The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It’s The Fire Inside Your Heart That’s Going to Lead You to The Light

Today I read a blog post that literally made me cry. I’m a fixer. I want to fix things. My husband is sometimes exasperated by this fact and tells me to stop trying to find the solution in unsolvable issues. I can’t help it – I want to fix your problems. If you’re reading the blog and thinking I don’t want to fix your problem – you’d be wrong. I want everyone who’s ever read this blog to simply not have problems. I’m like a beauty pageant contestant that way: I want world peace for all. Unlike the beauty contestant I enjoy a fair amount of chaos and upheaval because that makes for the best solutions – why can’t everything be like the Chilean mine rescue? I don’t want to be the hero and I’m not searching for recognition – but damn it; bring on the conflict and resolution already.

How you ever gonna know if you never chase the dreams…

And that’s why today found me reading a blog post and crying. I can’t fix it. I totally get it, but responding to the post seems pointless and self-serving. Does it help to know that writing makes me feel that way too? I find myself constantly on the verge of greatness and then shying away from the edge to wallow in a comfortable, meaningless, part-time job-hobby. I’m not sure I would actually know how to react if I did get a book deal. I too build my castles and dreams in the sky and am afraid to build them here on earth; they might crumble and fall. Do I tell you that I know I’m “home” in every sense of the word - by your blog post standards - and yet still sometimes find myself pining for a time and a place that can’t ever exist for me again…a flat on the corner of Earl’s Court and Cromwell Rd and a stroll through the constantly damp streets and mews of Kensington? Do you want to know that my favorite writing place in the world is on a cold stone wall surrounding a sunken garden on the grounds of what is now known as the Enchanted Palace (seriously – that’s what their calling it now)? It doesn’t help you, find you a job or patch that hole in your soul.

How you ever gonna know what it's like when dreams become reality…

I’m left with one memory of two fourteen-year-old children walking home from school after just learning they made their high school marching band; gleefully chanting about going to Spain and Africa. I had help remembering – I recently read it in that blasted journal. But the euphoria of realized dreams is a sweet memory that leaves the tang of wanting more fulfilled dreams. It also makes me want to go to Spain and Africa since I’ve yet to see either. I’m not sure if that euphoric feeling is forever concealed in the wisps of childhood recollection – or if it’s possible to feel that happy and excited about any recognition of brilliance? I’m also not sure where this is going exactly. I said I didn’t post a comment because I knew it wouldn’t help – yet here I sit writing my own blog post with the small hope that it somehow will and knowing it can’t. Maybe what I need to say is simply this: I cried today and looked inside myself today and I wrote today; and I did all of those things because I read one blog post. Apparently words are power.

How you ever gonna know your potential if you never take a chance?

And on that note, it’s the last day of November and my NaNo novel is done – well not done, but at 50,000 words. 51,012 to be exact! As I don’t write sequentially – especially in November: where I tend to jump to the next big scene when I’m stuck so as to not slow down the pace – I will now begin the grueling editing, rearranging and expunging process. Alas, I love every minute of it. The computer and I are on speaking terms once more. For those of you participating, I hope you are able to cross the finish line by midnight and win a feeling of accomplishment, because that’s what you’ll win. Maybe this one will get published. Oh, I’m lying. And I promised to be completely honest in this particular blog post. It’s a load of twaddle – this year’s NaNo. It was excruciating and I’m fairly certain two-thirds of it will be deleted tomorrow and in the upcoming week. I have no hopes it will ever be published. On the optimistic side: I’m writing, the computer and I ARE friends again, and I will honestly try harder for publication. When you write, you tell everyone you know so they can constantly ask you about it; thus keeping you on track and embarrassing the crap out of you if you give up or stop looking for an agent/editor. Posting the information on your blog is ten times worse somehow. Knowing people will randomly check your blog for updates and progress reports. Well, I’d hate to disappoint you all but mostly I’m sick of disappointing myself and I’m really fed up with the fear. Fear should be no one’s constant companion, especially not mine. So I will try harder for me. I will try to recapture the joyful exhilaration of accomplishment and dream fulfillment I once had at the age of fourteen while chanting about Spain and Africa.

Listen not to the critics who put their own dreams on the shelf. If you want to get the truth to admit it, you gotta find out for yourself.

