Friday, April 30, 2010

Inspiration for Me? Jamie Cullum

About 5 years ago, I came across Jamie Cullum. I was flipping channels when I paused on Austin City Limits and here was this young, out-of-control pianist jumping in and on and around his piano as well as singing some fantastic tunes. I thought he was crazy, but I bought the 'Twentysomething' album and have been hooked on his music ever since. 'All At Sea' is still one of my top 25 songs on iTunes (which is saying something since it has to compete with my daughter's toddler music.)

Naturally, I'm thrilled that Jamie has a new album out.

I don't love the new look. The picture on the album makes him look short, like a hobbit. And maybe he is, but for goodness sakes', one doesn't have to proclaim these things. I first saw him with darker hair in a photo in a food and wine magazine - he was in the photo because his wife has a new cookbook out.

These celebrity couples - geesh. I'm going to get a complex.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Talk About It?

My daughter loves to point at things and tell me to "talk about it." What a great exercise! As she ages, it's less describing a lime green caterpillar on the sidewalk and more about why she is having a babysitter take care of her.

Naturally, it pays to agree to such an opportunity because stretching my explanations until a 3 year-old deems them acceptable enhances my fiction writing (I hope.) I have to blather, I must stumble, I keep trying until a light of recognition blinks on in her big brown eyes.

Today, the test is to answer why astronauts wear space suits. We found a great site with an explanation but even so my daughter doesn't quite understand terms like atmosphere and pressure. I try to remind her about our trips on an airplane, and how the air gets colder as we climb higher and higher. She correctly points out that we don't wear special suits on the airplane. I sigh and try again. Remember when we went hiking and climbed very high and it felt very cold? A faint dawning of recognition ....

My husband enters with a "magic" coloring book. His turn!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oh, the Irony!

It's no secret that showing up for the page every day is hard work. Most writers talk about how their dry spells and how, on some days, standing under a jack hammer would be preferable to trying to yet again put two words together that made sense.

I'm no different but I am learning about new depths to my resolve. There are countless days when I think that I don't have the time, the space, or the mental stamina to open up my current project and re-read it or work on a new chapter. But the other option - not working on anything creative in my life, not having given this effort my best, having to tell people that I gave up - is a worse choice. I'd rather set the alarm early and end up with one word change in a 400 page file than finish the day feeling that I let myself down.

The truth is that grappling with perfecting a sentence gives me joy only second to rearing my child and being with my husband.

And the irony is that the days when I show up at my laptop keyboard, reluctant, weary and grasping for hope often produces my stronger work.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Writing Prompt: Chocolate Reflux

The writing prompt for today is: chocolate reflux.

Leslie shifted on the couch and a couple of magazines slid off her lap, landing smack on top of the two beer bottles she had guzzled earlier. The bottles toppled over, but because the floor was carpeted, she only registered a soft thunk while she napped. She dreamed of sea-green glass pieces that she and her brother had picked up at the ocean beach when they were kids. Their parents, still ostensibly together at that time, were at opposite ends of the sandy park. Mom was laying on a blanket while Dad played volleyball. "Put the pieces in here," Kyle had said, offering up a net bag that normally held toys for digging and building sand castles. Leslie did, thrilling at the clinking sound, and then horrified as her brother swung the bag around and around as if he was a shot putter until he finally let go and the bag flew out onto the surf, gradually sinking.

A car door slammed. Leslie slowly raised an eyelid and noted that it was still sunny outside. She glanced at the clock on the mantle and then swiped her long red tresses out of her face. "Cripes!" she thought. She heard a key in the lock at the back door - Rod was home. Leslie attempted to stand up but accidentally stepped onto the empty bottles causing her to fall. With a mild cursing she snatched the bottles and threw a pillow over the splotches where they had dripped their remaining droplets. Running to the kitchen, she tossed the bottles into the recycling bin and grabbed a piece of chocolate from the pantry. She chewed in a rush just as Rod entered the kitchen. He gave her a brief kiss, just as she let out a burp. "Ew, chocolate reflux," he said as he drew away.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Problem is in the Execution

My brain is like a popcorn popper: I've got so many ideas hopping around it's hard to keep track of them, let alone pin one down, examine the kernel, and see if there is anything more to it than just the shell of an idea.

