In Which Our Heroine Has The Best Weekend EVER!

Like, seriously.

Backstory: Six years ago, I saw one of my favorite bands for the first time–at their final* show ever. After that, I decided I needed to see all my other favorite bands BEFORE they broke up, and this became a new goal in my life.

So I saw a couple of my bands, but I’m nowhere near the mark. One major lapse has been with the band Guster. I had tickets for their show in Pittsburgh in 2006, but they had to cancel due to illness. The only show they ever canceled! So they tell me.

And when I say THEY, I mean Guster themselves. In person. But we’ll get to that.

And they haven’t been back to Pittsburgh since. They went to D.C. recently, and I will (and have) gladly drive that far for a band I love–but the show sold out before I could get tickets. FOILED AGAIN!

In April, I found out that Guster was playing the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh (naturally). For free. This, I could not, would not miss.

So The Husband and I make preparations. We book a room at the Hilton (super cheap–he’s the king of the bargain hunters), RIGHT across from Point State Park, where the festival is being held. The weather is icky that day, so I wear my oldest pair of Chucks. We bring the camera.

We are READY.

As it happens, my friend Jamie** is being all environmental at the festival, standing by a recycling station to tell people what goes in compost, what gets recycled, etc. We arrive at the hotel, and I send Jamie a very creepy picture of the park from our hotel. I could see her from my room. Really, it doesn’t take much to amuse me.

Three Rivers Arts Fest

She's down there somewhere.

So we go see Jamie, and we go see Frogtographer Steve, who’s got a booth at the festival, showing the infamous tree frog pics. I got to listen to people walk past and question whether his photos are real or not, and I wanted to be all, “HEY! I have VIDEO PROOF that this is real. And is my job. I’M A WRANGLER, IT’S A REAL THING, SHUT UP.” But I didn’t.

Then Jamie meets us for dinner, and tells us that she was spotted being green and was thus signed up to win backstage passes to meet the band. We made a lot of jokes about how it wasn’t going to happen, yeah right, and I should totally have them sign my bra, no, I’ll have them sign my shoes, I mean let’s be realistic here.

We ran through a massive storm to get to dinner, and walked into the restaurant dripping wet. I worried about the quickly approaching OUTDOOR concert, but yay! The weather cleared up perfectly. The park was a muddy mess, but that’s why I wore my old Chucks, right? Right.***

BFFs 4ever =D

Seriously, how adorable are we?

Before the concert, the staff announced that winners of backstage passes would be texted at 8 p.m. Jamie joked that, if she won, she’d make me impersonate her–I’m a superfan, and she doesn’t really know many of Guster’s songs.

No impersonation needed, it turned out. She got a text–she’d won, and she got to bring a guest. Have I ever mentioned that I get really shaky when I’m excited? It took me several tries to type out simple “OMFG I’M GONNA MEET GUSTER” texts to my friends.

The concert was, in a word–well, awesome. They played all my favorites, and they were funny and entertaining between songs, and the night was everything I’d dreamed it would be. And about to get better.

Wooo!

PURE AWESOME.

So we go backstage after the band’s had some time to cool down. Jamie got a gift bag with a t-shirt, a CD, and a program, the last of which she gave to me. I debated–should I have them sign the program…or my shoes?

Once in a lifetime opportunity. The shoes.

To be fair, I gave the very first Guster I talked to a choice. Program or shoes? He immediately crouched down to sign my Chucks. That’s how great these guys are. One of them gave me his knee to prop my foot on, and the other held my muddy shoe in his hand.

Photographic evidence of the evening:

I'M WITH A GUSTER!

Me and two other girls with a Guster

Please forgive my hair in the above pic. It was taken several long, rainy hours after I had last had contact with a brush.

Also, THE SHOES:

GUSTER SHOES!

My now-even-more-beloved Chucks.

The Husband and I ended up seeing 50% of Guster a bit later at the hotel bar. I did not, to my credit, make a nuisance of myself–I basically walked past their table, said, “Hey, you guys signed my shoes earlier” (to which they replied, “We remember!”) and “You played an awesome show, have a great night!” I don’t want to be a pest, but you know, I can’t ignore them. That would be rude.

There you have it. The best weekend ever.

So…how was yours? =D

*They ended up reuniting a couple of times to raise money for charitable causes. Those shows sold out almost immediately.

