4.30.2012

A to Z: Zed



WE MADE IT!!!!!

HAPPY END OF A TO Z EVERYBODY!
:D

Celebratory GIF time!!!





 
To those of you I met during the challenge: I am so thrilled to have gotten to know you, and I look forward to keeping up with your blogs!

I had a blast, and when I'm back in computer-land I will most certainly be doing a bit of a wrap-up post.  In the meantime, I'd love to hear: what was your favorite part of A to Z?  What amazing blog did you discover that I may have missed?  And what are you going to do with all this newfound free time now that it's over???  :D


[Please note that I'll be out of town, with little-if-any internet access, for the next few days.  I hate to miss the homestretch of A to Z, but if I don't stop by your blog this weekend, please know I'm planning on getting there ASAP!]

4.28.2012

A to Z: You

Nobody can advise and help you, nobody. There is only one single means. Go inside yourself. Discover the motive that bids you write; examine whether it sends its roots down to the deepest places of your heart, confess to yourself whether you would have to die if writing were denied you. This before all: ask yourself in the quietest hour of your night: must I write?
RAINER MARIA RILKE



[Please note that I'll be out of town, with little-if-any internet access, for the next few days.  I hate to miss the homestretch of A to Z, but if I don't stop by your blog this weekend, please know I'm planning on getting there ASAP!]

One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.27.2012

A to Z: the X factor

Please note that I'll be out of town, with little-if-any internet access, for the next few days.  I hate to miss the homestretch of A to Z, but if I don't stop by your blog this weekend, please know I'm planning on getting there ASAP!

Some books are brilliant and amazing and have wide appeal, and they go on to become NY Times bestsellers.  Some books are brilliant and amazing and have wide appeal, and they barely register as a blip on the radar screen.

What is it that causes some books to become huge hits, and others to disappear into the abyss?  What is the x-factor here?

I know, I know.  If there was a clear answer to that then everyone reading this would be writing bestsellers and we'd all quit our jobs to become rich and happy doing what we love.  (Actually, that sounds amazing.  Could someone get on that please?)

It seems to be some odd combination of luck and timing and publicity and a character or world or concept that hits a large group of people in a very specific (and clearly unpredictable) way.  Who knew that the entire world wanted to escape into a magical world of witches and wizards alongside an 11-year-old boy?  Who could have predicted that we would all follow a teenage girl into a war zone orchestrated by a corrupt government?

We have anxieties; we want escape.  Sometimes a book manages to stoke those anxieties and then provide an answer that resonates, I suppose.

Other thoughts?


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.26.2012

A to Z: Works in Progress

There is neither a proportional relationship, nor an inverse one, between a writer’s estimation of a work in progress and its actual quality. The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.
ANNIE DILLARD


This is something I try to remind myself.  Every day.

If you think what you're writing sucks, the answer is to keep going.  If you think it's amazing, the answer is to keep going. The truth is, you can't know what it is.  It's a work in progress.  The only answer is to keep going. 

One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.25.2012

A to Z: Voice

Voice is one of those things that's hard to pin down.  It's rather like obscenity, I suppose: we know it when we see it.  Good voice can carry a story, situate us in time and place and feeling so solidly that we are utterly transported.

Finding your own voice as a writer is hard; I know I certainly haven't mastered it.  It's so easy to read something brilliant or moving or quirky and think, "Yes.  That voice is perfect.  That's what I want to do.  That's how I want to write!"

And then I spend a few days trying to write like... whoever... before reverting back to the voice that just comes out naturally when I write.  It changes, sure, from story to story and as I grow as a writer.  But it's always the one that comes out in the end.

Okay, so I may not have a Margaret Atwood in me.  I may not have a Neil Gaiman, or a Sarah Waters, or a Franny Billingsley (all writers who have, I think, distinct and interesting voices).  I have me, when it comes down to it: just me.

I could spend years trying to hone my writing style so that I sound like Margaret Atwood, and you know what I would sound like?  An imitation of Margaret Atwood.  But I'm pretty sure she's got that covered.  The Voice of Margaret Atwood is a void that was filled by... the voice of Margaret Atwood.

I have my own voice.  That's the one the world has room for.  That's the one I want to spend my time on.

Do you ever find yourself changing your voice to sound like someone else?  What has your experience been?


