Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Writing the Parachute

On a lovely little blog called Sage Said So by poet Sage Cohen, I found a quote that describes a writer's process in a way I find profound and terribly relevant.

From poet William Stafford:

"I have woven a parachute out of everything broken."

And a heavy dose of profundity from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet:

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.

And he said:

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Monday, October 29, 2007

What will writers do come the strike?

From YouTube comes "Heroes of the Writers Strike," which imagines what highly paid Hollywood screenwriters might do if/when the strike happens...

Truth is, the possible WGA strike will affect thousands, if not millions of people, if it goes forward sometime after Halloween. Each TV show employs about 350 people. Not to mention the restaurants, gardeners, and other businesses that get income from those who will not be employed if a strike occurs. I'm hoping the writers and producers can come to an agreement both sides can live with... soon!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dwarf City

You never know where ideas can come from.

I trotted over to one of my favorite internet sites today - the latest news on archaeological finds from Archaeology Magazine. They had this tantilizing tidbit:

A Roman villa in Austria was rediscovered and excavated after archaeologists found references to it in an eighteenth-century manuscript. Back then, the villa’s low-ceilinged heating vaults had led to legends about a “dwarf city.”

First, there's a Roman villa in Austria. Dang, those Romans got around!

Second, doesn't your mind reel at the idea of a "dwarf city" in Roman Austria?

You can find the facts here. This villa was originally equipped with wall and floor heating. (Which reminds me of a fact I read about how Hadrien "air conditioned" his villa near Rome by having his guests sit in an pavilion with a ceiling and no walls. This pavilion was equipped with a water tank and system so that sheets of water could continually run from the eaves, cooling the air inside the pavilion. Amazing! And probably more environmentally friendly than our current system of air conditioning.)

As a writer, I'm always alert to what triggers my imagination. (Well, I try to always be alert. Those who are most alert get the most ideas. Those, like me, who are semi-alert, aren't huge idea-factories.) And a Roman dwarf city -- maybe it's the gamer/history geek/fantasy lover in me, but that's pretty fricking cool.

Then things get silly and I imagine the Roman dwarves skiing down the Alps in Austria, or joining Julie Andrews at a convent near Salzburg. You see how this imagination thing works?

Why the photo of a badger? Well, the Archaeology news also says:

A medieval cemetery in Pembrokeshire, England, has been cleared of badgers, but
infested with archaeologists.

Seems like they saved the old bones AND the badgers. Good deal!

Don't Inhale

Finally, the fires are coming under control here in Southern California.

I am luckily far from any of the hot zones, but nonetheless, the smoke and other particulates in the air is starting to get to me. My eyes are irritated, my allergies are far worse than they've ever been, and I feel vaguely naseous. I think about how I'm inhaling the ashy remains of some poor kid's stuffed animal collection, or some dude's porn, or some grandma's recipes.

Weird how it all comes back to how everything is connected in way or another. The very act of breathing connects me to the people who lost their possessions in the fire. Donations to help them can be given to the Red Cross.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Hot Gray Blanket...

...of smoke covers the San Fernando Valley. Normally bright blue skies are smudged. Hot wind blasts through the canyons. Wet skin dries in seconds.

My apartment and work are not currently near any of the many fires now blazing through Southern California, but I'm breathing in the bits of chaparral, houses, dead animals, and photo albums that people had to leave behind when they evacuated. It's a sad time. Sure, bad planning and overzealous development has lead us to build our homes in areas where fire is almost a certainty. But on the radio I heard an interview with a single dad who had to leave behind his wallet, cat, dog, and three goldfish in order to get his daughters out alive. He's now penniless and homeless. No one deserves such a fate. My heart goes out to him and all the other fire refugees.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Reward for Writing

Okay, so I haven't even been there yet, and I haven't done anything much to merit a reward, but I've found a great looking Portuguese bakery here in LA called Nata's Pastries at 13317 Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks (between Woodman and Coldwater Canyon).

The plan is to reward myself for writing every 10,000 words or so with some fabulous treat. Because I grew up in Hawaii, which has a decent sized Portuguese population, I have a huge fondness for certain Portuguese pastries, particularly malasadas, a simple but delicious deep fried donut rolled in sugar. A well-traveled friend of mine has recommended the "custard tartlets" for tea. I have since found out that these tarts are called natas (photo above), and are the emblematic pastry of Portugal. I heard about this place thanks to a show here on local NPR station KCRW called Good Food.

Can't believe I didn't eat any natas when I went to Portugal! (I did eat malasadas there, thanks to my intrepid travel companion, Wendy, who found some delicious samples at a small town fair we attended in the rain...) Now's my chance. Take a look at the goodies this place has... Yum-hey!

Hmm. I did write four pages of my TV spec last night. Maybe I deserve something for that...?

Harry Potter vs. Star Wars

My friend the Tayster sent me this image - check it out and you'll see how all stories are, well, kinda the same.

