Monday, February 25, 2013

Seeing with Eyes Unclouded

I think that's a line from The Lord of the Rings...or maybe that was 'with my waking eyes'. Pretty sure it came from the Bible. Anyway -

- I'm in the middle of reading this fantastic article in the March/April 2013 issue of Poets and Writers magazine. The author, Tony Eprile, talks about how important it is for writers to really SEE what's around them. It isn't just enough that we surround ourselves with inspiration; if we grow numb or, as Eprile says, blind to that which is around us, it does us no good. And we do have the tendency to grow blind to that which is familiar.

The idea of grounding fiction in reality -regardless of genre- by using subtle details and real-world workings has been inspiring me lately. Since I started writing I've considered myself a fantasy or speculative fiction writer. I'd much rather read about magical realms and things that go bump in the night than fictionalized headlines from the evening news. I also believe in the old adage "Write what you know".

Remember the part in Little Women when Jo March is told that very same thing? She wanted to write sensational fiction: murder, mystery and mayhem. There is, of course, nothing wrote with writing this. One can even write about it without having experienced it first hand. I have countless outlines and pages devoted to mythological lands and fantastic beasts. Sadly, I have yet to journey to Atlantis or procure a dragon of my very own. How, in both instances, can the author be said to write what they know?

By incorporating the REAL in with the UNREAL. I'll dispense with my long-winded, metaphysical discussion of "What is real?"[ If you wish to talk more about that, first read L'Engle's "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" and Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and then we'll talk :D] What I will discuss is how we, as living, breathing, flesh and blood humans can write about things that aren't necessarily every day occurrences.

The secret lies in both SEEING the ordinary things around us as extraordinary; we need to un-cloud our vision from dismissing the robin at the feeder, the patch of weeds in the garden, or the leaf blowing across our patio. Especially when writing the fantastic, I tend to lament the fact that I lack a herd of zombie unicorns from which  to draw inspiration. But we must draw from two different wells: the one of our imagination, yes, but also of our everyday waking lives.

Regardless of what you write, you have countless experiences and hobbies, jobs, relationships, bizarre collections and old, rusty frying pans you can work with. Give your characters fantastic powers, sure, but also give them scars, quirks, that boring job you had in high school selling shoes to burned out basketball players. Have them bake, garden, collect stamps, go swing dancing twice a week with their 85 year old grandpa.

The point is, even if you main character fights vampires or sails the seas of Mars, there has to be SOMETHING that the reader can relate to. Start digging into your own experiences for that something. Also, the next time you trip over a root, don't dismiss it. Take a good long look at it. You may be able to use that experience (roots and all) in your next story!

Happy Monday,
Jen

Friday, February 22, 2013

Happy 88th Birthday Edward Gorey



Interesting: if you Google "Edward Gorey" the search engine also suggests that you may like Tim Burton, Maurice Sendak, and Edgar Allan Poe. I couldn't agree more. Most people have at least a nodding acquaintance with Gorey's work. If you doubt me, watch Masterpiece Theater's Mystery night on PBS. The opening sequence is animated Gorey images :)

Now, I know some of you don't lean toward the dark and macabre, but I enjoy a little bizarre twist to the every day. Gorey gave the world that in his works. I have even found Edward Gorey Christmas cards in which a group of Dickensian characters are holding a burial service for a fruit cake. I don't care who you are, that's funny.

Edward Gorey did a production of "Dracula"-


He retold the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" (and I really need to find this!) -


And I even found a site that retells Dr. Who episodes in a Gorey-esque style but the links were all broken. Boo Hiss...(if anyone can find this and it actually works I'd be ever so grateful :D)

If you want to know more this master of macabre and darkly humorous art, check out The Edward Gorey House. It's the perfect site for a grey, blustery, cold winter's day.

Cheers and happy weekend!
Jen

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Playing Catch-up

Good afternoon!

I just looked at my last post and realized it has been weeks since my last post. No shock there, eh? The good news is, I've been doing some off-line blog work and have a plan in mind for the A-Z Challenge in April. Yes, I've actually got a theme this year! I'll talk more about that as the weeks wind down to the start of the challenge. By the way, if you're up for a lot of writing, blog hopping and a lot of fun, sign up for the challenge. This will be my second year doing it and I can tell you it's the hardest work and the most fun you'll do for your blog. I guarantee it! Sign up at Blogging from A-Z Challenge 2013.