Oh, and in case you do not know – all bold words, and also the title of this post, come from a Garth Brooks song – “How You Ever Gonna Know”. Check it out – says the non-country music girl constantly toting Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss and now Garth Brooks. Something else I need to admit to myself apparently.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

HP Thursday – Harry Potter and the Teenage Angst on Grimmauld Place

Oh, I really hope this is not how the first part of HP 7 goes…
I’ve tried writing this post a few times this week but it just wasn’t going anywhere. Since the movie is coming out in tomorrow, I thought I’d take time out of my novel writing schedule – currently 30, 012 words for those of you playing along – and actually do an HP post. Really I’m just concerned my 13 followers will go away if I don’t get back on track here. And who doesn’t want to chat briefly about movie 7.1? Yes, I am geeking out and going to a midnight showing shortly. I’m way too old for this, so I’ll have to see it when I’m awake at some point before you get a cohesive blog about it. And we do still have the rest of the book to get through too. Apparently the whole book club thing really doesn’t work for me – or anything else with a timeline come to think of it (says the girl who works by deadlines and is trying to write a 50,000 word rough draft by the end of this month).

Anyway, like I said: I’ve been trying to write this post all week. If I don’t publish it soon it will be too late. I started by telling you what I thought was going to be in this movie, what I hoped wasn’t going to be in this movie and where I thought it was going to end. This was all conjecture and bored me to tears – hence I couldn’t imagine any of you reading it. Also, if you go to IMDb or 500 other movie websites I’m sure you will find out all of these answers and much, much more.

So what am I blogging about the night before HP 7.1?

Today I watched movie 6 – which is always much smarter than reading a book a movie is based on before seeing the movie. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment then. Movie 6 helped clear my mind of conjecture. Instead I became nostalgic. Yes, nostalgic for a series of books and movies. But here’s the thing: It’s Harry Potter!

Fun fact: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours of publication.

This is what every writer dreams about. Not just making it big, but creating their own world and then sharing it with A LOT of people. The created world doesn’t have to be a wizarding, made up world; just a world completely created by the writer. Yep, nostalgia. Where were you the first time you picked up a Harry Potter book?

Movie 7.1 – which I sincerely hope is not just teenage angst in a house where three friends are trapped – is part of that entire world. How cool is that. Can you imagine not just writing really good books, but also having movies made about said books. Sorry, I went to a happy writer place where fame and fortune follow me around in a bubbly sort of frenetic way. I’d like to think that if my books became movies I wouldn’t dwell on the differences as much as marvel at characters and places I created being thrown up on a big screen for all the world to see. I might decide the actress playing Teagan isn’t quite what I had in mind, but damn, SMug looks amazing! If you’re a fan of the books, the HP movies will add depth and embellish your experience.

Obviously as a creator of my own worlds, I’ve got a pretty good handle on my imagination; I don’t need a movie screen to thoroughly enjoy the book I’m reading. However, I’m always up for imagination enhancement. At this point the familiar strains of HP movie music themes are playing in my head. Yes, that IS just like visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. I’m joyfully grateful the HP movies have been made – almost as pleased as I am about the books (Not quite. I’m still a writer at heart and anything – with the exception of sparkly vampires – that can get that many people to read ranks really high on my joyfully grateful list). I’m excited to see this first of the last movies. I can’t wait to see the halls of Hogwarts, that big, beautiful clock and the reconstructed (why did that burn down again) Burrow. It’s a transition movie and I’m all about transitions – bring it on already!

My Own Nostalgic HP Moments Timeline
Just how big of a geek am I? Oh, this much and more…

1998 – Pick up book 1 & 2 on a whim in London.2001 – The first movie comes out and my husband dresses like Harry Potter for Halloween. His handmade firebolt is better than any other I’ve seen and is still hanging above our cupboard under the stairs.

2004 – We have a Harry Potter film night when the third movie is released on DVD and I discover I have more friends who like HP than I thought.

2005 – On a trip to London we visit Platform 9 ¾. I’m chaperoning a school trip and the kids with me at the platform are so excited I try to picture what it must be like to be JK Rowling coming into London for the day and passing this sign and trolley! For those of you going on the Corey Best of the British Isles trip in 2011; I’ll be one of your chaperones and we can totally do this again.

