Monday, February 28, 2011

Did you read?

A quick personal note: I got into nursing school! It finally feels like our life, which has been stuck in neutral since I graduated college and we got married, is getting back on track. So now we're talking about other major changes that might come our way, including *groan* moving...


Does anybody watch Portlandia? Unfortunately, I don't get IFC, but I've watched all the clips I can get my hot little hands on. I've never been to Portland, but I know the stereotypes well, and I grew up in my own little free-spirit town with plenty of people like they poke fun at on the show. 

I'm always amazed by comedy writers. I can be funny in the moment, but planned humor? Not my thing. I especially love humor that pokes fun at things (which would explain why I almost choked to death laughing when I read this book. It's my opinion that most people in general take themselves too seriously, so it's always a joy to see that mocked (in good humor). 

Writers are no different--maybe even worse than some others. There's such pressure to be on top of the publishing game, reading all the new releases, reading all the classics, reading all the craft books, reading the agent blogs, the publishing blogs, the Writer's Digest, The New Yorker and on and on and on... 

So take a deep breath for just a moment and watch this. Then feel better. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

~Out of Action~

Just a quick note to let you all know that I will be away from the blogosphere for a few days. I've agreed to edit my brother-in-law's girlfriend's 300-page dissertation by Sunday, and as she is a non-native English speaker, I'm going to have to be very eagle-eyed.

Wish me luck! Hope you all have a lovely week/end!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Marrying My Brother (and other things I don't want to come true)

First of all, I'd like to welcome all my new followers! Thanks so much for clicking that button. I don't blog as frequently as I did once upon a time, but hopefully when I do, it'll still serve to humor.

Weird Dreams.

We all get them, right? And if you're anything like me, sometimes your dreams are so incredibly vivid that you're convinced they're real and experience true relief when you wake up.

A few weeks before I got married, I had a series of dreams in which I somehow married my brother instead of Evan. I'm not sure I'd ever experienced that kind of relief upon waking, and to cure my incest heebie-jeebies, I away'ed to a dream interpretation site. (In case you're wondering, those sorts of dreams are actually fairly common before life-altering events.)

But what about dreams that we'd really like to come true?

I'm not talking about winning the lottery or going on a Tahitian vacation with Henry Cavill.

I'm talking about the off-the-wall, goofy but potentially awesome dreams.

What's mine?

The grocery store.

Yes, you read that right: the grocery store. Something about it is linked deep to my creative unconscious. If I had a dollar for every weird, awesome, or some combination of the two dream that takes place in a grocery store, I'd already be in Tahiti with that guy ^^ (and Evan).

The dreams usually start the same way: me innocently buying groceries--usually in the beginning aisles of the store, like the bread or sometimes, in the really cool dreams, some kind of exotic-foods aisle that sadly doesn't exist here in Bumblef*ck, GA. Generally within a few minutes, I go from picking out a lovely bunch of bananas to battling pirates (real dream), finding out I'm a wizard and that the grocery store is a portal (real dream), or searching for various bombs scattered throughout the store whilst fighting off hordes of zombies and/or terrorists who also want to take my dozen eggs very badly (real dream).

Honestly, I have no idea why I dream about the grocery store so much. I'm sure Freud would have a field day with it (and the marrying-my-brother dream, for that matter).

Since I've been dreaming about grocery stores since I was a little kid, I've always, always wanted a chance to include an EPIC grocery store battle in some of my writing. Or, if not the grocery store, maybe a home improvement store, like Lowes. I mean, those aisles of shovels and pickaxes are just dying for some action, aren't they?

I'm finally writing a grocery store action sequence in the WIP. Sadly, it won't be as egg-slinging, jar-breaking awesome as my dreams would like it to be, but it'll do. It'll do.

So tell me I'm not the only crazy person who dreams about grocery stores. Am I? And if the market ain't your thang, what is? Garden Ridge? Hobby Lobby? Inquiring minds want to know! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

The lovely Nicole Ducleroir is hosting this blogfest in celebration of surpassing 500 followers and in the spirit of getting to know one another just that much more.

