Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 - the List

Now that it's actually the end of the year, I'm compiling of list of "best of" and "worst of" and "most clueless" and so on. Feel free to disagree, chime in, ponder your own list...

Heroes
Iranian protesters
Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

Boneheads
Anyone comparing anyone to Hitler or Stalin
Richard Heene (Balloon boy dad)
Sarah Palin
Michael Bay
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Bank CEOs. Yes, all of them.
Anti Vaccine scaremongers
Rod Blagojevich

Best Movies
The Hurt Locker
Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best TV Shows
True Blood
Friday Night Lights
Mad Men
Planet Earth

Fave Pop Culture Icon
Lady Gaga

Smartest User of the Internet
Amanda Palmer

Award Winning Book for Kids that Deserves It
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Other terrific books for kids I read:
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Hottest
Alexander Skarsgard

Deceased Celebrity I'll Miss the Most
Larry Gelbart

Best Personal Accomplishment
I wrote and wrote and wrote. In two years - two novels and a tv script. Goal for 2010 - get an agent, sell something.

Best Moment
First African-American President of the US is sworn in.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The View From Paradise



(Above - the view from Dad's desk in Kaneohe.)

I've been enjoying near-daily trips to my favorite beach in the world (really, my favorite place in the world) and hanging with my parents, (my two favorite people in the world).

So I'm pretty lucky. I got five pages written on the plane ride over, but haven't done much since. Too busy eating and bodysurfing and seeing movies with Mom and Dad.

There are worse things.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best Christmas Song

My favorite Christmas carol is "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentleman" for some reason. Probably because it's in a minor key.

But the best Christmas SONG? That's got to be "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues. I've pasted a live version below to watch, so you'll get a taste of the lovely lead singer Shane McGowan (the woman, who actually is lovely is the late Kirsty MacColl) and his lack of teeth.

How can you not love a Christmas song with lyrics like:

It was Christmas Eve, babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me,
"Won't see another one."

Then, at the end of the song, the woman sings:

You took my dreams from me,
When I first found you.

The man replies:

I kept them with me, babe.
I put them with my own.
Can't make it all alone,
I've built my dreams around you.

Hope and love amidst tragedy and pain. That's the Pogues!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best Writing Advice

Check out this post by Jennifer Blanchard at Procrastinating Writers for a list of the 43 most inspiring writing advice posts of the year. Excellent stuff lurks past every click.

My fave, which preaches to my choir, is this post from Larry Brooks at Storyfix.com. It gives you, on one page, the keys to making your story WORK.

Get inspired. Set yourself up to write the hell out of your book in 2010!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Interesting bits, at least to me

I've been busy - work is nutty, the holidays are upon us, beloved friends visit, parties happen, free screenings are offered. I feel most fortunate!

But I haven't written or blogged much. Time to make up for that! Herewith a few dribs and drabs that have interested me in the past week or so. Many of these come from my Twitter feed. Love that Twitter!

I found inspiration in gazing at Charles Dicken's handwritten manuscript for "A Chistmas Carol" here. How reassuring to see such a great writer revising himself extensively!

These purses would make great Christmas gifts for the female reader in your life. I'm lusting after To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice in Wonderland, and a few dozen others.

My favorite soap opera, As the World Turns, got cancelled and will end next September. I haven't watched in years, but my grandmother introduced my mother to it when she was 12, so it almost feels like the end of a family tradition. You can learn a lot about how to prolong a storyline watching soaps!

I set up a Google Alert thanks to writer Greg Pincus's tutorial here.

I lusted after this ancient Egyptian magic wand, made of hippo tusk. Wanted to write a story incorporating it somehow.

With help from friends and their muscles, I threw away my very old, very loved couch (photo here) thanks to Los Angeles's bulky item pick up service. And my new couch arrived, confusing my Ancient Cat briefly. Then he curled up on it happily.

The holidays are nearly here! I hope to post a "best of 2009" list soon, but I like to wait until it's closer to the end of the year. Who knows what delights might pop up before New Years?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Who will tell these kids' stories?

The NY Times today features a brief but fascinating glimpse into the life of a child after they've been hit by a stray bullet.

I can't help thinking - how will this affect them as they get older? What kind of lives will they lead as they enter their teen years? Good grist for the writers mill, and food for thought about how one act of violence leaves ripples in the pond that never quite go away.

What makes a great kid's book

The Upstart Crow Agency blog has a great post up that features publisher Little, Brown's LIST OF ATTRIBUTES THAT MAKE A GOOD CHILDREN’S BOOK.

It's a great list to show you what makes a great kid's book, and a way to inspire yourself to make your book as good as possible.

Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Make Them Stop Reading

The ever-informative Guide to Literary Agents Blog had a great post recently from guest blogger Livia Blackburne called "7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter."

All novelists should take a look-see, because we all fall prey to cliches, boring conventions, and lazy writing at times. I expected to find the "don't start with weather" dictum, since that's a common theme when you talk to agents and editors. But I was more surprised to see that some writers give readers Too Much Information (TMI), as in detailed descriptions of bodily functions or even surgery. Ew. My sympathies, agents!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

National Book Award YA Winner



Looks fascinating. Did you know that in 1955 a black teen girl refused to give up her seat to a a white person on the bus nine months BEFORE Rosa Parks? (Read more here.) Another example of how kids can make a difference in the world.

Am making notes for my to-read list...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kids Can Make a Difference

When ten-year-old Will Phillips refused to stand up and pledge allegiance because he thinks we haven't lived up to the ideal of "liberty and justice for all" he really started something. Turns out Will thinks gays should be able to marry, and until they can, he won't take the Pledge.

As his father Jay Phillips says, "He felt that just because he's ten years old doesn't mean he doesn't have opinions, doesn't mean he doesn't have rights, and doesn't mean he can't make a difference."

Here's Will and his father on CNN:




What a smart, brave kid. The ten-year-old inside me loves the fact that one kid, taking a stand, can cause people to think about important issues like this one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Childhood Memories

I loved Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Zoom when I was a kid, lo, many years ago. Thanks to YouTube I found my absolute favorite sketch from Zoom (below). For some reason, this song remains totally intact in my memory. It makes me wonder why kids latch onto certain songs or phrases or events and not to others. With the benefit of hindsight, the song presages much in my life. First, the song. (Note, the tallest girl in the cast here is named Nina. That always tickled me too!)



The protagonist here is, of course, the cat. I am a proud cat-owner, cat-saver, and cat-lover. (I love just about every other animal too!) Did my love of this song foreshadow the fact that my current work-in-progress features some very important cat elements?

Also, the song has a certain violence to it. I don't think they'd let kids sing something like this ("97 pieces of the man was all they found") on children's programming today. Can it be just a coincidence that I write about kick-ass protagonists and love to write action scenes? Yay, violence! (in fiction, that is.)

The cat here is also quite the underdog. Shot at, given away, sent to the moon - how could a little cat survive all that? Yet he does, he keeps coming back. It's a lesson for writers. Pile the woe onto your protagonist, put her in impossible situations and then have her get herself out of them. Let the cat that came back be your template.

(Side note: I can't help thinking this song inspired "Stray Cat Strut" by the Stray Cats. The attitude in it is very similar.)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Idea Alert!

