Friday, September 30, 2011

Look Around



I look at myself in the mirror.

"I am uninspired," I say. "I cannot write."

My reflection stares back at me, quizzical. "Of course you can write! You've got two hands and a keyboard, fingers and a pen, right?"

I roll my eyes. "Fine. I have nothing to write about."

My reflection sighs, looks around. "You have everything to write about." Whispering, she leans closer, as if privy to some cosmic secret. "Look around."

The shifting light of an approaching storm.
The stark contrast of green leaf against grey sky.
Coffee-the taste, the smell, the feel.
The cup from which said coffee is enjoyed.
Another shift in light. Another movement of grey on grey.

Out of the window I see changing season and patterns in the wind.

Out the window.
My kitchen window.
Even that is a source of inspiration.

If only I open my eyes...

...and look around.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What does it mean, this "Writer"?




Do I simply scribe words to paper, ideas to computer screens? Is it a vocation, a choice, as one may choose to be a firefighter or a lawyer? Or-dare I even suggest-it is something more mystical. Cosmic. SUPER-natural?

It can be both, I believe. There are those who understand words, who construct prose with the precision of a brain surgeon's scalpel. Their work is good, flawless, to be envied.

But.

There are others who had no choice. Those who must write to let off some of the pressure that builds up inside their heads and their hearts. Without a pen, without their laptop, they are like a kettle of boiling water with no whistle: they self-destruct without release. These people are consumed. The fire of fiction, of poetry, courses through them white hot and dangerous.

They bleed ink into story.

Day in, day out. Like breathing. It is their breathing. Glowing steady, stars at true north, they point the way for those who would dare dance with that flame. It is risky, dangerous, all consuming.

But truer words cannot be written than by those willing to give themselves to the story rather than attempt to tame it. Ultimately, it is the story that speaks the truth. The writer is simply the conduit through which that truth flows.

Monday, September 26, 2011

an interesting topic approached me last night




It was certainly no stranger. Perhaps that is how it so easily was allowed in. A familiar, old friend. It had visited me before, at least one hundred times; another reason why-at the moment-I was unaffected by its appearance. Unaffected until it looked me directly in the eyes and spoke.

Words I had heard before. of course I had. As I mentioned, I had entertained this old friend before. This time, however, they weren't typed out, weren't written or read. They were spoken, eye to eye, my reflection to face:

"A Writer's Life for Me"

Like lightening I understood.To be a writer-at the very essence of the vocation-was to write. Not just poems or novels, short stories or plays. Not outlines, query letters, synopses or resumes. No. To write is to breathe. To put life to paper, tablet, screen. To enjoy the formation of a letter simply because it is.

Because I am.

Life has become under appreciated. Like classical arts in a modern, technological world, most humans scream through it, past it, on the way to the next event. The next check mark on the almighty TO DO. But life is. It is what we are. It is a verb. A state of being. A condition of utmost beauty. For good or ill, life is all we have. To live a writer's life is to take it all in. Put it all down. Translate, to the best of our ability, the ecstatic joys, the devastating tragedies; the unexplainable, incomprehensible mysteries. TO record the illiterate moments where there are no words. To sift through the mundane so others will read it and see Heaven in a copper pot, the Divine in taking out the trash.

To live a writer's life is dangerous. it is to live split open, your guts exposed for always. No thought, no interpretation private for life belongs to everyone. We writers are charged with the interpreting. All of us speak different languages, making available life for varying groups of people. To live a writer's life is to be swept along with the avalanche, to give into the pull of tides, to forget swimming and struggling for air.

It is the ultimate lesson in letter go, in trusting in something larger than you and infinitely unexplainable. Some may argue they are in control. That form and function and grammar are law. We are governed by form, by function. We are conduits of the stream. But we are no more in control than the river bed is of the rapids. We are merely the channel. The words will tumult as they may.

One question remains: am I brave enough to let them rage? To let life sweep me out of my carefully made raft? Destroy my meticulously constructed dam?

Am I brave enough to write?

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Week's Worth of Summarizing

Hello blog world! I've been AWOL all week and for good reason. Darn head cold after sitting outside at the baseball game last Friday night. The Braves may have lost, but I did get my picture made with Boba Fett!

Behold:



Then, of course, there's been the whole public speaking class. Blerg. I know, excuses, excuses. But they're good ones. Right? RIGHT?!?!