**One of my absolute besties, has known me since second grade, and in fact we have a picture from Halloween that year, in which I am dressed as a cheerleader and she is, no lie, an ant. We’ve reached that stage where we don’t even need to speak–we notice the same things at the same time, and we giggle wordlessly. This is friendship.

***Husband kept pointing out big muddy spots for me to avoid, and I was all, “Seriously, this is why I wore my old shoes.” That attitude changed drastically around 10 p.m. or so.

 

Awesome Mamas

This week, EpicChange.org is embarking on a project to channel our love for our mothers into a project to benefit the work of one awesome woman, Mama Lucy Kamptoni, who built a school for the children in her village, Arusha, Tanzania, with funds raised from a small chicken farm. That school, which began with only 10 students has blossomed to serve more than 400 children, and is ranked #2 out of 118 schools in the district.

You can learn more about Mama Lucy and her work at To a Mama With Love. To honor all her and all the women who give their hearts and lives to raise and educate children, I am creating a heartspace for my mom and donating to the cause in her name at the main site, found here. I invite you to do the same for your mother.

And because I like to put my mouth where my money is, I’d like to tell you about my mom and how she’s shaped my view of the world.

My mom offered me ice cream after my first big breakup.

She bandaged my knees when I skinned them. She wiped away my tears when I was the only girl in my class not invited to the big birthday party. She soothed, and comforted, and scolded when necessary.

She raised five children, and any mom knows that each kid comes with their own challenges and joys. Some of those challenges are bigger, like fighting for the education of a special needs child. Some of them are smaller, like making it to your daughter’s orchestra concert after putting in a long day at your small business–after months of squeaky rehearsals that could be heard through the whole house.

She raised a nurse, a writer, an educator-trailworker-sustainable farmer-vagabond, a special needs child who’s on the verge of going into the world to work for the first time, and the world’s sweetest ten-year-old. Answering to the diverse needs of such diverse children could never have been easy; when one needed comfort after a rejection, another was beyond all contact in the wilds of Alaska, and another needed encouragement to keep working to become a healer.

My mom has never liked having her children far away, a feeling shared by most parents. And yet, when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue my college career after a turbulent freshman year, she recommended alternate paths that would take me far from home but give me experience in the world. And when I decided to give my sophomore year a try, she supported that, as well. She supported my decision to change my major from the safe choice of Secondary Education English to the riskier English Lit.

And when I got sick my junior year, she was the one I called after a night spent crying and getting sick on the cold bathroom floor. She accompanied me to every doctor’s visit and surgical procedure–of which there were many. She rejoiced with me as I embarked on a long, difficult recovery.

When I graduated, I think her smile was the widest. And when I got married, her tears of joy were the most sincere. They were definitely the most plentiful, aside from my own.

She’s my mom. She gave me life and showed me how to make every day worthwhile. She showed me how to rise above every challenge the day throws at me. And more than anything, she’s shown me the true meaning of giving, and the true meaning of love.

Wedding Hug

Mom & Me, on my wedding day

________________

My little sister, Rachael, age 22, has a few words of her own to share:

Mom, I appreciate you as my mother. Because I appreciate having you as a mother to me. I really like you as who you are.

Every time, that you come in my room to wake me up. You’re there on every side. When I wake up on my own by myself. I see you putting makeup on every day. I look at you how much what you look. I even told myself, that you do look beautiful without the makeup on your most beautiful face of all time.

When I’m at home by myself and, sometimes I’m not at home. I will still miss you everywhere. When you go to Aunt Missy’s house and to work. When I’m at a meeting with Dana. When I’m with Kristy to go to see a Penguins game.

You are my most favorite mother in the whole planet earth. You are the most beautiful woman. You are the most incredible cook on the planet. You are my #1 fan.

I love you!

Rache

________________

And my little brother, Brendan, age 10, has his own tribute:

Mom is good cause she cares for me no matter what and I love her no matter what.

________________

I invite you to not only donate to Mama Lucy’s cause, but to blog about and honor your own special mama. Leave a link in the comments, and I’ll update this post to include it. Not a blogger? Tweet about your mom with the hashtag #ToMamaWithLove. This Mother’s day, let’s show our moms how much we appreciate everything they do, all while supporting another awesome cause!


Special thanks to Jordan Knox for getting me involved in this incredible effort. He is, indeed, a solid 8.0 on the handsome scale–and a solid 11.0 on the awesome scale.

 

Writing Mania

Listening to: Travis, “Side”

Well, I’ve been a bad little blogger, haven’t I?