People wonder where ideas come from, and I tell them that the ideas are the easy part. It's the writing that's hard.

That's why ideas are so fun! They seem to slip out of the ether into your brain. Sometimes it's a character that sparks it, or a scene arrives unasked before your mind's eye. Today I was listening to the radio during my lunch hour, listening to a story and I thought, "someone should write a novel or a screenplay about this."

Or maybe I should. For me the idea usually involves an underdog of some kind, facing terrible odds, huge conflict, in a setting I haven't quite seen before in quite this way. Stories of strong women inspire me, but I've also written two TV pilot scripts that feature male protagonists. But they are always strong, always full of internal conflict, facing huge external conflict. I love interesting historical settings too. I'm a big buff of Ancient Egypt and Tudor England and have written or contemplated writing all kinds of things set in those times.

So today I got a new idea. I'm very excited about it and no, I can't tell you what it is. It's too new, and it needs quiet, uninterrupted nurturing right now. But it just might become my next book.

But I really should finish my current book first!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

My First Five Pages

Rock. Just saying.

I reread them yesterday, and they kick butt. This is the new novel I'm talking about, the one only my faithful/fabulous crit partner Elisa Nader has read all of. (My classmates last spring read the beginning.) No, you can't read them yet. Sorry.

I rewrote some other bits of the beginning, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I must get back to finishing that first draft. I'm not doing NaNo this year because I was already at page 204 (!) on November 1, and the rules of NaNo say you must start a new book. But I'm all about the cranking out of words this month. So here's to you, NaNo writers. Write on!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Photos - Cambria and San Simeon

Finally downloaded my photos from my trip to Cambria and San Simeon with my Mom. We had a blast, ate very well, tried some delicious local wines, saw how the (very) rich lived at Hearst Castle, and watched the elephant seals battle and snooze. My normally amazing digital Canon Rebel camera was giving out error messages like pancakes, so getting shots at times was a struggle. It pooped out royally at the elephant seal beach, alas. I really wanted more shots of these elegantly schnozzled beasties.

You can see the entire photostream here on Flickr.

And here's a taste of the beauty we imbibed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Teens' Top Ten 2009

Eleven thousand teens voted on their favorite books of 2009! The official list page is here, but I've cut and pasted the list below.

Listed author E Lockhart notes that books with pink covers never get on these lists. Hmm. An anti-pink conspiracy, perhaps?

1. Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin/Dutton)
2. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
4. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry)
5. Identical by Ellen Hopkins (Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry)
6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)
7. Wake by Lisa McMann (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse)
8. Untamed by P.C. and Kristin Cast (St. Martin's Griffin)
9. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Disney-Hyperion)
10. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Scarily or fabulously, I appear to be somewhat in sync with teen readers. I've read five of these, all excellent:

The Hunger Games
City of Ashes
The Graveyard Book
Wake
Graceling

And I have a sixth (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks) waiting on the shelf. Looking forward to Paper Towns as well!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Flu Addled

Sorry I haven't posted recently, but I've been house-bound for nearly a week now thanks to the flu. At least I think it's the flu. Mostly I'm just exhausted, with sinus fun to complete the picture. But I haven't had a fever spike in two days and today is slightly better than yesterday, so I do think I'm (slowly) mending.

It's tough to be so tired. I don't know how the chronically ill manage! I haven't been able to read much, let alone write on my second novel or brainstorm my next script. I haven't generated any new query letters or been able to sit down and play the piano for more than 15 minutes, and that rather poorly.

It all makes me grateful knowing that I will get better, that this shall pass, and that my usual vigor will return. I'm a bit impatient, but am trying not to overdo things and relapse. It's a struggle not to give in to the feeling of uselessness and lumpiness being sick brings on. I keep thinking that I serve no purpose, that I'm not contributing, that I'm not creating.

But sometimes I guess you just have to lie still.

So that's what I'm doing. Within the next day or two I hope to be back at the keyboard, working on a story.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fave YA Books II




Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden is, quite simply, one of the most riveting books you'll ever read. Teen or adult, if you like a page turning, thought provoking late-into-the-night read, you'll love this.

Teenage Ellie and her six friends return from a camping expedition in the Australian bush to find that their country has been invaded and occupied by a foreign army. Everyone they know is a prisoner of war, so they must find a way to stick together, avoid the enemy, and eventually - fight back.

Marsden's got a great premise here, but it's the voice of narrator Ellie and the way she and her friends grow and change under the pressures of the plot that make this book so riveting, honest, and real. Beware, this is the first in an addictive series. Read this one and you'll want to get them all.

Only Book 1, this one, was available in the US when I first read it. But I was so determined to find out what happened that I ordered the rest of the series through an Australian bookstore and paid the high shipping fees to get the sequels as soon as I could. Later, when a TV producer asked me if I knew of any books that would make good TV, I instantly recommended this series. Her company ended up losing a bidding war over acquiring the rights to the books. And still they haven't been made into a series or a movie. If the rights have become available again, producers would be wise to snap them up. It's that good.

Update: I just found out that an Australian movie of the book is now filming! It started shooting in late September. Keep your eyes peeled in six months or so. I can only hope it's half as good as the book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ban Book Banning

Top YA authors like Maureen Johnson and Laurie Halse Anderson continue to face attempts to ban their books. Read Laurie Halse Anderson's response from her blog here.

I think the emails and letters from kids whose lives were changed by her books say it all.

Censorship is wrong and un-American. And when you ban books that deal with tough subjects for teens, people can get hurt. Teens need to know that if they make a mistake or suffer a tragedy, all is not lost, that they are still valuable, that others have been through similar experiences and come out stronger on the other side. If that resource is taken from them, they may suffer irreperable damage.

Thank goodness for organizations like Kids' Right to Read, which confronts challenges to books all over the country.

Banning books makes me want to go out and buy tons of the banned books and distribute them for free to every teen I see. Instead, I might reread Halse Anderson's brilliant, award-winning Speak.

Next week is Banned Books week. What banned book will you be reading?

Sufficiently Cracked

As I posted a little while ago, Larry Gelbart was one of my favorite writers. Since then I found this previously unpublished essay from him about what it is to be a writer. You can find it here.

It's full of gems like:

"If even one short sentence of anything I’ve ever written in anyway reflects this dream-like passage called life, I can only hope that the mirror I’ve held up to it has been sufficiently cracked."

If you're a writer, it'll resonate. If you're not a writer, it'll give you a bit more insight into how we nutballs think.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Old Teen Dreams

And... just because I love The Beatles and because we need to remember that everyone was once a teen, here's another great teen song, written in 1963. It too, captures that youthful energy, that desire to date, that sense of endless possibility you feel at that age.

Remember, your parents and their parents DO have an idea of how you feel. They were young once too.


I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles

Teenage Dreams

Heard Mika sing on Jonathan Ross's talk show on BBC America (my latest crush in TV stations) and instantly felt like a teen.

"Who gives a damn about the family you come from
No giving up when you're young and you want some."

I remember those days, when anthem-like songs about how "We are Golden" made me feel young and alive. Go, Mika!

Warning: not for the elderly or cynical.