Thank you all for your comments on the question of eBook commenting. Honestly, the idea of being able to ask questions directly to the author is a bit tantalizing, but who would want to lose the momentum to stop, highlight a passage, ask a question, and continue on? That would just ruin the story for me.

As a writer, I like to throw in things that aren't always explainable at first glance. And I don't want people to come up and ask me about them unless they have first tried to figure them out for themselves. Seriously. Can you imagine how many messages JK Rowling would have had to field while trying to finish the Harry Potter series? Geez...too many to count! She would have to have hired someone to type "I am not at liberty to divulge" on her behalf!

And honestly, I don't want to know everything. I like a bit of mystery. I like the freedom of interpretation that comes from the personal experience of reading. Being enveloped in another world is, after all, why we read and write fiction. Who really wants everything explained away? To know everything would be to have the magic of living erased. Sometimes, I begrudge science books. They explain everything: how lightening forms, how flowers bloom, why rain splatters on the pavement, what a will-o-whisp really is. Mystery is over rated and I love to just watch a flower bloom, droop, and then being to evolve into a bell pepper and think, "Now, isn't that magic?!"

Thanks again to all who stopped by this past week. I'm getting this class in order (I think) and finally feeling more like myself. I hope to back to blogging next week. Regularly. Seriously! It IS an on-going goal of mine.

Happy weekend!
Jen

Friday, September 16, 2011

in which i sing the praises of Star Wars and posit an interesting question

Happy Friday to all!

I'm pretty stoked and not just because it's Friday (besides, when you work from home, Friday is pretty much just another day...). Anywho, WHY am I so super excited about this particular Friday?!? I'm glad you asked (you did ask, didn't you?). My husband, awesome, groovy fellow that he is, bought us last minute tickets to see the Atl. Braves (hopefully) destroy my least favorite baseball team of all time (*cough* the mets *cough*) and...AND...tonight, at Turner Field, is...wait for it...

STAR WARS NIGHT!!!! (*cue epic John Williams music NOW*)

I'll be getting my nerd on AND enjoying a baseball game in this lovely fall weather! I am now going to attempt to stop dancing around the room humming the Imperial March long enough to finish this post.

The Office of Letters and Light-those splendiferous people who go to painstaking and outlandish limits to bring us NaNoWriMo every November- posited a very interesting question on their blog the other day. It appears there is a new feature for the Kindle in beta-testing which will allow readers to highlight passages on their e-books and ask the author questions regarding that passage. Hmmm, says I. Sounds kind of neat. I could send Neil Gaiman (*swoon*) a message about Danse Macabre or J.K. Rowling a question about The Half Blood Prince.

However, and this is where the post gets interesting, the author of the blog asks: Will this feature take away from the reader's experience and, in her words, "demote (the readers) interpretation to a thing of lesser importance?" This got me thinking. We all read passages in books that leave us scratching our heads, making funny faces at the pages and staying up waaaay past midnight contemplating the deeper meaning of said passage. Would I want to be in the middle of a story, have one of those moments hit me and pause to send the author a message?

The connection factor between author and reader would skyrocket. But, and this is a big but, it seems to me it would not only detract from the experience of getting lost in a book, but it would take away the delicious mystery of reading. There will always be things we read in and put into our own novels that people aren't going to get. That's the joy of writing and reading. Mystery. Wonder. The joy of picking a book up after years of having read it and being able to contemplate something afresh, possibly entertaining a new angle.

What are you thoughts on this? I'm just curious. I can see the pros and the cons of it.

The author leaves us with this question to consider as well: what if we could ask questions of dead authors? I'll admit, THAT would be seriously cool and I'd totally jump on that bandwagon. I'd love to chat with Hemingway, L'Engle, Wilde and Poe. Which brings me to another, perhaps more profound question: are there e-books in the afterlife? Hmmm....

Happy Pondering!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Two Places at Once (and a lecture from a Literary Agent)

I can be such a dolt when it comes to the Internet. Something happens, I'm a part of something, and I start talking about it like it's the greatest thing since pumpkin spice lattes. That being said, yesterday, I was notified about a live broadcast of a talk being given on the campus of my university. I'm an online student, which makes my commute to New Hampshire (where said university is located) much faster. One of the writing professors had Melissa Flashman, a literary agent with Trident Media Group, come and speak to his class. He was kind enough to put it up online for anyone interested. (Thus, I was sitting outside of my loft in Georgia and watching a lecture in New Hampshire. Two places at once. My nerdy self proudly declared on Facebook that I had a new superpower :D Don't judge...it brought me joy.)