Not only do I have a theme for this year's A-Z Challenge I've finally (FINALLY) decided upon a theme for this blog. I won't do any design changes until after the A-Z Challenge as the theme for my posts tie directly into the new focus of this blog but I'll give you a hint: it has to do with writing ;)

So, here's a question for you: does YOUR blog have a specific theme or themes that it focuses on? I only ask because I want your opinion. There are so many of you out there who do such a wonderful, succinct way of making your voice heard on your blogs. There are very focused blogs and there are blogs that cover a menagerie of topics and do so very, very well. As for me, I haven't really been able to hang on to one or several topics in quite some time. I blame school for that but to be honest, there's no excuse but this: I've fallen behind in writing, editing, and the current circle of writers and writing news.These past few weeks, however, I've been digging and researching and outlining. Long story short, I've been writing again and I'm excited.

Thanks to everyone who has continued to read my sporadic and rather dull blog posts over the past two years. I appreciate the continued support and friendship. Things are going to get better around here. I've got a lot of house keeping to do but I'm looking forward to it!

Thanks for the input and don't forget to sign up for the A-Z Challenge!

~Jen

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group, Long time no see!

Long time, no see blog world! How have you all been? I hope you've kicked off this new year with a bang and are well on your way to writing greatness :). It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group Post!

I don't know about you, but writing for me has become this vague dream sitting behind the long awaited day I can finally proclaim (loudly and with much fanfare) "I'm a college graduate!!!!" College started for me back in 1995 (yes, I am THAT old ;)) and 18 years later, THIS MAY, I can finally say, "I'm done!" Seriously done. As in "all those ideas about going to graduate school are now flushed down the toilet because I'm so beyond sick of doing papers every week" done. But hey, if there's anything this looooooooong stint as an on again off again college student has taught me, I can always go back. Who knows? Maybe I'll got to grad school when I'm 50.

Insecurities? Yeah, I've got 'em. Who doesn't? My major just happens to be Creative Writing. Too bad I have to take all those other required courses that they claim make me a well rounded individual. The most writing I've done this year so far has been for my world literature class (and oh boy is THAT a tale in itself...but I digress). Now, my other class this term is Screenwriting. Yes, boys and girls, I signed up for a class that requires me to write a short film by the end of eight weeks. Yikes! So far, the idea is a good one, I'm just having a hard time fleshing it out.

And here comes the insecurity: There are a handful of people in this screenwriting class who are really on top of their game. I mean, these guys are always on the discussion boards talking script-smack with the professor. I jump in here and there, whenever I have an opinion, but here's the kicker: I'm not a big movie buff! I've toyed with the idea of writing a screenplay, even of doing a short film, before but I feel insecure about the whole mess because most of the people you meet who write and produce films are REALLY into films. I'm not. In fact, I think I've seen one movie on the Oscar list this year-and that one I didn't really like.

I wonder sometimes if I don't immerse myself enough, not just in screenwriting but in writing in general. I peruse blogs by people who are up to their eyeballs in information, links, query helps, and interviews and here I sit, blinking cursor all fired up, and I ... have...nothing. Nada. Zilch! I get a fresh idea (like I did yesterday) and I spend a few hours jotting it down, toying with it, and then, it fizzles. Maybe it's school. No really: when I was out for Christmas break the whole WORLD seemed brighter and I spent time each day working on projects. When I'm in school, not so much. As soon as I finish my school work for the day (which is usually a 6 hour day), I close the computer, turn on Murder, She Wrote on NetFlix and imagine all the books I should be writing.

Burn out. That's the term I'm looking for. Anyone else there? Well, here's what I've learned (thanks to school and those oh so fleeting two week breaks): It WILL pass!! Yes kids, even if all you can eek out is a few words a day, then get those few words out and rest. Take care of yourself, be gentle with yourself. The time will come when you've got your strength back and you can plow through some edits, some queries, or a brand new idea. The countdown for me has begun! April 29 is a dawning of a new world for me. Until then, I'll just be insecure in my abilities, plow through those weekly papers, and keep the embers burning on those new ideas!

Happy Wednesday everyone! Sorry I've been AWOL. That will change in 11 weeks...