We Are Golden (Full/Official) - Mika

Friday, September 11, 2009

Goodbye, Farewell, Amen - Larry Gelbart

Larry Gelbart passed away today of cancer. He was 81, and he lived a good life - a life any writer could envy. He developed the movie MASH into a famous TV show and wrote on that series for four years. He wrote the book for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the script for Tootsie, and HBO's Barbarians at the Gate. He won many awards and earned millions for his work. You can read the LA Times obituary here, where many very funny people attest to his geniality and comedic gift.

When I met him, we were working on a short-lived TV show. He came in as a consultant to try and save the thing, although even his magic powers couldn't do that. Nonetheless, Larry was a wonderful person for an aspiring writer to be around. I didn't know him well, but I did get to see how hard he worked, how razor sharp his mind and wit were, and the integrity with which he carried himself. Not only was Larry hilarious, he was honest and unafraid. He didn't blink at disagreeing with Hollywood's major bigwigs. He'd call a jerk a jerk, and right to the jerk's face. This is a town where executives who fail horribly are paid millions, complimented, and given production deals.

He'd also call you sweetheart if you were one. And he had the worst luck with technology - cars, toasters, computers, all seemed to implode if he came near them. I'm grateful I wasn't responsible for fixing all the machines he somehow managed to mangle. The rumors said he made a million dollars a week on the MASH residuals from all over the world. I don't know about that, but I do know he had a mansion in Beverly Hills and a house in Capri, Italy, where he'd retreat when he needed a break from Hollywood's hollowness. He deserved every penny, every golden reward. He put his heart, soul, and back into his writing. He was confident of his talent, but never arrogant.

MASH was one of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid, and I told him so. I'm really glad I got the chance to do that. I searched for a MASH clip to share with you here, but none seem to be available. So here's a very funny scene from Tootsie to remind you of his wit, his insight, and his talent.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Beatles Ahoy!

The box sets of the remastered Beatles albums come out tomorrow and it's not unreasonable to say that I'm WIGGING OUT!

I'm a Beatles nut, and to celebrate the fact that the albums will finally be presented in proper sonic glory, here are a few links of interest to Beatles fans...

Take 37 of Something, which turns the song into a sort of bluesy jam.

And unplugged If I Fell, from tapes kept by the Beatles' chauffeur.

A cover of Buddy Holly's Maybe Baby from the Let It Be days.

For true devotees - 20 minutes of studio chat as they work out Think for Yourself, goof off, add X-rated lyrics, and occasional show off their virtuousity.

Amazon says my discs should be here on Friday. I can't wait!!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Holiday Weekend = Writing

Oh, and a Dodger game. And a dinner party/BBQ with friends. And probably a brunch and maybe a movie.

But seriously, I must write this weekend. I've given myself a deadline. I want to finish the first draft of my current WIP (work in progress) by Oct. 15. I'm going to shoot for Sept. 30, just for giggles. I'm probably a little more than halfway through the manuscript now, but that's still a lot of words to churn out.

With the weather here in LA due to cool by five degrees (huzzah!) and a bit less smoke from the evil Station fire in the air (go, firefighters!), it should be excellent conditions for writing. No excuses! I hope that by putting this out there, I'll be too ashamed not to write. I'll report in as needed.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Kindle versus Book

Amazon's ereader the Kindle is getting more and more popular these days. I don't own one because a) the initial cost, b) I don't travel that much, and when I do I don't need more than a couple of books, and c) I like the way print looks on a page much better than pixels on a screen.

However, I think the Kindle has its place, and I don't see why we can't have both books and ereaders in this world. There's room enough for both!

That said, I must share a slightly slanted video series called "The Book vs. Kindle" by Green Apple Books on youtube (you can see the full list of them here) which is pretty funny. One of my faves, "Storytime," below:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ellen Hopkins on Writing the Edge

In her latest blog post, YA writer Ellen Hopkins tells it like it is to those who would censor YA/teen books, or who think that there are some topics teen books shouldn't discuss.

Specifically, she's talking about her new book, TRICKS, which deals with teen prostitution. Reviewers objected to the inclusion of unhappy sex scenes and the use of the word fuck. (Only they call it the "f-bomb." As Ellen Hopkins says - just say the word already. It's in use all over high schools, and often in middle schools.)

So how exactly should a writer deal with a book about teen prostitution aimed at teens? Gloss over it, use euphemisms, pretend it's not there? The truth is that there are teens who struggle with this issue, and a book like this can really have a positive effect on their lives, as long as it is honest and real to them. How could it possibly be real without sex scenes and swear words? Hopkins details two girls in particular who found strength and hope through the book. I think that trumps anything a reviewer might have to say.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Seven Questions: Cheri Waterhouse


Cheri Waterhouse is an actor, a writer, and a film producer. Her hilarious, insightful independent film Young, Single, and Angry is out on pay-per-view and On Demand, and is available on ITunes and Amazon. A recent emigree to Las Vegas, she blogs at What Happens in Vegas Goes in My Blog and has a column called Cheri’s Sin City with MyVegasScene. You can find her on Twitter here and on Facebook (She’s that one with the big smile on her face…yeah, that’s her).

1. Congrats on making Young, Single, and Angry and getting it onto Video on Demand and Amazon and ITunes! Please tell aspiring filmmakers how you managed to turn your screenplay into a finished film.

Wheewww, it was a long process, Nina. I had never written a screenplay before and started to take screenwriting classes with Pilar Alessandra at On The Page after I wrote the first draft (where I learned that everything I was doing was, well, backward and much harder). I was lucky enough to have amazing actors as friends and did many readings of the script. I found this very helpful, because you can actually hear things that are clunky, pieces that are missing and parts that just don't work.

I tried to sell the script for about one year (without any luck) then decided that if I was going to be successful at anything, I had to make it happen myself. I asked my close friend, Cathleen Alexander, who had produced an independent feature and my older brother Richard Waterhouse, who is an acting teacher and a very good theatre director, to help me bring it to fruition.

We begged and borrowed funds, used friends’ houses as locations, used the actors' wardrobes as costumes and really relied on all (I mean all) our friends to help out. We shot for approximately seven months (on nights and weekends). Everyone had day jobs and other paying acting gigs, so we had to accommodate everyone’s schedule.

After the film was finished, we hired the amazing Peter Belsito and Sydney Levine from Film Finders to help us find a sales agent to get the film distributed. We attended AFM (American Film Market) and the Berlin Film Market. At Berlin, we were lucky enough to catch the eye of Imagination Worldwide, who took us under their wing and found us international and domestic distribution. Film Finders and Imagination have been so good to us. They believed in our film, and really worked hard to make this all work.

We also worked our asses off. This was truly a labor of love and we literally downed hundreds of cases of wine to keep from feeling those pesky “labor pains.” This has been a five year process, and we are excited to move on to the next project.

(Photo: Cheri Waterhouse [right] and her fellow producer, Cathleen Alexander)

2. What advice would you give aspiring screenwriters and independent film producers?

Writers, just write. You can fix it later. Sometimes you’ll write a load of crap, then you’ll pull a gem out of your bum. Just write.

Also write down all your ideas. I put mine on an Excel sheet. You may not want to write about them now, but later, they may really strike you as your next exciting project.

