This summer (like every summer), I vowed not to overschedule. The best thing about summertime is the days that stretch out lazy and sweaty . . . when you have nowhere to be but the pool or the porch. But, alas. I looked at my calendar, and I have a ton of stuff scheduled for my kids--camps, tumbling, art lessons.
But after four short days of official summertime, I'm glad to have some things on our plate.
Here's my problem. I have three girls.
Three is a toxic number. Someone is always left out or being picked on or staring at the other two until they cry. My oldest daughter has spent more time being OUT of the pool than in (I punish her by making her sit out on the side of the pool). And, there is a whole lotta pinching and whining.
Don't get me wrong. We're not in need of an intervention by the Super-Nanny. They're great, smart talented girls who are wonderful to be around . . . except when they're forced to be together 24/7.
My husband is taking my middle daughter to camp in North Carolina this week for a few days. When her camp ends her older sister will go--for three whole weeks. At first, I was thinking it would be better for them to be there together, but now, I'm looking forward to having just two at a time for a while. Plus, all these little tumbling and art camps for the younger sisters are going to give me some much needed time to write. It'll be in fits and starts, but it'll be better than nothing!
I'm not even going to comment on Katie's last post (she'll be without any kiddos for two whole weeks--whoa!) because I'm completely jealous and thinking about making a little Katie voodoo doll.
Just kidding, Katie. I'm actually happy for you for getting to have all that wonderful time. I can't wait to read your latest!!
I hope everyone has a fabulous Memorial Day weekend!
My chickens go to camp in one week and will be gone for TWO WHOLE WEEKS!!!!!!!!! In addition, my handsome rooster will be gone for at least half of that. This leaves me the most blissful writing time in my whole year, and I look forward to it like the funnel cake at the summer county fair.
As I've been preparing myself for the immersion, I sometimes have a small panic that I won't produce the volume of brilliance I anticipate. This thinking sometimes leads me to prepare a few strategies before the time arrives. Things like, "should I get a massage at the start to relax my shoulders?" or "Should I move into my husbands office and write at his desk instead of slumped on the sofa?"
Today, I wished I had a writing partner. I am sometimes jealous of those peeps like Lila, who write with one, ya know?
I think I would write faster if I had one. And it would be fun to receive a shiny new chapter in my inbox, instead of a stale old one I have worked on for months. I might even get competitive with my partner and try to "one up" her hilarity and what not.
SF and I wrote a kick-ass screenplay together and I remember loving when I got to read her sections because they would inevitably inspire me more towards my own. I know what this feels like. I know how to do this.
I don't have a partner. And who am I kidding? - I'm too protective and selfish to trust my epic masterpiece to the mind of another writer.
But, today I had a revelation. I thought, "Writers are nuts, by nature, right? Why don't I just view my daily writing differently? Why don't I read a chapter as if I didn't write it, and then try to one up myself" Maybe it's all in the mind? Kinda like when I back up and try to picture my chapters on screen. I have found imagining my book as a movie will sometimes help me get really creative, so maybe imagining a few chapters with a new mindset might help me too?
Is that crazy? Will it work? Can I sit down and pretend it's my job to simply create the next chapter, instead of the next thirty chapters? Will this singular focus improve my writing?
Did this post even make sense?
Fasten your seat belts, people. I'm about to brainwash myself.
I read about Crystal Renn's book Hungry several months ago. Crystal Renn is an incredibly gorgeous plus-sized model who talks in her book about her struggles with an eating disorder that she developed as a way to succeed in the fashion industry. It's not the kind of book I would typically read, but I took notice because Crystal grew up in Clinton, Mississippi.
I hadn't thought about her again until last week when I was flipping through some fashion blogs (one of my obsessions), and I saw this shot from the Chanel Resort Collection 2011.
It's Crystal Renn. And, this is not a "plus-size" show. She is on the catwalk with willowy models. How did she break through and become mainstream in the fashion industry?
I did a little googling and found this video of her promoting her book, and I picked up a copy of Hungry from our library. Watch:
I've just started the book and have read a few interviews, but here's her secret: She finally became true to herself. She let herself be the physical person she was supposed to be--without the dangerous starvation--and suddenly she landed spots in Vogue, Glamour, and all the biggest couture shows. When she was starving herself, she didn't get those kinds of jobs. Her body was never meant to look that way and it showed. She did some editorial work and walked the catwalk a few times, but it wasn't until she let herself be healthy and authentic that she found true success (both financial and emotional).
Hi. My name is Sarah Frances Hardy. And, I am a lawyer.
When I was practicing law, I was miserable. My job wasn't particularly stressful--no criminal trials or intense litigation--but I was in a state of complete dissatisfaction. I would work at the law firm everyday until around 6:00 and then I would go to my studio and try to paint until around 11:00. I wasn't doing a good job at either place, and my body reacted. My esophagus closed up, and I had to go to the hospital and have it stretched out. It was from stress.
Any of you who know me, know that I am pretty even-keeled. I'm not a walking bundle of neuroses, so I was shocked that my body reacted this way. My supportive husband told me that something had to give, and he let me choose.