But I’m back now. Mainly because the words, which for a while seemed to trickle out at a scary-slow pace, have returned. With a vengeance.

I’m working on revisions of FLAWED, and a lot of it is fresh material. It was all going rather slow…until Sunday. If you watch my Twitter feed, you know I had a big breakthrough that day. A 7200 word breakthrough, to be precise. That shattered my old record (I think the most I’ve written in one day is 4k).

Then came Monday. 3500 words. Which seems rather shabby compared with Sunday’s progress, but obviously, it’s not.

Frankly, I’m a little freaked out. I have no desire to procrastinate, no desire to do anything but write. I want to sit here with my headphones and my coffee and write until my hands fall off. I don’t even want to go to the cafe, and I pretty much wrote there every day last week. Little Brother, which I’ve wanted to read for like two years now, is sitting on my TBR pile, but I haven’t picked it up. I’m two weeks behind on Vampire Diaries, and while a tiny part of me would like to catch up with it and paint my nails (they’re horribly chipped), the rest of me keeps my butt in the chair.

This is not like me. Sure, I write a lot. I went to visit relatives with my dad for a week, and despite being on the road,* managed about 1200 words/day (and 1500 words on the plane ride back, where I discovered that writing really helps my flying-related anxiety). But I don’t do this all day, every day. That can’t be healthy, can it?

I’ve taken a little time to do a few household chores, and I make sure I get up and do some physical activity at least once a day (oh hai, Wii!). Deep vein thrombosis would really screw up my rhythm, y’know. And I’ve been making sure to get enough sleep.

The Husband has been trying to keep up with what I write, as I write it. This is the conversation we had last night:

Me: You need to get reading, so you can catch up to where I am.

Him: I don’t think anyone can read as many words a day as you’ve been writing.

Well. I can, and I know a lot of writers who can, but that’s beside the point.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about having a high output. And a lot of it’s probably crap, and will have to be either cut or revised when I get to that stage. I’m just…waiting. Wondering when this phase stops, when I go back to the slow trickle, when the urge to procrastinate kicks in again. It’s kind of like when you get on a winning streak, and you wonder: okay, when do I lose, and lose BIG? Or maybe it’s that kind of superstition that for every high there’s a corresponding low.

I’ve had high output phases, but it’s usually at the very beginning or the very end. I’m kind of in the middle. When this is very much NOT supposed to happen.

And I’m having so much fun, too. I’m enjoying this time spent with my characters and the little surprises they give me every day. I love escaping into my own little world; this is probably part of the reason I’m a writer.

So, that’s that, I guess. I’m going to go with the flow until the flow don’t go. Heh.

I just wish I could shut up that pessimistic little voice waaaay back in my brain, the one that tells me I’m gonna crash and crash hard.

Oh wait, I can. By writing.

Did you ever have a period like this, where you just couldn’t stop? What happened…after?

P.S. I tweeted and Facebooked this blog yesterday, and this is my final space to tell you OMG GO READ IT NOW. Numbers 1, 2, 6, and 8 are especially poignant to me right now, but it’s all awesome. I bookmarked it, and I plan to, if I do hit that scary low, go back and read the whole thing again to bring me back up. It’s that good.

*We drove down the coast, but I flew back alone because he was staying for two weeks and I just couldn’t take THAT much time “off”. Which obviously, I didn’t really take any time off, since I managed for the first time to keep up with my writing while traveling. GO ME.

 

Frog Hunting Tales

Listening to: Dispatch, “Elias”

Most of my frog-wrangling sessions go rather smoothly, especially as I become more comfortable with the frogs and better able to predict their movements. I’ve been working with Steve the Photographer since August, I think, so the job has become almost routine.

Almost.

We still have the occasional disaster or near-disaster. For instance, during one harrowing shoot that involved the cat and a goldfish as well as Felix the frog–no, I’m not kidding, we really did this–Felix and the cat behaved nearly perfectly until what ended up being the final shot. No, the cat didn’t eat Felix. Felix did, however, decide to jump on the cat’s forehead. Right between the eyes.

Steve didn’t even see it happen, because I jumped nearly as fast as Felix, while screaming, to grab that little bugger off the cat before something catastrophic happened.

Our shoots since then have been mostly calm and uneventful, and I’m really getting the hang of it. Manipulating the frogs in such a way that they pose just how Steve wants them, at least for a second, is something I’ve slowly learned over the past few months. I’m actually really proud of my work with him.