Producers, know your vision. I made so many mistakes. I mean soooo many.

Click with your director, DP [director of photography], editor, get to know them. Know in your heart that they are on the same page with you or else the film won’t work.

If they don’t understand (“get”) the script or have their own vision that is different from you, it will cause a big conflict in the process…. It’s a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario.

I was really fortunate in some instances. And in others…not so much.

Then when you know they’re right for the project, take a deep breath and surrender a little bit. Micromanaging is not good, for anybody.

P.S. this is from watching other people’s low budgets in process: be nice to your crew. You’re paying them practically nothing. Feed them well, respect them and be kind. They are there for you. But they won’t be if you abuse them. I loved my crew. They were the best.

(Here's the trailer for the movie)


3. What would you say are the best and worst things about trying to lead a creative life?

The best thing about leading a creative life is that it’s fun. I look forward to it. I surprise myself, crack myself up and I am constantly amazed how dark I get sometimes. It’s really like therapy. I’m grateful that I get to reach the highest highs and the lowest lows and then I turn off my computer and it was all in my imagination. Exploration is exhilarating. Figuring out that missing piece of the puzzle is also a big high for me.

The worst: finances. Being independently wealthy would really help my situation. Oh well. Finding day jobs, juggling paying work and writing. I feel guilty if I don’t spend equal time on either (that darn Midwestern work ethic. Phooey).

My dream is to be able to finance my own films, so I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone. Or find a lovely benefactor who believed in me to finance me so I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone. If you’re interested, talk to Nina and she’ll give you my info. Hee, Hee.

4. How do you jolt yourself out of it when you're stuck, creatively? Or maybe you never get stuck! In which case, please allow me to poke you viciously.

This is going to sound a little twisted, but it really works for me. I expect it to be bad. I lower the bar so far that I assume anything that goes on the page will be crap. No expectations, no blocks.

Or if I get to a part where I can’t figure out “how” it will happen, I skip it and keep writing. Figure it out later. It will come to you eventually. I usually write “Then he/she magically gets to this place” or I write something that is boring or lame so I can just keep on plowing through. You will figure out something brilliant later on down the line.

5. What books, movies or other media inspire you?

I love movies (even the ones I don’t care for took an amazing amount of work, so I appreciate them). Hedwig and the Angry Inch was SOOO exciting to me, Sweet Hereafter, Old School (cracked me up), Princess Bride. Starting to like zombie movies (being nudged to the dark side by a friend). Plays by John Guare, books by Anne LaMott.

Music: Love Rufus Wainwright and Bonnie Raitt (and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age).

Most of my television watching is fueled by my twisted sense of humor or my libido(sorry, over share): True Blood, Hung, Burn Notice, Nurse Jackie, Weeds, Rome, Deadwood, Dexter, The Mentalist, What Not To Wear, The Daily Show…You can decide what shows belong in which category.


6. What creative project are you working on now?

I’m writing a web series with my brother called “FU Public Relations.” I also have a script about a transvestite called “RocknRoll Hootchiecoo. ‘ I write show and restaurant reviews for MyVegasScene.com. I have a blog What Happens In Vegas Goes In My Blog. I’m discussing peri-menopause right now, which I’m sure is so exciting for all your readers. Then my first drama, that I am scared to talk about (I’m expecting it to be bad. See, it works).



7. Obligatory silly question: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Ok, I would really need two (sorry to be so demanding…but I will anyway).

1. Reading people’s minds (Now that’s power).

2. Transporting from one place to the next instantly (Pub tour in Europe, no problem. Photographic Safari in Namibia…sure! Lunch with Anthony Bourdain in Thailand. Poof, I’m there.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Cheri! Readers, please check out Young, Single, and Angry on Video on Demand or on ITunes and Amazon.

Interview, Coming Up!

I'm arranging chats with various creative types so I can share their stories of success and frustration here on The Tulgey Wood. So stay tuned. I hope to have my interview with writer/filmmaker Cheri Waterhouse up later today or early tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Best. Cartoon. Ever.

Saw this again today and had to post it. Probably my favorite cartoon ever, although a couple other Warner cartoons come close. Without further ado: Feed the Kitty!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Big Fat Fantasy

I'm currently reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. So far it's an excellent fantasy novel, set in a rich world with an intriguing anti-hero and a rich use of language.

It's been awhile since I read a fantasy novel like this - one aimed squarely at adults and male readers rather than at women and teens. The main difference so far is the pace. YA usually reads like a bat out of hell. Even the more adult but female-oriented fantasy books like the excellent Mercy Thompson novels by Patricia Briggs tend to move more quickly than the tomes put out by male authors of the genre like Robert Jordan (not my cup of tea), George R.R. Martin (Song of Ice and Fire novels are MUST READS for fantasy fans), and Neal Stephenson (haven't had the guts to open up one of his gigando books yet).

Yes, yes, I know there are fast paced male fantasy writers - Terry Pratchett, some Greg Keyes, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, etc. And JK Rowling could go on a bit long at times in the Harry Potter books (love them!), not to mention the rather lengthy Mists of Avalon, which I could never finish. But if you pick up a big fantasy novel that throws out your back and has a few sequels that are even longer, odds are it was written by a man.

I'm not objecting. I'm just remarking on the difference. In the case of books like Martin's, I never want them to end. I'm grateful for their full-blooded appeal. And so far The Name of the Wind has been delightful, even though I'm a hundred pages in and the real story hasn't started yet. I can't help thinking: that would never fly in YA, dude.

But there's room for all kinds. I just wonder why it's the men who do go on...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Self Marketing for Writers

Am linking to this as much for my own benefit as for any readers out there! Great post on the very hand blog Market My Words (bookmark it for further use, since they have a ton of great marketing advice for writers!) by editor Molly ONeill, assistant editor of Katherine Tegen books.

I won't repeat all she says here, but her advice is extensive and excellent. Get a web presence, understand what each type of media does for you, make a marketing plan of your own, and so on. Writers, take note!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Two Links for Writers Today

Check out writer/illustrator Peggy Abraham's post on her blog On Beyond Words & Pictures, where she interviews two 13-year-old readers about what they like to read. Interesting to hear how much the cover of the book affects them. Note to self - don't let my future published books have shiny covers!

Also, if you want more updates on the SCBWI conference in LA, check out Eva's Book Addiction for detailed reports. Thanks to the internet, it's almost like being there!

Monday, August 10, 2009

SCBWI Conference Time!

I couldn't make it to this year's big SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference here in LA this year. Today's the last day. I went the previous two years and learned a ton each time while making new friends. But financial considerations made me decide to forgo the experience this year.

However, I'm thrilled to report that this year there's a vicarious way to experience the conferece - on a blog. Check out the Official SCBWI Conference Blog here.

If you're on Twitter, you can get great little tidbits by following Alice Pope here. Even if you don't want to join Twitter, you can see her tweets by clicking on that link. You learn everything from how cool Holly Black's shoes are to what editors are looking for. Invaluable stuff.

Here's a taste of what you'll find on the blog - a few minutes of the Master Class with Richard Peck:

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Miss you, Natalie.