Anyone who's watched Inside the Actor's Studio will be familiar with the questionnaire.  The show's host, James Lipton, asks it of every celebrity guest at the close of the interview.  The questionnaire was originally created by Bernard Pivot, a French journalist, for the cultural series he hosted on French television from 1991-2001, called Bouillon de Culture.

  • What is your favorite word? Delicious (my husband and I have a joke about it that originated with Dr. Demento. We always say it "deeeliiiishoussss")

  • What is your least favorite word? Oh, I could make quite a list, trust me. But here are the top three forever and ever always amen: moist, sofa, squirt

  • What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? A mountaintop forest in late spring or mid-autumn. Especially if a river is involved.

  • What turns you off? Children (sorry)

  • What is your favorite curse word? Jesus Christ. Sometimes it's a swear, sometimes a supplication--and sometimes both.

  • What sound or noise do you love? Rain on a tin roof, a river rushing, the cooing of mourning doves, woodpeckers 

  • What sound or noise do you hate? Nails on a chalkboard, my cats' claws on the wall, Styrofoam squeaking together, my husband flicking the seam on his jeans

  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Surgeon, pilot, deep-sea diver, CIA agent, food reviewer, chef, video game tester

  • What profession would you not like to do? Teacher, police officer, firefighter, mailman, prison warden, podiatrist, dermatologist 

  • If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Evan (my husband) is right over there waiting for you. And kudos on living to be 150. 
  • Monday, February 14, 2011

    This Day in History! (Just kidding)

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    Six years ago, Evan and I had our first "date." We were in the final days before this mammoth theatre production we'd been working on for months opened. I was scenic painter, he head carpenter. We spent the night until about 2am in the theatre, doing last-minute painting and tweaking here and there, then stumbled back to his place, where he gave me Benny and Joon and made me fettuccine alfredo (which was the only "fancy" meal he could cook at the time.

    Pretty romantic, huh? :)

    Six years ago
    Awkwardness abounds, but it's a good representation of us. Still is, really...

    A few weeks ago. 
    Thank goodness some things get better with age. 

    Squeeze a puppy, kiss your lover, take yourself out to dinner and a movie--or do all three!

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    I Haz the Brilliance.

    Do you know what this place is?

    Mack, surveying the comfy cat bed before ultimately deciding to sleep on the important papers instead. 
    Also, the sad birds on the side of the desk. And no, my copper birdfeeder isn't really that orange (anymore). 

    If you guessed my crappily-drawn office--DING DING! You're a winner.

    I learned some important things in this crappily-drawn office this week.

    A) Despite the blizzard in January, the state of Georgia still panics over 1 inch of snow. That melts when the sun comes out.

    B) No matter how many soft, fluffy beds I buy my cats, they will always choose to sleep on whatever important pieces of paper are on my desk.

    C) The love of something you've written is a feeling like none other. 

    D) Positive feedback from precious CP's is better than chocolate (and that other thing.) 

    E) When you think you might abandon a writing project, even if you think it will only be for a short time, MAKE COPIOUS NOTES TO YOURSELF. Write down every SCRAP of information that you're thinking about it. Because when you finally come back to that project, 13 months later, you will JUMP UP AND DOWN when you realize that the only work you have left is putting the words on the paper. 

    F) When you're trying to find the proper universal remote code for your TV, make sure you're looking at the SHARP list, not the SONY.

    What did YOU learn this week? 

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    (I love Ray Bradbury. He's my literary great-grandfather.)

    I'm something wicked. Here's why:

    As you know, I'm taking this fiction writing workshop at the university. So far, I've really enjoyed it and have been impressed by the group's caliber. Thus far, we have workshopped 7 stories/chapter, with today's class bringing the eighth.