No brainer. I needed to be creative. That was my authentic self.
I haven't popped a pepcid since.
As stressful as this whole trying-to-get-published ordeal is, I'm okay with it. I feel like I'm doing what I should be doing and that I'm being true to myself. If success comes with that, well, then that's just the icing . . . like Crystal, I feel like I'm letting myself have the cake.
Have you ever been asked to read a manuscript for a friend? And, while reading it, you realized it was bad. As in, really BAD??
Several years ago, I was asked to read a manuscript for a friend (and NO--this story is not about any of our blog readers, recent writing friends, etc.--in other words, not YOU). She handed me her baby and I read it. I wrote pages of notes and spent hours of my life reading her novel. And, it was bad.
When I met with her to discuss her work, she was flushed and nervous.
"Did you like it?" she asked.
"Yes, but I think it needs some work."
"Oh. You didn't like it," she said looking down at her hands.
"No, no, no. It is a great idea. I just think it could use some polishing."
"Like what? I mean, I did spell check and read over it, like, three times."
I took a deep breath. "Okay. For example, you have two characters named Mary. It was confusing. In chapter two, you have Mary sitting at her desk in Jackson, Mississippi, and then two hours later "Mary" is at a cafe in Paris. I had to flip back and reread a couple of times until I finally figured out that they were two different people."
"Yeah, but you did figure it out, right?"
"Well, yes. But why not just change her name?" I asked.
"That first Mary is a minor character. She doesn't even show up again. It really doesn't matter what her name is," she said.
"Right, so then change it to Susan or something. Just to avoid confusion."
"But, who cares. I like the name Mary. . . ."
This went on for a while. Finally, I realized that if she wasn't going to listen to me about something as simple as changing a confusing name, she certainly wasn't going to listen to my concerns about plot holes, poor characterization, inconsistent tense and voice . . . So, I quietly folded up my notes and put them in my purse and slid her manuscript across the table.
"It's wonderful," I said.
"Really? You think? There's nothing else? So, I'll just start submitting to agents. Whew!"
Katie stopped by my house the other day and dropped a movie off on my counter. "Watch this. You'll like it," she said. The movie was called Blue Tooth Virgin, and it's about two writers. One is a scriptwriter who had a successful show several years earlier, but had been struggling ever since to write another hit. The second writer is a successful magazine editor (complete with a cool apartment and decent car).
The screenwriter meets his editor friend for coffee and asks him to read his script--a script he can only describe as starring edgy, morphing characters. The magazine editor begins to read the script . . . and it is HORRIBLE.
The rest of the movie delves into that complex relationship that we as writers and critiquers have with each other--and our egos. The movie also made me question my own motivations when giving critiques. Was I especially harsh when critiquing my friend's novel because I wanted to write and was having trouble. Did I think I could do better than she had? Was my own ego entering into the critique process??
I absolutely loved this movie and was sad to see that it only rated two stars on Netflix, but then I realized that only writers would truly get this slow-paced, introspective movie that is about, well, writing and critiquing. Grab it if you have a chance. I saw glimpses of myself in BOTH of these characters. Yikes!
I'd been solidly working on my new novel for several months when all of a sudden I had a panic. It happened about 50 pages in, and I found myself worrying I wouldn't be able to finish it.
Since I knew the set-up, it was really fun and easy to write. But as soon as I got about 10,000 words in, I started to fear I wouldn't be able to think of anything else good. Does this ever happen to you?
A friend of mine said yesterday, "There's a difference between writing everyday, and writing a cohesive book."
Yep, that pretty much summed it up. Would I ever be able to write another book?
About the same time another friend, who had been struggling with her second book for a very long time, called. "I have solved my second-book-block!" She was ecstatic.
She went on to explain that with her first, she was able to be creative and try new things. She would allow her characters to venture WAY off the outline and see what they might do. Conversely, with her second, she found that if she didn't know exactly where the book was supposed to go, she'd freeze. She was scared of taking chances and mixing things up. Once she allowed her imagination to run wild again, a new book started to form - and she was having fun.
Her comments resonated because when I wrote KISS, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I wrote it all out of order and went back and changed the storyline four times - the last time changing the whole genre! But for some reason with this new one, I felt like I was a bonafide writer now so I needed to know exactly how to crank out another novel- and quick! How much time can one realistically spend allowing their characters to play out of the box? If I let them run off the outline, would I be chasing them for years?
Thank God for writer friends who set me straight. They taught me that I needed to trust my characters. Let them fly. I had simply lost my mojo for a minute, but I could get it back.
And they were right. This second book is gonna be epic :)
Over the last few months I have talked to many different friends who are all in some stage of waiting.
There's the girl who received and offer, but has yet to get the contract. There's the guy who was told an offer was coming, but has yet to receive it. There's the woman who was asked to do a revision, but has yet to get the notes. There's the man who is waiting to hear back from a prospective agent, and another who has yet to hear back from his own agent. There are several who are waiting for inspiration. There's my friend who's agent is on vacation, thus a wait for her return. And there's my friend, who IS an agent, who is waiting to hear from an editor. Not to mention several more who have confirmed contracts but have yet to chat with their new editor. Or, are waiting for their cover/notes/book/ ARC... you name it.