About four and a half years ago, my good friend Natalie deliberately drank herself to death. It's harsh and horrible to even type those lines and I'm sorry to inflict them on you, my few, my lovely readers. But I miss her tonight. Ironically, she of all people is the person I could talk to about what I'm feeling about her death, and she would understand. And missing her is all mixed up with the awful circumstances of her death. Don't worry, I won't go into them here.

It's just that I saw an episode of a British TV series tonight called "Being Human." That in itself isn't remarkable, although the show is good fun for fans of the supernatural and I'd recommend it if you have BBC America. But there was this bit in it tonight where a ghost realizes that he finally resolved what he needed in order to "move on." He fell in love, even though he claimed not believe in love when he was alive. And so he gets to take the next step - whatever that means. He opens a door that wasn't there before and he goes through it, into a blue-ish light, and voila.

I kept thinking, throughout this - has Natalie moved on? Did she walk into a light? Is she at peace? Given the turbulence of her last year, she must be more at peace than when she was alive. And mostly I think that death brings an end to things, one way or the other.

And as I cried a bit and missed her and thought about all that I did and didn't do while she was still here, I realized how much her death affected me and my writing. Bits of her inform every page of the YA novel I wrote recently. And after she died I really got cracking on my writing. Nothing like having someone cut their life short to make you realize that you never know what's going to happen, so you better get on the stick NOW before you take your leave too. And I wanted to do the opposite of take my life. I wanted to live live live and do the things I'd dreamed of and make something of myself, rather than make nothing, which is what suicide does.

But it's hard. And even as I know I've made a lot of progress, a small thing like a scene in an English TV show can remind me of all that's gone and never will be. So even as I remember who and what I am and celebrate that and move forward, I miss Natalie. It took me awhile to miss her. That last year with her was tough. But tonight I wish I could call her up and tell her I love her and listen to her wild laugh.

And some small part of my writer's brain is thinking - use this. It'll make a good story some day. How horrible and awful is that? Natalie would appreciate it.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Favorite Old YA Books I

Got a bit burned out from meeting various deadlines and took a blogging break. Back now!

I thought I'd post every now and then on a YA book I love, to say what's so awesome about it or how it influenced me. Today's post is on Elizabeth Marie Pope's novel The Perilous Gard.



During the last days of Mary Tudor's reign in England, outspoken lady-in-waiting Kate Sutton is exiled to a remote castle (the Gard in the title), where she discovers the old ways of sacrificing a young man to the fairy folk still thrive. Kate musters all her intelligence and will to save the young man, falling in love and finding herself in the process.

This vibrant, exciting, beautifully written book combines my love for history, fantasy, romance, and strong female heroines. I love history, and Pope's story gives us a glimpse into life in Tudor England (we even get to meet Princess Elizabeth Tudor, a hero of mine) before showing us an England even older and far more dangerous.

And then there's Kate Sutton, who may be clumsy and have difficulty holding her tongue, but it's exactly those qualities that end up saving her and the young man she loves. She's brainy, stubborn, insecure about her looks, and has a will that cannot be bowed. You guessed it - I identified with her in a big way, and she's a role model for some of the female characters I write. The romance that develops is sweet without being cloying because both parties are pig-headed and smart. Another lesson learned from this book - keep the villains multi-layered. The faery folk are sympathetic yet terrifying. You get a poignant glimpse of what it might mean to be one of the them in a land that no longer believes in you.

This one of those books shelved in the teen section that could just as easily be read by adults

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Teach Creativity

A brilliant talk here by education expert Sir Ken Robinson. He contends that creativity has the same importance in education as literacy.

The whole talk will resonate with anyone who ever felt that public education lead them away from their passion. Or anyone who was ever educated at all, really. It's 19 minutes long, but edifying and occasionally hilarious. "Can you imagine William Shakespeare being seven? He was in someone's English class, wasn't he? How annoying would that be?"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Aaaalmost there...

I've been writing toward a deadline ever since I got back from Hawaii, so the blogging's been nonexistant. Sorry about that! I'm just about done with a script (am submitting it to a fabulous program that I probably won't get into, but what the hell) and breathing a bit easier now that the end is in sight.

Even if I don't get in this writers workshop, I'll at least have another TV spec to show folks. AND I've rediscovered my TV writing chops after many months of novel writing. The two are very different animals, and it took me awhile to get my TV legs (fingers?) again. For a bit there I thought - wow, I suck.

But of course, this in inevitable when you're a writer. It's a nauseating rollercoaster ride of - eesh, I can't write for beans to - Wheee! This rocks and so do I!

I hit the "This rocks" section of the ride over the weekend and never looked back. When something feels good, don't question it too much. Just keep charging ahead.

Writing for TV is fun. You get to suggests worlds of emotion with a single word, to hint at relationships that may never happen, to show what you think of an idea without ever really putting yourself out there and saying it. It's my character's opinion, not mine (necessarily), right? It's just action and dialogue, and you've got to keep it spare. But look how much you can do with just those two tools! Much fun.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Bellows Beach on Independence Day



My favorite place on earth, warm and beautiful and welcoming. This is crowded for Bellows, which has a former Air Force runway as a parking lot. I got in the water for an hour, collected a few more freckles, and caught a bunch of waves, zooming past the kids on their boogie boards. I learned to bodysurf here the summer I turned nine. Still haven't lost the knack.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Kaimana Beach



Went to Kaimana Beach today to get my body into the ocean. Kaimana's the beach at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki where the locals hang out, at the foot of the New Otani hotel. Thanks to my Dad's membership in the local chapter of the Elks, I can park his car in the Elks Lodge parking lot just half a block away, buy a bottle of water at the store in the New Otani, and hit the sand. The place is also sometimes known as Sans Souci, right next to the Natatorium, a now defunct salt water swimming pool and WW II memorial, complete with cannon.

Thanks to the holiday weekend, the place was packed. Southern swells lifted the hordes of keikis (that's children in Hawaiian) off their feet as they splashed the warm green water. In the winter, it's clear and cool. In the summer, now, the ocean here is a cloudy grassy green, warm as a puppy.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lanai!





Spent the whole day exploring Lanai with my Mom. You'll see us here standing near the Garden of the Gods, a windswept section that resembles Mars but was once actually the bottom of an ancient lake.

Also featured, former pineapple fields that have now gone wild, and Shipwreck Beach, complete with wreck eternally hung up on the reef.

Lanai is gorgeous, varied, and sleepy. I highly recommend taking a tour with a local guide (Bruce Harvey was our knowledgeable, affable host) to show you all the cool nooks and crannies.

Friday, June 26, 2009

One thought before I go...

...on vacation! Woo hoo!

I may post stuff from Hawaii or once I get back, but in the meantime, check out this post from writer John Scalzi's blog "Whatever" on how publishing works.

Clue: it's very very sloooow.

Happy Fourth of July (just in case I don't blog before then) to all!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Video test!



This is basically a test of my new Flip video phone. I'm seeing if I can upload videos from it and post them here. It's just me on the roof of a parking lot near Wilshire and Western, right after tonight's PJ Harvey concert at the lovely Wiltern Theater, one of my favorite venues in Los Angeles. Too bad it's too dark to share just how lovely the evening was. But it's short, and, fair warning, I appear very briefly at the end.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. Thanks to the most creative, supportive, loving father a girl could ever have.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time Travel

After reading this post on Scott Westerfeld's blog, I'm inspired to change the time settings on my blog to GMT +3:30, which is the time zone for Tehran, Iran.

