Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Reads: Matched



Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

By: Ally Condie

What's it about?  Teenage girl discovers her society's perfection isn't all it's cracked up to be.  And boys.

Why did I pick it? Another library pick--I'd heard a lot of chatter about it and it seemed quite popular.

Who will like it?  If you like your dystopian with a heavy dose of romance and a light hand on the science, this one's for you.  More about teenage coming of age and emotional growth than the more action-oriented dystopians.

Judging a book by its cover: Can you for this book?  Great symbolism of feeling entrapped by society, with the green dress that figured prominently in the plotline.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Celebrating the Small Things with Something Like Champagne

Last week I was maneuvering a grocery cart crammed full with a baby and a week's worth of food plus the ingredients for my contribution to Thanksgiving when I turned the corner in the wine section (between the boxed wine and the "imports" which were mysteriously all from Australia and all named after an animal and a body part) and saw the mini Champagne bottles.

I bought one.

To celebrate.

I had just finished a draft of my WIP and emailed it off to my agent.

Big deal?  In the long run, not really--we're probably far from done with this project, and the big finish of publication is still a long way away and, of course, not even assured for this particular book in any case.

But I believe in celebrating the small things.  If we waited until we reached the finish line, we'd be in for a long wait.  Or perhaps we'd never celebrate--after all, what is the finish line for a writer?  Publication is a milestone, but there's always the next book.  Reaching a certain arbitrary sales number or readership?  There's always doing one better.  We're never done, so why wait to celebrate what we have accomplished along the way?

So I bought the mini bottle of Champagne (well, something like Champagne but not true Champagne) and chilled it in the drawer of the fridge between the Ranch dressing and the mustard.  After the baby was down for the night, I popped the cork (well, twisted the cap off, in truth) and poured myself a flute of golden bubbles.

I enjoyed it.

What milestones do you celebrate?  How do you celebrate them?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Magpies, Back Pockets, and the Shiny

I have a theory that most writers are magpies.  We can be working diligently on The Idea that we're super-excited about, typing away, maybe even editing and then--Shiny!  Shiny New Idea!

And like a distractable magpie, we either flit off after it or have a very hard time resisting the pull of the Shiny.

We talk a lot about how to keep focused on the project at hand, which is important, but--the Shiny is important, too.

The Shiny is our creativity, and our drive, and, in the end, it's the heart and soul of our books.  Because without the Shiny Idea, there is no story, no intriguing character, no exciting setting or innovative concept.

Yet we can't run off after all the Shiny Ideas, unless we never want to finish anything.  It's true that, after lots of work and wear and dare we say, love, an idea gets a little worn.  It's easy to find more interest in something Shiny than in something you've been drudging away on for weeks, months, years.

This is why we all need a back pocket.  Somewhere to tuck those Shiny Ideas into until it's time to rifle through them and pick one out to play with.  I have a Giant Blue Notebook where I jot down my ideas before they fly away.  It's hard to remind myself when I'm jonesing after writing the Shiny, but the Shiny will keep.  If it comes out of the back pocket tarnished and dull, it wasn't that Shiny to begin with.

Now is one of those Back Pocket times.  I have a draft of my current WIP with my agent, and while I wait for her feedback, I let myself sort through my back pocket and pick a new project to play with.  No pressure--just playing, drafting, seeing where it goes.  If it goes somewhere--great!  If not, I learned that this Shiny Idea isn't anything more than that--a fleeting, pretty concept that can't grow into a whole story.

Do you keep ideas in your back pocket?  Do you start most new projects from a cache of ideas, or from what's alive in your head at that moment?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Reads: The Night Circus


Genre: Magical Realism, Historical-style

By: Erin Morgenstern

What's it about?  Why, magic, of course.  And a magical circus spun like sweet, delicate, precarious sugar candy out of a competition between two young magicians, groomed for the challenge by old rivals.  

Why did I pick it? I kept hearing and reading about this book, and it was too strange and beautiful of a concept not to give it a go.  Plus I ran across it in the shelves of the library on my last pre-baby visit.

Who will like it?  If you don't demand that things make sense--because while this book is beautifully written and imagined, it creates a world where magic simply happens.  And if that sounds lovely, this book is for you.  Language, imagery, and almost aching pretty-ness take priority; the plot is relatively simple.  Also, a warning--if you want to believe in magic, you will want to dive inside this book and live in it.  And if you like caramel apples, you will want to dive inside this book and live in it.

Judging a book by its cover: Can you for this book? Unequivocally, yes.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Indispensable Tools for Writers

Every writer has a few tools that make writing easier or, sometimes, possible altogether.  Aside from the obvious "paper and pen" or "laptop" tools, my indispensable tools are as follows:

1) Purple pen.  I love editing with a purple pen.  I'll use light blue and pink when necessary, but for some reason it's always been purple.  I'm picky on the ink flow, though.  My current one is a little stingy.

2) French press.  Something about the ritual of coffee making gives me the break I need from the page more than the actual act of drinking coffee.  Not that the caffeine doesn't help, too.  (Hint: Add a sprinkle of good cinnamon or a drop of vanilla extract to the beans pre-brew.)

3) Giant Blue Notebook.  Everyone needs someplace to jot down ideas and make a big inky mess, right?

4) List pad.  I tend to remember that I need to buy eggs or mail the mortgage payment right before digging into writing the Scene of the Day.  There are two choices unless I want to forget: Go to the store and send the check immediately, or write it down.  Writing it down means getting my work for the day done.  Plus my notepad looks pretty on my desk.

5) Baby swing.  I don't use this personally.  That would be strange and, frankly, difficult, as I think I weigh about seven times the limit for these things.  However, the swing buys me a good hour of time from the cranky baby.  On non-cranky days the Moby wrap is my indispensable tool, but the trouble with the Moby is I feel so mobile that suddenly I'm in the kitchen making soup instead of writing with no memory of how I got there or decided to start chopping onion, so it's sort of bad, in the end, for writing.

What are your writer's tools of the trade?