of the chapters of her past, although admittedly we have a long way to go before we have true equality. At least (for the most part) we're no longer touting the white bread, flag-waving, do-no-wrong vision of American history that was spoon fed students early in the 20th century. I believe that the only way to learn from the past is to face mistakes honestly in order that we do not repeat them. There have been many times in our history where our leadership has swept historical lessons under the rug only to repeat them, with abysmal results.

I tend to think of Independence Day as an opportunity to reflect on our history and examine the ways in which we can improve on what we've got. There's a lot to be proud of, but that doesn't mean the work is done. We should always temper patriotism with humility, otherwise it will quickly evolve into blind arrogance When you think about it, it's only been in those moments in our history when we were truly humbled that the greatest strides away from "all rich white guys are created equal" and toward "all human beings are created equal" have been made.

However, all that being said, independence is pretty swell and worth celebrating. Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Depth of Character

I'm wondering, as a writer and reader, what makes characters more interesting?

I know as a reader, I don't want to read characters who are perfect. I like to read flawed and conflicted characters. The more tortured the better, but not to the point of unbelievable. I mean, if you think about yourself, you're not perfect - nobody is. So what are your flaws as a human being? Would those flaws be interesting additions to a character? Obviously those things make characters seem more realistic and relatable.

As a writer, you love your characters and it's so tempting to make them perfect, superhuman. I'm working on flawing up my characters. They're not perfect. They're confused and forced into relating uncomfortably with each other, then dealing with crises. Fun, huh?!

So what are your flaws as a human being? Would those flaws be interesting additions to a character? (time out to share: one of my biggest flaws is that I have no patience - either to wait for things I'm anticipating, or sometimes I lack patience with other people.)

As a writer, what kinds of flaws do you like to write into your characters?

As a reader, what kinds of flaws do you like to read in characters?