Monday, May 30, 2011

Get Your Writing Butt In Gear

Did that title make any sense? Folks, what I wanted to point out to you today is that the lovely and charming Shallee McArthur is hosting a JuNoWriMo challenge for those of us who need a proverbial kick in the pants! Head over to this post to sign up--there are still two days left to plan out the conquest of your WIP. We'll be cheerleading and sharing the details of our valiant struggles on Twitter using the #JuNoWriMo hash tag.

For me, the goal is to FINALLY FINISH THESE FREAKING REVISIONS. Because if I don't get moving, I'll flop around on this part of the process forever. My plan is to revise three chapters a week, which is totally doable as long as I spurn my friends, order takeout every evening, and cut my sleep time down to four hours a night. Totally doable.

But seriously, sometimes a little jump start is what you need, especially when you've got a million other things going on that suck away your focus. Need to rewrite a chapter (or six, or seven)? Sit down and start, and maybe it will be amazing, and maybe it will be painful and ugly. Then come over to #JuNoWriMo, and we can all whine/cry/exalt/hyperventilate together.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wadsworth Longfellow I Am Not

Brownie points if you can name his most famous poem
without googling him (I could not)

So, I entered the poetry contest on Rachelle Gardener's blog last weekend, and while I didn't win, I had so much fun writing it that I thought I would re-post my poem here to share with you all (with a few small edits, 'cause, you know, we never stop editing). It's a little long, but I hope you enjoy!


After planning, plotting, drafting,
After writing three years long,
Just imagine my elation
when an agent signed me on.

Her name was Mary Ellen,
and she knew I’d be a star.
You’re a genius! she first told me,
When I met her in a bar.

I had penned a racy thriller,
based on ancient Roman lit,
Where the killer was a werewolf--
We were sure we had a hit.

Mary took it to the big leagues,
Harper, Random, every spot.
When the indies wouldn’t buy it,
Then she asked, what else you got?

So I took those tear-soaked pages
And I hurled them in the fire,
Then I went back to my laptop
And I started to perspire.

That book had been my oeuvre,
I had nothing else to say.
How I gnashed my teeth in anguish!
How I rued the wretched day!

Then genius struck: I had it.
I could base it on my life!
I could mine my wealth of stories--
The ideas, at once, were rife.

Mary Ellen met me downtown
And she bought me rounds of drinks.
Then she said, I love you madly,
But this story kind of stinks.

I’m a certain sort of wizard
I can sell ‘most any book.
But no publisher will buy this--
It’s all fluff, and zero hook.

I know this is disheartening
But that’s no excuse to cry.
Dystopians are selling,
Why not give that type a try?

And while we’re on the topic
(Now please don’t take this as stricture)
Let’s talk about your website,
In particular, your picture.

The shot is unbecoming,
But your problem’s worse than that,
For your fans might find it strange
To see you posed with twenty cats.

Then I went back to my workspace
Feeling like a bitter fool.
And I signed up for some classes
At a local writing school.

The idea for my next book
Took me ages to discover.
I was thrilled when it was finished,
and designed a flashy cover.

A desperate tale of bravery
By a Congo-dwelling doctor.
A complex plot, a hot romance,
And prose worthy of Faulkner.

Mary Ellen cried, I love it!
This is clearly your new best!
There are just a couple changes
That I humbly would suggest.

The story starts in chapter five,
So cut out one through four.
And while you’re at it, you should tweak
The dialogue some more.

The plot twist comes too early,
So delay the revelation,
And change the doctor’s background
To define his motivation.

The ending is fantastic!
But the middle just drags on,
And could you change the setting
To Karachi, or Saigon?

Now I’m working on draft seven
Of book number twenty-two,
And my dreams of overnight success
Have soared into the blue.

I’m still working as a waitress,
But don’t dare call me a hack.
I know I’ll make it someday:
Mary Ellen’s got my back.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Road-Trippin: Inspiration

I'm playing along with YA Highway's Road Trip again this week, this time to answer the following question:

Who in your life has most inspired your writing?

My inspiration to write was born at the Bayliss Public Library in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where my mom would take me nearly every week to check out books, so of course I owe a lot to my mom. When I think about how I started writing though, I think of the following people:

  • Mrs. Malmberg in 1st grade for entering me in the Young Authors contest (blue ribbon, baby!)
  • Mrs. Lenhart in 2nd grade for choosing to send me to the weekend writing extracurricular at Washington School
  • Mrs. Cymbalist in 3rd grade for telling me I was a smart girl and a good writer
  • Ms. Burt in 4th grade for a one-week "choose your own adventure" writing project that I loved
  • Mr. Anderson in 5th grade for indulging my strange and fleeting need to write opera librettos
  • Mrs. Possamai in 6th grade for making us keep journals and encouraging me to keep writing
  • Mr. Michaud and Mrs. Michaud in 7th and 8th grade, because they were awesome and encouraging
  • Mrs. Faunt in 9th grade, for praising my writing enough to make my little head spin
  • Mrs. Alexander in 10th grade, for putting creative twists on all our assignments, and letting me write poetry to my heart's content
  • Mr. Bethke in 11th grade, we didn't do so much creative stuff with him but he still made me feel smart
  • and last, but not at all least, Mrs. Shavlik in 12th grade, for pushing me harder than anyone else and helping me improve my writing and analytical skills by tenfold, I wish I could have thanked you personally after I got my AP test scores.
Teachers, you are awesome. Your guidance makes a huge difference and a lasting impression, and when you tell a kid she is good at something, she will never forget it. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Randomness