Sssh! This is a secret most writers know and readers do not. Look away from the similarities! Succumb to our wiles in retelling the same story over and over!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Outlining and Mind-mapping

In perusing the NaNoWriMo forums, I came across a term about outlining a book I hadn't heard before - the Snowflake method. One Google search later, I found the method here.

As luck would have it, it closely approximates what I've done so far with my novel. I've got a fifteen page outline, which I got using a combo of character sheets from First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Weisner, a six-act screenplay structure I got through my online class at Write Tight Now, while incorporating elements of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. I'm supposed to move on and do an extensive outline now, that approximates a first draft. But I may just start that first draft for NaNo. Anyway, the Snowflake method looks cool, so check it out if you're inclined to outline but don't know how.

Also found free mindmapping software called Freemind that looks like fun to use. I downloaded it and without any instruction just started making a mindmap for a different book idea I've had for awhile. I'm not sure if this will be useful for outlining so much as a way to generate ideas and get the creative juices flowing. It's probably also useful for less creative types who need to brainstorm for their business or research or something. No idea what mind mapping is? Check out Wikipedia's definition here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Feminism and Romance Go Hand in Hand

A brief break from blogging about writing to announce something we feminists always knew -- according to Science Daily --

Contrary to popular opinion, feminism and romance are not incompatible and feminism may actually improve the quality of heterosexual relationships, according to Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan, from Rutgers University in the US. Their study* also shows that unflattering feminist stereotypes, that tend to stigmatize feminists as unattractive and sexually unappealing, are unsupported.

This seems like a no-brainer to me. But at last science can back up the claim that feminism pretty much benefits everyone in their personal relationships. Funny how mutual respect between the sexes does that!

Friday, October 12, 2007

NaNoWriMo - I'm in!

After perusing many online forums and asking other writers how they manage to write 50,000 words in a month when they have real jobs, I've decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo, the November write-a-thon where novelists and would-bes like me try to scratch out 50k words in order to "win."

Thanks, A, for the support! Your idea of giving myself some sort of food reward every 10,000 words is great. I think I've found a Portuguese bakery here in LA that makes malasadas. Mmm. Now that's something worth writing for.

There's no prize, except the personal glory of meeting a creative goal. The NaNoWriMo website is full of forums, parties to launch you off, potential writing groups, ways to procrastinate, and so on. It's great! If you've ever wanted to write a novel, sign up!

If you haven't ever wanted to write a novel, thank your lucky stars and go on your merry way. Your life will be all the easier for it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

To NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWriMo - that is the question.

Every November, a movement called NaNoWriMo grips the world of would-be novelists. This a kamikaze attempt to write 50,000 words of a brand new novel in 30 days, starting November 1 at midnight, and ending at 11:59pm on November 30. Looking for motivation and inspiration to write? Check out the website here.

The idea is to kill the evil editor in your brain who tells you that your writing is crap and just get 50,000 words on the page (that's less than 1700 words a day, every day of the month), regardless of quality. That's a short, 175 page novel. There are forums on the site, where you can share tales of your carpal tunnel. At the end of the month you send them your 50,000 words, where their computers count the words, then declare you a winner and send you a certificate. No one actually reads your novel, but you can post excerpts for your fellow writers if you like. It's a great motivational tool. Published novels have come out of the event.

Should I do it? I do have a job, for crying out loud. But I do have the outline of a novel that's screaming to be written. 50k words is about the right lenghth for a YA novel like mine...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Home again home again

...jiggity jig.

I'm back from my trip to England, a bit spacey from a cold and jet lag, but happy to be home after a great trip. I'll be posting photos somewhere on the web soon, once I get my shit together.

A brief precis of events: Wendy's flight cancelled, I spend a day alone in London and visit the Tate Modern. Rain. Dali and Di Chirico make me feel like I've landed on an alien planet.

Sleep in our five-star hotel and eat the free chocolates. Wendy arrives next day, I venture to British Museum and spend far too much money on a bronze Egyptian cat.

We eat well, though London is expensive and the dollar pathetically low versus, well, every currency, let alone the mighty pound. British papers trumpet that "Brit" Spears loses custory of her kids. Off to the Tower the next day for bloody tales of beheadings, the rack, garish gold plate dishes, suits of armor, pikes, swords, and the block.

Malteasers (British malted milk balls) a plenty.

The chocolate in England is just... better.

Off to York via (a very expensive) train. Rolling fields, smokestacks. Four days there to explore Roman ruins, huge cathedral (called the Minster), walk the city walls, drink lots of tea and eat scones. Sunny and "warm," around 60 F.

Scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Yum!

Back to London, where I start to catch my cold but nonetheless see two musicals with Wendy - Avenue Q and Spamalot. Peter Davison, the 6th Doctor Who, stars as King Arthur. Tons of fun!