Neither of us were proud, or happy, for an hour last week, however.

We’d shot for maybe fifteen minutes when disaster struck. Steve was shooting from high up, standing on a stool, and when he moved to step off the stool, it tilted slightly. I thought he was falling, so my attention jumped to him–and Felix jumped…somewhere. Steve thought Felix had jumped toward me, so I checked the hood of my sweater and its front pockets, then took it off and shook it. Nothing.

And then we proceeded to form a search party. The cat was NOT invited. Especially after we noticed the small gap under the studio door, just about crawling-frog height.

Do you have any IDEA how many places a frog could hide, even in one room filled with photography equipment and bookshelves covered with stuff we used in former shoots and radiators and…UGH. Then extend that to the entire house. We restricted ourselves to the second floor, but still.

We shoot the frog(s) and whatever they happen to be crawling on inside a small light tent, something like this except almost completely open in the front. Because the frogs have been known to crawl between the flap at the back of the tent and the actual back of the tent, I checked there about, oh, five million times. Steve had reached the point where he was dragging a ladder to the bathroom to check a crack in the ceiling. Seriously, we had lost our minds.

After we checked the windows and curtains in the studio, we pretty much decided to give up. Hopefully, Steve said, he’d find the frog sleeping on a window in the morning (they like sleeping on glass). I checked the light tent one more time, then decided we should take out the backdrop (a royal blue sheet) out and shake it. We did this, then set it aside, and I moved to take out the posterboard it had been hanging on. As I did so, something green next to me caught my eye–

BOOM! There’s the frog, on the inner wall of the light tent, in plain view.

I checked that thing FIVE MILLION TIMES, I’m telling you.

We hustled the little guy back to his tank, but still–I couldn’t believe it. A full hour spent hunting in a big house for an itty bitty frog, and somehow we found him not two feet from the last place we’d really seen him. Just when we were about to give up for the night.

Morals of the story:

  1. Sometimes the thing you’re looking for is just out of sight, and you only need to look a little harder. Or take apart the surroundings. Or chase it from its hiding place.
  2. Sometimes you’ll find what you’re looking for, just when you were about to give up–so DON’T GIVE UP.
  3. Don’t take your eyes off the frog, man. EVER.

Two out of three of these can apply to life, writing, publication, whatever. Or maybe all three can.

All I know is that, for at least an hour, a few days a week, my new motto is: DON’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE FROG.

P.S. We are getting three new baby frogs tomorrow. They will be about half an inch long. If you don’t see me around here for a while, assume I died from the cute.

 

A Little Bit o’ Luck

Listening to: Pulp, “Like a Friend”

So I’ve always had this weird theory about luck.

I’ve thought for a long time that everyone has a certain amount. Some people–everyone knows someone like this–can win $50 from every $2 scratch-off lottery ticket they buy. They can randomly approach a slot machine, put in $10, and walk away with $200 a few minutes later. They have a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Other people don’t bother buying lottery tickets, because they’ve learned that all that scratching will be in vain. They walk into a casino* knowing that they’ll be losing money, but that’s okay because it’s a fun time with friends. They seem to always be a few miles away from the right place, and a few minutes away from the right time.

I’ve always belonged in the latter category. I have, in my life won the following things in chance-type games: a stuffed animal from a claw machine, and three books. No, really. That’s it.

So I’ve always figured that I have a certain amount of luck, and it’s just saving itself up for something big. This is my way of making myself feel better when everyone around me seems to have the luck of the Irish, and I have no such thing–even though I actually am Irish (like 1/8, but still).

I went with my mom, brother, and sister to a Special Olympics basket party fundraiser this past weekend. 163 baskets, for which I had around twenty tickets. Also, the other usual stuff, like 50/50 tickets, door prizes, and something I really wanted: a chance at a lottery wreath or a money tree. I was very impressed with the turnout–there wasn’t a free seat in the whole place, and the final prize for the 50/50 exceeded $600.

As they called out the winning number for each basket, I enjoyed watching my sister work with the other athletes to deliver baskets to the winners. Every time she went down that center aisle, she’d get this little grin, like, “Look what I’m doing!” She laughed and joked with the other athletes. She had, in short, a spectacular time.

I reminded my mom several times that I’m not lucky, I wouldn’t win anything, and I was fine with that because A.) I’m really used to it and B.) it’s for a great cause.