Apparently this is one of the few concrete things we bloggers can do to help the protesters in Iran right now. As Scott Westerfeld says, "Censors in Iran are currently searching for blogs with Tehran local settings as a way of finding and shutting down sites that are protesting Iran’s recent (probably stolen) election. The more blogs in the world that are set to Tehran time, the harder the job is for these censors to do their job."

So, hello Iranian government censors! Nice of you to stop by during your iniquitous mission to quash free speech. Stay awhile, have a seat, write a novel.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Make It Up

So I've been flailing around, trying to get started on a new TV script, feeling terribly uninspired. My few forays into hashing out an outline have come to dead ends with me feeling like a lunkhead who can't write for beans.

Yesterday things got slightly better though, because I decided to just make it up.

Yes, I know writers make up stories - that's what I'd been trying to do all along, right? But I was taking it very seriously, thinking things like, "this has to be great" and "I have to make this perfect," and so on.

But yesterday I thought, "Okay, just write the crappy version. No one's going to see it, not yet. Just make it up."

For one thing, the script was sparsely populated. I had the main character and a few others, but the story involves a mystery, and I needed suspects, a killer, red herrings. For some reason, they just weren't appearing in my mind.

So I just made it up. Okay, here's the killer. Is he married? Instead of pausing to ponder all the reasons why he should or should NOT be married, I decided, sure, he's married. Why not?

And the victim - who's in her life? Is she married? Yeah, what the hell. And then I saw a connection between the victim's husband and the villain. I never would've made that connection if I hadn't just made the husband up for no good reason. And the killer's wife? She'll make a good red herring, since it turns out the victim was sleeping with the villain. Another connection made.

So when you're stuck, forget about reason. Let go of structure and connection and trying make it all make sense. Just make it up. Make no sense for awhile. Odds are you'll then start to see connections between all the nonsense you created, and suddenly it's not so nonsensical. The stuff that isn't connected can later be cut. But don't worry about that for now. Make it up.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Today's Writing Prompt - Deny the Deniers

Ages ago, when I was trying to make this site a place where people could come for writing prompts, I wrote about a story I heard on NPR about a Jewish boy who was adopted by Nazis as their mascot during World War II. It was a fascinating story, and I tried to use it as a writing prompt.

Just today someone tried to post comments to this blog, telling me that the whole story was faked, a hoax.

Uh, I don't care.

This isn't a blog on history. I'm not a journalist or a Holocaust expert. I posted the story here and the links to it so that it could be used as a prompt to inspire storytellers.

So today's prompt - write to me as "Dan" - the guy who thinks this story was a hoax. Consider using capital letters at odd times, make unsubstantiated claims, and have no clue as to what this blog is about.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Rewriting advice

This article at the Writers Store by William M. Akers gives great advice on rewriting your script, but most of it can be applied to your novel as well.

This article focuses on three things - story, dialogue, and scene description.

Screenplays focus on structure and story, whereas novels can and often do wander all over the place, and sometimes aren't very story driven. But if you want to tell a story, structure is your friend, even in a novel.

Yes, dialogue in a screenplay needs to be lean. But you don't want the characters in your novel repeating themselves, do you? All the points here can help make your novel's dialogue sing. I'd add my own tip, taken from movie director Howard Hawks, who called his dialogue, three cushion dialogue. It's a term from pool, where you bounce the ball off of three cushions before sinking it. Hawks never wanted dialogue that went straight to the point. He thought it should bounce around its meaning, getting to the point obliquely. Don't have your character say "I love you." Have a character who is a coffee snob say to their beloved: "You make good coffee." You get the idea.

Sure, scene description in your novel doesn't have to be as tightly focused and written as in a screenplay. But shorter is often better, and tightening it can make you get to the heart of your description in a more powerful way.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Clever clever

I've been lazy since I finished my rewrite and haven't done the script outline I need to do. And I spend time online finding amazing video like the stuff below.

Seriously - how can I write a story about these whales? About halfway through, you'll see what I mean, but this is footage of a fishing line way out at sea. It has a cod hanging from it, and then about halfway thought you'll see an ENORMOUS sprem whale show up, tweak the fishing line, and get the juicy cod.

You can even hear the happy clicking from the whale as he steals the fish. Thieves of the sea! They do have brains bigger than ours, you know.

Monday, May 25, 2009

So the proofing is done and I can relax a bit before plunging into the next project (which will probably be a TV spec script of a currently popular show, although my second YA novel manuscript calls to me longingly). Research for the spec script involves watching eps of the TV show on my Tivo and making notes. Rough life, ey?

But before that, I had to go hang out with my friends, have a beer, watch the kids soak each other with large water guns, and eat Pam's delicious grilled pizza. Along the way I got great news - my friend Harry Connolly's new sci fi novel will be out in September. A mutual friend has read an advance copy and sang its praises to the heavens. It is the first part of a trilogy, and I can't wait to read it.

Another friend is busy finishing up the treatment for a horror film for the SyFy channel. He's gotten great feedback from the network and is happily fleshing out his outline and clarifying the story points. Fingers crossed they love the script and that we're all soon watching it on a bigscreen TV soon.

Add in my homemade quacamole (food processor broke, but squeezing the limes canceled out the garlic smell lingering on my hands), fudgie oatmeal bars by esteemed baker Brian, Pam's delicious grilled pizzas, and a clear night in Burbank with nearly everyone up and hula-hooping, and you've got the recipe for an inspirational good time.

And a nod to the men and women of our armed services on this Memorial Day, whose courage in serving out country through the years through desert, mud, jungle, and sea provide further inspiration. It's everywhere if you look hard enough.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Proofing takes Forever

(Sung to the tune of "Diamonds are Forever")

So I'm proofing the rewrite, and totally underestimated the time necessary for it. I hummed along thinking, la la la, I'll just whip through the proofing and send it off.

Ha!

You can't whip through proofreading, because then it isn't proofreading, it's speed reading. I often say the words out loud or consciously make my eyes embrace each word as it comes along as I proof. Otherwise I'd skip along, tra la, and skip all the typos and awkward phrases. Writing and reading are so much more fun than proofing. But you can't send out a manuscript with errors, baby. It's not professional. And it's us amateurs that need to look professional the most.

A little more than halfway through the proof. If lucky, and determined, I hope to finish it tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Writers don't work for you

I love George R.R. Martin's grand fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, and I'm impatiently waiting for the next book to come out so I can see what happens to all the characters I've come care about so fervently. Jon Snow! Tyrion Lannister! Arya Stark! These are some of the most three-dimensional, fascinating people I've ever met, and I can't wait to remake their acquaitance.

And GRRM, as we fans call him, has not produced the fifth book in his series on any of the dates his publisher has put forward, promising us we'd have the book.

This doesn't make me mad, as it does some of GRRM's fans. But it does frustrate me. Write, GRRM, write! That's what I think. How hard can it be?

I'm a writer. I should know better.

Neil Gaiman puts it brilliantly in a response to a GRRM fan's question on this topic on his blog.