2007 – I spend an hour in Rome perusing bookstores in search of HP 5 in Italian – the missing book in a friends’ collection. I distinctly remember sitting on the steps across from the Pantheon flipping through the pages. Thanks for sending me on this mission Tim.

2007 – I go to the midnight book party for the HP 7 release at my local Barnes & Nobles even though I’ve preordered my copy on I spend at least an hour watching people of all ages buy books and just sit down and read them all over the store. One of my all time favorite book experiences and a memory I often conjure up when I get frustrated with my own writing.

2009 – I get laid off from my copywriting gig and decide I have too many pent up feelings about my crashing life so I must start a blog. Movie 6 comes out to mixed, yet passionate, reviews from friends and colleagues. My bright idea: Include HP Mondays in my blog to methodically discuss a great series and the art of writing for young adults. Great discussions and lots of inspiration ensue.

And although I’ve used far too many exclamation points in this blog…Enjoy the movie everyone!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Lesson from My Eighth Grade Self

I did that thing today where I stopped writing in frustration and decided I’d chosen the wrong profession. I’m fairly certain every writer goes through it, but I had extra qualms today when I thought about how much writing I actually did in my formative years. Yes, I was on the yearbook staff in high school, but that’s about it. No literary magazine, no newspaper, no file full of short stories and poems; in fact not much creative writing to speak of. I tried to have a Journalism minor in college, but hated the three courses I took in that department and quickly dropped the minor; ironically opting for pre-law only to later give up my free-ride to law school in order to write.

So here I sit during week two of November and I’m contemplating my choice of profession as well as why I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. In a moment of pure brilliance I went downstairs to stare at my bookshelves for inspiration. I’m not sure why – reading isn’t the same as writing. I can’t imagine being a writer without being a lover of books, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. What I found while staring at the bookshelves was a journal. In fact, not just one – I counted 30 journals. I do vaguely remember journaling as a child – keeping a diary under lock and key to keep it away from my imaginary little brother I guess. Since I keep them all on a shelf now, I must trust my real husband more than my imaginary little brother. I pulled a few journals down in an attempt to discover the writer-in-my-early-years. I assumed most of those journals would be empty because I remember leaving a lot of journaling undone. I expected gaps of months (much like this blog) or even years.

What I found was quite the opposite. Here’s my proof; here is my mind as a small child and adolescent always writing down observations, feelings and ideas. I have journals from elementary school, junior high and even high school. I have travel journals and S.A.M notebooks. Sure, not all of them were complete; sure, they weren’t full of made up tales, stories and teen-angst poetry – but they are still MY words.

The S.A.M. Notebook
What’s a S.A.M. you ask? S.A.M. is an acronym for Stacy, Amy and Mariah – we invented the acronym in the second or third grade and used it throughout school and beyond. How far beyond? Well Stacy’s eldest daughter is Samara or SAM for short (her youngest daughter’s name, Emily incorporates the first letter of all of our middle names as well).

Amy missed a lot of seventh grade – she was struck down with a severe case of mono and missed the last five months of the school year. She’s brilliant, so this didn’t really affect her learning curve or anything; we just missed having her around and in classes with us. Stacy and I started writing down our school experiences in a notebook and then we’d send it home with Amy’s homework assignments; she’d write down her illness experiences and send it back to us. The notebook stuck – even after Amy joined us again in the eighth grade. I think by this time we realized all three of us were heading down very different paths and may not have time to be friends in high school. I had band and synchro; Stacy had running and skiing; and Amy had theatre and all of those languages.
The three of us kept the notebook going throughout most of high school. Oh, the days before email, text messaging and facebook. So yes, I didn’t just want to write early on, I made my friends do it with me. I guess you can look at the notebook as practice for the type of fiction I find myself writing about now.

1990: One Year of Journaling
When I sat down with my stack of journals today, I pulled out the most complete one. The year was 1990 and I received the journal as a Christmas present from my mom (so says the title page – complete with full name, address and phone number). Most of the other journals and diaries I leafed through were only half full at best – but apparently in 1990 I had a lot to say. Now you may call this procrastination, but I still read through the entire journal. I found out the end of my eighth grade year and the beginning of my high school career was a transitional time indeed. By December of 1990 my writing voice had changed dramatically, I’d even started to use the right form of it’s and its – as well as there/their/they’re (thank goodness!).

