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Monday, April 29, 2013

Wow! Wow! What?

I love to learn about the authors of books I've read. I love to hear about their educational backgrounds, employment history, their age, the age of their children, and whether those children had colic (you know perfectly normal cyber-stalking stuff but nothing crazy like looking up addresses and driving by houses).

I slightly begrudge authors with MFAs from Harvard and debut novels before the age of 25. I love to hear about struggles with drafts. Conversely, I don’t like to hear about a novel taking 10 years to write. I do love to hear of rejections. Again, though, I like to hear about the author who made it despite the odds. I love when an author has a background I can identify with.

Sara Gruen, author of my beloved Water for Elephants, was a laid-off technical writer home with three children when she wrote her first novel.  Jodi Picoult also has three children although her oldest was a baby when she wrote her first novel so I do slightly begrudge that just as I slightly begrudge J.K. Rowling sitting in coffee shops with sleeping babies writing Harry Potter (my own babies barely slept long enough for me to throw in a load of laundry and take a shower let alone write a novel).

I just finished rereading Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins didn't write Hunger Games with beautiful flowery MFA-prose but with edge-of-your seat brilliance. She expertly described scenes, carefully crafted characters for us to love and hate, gave us perfectly placed and paced dialogue and wrapped it all up in an unbelievably believable plot.  

Before writing Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins was writing children’s television for Nickelodeon. She was a staff writer for Clarissa Explains it All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. She also penned multiple stories for Little Bear and Oswald. She was the Head Writer for Clifford’s Puppy Days, and a freelancer on Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!

Wow! Wow! WHAT? With the exception of Little Bear and maybe Clifford, I can’t stand those shows! But I loooovvveee that – I love that Suzanne Collins wrote something as brilliant as Hunger Games in the same lifetime as she wrote about some weird bouncing creature and his nerdy friend Widget. It humanizes her.

It makes me feel like my dreams are attainable. I might write a crappy blog today but maybe tomorrow I’ll write something that someone thinks is brilliant…

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Need To Put My Butt In A Chair

There is a lot of writing advice out there. Hordes. It’s an entire genre all to itself. It is daunting. But the one pervasive message is also the most intuitive: just write. Doh!

But how do I start? Sit down. Get a pen and a notepad or open up a Word document and begin to type. Should I write an outline? Just write what comes to your mind. But, what about grammar? Can’t edit what you don’t write. What if I don’t like what I wrote? Rewrite it. But how do I get it published? Can’t publish what you don’t write.

Everything else you can work out but nothing else matters if you don’t sit your butt down and write. Every. Single. Day. Whether you are inspired or not.

I know all this. I understand this. But I can’t always follow through.

One way I've tried to work this out is by going to the bookstore coffee shop the few hours a week all of my children are in school. Some days my little fingers type away effortlessly and I don’t want to stop. Some days I don’t know where to begin and I find myself staring at the screen, struggling to write a paragraph, watching the clock. But, in the end something is written which wouldn't have been if I didn't sit down and write.

Yesterday was one of those uninspired days. My head was foggy; my eyes were heavy. I was tired from a late night of reading. There was no inspiration coming out of my brain. I sputtered out my coffee order like a rookie – forgetting the difference between Tall and Grande, mispronouncing “macchiato” and quickly interjecting “Skinny. I want that skinny. You know, with Skim Milk.”

I sat down. My mind was blank. I opened up the latest chapter of my novel. I put my fingers on the keyboard. I typed. Words materialized out of the fog and appeared on my screen. New words. Words that never would have appeared there if I hadn't forced myself to sit down and write.  Yay, me. All I needed was a chair with my butt in it and just write. I feel a mantra coming on. After all, you are what you do not what you mean, right? If I want to be a writer, I must write.

And, if I must sit my butt in a chair and write this would be my preferred chair:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Am No Runner

I am no runner. Occasionally, I dabble. Or, rather: trudge, stagger, gasp, wheeze, redden, and drip. I prefer to befriend (or marry) runners. I am not going to analyze how long I've been doing this or why. Mostly, I suppose, I admire runners and the principles behind being a runner – I just lack the motivation to actually be a serious runner.

I am no runner but I admire runners. I admire their commitment to stay physically fit – waking up early or running into the night to train, pushing their bodies to the level of fitness they were built for. I admire their ability to set a goal and to achieve that goal – running 5 Ks, 10 Ks, ½ marathons, marathons, pushing themselves to do better each time – to work harder, faster, stronger. These are traits I wish to emulate, at least vicariously while drinking coffee and eating a doughnut.

I am no runner but I can imagine what it is like to train for any marathon, especially one as prestigious as The Boston Marathon. I can imagine what it is like to run the fastest, farthest, and hardest you've ever run before – pushing past fatigue and discomfort – to approach the finish line after hours of physical exertion only to find out that you've inexplicably entered a war zone. In an instant, what should have been the proudest moment of your life became the most horrifying.

I am no runner but today I feel like running. Running to represent what the sport means to Americans – we are not gluttonous, over-consuming, fat, and lazy – we are people that work hard and achieve our goals. We run because we can – even if it is hard, even if it means we have to overcome physical and mental obstacles.
 I am no runner but my heart goes out to them today – to the people who worked for weeks, months, years to run in The Boston Marathon, to the spectators cheering their friends and family on, to the people of Boston. I pray for them. I pray for us all.

Monday, April 8, 2013

It's Almost Time to Register!

I am a few days late on writing my weekly blog post. Again. Story of my life. So I'm just writing this one on the fly. I'm not digging into my never-ending list of possible blog ideas. I'm not composing this in Word and analyzing it obsessively before I publish it. I am just sitting here writing what comes to mind. Sorry.

So, what comes to mind?

Right now I am thinking about my writing life and my perpetual see-saw between "I Rock" and "I Suck." Right now I am feeling like "I Suck" because I sat down to write on this beautiful day and got nowhere. I read some blogs. Googled a couple things. Sent a few emails. Went on Facebook. The usual wasting-time dance.

I got distracted by an email in my inbox reminding me to register for the Philadelphia Writers' Conference. I can't believe it's time to register already. I am psyched to attend this year's conference but also terrified. I know that I have come far in my writing life in the past year but I have so much farther to go. I still have nothing to pitch to agents and editors. I still have nothing to share to workshop leaders. I still have no idea what to say when networking. I still do not have business cards.

It's almost time to register yet I still have not clicked that Register Now button. I will. I know I will but I am procrastinating. For a change.

I know by the end of the conference weekend all this fear I have will be washed away and replaced by exhilaration  That's how it was last year.

Wanna read about my experience last year? I wrote a blog about it:

Read Us. Know Us.: The Philadelphia Writers' Conference.