You can click on the link to read Neil's thoughtful, oh-so-right response in full. Or you can get the gist from one sentence:

"George R.R. Martin is not your bitch."

There's a lot more to it. But that's the essence of it all. If you pay for a book, then you got what you paid for. One book is not a promise of future books. George R.R. Martin does not work for me. And he has his own life to lead.

Still can't wait for the next book, though. Hang in there, GRRM!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Editing Letter

I haven't been fortunate enough to get to this point - but if a publisher takes on your novel, they edit the heck out of it with what are called "editing letters." Here's one author's humorous take on the horror, the horror.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Nerds Rule! (Friday Fun Post)

Just read this excellent post on the Best and Worst Things about Dating Nerds.

As a nerd myself, I must agree with the posters complaints and compliments. I have also dated my share of nerds, and even a few hot guy/nerd combos. (Yes hot guys with hot rods and black leather jackets can also secretly collect action figures. The world is a complex place.)

Nerds are fun. I speak as one, so I am biased. But they tend to be creative, thoughtful types, and playfulness is connected to both those things. Writers tend to be a bit nerdy, even the seemingly hot ones. I heart Neil Gaiman, but underneath that leather jacket and behind those big brown eyes is the soul of a comic book geek. And guess what? That just makes him hotter! Do not underestimate the nerd. We're writing your favorite stories, fixing your computers, having crazy sex, and checking out the latest price of that removeable mask mego Robin action figure on Ebay all at once.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

YA Ghettoland

It's amazing how condescending otherwise nice people can be if you tell them you are writing a book for teens. "Oh that's nice," they say. "And maybe someday you'll be able to move up and write for adults." Or even: "Why would you write that stuff?"

"Move up"?? "That stuff"?? I am not kidding. People have said this to me. I don't think they realized how silly they sounded. But somehow books for kids can't be as good as books for adults. Forget the fact that the most influential books I read in my life are the books I read before I hit age 18, including things like the Chronicles of Narnia, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the works of Judy Blume, and fantastic stuff like The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Island of the Blue Dolphins. These are the books that made me love reading and allowed me to move on to Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare.

Nowhere are you more likely to touch a nerve, bring comfort, entertain, or enlighten as you are with kids. Check out this story in the NYTimes about an author who got pushed into the YA category, was dissed by "adult" writers and ultimately realized the impact her book had on teens.

Apparently there was a bit of an outcry when some YA classified novels won some Science Fiction awards. Check out writer John Scalzi's post, where he disposes with that argument most effectively.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that kid's lit is ghetto-ized, even though it's one of the few areas in publishing resisting the recession and people love to pontificate how important it is that our children read. Kids don't vote. And they often don't pay for the books they read. Certain conservative politicians have resisted the US signing the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child, for crying out loud, saying they don't want some non-American organization telling them how to raise their child.

I send a big fat raspberry fart noise their way.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Keep Your Village Small

My latest girl/talent crush is Amanda Palmer, a singer/songwriter/artist extraordinaire who was one-half the Dresden Dolls and just put out an amazing solo album called "Who Killed Amanda Palmer." I can't get "Oasis" and "Leeds United" out of my head. (Warning: you may encounter darkest irony, wit, and insight if you watch these videos. "Who needs love when the sandwiches are wicked and they know you at the Mac store?")

Anyway, I follow her on Twitter and found this clip, which struck me right between the eyes. Probably because I have the stupid habit of taking on everyone's pain and worry about the people starving in North Korea and being raped in the Congo. Not to mention the occasionally self destructive activities of people you love. Ever feel like all the crazy horrible pain going on all over the world at once feels like it's pressing in on you? I mean, people are dying and being tortured, and animals are being starved, and kids are being sold, and on and on right this very minute.

How can we deal with this? I have to push that stuff aside when it starts to smother me like that or I'll go nuts. And I have to remember that I'm happy, and that it's good to be happy because happy people spread happiness around to others. As a writer, I think you must have imagination and empathy in order to get inside other people's heads so you can understand your characters. But go too far with that and it wears you down until there's nothing left of you. You're a shell filled with other people's pain. And what the hell good does that do anyone?

So I think Amanda's right. This is from the site Uncensored Interview.



Kind of ironic finding this via Twitter, a much bigger "village" than a few hundred people.

The Benefits of Failure and of Imagination

This is old stuff - JK Rowling gave the commencement address to a group of graduating students at Harvard a few years back. But it's worth revisiting as we keep moving forward in life. In a very moving speech, shown below in three parts, she tells how both failure and imagination have lead her to lead a rich life. The last part includes the two-minute standing ovation she received from her audience.





Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Synopsis = Hell

Writing a synopsis of your novel to entice agents or publishers is one of the tasks writers hate most. I know I'd much rather write an entire first draft of a book than write a five-page synopsis. Yuck! To help you along, I found this nifty entry in a blog that summarizes the process nicely.

My own thoughts: First, best to write it after the novel is done. Don't try it during your first draft, because things may change and you'll have to re-synopsize, which is evil.

Second, keep it shorter rather than longer. Short and snappy.

Third, reveal the ending. You're not trying to create suspense. The agent/publisher wants to know that you can plot things out successfully and satisfy your reader.

Fourth, I start just slogging through events A-Z. Then I go back and make it sing.

Fifth, touch on themes and characters, but mostly you're trying to tell what happens.

Sixth, reward a drink or some chocolate when you're done. You deserve it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To counteract the icky feelings that came from yesterday's post, today I am posting a video clip that just brings joy to my heart. I'm a bit late to this party, apparently. It zoomed out into the internet world last week I think, but check out this clip from the Antwerp train station in Belgium. Seemingly spontaneous acts of creativity rule!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Women for Women

I'm still reeling with outrage after hearing that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has signed into a law that, for the Shia population of his country, legalizes marital rape.

I know that this is a blog about writing, but this sort of thing makes my blood boil. It makes me want to write screeds of invective, showering hatred on people like Zardari and the Taliban who burn down girls's schools and flog women for looking at a man.

But hate begets hate, doesn't it? There are better ways to deal. So I'm thinking how to write about injustice against women in a more constructive way, and I'm eyeballing this charity: Women for Women. You can donate money or sponsor a woman, who will correspond with you as your very few dollars change her life.

Even if you can't afford to donate or sponsor someone, if you're a writer, think how your writing skills, your storytelling, but affect how a reader thinks. If we illuminate injustices like this one, we get a step closer to eliminating them.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wheeeee.

This is how I feel going into a three-day weekend with not one but two Easter dinners ahead of me. The video below, found thanks to perusing Neil Gaiman's website and up on Fabulist, helps express my percolating enthusiasm. It's by singer/songwriter/performer Jason Webley.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bouncy Blog Post

Nuture your creativity today. Imagine strange things. Bounce one weird idea off another. Like this:

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Beatles - Remastered

Okay, this has nothing to do with writing, but I cannot hold it in. At last AT LAST they have announced that the Beatles albums will be remastered and released on September 9!