My eighth grade self taught me some valuable lessons today. It appears I spent most every waking moment I could find writing down observations and character sketches. Like most early teen girls I obsessed about boys – gushed when the boy I had a crush on told me I was beautiful in front of his girlfriend. I spent pages describing band concerts and all of the subtle nuances involved in close circuit interaction without words that can only happen when you share a stage with someone; how you become a part of the whole – a well-oiled machine working on some higher, almost telepathic level. I jotted down notes about swimming – my jubilation at making varsity in eighth grade and my foul response to finding myself in the group routine with my nemesis. Did you know eighth graders had arch-enemies? I felt a little like Sherlock Holmes while reading that segment. There was some lovely (read: sappy) lyrical stuff in there about how music filled every aspect of my life (I’ve always been quite the Romantic) and lovelier (read: sappier) material about taking the stage during my last junior high band concert, including shared moments with a truly kindred spirit (don’t worry, we’re facebook friends now) and my first summer 6 – 10 marching band practice. So many transitions!

Lesson Learned
I get it already: I’ve always been a writer. I spent years writing about awkward social interactions – no wonder I write YA in my adult life. My main characters tend to be eighteen & nineteen year-old girls transitioning between childhood and adulthood; apparently the transitional years affected me the most. I used to write about music and now I can’t write unless there is music. As an adult I’m so very different than my eighth grade self. I have different concerns – I hadn’t gone through those really life changing stages of my life yet – but I’m still so similar.

This is why I NaNo every year. It really is more than just 50,000 words; it’s a soul-searching, truth confronting sort of month – a transition all its own. Don’t worry about my novel word count: I’m currently at 12,245. What I’ve gained is a little more self-confidence and a long overdue chat with my eighth grade self. We had some things to sort out and some dreams to recreate. I’ve also gained a decent lesson plan for a journaling class at the Loft. I’ll have to type up a proposal and send it in. Hopefully some of you teenage students living in MN will be interested.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It’s November. What Else Would I Be Blogging About?

Yes, it could also be about the new Harry Potter movie coming out, but it's not. Maybe next time.

I’ve been in a writing slump for a few months – as you can probably tell from the lack of blog posts. It’s November, and I usually participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo); this year I decided not to. I was even OK with this decision through all of August, September and most of the month of October. I’ve been finishing up a second draft of my current novel and writing blog posts (not publishing mind you, just writing them) sporadically when a decent topic reveals itself. As the second week of October hit, I stopped writing altogether. No words, nothing, nada. If you are my facebook friend, you may have noticed those short little status updates appearing more and more on my page. It’s like that’s all of the energy I was willing to divest in writing. I think this goes beyond my lazy self into new and unchartered territory. I’m not sure what’s up with me. Writing is still what I want to do and when I sit down at a computer I loose myself in words completely. But my voice has been missing for quite some time and everything turns out lackluster and boring.

A couple of weeks ago I did some freelance work. I’ve decided that being a freelance writer means you are perfectly willing to freelance anything-with-words-as-long-as-it-pays. This means I will proof your novel, mark your paper, SEO-itize your website, train your trainer, or write an article. So while I did this freelance work, I found a word that wasn’t an actual word. It may be a word one day like frenemy or unfriend, but for right now it’s simply not. I loved this non-word and kept thinking about it. I went for a walk a week later, and the non-word popped into my head again. Only this time I was listening to my iPod and Lady Gaga (Alas, I’m becoming quite obsessed recently) was playing. Walking, thinking, listening to music – this is where the best book ideas come from; isn’t it? Two miles later I had my main character and a general outline worked out in my head. I spent three hours on the computer working out the basics and getting some rough ideas down.

And that’s it really. That’s what NaNoWriMo IS. It’s a ridiculous goal – 50,000 words in 30 days. When I’m done it won’t be good. I’ll dump at least half of those words and a handful of characters, but I’ll have words on paper again. Some of those words are bound to stick; at this point I’m just looking for my voice. I do realize it’s not a panacea – writing a novel in one month won’t cure all of my writing issues. Hopefully it is a step in the right direction though. Heck, I may even start blogging again…

Wish me luck and if you too are participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you words – lots and lots of words.