And then my number got called for a basket. It was a cute little gardening set, morning glory seeds, gardening gloves, and garden decorations, and I also spotted a tiny planter with forget-me-not seeds. Perfect for the moment, because it gives me yet another reason to look forward to spring–and gives me something to plant in the meantime.

So, about a hundred baskets later, my mom, sister, and brother have still won nothing. They call out the number for the last basket–and it’s mine. A rather large basket with teas, coffee, mugs, and some nice photo frames.**

Two baskets. I gave the coffee basket to my mom, as I’ve been on a tea-buying kick lately and really just don’t have room for any more.

I went about the rest of my evening, visiting some friends and going to a coffee shop to write. Finally, I go home, and open up my gardening basket to see what little treasures were hidden from view.

I find a bag of potting soil at the very bottom, which will come in handy not only for the forget-me-nots planter, but also for the other tiny planters I hadn’t seen: sunflowers and lucky clovers.

I’m not a terribly superstitious person–although I did privately christen the black cat that roams my mom’s neighborhood and always crosses my path on really rotten days “Bad Luck” (his real name, per his tag, is “Coaltrane”, har har).

But sometimes life just throws something at you, and you kind of have to wonder, you know?

So I’m off to plant my lucky clover. But I still won’t buy any lottery tickets. Some things never change.


*The only casinos I’ve visited have been either on reservations or in PA, and these had only slot machines (the one on the reservation had a few table games, if I remember right, but not many).

**This especially threw me off because, just a moment before, I’d remarked that I could really use a cup of coffee. Oh, Universe, you’re so silly!

 

1000 Rules for Writing

Listening to: In-Flight Safety, “Model Homes”

The Guardian this past weekend ran a long, long feature in which novelists, playwrights, and other mystical beings who spend their days grappling with words listed their personal writing rules. Of course, I couldn’t help but spend far too much time reading it. By the time I finished, my head hurt a little bit, and I wasn’t sure if I was inspired, blocked, or exhausted–or maybe all three. Somehow, though, I couldn’t stop until I’d read them all.

First, a few of my personal favorites:

Margaret Atwood:

Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

Roddy Doyle:

Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.*

Helen Dunmore:

Learn poems by heart.

Geoff Dyer:

Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.

Neil Gaiman:

Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

and

The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Zadie Smith:

Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

(Please just go read all of Coim Tóibín’s rules in Part Two. They’re nicely tongue-in-cheek…I think.)

Jeanette Winterson:

Love what you do.

Esther Freud:

Never forget, even your own rules are there to be broken.

***

Of course, reading all these rules got me thinking. What would my rules be? I don’t necessarily need ten of them, but what have I learned over these past few years? And what do I wish now-Kristy could tell then-Kristy, to save time and angst?

  1. Enjoy the first draft. It’s a wild ride, an adrenaline rush like no other. Love even the frustrations and the roadblocks, because they lead to the joyous moment when you destroy them.
  2. Motivation. If you’re characters’ motivations aren’t realistic, your characters will come off as fake. (Thanks again, Tia!)
  3. You can’t help but write, so there’s no point in trying to quit. You’re an addict. Deal with it.
  4. Listen to your critique partners, beta readers, and various other editing-types. They may not always be right, but the statistics are very much on their side.
  5. Let yourself be sentimental during the first draft, but after that, drop the misty-eyed lovey-dovey feelings. They’ll only get in your way.
  6. Be the writer you want to be. Other people may push you to be the writer they see in you,** but you’ll never be happy unless you’re being yourself.

So…what would your rules be?

*This one stuck in my head afterward, inspiring me to finally give my WIP a name. It came to me rather quickly, just popped into my head, and now I absolutely adore it. No, I won’t tell you what it is. Not yet. =P

**Creative writing prof I adored told me fiction wasn’t my forte, and I should pursue creative non-fiction. Mom desperately wants me to write mysteries or historical fiction. Brother wishes he was related to someone who wrote like Tom Robbins, and won’t read my books until this wish comes true. But until I hand that manuscript over to someone to read, it’s just me and the words–and those words won’t be honest unless I’m being my own writer, and no one else’s. I write YA, and people can think what they want of that, but I love every freaking second.

