Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stories That Inspire Travel...

I'm itching to escape cold short February days and find some adventure! And I blame books. Books that bring settings or history alive in a way that makes me really, really want to see it for myself.

Wouldn't a trip to Paris be wonderful? I found myself wanting to explore the catacombs and drink my own bowl of coffee after reading Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. Croissants. Lots of croissants. A blister-inducing day at The Louvre. I could see Degas work--the sculptures that inspired Marie, Dancer by Carolyn Meyer.

Or maybe I should visit China--I really, really want to visit China--to see the landscape that inspires mystical tales like Where The Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin and Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon. Oh, how I craved Chinese takeout after reading that one!

One vacation, much closer to home, that I'm determined to take this year: Yellowstone National Park. I want to see the geysers again through the eyes of Maggie from Janet Fox's novel Faithful. Or maybe I'd spot wolves like the characters in Wolves, Boys, And Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler.

Sigh. I'm not going anywhere soon. But I'll keep reading about far-off adventures. Which books made you want to book a plane ticket?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Developing A New Idea

My WIP is off with its first readers, so I've allowed myself a few lazy days of lounging. But now it's time to think about developing my next idea.

My new idea came to me through random chance encounters...

Teen in bookstore cafe + a joke made during a dinner party = my cool new idea.

(I chose this idea because the challenge of pulling it off kind of scares me.)

But it's just an idea--an unformed blob. How do I give it shape? The idea sparked on June 13th last summer, so since then I've been collecting more information.

An essay in Men's Journal gave me a hint of voice, attitude... so I asked my hairdresser if I could keep the magazine. I've found a few more clippings--photos of the kinds of characters I plan to create, stuff that might interest my characters...

I've been gathering a stack of research books too. Some deal with my main topic, but others only relate to the themes a little bit. I plan to read a wide variety of stuff that will allow my mind to make unusual connections that will--hopefully--deepen my original spark of an idea. And add lots and lots of layers.

I won't be ready to write for several weeks, but I'll start playing with my characters' voices during my writing exercises. Let them talk without the pressure of creating WIP word count.

I'm also asking myself lots of "What If" questions about plot--jotting them down in the notebook I've set aside just for this story. Once I finish the bulk of my research I'll sit down with a thick yellow pad and list possible scenes, plot points, figure out each character's motivation, etc. For me, plot works like a puzzle.

Now I just have to find all the pieces...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Bachelor, Brad Womack, Needs To Read More YA Novels

Yesterday I was exercising to bad television, finishing up this week's episode of ABC's The Bachelor, hoping, hoping, hoping that Brad Womack would finally ditch mean girl Michelle.

She's fake, snarky, manipulative. But he just doesn't get it. The guy's clueless! Brad Womack & his bevy of beauties obviously need to read more YA lit:

Since the women on The Bachelor constantly struggle to maintain their rank, I recommend The Geek Girl Guide To Cheerleading by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance. High school hierarchy at its best!

For those nice bachelorettes who get caught up in all the drama, I recommend The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder. Be careful about who you hang out with!

To learn about truly manipulative behavior, Brad should read Her And Me And You by Lauren Strasnick. It's tricky trying to form a healthy relationship when someone's always out to sabotage you!

Finally, Michelle's got to realize she's a mean girl, right? She is thirty years old, not to mention someone's mother. I'd like her to read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Sucks to realize that you're a mean girl when it's too late to change!

Which books do you wish mean girls and clueless guys would read?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Work-In-Progress: The End

Yesterday after I announced celebrating the completion of my first draft, a friend confessed to me that she didn't experience joy in finishing her recent manuscript--because she felt as if there was so much more work to do.

Yes, I have much more work to do: characters to round, subplots to weave with thicker yarn, themes to emphasize...

But today I blissfully mismanaged my time. I nibbled the congratulatory chocolates I mailed to myself--while reading a book for pleasure; I took a long walk in the middle of the day; I flitted about online, window-shopping; I played long games of fetch with my kitten. I still haven't showered. And maybe I won't.

Yesterday I hosted a cupcake party for my daughters. Living with a writer isn't easy--I space off mid-conversation, talk about people who don't actually exist, sneak away from home on weekends, and ask weird questions about plot possibilities--again for a story that doesn't yet exist. The revision process is only more obsessive--so we all deserved a treat.

The truffles, however, were all mine. I stretched myself with this manuscript, trying out a new genre, working hard, fighting doubt and fear, finding courage. I learn so much with each story I write--no matter if it ever reaches a bookstore or not. And that's something to celebrate!

I urge you to mark your own milestones by doing something fun & slightly indulgent. Finding joy in the process of completing a big task--like a polished, ready-to-submit manuscript--is the best part of the journey.

Do to the fact that I have not yet showered, Minnie will be starring in today's vlog:

Just don't tell my mother that I've posted a cat video online (she'll never let me hear the end of it!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Suffering Is Good For One's Writing...

Unless you've already written about that particular brand of suffering. Recently my mother invited us over for a pancake breakfast (I should've known better):

The "pancakes" tasted far worse than they look. It's 2011 and my mother is currently avoiding carbs. Since she couldn't find the special coconut flour required by the so-called pancake recipe, she ground her own coconut flakes into a gritty approximation of a flour-ish substance.


Usually, I'd be thinking, sure this is bad, but at least I'll be able to write about it someday. Except I've already mocked my mother's crazy diet fads in My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters.

I suffered through that breakfast, knowing my only consolation would be an emailed photo to my brother stating simply: I miss tofu slabs with dill!

Oh, 1983...