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.24.2012

A to Z: Universes

Once a day I try to remember to look up at the sky.  I look up and say to myself, each time, "That goes on forever."  Wait for the word to sink in.  When it doesn't, I supplement with other words: ever-expanding.  Vast.  Endless.  Farther than we are capable of understanding. 

I think of the light that has taken years to reach me, the light I'd miss if I wasn't looking for it right now, in this moment.  I don't mean I would miss it in that yearning way, not the way I miss my family over miles and miles.  I mean I would miss it the way I missed knowing my grandfather, missed breathing even one breath during his lifetime, missed sharing so much as a sentence with the man who gave me, they say, my love of words.  He put bookplates in his books and I trace them with my fingers, wondering if the ink rubbed off on my hands whether the print of his name could seep into my blood and I could come to know him that way.

It is good to remember that this light traveled years to shine down on me and I looked up at exactly the right time, and I saw it.

I stand under the sky and think of this: of myself, so small, of you, us, here, today, still.  Still here.  It is a fundamental property that energy is never lost, neither created nor destroyed, but conserved, converted.  We breathe the dust of stars and dinosaur bones.  Nothing is lost.  No one.  Not really.  In a closed system, everything is only... timing.

We were never meant to see the edges of the universe.  So I stand there, neck craned.  I close my eyes and imagine for a moment what is impossible to imagine, and then I open them again. 

I keep them wide.

I do not want to miss the light; it has come so far to be seen.


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.23.2012

A to Z: Talent

I see the notion of talent as quite irrelevant. I see instead perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire.
GORDON LISH




One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.21.2012

A to Z: Someday

Someday I want to:

Finish this WIP.
Edit it 'til it shines.
Query.
Get agented.
Write and re-write.
Get published.
Do it all over again.
And again.
And again.


Today I can:

Sit down, no excuses, and put the words on the page.



One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.20.2012

A to Z: Running

When I was in 5th grade, I started telling everyone that I wanted to be a runner for the US Olympic team.  Why?  I have no idea.  But I guess if you're gonna aim, aim big, right?

Fast forward to 2010, when I hadn't even thought about running in years.  I wasn't a sports girl, though I had grown up playing sports.  I wasn't a gym girl, though I thought of myself as relatively healthy.  What I was was a fairly-out-of-shape girl in her mid-20s with a family history of people keeling over unexpectedly and far too young of heart attacks, who spent most of her day hunched over a computer and who desperately needed a plan to get active.

Enter Couch to 5k.  I started in the summer of 2010, and did the program in starts and stops.  By spring of 2011 I could run a 5k without much effort.  I even got my mom into it, and she's running a half marathon next month.  (She is, um, WAY more motivated than me.  And in WAY better shape, it goes without saying).


I stopped running for a few months at the beginning of this year, and I'm just getting into it again.  Right now, I hate it, because I'm at that place where my body feels like it's working against me and it's a challenge to make it 2 miles.  But I know I'll get there.

What do you do to stay active?


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.19.2012

A to Z: Quickly, Quietly

I used to need complete silence to write.  No music, no TV, no chatty neighbors in the apartment upstairs.  Just me, and the air, and the words.

Then I started trying to fast-draft, to move through my first draft at the rate of 1000+ words a day, which was an unheard-of pace for me.  In order to do that, I had to get out of my head a little bit.  Find a way to turn my inner editor off and just let the words come, judgment-free.

Two things helped me do that: a timer, and NOISE.

If I'm listening to music when I'm writing, it takes me everso slightly out of my critical brain - apparently I can't concentrate both on writing and self-editing and listening to the music.  Combine that with a timer and a word count goal and I'm good to go.

Is it great writing?  Nope, but it's certainly edit-able.  When I wrote with my critical brain on high alert, my writing was definitely better the first time out.  It was also taking FOR.EV.ER.  And I'd spend hours agonizing over scenes that might not even make it to the final cut.  Good writing, but completely inefficient process.

So I've traded quiet for quick, and it works for me.  What about you?  What's your process look like?


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.18.2012

A to Z: Paring down

As those of you who're participating in the A to Z challenge this month must also have realized: this challenge is no joke.  Keeping up with blogging, answering comments, reading others' blogs, commenting on them, work, family, etc. is a lot to fit into a day!