 

Follow Your Instincts

Listening to: The New Amsterdams, “Wait”

Okay, I was going to complain about the weather, what with the winter storm just passed and the one to come, but then I saw a tweet that all five seasons of Daria will be released on DVD in May of this year, and I don’t have the wherewithal to complain anymore. I mean, how could I complain about anything now? I’ve been waiting for this forever. I mean, all the years I wished it was back on tv, and knew the DVDs were nowhere in existence and that all I could access of Daria’s dry, bitter humor were a few movie-like episodes–well, all those years I felt like this:

Grrr! Give me my Daria!

Then I finally read this news, and I’m all like…okay, you know there are no images of “Happy Daria” anywhere, right? I don’t even know why I looked. So…just pretend.

Okay, to get to the actual point of this blog post. I know, I know–how could all five seasons of Daria on DVD NOT be the point? It’s the point of everything today. But I’ll have to move on, because there’s writing to be done. Specifically, the newest WIP.

It’s killing me.

I tweeted last week that, every time I get to 20 or 30k in a manuscript, I get this ridiculous urge to start over. Normally, I indulge myself for a few pages, realize that what I currently have is better, and keep plowing through.

It’s not working this time.

I just feel like what I have (about 22k words) is just not right. It has its moments, sure, but the characters are really bugging me. They’re not acting in any sort of realistic manner, and the harder I try to keep them in line, the worse they get. I realize that characters frequently go against the author’s wishes or plans, and that’s one of the really fun parts of writing–how my brain surprises the hell out of me.  But in this case, they’re not just going against my plans. They’re going against reality. They’re acting SO WEIRD, you guys.  And I think it’s stretching the bounds of believability. I’ve started the novel over twice now, because I’ll go and see where I left off with the first one and just hate it. I know I write contemporary fantasy, so, you know, there’s gonna be some stuff in there that isn’t realistic in the truest sense of the world, and I love that. But the characters still have to act like human beings–I mean, provided that they are human beings. And they are human, but they’re not acting like it, so this has to stop.

The best advice I ever got for writing, in three short words from my editor at the paper back in the day, was “Follow your instincts.” Of course, it’s more than that. Since my instincts push me to start fresh at this point every single time, and that’s never been necessary, I have to assume my instincts were pushing me for different reasons. Fear of the middle, fear that I screwed up the beginning, a desire to recapture the magic of starting a new project. But when I examine my instincts while reading what I currently have, I know something’s different this time. I have a concrete reason–characters not behaving believably. While that’s something you can fix in revision, it’s a BIG fix, since everything the characters do and think affects every aspect of the plot–and if they’re not behaving right, that means the entire plot needs to be revamped, too. Start to finish. God, I’m feeling sick just thinking about it!

I’m going to plow ahead with Attempt #3 today, and just see where it goes. Already I like it more, and the characters seem more real, even though I’m only a few pages in. There’s a lot of good material in Attempt #1, so I might pull whole scenes from that and it’ll speed up my progress. Just as long as I can keep the characters from acting like complete morons.

*Glares at characters* Wish me luck, guys.

 

Micro Month

Listening to: Motion City Soundtrack, “Worker Bee”

So when 2010 started out, I was pretty much open to anything. I’ve been doing the novel thing and little else for several years now, and although I always tell myself I’ll write a short story here or there, I never actually do. I needed something new to spice things up.

Thus, when a friend in my writing group said she planned to write a micro-short story, 500 words or less, every weekday in January, I didn’t really think hard about joining in. We were joined by another group member, and the three of us were off and running.

Never in my life have I been so glad that I did something without thinking about it. Had I actually put thought into it, I would’ve imagined that preparing the final draft of FLAWED, along with all my submission materials, would be all I could manage.

And yeah, it was tough. But the girls were understanding when I couldn’t crank out a story for the day due to novel revisions or general busyness, and on the days I could make it, they were grateful. I returned the favor–we all know life gets in the way sometimes.

It didn’t really require much of my time, though. On a good day, I could churn out something respectable in 20 minutes or so. And I’m still rather amazed at how the process recharged my brain, got my creative juices flowing, and how much I loved it. I love writing novels–that long process, sometimes seeming like it’ll never end, as you you dig the story out from the piles of dirt covering it. The micro-shorts were different. It was like that feeling when you write a really good scene, and you can just feel it, lightning coming from your fingers. In a week or a month or a year, sure, it won’t look as shiny-pretty-awesome–but in that moment, it’s SO PRETTY.

In short, I would highly recommend this to anyone, even if it’s just for a week, or just for a creative outlet to stave off the twitchy-need-to-write hunger that pops up during revision. It’s low-commitment but incredibly rewarding. I even have some pieces I’m thinking of submitting to various flash fiction markets, and a ready-made piece for a coffeehouse reading my friend’s holding in a few weeks.