I haven't got enough power of concentration today to write a proper post, or even count to five, so here is what I'm thinking about right now:

  • I am loving The Monstrumologist. It takes a bit of energy to read because I'm not used to the old-fashioned style and crazy-long sentences, but the writing is delightful. How can you not love descriptions like this: 
    • "The eyes were lost in folds of grayish flesh; the nose was scarlet and bulbous, rising from the sunken cheeks like a red potato resting upon a parched landscape; and the mouth was a dark, toothless tunnel in which his swollen tongue slithered restlessly over bare gums."
  • I met my critique partner this week--it had been a while--and she gave me some great, constructive feedback on two new chapters. I love how she can fill one page with question marks and basically say, what the hell is this? you need to cut this scene immediately. I'm starting to get my mojo back after last month's setback, and it's exciting.
  • My husband and I have made a pact with another couple that we are friends with to engage in a Finer Things Club, a la The Office (an excuse to get us out of our respective neighborhood bubbles). Last night was our first event: dinner at Bouchon in Beverly Hills. We ordered the tĂȘte de cochon, which was, disappointingly, not a real pig's head.
  • Speaking of pigs, we did once order the fried pig's ears at Church & State downtown. Not delicious. Not even close.
  • For those of you screaming, well what did you expect from fried pig's ears? I have no response. For those of you disgusted by the thought of me munching on a fried pig's ear, I apologize. Although I do admire vegetarians, I will never number among them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Road-Trippin: Goals and Rewards

I'm going to play along with YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday this week, answering the following question:

How do you reward yourself when you meet your writing goals?

This question is an easy one for me, because I am really into using the reward system as a way to motivate myself. It's win-win, right? I do something that's good for me, I get a treat. For dragging my butt to the gym, it's clothes shopping. For writing, it's usually some form of entertainment--sometimes a movie, usually a book. I think reading something great is the perfect way to cap off an intense writing session.

Speaking of books, last week I received $150 worth of Amazon gift cards (it was my birfday, yo), and yesterday I dipped my toe in the pool and bought three new books for my Kindle: Unwind and Everlost by Neal Shusterman, and Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor. I was sold on two of these three books solely on the basis of one reviewer's recommendations on Goodreads, fyi.

RTW also suggested mentioning any big picture writing goal rewards, and I do have those as well. Those "if someday I got a phat advance even though I know it's all a daydream and this is not a moneymaking biz" rewards I have planned out for myself. One daydream reward is a shiny new laptop. The other is Lasik or some sort of similarly permanent corrective procedure (I heard intraocular lenses work well), because that is a perk you daydream about when both your eyes are -8.0.

Happy roadtripping!

Monday, May 16, 2011

I'm Still Here

I kind of failed on my blogging intentions last week--between apartment hunting and all the joyful things that come with May, like graduation parties and baby showers, life has been moving along at a pretty good clip over here.

As far as progress on my WIP is concerned, I've just about finished re-rewriting all the rewrites that I lost last month, and I went on a chapter-cutting rampage last week that made me feel lighter and better. I'd really like to be finished with a final-ish draft by the end of July, but I haven't drawn up a schedule yet to help me reach that goal and I don't know that one would help at this point.

No writing will get done tonight, however, because today is my two-year wedding anniversary, and I am planning to cook a small feast for my husband. He gave me some pasta-making equipment for my birthday last week (don't worry, I am the kind of girl who loves to get kitchen tools as gifts), and I think I'm going to try making a batch of fresh ravioli.

To me, our wedding anniversary feels a little arbitrary because we were together for almost a decade before we decided to get married, and there were a lot of special days we could choose to celebrate from those first ten years. Also because our matrimony that night in Istanbul was not legally binding, and I believe the ceremony was performed by a waiter. But it was a great evening of dining and dancing under the stars, and without getting too corny, I have to say that it was pretty special to be surrounded by our family and friends. So tonight, celebration--tomorrow, nose back to the grindstone.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Dancing a Jig

Hello, lovely people! I'm back stateside again, and by the look of my remaining vacation days, I won't be going anywhere else anytime soon. But that's okay--I'm ready for a stretch of settled, unexciting routine.

The trip was nice: a day in Istanbul, and then a few days in Antalya in the south. Our main purpose in going was to provide familial support for my father-in-law at an engineering conference he was directing, and to be there for his 65th birthday. So most of our week was spent lying around the pool, doing a little sightseeing, and stuffing our faces with delicious Turkish food. Oh, and I had my first visit to a Turkish bath, which was kind of hilarious. Burke Williams it is not.

Never in my childhood would I have imagined that I would end up spending so much time in Turkey. I used to dream that I would marry someone named Toby or Todd who would come from somewhere like Virginia and have two brothers that I would play practical jokes on. But life doesn't turn out like our daydreams, and it would probably be pretty boring if it did. When I first started running around with my future husband, I got a fair amount of warnings and "Not Without My Daughter" references from well-meaning people who didn't know any better. Turkey defies any Middle Eastern expectations you may have, with its secular government and a split population of both of both modern Western and conservative Eastern people. It still faces its share of challenges (as I realized when I discovered that access to Blogger is blocked there right now), but it's a remarkable country and a great place to travel.

I'm feeling refreshed and ready to face the world again, and my ambition is creeping back. We're already a week into May, and I've got a lot of stuff I still want to do this month. Fortunately, the 5 a.m. wake-up time enforced by my jetlag is making me productive. Also, today is my own personal new year's day, and there's no time like the new year to get a fresh start. I'm ready to rumble!

All the horrors that await you in southern Turkey