That's not, of course, to say that I'm not enjoying the experience quite a bit.  I've gotten to meet and interact with so many fantastic people, and I've discovered so many blogs that I expect to keep reading long after A to Z is over.  These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of awesome.

But.

But I have family coming into town to visit starting tomorrow, and then a few frantic days at work after they leave, and then a long-awaited trip with yet more family... and I'm not sure how I'm going to get it all done.  So this post is my announcement that the paring down of the posts has officially begun.  I hope you'll bear with me; I still have so much to say, I'm just going to try and keep it brief.  (Not my strong suit, clearly, as this several-paragraphs-long "paring down" post demonstrates, heh).

All I'm saying is, I'm pretty jealous of those people who decided to post 5 word poems or something.  In retrospect, I think they're geniuses.

So.  Shorter posts from me, starting now.  But the same amount of joy to see you all stop by, and to read your blogs.  :)

Happy Wednesday!


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.17.2012

A to Z: Ode to the Dictionary by Pablo Neruda

I discovered Pablo Neruda in the 8th grade, when my English teacher had us read several of his odes to what seemed to be fairly random things, and then compose our own ode to an everyday object.  (I chose notebook paper.)  I don't think I could properly appreciate it at the time, but his Ode to the Dictionary never fails to make me take a deep breath and smile.

Ode to the Dictionary

Ox shoulder, heavy
loader, systematic
thick book:
As a young man
I didn't know you, I was dressed up
to sufficiency
and I believed myself full up,
and puffed up like a
melancholy toad
I declared "I receive
the words
directly
from a roaring Mount Sinai.
I will reduce
their forms by alchemy.
I'm a wizard."
The great wizard was silent.

The Dictionary,
old and heavy, with its binding
of worn leather,
remained silent
without showing its testing.

But one day
after having used
and disused it,
after declaring it
a useless and anachronistic camel,
when for long months without protest,
it served me as an armchair
and as a pillow,
it rebelled and planting itself
in my door
it grew, it moved its leaves
and its nests,
it moved the elevation of its foliage
the tree
was,
a natural,
generous
apple tree, apple grove or apple-like
and the words
shone in its bottomless cup
dull or sonorous
fertile in the fronds of language,
loaded with truth and sound.

I select only
one of
its
pages:
Caporal (foreman)
capuchón (monk's hood)
what a marvel
to pronounce these syllables
with air,
and further down
Cápsula (capsule)
hollow, waiting for olive oil or nectar
and next to them
Captura, Capucete, Capuchino
Caprario, Captatorio
words
which flake off like smooth birds
or which explode in the light
like blind germs which waited
in the storerooms of vocabulary
and live again and give life:
once more the heart sets them afire.

Dictionary, you're not
a tomb, sepulcher, casket,
burial mound, mausoleum,
but a preserver,
hidden fire,
the planting of rubies,
living perpetuity
of the essence,
granary of the language.
And it is beautiful
to pluck in your columns
the word
in its lineage,
the severe
and forgotten
sentence,
daughter of Spain,
enduring
like the blade of a plow,
fixed in its limit
of antiquated iron-work,
preserved
with its exact beauty
and its metallic hardness.
Or the other word
which we saw lost there
out in dialect regions
and which quickly
became tasty and smooth in our mouth.

Dictionary, one hand
of your thousand hands, one
of your thousand emeralds,
one
single
drop
of your virginal elements
one grain
from
your
generous granaries
on the tip of my pen,
in my inkwell.
From your thick, sonorous
depth of your forest,
give me,
when I need it,
one single trill, the luxury
of a bee,
a fallen fragment
from your ancient wood
perfumed by an eternity of jasmine beds,
one
syllable
all earthquake, a sound:
from the earth I am and with words I sing.



One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.16.2012

A to Z: Not Writing

Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. 
Lawrence Kasdan 
 
Ohhhh, the guilt of Not Writing. It would be one thing if writing was my actual job, but unfortunately, it isn't. I have to make time for it; I have to fit it in where I can. But sometimes... life gets in the way. (Or, y'know, you join a month-long blog challenge that takes a lot more time than you expected.) :) And that's when the guilt sets in.

But today I'm thinking about what Not Writing is, and why maybe it's not so bad.