Some tips:

  • I worked well with a weekly theme, and you might too. Character, setting, dialogue, whatever–it gives you a starting point.
  • Music. Muuuuuusiiiiiic. When I couldn’t come up with a darn thing, and the blank page became my enemy, I played a few songs. Pretty soon, a line would just pop, and I’d be off to the races.
  • Just have fun. When I wrote my first January Micro Story, I couldn’t believe the rush I got from it. And I adored that story. But for the next few pieces, I expected that same rush, when really I should’ve just enjoyed the process. And I expected to adore every story as much, but you have to give yourself permission to write absolute crap.

So. Between that, getting the website up and running, and polishing FLAWED, I had a rather busy first month of 2010. How about you?

 

Kitchen-Cleaning Dance Party

So, occasionally I harness the powers of the Internets–mainly Twitter.

Last winter, I let my followers decide whether I would dye my hair blond or brown. Twitter said blond, so I went with blond. Always a good decision (and the most natural-looking for me).

This past summer, I waffled over whether to wear a rather revealing shirt that has sat in my drawer for ten years down to the annual motorcycle rally. Everyone said, “DO IT!” and advised me to bring a cardigan in case I got uncomfortable. I did it, and I’m glad I did–now that shirt no longer stares accusingly at me every time I open my dresser.

And this past Friday, I mentioned to twitter that too much caffeine had turned my cleaning frenzy into a dance party. Jen Hayley said one word in reply: Video!

She REALLY should’ve known better.

Also, welcome to my new website! Please change your bookmarks accordingly.

 

Telling Moments

Listening to: “Audience Of One”, Rise Against

I was talking with a friend a while ago, and we were discussing our favorite classic films and their best moments. Roman Holiday, of course, came up in this conversation. I can’t say it’s my favorite Audrey Hepburn film–that would be like picking my favorite star in the sky or my favorite sunset–but it’s a film that everyone should see.

Especially writers, if only for the opening scenes.

You see, there’s a moment of absolute brilliance in the opening scene. While discussing our favorite moments, my friend recalled the Mouth of Truth scene:


Which truly is great. Especially since, according to some sources, Gregory Peck ad-libbed the bit where his hand disappears, so Hepburn’s reaction there is real.

The vespa scene is pretty darn good too, as she recalled:

And then there’s the haircut scene, which reminds me of every time I’ve walked into a salon wanting a drastic change. “You sure? You sure?”


And of course, I can’t find the scene I want on YouTube. But I’ll describe it, for those who’ve never seen the film:

The Princess is visiting yet another city on a whirlwind goodwill tour. In Rome, as in the other cities, a formal reception is held. The Princess must stand for probably hours as the country’s most important people come forward to meet her. A thrill for them, an obligation for her. In a formal gown, hair perfectly coiffed, she has everything a princess should: dignity, regal bearing, an inner calm that shows on the surface.

And her feet are killing her. The camera goes beneath her skirt to show her carefully slipping from her shoes and stretching her toes. This, right here, is the telling moment. Here we delve beneath the character’s perfectly designed exterior to see what’s going on inside. She’s tired, she’s feeling incredibly stifled, and the weight of her responsibilities is bearing down. Without a word from the princess, without even a change of expression on her part, we see everything we need to know.

This is a telling moment (don’t confuse “telling” in this case with its usage in the popular adage “show, don’t tell”–as we are, in fact, being shown quite deftly what’s going on in her mind). It’s a single action by a character used to tell us his or her state of mind.

And it’s the most brilliant telling moment I can think of from film or literature. Perhaps that’s why, out of all the wonderful moments in that film, that first scene is my favorite. It’s a stroke of genius, and it’s funny, to boot–as the princess loses control of the situation when she can’t quite get her shoe back on before she’s required to sit. So there sits her shoe, just beyond the hem of her gown, and her calm exterior is ever-so-slightly ruffled as she begins to panic. Her handlers do their job and handle the situation, as one of them asks her to dance and gives her the opportunity to quietly slip back into the shoe. But the audience knows, now, where the protagonist stands.

What do you think of this scene as a telling moment? Can you think of any particular moments like this, from film or literature, that so beautifully illustrate a character’s starting point? And, most importantly–if you’ve seen Roman Holiday, what’s YOUR favorite scene?

 
 
 
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