There's the idea about object permanence. I just love this theme: the fact that it's one of the first concepts kids learn, and as parents we continually reinforce (think of the games of peek-a-bo!) and yet, in the end, it really is not true that things stick around. Everything is temporary. Object permanence is just a construct of our ephemeral minds to comfort ourselves and allow us to function each day.

There's the idea about the Janeites. Really this is not so much an idea as a flirtation, as when I was in elementary school and I really "liked" that boy Jesse. I really like the idea of Janeites and want to do something with it, but it's just a vague set of neurons firing right now. Just added a book to my Amazon wish list. Sure, maybe that will help.

Finally, there's the jumble of little stories I overhear at parks, coffee shops, and grocery stores. The man who told his wife he was going to be staying overnight in San Francisco after going dancing with his friends on Friday night, while she pushed their daughter on the wing. The gorgeous college-aged college student who lives across the street with her mom. The multitude of kids picture-book ideas - scary suits of armor, edible stars, beach ballet.

This seems to be a new form of writer's block for me. Instead of working on my current project, I suspect my mind of treachery when it sends me these diversions.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Creative Juice

Peel and rough chop two apples and 4 carrots. Dump apple and carrot chunks into your juicer. Blend.

Wherever I look on the Web, I find recommendations for herbal supplements to improve "creativity". I would not be surprised to find a link between nutrition and creativity, but I'm a bit skeptical when these claims are not supported by any science, and instead offer you a 3-months of supply of imagination-enhancing supplements for $89.95.

If anything, I'm finding that my creative urges are coming whenever it is most inconvenient. Trying to put my daughter to be? Boom - in pops a lovely idea. Driving in construction zones while the rain is pouring down? Ta da - what an inspired turn of phrase that is. What's a multi-tasking writer to do? There was a great article in Writer's Digest a couple of months ago (I can't find it online) and here's the gist: a writer writes whenever s/he can. When I take that approach, it's amazing how much time I've found to write. I can write while I'm waiting to pick up my daughter from school. I can write at red lights. I can write in the 10 minutes in the morning I have before my daughter wakes up. You get the idea. And once I committed to writing in such a fashion, it is amazing how much I can turn out. I'm not suggesting that it all good writing, but it is a start. I've also started to carry around a little notebook and a voice recorder with me in order to jot down any gems that suggest themselves.

And, if I'm lucky, this philosophy works for exercising, too.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Good Company: PCCWW!

Last night, I received an email from Nancy Sondel. She was sending me good news with details to follow later, but I *will* be attending the Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop later summer.

Not only is the director an amazing writing instructor and aspiring YA author, but Nancy Sondel has managed to put together this incredible, intensive and intimate workshop that for 30 of us will be life-changing. Take a look at the faculty for the conference:
Children's Book Insider publisher, and children's book legend, Laura Backes will the be there.
YA author and rock star agent Ted Malawer will be there.
And Kate Harrison, an in-my-dreams editor for Dial Books (part of the Penguin Group), will be there.

See you there!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In which "-ed" words are rhymed

Blank page.

Blank page.

Blank page.

Okay, enough of that. Astrid and Veronika got slammed last night in the book club. There are faults in the book, for sure, (one reader gave up soon after reading this sentence: "I married death") but there were elements of this book that spoke to me. I think that the author did a tremendous job of creating and sustaining a grief-heavy tone that was latent with possibility.

At the last minute, I realized that I needed to write a one page synopsis of my book to include in my PCCWW application. Ay yi yi. Got it done. Sent it off. Holding my breath.