You don’t always have to give up things you enjoy—even mundane things, even things that you’re reluctant to admit you take enjoyment in—to make time to write. You don’t have to feel guilty about everything you do that isn’t writing.
JESSICA STRAWSER

I can't write if I'm completely braindead after a 10-hour day at work. On those days, I'd rather just spend time with my wife, or talk to my parents on the phone, or take a jog around the pond near my house, or watch guilty-pleasure TV and not think a single thought if I can help it. It's all Not Writing, but sometimes it's all I can muster - and it means I can come back to my writing refreshed, with a functioning brain that's ready to be creative. I'm not a robot. I'm a person, with friends and relationships and hobbies and the desire to do more than simply work and write and rinse and repeat. What will I have to write about, if I never leave the house? What can I know of the world - what will I have to say?

There are days I don't write. Sometimes, there are weeks. The trick is to figure out how to keep the story alive while you're out doing other things.

So. I'm just going to leave this right here, because I like it a lot and I want to remember it:

It doesn't matter what time of day you work, but you have to work every day because creation, like life, is always slipping away from you. You must write every day, but there's no time limit on how long you have to write.

One day you might read over what you've done and think about it. You pick up the pencil or turn on the computer, but no new words come.  
That's fine. 
Sometimes you can't go further. 
Correct a misspelling, reread a perplexing paragraph, and then let it go. You have re-entered the dream of the work, and that's enough to keep the story alive for another 24 hours.

The next day you might write for hours; there's no way to tell.

The goal is not a number of words or hours spent writing. All you need to do is to keep your heart and mind open to the work.

WALTER MOSLEY


Now THAT I can do.  Every day.
 
Do you write every day?  What do you do when you're Not Writing?


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)
 

4.14.2012

A to Z: Music

Happy weekend everyone!  Here are a few of my favorite earworms to see you through 'til Monday...

Imogen Heap - Loose Ends



Gotye - Somebody That I Used to Know



Call it Off - Tegan & Sara



Down Home Girl - Old Crow Medicine Show



Hey Ya - Obadiah Parker 




Lovesong - Adele




Flight of the Conchords - Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros



What's stuck in your head right now?  :)


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.13.2012

A to Z: Leaving Something Behind

It is the deepest desire of every writer, the one we never admit or even dare to speak of: to write a book we can leave as a legacy. And although it is sometimes easy to forget, wanting to be a writer is not about reviews or advances or how many copies are printed or sold. It is much simpler than that, and much more passionate. If you do it right, and if they publish it, you may actually leave something behind that can last forever.

ALICE HOFFMAN



Opening a book and reading the words of someone who is speaking to you across years and continents is... well, I can think of no better word than magic.  It's telepathy.  It's communicating with a person you may never see, or meet, or touch.  A person who may not have taken even a breath during your lifetime.  Writers have a chance to achieve immortality; they can go on speaking forever, waiting patiently behind bookcovers for the next curious mind to engage.

It's a tiny kind of miracle, to leave something of yourself behind like that.  The idea is huge, and heavy, and leaves me feeling small and eager.

Magic, I tell ya.



One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.12.2012

A to Z: Keeping Secrets

It took me a long time to begin thinking of myself as a writer.

It has taken me much longer to start to tell other people.

In fact, there are plenty of people in my life who don't know I write at all.  There are a lot of reasons I keep it to myself: they're acquaintances and it just hasn't come up.  They're work-friends and we don't talk that much about our personal lives.  They're people I don't speak to all that often, and when we play periodic "catch up," mentioning that I spend all my free time writing gets lost under all the "Oh, and I got married!" updates.

Then there are the people I don't tell because I dread the inevitable next question: "What do you write?"

I don't mind answering, "A novel."  Or even, "A young adult novel."  It's the people who press beyond that, who want to know the details, that trip me up.  It's not that I can't talk about what I'm writing, it's just that... I kind of don't want to.  I feel conflicted about that - shouldn't I want to be shouting it from the rooftops?  Gauging people's interest?  Getting my elevator speech ready?  But until the words on the page at least come close to approximating the ideas in my head, my instinct is to play things pretty close to the vest.

Here's the thing: the more I talk about what I'm writing, the less I want to write it.  It feels like a little bit of the magic seeps away each time.  And - particularly when it's in first draft form - my stories feel so fragile.  I don't want to breathe too hard around them for fear of jostling the perfect picture I have in my brain.  So I keep quiet and tread lightly.

How about you?  Secret keeper?  Rooftop shouter?  Something in between?