    Sometimes it can be tough to think of something encouraging and helpful to write in essay format, when all I really want to do is hand them my marked-up copy of their draft and skip off into the sunset, waiting for the cannon fire to make me sh*t my pants*. Six times now, I've managed to write semi-coherent, semi-helpful (I hope) comment sheets.

    But today's eludes me.

    This is where I'm going to admit that sometimes being in a live-bodied critique format can be tricky. No one wants to step on each others' toes, but as time goes on, we get more comfortable with one another and the footstompers come out.

    There's a particular guy in my class who has, unique...way of contributing to the critique. I know he means well, but lately it's started to grate on my nerves. While what he's saying isn't necessarily unhelpful, it's also almost the limit of his input.

    Good critique, like good writing, needs to be varied. And adjustable, once you start hearing from other people.

    Anyway, this guy's been spouting off for 5 weeks now, and today is his turn on the chopping block.

    Let me tell you, I am feeling mightily tempted to use his own critique format against him. I didn't particularly enjoy his contribution, and after he shredded a short story that I really liked (not mine) during last class, I'm feeling a bit vindictive.

    Bad Summer! Right? Right.

    Also, I'm trying to put together a thoughtful dual posting on what makes strong female leads and male leads in fiction. So that's why I've been kinda quiet.

    *The university I'm attending is a heavily military school. Their cadet corps is, like, 89% of the student body (not really, but it seems like it). So, every day at 5pm, they lower the flag, play the bugle, and...FIRE A FREAKIN' CANNON.

    And the first day I was innocently walking by the green when this happened? Unaware, unassuming, unprepared?


    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Analyze Yourself

    By the time I graduated with a degree in English, analyzing literature had become second nature to me. I could rattle off a 3-5 page paper about anything in an hour. Reading analytically is a learned skill, much like doing geometry proofs or drawing blood from a squirming cat.

    So when I sat down to my first day of this Fiction Writing Workshop that I'm taking, you might imagine my pleasure when I saw Edward P. Jones and Tobias Wolff on the syllabus. Brilliant authors, I think. Plenty to write about.

    Until the professor started explaining why exactly these literary giants were on our reading list. You see, he doesn't want us to analyze for meaning--he wants us to analyze how these two authors use writing techniques to craft such amazing fiction. How do they bring about character? Setting? What can we learn about story structure, the usage of backflashes, etc?

    When I sat down to write my first "book story analysis" on Jones's short "Young Lions," I felt like beating my head against the keyboard. How could I look at this great fiction on a nuts-and-bolts level? It went against everything I'd been trained to do.

    I struggled through the assignment and got an okay grade on it, but it wasn't until the next story, Tobias Wolff's "Smorgasbord," that I finally started to understand how to go about the assignment. It wasn't that I didn't understand--it was that I was already doing it, but masking it in my thoughts as pure content analysis.

    So I wrote myself a note: first sentence, first paragraph, setting/place, description, ending. These are some of the topics that we tend to emphasize during workshop, so I figured I might as well use them to structure my analysis. I won't say that it exactly flowed out of me, but it was scads easier than the first, and it helped me realize a few things.

    • All fiction contains metaphor, symbolism, analogy. But especially symbolism. 
    • Use your setting not only to give the reader a center, but also to strengthen characterization. 
    • The details that you choose to describe speak volumes about your characters (the narrators, anyway)
    As I've matured as a writer, I've become more conscious of these elements, but the symbolism one still escapes me sometimes, or at least at the levels I'd like it to be resounding. 

    So here's a thought: read your manuscript like an English major. Make notes as if you were going to write a paper about it. 

    • How many topics can you find? 
    • How often do certain elements reappear? Symbols/metaphors/images, etc. 
    • Do the characters have any sort of connection to something bigger, like a theme? 
    You might be writing a pop-culture driven YA urban fantasy, but I think this exercise will benefit no matter what your genre. It's all about resonance, threading, and adding as many levels to your writing as possible. Trust me, while your average reader might not be looking for meaning, there will be those readers out there who can't help but search it out, and when they find it in (insert your genre/book here), it's going to stick with them.