Most of what she had to say I've heard before, either from other agents or through reading blogs that deal with submissions and agents and all manner of important things. The major things I took away from her talk was her encouragement to writers and her insistence that "fiction is a matter of taste". In other words, if your query is turned down by an agent, don't despair: it is more than likely a case of the agent isn't interested in your topic.

Agents are people too (no really, they are!) and they are subject to the same likes and dislikes we as humble want-to-be-published-authors are. We read what we like and turn our noses up at what we don't. Guess what? So do they. Because your dream agent turned down your work doesn't mean it isn't good. It simply means they weren't interested in fairy zombie frogs at the moment. But here's the secret: someone else may be! The key to all this is finding the agent who is most likely to be interested in what you're writing about.

And how, pray tell, do we do that? She had some info into that as well. Her biggest tip on querying agents was to go through the books you enjoy reading, the books that are most like the story you just finished. See who the author thanks. Their agent is always there. If they aren't named in the book, look the author up online and you're bound to find their agent. Then, when your book is as polished as it's going to get from your hands, query those agents. Add a line in your query that states "I read THIS GREAT BOOK by THIS GREAT AUTHOR, whom you represent. My story is similar and I think you'll enjoy it." Something to that effect.

I don't know about you, but I found this very encouraging. Sometimes, it helps to hear things we may already know from the experts themselves. I had heard all this before, but hearing it from the mouth of an actual literary agent made me take a deep breath and realize that there really is hope for me, for you, for every published author hopeful out there.

Happy Thursday and dream on!
Jen

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

more fun than you can shake a lighsaber at!

Links are fun! They inform, they entertain, they give you great reason to put off doing the laundry! Whoops! Laundry! Be right back...

There. That's better. There are few things worse than moldy laundry...

Where was I. Links! Here are a few that I found over the weekend.

1. The 2012 Writer's Market is already out! I don't know why this surprised me. I mean, I haven't had corn candy yet and there are Christmas Trees up in some stores. Ugh.

2. Neil Gaiman is a hero to many. Myself included. He's what one may call a literary crush in some circles (*grin*). As if his brilliant storytelling wasn't enough, he has created a fabulous idea for Halloween, one that I am certain will become a new tradition: All Hallow's Read. Give books this Halloween. Scary books. You know that's way more fun than blow pops!

3. This next topic is near and dear to my heart. I've posted about villains before. I can not explain my fixation with great villains. My obsession with Darth Vader was enough to concern my mother when I was young and should have been playing house with the girls down the street. Instead, I was blasting away Storm Troopers on the play ground with my two best buds, "Han" and "Luke" respectively. And in case you were wondering, I was Princess Leia. That's girly...right?

"Characters We Love to Hate" was posted on TOR's website and summed up my love of a good villain in one phrase: they have something that makes them interesting. I hate flat characters of any ilk: hero, side kick, talking cat. Doesn't matter. I need to care about them and want to follow them into the mire of Mordor. But a flat villain? Ugh. Triple Ugh. Worse than Christmas Trees before Halloween ugh. Give me a villain that makes my skin crawl AND makes me want to secretly cheer them on and you've got yourself a winner!!

Your turn! Any interesting discoveries this weekend! Has fall finally made it's way to your neighborhood. Do you, like me, wish it was illegal to put up Christmas displays before Thanksgiving? Just curious.

~Jen

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Day in History!!

September 9th. I don't think it's on any ones calendar as a specifically momentous day. Unless it's your birthday which would make it a most momentous day indeed (and a happy birthday to you).

BUT...

Did you know that according to some calendars, today is Teddy Bear Day? I could not make this stuff up. Everything has it's own day. Also, September is Honey Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Fall Hat Month, and, my personal favorite, National Blueberry Popsicle Month. Again, I could not make this stuff up.

Check out Holiday Insights for some more bizarre and unusual holidays for the month of September :)

One of the most interesting things about fantasy and science fiction is that the authors often have to create holidays and occasions for their characters. Creating a magical world requires magical holidays. Even the crew of the Enterprise made mention of special occasions that aren't on any calendar you or I have hanging in our kitchens.