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.11.2012

A to Z: Joy

One of my best friends and I do this thing where every day we tell or text or email to one another a list of three things that are making us happy that day.  I know that sounds super cheesy (and it is, I guess - very Oprah's gratitude journal) but I have to say, it has really changed my day-to-day mood.  I wasn't expecting much when we started, to be honest.  It's just three things.  Takes maybe a minute or two of my day.  But that's why I'm evangelizing about it now: it's so easy.  And it's kind of awesome.

What it means is that every day, the following are guaranteed:

  • I will take at least a few moments to think about the ways in which I am lucky and blessed
  • I will take at least a few moments to celebrate with my friend the ways she is lucky and blessed
  • I will have at least one conversation that is centered around joy, and not around complaints/to do lists/work/stress/etc.

Before I did this, those things were not guaranteed.   Okay, it was highly likely I'd have conversations that weren't about complaints or work or stress.  But it definitely wasn't likely that I would set aside time to think about the good things in my life, and to celebrate the good things in someone else's.  Unless I'm mindful about it, I find that I don't do those things often enough.  So this is my way of being mindful.

Cheesy or not.  :)


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.10.2012

A to Z: "I" (or, Writing in the First Person)

I'm really drawn to first person narratives, in that way that a lot of YA writers tend to be.  There's something about the immediacy of being dropped into someone's brain that coincides really well with the immediacy of the teenage experience.  Everything is so here and now and me and my life when you're a teenager that sometimes third person can feel too distant.  You need to be there, with the character, thinking her thoughts right alongside her.  You need that rush of emotion that comes with standing on the edge of the world at fourteen or fifteen or sixteen and believing that you are as vast as an ocean and that everything is possible and that there is nothing you will not do in your life.  First person puts you right there, eyes wide and lungs filled, blood pumping hard.

That isn't to say that there's anything wrong with third person.  (Although - slight digression - have you ever thought about how strange third person is as a storytelling device?  It's so common that we take it for granted, but really, think about it: someone is telling you a story about other people, and dipping into their heads at will to tell you what they're thinking, and - in the case of omniscient narration - jumping from place to place to report back about what's going on in other places and in other people's heads.  I mean - WHO IS THIS NARRATOR??  Is he magic?  Is he telepathic?  How does he know so much about what all these different people are thinking?  It's quite rare that books answer that question - typically third person narrators aren't identified.  I'm just saying.  It's strange.)

Ahem.  But as I was saying: there's nothing wrong with third person.  I've actually been writing so much in first that I'm starting to crave writing third just to do something different.  But I understand the YA love for first.  "I" is the embodiment of the teenage experience.

How about you - do you find yourself writing in one POV more frequently than another?  Anyone want to make an impassioned case for third?


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.09.2012

A to Z: Heroes

When I was a junior in high school, my U.S. History teacher made us go around the room on the first day of class and tell everyone who our hero was.  I still remember wracking my brain trying to come up with someone who was cool enough to be socially-acceptable, but hip enough to make me stand out from the crowd.

In the end, I lamed out and announced that I didn't have a hero because I was too young; I hadn't decided who or what I wanted to be yet, so I didn't have anyone in mind to emulate.

Yeah, total cop out.

Today I would name:

My mother, for giving up a LOT to raise my siblings and I, for doing what I (humbly) consider to be a damn good job of it, and for deciding at age 50 that she was going to take up running as a hobby.  She texted me the other day that she had just finished running 13 miles.  I couldn't run 13 miles if I tried.  She's a badass.

My father, for going to work every single day for 30+ years without a single word of complaint.  Having officially worked for about 1/10 of that time now, it's the not-complaining that I find most impressive.  He just did it, because it had to be done.  And then he played baseball with us in the front yard after work.  He is also a badass.

Margaret Atwood, for writing books that make me so jealous I could tear my hair out, and so inspired that I usually have to stop reading, mark my page, jot down a paragraph or two, and then continue reading.

Badass.


It's good to have heroes.  Who are yours?


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.07.2012

A to Z: Going with your Gut

I'm planning on doing a whole post about my convoluted and ever-evolving writing process, but one thing that I've found that always trips me up is going with my gut.  On the one hand, I've found that really, your feelings shouldn't get a vote when it comes to sitting down to write.  Your gut can tell you all sorts of things: that you're too tired, too blocked, that maybe tomorrow you'll be inspired so yes, you should definitely wait until then to begin.  But I don't believe in the muse, I don't believe in waiting to be inspired.  I believe that inspiration shows up when you sit down and write, and not the other way around.  Real artists don't talk about art.  They talk about work.