Let's try a little poetry.

My very good friend
Kira, not Ted,
has been sick
Lying in bed.

"It sucks," she said.
She was misled.
"Hit me right
Smack in the head."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Word Count; Divide By Two

It's incredible ... I find that if someone gives me a word count limit, I can transform my writing from passable to strong. That's my new goal: whatever I've written, count the words, then divide by two - that's the new words count goal.

Loved the hail this afternoon.

Just a few keystrokes from submitting the PCCWW app. It was fear speaking earlier. I want this so bad!

where are all the angry women?

Listening to '80s and '90s music recently, I've grown nostalgic for the Sinead O'Connor and Alannis Morrissette days. Where are the angry women of song these days? I'm not saying that we need to be perpetually angry, but neither do I believe that all that anger has gone away. I know what I do if I can't sing along to 'You Oughta Know' - I buy Bert's Desserts Peanut Butter Cups (but I keep my fingers crossed that the store has the three-piece box altho I'll buy the entire 12-piece size if I'm in a pinch.) In other words, I swallow my anger. I eat my anger. Gross. Bitter. But it still begs the question, what is the current generation of girls going to do? Re-read their Twilight books and burn their yoga mats?

Book club tonight. We're discussing Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson. It will be fun to discuss, although I've noticed that people tend not to come if they don't like the book. Too bad because learning why someone doesn't like a book is more fascinating than why they do. The other element of fun is deciding on what to read next. Any suggestions out there?

Finally, my application for a summer writer's conference is due today. Yikes! My chapter one is still not quite where I want it, but I suppose that's one of the reasons to go. The conference is called PCCWW and they only accept 30 people. Staring at my four-leaf clover when I press send on that e-mail.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another test ...

At some point, there will be some actual creative writing on this site.

Twitter / Facebook Update

It's just not going to happen. I'm researching on the Twitter site, and I'm clearly not the only person with this problem, but I have to wonder if it is worth all of this effort! I am also trying out something called Twitterfeed which will automatically update Twitter and Facebook when I post here. Let's give it a go!

Alrighty then

Tomorrow, an app for a writing conference is due, and that the deadline is here and I find I am no longer that excited about the conference. Is it because one of my writing buddies pointed out that the conference was mainly about craft and less about networking? He's right. That let me to second guess myself or what he was saying. Do I need to go because I need more work on my craft, and he doesn't because his writing is already so polished?

Or is it cold feet?

Oh well, at this point, I need to submit the app and then if I get in, I can decide it I want to go.

On another note, I can not for the life of me get the Twitter app to work on Facebook. I bet it has to do with the fact that I use Safari. Spending way too much time on this. I thought Facebook was a huge time suck, and now here comes something else to prove me wrong.

Welcome / Hypocritical Writers

Hah! You found me. I should be working on a book, a short story, a picture book, a poem, a haiku, a shopping list, but this is all I got today. I'm sure you understand.

Thanks for checking in.

I will say that yesterday I was checking out the site of an author I really admire - she has written a couple of YA books that are fantastic - but she was ranting about how unfair it was that an association of recording artists was requesting payment for the music she posted on her site. Somebody else's music. Apparently, she's really pissed that she can't distribute someone else's work for free.

I have an idea: I'm a pretty good typist. In fact, I've typed up her most recent book. Why don't I just put it in an .PDF file and make it available here on my site? Surely, she wouldn't mind. Why should anyone have to buy her book? After all, I have a copy and I will give it to you for free? Does that sound okay to you? She mentions that she's also a musician and doesn't this bleeping association understand how the Internet works?

Yes, clearly they do. That's why they contacted you and requested you support your brethren. The association wanted about $350. Let's see, you've got four books in print, another on the way, and a movie on the horizon. I think $350 is reasonable if you really believe that using someone else's music is critical to the feeling of your blog.

I'm all for free things, but not at the expense of other artists.