Deep breath. I am, what you might call, a Beatles fan. In fact, the technical term might be Beatles nutball insane lunatic. And I've been waiting since the Beatles first came out on cd in 1987 to get a decent sounding recording of their albums. Like many early cd releases, the sound quality of these was crappy. Thoughout the years, other artists have had their cds remastered - the Beach Boys, heck, even later artists like Prince and U2 did it for their early releases. If you're a Beatles geek like me, you can get the detail in the NY Times article here.

In celebration, herewith my favorite early tribute to the Beatles, by way of Sesame Street:

Monday, April 06, 2009

From Typewriter to Book

Okay, so I've already failed at Blog Every Day April because I enjoyed my weekend and barely went online and certainly didn't blog. I'm not particularly heartbroken about this, since real life trumps blogging, but will endeavor to make this Blog Nearly Every Day April to keep in the spirit of things.

Here's an easy post. The digital marketing team at publisher McMillan USA created this very funny instructional video to educate you on how a book goes from something in the writer's head to international best seller. Check it out.

Friday, April 03, 2009

For Poetry Month - ED

Poem 1354
by Emily Dickinson

The Heart is the Capital of the Mind --
The Mind is a single State --
The Heart and the Mind together make
A single Continent --

One -- is the Population --
Numerous enough --
This ecstatic Nation
Seek -- it is Yourself.

BEDA, Day 3

I'm all distracted and busy and can't focus on making a coherent blog entry. I just want to laugh and cry and shake and sing. Hey look, I'm doing all four at once!

Wow, look how everyone's running away. Bye!

But today is day 3 of Blog Every Day in April (BEDA) so I had to put something down, right?

For the first time in a forever I fee like maybe, just maybe, I know what I'm doing. This is rare phenomenon in writers and thus deserves thorough documentation.

THINGS ARE WORKING, PEOPLE!

Like, my plot is flowing, my ideas make sense, I feel like I understand my character. I've done this before, and I can do it again. AND, I'm not the only one who thinks so.

(And I don't mean that my parents think I'm great. They do, God love them, but that's not what I'm talking about here. People unrelated to me in any way think I know what I'm doing. So it just might be true. On a side note, parents who think you are great are the best thing in life and if you have/had that, then you WIN.)

Off now to crank out a few more pages before my class deadline, then whooshing off to a big party tonight on a flower-decked patio overlooking the lights of Hollywood. (Ooh, how glamorous! There will even be fudgie oatmeal bars at this party, thanks to my friend Brian, so you know it's gonna be great. Oh, and cupcakes. And well, maybe some alcohol.)

Have a good Friday night!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Writing is Hard

It's day number two of Blog Every Day April! Once this blog is done I'll be two for two! Go, me!

So they tell you that writing is hard, that life as a writer is a hard life, blah blah blah. And you go, yeah, sure. I get it. What's the big deal? I write something out of my genius brain, people love it, it gets published and makes a lot of money. You'll see this attitude in folks everywhere. You know, the ones who don't write.

I can't tell you how often people have said something like, "Hey! I've got a great idea for a book/TV show/movie! I'll tell it to you and you can write it and we'll make lots of money!"

Uh, no.

"No really! It's the most fantastic-est idea ever! All you have to do is write it!"

Um, no. Thanks. But no.

"Okay, well, who in the industry can I sell this idea to? Just point the way and I'll go sell it and be rich, rich I tell you!"

It doesn't work like that. Get a clue.

Ideas are easy, people. Ideas are a dime a dozen. If writing them down is so damn easy, then go take your brilliant idea and write it and make your own million dollars. Leave me out of it.

Truth is - it's the writing that's hard. People can look at your book/script/poem/whatever and say - why don't you make your main character do X instead of Y? Add a lesbian scene. Add texture, add depth, add puppies and kittens and rainbows. They say this gaily, as if they know how amazing their ideas are and how grateful you are to hear them. Then they sail away, dusting off their hands in satisfaction. Problem solved!

Well, no. There's still this pesky thing called writing that has to happen. Writing is more than just jotting down ideas. It's more than characters, plot, texture, scenary, puppies, and kittens. It involves staring at a blank page, knowing that out of all the words in the English language, you have to pick the exact right words to convey all this depth, all this tension, all these rainbows and unicorns and dancing elves. You not only have to have the idea, you have to have the bricks, the mortar, and the know how to use them. You are architect, contractor, and home owner all in one. You have to entertain, enlighten, amuse. There's pacing, plotting, syntax, vocabulary, metaphor, theme and which breed of puppy to consider. The possibilities are infinite, and you have to pinpoint the perfect needle in the midst of that Milky Way sized haystack.

So writing is hard. After you're done writing, you then have to find someone who likes it enough to pay you for it. And that's just as hard as the writing. It's not for the faint-hearted. It's not for the egotistical. You will get beat down and discouraged. You will work long hours alone with no one to tell you how brilliant you are. You will be rejected, over and over again. You will scramble to find hours in the day to write, then when you do sit down, your mind will be blank. The muse will not come.

If you have to write anyway, do it. The world needs people of determination and character who can face these problems down and keep moving forward. But remember, it's no picnic. It's not even a dinner party. It's hard. Now get to work.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Favorite Poem

In honor of Poetry month, I post here what is probably my favorite poem. There are many others that come close, but I always come back to Fern Hill by the late great Dylan Thomas.

FERN HILL

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Blog Every Day April

YA author Maureen Johnson has declared this month to be Blog Every Day April (BEDA - on Twitter search #BEDA). So in addition to it being Poetry Month, it's apparently blogging month.

Any other writing demands you got, folks???

I'm in the last week of my class, trying to churn out pages, and now I'm supposed to blog every day and write a poem every day too? Can you, ya know, spread this shit out a little for me?

Yet lo, see how I have blogged today, April 1? Perhaps I shall be able to do this BEDA thing.

Perhaps not. No promises.

In the spirit of all this, here's a stab at a poem for today.

Running down Hollywood Boulevard at sunset

Plane contrail a white arrow in dusty blue sky
backlit palms
Elvis and Marilyn arm in arm
three musicians, pierced, blue hair, use the crosswalk
carrying a guitar, a trumpet, and a bass.
A woman tends white roses in the Wattles gardens
while rats rustle in drifts of leaves
beneath the avocado trees.

Breath comes hard, I limp
past an open case of beer on the sidewalk
and stop. Inside, bottles beer.
A few feet away a dog owner
has neglected to pick up after an elephant dog.

No one but me
and the old Russian ladies
leaning on each other down the block.

Sweat trickles down my back. A sign
on the telephone pole reads only:
Young Man in need of Living Situation.
All the phone numbers have been torn off.

I feel the beer.
It's cold.
But I run on.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April - a Poem a Day

Robert Lee Brewer at the Writer's Digest blog Poetic Asides in once again having is Poem a Day in April challenge.

For those that are poetically inclined, it's a great way to get those creative bats fluttering. Robert posts a prompt every day, you write a poem and put it in the comments section of his blog, and he picks his favorites.

I tried this last April and it was a complete mixed bag. My chocolate chip cookie poem got picked as a favorite, but some of my efforts were so awful that I ended up deleting them from this blog. Never to be read again!

I won't have the time to do it again this April, (too much else to do!) but I do think I'll check out the prompts and try my hand once or twice along the way. If anything I churn out is slightly palatable, I'll post it here.

If you take the challenge, let me know! And good luck!