On the other hand, when my gut recently told me to stop working on my WIP and start something new, I hesitated, hemmed and hawed, kept hacking away at what I was doing - and was smacked upside the head with the concept of joy.  There's no point in writing if it's joyless.  I don't mean that every day will be puppy dogs and sunshine, of course (see above re: work) but, as my wife says, there's a difference between pain and suffering.  It might be painful, it might be hard and time-consuming and arduous work to sit down and write, but pain can be productive.  Sometimes a good writing session hurts your brain the way a good workout hurts your muscles.  There's still joy in that.

But if you're suffering, that's a different story.  Suffering is pain without purpose - it's joyless.  It's spinning your wheels.  And when you're a writer, it's totally self-inflicted.  Because you can choose to put the pen down.  You can walk away from the crazy-making thing.

The problem is, it's not always easy to tell whether you've reached the point where you should stop something, or whether you're just procrastinating/uninspired/blocked.  We're encouraged to keep pushing through... but sometimes you shouldn't.  Sometimes you should put it down and walk away.  The trick is knowing when.

If you're stuck, try and figure out why.  Is it a plot problem, a procrastination problem, a perseverance problem?  Those can usually be solved by pushing through.  But are you no longer feeling joy when you come away from working on your project?  If you aren't, maybe it's time to walk away.

I don't know.  I don't have the answers.  You have to go with your gut.


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.06.2012

A to Z: Fear

I'm a pretty anxious person in general.  Like a lot of things I guess, anxiety is about control, and the fear of not having it.  In my case, I have a pretty constant apprehension about things that are out of my control.  The stuff that hasn't happened yet.  The things that I don't get to decide.

I worry about the Yellowstone Caldera.  I worry about cancer.  I worry about global warming and terrorist attacks and whether gay marriage will ever finally be legalized and kids like Treyvon Martin and house fires and glass ceilings and whether the world will be completely screwed up for my children.  If I thought too hard about things, I'd never leave the house.  And sometimes I don't.

Anxiety is living in the future.  There is a Buddhist saying: "The past is past and the future does not exist."  I realize that I expend an enormous amount of energy ruminating on and coming up with a contingency plan for a future that does not exist.  The truth is, even if I covered every possible outcome, it wouldn't help.  If someone I love dies, no amount of sadness before-the-fact will make it any less devastating.  You can't pre-shed your tears.

So today I'm working on releasing that anxiety.  Letting go of that fear.  Putting myself firmly in the present, where I belong.

Note to self: stick around.  Things are pretty damn good here.


 One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.05.2012

A to Z: Expectations versus Reality

Feeling a little silly today, heh.  I could try and relate this to writing somehow, but really, this one is mostly just about my life.  :)


Going For a Jog
Expectation:

Reality:

Walking Into a Room

Expectation:
image

Reality:

Going Bowling

Expectation:

Reality:


Strutting Around Like a Badass
Expectation:

Reality:

Going Out Dancing

            Expectation:



Reality:


Leaving Your House on the First Day of Spring

Expectation:

Reality:

Trying to Figure Out if You Have Superpowers

Expectation:

Reality:


One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.04.2012

A to Z: Daring


Be daring, 
take on anything.  
Don’t labor over little cameo works in which every word is to be perfect. Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, 
but only content will stay in his mind.
- Joyce Carol Oates

S.E. Sinkhorn over at Maybe Genius had a great post recently about Experimentation in Juvenile Literature.  The gist was that adults have certain set notions about what literature looks like, and if the thing they're reading doesn't fit into that mold, it's generally scoffed at as pretentious or strange.  But kids don't have these preconceived notions yet.  They're open to varied fonts, made up words, pictures, verse.  Writing YA gives you a bit more room to be a weirdo.  Which is great.

So I've been thinking about that in the context of Joyce Carol Oates' advice to be daring, to focus less on technique and more on content in one's writing.  I've been pondering ways I can stretch myself and my content.  Am I really reaching, taking full advantage of all that YA (and my brain) have to offer?  Or am I content to simply rehash the same old story with a few tweaks here and there?