Each of my friends are dealing with some degree of anxiety over all of this. And sadly, it struck me that this waiting thing never really ends. So why do we let it freak us out so much?
I was talking to SF yesterday about this and I came to the conclusion that maybe we were "blessed" to be a witness to all this waiting because it will inevitably prepare us for our own waits. Patience is a virtue, no? Perhaps we need to stop hating all this waiting and learn to appreciate it. To love it, even.
To see it as a form of mental training - the kind that prepares us for bigger, grander things.
I can see how some of my hardships in other areas were blessings that prepared me for the future, but I have never been able to do this with "waiting." But isn't it the same?
Don't get me wrong. I am not a proponent of non-action. My friends know that I am rather aggressive when it come to being pro-active about my career. But, there is a time to act, and there is a time to "wait."
Last week SF and I were lucky enough to go to a performance of TAP KIDS.
Talk about awesome with a capital A.
Tap kids is the most popular touring group of young tap dancers in the country and it's no surprise. The show told the story of one day at school complete with love, lockers, lunch, and detention all rolled up into an exciting display of dance.
My studio/office is right off the back of my garage where most people have storage rooms. It's glorious to have my own space that is attached to my house but has a separate entrance from the outside (ie, you can't access my studio from inside my house). It's a door that I often forget to lock.
My family and I were gone all day Saturday watching the Kentucky Derby with friends. I had worked in my studio a little that morning, but I didn't return to it until later on Sunday afternoon.
I have a good bit of kitschy-chotsky in my studio--a flying frog, Tim Gunn bobblehead, ceramic lady with false eyelashes that doubles as a pencil holder . . One of my favorite things is a battered Underwood typewriter that I salvaged from my grandparents' attic (aren't all writers supposed to have one on a bookshelf??). It stays here:
Sunday afternoon when I returned to work, it was here:
And someone had been typing . . .
The ribbon is a good sixty years old (maybe older). There's some random letters and places where the carriage got stuck and letters were typed over each other. But, front and center.
Cue the Twilight Zone music.
I replaced the typewriter on the shelf, scanned in the paper to my computer and ran inside to tell my husband that we had a specter. He looked at me and said, "Quit touching that. Don't you want to call the police?"
I must admit that calling the police had never crossed my mind. Besides, what would we say? Someone broke into my studio and typed???
It's been three days, and I'm definitely sleeping with my ear to the wall. There have been no more messages. No more visits from our "neighbor". I need to think of a witty response to type back to him/her . . . but I'm definitely locking my door from now on. Just to be safe.
When Elana Johnson asked me to participate in a "recommended reading" thingy last week, I said, "Can I pick LIPS TOUCH?!"
So here we are. I get to shout out again about the incredible LIPS TOUCH and it's adorable author Laini Taylor. But rather than trusting you to click my link back to my previous review, I thought I'd just paste it here. I'm easy like that :)
And after you read this, check out Kathy McCullough's review of THE EVOLUTION OF CALPERNIA TATE!! It's on my TBR list fo sho!
While we're talking about the big TBR list, do you want 60 recommendations?? That's right, you heard me. SIXTY MORE AWESOME BOOKS! Well, Elana has that too! She has compiled the complete list of everyone's favorite books with links to their review. Get ready to spend some time surfing :)
I give you: LIPS TOUCH - THE TIMELINE
Let me tell you how much I heart Laini Taylor's new book Lips Touch. Beyond being a lush collection of three tales in which the action all hinges on a kiss (and we all know how much I love kissing), this is how Laini's book rocked my clock:
Within seconds, I called my mother and said, "RUN out and get this book!" The prose is freakishly gorgeous in a way that only Laini's brain could write. Truly stunning!
Within minutes, I sat my 12 year old down and said, "Let me read you something."
After about three pages I said, "Good, huh?" To which she replied, "Yeah. Keep reading." I tried not to freak out that she was loving an actual book, but she was.
Within hours, I called SF and told her to go buy the book "because you will want to own this one." And then I did something I have never done before. I told her that if she didn't LOVE it, then I'd buy it back from her. Did you hear that?! I offered a money back guarantee!
Within a day, I was skipping Glee to read it - Not to mention emailing Laini an embarrassing amount of times.
Within a week, I was updating Twitter and Facebook telling everyone from friends to editors to race out and read it. AND, I ventured over to Laini's husband, Jim's blog to see if he had anything else interesting to say - which he did! One of those items was a description of the process of painting the beautiful illustrations found in the book. Did you hear that?! Jim did all the illustrations! In Credible. What a team.
Within months, I expect to purchase several for Christmas presents. *Jingle bells*
Within a year, I'm not sure yet - but I am thinking big here.*** UPDATE*** It was nominated for the National book award! Can I pick 'em or what?!
Look - Just take it from me. This is a must "own" book! Not since Harry Potter have I savored a book like this. Laini makes me want to be a better writer.