Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bold Enough to Fall on Your Face

I want to be a bold writer.  Bold enough to fall on my face.  I'm not there yet.  I worry too much about what other people think.  I play it too safe.  I follow the rules too often - what's marketable, what I hear at conferences and workshops, what's the recommended style or genre.

When I was younger, I knew none of that stuff, and I had a more direct connection to my soul as a writer.  My craft was a mess.  I needed to learn what I've learned.  But I think I had a kind of open-mindedness, a willingness to explore, that I miss.  Of course, I was also so timid as a person that my writing rarely saw the light of day.  I don't miss that one bit.

I'd like to be fearless enough to trust my most outlandish visions and believe that somebody, somewhere, will "get" them, embrace them as I do, and not just think they're weird and confusing.

I've been re-reading Melville's MOBY DICK as preparation for a novel idea I have, and I've decided that Melville writes the way Baz Luhrman directs.  In fairness, I should probably compare Baz to Melville, not the other way around.  After all, Melville was here first.  Regardless, what they have in common is boldness.  Both of them are bold enough to fall on their faces.  They both make these occasionally insane and out of control choices that are sometimes brilliant and sometimes ... ridiculous.  

Melville switches genres, and points of view, willy-nilly as it pleases him.  One moment we're reading straight narrative, and the next he's switched to a stage script.  We're in the head of Ishmael, and then we're omniscient, knowing Ahab's deepest thoughts.  But there's this take-no-prisoner robust quality to the prose that makes you feel alive.  When it flies, it's hearty, intense, Shakespearean.

Baz Luhrman's films have a similar quality.  Baz chooses these super-drenched color palettes.  His settings are at once realistic and hyper-realistic.  His characters veer wildly from caricature to three-dimensional human beings.  He commits fully to his choices.  He throws himself into it.  Sometimes it's bracing and fresh as a dive in a tropical lagoon.  And sometimes it's hopelessly off-base.  But at least he commits.  He doesn't hold back.

I want to write boldly enough to fall on my face.  I'm not there yet.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Time to Write and a Time to Pause

Normally, I'm a proponent of writing frequently, daily if possible, whether you "feel like it" or not.  Write something.  Keep your muscles active.  Write through the blocks.

But for the past 2 weeks, my heart just hasn't been in it.  I'm sure that will change.  However, for the moment, my spirit seems more focused on living, being with friends and family and loved ones, reflecting and existing and keeping life simple.  Taking stock.  I wonder if any other writers out there are experiencing the same thing just now.

Here are some wise words from a long-time bestseller that speak to this:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to weep and a time to laugh.
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to break down and a time to build up.
A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together.
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.
A time to get and a time to lose.
A time to keep and a time to cast away.
A time to tear and a time to sew.
A time to keep silence and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time of war and a time of peace.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Have Nothing To Say Here

This week, I have no words about the craft of writing.  My thoughts are mostly elsewhere.  I offer only this.  In a world reeling from acts of destruction, we need acts of creation.  Write.  Draw.  Paint.  Sculpt.  Sing.  Dance.  Bake.  Sew.  Live.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Blog Hop - The Next Big Thing

My thanks to The Tex Files for inviting me to join in this very user-friendly, low-stress blog hop.  Several weeks ago.  Fortunately, I had permission to take my sweet time.  So here goes:

Rules of the Next Big Thing
  1. Use this format for your post
  2. Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
  3. Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
  • What is your working title of your book?  KEEPSAFES
  • Where did the idea come from for the book?  A girl I taught in 3rd grade who struggled with being different and made an insanely bold choice at the 5th grade talent show that transformed how everyone saw her.  I felt like I was watching her literally transform into a bird and soar before my very eyes.  I wanted to somehow capture that feeling and pay homage to her spirit and struggle.  The story and character have evolved quite a bit since then.
  • What genre does your book fall under?  YA magical realism.
  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  I have no idea.  I think that's getting way ahead of myself.  I want to finish the damn thing first.
  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  When her mother forces her  to move away from her childhood home and her best friend Stella, rebellious, overweight Hope Armandino throws a fit that rends the fabric of reality and sends her on a nightmarish vision quest in the vein of Terry Gilliam or Guillermo del Toro.
  • Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  Only time will tell, i.e. when the darn thing is finished.  I'm looking for an agent and find the whole self-publishing thing just a bit daunting.
  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  The first draft took me a year.  It was almost entirely crap, but a critique of the first 10 pages helped me see the value inside the crap.  I've been working on the "second first draft" on and off for another year, maybe a bit more, but I've digressed to other projects along the way.
  • What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  There are some elements of Karen Russell's work, and, as I mentioned, the images make me think of Gilliam or del Toro, though that's a movie reference.  I seem to stumble my way into genres sometimes, so I'm still continuing my self-education on other books in this genre that might be similar. 
  • Who or what inspired you to write this book?  In addition to the young girl I mentioned above, I guess I would credit Elizabeth Rusch who, when she met with me to go over her critique of the first chapter, began by saying "I loved this.  Have you sold it yet?"  I realized then that I couldn't just throw it away, as I'd planned.
  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  It's an adventure, with imaginary creatures, mysterious fortune tellers and trips to an underworld, but it's also an exploration of friendship, the mother-daughter dynamic and the balance between identity and relationships, where problems that are all-too-real, such as abuse and abandonment, find their manifestation in darker visions from another realm.    
Phew!  Whose up next?  Go check out these blogs:

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Quotes to Provoke

Between the holidays, teaching, and a paper due for a graduate class, I'm a bit swamped this week, so here, for your writerly contemplation, are two fabulous and provoking quotes.  Have at it!

"Enlightenment is the curse of civilization.  A man who wastes his energy on knowledge is a fool.  The more he learns, the more he wants and the more unhappy he becomes."

- The Razor's Edge, Somerset Maugham 

"Books have to be read (worse luck, for it takes a long time); it is the only way of discovering what they contain.  A few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed to the west."   
-E.M. Forster

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