It is one of the small details that makes the genre so much fun to play in. You can give your characters anything, anything at all to celebrate.

What if you could use this power in your everyday life? What if you could create your own holiday or "month of"? What would it be? What would you celebrate? Me, I'd create a national "Take Time Off Work Day Because You Need to Breathe" Day. Or "Narwhal Appreciation Month". Better yet, how about, "Steampunk Day" where everyone was required to wear goggles and carry ray guns?!?! Of course, "National Beheading Day" did cross my mind, but it seems someone else beat me to it!

Happy Friday! Now, go be FABULOUS!!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

News, Nerds and Narwhals!

Good Morning!

It's five 'til noon so I can still, technically wish you a good morning! And for those of you wondering, yes, it's still fabulously fall-ish here.

SO! On to the important stuff:

NEWS (you can use):
* I've recently discovered two sites that challenge you to write micro fiction. This is easy for some, hard for others (namely me). At Six Sentences, the challenge is to write a story in six sentences. Pretty self explanatory. Smith Magazine has a page devoted to six word memoirs. Tell them about your life in just six words. I don't plan on posting mine, but it is a good challenge to keeping my ideas concise and avoid run-on sentences :)

* J.A. Konrath has a blog that helps writers stick to their writing guns. He has this to say in his "About Me" section: "There's a word for a writer who never gives up-published". He's pretty hard nosed in his opinions and I like that. Tell it like it is; don't sugar coat it for me. I can take it. Really.....*gulp*

* Love books? Of course you do. Want another reason to do ANYTHING except write YOUR book? Check out Book Reporter. It's packed with reviews of book from every genre. I just spent half an hour on it myself. See? Time suck!!

NERDS:

* I am one! But you all knew that.

* If you too are a nerd, you may find The Nerdist pretty funny. These guys blog about all things nerdy. And, if you're so inclined, they even have a podcast. It's funny, but make sure you listen when the small people of impressionable nature in your house are not in the room :)


NARWALS!!!!:

*Yes, the word "narwals" does require that many exclamation points. I'm addicted to this strange and wondrous creature. And it does exist! I've had to convince people that narwhals are real *cough*myhusband*cough

Here's a little something to show you how addicted I am to narwhals:



My Cell Phone Case!

I found the original pattern in Mollie Makes Magazine. Oh my heck, if you haven't seen this magazine, you must, MUST find it!! It's a British magazine (of course...ALL the magazines I read are British) and it's not found just anywhere but it's worth the hunt. Just in case you can't find it, here's the LINK. Yippee!!

Have a fabulous, fabulous day! Enjoy the linkage and please, don't blame me if you end up wandering through them instead of writing :D

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oh Frabjous Day!

When Alice defeats the Jabberwocky on Frabjous Day, the Hatter rejoices over the freedom of Wonderland by dancing a strange and hilarious dance he calls "fudderwacking". (Thank you Tim Burton and your marvelous retelling of Carroll's story!!) I may not be fudderwacking this morning (the caffeine hasn't hit me quite hard enough for that), but I am excited.

Why?

It actually feels like fall. In Georgia. The first week of September. I'll give you a few seconds to let that sink in.

...

...

Got it? Good. Now then, why am I so excited over this natural occurrence in the weather? Simple: weather has everything to do with my creativity. Strange, but I know I'm not alone. I know far too many creative people who tell me that they can't paint/write/draw/dye their hair when it's too hot/cold/wet/dry. Funny, isn't it? How these external forces we call weather can incite or take away from our creativity.

I've posted about weather and creativity before. Loads of people have. I'm one of those odd birds who gets depressed if there's too much sun. If the sun shines brightly for more than two days, I'm down in the dumps and praying for rain. Saturday, the clouds rolled in just in time for the annual book festival and I could have danced all the way to where it was held. I didn't. No one needs to see that!

So today it's cool, windy and over cast. Today I start back blogging on a regular schedule (hooray!). Today, my fall term begins and I get to learn how to be an effective public speaker *shudder*. Today is a Frabjous Day indeed!

How does your Today look? Got anything exciting planned? Any reasons to dance for joy? Any reason to shout? Let me have 'em!

~Jen xo