So today I'm going to try and be more daring, to unleash my full creative energy into my work.  To push myself past the obvious and into the content that would really stick in someone's mind. 

Any good examples of this in things you've read?

One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.03.2012

A to Z: Callings

I am married to a midwife.  If that isn't a calling, I don't know what is.  She works harder than almost anyone I know - her hours are long and unpredictable, and she is always on call.  She is quite literally responsible for people's lives, and so the work is stressful, hard on her body, hard on her mind.  Sometimes she goes days without sleep.  I don't know how she does it; I never could.

But it is so clearly her calling.  She catches babies.  She ushers other human beings into the world.  With her hands.  I am in awe of her every time I think about it.

Frederick Buechner describes a calling as "the place where your deepest gladness meets the world's deepest need."

I tell stories.  It is my deepest gladness.  And I believe the world needs stories.  Stories teach us how to live; they insert us into complex moral situations and help us think our way out.  They act as an escape valve.  They allow us to imagine, and reason, and reflect, and change.  They have existed for all recorded time, and they persist.  They fill something in us that can't be filled in any other way.  We need them.


And so storytelling is my calling.  It is not quite so impressive as helping new life into the world, admittedly, but I think it reaches toward the same primal instinct: to live.  To carry forth.


I feel called.  Do you?



One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.02.2012

A to Z: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

So.  Buffy.

Alright, first let me get some housekeeping thoughts out of the way, which are: Yeah, it's a show about vampires and monsters and demons, many of whom are wearing some of the most ridiculously campy costumes I've ever seen.  I know.  I thought it would be stupid too.  That's why I didn't watch it while it was actually on TV, depriving me of the opportunity to interact in Real Time with one of the largest fandoms on the net.  (Did you know that the TV Tropes Wiki actually started as a Buffy site?)  (WARNING: don't click that link if you value your time.)  And yes, I am aware that there are certainly some problematic notions of femininity, relationships, and sexuality contained in the show's writing.  Joss Whedon is a Nice Guy(TM), and he tends to tell his stories - even the ones with a strong female lead - in a way that encourages/forgives Nice Guy Syndrome.

I don't overlook or apologize for that in my watching of the show.  But there are so many things - SO many things - that work, that I still absolutely maintain that it's a show worth watching.

I mostly love this show because Buffy is just such a kick-ass female character.  Yes, she's imperfect and impulsive and sometimes gets in way over her head.  She's also playful and hopeful and she argues with her friends and keeps secrets from her mom and falls for the wrong guy, over and over.  The thing about Buffy is, she can take care of herself, physically; that's not really an issue.  What the show really deals with is how she learns to take care of herself emotionally - how she comes to grow up.  And, in starts and stops and over the course of seven seasons, that's exactly what she does.

It's a classic coming of age story, with some supernatural stuff thrown in along the way.  (And would it be too hipster of me to say that Buffy did paranormal before paranormal was cool?)

Anyway.  When things are hard, and it would be easier to walk away - Buffy sucks it up and does what she has to do.  She gets shit done.  And I am a total sucker for girls who get shit done.

Also: there is a musical episode.  And despite the ridiculous costumes on some of them, there are also several genuinely frightening villains.  (The Gentlemen, anyone?)

::shudders::

Also, out lesbians on TV.  Who kiss.  And are in love.  On TV.  IN THE 90s.

And finally, if none of this has convinced you, I give you Buffy vs. Edward.


If that doesn't make you want to watch the show, I don't know what will.



One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

4.01.2012

A to Z: Always

One month.  26 posts.  A to Z.  (Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the Challenge here.)

I was brushing my teeth the other night, thinking about my WIP, and for no reason in particular the thought suddenly hit me: there is never going to be a time when I won't have writing to think about.  As soon as I decided to become a writer (and not just the wishing/talking/dreaming kind, you know - the kind that actually writes) something shifted in me.

They say that being a writer means having homework for the rest of your life, but I suppose the weight of that hadn't really sunk in until that toothbrushing moment.  There are always going to be characters floating around in my head.  There are always going to be storylines to untangle, plot holes to fill, worlds to build.  Even if I never publish a word.

I'm in it.  I'm in it for Always.

Sometimes, that thought is daunting.  But honestly?  Most of the time I just think: I am so, so lucky.